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While my latest book, African Dawn, does focus on the tragedies of life in Zimbabwe and its predecessor, Rhodesia, over the past 50 years I still love visiting the country. Here are 10 reasons why:
1. It’s safe for tourists. There is violence and intimidation in Zimbabwe, but it is mostly directed by the ruling political party against the opposition. Crime exists, as it does throughout the world, but gun ownership is tightly controlled and there is not the level of violent assault and robbery that characterises crime in other African countries.
2. The wildlife is excellent. Yes, my book does focus on the problem of rhino poaching and the future of this species is by no means certain. However, there is still plenty of game in Zimbabwe’s national parks. The country’s flagship reserve, Hwange, is the best place in Africa to see elephants and on this visit I’ve seen lion six days out of seven.
3. It’s beautiful. Zimbabwe’s geography encompasses open grasslands and dry thorny bush, lush mountain rainforests, the largest man-made lake in the world (Lake Kariba – a paradise for waterbirds, hippo, elephant and other game) and the spectacular Victoria Falls and Zambezi River.
4. It’s affordable. Since the worthless Zimbabwe dollar was replaced by the US dollar as the official currency a measure of stability has returned to the local economy. Hyper-inflation led to shops being emptied and business unable to produce anything but thanks to the greenback you can buy pretty much anything you need in Zimbabwe now.
5. The local beer, Zambezi Lager, is superb. And cheap.
6. Zimbabweans don’t hate foreigners. I’m amazed at the number of Australian and British people who think they will be verbally or physically assaulted if they visit. Our countries’ criticism of President Robert Mugabe, and the man’s own rhetoric, do not translate into animosity from border officials, police, or anyone else in the country.
7. My book’s set there, so you’ll have something to read while on safari.
8. They make the best pies in Zimbabwe. The chicken pie at the Lion and Elephant Hotel on the road south from Harare to South Africa is probably the best in the world.
10. Zimbabwe needs you. Tourism will play a big part in the country’s eventual recovery. At the moment only a hardy few foreigners venture there and those who do marvel at having this beautiful country almost all to themselves.