The two questions most likely to be uppermost on your mind are firstly “Why the heck would I want to fly to Harare?” and secondly “If I did fly to Harare, why wouldn’t I want to get out of there as fast as possible?” Between 1999 and 2010 almost all of the major airlines originally plying the Harare route had left and at the same time the city suffered the negative stereotype of being the capital city of a country that was no longer perceived by the bulk of the international community as a good place to travel to. ”So what has changed?” you say. ”Isn’t Harare still one of Africa’s worst cities to spend time in? Is there really another side to the story?” Here are a few things that may just surprise and entice you not only to fly here, but also explore this vibrant city and its surrounds.
Why is flying long-haul to Harare a good option?
You are planning your luxury journey to Zimbabwe and southern Africa and you have heard that you can now fly into Harare with major airlines like Emirates or KLM. This effectively means that you can now cut out first having to go through Johannesburg in South Africa, which had become the only reliable route into the region. This will most likely reduce your long haul flight time. Once you are here it will also reduce the stride into the bulk of the region’s finest luxury safari and adventure destinations. Domestic air access in Zimbabwe is improving all the time. Air Zimbabwe is operating daily flights from Harare to Bulawayo and Victoria Falls. The light aircraft company Bumi Air operates scheduled seat rate flights between Harare, Victoria Falls and the Bumi Hills air strip. Safari Logistics and Alt Air are also light aircraft companies that operate a variety of domestic routes on a ‘pay-per-seat’ or scheduled basis around the country.
Here is our choice of Harare’s finest experiences
An afternoon at ‘Wild is Life’
‘Wild is Life’ is an independent animal sanctuary located on the outskirts of Harare on a beautiful estate set in indigenous Miombo woodland and savanna grassland. The sanctuary has derived its purpose from the ever growing plight of animals that have suffered, been injured or orphaned due to the effects of poaching or other ill treatment. Animals that have come under their care include lions, giraffe, kudu, wildebeest and even the very rare pangolin. ’Wild is Life’ owner Roxy Danckwerts is very hands on and has helped the sanctuary form mutually beneficial relationships with the surrounding communities as well as with sponsors and donors.
‘Wild is Life’ offers a unique three to four hour experience that will leave you with a special feeling. As you arrive you are welcomed by Roxy and her team and you will be led to the veranda of the main building, that is an old farm house, and which overlooks the sanctuary and has fantastic views across the pristine estate beyond. Sit down and enjoy a traditional high tea with homemade cakes, sandwiches and other delectable treats, whilst Roxy briefs you on the ‘Wild is Life’ ethos as well as the programme for the afternoon. Whilst you are sitting there you are quickly surrounded by various animal members of the sanctuary, such as the giraffe browsing nearby or the friendly kudu who has a particular taste for chocolate cake. You will then embark on a tour of the sanctuary passing the various spacious enclosures that are home to lions, cheetah and other special creatures. It is quite a spectacle to see the lions being fed and then the tour culminates with a walk with the pangolins, which is potentially the main highlight of the whole experience. Following the tour sun-downers and canapes are served and this is a time to share your experiences of the day, whilst soaking up an African sunset. Throughout the afternoon you will completely forget that you are just minutes away from the main city.
Dinner at Victoria 22
Victoria 22 is a converted house, set in lush gardens with indigenous trees, in the quiet suburb of Newlands, only 10 minutes drive from the city centre. The restaurant offers an exceptional fine dining experience in an opulent and intimate atmosphere. It is run by a dedicated husband and wife team, Mark and Manuela Wollmann. Mark is the head chef and Manuela is the front of house host. Vic 22 is arguably the pick of the city’s top venues for the most discerning of food connoisseurs.
The seating has been tastefully distributed and the table decor is meticulous with use of damask table cloths and fine glassware. The central bar indoors is a grand and classy feature for both aperitifs or post dinner drinks. During summer months you may also dine al fresco on the terrace adjoining the main building and overlooking the garden, or simply enjoy the comfort of the cosy veranda lounge with drink in hand and enjoy homemade savoury delicacies before settling down to your main meal.
Mark personally designs the menu, which has a Mediterranean influence. It presents a variety of hot and cold hors d’oeuvres, which can also be dished as mixed platters. Main course meals include favourites that have stood the test of time on the menu, such as the prime cut Zimbabwean fillet steak and the Scottish salmon. There is also an exceptional range of specials that change daily. Pair your meal with a good choice of South African wine. Then choose from delicious desserts like the cheese cake or chocolate mousse. End off with a liqueur accompanied by hand-made petit fours.
Visit Patrick Mavros
Zimbabwean born Patrick Mavros is an internationally acclaimed silversmith with outlets in New York, London and Harare (the original), as well as a dedicated online shop. Patrick has passed his skills and ability onto his sons and all together play various roles within the business. They lead highly trained teams that carry out varying degrees of craftsmanship under their watchful eyes. Patrick Mavros products are all handcrafted and the majority are solid silver. Each product is beautifully and intricately designed using a range of techniques that starts with pencil drawings of a concept, followed by the creation of wax moulds that then graduate into a finished product of silver. The finished products range from smaller pieces such as cuff-links, bracelets, ear rings and napkin rings through to bigger products that include candle sticks, animal and insect figures. The detail in each of these is literally incredible!
The Patrick Mavros estate in Harare is located in the rolling hills of Umwinsidale, on the outskirts of the city. When you arrive you are led into the main show room, which is a haven set under thatch with massive glass windows, looking out over a vast canopy of indigenous forest. Within this quiet sanctuary, each finished silver piece is showcased against the grand backdrop of dark Zimbabwean teak furniture. Patrick Mavros’ son Patrick Mavros Junior runs the Harare estate and either he or his team will be happy to take you around the factory section so you can observe and learn about the crafting process from conceptualization through the casting of wax models and onto the finished product. This is a truly fascinating tour.
A guided tour of Ngoma Kurira
Ngoma Kurira means “Drums Sounding” in Shona, the local language spoken by the majority of Zimbabweans. It is an area of intense beauty and immense spiritual significance, set among massive granite outcrops interspersed with indigenous Miombo forest. Ngoma Kurira is located only 20 minutes outside of Harare and is managed by the National Museums and Monuments of Zimbabwe. A guided visit will see you taking a 3-5 hour hike, through the mountains, that is suitable for most fitness levels.
On the side of the massive vertical rock face of the main mountain, which is a giant batholith, are some well preserved rock paintings that date back many hundreds of years to the ancestors of the Shona that lived here. It is still believed by some that they continue to protect the area. The hike will take you across massive sheets of rock, through beautiful forests of Msasa and Munondo trees, past rich carpets of lichen and all along you shall be serenaded by an abundance of bird life There is a real reward for those who reach the top of Ngoma Kurira. The 360 degree view is magnificent to behold and you will get a true perspective of the scale of this fascinating landscape.
Shopping at Doon Estate
Doon Estate is a small collection of shops, home to a variety of authentically and proudly Zimbabwean retail products that can be browsed and bought in a formal, yet very relaxed setting. The lay out of the shops is in the style of a little village with all the buildings facing inwards and within easy walking distance of each other. Items on offer include many locally handmade items, traditional carvings, sculptures, pottery, clothing, furniture, accessories and more. There is also a genuine specialist Belgian chocolate maker here with a shop and tea room attached A stop here is the perfect interlude to a great shopping experience.
Golf at Royal Harare
If you are a keen golfer then your stay in Harare would not be complete without a round of golf at Royal Harare, which is an 18 hole championship course. Zimbabwe has a rich history of producing great golfers, the most famous being Nick Price, former world number one and Mark McNulty, who made it to the world’s top ten in the 1990s. Brendan De Jonge is a young Zimbabwean currently plying the US PGA circuit and ranked in the world’s top 100 golfers. All of these players consider Royal Harare as their home ground. The course also hosts the Zimbabwe Open each year, which forms part of Southern Africa’s Sunshine Tour.
Royal Harare is located just 5 minutes from the city’s CBD, yet there is little evidence of this when you are out on the course. Its plush green fairways carve their way through Msasa woodland, where duikers (small brown antelopes) roam and provide an added charm. The course does not have much in the way of water hazards, but the strategic placement of bunkers, sloping gradients and abundance of trees create a sufficient challenge to players of all levels.
Where to stay?
We recommend Meikles Hotel. This is Harare’s premier luxury hotel. First built in 1915 it has a proud history of excellence and is long standing member of the prestigious ‘Leading Hotels of the World.’ In addition there are a range of hotels and bed and breakfasts to choose from.
Getting to Harare via long haul?
Emirates, KLM, Ethiopian, Egypt Air (from 01 June 2013) and Kenyan Airways all fly regularly into Harare, linking southern Africa’s ‘Sunshine City’ through their own airport hubs to virtually every corner of the globe.
Pic by Vayeni: View from Meikles Hotel of Zimbabwe’s ‘Sunshine City’, April 2013
Written by Luke Brown, Vayeni Marketing Director, in Harare, Zimbabwe