Hwange National Park
Top Attractions in Hwange National Park
Hwange National Park
Just like the fine English romantic poet John Keats quotes in one of his romantic poems “a thing of beauty is a joy forever” Hwange National Park is ridiculously beautiful that its charm will not allow you to holdback your tears of joy. It won’t be for nine days like the spun of most joys, its kind you will forever reflect on and be forever grateful you made the safari. Hwange National Park pronounced “wang-ee”, once known as Wankie National Park is Zimbabwe’s most famous National park and one of Africa’s finest national parks with the likes of Kruger national park in South Africa. This is so because of its mammoth size and it being home to presidential herd of elephants estimated to be 60,000 strong. A number that is an exclusive for not more than five elite African national parks.
The area occupied by the park in the times when the dead sea was still in a critical condition was inhabited by the San bushmen known as the Nhanzwa who were fruit gatherers and hunters who got pushed out by the Matabele people who eventually made the area royal hunting grounds for King Mzilikazi. The area was deemed unsuitable for farming because of its insufficient water supplies and poor soils by the British administrators, coupled with the wanton hunting of game by both the indigenous and European hunters, the area was gazetted into a wildlife conservation area in 1928 with its first warden being the celebrated 22-year-old Ted Davison. He figured out adequate water supplies would bolster wildlife prosperity in the conservation area. A school of thought that drove him to tirelessly and unceasingly establish several windmills, boreholes and diesel pumps to create artificial waterholes for the wildlife during dry seasons. His school of thought indeed skyrocketed the statistics of wildlife in this rather thirsty conservation area, a thing that led to its establishment as a national park in 1930 with the inclusion of the neighbouring Robins Game sanctuary. Clearly artificial water pumped to several pans (waterholes) during the dry seasons is very vital to the wildlife success of this National park, a fact evidenced by the skyrocketing statistics of wildlife in the park now, with well over 108 species it has the highest diversity of mammals of any national park in the world. Thanks to the friends of Hwange that is you and me who sacrifice resources however bantam they may be to make sure water is pumped to these waterholes, dams and pans in order to conserve the wildlife in this park for the next generation. of course once in a while conservation efforts are derailed, like on the 1st of July 2015 Cecil the famous 13-year-old lion got killed by dentist Walter Palmer an American recreational big game hunter, a thing that spurred widespread social media outrage and as if that wasn’t enough two years later Cecil’s son Xanda met a similar fate like his dad and the wretched killers got away with it simply because they got permits to shoot game, nevertheless all the conservation indicators reflect progress is being met to safeguard the wildlife in this frontier.
Hwange National Park nestled on an area well over 14,000 square kilometres is the largest national park in Zimbabwe and the continent’s third-largest national park after Kruger National Park (19,500 km2) in South Africa and Zambia’s Kafue National Park (22,000 km2), a size equivalent to the battlefield of of Europe (Belgium). It is located in Matebeleland on the eastern edge of the vast Kalahari sands and scrublands, a makeshift zone between the bone-dry Kalahari Desert and the lush Zimbabwe Highlands in the north western Zimbabwe District of Hwange near the town of Dete. This diverse pristine ecosystem lies on the main road between Bulawayo and the magical Victoria falls, just 2 hours (100 km) away from the town of Victoria falls the site of the only African member of the seven natural wonders of the world, the remarkable Victoria falls. A geolocation vantage that makes it a perfect safari destination for a combined classic African safari combined with a visit to the indomitable Victoria falls. Furthermore, because of its location within the Zambezi basin it is a member of the five country KAZA TFCA (Kavango – Zambezi Transfortier Conservation Area), one of the world’s largest protected areas two times the size of the United Kingdom (UK). It lies on the Zambezi river basin that unites Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe with stunning wildlife jewels like Chobe National park (Botswana), Hwange national park (Zimbabwe), Victoria falls national park (Zimbabwe), Mosi Oa Tunga national park (Zambia) Zambezi national park (Zimbabwe), the Okavango delta (Botswana) dotted in this spectacular wildlife belt.Hwange national park’s ecosystem is exceptional in its beauty offering safari goers an authentic vintage visual and sensory treat of a classic African safari, a feat it owes to its size, geolocation and the many years of extremely low visitor numbers that have enabled it to recover. The national park is divided into two ecological zones that are largely flat, the Kalahari sands and desert thickets in the south towards the boundaries of the Kalahari Desert and the rockier terrain in the north region of the park characterised with granite hills, large strips of dense Mopane woodland valleys, forests of teak and vast savanna grasslands. Scattered within these woodlands are ancient fossil lakebeds and drainage lines which are now large savannah grasslands fringed with Acacia and Leadwood trees. They still get filled with water in the rainy seasons of December - March attracting migratory birds from all over Africa and Eurasia. The woodlands are nestled with spellbinding natural bleeds such as Nehimba and Shakwanki in the north west where Elephants and other animals still dig for water just like the San bushmen did during the times they inhabited the Park. Several managed waterholes, dams and pans dotted all over the park like Nyamandhlovu Platform, Masumo dam and Mandavu dam offer visitors joyful bush picnics as they attract and sustain large populations of wildlife in this rather thirsty park, since they are the only sources of water for wildlife in this area that doesn’t have natural surface water sources. These waterholes have photographic hideouts in form of buried container viewpoints that will give visitors endless incredible photo opportunities and hair brush proximity to the thousands of animals drinking at the various controlled waterholes, dams and pans. The park is equally laden with several roads and walking trails not forgetting the thought-provoking ancient archaeological sites at places such as Bumbuzi and the Mtoa Ruins in the northern region of the park.
Hwange national park has the greatest diversity of mammals out of all the world’s national parks with well over 108 mammal species. This is attributed to the fact that it lies in the spectacular Zambezi Basin which acts as a wildlife corridor for animals moving between itself and the neighbouring Victoria falls national park in Zimbabwe, Zambezi national park in Zimbabwe, Mosi Oa Tunga national park in Zambia, Chobe National Park in Botwasna, the Okavangao delta in Botswana and the Moremi Game Reserve in Botswana paired with its extraordinary vast ecosystem attract and sustain a diverse range of wildlife species and in tremendous numbers. The park is home to the big five which include the African elephant, African lion, Cape buffalo, African leopard, and the rhino, with elephants shadowing the rest of the animals in statistics (60,000) and size of course, their populations are even controlled by culling because if they become too many they destroy their own habitat.
Remarkably Hwange national park has one of Africa’s largest populations of the endangered wild dogs (160) whose total number on the African continent is a measly 5,000 and rare species such as roan and sable, plus a very healthy population of giraffes, elands, wildebeests, hippos, zebras, wildebeests, antelopes, gemsboks and many more others. Carnivores like cheetahs, lions, leopards, hyenas and wild dogs are equally in healthy numbers in this scenic thirsty African wilderness, hence be on the lookout for painted dogs hunting in packs for it’s such a scene to behold. All these animals and their theatrics really come alive to put on spectacular wildlife dramas befitting of a classic African safari in the dry winter months of July – October when the animals gather at the 60 waterholes in the park to partake of the scarce artificially pumped sweet waters.
Hwange national park is equally impressive when it comes to birding with well over 420 species registered in the park. Birders will be impressed by the wet seasons of December - March when the fossil lakebeds and drainage lines in the woods that have since largely become grasslands fill up with water attracting the multi coloured feathered fellas from all over Africa and Eurasia. The park is renowned for the large numbers of raptors with well over 50 species recorded in the park, the most common being the bateleur eagle that is often sighted casually soaring overhead looking for prey. Other birds like the gigantic kori bird, secretary bird, the southern hornbill and many more are all residents here. So for any avid birder or regular visitor Hwange national park is a bucket list birders safari destination.
Hwange national park is an elite classic African safari destination of choice because of first and foremost its mammoth size, pristine ecosystem, abundance of wildlife especially the big five but mainly the elephants, it’s on the Hwange Victoria main way hence very accessible, a railway line that predates it crosses right through it making the park more accessible, proximity to Victoria falls, its remarkable wild dog numbers of overly 160 wild dogs of the 7000 left in Africa, the remarkable well over 420 species of birds, unique absence of natural surface water that necessitates the animals to rely on the 60 artificially filled waterholes dotted all over the park, remote exclusivity owing to its off the beaten nature of safari hotspots, exceptional safari guides since Zimbabwe has an unrivalled quality of safari guides and all at a very pocket friendly rates that is the best safari rates in the whole world.
Top things you simply must do in Hwange National Park
Game Drives in Hwange NP
A visit to Hwange national park is a superb visit and a forever memorable one only when one indulges in the incredible game drive through the National Park. It is epic throughout the whole year however it gets exceptionally mind-blowing during the dry winter months of July – October. During this season all the animals assemble at the 60 waterholes in the park to partake of the precious, sweet and scarce artificially pumped water, because the park has no permanent natural water sources. Furthermore, the dry season would have thinned out the vegetation making visibility flawless. The game drives normally begin at 6:00 am and end at 6:00 pm with morning drives to see animals coming out to go and nourish their starving bodies then late afternoon game drives after the animals would have had an evening nap. Night drives are not offered in the park but it is on the fringes of the park in the private concessions that surround the park, since the park isn’t fenced and these concessions have private water holes that attract the wild animals to their concessions as well. Being that Hwange has well over 108 mammals in its precinct and it being the only protected area where gemsbok and African wild dogs occur in reasonable numbers, the wildlife encounters are ridiculously rich so be ready to get thrilled by the numerous red dusty elephants dancing in the muddy waterholes, pure magical moments. The grazers will be sighted in the areas of Linkwasha Concession, Doma Pan and the Main Camp, with the mixed feeders commonly sighted in the areas of Sinamatella and the Robins. The pachyderms tend to converge in areas where thorough water pumping is maintained like the Kennedy Pans. The predators are equally plenty in in this dusty town with wild dogs impeccably present in outstanding numbers considering they are almost extinct on the continent, Hwange is even a lion conservation unit, equally cheetahs, hyenas and leopards are all over picking up dinner where the herbivores are grazing. The rhinos that is black and white are a sight you will forever behold! they are a countable number in the park but our guides in Hwange know where exactly to find them. Of course there are picnic breaks at beautiful sites like Ngwethla Picnic Site, here one will have a therapeutic break from the car to have a cup of coffee and a warm burger with bush sounds and blowing Kalahari winds coupled with sights of zebras, giraffes, wildebeests, timeless if I may.
Guided Bushwalk Safari in Hwange
Hwange National Park is exceptionally mesmerising for a piloted bushwalk safari, this is owed to the fact that the park has exceptionally numerous diverse ecosystems. The southern regions of the Kalahari sand dotted with grassy plains and shady acacia forests are particularly laden with cheetahs that make use of the vast open space to make thunderbolt dashes at its preys like the Gemsbok, Roan antelopes, Sables and many more other grazers and browsers. Of course Kalahari Desert is evidently showing off in this area and and the pathways are stark out. The North of the park is a pure contrast of the south characterised by clay and rocky soils nestled with thick Mopane forests, grasslands and leadwood trees. Aloes and Euphorbia grow on the granite hills “kopjes”. A perfect area for the find the rock climbing tiny Klipspringer antelope and the Rock hyrax and they will be found in plenty in this part of the park. The elephants and other pachyderms will be found in the mopane forests and the evasive rhinos will be spotted as well with the able guidance of the very knowledgeable guides that know the park like the back of their palms. The guides will pass on indigenous knowledge to the visitors who they will take through all the alleys of the pathways as they point out the various animals and plants and what they mean to them and how they impact the indigenous life. Of course you will not miss sighting the coloured dogs and other animals as the guides will take you to exceptional viewpoints like Nyamandlovu Pan, which has a high-rise viewing platform over a popular drinking hole where one will have endless hairbrush interactions with the wildlife.
Hwange national park with well over 420 bird species recorded in its precinct and being an important birding area (IBA) is an absolute birding safari destination. An exploit it affords because of its vast distinct ecosystems, coupled with its distinct seasons. Birding is an all year activity in this park, however, the wet months of December - March when the fossil lakebeds and drainage lines in the woods that have since largely become grasslands fill up with water becoming seasonal wetlands attracting the multi coloured feathered fellas from all over Africa making this beautiful park a birders paradise. Hwange is best known for its massive range of raptors with over 50 species registered in its precinct, the bateleur eagle being the flagship of its ilk. Birders should keep their eyes up to the treetops and the grasslands, have enough storage space in their cameras and should be quick to pick up their binoculars for the birding action in this vast ecosystem is crazy. Expect a tantalising birding show from the big bold Hwange’s Bradfield Hornbill whose population is undoubtedly the highest in the world, one won’t miss seeing them usually in groups of six sounding off their sweet curative song of “doom-dum-dum-dum-dum” in the early mornings and late afternoons normally along the main road to the main camp, the small Pearl spotted owlet a hwange classic that characterises the beautiful star lit nights in the park with its twittering, the special shy powder blue Racket-tailed roller can be seen munching insects at the main entrance where it nests in mature teak forests, the impressive martial eagle usually sighted sipping water at Nyamandhlovu platform, the magnificent non-residential Cape griffon, the Yellow-billed Oxpecker, the park has the highest population of it in the sub region, the massive kori bustards sighted in the open areas of nyam and ngweshla and around them are the the colourful carmine bee-eaters chasing bugs and many more others.
Woodland Pans & Bumbusi Ruines
It is a lush green The Leadwood Pans that attract the wildlife and the tourist at Hwange for its lush green territory, with one of the largest waterholes that attracts wildlife and the majestic Leadwood tree lying in the area t is the oldest decorating the waterhole so magnificently.
Bumbusi Ruins are located towards the northern perimeter of the national park 70 km from the town of Hwange. It is an archaeological site of the Great Zimbabwe tradition with colossal stone walls, boulders, platforms and the ruins of dwellings that date from the 18th century. It is sacredly revered by the Nambya people and was declared a national monument in 1946 and in 2008 2008 it was listed in the World Monuments Watch List of 100 of Most Endangered Sites by the World Monuments Fund because of the threats posed to the sandstone walls by wild animals from the surrounding nature reserve. So a visit to to this off the road site is either archaeological or for the impeccable scenic views of the site.
The Davison’s Camp
The Davison’s Camp named after the illustrious first warden of Hwange national park Ted Davison offers impeccable hospitability services in the backdrop of one of the best wildlife sightings in the park that involve the magical sightings of the white rhinos.
Ngwethla Picnic Site
Ngwethla offers a classic site for picnics during game drive breaks, its thronged with a diverse variety of wildlife like girraffes, zebras, and hippos throughout the year.
Nyamandlovu Viewing Point
The Nyamandlovu pan is the best viewing point in the whole Hwange national park with. It boasts of two very large crocodiles, a permanent hippo family, a well maintained high viewing platform and lavatory facilities. It is a popular spot for sundowners where visitors are blessed with the sights of visiting elephants, cheetahs and lions.
The Dog Visitor Centre
The Dog Visitor Centre is an NGO that researches and is responsible for the epic numbers of dogs in the park which they track by painting. It is located on the way to Hwange National Park, making it an ideal place en-route. It is worth a visit if not to contribute to their works just a courtesy call to say thank you for their steadfast work in the protection and rehabilitation of African Wild Dogs.
The vast area of the Mandavu dam sustains a hefty number of birdlife and hyenas. It has a beautiful picnic site that’s uniquely quiet and therapeutic dotted with rhythmic beautiful animal calls.
Dingani Primary School
A visit to Dingani Primary School which is located in the small town of Dete near Hwange National Park with a pack of pencils or any other items for the over 300 pupils aged 4 – 12 will go a long way in empowering the future keepers of these sacred wildlife frontiers that they so kindly share with us.
Best Time To Go
Hwange national park is an all year park, however the best times to visit the national park are the dry seasons of July – October which are prime time for wildlife viewing, because many waterholes inside the park become a gathering point for countless animals while the thinning vegetation makes them easier to spot. However, bird lovers will have to visit in the wet months of November - April when migratory birds have as well settled in.
Hwange National Park is very accessible with Some of the lodges having airstrips for chartered flights. However, Victoria falls international airport in Victoria falls town is the most reliable access hub of Hwange from where the Main Camp of Hwange national park is reached by a less than 3 hours’ drive on a tar road 200km/124mi south of Victoria Falls. From Victoria town as well a vintage luxurious colonial safari era six hour train ride will bring visitors right to the park since it passes through it.
Where to stay
Zimbabwe especially Hwange accommodation facilities are excellent value for money. There are private luxury lodges both inside and outside of the park which offer fully-inclusive rates, while inside the park there are three Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority camps, which have affordable lodges, self-catering cottages and campsites, as well as exclusive camps in private concessions.