Hwange National Park
Hwange National Park encompasses 14,500 square kms of which only the northern third is used for commercial purposes. The northern central area, around Sinamatella, is prolific in natural features including permanent water holes, natural springs, mineral and salt licks and underground water sources which are used by the wildlife especially in the dry season, June to November, when the resources become scarce in the south. This is where Leon Varley concentrates his safari operations. It is not as accessible as the east of the park and so is less utilized by the tourist industry, ensuring a more satisfying wilderness experience.
Hwange has a healthy population of the main southern African game species such as buffalo, giraffe, lion, leopard, kudu, sable, rhino, impala, wildebeest, zebra, eland and the smaller mammals but as an elephant viewing destination it stands on its own. The elephant population is conservatively estimated at over 35,000 and during the dry season it is not unusual to count over 1,000 animals at some waterholes over a 24 hour period. This area is also a protection zone for black rhino and it is still possible to track these magnificent animals.
There are a number of camps in the Sinamatella area which we use. They all overlook the Lukosi River and are chosen because of their proximity to either pools or underground water sources that are used by game during the dry season. Known as Eco Camps, these camps have no permanent structures and everything must be taken in and then removed after every safari.
Our camp is comfortable with traditional large walk in tents which have bush bathrooms en-suite and proper beds and bedding. Dining is either around the campfire or in a dining tent well placed to overlook the river bed. All camp chores, food preparations and laundry service are carried out by experienced camp staff.
Transport is by open game viewing vehicle and each safari is taken by Leon Varley and a traditional Matabele tracker. The guide is fully licensed armed and carries a well stocked first aid kit and satellite phone. The tracker carries a back up weapon and extra water.
Walks are taken in the morning after an early breakfast and late afternoon when it is cooler. Participants must be fit enough to be able to cover 15 -20 kms in a day split into two or three separate walks. Much of the time on the ground is spent tracking and stalking large game, mainly rhino and lion as they are the more elusive and unlikely to be come across by chance. Leopard is notoriously hard to track but is an animal of habit and tends to be found in the same areas. Other game is prolific enough to chance on or see at the water holes.
The middle of the day is spent either in camp or at a waterhole where lunch will be served. We return to camp 30 minutes after sunset for sundowners, a hot shower, dinner and drinks around the fire.