Chizarira National Park
Chizarira National Park is one of Zimbabwe's wildest and remotest regions. Superb walking country, it boasts good wildlife and excellent birding. As it's so difficult to reach and logistically difficult to supply, it has always had very few visitors and most people visit the area in self-contained safari vehicles.
First proclaimed a non-hunting reserve in 1958, the National Park was gazetted to give sanctuary to wildlife driven out of the Zambezi Valley by the rising waters of Lake Kariba.
Together with the neighbouring Chete Safari Area, Chizarira is the fourth largest wildlife estate in Zimbabwe, covering almost 300,000 hectares.
The Chizarira escarpment rises 500 metres from the Zambezi Valley floor and extends southwards in a series of rolling hills and valleys to eventually merge with the low-lying Busi region. Springs and seeps provide water and surprisingly lush pockets of vegetation are hidden between long ridges of mountain acacias and Prince-of-Wales feathers. To reach the area requires a 4x4 drive inland from the western edge of Lake Kariba.
On reaching the flood-plain one immediately recognises the similarity with Mana Pools National Park; tall shade giving evergreens and verdant green ferns and sedge crowding around the clear springs. Deep pans with lily covered surfaces are hidden amongst tall grass attracting a wide range of wildlife. Good sized herds of elephant and buffalo together with tsessebe, impala, waterbuck, reedbuck, kudu, sable and roan antelope followed by strong prides of lion and hyena packs. There are excellent leopard sightings and in the past the area was a stronghold for black rhino, although these have now disappeared completely. The wildlife is not plentiful but quality definitely makes up for quantity.
Birding-wise, the gorges provide excellent homes for Lanner, Peregrine and Taita Falcons. The black eagle is a frequent visitor here, often returning to its same nest year after year. Towards rainy season in late November/early December, the Angolan pitta appears and carmine bee eaters return each year to breed.
This area should be visited only in the company of a professional guide and is most definitely a place where where one has to walk softly, taking care to treat the land and animals with respect. The area has seen its fair share of poaching and the elephant and lion can be aggressive.
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