The Vumba – together with Chimanimani and Nyanga – form the Eastern Highlands of Zimbabwe. This chain of mountain ranges marks the Eastern border of Zimbabwe with neighbouring Mozambique.
The plateau of Nyanga lies to the North at an altitude of around 2100m, rising to 2592 m at the summit of Mt. Nyangani. Much of the area has been declared a National Park.
Next in line is theVumba with its forests, hidden valleys, stunning views from Chinyakwaremba and Castle Beacon, which at 1911m is the highest peak. It is rumoured that, on aclear day, you can theoretically see all the way to Beira on the Indian Ocean coast. Just south, divided only by the Burma Valley lies the “Himalaya” range with Mt. Engwa, the highest point. Further south there is the solitude of the Chimanimani range, also declared a National Park. It stretches over 50 km long and rises to a height of 2440m at the top of Mt. Binga. At the most southern tip of the Eastern Highlands stands Mt. Selinda and Chirinda Forest.
It is not easy to define the bounderies of the area called the Vumba and different authors use different definitions. The Vumba lies to the South-East of Mutare, the fourth largest city of Zimbabwe, and covers an area of more or less 200 km². From the city a tar road takes you 700m up into the mountains. The first part of the drive takes you through Msasa woodland, which quite abruptly changes into evergreen mist forest. To the South lie the Zimunya and Chigodora communal lands and further on the Burma Valley, where one can find banana and other tropical fruit plantations. This valley separates the Vumba from the Tsetsera range, also known as the Himalayas. To the North is Essex Valley. A large part of this valley is used for commercial forestry, where the Wattle Company has Eucalyptus plantations. Elsewhere one can find dairy farms, fruit orchards and some coffee, while at higher altitudes Proteas are grown as export flowers. Further North lies the Manica Gap, separating the Vumba from the Penhalongaand Stapleford areas. To the East and the North the Vumba range borders on to Mozambique. The only mountain of this range that lies in Mozambican territory is the Serra Vumba (1648m).
Topographically the area exists of mountain ranges and ridges running north to north north west from the Burma valley to the Eastern side of Castle Beacon to Chinziwa mountain, Lion Rock, Zohwe and the Mozambique border. The main rivers are the Nyamataka rising from Castle Beacon and the Zonwe from Zohwe flowing Eastwards into Mozambique.
Geologically the main rock types are granite and younger dolorite intrusions. 2500 million years ago granite magma made its way up to the Earth’s surface, where it crystallized. Since then, millennia of erosion have exposed the rock in many places.
These facts, together with a difference in altitude of less than 600m in the Burma valley to 1911m at Castle Beacon, make the Vumba very different from any other place in Zimbabwe. Much of the flora and fauna is unique, due to very different climatic circumstances. The region boasts many special birds, flowers, trees and butterflies, while the vast majority of orchids and ferns only occur in the Eastern Highlands.
With an average annual rainfall of 1800mm a year, the Vumba can be pretty wet, especially during the rainy season. The main bulk of the rain falls between November and March but throughout the year you might get an occasional shower or a misty day, which will keep everything green when the rest of the country dries up. Visibility is best just after the main rains, giving you clear skies and excellent views. Winter follows with July and August being coldest as temperatures may drop to below zero at night. After that a slow build up starts, temperatures rise and a haze of dust and the smoke of veld fires take away the views. People look at the sky, waiting for the new rains to start the next seasonal cycle.