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Zimbabwe's Eastern Highlands - Rainforest and endemic bird species

The Eastern Highlands, Zimbabwe's enchanting mountain landscape

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Exploring Zimbabwe's Eastern Highlands - For hikers, nature lovers and birdwatchers

Exploring Zimbabwe's Eastern Highlands - For hikers, nature lovers and birdwatchers Exploring Zimbabwe's Eastern Highlands - For hikers, nature lovers and birdwatchers

The eastern highlands, mountain landscape with a special character

The easternmost part of Zimbabwe is characterized by the Eastern Highlands. This mountain landscape forms the border between Zimbabwe and Mozambique.

Geographically, three parts of the mountain range are distinguished, each of which has its own unique charm:
Chimanimani National Park in the South
The Vumba, east of the town Mutare
Nyanga National Park in the North

Chimanimani, the untamed beauty of the Highlands

Chimanimani is more rugged and inhospitable than the other areas. The village of Chimanimani is surrounded by mountains, which are a constant presence. Their apparent mood varies with the weather and light.

Those who want to visit this area do not have too many accommodation options and should be prepared to bring their own food and cater for themselves. There is not much of anything available to buy in town. Frog & Fern's self-catering bungalows are ideally located for your trips to the park.

Mountain hiking in Chimanimani, alone in the wilderness

The rugged beauty of the mountains offers countless possibilities for hikes of all levels of difficulty.

If you want to spend one or more days in the national park, you can start from the "Base Camp". The "Base Camp" is located about 20 km from the village at the end of the only road in the national park. Here you will find a National Parks bungalow with a ranger who will be happy to give you information and tips. Here, you can leave your car and camp for a small fee.

Day trips with an experienced guide from "Base Camp" are highly recommended. They usually lead up the steep path named "Baileys Folly" into the mountain to reach the only hut in about 2-3 hours. The path is difficult with rocks and gravel. It should only be tackled if you are reasonably fit.
At the top there are fantastic views over gentle, green valleys, partly covered with Msasa trees, partly with grass and flowers. The valleys are again framed by rugged mountains. Crystal-clear streams cross your path, which leads in ups and downs back over the hills to the descent via the "Banana Grove". This trail is considerably less steep than Bailey's Folly.

Occasionally, if you are lucky, you may spot some of the animals in this harsh habitat. Small Klipspringer antelopes, Rock Dassies and many different species of sunbirds occur here.
Hikes of several days duration are also possible for those who are willing to carry their tent and food themselves. Camping and spending the night in a few caves, which in reality are abandoned mine shafts, is free of charge. The hut can also be used. However, it offers only a very simple shelter with a ablutions and cooking facilities for up to 20 people.

Short hikes near the village and fantastic waterfalls

If you don't like your walks quite so strenuous, you can tackle the "Pork Pie", a hill with a road that almost leads to the top. When the weather is fine, the "Pork Pie" offers a fantastic all-round view of the mountain panorama.

The "Bridal Veil" waterfall is located in the national park. The base of the waterfall and the pool below are easily accessible by car, the parking lot is only a few meters away. There is a path, partly steep and slippery, which leads to midway up the waterfall. Here, you will find another pool that is completely invisible from below. Even if the lower pool is busy, one can relax undisturbed here and even bathe in the pool if the water is not too cold.

Outside the national park, on the private land of the organisation "Outward Bound" but still accessible for the general public, lies Tessa's Pool. This is another beautiful waterfall with a crystal clear pool at its base. Here, you can have a wonderful swim if the water temperature suits you.

"Bvumba" – indigenous forest in the mist

Vumba means fog, in the Shona language that is spoken here. In this area of the Eastern Highlands the mountains are less rugged and in part densely wooded with exotic timber. But there is also a small area of protected primeval forest, the Bunga Forest, which is definitely worth exploring with an experienced guide from the national park administration.

Paradise for birdwatchers and hikers

In this part of Vumba there are some endemic bird species, i.e. they only occur here. To a modest extent this is a magnet for birdwatchers from all over the world. These species include, for example, the Swynnertons robin or the Chirinda apalis. Other rare species can also be observed here, e.g. the Buff-spotted Flufftail or the Stripe-cheeked Greenbul. It is remarkable that such a diversity of species can be found in such a small area.

For hikers, Vumba has a few interesting trails to offer in addition to those in Bunga Forest. A worthwhile walk shortly before sunset is up to Leopard Rock. The vantage points on this mountain offer a fantastic all-round view in the soft evening light. The highest elevation here is Castle Beacon with 1911 meters. This is another hiking trail for those who feel energetic.

A botanical garden and an 18-hole golf course in "the Vumba".

For those who prefer a leisurely stroll and wish to enjoy the beauty of nature, the magnificent and well-kept Botanical Garden is perhaps the right destination. Not only hundreds of flower, orchid and tree species, but also many bird and butterfly species can be seen here.

Vumba also has a special gem for golfers. Leopard Rock Hotel offers a difficult 18-hole course with spectacular views of the surrounding mountains. Also the restaurant and the attached casino are an attraction in the area.

Gateaux to die for at "Tony's Coffee Shop"

Tony's Coffee Shop is the perfect place for those of us with a sweet tooth. Undoubtedly the best, most creative and chocolatiest cakes in Zimbabwe can be tasted here. In addition, premium coffee, tea and cocoa varieties are served. The surroundings are beautifully designed and peaceful, a wonderful break to enjoy.

These classic activities, however, are not all the surroundings have to offer. The cosy and very versatile Musangano Lodge on the east side of Mutare offers excellent accommodation and a range of special experiences.

Musangano Lodge, a place of meetings

The German founders of the lodge have created it as a meeting place. Visitors can make contact with the population of the country here beyond the usual, very superficial tourist encounters. The mutual learning that results from such experiences is fascinating.

For example, you can visit a commercial tobacco, wine and maize farm via the lodge. As a contrast, you can also visit a "natural farmer". In as biological a way as possible, he cultivates grain in a small piece of primeval forest in the Burma Valley, grafts fruit trees and breeds livestock on a small scale, all with natural means. He always stresses that he wants to work with nature instead of against it.

During term time it is possible to visit a mission school and experience how the children live and learn in this boarding school. An orphanage is also attached to the mission, where children live as families in small houses with one housemother each. Here, too, one can experience impressively how well the children are cared for with simple means.

A visit to a self-help initiative in Mutare is also exciting. Women in need are taught to knit stuffed animals, which are then sold all over the world as charming souvenirs. A few days a week the women meet and work together.

Hiking in the Miombo Forest at Musangano Lodge

But Musangano Lodge offers even more than these fascinating insights into life in Zimbabwe. On the land of the lodge there are four hiking trails of varying length and difficulty. They are so well signposted that it is easy to tackle them alone. Another hiking path up to the summit of Mount Chikanga is only viable with a guide, but this is also very worthwhile. The view once you are up there is fantastic.

Nyanga National Park and Mount Inyangani

Nyanga is the northernmost part of the Eastern Highlands. Zimbabwe’s highest mountain, Mount Inyangani, at 2593 metres looms over the surrounding landscape. The ascent is exhausting with some difficult areas and loose gravel. If the ground is wet, it can also be quite slippery.

For an experienced mountain hiker Mount Nyangani will certainly not be a big challenge. Nevertheless, the national park administration stipulates that one is only allowed to climb the mountain with a guide. Before this measure was put in place, hikers have disappeared without a trace. This has led to the belief among local people that the mountain has mystical powers. Far more probable, however, is that the hikers got lost in sudden fog.

In the national park near the mountain, one often sees some antelope species, e.g. reedbucks, eland antelopes, Klipspringers, and zebras.

Near Mount Inyangani is the small Rhodes Museum, part of the former estate of Cecil John Rhodes. After climbing Mount Inyangani, you can spend another hour comfortably here and then have afternoon tea in the adjacent Rhodes Nyanga Hotel.

Mutarazi Falls - for adventurers and nature lovers

Also in Nyanga National Park are the highest waterfalls in the country, the Mtarazi Falls at 772 metres in height. If you are feeling brave, you can cross the gorge at the Falls on a swinging suspension bridge or whizz over the abyss on a zip line. Those to whom this has no appeal can walk comfortably along the small path and view the waterfalls from solid ground. From the road along the Honde Valley, one can once again see the whole, impressive height of the falls.
There is another beautiful waterfall that can be enjoyed in Nyanga National Park. Inyangombe Falls can be reached via a steep and very rough trail. The effort is worth it when you see the water rushing down to the valley in several steps.

The mysterious Ziwa Ruins

Beyond the northern border of Nyanga National Park lie the fascinating Ziwa Ruins. The extensive dry stone walls were built from the 16th to the 19th century. They consist of natural stones that were gathered together to form terraced fields. Furthermore, some of the higher walls served to protect the inhabitants and their domestic animals. During your visit you will first be guided through the small museum. The life at the time of the construction of the buildings and the artefacts discovered here are very vividly represented. A guide will take you through the area.

Worlds View and the Honde Valley

Your visit here can be excellently combined with a stop at "Worlds View". This is a very beautiful and well-kept viewpoint where you really have the impression that you can to see the whole world on a clear day.

On the eastern side of Nyanga National Park lies the Honde Valley, a valley with tropical flair and a very temperate climate. The conditions here are ideal for growing tea. Vast tea plantations line the road until you reach Aberfoyle Lodge at the end. The lodge with its surrounding forest is again an attraction for birdwatchers.

 

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Bildergalerie

Ziernektarvogel, Vumba, Eastern Highlands
Teeplantagen im Honde Valley, Eastern Highlands
Ein Bergwanderer in Chimanimani
Frog and Fern Chalets in Chimanimani, Eastern Highlands
Hartzell Primary School, Missionsschule nahe Mutare
Schlafraum in der Hartzell Missionsschule bei Mutare
Inyangombe Falls, Nyanga Nationalpark, Eastern Highlands
Auf der Kuppe von Mount Chikanga, Eastern Highlands
Im Chimanimani-Massiv, Aufstieg Bailey's Folly
Blick von Mount Inyangani, Nyanga Nationalpark
Wanderer auf Mount Inyangani, Nyanga Nationalpark
Auf dem Gipfel von Mount Inyangani, Nyanga Nationalpark
Waschräume auf dem Zeltplatz der Musangano Lodge
Cuckoo Campground, der Zeltplatz der Musangano Lodge
Im Garten der Musangano Lodge, Eastern Highlands
Unterkunft mit Garten der Musangano Lodge
Musangano Lodge, Selbstversorger-Unterkunft
Im Restaurant der Musangano Lodge
Im Burma Valley bei Naturfarmer Oliver Wasiweyi
Zu Besuch bei Naturfarmer Oliver im Burma Valley
Auf dem Secret Valley Trail der Musangano Lodge
Am Swimmingpool der Musangano Lodge
Blick auf die Berge nahe Mutare, Eastern Highlands
Im Museum der Ziwa Ruins, Nyanga
Der Osborne Dam in den Eastern Highlands
Tabakfelder auf der Suncrest Tobacco Farm
Genusspause bei Tony's Coffee Shop, Vumba
Führung zur Vogelbeobachtung, Vumba, Eastern Highlands
An den Ziwa Ruins, Nyanga
Mauern der Ziwa Ruins, Nyanga, Eastern Highlands

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