Official name: Republic of Zimbabwe
Area: 390,580 square kilometers (150,804 square miles)
Highest point on mainland: Mount Inyangani (2,592 meters/8,504 feet)
Lowest point on land: Junction of the Runde and Save Rivers (162 meters/531 feet)
Hemispheres: Southern and Eastern
Time zone: 2 P.M. = noon GMT
Longest distances: 852 kilometers (529 miles) from west-northwest to east-southeast; 1,223 kilometers (710 miles) from north-northeast to south-southwest
Land boundaries: 3,066 kilometers (1,905 miles) total boundary length; Botswana 813 kilometers (505 miles); Mozambique 1,231 kilometers (765 miles); South Africa 225 kilometers (140 miles); Zambia 797 kilometers (495 miles)
Territorial sea limits: None
Zimbabwe is a landlocked nation in southern Africa. At 390,580 square kilometers (150,804 square miles), it covers slightly more area than the state of Montana.
Zimbabwe has no territories or dependencies.
Temperatures in Zimbabwe are greatly affected by altitude and time of year. Average temperatures in the high altitudes are about 12°C (54°F) in the winter and about 24°C (75°F) in the summer. In the lower altitudes, temperatures are usually 6°C (11°F) higher than those measured in the higher altitude areas. The summer rainy season lasts from November to March. It is followed by a transitional season, during which both temperature and rainfall decrease. The cool dry season follows, usually lasting from mid-May to mid-August.
Finally, there is a warm, dry season, which lasts until the onset of the summer rains. Besides its effect on temperatures, altitude also affects the rainfall in Zimbabwe. The eastern mountainous regions receive more than 100 centimeters (40 inches) annually. By contrast, the capital city of Harare receives approximately 81 centimeters (32 inches) of rainfall per year. The southern and southwestern regions of the country receive even less rain.
The country's high plateau, an area of grass and woodlands known as the Highveld , ranges in width between 80 to 160 kilometers (50 and 100 miles) and extends across the center of the country from northeast to southwest for 643 kilometers (400 miles). It slopes gently downward from the central upland region through a Middleveld region to considerably lower plains areas—the Lowveld —near the country's borders. The highest elevations are in the east near the border with Mozambique.
Zimbabwe is landlocked.
Although Zimbabwe has no natural lakes, its many dams have created numerous artificial lakes. The largest of these reservoirs is Lake Kariba, situated on the Zambezi River at the border with Zambia.
Three rivers, flowing east to the Indian Ocean via Mozambique, drain all of Zimbabwe except for a small southwestern region. Two of the major rivers originate outside Zimbabwe—the Zambezi, along the Angola border, and the Limpopo, in South Africa. The headwaters of the Sabi, the third major river, are situated south of Harare on the eastern slopes of the Highveld.
The Zambezi River, which marks much of the northern border with Zambia, is the longest of all African rivers that flow to the Indian Ocean. Near the northwestern tip of Zimbabwe, the river drops over Victoria Falls, a cataract which is 106 meters (350 feet) high at its maximum and nearly 1.5 kilometers (1 mile) wide.
There are no deserts in Zimbabwe.
Much of Zimbabwe's plateau surface is savannah, a rolling plain covered with a mixture of grasses and open woodlands. The central Highveld varies from relatively smooth to rough, almost mountainous, terrain. The Middleveld consists of medium-altitude wooded grasslands, and the Lowveld is made up of wide grassy plains.
In north-central Zimbabwe, the broad expanse of Highveld breaks up into several groups of mountains. The eastern mountain complex is the highest in the country. Most peaks are between 1,828 and 2,368 meters (6,000 and 8,000 feet) in elevation; the loftiest, Mount Inyangani—at 2,592 meters (8,504 feet)—is the tallest mountain in Zimbabwe. Another group of mountains extends north from Harare as the Umvukwe Range, which meets the Zambezi Escarpment in the far north.
Both the Highveld and Lowveld regions contain rocky hills and buttes known locally as kopjes (hills). The central high-altitude areas are marked by a massive extrusion of ancient lava, called the Great Dike Hills; this terrain extends from the northeast to the southwest for 482 kilometers (300 miles) and rises above the surrounding Highveld in a series of eroded ridges.
Some of southern Africa's deepest caves are located in
Chimanimani, including the deepest, the Mawenge Mwena Cave (305
meters/1,000 feet). Zimbabwe's most extensive karst terrain is
located near the town of Chinhoyi, site of the celebrated Chinhoyi
Caves, with their deep underground "Sleeping Pool" that
many visitors. Near Victoria Falls, the Zambezi River narrows and flows through a series of steep gorges.
The plateaus of Zimbabwe are divided into three sections: the Highveld (high altitude), the Middleveld (medium altitude), and the Lowveld (low altitude). The Highveld stretches from the northeast to the southeast at elevations of 1,219 to 1,675 meters (4,000 to 5,500 feet), reaching Mount Inyangani in the far eastern part of the country. The Middleveld areas are located on both sides of the Highveld, and range from 600 to 1,200 meters (2,000 to 4,000 feet) in height. Below 600 meters (2,000 feet) are areas called the Lowveld. In the southeast the Lowveld, which in this region is generally considered to include the land below 914 meters (3,000 feet), extends from the edge of the Middleveld to the southern and southeastern borders, covering nearly one-fifth of Zimbabwe's territory. In the northwest and the north the Lowveld is divided into three major sections, partially separated by escarpments and local ranges of hills. These sections slope directly to the Zambezi River or to the shoreline of Lake Kariba.
Lake Kariba, which Zimbabwe shares with neighboring Zambia, is among the world's largest artificial lakes. The Kariba Dam, the construction of which created the lake, is 128 meters (420 feet) high and 579 meters (1,900 feet) long, making it one of the largest dams in the world.
The average flow rate over Victoria Falls is 1,090 cubic meters per second (38,000 cubic feet per second).
Fromentin, Eughne. Between Sea and Sahara: An Algerian Journal . Trans. by Blake Robinson. Athens: Ohio University Press, 1999.
McCrea, Barbara, and Tony Pinchuck. Zimbabwe: The Rough Guide . 3rd ed. London and New York: Rough Guides, 1997.
Ranger, Terence. Voices from the Rocks: Nature, Culture & History in the Matopos Hills of Zimbabwe. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1999.
African Travel Gateway. http://www.africantravel.com/zimintr.html (accessed April 17, 2003).
Lonely Planet: Destination Zimbabwe. http://www.lonelyplanet.com/destinations/africa/zimbabwe/ (accessed April 17, 2003).