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Deteriorating situation in Zimbabwe - should I still go?

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Jul 13th, 2007, 10:20 AM
  #1
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Deteriorating situation in Zimbabwe - should I still go?

Today the US State Dept issued a new travel warning regarding Zimbabwe and several newspapers are reporting the deteriorating situation there. I am scheduled to be at the Ilala Lodge July 23 and 24. Do I need to rethink these plans?

My agent seems to think we'll be fine because we're staying in the Victoria Falls area, but I'm still a little bit nervous about the whole thing.

Here are some the articles I've read:
http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_p...a/pa_3234.html
http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au...5-1702,00.html
http://allafrica.com/stories/200707130824.html

I'm going to call the US Embassy in Harare in a bit. Does anyone else have any news?

Thanks.
Heather_H is offline  
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Jul 13th, 2007, 10:35 AM
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I was in Victoria Falls in February 2006 and stayed at the Ilala Lodge. I didn't feel threatened there and had a nice stay. The street hawkers were a bit more aggressive because they need hard currencies, but were not threatening. The issue may be whether the hotel and other service providers will be able to get supplies in order to continue to operate. While the formal economy is in "meltdown", though, the black market is thriving. Also, the government wants to keep the tourism sector operating at all costs. The Zambian side is an option, but you'll have a better view of the Falls from the Zim side.
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Jul 13th, 2007, 11:09 AM
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I'd stick with your plans. The political problems tend to stay away from the tourist areas. Use common sense-don't go out walking at night, and don't flash a lot of cash or jewelry. The hawkers are agressive but just keep walking, and there is the tourist police that try to keep them away. The Ilala is a great place. When I was there the shops in town might have been empty of most food items, but the restaurant at the Ilala was serving a full menu and they weren't out of anything
Have a good time!
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Jul 13th, 2007, 11:44 AM
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For once I can agree that the State Dept is correct in issueing a new warning. Although I disagree that it should not necessarily be for all of Zim- that from a guy in the bleachers. The Zim gov't rolled back pricing on everything this week and is enforcing it. Throwing staff, owners in jail. The shelves are empty and the owners are not buying supplies to put back on the shelves-- thats if what I have been reading is unbiased. Even fuel's official price is below cost.

Zim has been the bread basket of Southern Africa for a long time. Malawi is shipping grain to them. Meat, the Zim population was known to eat a lot of meat is priced below cost. So its not for sale.

Lots going on recently. I would say that you should continue if it is VF, Hwange or Mana Pools, but pickup the papers along the way and have a backup plan if all breaks loose. The people are mad at Mugabe, not tourists. You just don't want to be in the middle of a police action. The parks(and VF) are a long ways from the population centers. Even Mugabes traditional support is suffering,so things are on edge. That is my personal opinion.
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Jul 14th, 2007, 04:23 PM
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Hi Heather ~

We had the exact same concerns before we went a couple of years ago... and every thing was fine. We loved it.
Ilala lodge was very nice. The people were very gracious. Would love to go again. We emailed several times with the hotel before we arrived. They upgraded us to a suite. Could not have asked for a better visit. The hawkers are more persisent they imaginable. It was very helpful to have a guide take you to the Falls. They are able to keep the hawkers at bay and the cost of a guide is very cheap.
Enjoy!
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Jul 14th, 2007, 05:20 PM
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I'd bee interested to hear what the Harare office says, but imagine they're sticking to the party line. I would discount any experience there that's 2 years old. Obviously it's entirely different now, and deteriorating by the second, with no food on the shelves. I'd say if you're nervous traveler you might not enjoy yourself. The hotels won't give you a straight answer, but if you can find people who've just been there it would be helpful. I'm fairly adventurous and I'm not sure I'd go now, despite the fact that Vic Falls is probably the safest place in the country.
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Jul 15th, 2007, 12:24 AM
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sniktawk
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If you are only going to see Vic Falls, why not stay in Livingstone. The game parks were OK in May, and I hope they will be OK in November, time will tell.
 
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Jul 15th, 2007, 02:08 AM
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Heather H,
My husband and I were in Victoria Falls, Zimbabawe about 6 weeks ago and never felt uncomfortable or threatened. We were watching the situation and decided to go and we are so glad we did. We would not of gone anywhere else in Zimbabwe though. It is a great place, the people are fantastic even though they are extremely poor. I must admit we didn't really think about the political situation at all whilst there. There was no unrest, local crowds milling together or riots. It was peaceful. The economic situation is what confronted us. Zimbabwe money has expiry dates on it due to the spiralling inflation and they will often only print on one side of the note as it is too expensive to do both. A bottle of French champagne cost 1.95 million Zim dollars ($50USD) and the cost of one bullet was the same as two months pay for a safari guide. No-one can tell you whether or not to go but if I was leaving next week for Africa I would still go. Have a great time what ever you chose to do. Cheers Georgie
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Jul 15th, 2007, 07:31 AM
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Heather,

I just returned about 10 days ago from Zim. I was travelling alone, and was in Mana Pools (8 days), Hwange (5 days) and Vic Falls (2 days). GO, you will have a fantastic time. The government worries will be in Bulawayo, and Harare. There will be tourist police in bright yellow/orange vests all over Vic Falls. The people are just lovely, and you won't be in any crowds of angry people who are in the middle of a governmeent crisis. Heck there is only one grocery store in Vic Falls, and there wasn't abyone there when I walked into town to see exactly what was available. GO, HAVE A GREAT TIME!!! If things get hairy while you are gone, your travel company will rebook you. Suzi
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Jul 15th, 2007, 12:26 PM
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It isn't a question of whether there will be a revolution in Zim. Any student of African politics knows that the only questions are how soon, and how bloody. The violence may start soon, maybe not so soon, but my guess is it will be weeks, not months.

I don't think you can say "tourist areas" are ok if you use common sense. Rebels can cut off electricity and water to the Vic Falls hotel just as easily as to any other place. And I don't think you can count on being safe because "tourism is appreciated as a source of hard currency" or "the people are angry at Mugabe, not at tourists". Those things are perfectly true, but they may not be uppermost in the minds of a mob armed with AK47's and machetes. And I don't think "feeling safe" two weeks ago means anything -- people killed in riots anywhere probably felt safe until the riot started.

Personally, I think a travel agent who's booking people into Zim is highly irresponsible.

Here's a piece of advice I read somewhere about what to do when a revolution starts: fill the bathtub with water as soon as you hear the first shot; you'll probably need it.

If I sound pessimistic, I am. But African history is pretty much on my side, I'm sad to say.
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Jul 15th, 2007, 12:57 PM
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Celia
No one on this forum has made the quantum leap as you have. Revolution, AK47's, machetes, rebels.

This is a country that is in the process of imploding. What happens and when are the big questions. But as far as outright civil war, doubtful.
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Jul 15th, 2007, 01:01 PM
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Yes, fill up the tub and take a nice long bath. Would that be with or without Calgon? It does take you away, you know.
That's most interesting advise I've ever heard on this site.

suzic,
Did you do a trip report - can't find it and want to look at the Hwange portion.
cybor is offline  
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Jul 15th, 2007, 01:35 PM
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Yes there is a deteriorating situation in Zimbabwe, has been since Mugabe took power 27 years ago. Will there be a civil war? No one knows for sure, not even Celia. The election is scheduled in March 2008-if it goes on as planned. If not, then is when I would expect trouble to erupt, (though I'm not a psychic). The residents of Victoria Falls are probably the only people in the country making any money,(besides the political party) due to tourism and they are not going to let the hand that feeds them go empty. According to the U.S. State Department website, the last major crime against an American in Victoria Falls was in 2004 (robbed in their hotel room)

If you are worried about crime, the following are from the U.S. State Department:
CRIME: There is a high rate of crime in all regions of Kenya, particularly Nairobi, Mombasa, Kisumu, and at coastal beach resorts. There are regular reports of attacks against tourists by groups of armed assailants.
CRIME: Crime is a serious concern in Namibia, but visitors who employ common-sense preventive measures normally enjoy an incident-free stay. Incidents of violent crime directed specifically against Americans or other foreigners are rare, but the number of overall incidents continues to increase.
CRIME: Crime in Zambia is widespread. Armed carjacking, mugging, residential burglaries, and petty theft are commonplace in Lusaka and other major cities, especially in downtown commercial districts and low-income housing neighborhoods.
CRIME: Crime is an increasingly serious problem in Zimbabwe, driven in part by the country's collapsing living standards.

CRIME: Crime is a serious problem in Tanzania, and visitors should be alert and cautious. Street crime in Dar es Salaam is common and includes mugging, vehicle theft, "smash and grab" attacks on vehicles, armed robbery, and burglary. Thieves and pickpockets on buses and trains steal from inattentive passengers.
CRIME: Although the vast majority of visitors complete their travels in South Africa without incident, visitors should be aware that criminal activity, sometimes violent, occurs routinely. Notwithstanding government anti-crime efforts, violent crimes such as armed robbery, carjacking, mugging, "smash and grab" attacks on vehicles, and other incidents are regularly reported by visitors and resident Americans.
Go to Vic Falls, enjoy the Ilala Lodge and everything the place has to offer.



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Jul 15th, 2007, 03:52 PM
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Hi Heather,

Would it be possible for you to switch to the Zambian side to stay? I am flying into Zim, but then transferring to Zambian side for my stay. When i booked my trip, I was afraid that thigns in Zim would get worse, not better and am travelling alone for a couple days before I meet my tour so didn't want to worry about the conditions in Zim. I will be there on the 29th and 30th so am interested in a first hand account of the Zim airport and overall situation.

Hopefully someone who is there right now can email and let you know the true situation. Is your agent in SA? Perhaps you can look online and email one of the travel agencies in SA who may have a better idea of the actual situation. I may do that myself. I emailed my agent in the US and he emailed the tour company in SA and they said things were fine at the airport, but who really knows...seems like the situation is changing daily.

Good luck.

Heather

Heather
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Jul 16th, 2007, 12:06 AM
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I am a UK based travel agent who has a Zimbabwean professional guide as a business partner, and he and his family live in Victoria Falls. I also have a considerable number of contacts that I talk to on an almost daily basis throughout the country. I still have absolutely no hesitation in recommending my clients to visit Victoria Falls or any of the major parks in Zimbabwe. I am certainly not irresponsible with the welfare of my clients and monitor the situation constantly.

In terms of supplies, the hotels and lodges have imported their food and other provisions for many years already and the current situation hasn't changed that. There is no getting around the fact that life is extraordinarily tough for the majority of Zimbabweans, yet when I visited late last year - as a white person driving around in a shiny and obviously expensive 4x4 rental vehicle I met nothing but friendly and welcoming people, so glad to see a tourist.

You must obviously do what you feel comfortable with as you don't want to ruin your holiday by worrying. But I would strongly recommend that you go to Victoria Falls, relax at Ilala Lodge and have a wonderful time. You will find the hawkers are an absolute pain, but they always have been - you will soon be adept at ignoring them as in so many other tourist destinations. If you feel more comfortable, arrange a guided tour of the Falls and your guide will keep the hawkers at bay for you. Other than that, take the normal sensible precautions that you would in any prime tourist destination - keep your valuables in a safe at the hotel and don't walk around the streets wearing expensive jewellery or a posh camera hanging around your neck.

I don't believe that the people of Zimbabwe are yet ready for a political uprising, but if something does happen it will almost certainly begin in Harare. Remember in Victoria Falls you have a border with Zambia within walking distance and one into Botswana within a short drive. Keep the contact details of your agent with you and if there is any sign of trouble I have no doubt that your agent will relocate you.
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Jul 16th, 2007, 05:39 AM
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Thanks for the reply Ngoko.
As I plan on going to Zimb. next July/Aug. and staying at Ilana, Matesi Water camp and the Mana pools canoe trip thus far with hopes of extending.

I noticed that Matesi safari camp is closed which I'm assuming is for renovation - true?

Also, do you know the reason that Chikwenga and Matusadona seem to be closed as well?

I'm happy to support the good and quite innocent people Zimb. and do wish them peace.
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Jul 16th, 2007, 07:36 AM
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Cybor, I am pretty sure that those locations are closed due to lack of visitors, not refurbishments. At Mana- Vundu, and its mobile are open (Bushlifesafaris.com/ Africaadventure.com or you can book thru African Bushcamps- which also has Somalisa in Hwange), and Wilderness has an open camp in Mana(Rukomechi)with a mobile canoe segment. Bushlife's guides also guide regularly at Matusadona, using Rhino safari lodge (located on Elephant Point, Kariba lake). Suzi
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Jul 16th, 2007, 07:59 AM
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Thanks Suzi. I'll check it out. Did you post a trip report?
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Jul 16th, 2007, 08:14 AM
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Filling the bath tub is so you'll have something to drink, not something to soak in!
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Jul 16th, 2007, 09:01 AM
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Well it also could have been a rec. of a place to stick your head in rather than the oven prior to the militias arrival.

Was just being facitious earlier to your dire prediction.
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