Hwange National Park, at 14,651 sq km, is the largest National Park in Zimbabwe and one of Africa’s great wilderness areas. It was granted Game reserve status in 1928 and proclaimed a National Park in 1961.
Hwange has always been renowned for its incredible diversity of wildlife, and to this day it boasts more varieties of mammal and bird species than any other Zimbabwean National Park. There are over 100 species of mammals, including large herbivores such as Cape buffalo, eland, sable and wildebeest, and over 400 bird species. However, the area is particularly famous for its population of elephant, some 44,000 strong at the last aerial survey. When combined with the elephants of northern Botswana, this is the world’s largest contiguous elephant population and a flagship for the Kavango-Zambezi Trans Frontier Conservation Area.
The southern two thirds of the Park are ecologically defined by deep Kalahari sands, which support impressive forests of Zambezi teak and other hardwoods. Scattered within these woodlands are ancient fossil lake beds and drainage lines, which are now large savannah grasslands fringed with acacia and leadwood trees. The mix of open grasslands and woodlands provides the perfect mosaic of habitats for the full spectrum of both grazing and browsing herbivores resident in Hwange and then of course the carnivores that prey on them – lion, leopard, wild dog and both species of hyena – spotted and the seldom seen brown. During the wet season months from December through March, the ancient lake systems still fill with water; and the open grasslands are flooded, attracting migratory birds from all over Eurasia and Africa.
The far south of the park is extremely remote and remains a mostly untouched African safari destination. Game drives in this area require a little more patience, however, the opportunity to explore explore the fossil sand dunes and ancient elephant trails more than make up for it.
Northern Hwange is distinctly different from the south, drained by the Lukosi and Deka Sand Rivers, dominated by Mopane woodlands, and even hills and kopjes. A fascinating feature of the north west are the natural seeps such as Nehimba and Shakwanki where Elephant and other animals still dig for water as did the San people that inhabited the Park historically. The grasslands of the Shumba area add further diversity and the dams such as Masumo and Mandavu make for wonderful day trips. Also found in the northern area of Hwange National Park, are ancient archaeological sites such as Bumbuzi and the Mtoa Ruins, important to the history of Chief Hwange and the Nambya people resident north of the Park.
Hwange’s waterholes are famous and during the dry season months from June to November all of our wildlife including our magnificent elephant flock to them in a daily cycle that runs from morning until well into the night.
Northern and southern Hwange can be linked by a game drive across the Park that can easily turn into an all day Zimbabwe safari adventure or enjoyed via rail car – The Elephant Express. Running along the north eastern boundary of Hwange and crossing the bridge at Victoria Falls, the railway line was built just after the turn of the last century . Whichever part of Hwange National Park you decide to include in your African safari, the wildlife, archaeology and provide an authentic and exciting adventure off the beaten path.
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