Hwange National Park

Hwange is Zimbabwe’s largest National Park, accounting for an area of 14,651km² being approximately half the size of Belgium. It is located in the northwest corner of the country about one hour south of the mighty Victoria Falls.

Formerly occupied by the San bushmen, the Nhanzwa, and latterly the royal hunting ground for Matabele king, Mzilikazi. The area was finally gazetted for wildlife conservation in 1928 and then called Wankie Game Reserve with the first warden being 22-year-old Ted Davidson. The reserve was created simply because the land was deemed to be unsuitable for agriculture with its poor soils and scarce water supplies. With neighboring Robins Game sanctuary, it become a national park under the National Park Act of 1949. Originally Robins Game sanctuary belonged to H G Robins, a cattle rancher.

Ted Davidson walked across most of this park’s immense area during the years 1928-1929 and discovered that wildlife was almost non existent.   The once teeming population of elephants was estimated to be under 1000, and the black and white rhinoceros had been eliminated. With water being the critical element, Ted Davidson set upon creating over 60 new artificial pans which helped to boost wildlife numbers now able to access drier parts of the park. To this day, water remains a critical factor and is vital to the survival of the park. Thanks to individual organisations such as Friends of Hwange, many of the waterholes are still functioning today.

Wildlife and Game Viewing

Hwange's abundant wildlife

Hwange National Park is a haven for over 100 mammal and 400 bird species, the park protects populations of all of Zimbabwe’s endangered species, elephants numbering in excess of 20,000 (up from around 4,000 when the park was proclaimed), and what is thought to be one of the largest populations of African wild dog left in the world. Large prides of lion and buffalo are frequently seen here and you have a good chance of spotting leopard in addition to cheetah and spotted hyena. The wild and woolly brown hyena also occurs here and is something of a rarity.

Excellent game viewing

A significant feature of Hwange is the absence of permanent surface water. Animals rely heavily on a series of waterholes, many of which dry up completely during drought years. The Friends of Hwange now maintain a number of these waterholes throughout the year thereby ensuring the livelihoods of thousands of animals, and excellent game viewing as wildlife congregates at these points.

Landscape and Diversity

Photo Cred:  Dave Dell, Friends of Hwange

Hwange is Zimbabwe’s largest national park, accounting for an area of 14,651km2. The landscape is diverse, dense teak forest in the north gives on to Kalahari sandveld in the south. In between, open grassy plains lined with acacia lie alongside mopane woodland and islands of ilala palms.

Seasons & Climate

The seasons, too, impose dramatic changes on the park. During the hot summer rains between December and March the bush becomes lush and the wildlife disperses. Between June and October, the winter months see the bush rapidly dry and thin out, all but a few waterholes remain, and the wildlife is concentrated and easy to spot.

Friends of Hwange

In 2005, a serious drought caused all but a couple of the waterholes in Hwange National Park to dry up. In the absence of any permanent surface water throughout the park, these waterholes are vital to the survival of all animals in the park. That year, over 1000 elephant died along with many thousands of other species. Desperate scenes were witnessed as herds of buffalo and impala, travelling long distances, arrived at a waterhole only to find it dry. All they could do was rest awhile before turning away to search for water elsewhere, or lying down to die. Elephant bullied their way through to hold their trunks at the pumps, depriving smaller animals of any chance to drink. To mitigate this distressing situation in future years, the Friends of Hwange formed a trust to try and keep as many waterholes supplied with water all year round. The Hide Safari Camp is proud to support this endeavour and the other work that Friends of Hwange undertakes.

If you would like to find out more, or kindly support this vital work, click here to visit the Friends of Hwange web-site.