World's Most Controversial Destinations
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Why go: Huge elephant herds and one of the continent's largest concentrations of giraffes. The country's national parks range from Hwange, where you can easily spot more than 100 animal species in the Kalahari desert, to Matsudona, a base for houseboats, fishing trips, and game drives, to Mana Pools, which offers walking and canoeing safaris along the Zambezi River. Victoria Falls (pictured), on the Zambian-Zimbabwean border remains so popular that it is almost impossible to book a flight there in the July-September high season; thrill seekers use this as a base for bungee jumping and white-water rafting on the upper Zambezi.
Why not go: Under the 28-year rule of President Robert Mugabe and his ZANU-PF party, one of Africa's breadbaskets has become a basket case with over 100,000 percent inflation. Economic reform based on the seizure of white-owned farms and land redistribution (as opposed to job creation) has led to food shortages. Police routinely arrest journalists (most recently New York Times bureau chief Barry Bearak, who was trying to cover the 2008 elections), human-rights activists, and political demonstrators; torture is frequent. The March 2008 elections appear to have resulted in the ZANU-PF party losing control of parliament for the first time in three decades; however, the government has refused to publicly release the vote count and has ordered a recount of the presidential tally.
Experts say: "If there is one wildlife country in Africa where the people and wildlife populations stand to benefit from tourism, Zimbabwe is it," says Mark Nolting, author of Africa's Top Wildlife Countries and president of The Africa Adventure Company (Tel: 800-882-9453; www.africa-adventure.com).
If you go: Do not use cameras or cell phones to take photographs in cities. Police have orders to arrest unaccredited journalists who have snuck in on tourist visas to cover Zimbabwe's plight.