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Hwange National Park

The largest national reserve in Zimbabwe, Hwange National Park covers an expanse of 14,651 km2. Located in western Zimbabwe, Hwange National Park lies between Victoria Falls and Bulawayo, offering stunning views of the surrounding nature. The park has a complex topography primarily made up of desert sands from the Kalahari, basalt lava that flows in the northwest, and granite and gneiss rocks in the central-north section.

The park was named after the chief of the Nhanzaw people, Hwange Rosumbani. The area has always struggled with water shortages and does still to this day. The water sources in the park are mainly pans that fill with rainwater or natural groundwater seeps. Most of the pans are artificially filled by the park authorities.

Before we learn more about the wildlife and attractions of Hwange National Park, let’s take a quick look at Hwange’s history.

The‌ ‌History‌ ‌of‌ Hwange National Park

  • Before it became a reserve, the area was home to the San Bushmen, known as the ‘Nhanzwa’. Over the years, it became known as the hunting ground for the famous Matabele king, Mzilikazi.
  • In 1928, the legislative assembly of the Rhodesian government declared the area a reserve. The decision was made becauseof the lack of water sources, and the infertile land.
  • Ted Davison, a 22-year-old senior park official was offered the role of warden to this fledgeling reserve in September 1928. He held the position for 33 years, and under his administration, the reserve flourished.
  • In the beginning, when he was assigned the warden’s position, Ted noticed the scarcity of wildlife and natural vegetation in the park due to infertile soil and lack of water. Furthermore, poaching had eliminated rhino from the park Ted and the park authorities set about building artificial pans all over the park, and their efforts allowed the area to flourish.
  • Initially called the Wankie Game Reserve, Hwange was elevated to ‘park’ status in 1961.

Wildlife in Hwange National Park

Large herds of elephants are seen frequenting the water holes in the park during the night. Similarly, visitors will come across herds of giraffes and buffaloes. The park boasts a healthy herbivore population, with 16 species of antelope, including roan, gemsbok, and rare sable antelope.

Hwange National Park also has its share of predators such as the African wild dog, as well as lions, leopards, and hyenas. Lions are mainly spotted near the water holes, waiting for their prey.

Hwange is Zimbabwe’s premier birding destination, andis home to more than 420 bird species. African swamphen, African golden oriole, black-winged pratincole, and greater flamingo are some of the park’s unique bird species.

Hwange National Park Premier Attractions

The Hwange National Park has historical, archaeological, and cultural sites, making this park a must-visit, with so much to offer its guests. The park boasts numerous camping areas for visitors who love the outdoors, fascinating fossil rivers, and beautiful pans. Some of the major camping areas include Sinamatella, Dzivanini Wilderness, Shakwani Wilderness, and Tsanmhole Wilderness area.

The Hwange National Park has several pans worth visiting, including Dom pan, Chivasa pan, Shapi pan, Nehimba pan, and Bumbumutsa pan. These pans are fed by either rainwater or by natural groundwater seeps.

When to Visit Hwange National Park

Much like the other national parks in Zimbabwe, the best time to visit the Hwange National Park is during the dry season, from July to October. During these months, the major water holes teem with wildlife.

As a premier birding destination, the park receives plenty of enthusiastic bird watchers from November to April; a time when the park is swarming with migratory bird species. At the same time, visitors can also enjoy sightings of resident park birds.

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