Luxury Safaris in Hwange

Proclaimed in 1928, Hwange is – to many people – the jewel in Zimbabwe’s national-parks crown. As the country’s largest game park, it lends itself to exploration, and I’ve found that staying several days is crucial to enjoy all it has to offer – from walking safaris to day and night game drives.

Hwange contains several ecosystems. Perhaps its most classic are the Zambezi teak (or Gusu) woodlands that gradually give way to the more open savannah of the Linkwasha Concession, and the swathes of grassland and seasonal wetlands known as vleis. It’s on these latter immense stages that – paradoxically – the closest encounters often take place.

In fact, it’s here that you’re most likely to see the huge herds of elephant and buffalo that the park is famous for. This is most common in the winter dry season, when the park’s proximity to the Kalahari becomes apparent. The vleis and surviving waterholes become vital lifelines for wildlife, and incredible concentrations of game can be seen.

This is also possible at the waterholes that are pumped by some of Hwange’s luxury safari lodges, which are mostly in the north and east of the park – elephant, for one, have worked out which these are.

Despite the attentions of rhino poachers, the entire Big Five can still be seen here, but should you ever be out of sight of an animal in Hwange, turn your attention to the 400 bird species recorded in the park, and let your imagination take flight.

When to Go

In a similar fashion to the other key wildlife destinations in this region, the Southern Hemisphere winter is the most popular and perhaps the most rewarding time to visit. Certainly, it’s the easiest to manage in terms of climate (next to no rain, and moderate temperatures). Wildlife spotting is easier as vegetation retreats, and as the dry season continues, it congregates around the remaining waterholes (some of which are pumped by lodge operators). To combine this with a better time to see Victoria Falls, come earlier in the season.

Less-informed perceptions about game viewing, and the risk of rain, make the Southern Hemisphere summer a less sought-after time to visit Hwange … which means that if you’re good with heat and occasional rain, there are bargains to be had, and even more seclusion. After the rains, pans fill and the game disperses, plus growing plants make wildlife more challenging to spot. However, the prevalence of baby antelope ensures predator action, and the nearby Victoria Falls reach peak flow during this time as the summer rains swell the mighty Zambezi.

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