Experience It: Hwange National Park
Hwange National Park is the largest nature reserve in Zimbabwe. The park covers a massive 14 650 sq km of land. Such a vast expanse means that the variety of wildlife and fauna on display is phenomenal. Over 400 species of birds and 100 species of mammals call this park their home, making it one of Zimbabwe’s top game-viewing destinations.
Aside from its incredible safari potential, Hwange National Park also has an interesting history. Named after a local Nhanzwa chief, this impressive park was once a royal hunting ground for the Ndebele warrior king, Mzilikazi. This was before it became a protected park in 1929.
With so much going for it, the park is a must-visit for any safari enthusiast. In this post, we’ll take a look at Hwange National Park, the best times to visit, and how to experience it.
Why Visit Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe
Hwange National Park is located in Zimbabwe’s northwest and is roughly the size of Belgium! Considered to be one of Africa’s best national parks, this reserve is known for being a stronghold for about 40 000 tusker elephants as well as being a great destination to spot cheetah, lion, and even endangered wild dogs.
A major bonus of this park is that it is less crowded than other reserves. The park hardly ever feels overcrowded thanks to the reserve’s huge size. This affords visitors both space and quiet so they can really appreciate the beauty of the bush.
The park is easily accessible. You can fly into Victoria Falls and either book a car rental or organise a road transfer to the reserve. The park is just one hour from Victoria Falls, meaning you can enjoy the awe-inspiring sight of one of the world’s largest waterfalls before heading out on your safari adventure.
Best Time to Visit for a Hwange National Park Safari
If you want to experience the top game viewing in Zimbabwe, then visit during the dry winter months. The park’s land dries out from June onwards after the rains stop. When this happens, all the animals congregate around the man-made water sources to satisfy their thirst. This increases your chances of seeing incredible animal sightings.
Hwange park is accessible during the wet summer months, November to April, however it’s not as easy to see wildlife at this time. Although, if you’re a keen bird watcher, you might want to visit during these months!
History of Hwange National Park
This Zimbabwean National Park was founded in 1928. The first warden was 22-year-old Ted Davison. Davison befriended James Jones, the stationmaster at then Rhodesian Railways at Dete, which is near to Hwange’s main camp. Jones would facilitate the provision of supplies to the park and together they would oversee the reserve’s day to day.
Sadly, Hwange has had issues with poaching in recent history. In October 2013, the park made the news when it was revealed that a large number of elephants were killed with cyanide. Conservationists believed this to be one of the largest illegal killings of Southern Africa in 25 years.
As a result of this terrible crime and others like it, all elephant poaching offences now have a nine-year sentence. Many national parks across Africa have a much more aggressive stance towards poaching. A welcome result!
Best Way to Experience It
Staying a few days, or even weeks, is a fantastic way to experience the park and the best of ZImbabwe’s game viewing. Hwange National Park has private luxury lodges inside and outside the park – many of these with fully-inclusive rates. You’ll also find affordable lodges, self-catering chalets, and campsites within the park itself, great for any budget.
The good news is that you can explore many of the areas in the park with a two-wheel drive. But, keep in mind that some camps are only accessible with a 4×4 drive. If you really want to have an adventure, book a 4×4 vehicle so you can see the entire park and enjoy the trails.
A last recommendation to capitalise on your Hwange experience is to try a few different types of safaris. Don’t feel limited to self-drive options or game-ranger-led open-top drives. Hwange National Park has some superb walking safaris, where you can explore the bush by foot. You can also enjoy horseback safaris for either short rides or multi-day options.
With so much on offer at this beautiful and diverse park, it’s only natural that this destination should be made a part of every safari bucket list!