Hwange National Park
Hwange is home to some of Africa’s largest elephant herds and renowned for its wild dog population – this is Zimbabwe’s largest safari wilderness. Predators are common, buffalo and other big game is exceptional, rhino are present but elusive. This massive national park is easily accessed from Victoria Falls. It’s a year round option, at its very best in the dry season from August to early November.
Adjoining Botswana’s Makgadikgadi and Chobe ecosystems this is Zimbabwe’s biggest and oldest game reserve. That’s 14,650km² worth of wilderness, roughly the size of Belgium or Wales.
With varied topography and vegetation from arid semi-desert in the west to lush teak forests in the east Hwange National Park is hugely diverse. Home to 108 mammal and over 400 bird species, the sheer size of wildlife populations gives it an edge over other regional safari destinations.
Some of Africa’s largest elephant herds congregate here. Black and white rhino find reasonable sanctuary and it’s one of the best places to see wild dog. Seasonal pans and a network of pumped waterholes attract a profusion of game and predators especially by the end of the dry season.
Accommodation ranges from luxurious safari lodges, mobile and tented camps to basic chalets. One of Hwange’s better kept secrets however is the fine hospitality, deep knowledge and skills of resident guides.
Hwange is a heavy-hitting “big 5” safari destination
With only 2 hours by road or a short flight from Victoria Falls plus simple connections to Botswana, Namibia and the rest of Zimbabwe Hwange should be included in any serious safari itinerary to southern Africa.
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Largest land animals on earth, the African elephant used to range widely through sub-Saharan Africa. Despite being threatened by habitat loss and ivory poaching African elephants have healthy populations in east and southern Africa. Best places to see elephants include Mana Pools and Hwange in Zimbabwe, Botswana’s Chobe and Linyanti, the Luangwa Valley, Selous, Katavi and Amboseli.
Also known as Cape hunting dogs, packs of painted dogs roam sparse woodlands and plains in isolated and remote areas. Sightings are never guaranteed on safari but the best chance of finding these endangered canines is in Botswana’s Moremi and Linyanti in June; the Selous in July/August; also in the green season in the Luangwa Valley; the Mana Pools World Heritage Site and Hwange.
Once roaming widely across sub-Saharan Africa rhinos are now rapidly nearing extinction. The black rhino survives in remote pockets of arid wilderness and some protected reserves. It differs from the white rhino with its smaller size and a prehensile upper lip. This solitary browser feeds at night and wallows or hides under shade during the day. They’re particularly bad tempered.