In the northwestern corner of Zimbabwe lies a hidden treasure. The Hwange National Park is a remote paradise, off the beaten track for many visitors. It is accessible from the west through a tiny border post on the Botswana side at Pandamatenga, and from the east from the Victoria Falls side. Hwange is a charming remnant of a bygone age, when vast herds of antelope roamed the savannah. Named after a local Nhanzwa chief, Hwange is the largest park in Zimbabwe. It occupies roughly 14 650km2.
Hwange became the royal hunting grounds of the Ndebele warrior-king Mzilikazi in the early 19th Century, and was set aside as a national park in 1929. It boasts a tremendous selection of wildlife, with over 100 species of mammals and nearly 400 species of birds recorded.
The elephants of Hwange are world famous and the Park's elephant population is one of the largest on the continent. Hwange is the only protected area in Zimbabwe where gemsbok and brown hyena occur in good numbers.
Hwange is a rarity. It is home to the most beautiful forests. Its huge canopies of Albizias, Mahogany and Cathedral Mopanis will leave you breathless. The north and north west of the Park are drained by the Deka and Lukosi rivers and their tributaries, and the far south is drained by the Gwabadzabuya River, a tributary of the Nata River.
Aside from that, there are no rivers in the park, although there are fossil drainage channels, which form seasonal wetlands. In these dry sections, pans and grassy depressions sustain animal life. There are also a number of man-made waterholes, which are fed by underground water flows. These oases attract animals in their droves and it is easy to sit quietly and watch the abundance of bird and animal life that flock around these life sustaining pools.
Sightings at these points are varied and afford exciting opportunities to see animals at their best. On occasion, visitors are even treated to a stalk and kill, as leopards and lions often lie in wait of the unsuspecting antelopes!
Although fairly remote, the northwestern side of the reserve is a must: it boasts some of Zimbabwe’s most spectacular views. The Bumbusi National Monument on the northern edge of the reserve, together with the ruins at Mtoa and rock carvings at Deteema provide a fantastic look at some of Zimbabwe’s ancient history.
There are different ways of exploring the beauty of Hwange. Aside from the normal walking or game drive experience, avid horse riders can enjoy a mounted safari – it will leave you feeling connected to nature in a way that is very rare in modern life.