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Hwange National Park is the largest and most popular park in Zimbabwe. It offers excellent wildlife viewing, and most big safari animals can be seen, including the Big Five. Hwange is most known for the impressive concentration of elephant that are attracted to the park’s waterholes during the dry season. Hwange is well known too for it’s bird watching, the best time to visit for birdwatching is from November to April as migratory birds return from Europe and Northern Africa.
Covering more than 14,600 square kilometers(5,863 square miles) or 1,460,000 hectares it has more animals and a greater variety of species -107- than any other park in the country, and more than 400 species of birds.
It is situated in the south west of Zimbabwe between Bulawayo and Victoria Falls. There are two distinct geographic zones, neither are able to support viable agriculture. The flora of the well drained northern area, part of the Zambezi watershed, is dominated by mopane and mixed terminalia, which is distinctly different from the rest.
Elsewhere the Kalahari scrublands, covered with stunted, scattered woodlands of teak and umtshibi trees, drain into Botswana’s Makgadikgadi Depression. This habitat is characterised by marshy depressions, vleis and fragile open grasslands on shallow soils.
In the nineteen century this land was the royal hunting reserve of Mzilikazi and his successor Lobengula. But the arrival of the first white hunters and settlers signalled the slaughter of its wildlife by the thousands. As their blood soaked deep into the sparse soils, it left empty, useless wasteland, denuded of wildlife, unfit for farming.
It was declared a game reserve in 1928 and with neighbouring Robins Game sanctuary, became a national park under he National Park Act of 1949. Originally, Robins Game sanctuary belonged to H G Robins, a cattle rancher.
Hwange provides some of Africa’s best wildlife viewing opportunities and boasts of a tremendous selection of wildlife with over 100 mammal species and nearly 400 bird species. It is Zimbabwe’s most wildlife – packed national park. The best time to visit the park is in the dry season (August – October) when animals concentrate around waterholes.
August, September, October and early November are by far the best months for game viewing in this park. Water becomes extremely scarce and the animals congregate around the few pumped waterholes. Sitting patiently and quietly at one of these water holes will reward you with very good game viewing.
During the rainy season from late November through to April, a completely different park emerges to that of the dry season. Parched savannahs turn into lush fields with an abundance of grazing. The animals disperse and game viewing becomes limited. It’s called the green season and has it’s own magic as this is when the park and all the animals rejuvenate themselves, feeding like crazy on the abundance of food. Newly born animals can be seen everywhere and the birdlife is absolutely prolific.
Winter Months – Mid May, June, July, early August, although the days are warm with beautiful blue skies, the evenings can get extremely cold and temperatures below freezing are not uncommon, so definitely bring warm clothing. It’s cold I promise you!
Summer months – September through to May. Hot to extremely hot days and warm evenings.
Rainy season – Generally between late November and April although the occasional rain can occur out of these dates.
Hwange National Park is very accessible. Main Camp can be reached on a tar road, 200km/124mi south of Victoria Falls. The drive takes less than three hours. To reach some of the other camps deeper in the park, a 4WD might be necessary, especially during the wet months, from May to October. Some of the lodges have airstrips for chartered flights.
You will probably arrive in Zimbabwe by way of Victoria Falls Airport (VFA), near the town of Victoria Falls. Usually, you will be picked up from the airport or hotel by your tour operator, who will organize onwards travel throughout the country as part of your tour package.