Gonarezhou National Park
Gonarezhou National Park is the second largest game reserve in the country. Situated on the south eastern border of the country, below Chimanimani. The park is part of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park; made up of Gona-Re-Zhou, Kruger National Park and Limpopo National Park.
An extremely scenic park with some of the most rugged and beautiful scenery to be seen in Southern Africa. Dominated by sandstone cliffs, rocky basalt river gorges and extensive tracks of hardwood trees interspersed with riverine floodplains, wetlands and sand rivers.
The Gonarezhou National Park straddles the Save and Runde Rivers and their confluence/floodplain in the north and the Mwenezi River in the south. The towering Chilojo Cliffs form a backdrop to the Runde River and are visible from 50 kilometres away. The park is home to the rare nyala antelope as well as a host of other antelope species, and all the big game associated with a dry, lowland area. The park is noted for its big tusker elephant bulls synonymous with those of the Northern Kruger National Park; in fact its name in Shona means “place of the elephants” and many say these are the biggest and meanest you’ll find anywhere!
The river floodplains are interspersed with lagoons and riverine forest, notable species being the Nyala Berry Tree, Ebony and Natal Mahogany. The arid hinterland comprises Mopane woodland and ironwood forest as well as the Sabi Star that grows on rocky outcrops and has a lovely pink flower during flowering season. This park has the highest variety of birds in the country and the annual bird count often results in over 350 species.
This is the country’s only park which has both banks of a major river (Runde River) within the park. The Save River in the north east and the Mwenezi in the south west also sweep through the park providing life sustaining water in this harsh, dry environment. There are literally hundreds of species of birds, wildlife and fish kept alive by these waters.
Runde Gorge Gonarezhou courtesy Ant Kaschula
The park is the jewel in the crown of the Great Limpopo Trans Frontier Park, a massive Pan-African park covering an area of 35 000 km². The trans frontier park has been set up by forward thinking conservation initiatives and is set to become one of the largest wildlife parks in the world.
Fly camping on the banks of the river. Photograph courtesy Ant Kaschula
For further reading on this area try “Valley of the Ironwoods” and “Bvekenya” by T.V. Bulpin. These books offer a fascinating insight to the area during the 1950’s and 60’s, and little has changed since then. There is a strong conservation team on the Save Conservancy which has remained active throughout the country’s troubles.
As children we visited the park and it was alive with rhino which are sadly extinct today. Very large specimens of leopard were regularly seen close-up and actually prowled around our huts at night. It has always been a park which requires a 4×4 and a great deal of caution as the animals are not fond of humans.
The park is best visited from May to October (dry season) although there is limited access during rainy season. Accommodation within the park is limited to camping, although there are some exceptional lodges outside the park.
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