Relative stability brings tourists back to Zimbabwe

For a while now most news out of Zimbabwe has been bad. Gross mismanagement by President Robert Mugabe led the country to financial ruin and hyperinflation, with people using gasoline as currency because nobody wanted the government’s $50 million dollar bills.

But with the return of relative stability thanks to the new unity government, tourists are coming back to Zimbabwe. The nation’s Council of Tourism reports that 362,000 people visited Zimbabwe by August 2009, up from 100,000 in the same period in 2008. It wasn’t clear if this figure only counted tourists or all foreign visitors. A decade ago, Zimbabwe raked in $250 million annually in tourism revenue. That dipped to just $40 million in 2005, but has risen to $100 million since the unity government came into power in 2008.

However the numbers are created, it’s still good news. With the country’s economy in shambles, an influx of foreign currency is sure to help. The government has been offering tax incentives for companies wanting to invest in Zimbabwe tourism. And with attractions such as Victoria Falls (pictured here) and abundant wildlife, if you’re looking for good deals on an African trip you may want to consider Zimbabwe. They’ll certainly be glad to see you.

Escape to the world’s quietest places

Life in most places is loud. Planes flying overhead, traffic rushing through the streets, people yelling, talking, phones ringing – it all combines to make an endless racket that follows us throughout our days. If you need to get away for some (literal) peace and quiet, take a look at Forbes Traveler’s list of the World’s Quietest Places.

Many of these aren’t the sort of places where you’ll go crazy from the silence, in fact some of them are plenty noisy. But near and far, they provide places where you can get away from the aural assault of the world and revel in a quiet(er) existence.

Included on the list are destinations like the verdant Hoh Valley in Washington State and Muir Woods in California, both places that are easy to get to from major cities but seem a world away. Further from home, there’s the island of Yap, near Guam, where the “culture is built on adherence to social peace”. The Kalahari Desert, 350,000 square miles of sparsely populated sand and scrub, also makes the list.

Victoria Falls isn’t exactly silent, but the roar of the water as it plummets 350 feet (which can be heard over a mile away) is such a natural sound and so completely shuts out everything else, that it almost feels quiet. Central Park is another unlikely addition to the list. Though it’s located in the middle of what is arguably one of the world’s loudest cities, it provides a quiet solitude away from the noise of daily life.

A visit to Victoria Falls

Back in 1855, Scottish explorer David Livingstone was nearing the end of his exploration of the Zambezi River when he came across a sight that was quite unexpected at the time. For days he had heard from the local tribes about a great water fall that lay ahead on his journey, but because the region he was traveling through had no mountains, valleys, or plateaus, he found no reason to believe the reports. That is until he came face to face with the most magnificent and beautiful sight he had ever seen, the 360 foot tall waterfall that he would name Victoria Falls in honor of Queen Victoria of England.

Today, the Falls remain one of the top tourist draws for Zambia, with thousands flocking to the country every year to make the journey to see Livinstone’s wonderous discovery. Victoria Falls is the biggest waterfall in the world, stretching nearly a mile in width, and when combined with its impressive height, it forms the largest sheet of water anywhere in the world.

Recently, David Abel of the Boston Globe, made the journey for himself, and returned to share his experiences with the rest of us. While he was there, Abel discovered first hand why the Zambians call the falls Mosi-oa-Tunya or “the smoke that thunders” when he finally looked upon the falls that measure twice the height of Niagra.

From there, he moved on to the five-star, $900 per night, Royal Livingstone Hotel, where he enjoyed crumpets and tea while monkeys played in the trees overhead. The adventure didn’t stop there however, as he followed it up with other wildlife encounters and an exciting ride down the Zambizi River through Class V rapids.

Clearly Zambia has a lot to offer the adventurous traveler, and it extends beyond just the falls. But a chance to walk in the Livingstones footsteps sounds too goo to be true, and yet 150 years after the famous explorer visited the region, we’re still going back for more.

Gadling Take FIVE: Week of Nov. 15—Nov. 21

Where I’m sitting winter has arrived. Snow flurries and windchill. Brrrr. Now that winter looks like it’s settling in, let’s see if anyone has come up with places to that are warmer.

  • Brenda’s post on the drop in tourism in Hawaii. and what there is to do in this tropical paradise this time of year, ought to be reason enough for a person to rethink the budget and see if Hawaii is doable after all.
  • Meg suggests sitting in the scariest swimming pool ever–Devil’s Pool at the top of Victoria Falls
  • Jeffery pointed out that Cuba knows how to treat its 2 millionth tourist--with an ice-cold mojito and a salsa band
  • Along with the warning that snacks in India could cost more than you counted on, Josh sounded a warning to be careful of the party scene in Mumbai–you could find yourself drug tested.
  • And, although New Mexico is not THAT warm, the great thing about traveling here to ski is that it feels warm during the day when the sun is out–kind of. The best part is that the sun almost always shines in New Mexico. Every day. All day.

Gadling Take FIVE: Week of Nov. 8–Nov. 14

Today Gadling welcomed our newest blogger, Brenda Yun. Yun, who is tapped into the thrill of world travel without guidebooks, has looked for surf in a remote spot in Vanuatu and has traveled to where many haven’t tread.

Keeping with a theme of thrills in mind, here’s Gadling’s Take FIVE for this week:

This week also marks the end of our series, Catching the Travel Bug. The series offers personal accounts of various parts of the world where the kindness of strangers and newly made friends have resonated over the miles and years.