Expert Reviews – Nyanga NP
Melissa is an award winning travel writer for Fodors, Frommers and Insight, including guides to Tanzania, Kenya, Zimbabwe and South Africa.
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Nyanga - Zimbabwe’s mountain playground
I feel mean marking down Nyanga because it is a place I love dearly. I lived near here as a child and spent many happy weekends picnicking in these mountains, swimming in freezing waterfalls and rowing on Mare Dam. About 100 kms north of Mutare, the Nyanga Mountains form part of the Eastern Highlands that form Zimbabwe’s border with Mozambique. The land is high, rising from 1,800m to a peak of 2,593m at Mount Nyangani, the highest point in Zimbabwe. Much is made of the fact that this is the home of the African clawless otter, but you’d have to look hard to see one and there is truthfully little in the way of wildlife – the odd blue duiker or kudu, samango and vervet monkeys.
There are plenty of birds, but Nyanga is really all about glorious scenery. Old colonials used to talk about it as ‘Rhodesia’s Scotland’ – the rolling grasslands and granite outcrops are there but much higher and grander. There are watery spectacles such as the Pungwe Falls and Mutarazi Falls, at 762m (2,499 ft) the highest in Zimbabwe. The dams are stocked with brown trout for fishermen, the forests cradle wonderful stands of Mulanje cypress and tree ferns. And for those who care to hunt them out, ancient ruins of some of Zimbabwe’s earliest stone builders dot the hidden valleys.
Philip is an acclaimed travel writer and author of many guidebooks, including the Bradt guides to Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya and South Africa.
Rhodes’s former estate in the Eastern Highlands
The centrepiece of the highlands to the north of Mutare, Nyanga National Park, was at one time the personal property of Rhodes. The boulder strewn moonscapes, dominated by immense onion peel granite domes that dwarf their more publicised Matobo relations, are inherently very beautiful – and unmistakably Zimbabwean. But this is also the most ecologically compromised of Zimbabwe’s major reserves, with much of the natural cover of heath and indigenous woodland now replaced by timber plantations and fruit cultivation. Several wonderful sites lie close the park, notably the Chirinda Forest Reserve, which protects several very rare bird species in what is Africa’s most southerly true rainforest, and the wonderful waterfalls and highland meadows of the Chimanimani Mountains.