Hwange National Park is Zimbabwe's largest wilderness area and bursts with wildlife.
Hwange National Park is the largest natural reserve in Zimbabwe, covering 14 650km². It is located in the western part of Zimbabwe between Bulawayo and Victoria Falls. The park was founded in 1928 and is named after a local chief, Hwange. The park provides a safe haven for elephants who thrive in the Mopane woodlands during the rainy season, and can often be seen at the pumped water holes during the dry season.
Hwange National Park is on the edge of the Kalahari Desert; the area ranges from dry, sandy desert-like areas to a woody plain full of Kalahari bauhinia plants with beautiful flowers, sand camwood and Zambezi teak. Further into the woodlands, one can expect to find mopane shrubs which provide shading and camouflage for the larger game, such as elephants and buffalo.
The park is bordered by two rivers on the northern and southern side. There are a multitude of pans and dams that are filled by underground sources and pumped full by the park management. This makes for ideal game viewing on an African safari during the dry winter months.
Plush all-inclusive safari lodges like Somalisa and The Hide offer unfettered access to this unique wilderness via a range of safari activities, including guided bush walks, game drives and night drives. The bush walks in this part of the world are rather famous for their encounters with large mammal species like elephants.
During the rainy season (end of November until April), the park is ideal for bird watchers and photographers. The veld is green and lush, and birds are plentiful at the watering holes. Many youngsters are birthed during the beginning of the year and predators make use of this. Later in the year, around June and July, the bush becomes dry and it is easier to spot game. Elephants and buffalo emerge from the woodlands to find water near the camps and they start forming herds.
Hwange National Park provides visitors with some of the best elephant sightings. The park is renowned for the large elephant herds that dwell within its borders. Visitors can expect to see the elephants during the dry season from April to the start of November. As the elephants travel to the pans in front of the camps, it is easy to observe the interactions between different herds and, in November, baby calves are born. Other big game includes buffalo and giraffe.
Hwange is home to major predators like lions, leopards and cheetahs. Although the leopards and cheetahs are elusive and hard to spot, these striking cats are occasionally spotted patrolling the borders of their territory. The young of the antelope provide predators with a great deal of food during the start of the rainy season, and visitors can easily expect to see a pack of lions hunt down an impala or other herbivores. Hwange is also home to one of the biggest populations of Cape wild dogs in Southern Africa. If the wild dogs den close to a camp, visitors will spot them on their daily travels in search of food.
This park does not just boast with an extraordinary population of big game, but also the small game that are more visible during the rainy season. The bigger animals move into the dense mopane woodlands and there is a chance to spot smaller animals like the bat-eared fox, steenbok and aardvark if one is lucky. Bird watchers will delight in the roughly 400 different species of birds that gather near the water during the hot summer months while breeding. The waterholes provide the perfect habitat for migrating birds to settle and breed before the winter turns it cold.
Some of the lodges in the park have airstrips, making it easy for smaller aircraft to land here. Charter flights are thus the primary mode of arrival and departure, usually from either Victoria Falls or Bulawayo (depending on your previous location). The park is also accessible via a tar road from Hwange town. A 4x4 will be required for areas that are harder to access, especially during the rainy season where muddy roads can pose a formidable challenge.'
The park remains open throughout the year, with peak season stretching from June to August. During these dry months, there are a lot more visitors to the park because it is easier to spot game in the sparser bush and most of the animals make use of the waterholes close to camps. During the rainy months from end of November until March, the veld is lush and green making it ideal for bird watchers. This is also the perfect time for photographers to snap an image of the dramatic thunderstorms in the late afternoon. Hwange is on the border of the Kalahari Desert and desert-like temperatures can be expected with very high temperatures during summer and very low temperatures at night during the winter.
Hwange is home to one of the largest populations of Cape wild dogs. There are also major predators such as lion, leopard, cheetah and the rare brown hyena. During the dry months, visitors will see a lot of elephants, buffalo and smaller herbivores such as zebra, impala, kudu and gemsbok. Over 400 different species of birds make the park their home during the summer.
Hwange is on the border of the Kalahari Desert with its dry sand. The park is divided into a grassland, savanna and a woody area with shrubs and trees. During the rainy season, the park is rendered lush and green, but during the winter months the veld becomes dry and brittle, making it easier to spot game.
Hwange is a large park and visitors can spend days exploring it through the multitude of gravel roads. Between camping spots and picnic lunches, a drive through the veld will provide a stunning view of game and unspoiled nature. Visitors are welcome to take part in wilderness walks, moonlight game drives, fishing and bird watching.
What you'll undoubtedly savor most in Hwange National Park is the reserve's truly authentic wilderness and abundance of wildlife. A handful of more unique experiences are available too, like walking safaris and fishing in the waterways.
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