Wondrous Hwange

Aug 27, 2014 Safari Prep
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Situated on the western side of the country on the main road between Bulawayo and the Victoria Falls, Hwange encompasses more than 14 600 square kilometres.

In order to understand the significance of Hwange, a brief look into the history of the area is needed. The area was sparsely populated by the San people (roughly between the 4th–11th century), who followed a nomadic hunter-gatherer lifestyle. The San were dominated by the subsequent arrival of pastoralist Bantu groups. Chief Hwange (after whom the park is named) of the Lozi tribe settled in the area but was ousted by the Matabele chief Mzilikazi who was on the run from the Zulu chief Shaka.

The area became Mzilikazi’s royal hunting grounds in the early 19th century; however, with the arrival of European colonists, the area’s wildlife was obliterated through careless hunting. Through a twist of fate, the area was proclaimed a National Park in 1929, and thanks to these conservation measures, Hwange is now the largest national park in Zimbabwe.

Hwange National Park

Hwange’s greatest assets are its dry season waterholes, which are pumped 24 hours a day and supply a lifeline to the wildlife. Ted Davison was Hwange’s first warden and focused on creating these waterholes, of which there are now more than 80 dotted throughout the park. The waterholes are pumped directly from the underground aquifer by means of small diesel pumps – a sound that can be heard in Hwange during the winter months and has become known as ‘the heartbeat of Hwange’.

Hwange now boasts more than 100 mammal species, including 19 large herbivores and eight large carnivores. The park is home to healthy populations of buffalo and has one of the largest populations of African elephant in the world. Other species of note include lion, leopard, African wild dog, cheetah, brown hyaena, sable and roan antelope.

Hwange National Park

It is a place of great contrast between its wet and dry seasons, with the extremes a sharp reminder of the life-giving properties of water. 400 species of birds are found here making it a birdwatcher’s paradise, particularly in the wet season.

Hwange National Park

Dry Season: July to September is hot during the day but can drop to below freezing on particularly cold winter nights. During these dry months, the animals are concentrated around the manmade waterholes, which sustain the animals during the times of need.

Hwange National Park Dry vs Wet Season

Rainy Season: Big fluffy clouds release the summer rains and the vegetation bursts into life. The area has a relatively low average rainfall of between 570-650 mm per annum. Temperatures can reach 38°C+, but on average range from 18-28°C. Bird life is most spectacular at this time. 

Hwange National Park truly is one of Africa’s hidden gems, though lately more people are becoming aware of this amazing wilderness area. Wilderness currently operates two private concessions in the productive southeast – Makalolo and Linkwasha.

Hwange National Park

The two concessions host guests in a number of camps: Little Makalolo, Davison’s and Makalolo Plains (with Linkwasha Camp scheduled for opening in 2015), and are ecologically diverse, including vast open palm-fringed plains, grasslands, acacia woodlands and teak forests. This ensures large numbers of animals all year round. Common and characteristic trees in the area are the Rhodesian teak, ordeal tree, camelthorn acacia ebony or jackalberry tree, Kalahari apple-leaf.

See more pics of dry-season Hwange in a gorgeous album from Davison's Camp Manager, Johnny Russell. 

Photos: Warren Ozorio, Mike Myers

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By Warren Ozorio

After spending some time in the guiding industry, Warren developed a passion for walking trails as well as mountain bike trails through wilderness areas, which he still leads on request.

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