Hwange National Park, one of the 10 largest parks in Africa and the largest in Zimbabwe is a ravishing landscape and haven to a large number of wildlife. Spreading over 15000 square km nearly half the size of Belgium, the park is home to all the big African five and is known for the large number of elephant and buffalo herds.
Established in 1930 as a game reserve, the Hwange National Park is named after a local Nhanzwa chief and was inhabited by San Bushmen earlier. The vast area covering from the edges of Kalahari Desert to the forests in the north always finds its way to one’s bucket list visiting Zimbabwe.
The vast Hwange National Park largely comprises of semi desert plane that extends from the vast plane of Kalahari Desert bordering Botswana to the forests and valleys of mopane woodlands in the north. Very little to no rainfall during the dry season turns the immense park into a semi-arid flat plane with many man made waterholes supporting the wildlife. The dry season that stretches most of the year is followed by the scant rain that fills up the dry pans results in the lush vegetation comprising fine hardwood forests of Mukwa and Zimbabwean teak. The park comprises of a good network of roads that paves access to large part of the park is also close to the mighty Victoria Falls.
Water plays a critical role supporting the wildlife at Hwange National Park. Few permanent and man-made waterholes sustains the life in the park during dry season which attracts the large wildlife around it. The rainy season that fills the shallow pans and waterholes forms breeding ground to large variety of bird species and also sees increased wildlife dispersed all around the park. Over 100 species of mammal, 400 bird species are found in park with abundant population of the bush elephants and herds of buffaloes. Giraffes, kudu, zebras, wildebeests and various species of antelopes are seen often followed by large pride of lions and other predators like lions, leopards, cheetahs in addition to spotted hyena. The endangered wild dogs are also seen in good numbers compared to the other parks.
The park sees the warmest days during the wet summer from November to March with seldom afternoon rain that fills up many pans and brings lush vegetation. Temperature averages about 30°C/86°F while the cool mornings sees temperature around 18°C/64°F. The dry season from March starts relatively mild temperature averaging around 26°C/79°F. As the season progress, the month of September and October tends to become extremely hot and dry with temperature peaking 40°C/104°F.
Best time to visit
August to beginning of November months are the best time to visit large wild game which concentrates around depleted waterholes attracting both the predators and preys leading to some excellent wildlife action. Rain that showers from November to February turns the dry land in to a lush Greenland forming breeding ground to many species of birds. This results an excellent birdlife viewing amidst the lush vegetation.
Established as a national park in 1930, the park once saw the elephant population depleting to mere 1000 and had black and white rhino eliminated. The water playing critical role and sparse saw many activists developing artificial waterholes that supported wildlife turning the park into one of the largest game reserve in the Continent. Organisations like Friends of Hwange still works on preserving and maintaining the waterholes for wildlife resulted in giants of land walking the park whose exceeding 40000 in numbers makes the trip to Hwange National Park a must visit during trip to Zimbabwe.