Honde Valley charms Grand Tour crew James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond

Liberty Dube Mutare Bureau

ZIMBABWE’s tourism sector continues to attract global attention, with more high-profile visitors, the latest being the Grand Tour crew of James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond.

Grand Tour is a British motoring television series made for Amazon exclusively for its online streaming service Amazon Prime Video.

It premièred on 18 November 2016 and was conceived in the wake of the departure of Clarkson, Hammond, May and Wilman from the BBC series Top Gear.

The trio of Clarkson, Hammond and May visited Honde Valley in Manicaland this week for the filming of the ‘Grand Tour in Zimbabwe’ episode before driving through Rusape and Harare on their way to Victoria Falls.

A picture of the trio standing underneath an umbrella Flamboyant Tree has gone viral, confirming that the three were in Zimbabwe’s best-kept tourism secret, Honde Valley.

Commonly known as Pamufirimboyi, the tree is popular among tourists, mostly foreigners, with its canopy and umbrella shape. In the background of the picture there are two mountains with the furthest, which is bluish in colour and covered with white-like fog, being Nyanga Mountain.

The other mountain which is closer on the background picture is Milimani where macadamia nuts are planted. The three British stars were standing facing the direction of a tea factory and Mapokana Hills.

The picture is now doing the rounds on social media handles, mostly on X (formerly Twitter), Instagram and Facebook, after Clarkson posted it on Instagram, with many expressing enthusiasm with the Manicaland tourism sites, particularly Honde Valley, a well-watered valley that falls steeply to the east from the main spine of the Eastern Highlands.

Sources in Honde Valley said the three, among others, came on Wednesday and also visited the Troutbeck area in Nyanga and left Manicaland for Kariba. Pictures and videos of the crew passing Rusape were all over social media yesterday, with many people saying they can’t wait to watch the episode.

During a drive through Harare’s Central Business District yesterday in their dust-caked vintage cars, Clarkson and his crew could be seen interacting with locals while marvelling at the scenery.

Previous episodes of the Grand Tour were filmed in neighbouring countries such as Namibia and South Africa.

The visit by the three former Top Gear stars left many on social media wondering if Manicaland, particularly Honde Valley, was well marketed to become a preferred tourist destination in the country.

Clarkson and his team’s vintage cars had British number plates.

Mr Prosper Kuwa of Shambazuva Tourism that runs Honde Valley Sightings, a Destination Management Company, confirmed Clarkson and his team’s visit to Honde Valley.

“The Flamboyant Tree is famous among tourists especially international ones.

“The tree has majestically stood there for years and it can be seen from various angles as it is situated on top of a hill,” said Mr Kuwa.

“Our post on Twitter appreciating Clarkson and team’s presence generated interest for obvious reasons.

“Honde Valley is best described as one of the best kept tourism secrets because even if people know there is place called Honde Valley, they are not aware of the tourism assets the area possesses.

“The assets Honde Valley possesses include rivers, magnificent mountains, thick forests and waterfalls.”

Former soccer star and celebrity, Alois Bunjira, who hails from Honde Valley, wrote “wooow”, on his Facebook page.

Also posted Honde Valley Sightings on its X page: “That’s the tree that caught the global attention today!”

Other high-profile recent visits to Zimbabwe include British billionaire Mr Richard Branson of the Virgin Group and Aston Villa and Scotland captain John McGinn.

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