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.