The Eastern Highlands escarpment has every activity a tourist who would enjoy an active outing would want from the best fly fishing spots, trout fishing, nature and mountain hiking trails, white water rafting, sky walk and zip line, numerous water sports and golf. Those that would love a more sedentary holiday break are equally spoilt for choice.
This is all in a setting of diverse world-class tourist destinations and the fairest climatic conditions in the land.
Right in the eastern border city of Mutare is Cecil Kop and Thompson’s Vlei a 1700 hectare nature reserve. In the south-east of the city is the Vumba Mountains, steep green “mountains of the mist”, clothed in indigenous forest and teaming with near endemic birds and rare wildlife. The awesome 760 m tall Mtarazi Falls connect Nyanga with Honde Valley with its scenic gorge view in which the iconic Mahwemasimike, meaning “planted rocks”, stand majestically. Mt Inyangani, the tallest mountain in the country, is a few minutes’ drive from the falls. The country’s longest mountain range and only quartzite mountain in Africa – Chimanimani Mountains with its pools, waterfalls, caves, rock paintings and wildlife; the classy Bridal Veil Falls; and Makwaha Forest in Vimba all beckon further down the Eastern Highlands with Nyanyadzi Hot Springs and Chipinge’s world famous big tree in Chirinda Forest at the tail end of the escarpment.
But tourists are an erratic trickle.
The region lack air connectivity and this has been the big elephant in the room. The nearest airport is almost 300 kilometres away in Harare leaving it only accessible by road – a big disadvantage for tourists who would have limited time.
Or, as was the case over the past decade, police make road travel punitive.
This was the time that Gordon Addams, a veteran hotelier with four decades in the industry, stood up to authorities by demanding the demilitarization of Grand Reef Airport 22 kilometres from Mutare at a time that few had the courage to do so.
It is only recently, after the departure of former President Robert Mugabe, that business groups have joined former Inns of Zimbabwe chairperson in calling for the transformation of Grand Reef into a commercial airport to unlock its full economic potential and bring it to parity with other major cities with airports like Harare, Gweru, Bulawayo, Kariba, Victoria Falls and Masvingo. Even little Chiredzi has one.
The airport has now been cleared for development for use but like any hero throughout history, his efforts are not being publicly acknowledged. He is not worried though “as long as we have a functional airport to connect us to the rest of the world.”
He is one person who is not afraid to put his body on the line for the greater good of the tourism industry—an honest, sincere gentleman who will tell you what you need to know.
Addams who currently owns and runs Gordon’s Bed and Breakfast in Mutare and Grace’s Cottage in the Vumba is continuing to advocate for a better legislative environment for hospitality industry players with a call for government to rationalise levies and taxes to make the sector regionally competitive.