It 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.
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, black and white rhino, giraffe, waterbuck, warthog, baboon, jackal, bat-eared fox and the rare brown hyena. Bird life is prolific too, with over 400 species!
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.