Zimbabwe has been in the news for all the wrong reasons in recent years, but this means that your visit is all the more important to the people there, and your welcome will be warm. It’s still a great destination for gap year travel, with wildlife to rival most of Africa, a genuine wonder of the world in the magnificent Victoria Falls (shared with Zambia) and lots of action.
Zimbabwe is like a natural playground, where everything is in excess, so there’s loads to offer the adventure traveller. The area below Victoria Falls has become a centre for extreme sports, including whitewater rafting and bungee jumping. The country’s national parks boast all the wildlife you could hope to see: Hwange in the west has the largest herds of elephant in world, and you can canoe down the Zambezi past hippos and crocs, or see them gathering at the waterholes at Mana Pools on an unguided walking safari.
Small, easy to get round and with a good infrastructure, Zimbabwe is well suited to student travel. As well as the wildlife and adrenalin activities, it has much to offer those in search of relaxation or some cultural stimulation. Great Zimbabwe hosts the remains of the ancient dry-stone city of the Shona, Matobo Hills National Park has San rock art galleries and a vast variety of birdlife in an elemental granite landscape, while the capital Harare hosts festivals throughout the year.
There are plenty of opportunities for volunteer work in Zimbabwe, mainly with animal conservation. You can help out on projects for lions, elephants and a WWF-endorsed black rhino conservation project.