Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe is the most famous and the largest of the country’s wildlife parks.
Hwange National Park In Zimbabwe: A Haven for Wildlife
The park is one of Africa’s finest havens for wildlife, with vast herds of elephants, buffalo, zebra and a large concentration of giraffes. It is also home to many predators and endangered species plus a very large and varied birdlife.
How Big Is Hwange National Park?
Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe is the largest of Zimbabwe’s national parks, covering an area of 14,651km², 1,460,000 hectares or 5,863 square miles, which brings it to approximately half the size of Belgium.
This makes it the perfect area for wild animals to breed, hunt and continue in their natural cycle of life within the large wilderness protected for them.
Where Is Hwange National Park Located In Zimbabwe?
Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe shares a border with Botswana. It is located in the northwest corner of the country on the main road between Bulawayo and the world-famous Victoria Falls. The park is about one hour’s drive to the south of the Victoria Falls town.
The only park to rival Hwange is Victoria Falls National Park. Not because of its size, but because it contains the famous Victoria Falls waterfall.
Map Of Hwange National Park
History Of Hwange National Park
Many archaeological sites from the early Stone Age to the historic era provide as evidence that there have been people living in the area for tens of thousands of years.
Foragers of the stone age hunted and gathered in the area, leaving behind various sites and stone implements that are now spread across the park. In the northwest of the park, they painted several tiny rocks and engraved animal hoofprints on the walls of sandstone rock shelters. Throughout the park, Iron-Age inhabitants constructed both big and tiny stone-walling sites.
The land the National Park occupies was formerly inhabited by the San bushmen, the Nhanzwa, and also served as the Matabele king, Mzilikazi and his successor Lobengula’s royal hunting reserve throughout the nineteenth century.
In 1928, the reserve was gazetted for wildlife conservation as the land was deemed unsuitable for agriculture with its poor soils and scarce water supplies.
The reserve was named Wankie Game Reserve with a 22-year-old Ted Davidson as the first warden. In 1949, it was joined with the neighboring Robins Game Sanctuary and became a national park.
The sheer size of the park means that its landscape is very diverse, with the vegetation and game varying immensely. In the north, dense teak forests, granite hills, and mopane woodlands change to Kalahari sand veld and semi-desert scrub in the south.
Extensive open grassy plains mixed with acacia and mopane woodland, combined with stretches of ilala palms, lie in between.
The park is close to the edge of the Kalahari Desert, which creates a region with an absence of permanent surface water. Wildlife relies heavily on a series of waterholes, with many of them drying up completely during drought years.
Due to the lack of water, a number of man-made waterholes were built in order to sustain thousands of animals during the dry season. The “Friends of Hwange” maintain several of these waterholes throughout the year.
Hwange National Park Safari
It is important to be aware of the best seasons to visit the park in order to see the best and most beautiful places in Hwange.
The different seasons affect dramatic changes in the park. The bush becomes lush and green during the summer rains between December and March. The wildlife during this period is very spread out as pools of water are plentiful.
Alternatively, the winter months between June and October see the bush and grass drying out, as well as the pools and smaller waterholes. This causes wildlife to congregate around the existing watering holes, which creates excellent game viewing opportunities.
Viewing platforms are positioned strategically to witness the migration of animals to and from the water.
What Animals Are In Hwange National Park?
All of Zimbabwe’s species of animals that need protection are to be found in Hwange.
As well as gemsbok and brown hyena, the park also hosts what is thought to be the largest surviving group of wild dogs in Africa, within its protected borders.
The park is home to over 100 mammal species, including elephants, of which there are many very large herds. Buffalo and lion are also prolific with the opportunity to spot leopard and cheetah.
With the critical water situation and the depleted wildlife as a consequence, Ted Davidson set upon creating over 60 new artificial pans which helped increase wildlife numbers who were now able to access drier parts of the park.
Even to this day, water is an issue and is vital to the survival of the animals in Hwange National Park. It is thanks to the Friends of Hwange that many of the waterholes are still functioning today.
Hwange National Park Accommodation
Camping In Hwange National Park
Camping is available in Hwange at designated picnic sites. These sites consist of an enclosed picnic area with either thatched areas or shady trees for protection and a small ablution block with running water.
These areas cater for groups of up to 10 people who may camp overnight and are also open to all visitors during the day.
Self-catering Lodges In Hwange National Park
Hwange National Park lodges are dotted around the park, with three distinctive camps at Robins, Sinamatella and the largest one at Main Camp. The accommodation in Hwange National Park includes:
Hwange Main Camp
Main Camp has facilities including fully equipped self-catering lodges, cottages and chalets, a camping and caravan site.
Amenities include a bar and restaurant, grocery store, a curio shop, and a petrol station.
Sinamatella and Robins Camp
These camps have self-catering chalets, camping facilities, and braai areas.
Some may have separate ablution blocks for washing and bathing.
Please note that the petrol station at Main Camp may not always have fuel available. It is advisable to bring your own if possible. Enough to do game drives and get back to your destination.
All-inclusive Hwange Accommodation
There are several exclusive camps both in the national park and just outside the borders of the park offering first-class facilities.
Most of these camps and lodges offer full board with well-trained chefs making all your meals first class.
They all offer excursions that will include game drives during the day as well as early evening into the night. Their trained scouts may offer walks and even trips by canoe or boat if there are waterways nearby.
Hwange National Park Activities
All safari camps and lodges offer varying activities including walking safaris, game drives in open vehicles, and night game drives within the park.
The wildlife park hosts 480 kilometres of roads for game-viewing and access to the many camps dotted around the park.
If you are doing a self-drive, some of these roads may not always be in the best condition, especially in the wet season, so get advice on entry into the park.
A more immersive activity offered by private lodges and camps is a walking safari.
These are all accompanied by a professional who would be qualified to carry a weapon for your safety if required. They are also highly trained and very knowledgeable about the wildlife and the surrounding trees and plants.
This fact makes for a very informative and interesting sightseeing walk through the African bush.
All in all, Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe is the ultimate wildlife reserve in the country – well worth a visit.