When we talk about tourism in Zimbabwe there is one area that is endowed almost to a fault. To say the least, the Eastern Highlands of Zimbabwe can elevate our tourism to greater heights if its dormant prowess is explored to the fullest. Thanks to the ZimBhoo initiative the Eastern Highlands Tourism is making waves at the moment as all roads are leading to this diamond in the rough. This has actually cajoled me to express my views and pay homage to this particular destination in the Manicaland district of Zimbabwe. Undoubtedly, the packaged combo which includes Mutarazi Skywalking, Nyanga National Park, Vumba Heights, Chimanimani, Gairezi and Honde Valley among other attractions if marketed and exploited to their potential can bring about a rebound in Zimbabwe’s tourism. For all intents and purposes, this article will try and explore, while at the same time exposing this destination to more tourism operators thereby bringing about destination awareness.
Some may wonder what I’m blabbering about when it comes to Mutarazi Falls as a tourism hotspot in Zimbabwe. Dear readers it is noteworthy because of its outstanding skywalking on the two suspension bridges. This prestigious waterfall is ranked the highest in our country and the second highest in Africa. Tourists are able to walk across thus getting a panoramic view of the Falls as well as Honde Valley and Nyanga National Park. Apparently, one feels as if he or she is walking on air. There is no need for helicopter rides as zip lining plays a huge role in their itinerary, which treasured readers is said to be the highest zip line in Africa. To be candid, Mutarazi Falls is the place to be, thus a lot of couples have made it a destination for marriage proposals as they will be feeling like they are on the top of the world. Our own living legend Mukudzei Mukombe aka Jah Prayza when it comes to contemporary music has since made a music video on the suspension bridge for one of his songs. Mutarazi Skywalk as the 17th highest waterfall in the world has brought about a whole new landscape to the tourism industry in the sense that the tourism operators in the Eastern Highlands created a unique brand because Skywalking deliberately sets Mutarazi aside from the other various Falls found in this destination. In other words, the skywalk is a site to behold as tourists will be able to run with the wind thus seeing every nook and cranny of this area at a different angle.
Nyanga National Park
I am proud to say that the Eastern Highlands have its own park with bountiful biodiversity, which is the lifeline and backbone of tourism. Initially, an attraction is made more appealing by its wildlife, flora and fauna. Dear readers the fact that the Eastern Highlands Tourism has managed to bank a National Park on its package paves way for tourists to experience the Big Five. In turn, a national park ensures and upholds the conservation of wildlife as we are faced with the bane of extinction that is in the case of our endangered species that is the white backed vulture commonly found in this park. In Zimbabwe vultures fall under the category of Specially Protected Animals under the 6th Schedule of the Parks and Wildlife Act( Chapter 20:14). The Nyanga National Park is well known for its bird life as it boasts of a plethora of species that can elevate bird watching to another level. One cannot help but appreciate the park for its sustainable goals.
Apart from biodiversity, the park hosts Mt Nyangani which is the highest mountain in Manicaland. If you are bent on hiking on this mountain then it’s going to take more than three hours from the bottom to the apex showing how high the mountain is, for it is divided into seven resting stages for guiding purposes and to allow the tourists to take some respite. Ostensibly this mountain is said to bring about a splendid scenic view especially if you get accommodation in the five-star Troutbeck Resort so that is how imperative it is to the Eastern Highlands Tourism. There is one profound aspect of the mountain that sparked an interest in me as a writer dear reader, the Mt Nyangani is said to be a source of three rivers with tributaries which then feeds into the mighty Zambezi. Nyanga National Park also entertains tourists through camping activities which are executed at the Rhodes Camp which is positioned around dams making camping a memorable experience. To state the obvious, the National Park is a sight for sore eyes as it also has natural pools like Herbert’s Pool which is located in the park. Therefore, one will be able to enjoy the mountains, rivers, waterfall and above all the fresh mountain air, therefore, what more could a visitor ask for.
This is for those adrenalin junkies as one gets to enjoy adventure tourism at its best. As tourists, there is a need for one to be adventurous and this can only be offered in Vumba as one will try some hiking, which is a very exhilarating sport. On top of the Vumba Heights, after a worthy hike, a tourist can get a spectacular view of Mutare, Chikamba Dam as well as Mozambique. Tourism thrives on the natural beauty of a place in this case I can only say that Vumba Heights are breathtaking to the point of inducing a lot of photography activities which can be used for detailed documentaries. Nothing beats Vumba Heights as it is known specifically for its hiking giving the Eastern Highlands a stronghold in tourism circles. Vumba also has its Botanical Gardens which brings about the issue of Events Management for the destination as the gardens are ideal for wedding venues, picnics and tea parties. Endowed with indigenous orchids and ferns, the gardens are a surreal paradise on earth. The crafty footpaths enable tourists to navigate about and indulge themselves in what catches their eyes as they get to buy and take home some flowers from the nursery garden.
Tourism has never been better as we come to yet another waterfall endowed destination of the Eastern Highlands. The Bridal Veil Falls alone can lure a tourist to come down to Chimanimani on a whim. In simpler terms, a destination that has water cascading from a considerable height portrays the power of tourism as one starts to wonder about the mystery and magic behind it all. After these falls that resemble a wedding veil, a tourist will be intrigued enough to see the Nyanyadzi Hot springs which are said to be very scary because they say if you wish then drop a coin in the springs it will come true but the enigma of the springs lies in their hot steaming water which can even boil an egg within seconds. To cap it off, there is the Birchenough Bridge tour which is very popular as the bridge was once printed on our Zim dollar coin in the 90s. Suffice to say this portrays how vital this bridge is to Zimbabwe as a country. I’m urging you all that the Eastern Highlands is the place to be at the moment because you can afford to be choosy from this humongous combo.
This valley extends from the Eastern border of Zimbabwe into Mozambique. Honde as a destination is known for its tea estates so it can be deduced that it is the home of Agro-tourism. Subsequently, it is very informative for those school trips as part of their itinerary to know about tea growing as Zimbabwe’s economy thrives on Agriculture thus Honde Valley is very influential to a tour package. In the same vein, when talking about educational tours, once you see the tea estates it is advisable to tour the Mutare Museum as well so as to be educated more on the locals and their historical background. Dear readers the area is so mountainous to the point that the place acquired the Shona “Makomoyo” nickname which means a place of mountains and valleys.
Last but not least, the Eastern Highlands has Gairezi under its belt and it is exclusive in the sense that this attraction is based on Ecotourism. It only shows how important tourism is to the locals, the economy and the environment. Gairezi is one destination that is practicing sustainability as it promotes the conservation of its biodiversity so as to preserve it for future generations. Gairezi Ecotourism Project, a community initiative in Ward 21 of Nyanga District is a good example of sustainable tourism at it’s best. Accordingly, Dapi Community Village is hands on when it comes to involving the locals as well as the tourists, moreso educating them about the Manyika Traditions. As far as Gairezi is concerned our domestic tourism has become more lucrative, thus large numbers of Zimbabweans are being trained about sustainable tourism when they visit this attraction. Coming back to the issue of activities, Gairezi has water sports thus the itinerary will include trout-fly fishing and white-water rafting which is an adventure for most tourists. Conclusively it can be seen that tourism in the Eastern Highlands can bring about foreign currency for the economy which in turn enhances the standard of living for the locals so come down to Zimbabwe and promote this package.
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Memory Phiri is a Travel and recreation consultant who has vast experience in the tourism industry. She also is a free-lance writer in addition to being a sustainable activist. You can get in touch with her on email@example.com.