Hwange National Park comprises almost 15,000 sq. km of predominantly Rhodesian teak and mopane woodlands rising from sands of the Kalahari desert, at its western border, in addition to verdant seasonal wetlands and lofty ilala palms. It is approximately an hour south of Victoria Falls. Despite its challenges, past and present, Hwange is rightly described as a wildlife haven – and it has a lot to offer as a safari destination. Both the wilderness trails and the dams in the area afford excellent game viewing, and guests choose from an excellent assortment of safari camps and lodges.
The history of Hwange National Park
Prior to achieving game reserve status in 1928 and national park status in 1961, Hwange was first home to the Nhanzwa, the San bushmen. Indeed, its name derives from that of a Nhanzwa chief. During the nineteenth century, it formed the hunting ground of King Mzilikazi – and wildlife also came under threat from white hunters seeking trophies such as ivory.
Even recently (2011 and 2013), there have been incidents of poaching here, but these have triggered greater endeavours to protect the park. Elephant continue to thrive in huge herds, their total population one of the largest worldwide! And the park’s shortage of water is well addressed by man-made waterholes, dams and boreholes, especially during the dry winter months. The organisation Friends of Hwange ensures a constant supply via regular servicing of the pumps, using private donations.
The park also accommodates amazing numbers of wild dog among its 108 species of mammal – including lion, leopard, cheetah, buffalo, giraffe, waterbuck, warthog, baboon, jackal, bat-eared fox and the rare brown hyena. Bird life is prolific too, with over 400 species!
As Hwange National Park has some incredible big game and unique wildlife, the main activities and things to do is to go on game drives. However, if you are staying in a private concession, the activities may vary slightly.
Go on guided game drives- Game drives typically take place in the early morning and in the late afternoon, when the resident wildlife is at its most active. Among the wildlife highlights in Hwange are all Big Five – lion, rhino, leopard, elephant, and buffalo – and elephant concentrations are especially impressive. Smaller mammals in residence include cheetah, hyena, jackal, wild dog, giraffe, wildebeest, zebra, a thrilling assortment of antelopes, and hippo.
Spot nocturnal animals and predators on a night drive- If staying in a camp situated in a private concession, vehicle safaris by night are possible. These start after dinner and showcase the nocturnal species in the area, such as serval, aardvark, porcupine, hyena and lion!
Enjoy a walking safari- Walking safaris are possible, but again it depends on the camp. In some lodges, it is only available when a specialist guide is in camp. Walks are great for getting to know the smaller lives of Hwange, for example the park’s plants, insects, and birdlife, which is outstanding. If you are interested in a walking safari in Hwange, don’t hesitate to ask a member of the team.
Visit the local village- Some lodges offer cultural village visits, guided by a villager or a guide.