Hwange National Park

Hwange National Park (formerly Wankie Game Reserve) is the largest natural reserve in Zimbabwe. It is around 14,600 sq km in area. It lies in the northwest of the country, just off the main road between Bulawayo and Victoria Falls. The nearest town is Dete. Histories of the region’s pre-colonial days and its development as a game reserve and National Park are available online.

Where does Hwange National Park fit in your Zimbabwe Adventure?

The park is close to the edge of the Kalahari Desert, a region with little water and very sparse, xerophile vegetation. The Kalahari woodland is dominated by Zambezi Teak, Sand Camwood (Baphia) and Kalahari bauhinia. Seasonal wetlands form grasslands in this area.

The north and north-west of the park are dominated by mopane woodland.

Although it has been argued that elephant populations cause change in vegetation structure, some recent studies suggest that this is not the case, even with the large increases in elephant population recorded in the late 1980s.

The Park hosts over 100 mammal and 400 bird species, including 19 large herbivores and eight large carnivores. All Zimbabwe’s specially protected animals are to be found in Hwange and it is the only protected area where gemsbok and brown hyena occur in small numbers.

Safari activities in Hwange National Park

Hwange is a town in Zimbabwe that attracts tourists as a result of the nearby Hwange National Park. It’s the largest national park in the country. Home to a vast variety of wildlife, it’s a popular destination for lovers of African safaris. In order to give you a true idea of what to expect, we are going to look at the best things to do in Hwange that will turn a trip to this destination into a memorable Zimbabwe safari experience.

Game drives and walks

No visit to Hwange can be complete without a game drive through Hwange National Park. Visitors can drive through the park between 6 am and 6 pm and can encounter the Big 5, who roams freely through the park and surrounding concessions. Covering around 14 650 square km, there are over 100 mammal species to be seen, making Hwange National Park a popular destination for animal lovers. Also worth noting is the park’s status as home to one of the world’s largest herds of elephants, which is reason enough to include this experience on any Hwange itinerary.

Bird Watching

As if the abundance of wildlife wasn’t enough of a reason to visit, there are almost 400 different species of birds that can be found in Hwange National Park, making it a twitchers’ paradise! Make sure to keep your eyes directed at the sky and towards the treetops while you’re on a game drive in Hwange so that you don’t miss out on an incredible opportunity to tick some awe-inspiring bird species off your list.

Painted Dog Conservation Centre

Once having roamed through 39 countries, wild dogs, also known as painted dogs, have seen their numbers drop from around 50 000 to just 3 000. With such a huge drop in numbers resulting from urbanization and loss of natural habitat, a place like the Painted Dog Conservation Centre in Dete, Zimbabwe is an Eden for them. The conservation facility aims to address the issue through the protection and rehabilitation of injured or orphaned wild dogs, while providing long-term education and development projects to the communities in the area. The centre also works to translocate entire packs of wild dogs from problem areas to regions where they can thrive.

Walking safari

Guides at Elephant’s Eye, Hwange, offer walking safaris that showcase the best of Hwange National Park and its surrounding fenceless concession. The guides give guests an intimate Hwange bush experience and teach them about the tracking animal footprints, the endemic plants of Hwange, and they even get to learn to create fun things like a bush toothbrush.

Victoria Falls

A day trip to the glorious phenomenon of Victoria Falls, one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, is entirely possible. It is only a 30-minute flight or less than two hours by road from Hideaways Nantwich, Hwange.  Not only are the Falls and their surroundings incredibly beautiful, but they also offer a range of activities to enjoy that include helicopter trips over the Falls, daredevil bungee jumping from Victoria Falls Bridge, and other memorable encounters.

Cultural Experiences

In an attempt to empower the local villages in the Hwange District, steps have been taken to turn local villages into tourist destinations. Visitors to the region can visit traditional homesteads to learn about the local people and their unique cultures. Village markets offer locals the chance to sell their arts and crafts, enabling them to turn their skill into an activity that empowers them to support their families.

Enjoy a Sundowner at Watering Hole

The best way to toast a successful day exploring Hwange National Park is with the quintessential African sundowner. Even better in this spectacular Zimbabwe location, whether it be in private at Elephant’s Eye’s main watering hole or at one of the neighboring waterholes situated in the heart of the open bush. As the light slowly fades, watch a wide variety of game come down to drink, all whilst sipping on a refreshing cocktail until eventually, a blanket of stars lights up the sky above. This might be one of the most relaxing and romantic of the best things to do in Hwange!

Sleep out under the Stars

Elephant’s Eye is a small eco-retreat located on a private concession bordering Hwange National Park. Our sleep-out deck, The Eye, offers all the creature comforts of the main lodge, and is situated overlooking a busy waterhole. Guests are escorted from the main lodge at dusk to spend a magical night under the Milky Way. Do not worry about setting an alarm as the rising sun, or trumpeting elephants, are sure to wake you after a fantastic night of sleep under the stars.

Where to stay? See lodges & Camps

Hwange lodges are located discreetly throughout the park, sitting on private concessions to ensure their guests enjoy a complete wilderness experience.

They are classic safari accommodations: timber and thatched lodges or lamp-lit tented camps for luxury, midrange and budget options. They all look out over water, an essential feature during Hwange’s long dry season, and offer a safari experience that blends game drives and walks with cultural insights and bird watching.

These facilities include, Iganyana Tented Camp, Ivory Lodge, Elephants Eye, Toms Little Hide, Davison’s camp, Linkwasha Camp, Little Makalolo, Bomani Tented Lodge, Camp Silwane, Camelthorn lodge, Hwange Safari Lodge, Somalisa camp, Nehimba Lodge, Camp Hwange, Kapula camp, Hwange Bush camp, Robin’s camp, Main camp

When to go? Best time to Visit

The best time to visit the national park is from July to October, which is the dry season and a prime time for wildlife viewing. Many waterholes inside the park become a gathering point for many animals while the thinning vegetation makes them easier to spot. Bird lovers can enjoy the summer months from November to April when migratory birds are present.

How to access Hwange National Park?

By road

Hwange National Park is some 200 km from Victoria Falls, easily accessible by a tarred road. Some of the remote camps within Hwange can only be reached by 4×4 during the rainy season.

By air

Regular flights connect from Johannesburg to Victoria Falls Airport (VFA). Road transfers can easily be arranged. Chartered flights are also available to some of the lodges which have their own airstrips.