Hwange National Park

Giraffe in Hwange National ParkAt 14,650 km², Hwange is the largest national park in Zimbabwe. The park is located in the northwest corner of the country, just west of the road connecting Bulawayo with Victoria Falls. The park ranges from semi-desert in the south to a plateau in the north. The northern portion of Hwange is mudstone and basalt, and the southern portion is Kalahari sand veld. The salt pans, acacia scrub and grassy plains support an abundance of game, but this has not always been so. These sands have seen a lot of blood, from both man and beast. Consider the history: Hwange was an early African chief who was ousted by the invading Ndebele tribe and the lands taken over as a royal hunting ground.

When the white man came in the 19th century, they promptly set about claiming land and finishing off the remaining game. Then fate stepped in. As population pressures increased, the country’s animals were pushed further and further into the inhospitable western reaches on the Botswana border where Hwange lies, and the national park came about primarily by default. It has been a park now for 70 years and has the densest concentration of wildlife in Africa with great herds of buffalo and elephant and all the “big five”.

Hwange (previously called Wankie), is famous for its large herds of Elephant. Other predominant species include Buffalo, Giraffe, Zebra, Wildebeest, Lion, Cheetah, Wild Dog, Kudu, Hyena, Impala, Roan Antelope, Waterbuck, Tsessebe, Black-backed Jackal and Bat-eared Fox. This is also one of the best places in Africa to see Sable Antelope. Hwange contains over 100 species of mammal and 400 species of birds. Game viewing is made easier by the shallow pans threaded throughout the park. These natural salt-licks, brought to the surface by the excavation of ants, provide the Elephants with favourite mudholes. They ultimately become small ponds, some 20 or 30 metres around.

Generally, there are no seasonal animal migrations. The best time to view wildlife is during the dry season, from July to October, when the game concentrates near the permanent water. Game viewing is also good during May, June and November and fairly good from December through April. During the rainy season, from January to March, the game is widely dispersed into the Mopane woodland.