The Herald (Harare)

18 January 2013

Zimbabwe: Welcome to Zim's Natural Fantasyland

Nyanga has remained one of Zimbabwe's biggest all-time tourist attractions. You will never regret ever going there. The snaky road slithers up and down, bursting into short straight stretches that suddenly give birth to hairpin curves. On the road verges, high mountains and hillocks expose granite rocks forever painted grey by fungal lichens and it is this spectacular grey that makes the untrained eye feel awkward where the sky kisses the mountain under the veil of the wafting mist.

Each time the sun successfully breaks the mist, which it rarely does, lush greenery meets the eye again amid rolling moorlands, high mountain heath, cascading whitewater rivers and pine plantations that make the day.

Suddenly a roadside insignia shouts: "You are now entering Nyanga National Park!"

Nyanga National Park is situated in one of the most scenic areas of Zimbabwe's Eastern Highlands.

The rolling green hills and perennial rivers transverse the 47 000-hectare park. The altitude of between 1 800 and 2 593 metres provides cool weather and fresh mountain air, perfect for rest and relaxation.

With its stunning mountainous views, numerous waterfalls, varied activities and unique flora and fauna, Nyanga National Park provides the visitor with an unforgettable holiday experience.

Nyangombe and Mutarazi Falls are amazingly spectacular all year round. At Nyangombe Falls, a beautiful series of cascading waterfalls located on the western edge of the park, a 15-minute walk from the car park, soothe your soul.

Wildebeest, kudu, zebra, waterbuck, impala, sable and other small mammals can be seen in the park.

Mutarazi Falls is the highest waterfall in Zimbabwe and the second highest in Africa. Visitors may leave their vehicles at the car park and take a short hike to the edge of the escarpment for spectacular views of the waterfalls and the Honde Valley, some 800 metres below.

Most of the park lies at an altitude of between 2 000 and 2 500 metres and remains cool throughout the year. Maximum summer temperatures can reach 26 degrees Celsius and minimum temperatures in winter can be as low as -3 degrees Celsius.

There are lodges available at three camps in Nyanga National Park. The lodges are self-catering facilities with fully equipped kitchen, refrigerator, stove and cooking utensils

Mare Dam is located eight kilometres from the park entrance along a good gravel road. Set among a beautiful pine forest, each of the lodges overlooks the scenic dam and this can certainly be a place to be during the long Easter holiday.

Rhodes Dam, named after colonial expansionist Cecil John Rhodes, the dam is situated just inside the main entrance. The spacious thatched lodges are set among the pine forest and face a tranquil dam.

Lodges at Udu are set in an open area around Udu Dam with rugged mountainous views and overlooking beautiful flat-topped acacia trees.

Cooking facilities are available on wood fires.

Ablution and toilet facilities are provided in communal blocks. Tents and camping equipment are not available for hire. Electricity is available at certain caravan sites.

At Mare the camping and caravan site is situated along the Mare River, approximately half a kilometre west of the tourist office. The camp accommodates 40 caravans.

Nyanga cannot be complete without talking of Nyangombe Falls and the campsite. Here, the camping site is situated near the Nyangombe River. Entrance is approximately three kilometres west of Rhodes Tourist Office on the Nyanga Village Road. The site is well sheltered and has plenty of trees.

Mount Nyangani - Zimbabwe's highest point at 2 593 metres - offers a challenging climb and spectacular views of the surrounding countryside but is not for the sick and frail.

You can also view the Pungwe Falls from the scenic Pungwe viewpoint or drive through the Pungwe Drift for a closer view of the river and lush forest areas around.

Then there is the Nyangwe and Chawomera Forts where massive stone work with lintelled entrances characterise these fine examples of Nyanga ruins built some 400 years ago. Pit structures are also located within the park.

The trout hatchery near Purdon Dam provides an up-close view of the source of game fish stocked in many of the park's rivers and dams.

Nyamuziwa Falls, located just off the circular drive to Mt Nyangani, Nyamuziwa Falls is a beautiful cascade waterfall with open highland scenery.

The Rhodes Museum is found near the park entrance and is housed in part of Cecil John Rhodes' Nyanga summer home.

The finest fly fishing in Zimbabwe can be found in many of the park's well-stocked rivers and lakes including Mare, Udu, Rhodes, Gulliver and Purdon Dams. Bream fishing is also available at Udu Dam.

For boating enthusiasts rowing boats can be hired at each dam while visitors can swim at Nyangombe Pool where the clear, crisp Nyangombe River spills over natural rock slides. Visitors can also relax on the sandy beaches.

For the adventurous, numerous trails and paths provide lovely walks through both the forest areas and open highlands, many leading to beautiful waterfalls and scenic vistas.

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