It’s a long way to head down to Masvingo for great Zim, so what else is there in the area?
The main jumping off point for the World Heritage Site at Great Zimbabwe is Masvingo (28km away from the entrance). Frankly, it’s a rather unprepossessing spot, a dry and dusty mining and farming town for most of the year; if you visit in September, you'll at least see the purple jacarandas and scarlet poinsettias which set the streets alight. Originally Fort Victoria, it was the site of the first white settlement in the country, not surprisingly named after the English Queen. Present-day Masvingo is the hub of an active mining district, producing a large variety of minerals (asbestos, chrome, lithium, tin, tungsten and gold); asbestos is mined at Mashava and Zvishane; gold at Renco and Bikita. The region's claim to fame is as the largest source of lithium in the world. From what we could see, it had nowhere to eat in the evening (there were one or two grotty-looking cafes/bars during the daytime) and nowhere to stay!
Also in the area are the following attractions :
-- Mutirikwi National Park and Kyle Recreational Park. Kyle (Scottish for a channel of water) is the second largest dam in the country after Kariba -- years of drought have hit hard and the Lake Mutirikwi's capacity has shrunk so that water sports are now unfeasible but it’s worth a trip nonetheless to the vast park and game reserve as they form a stirring landscape of granite, aloe plants and giant cacti, with nyala, oribi, tsessebe, eland, wildebeest, zebra, kudu, giraffe, and the marvellous white rhinos wandering amongst the San paintings which are daubed on the rocks. Game viewing can be undertaken either by car or pony trails. Walks are demarcated and there are picnic sites. Horse riding is also popular for game-viewing (US$20 for 2 hours).
-- Though just off the Bulawayo road and only 25 kilometres from Masvingo, Mushandike Dam is not on tour itineraries. This means you are likely to have the Mushandike Sanctuary , with its antelope, zebras and leopards, to yourself. Winter is the best season for scenic drives when the leaves of the Mopane trees set the forest aflame with their autumnal colours.
-- There’s a small chapel at the dam wall, dedicated to St Andrew – depending on who you talk to, it was built either by an earlier water bailiff in memory of his daughter or by Italian prisoners of war during WWII. Either way, interred are the remains of 71 Italian PoWs and is worth visiting for the murals which are reminiscent of the Sistine chapel.
-- Also found near Great Zimbabwe is Morgenster Mission & Finger Rocks. The mission is known for its School for the Deaf. The World's View at Morgenster is one of the finest panoramas in Zimbabwe, the Finger Rocks being two monoliths, which appear to guard the entrance to the mission.