If it’s elephants you want, this is the place – vast Hwange’s famous pachyderms count for half of the country’s 80 000-strong herd.

The park may be the biggest and most famous in Zimbabwe but it remains blissfully uncrowded, unlike many major African parks.

In Zimbabwe’s west and easily accessible from Victoria Falls and Bulawayo, the park is close to the fringes of the Kalahari Desert, and its 14 650km2 encompasses semi-desert scrub in the southwest as well as granite hills, woodland, grass plains and wetlands. These diverse habitats are home to more than 100 mammal species, including the Big Five — elephant, rhino, lion, leopard and buffalo. Resident predators include lion (this was Cecil the lion’s home), leopard, cheetah, spotted hyena and Zimbabwe’s biggest populations of African wild dog and brown hyena. The park’s herbivores include buffalo, giraffe, wildebeest, sable, roan and impala, and Zimbabwe’s biggest population of the stately gemsbok, with its beautiful sweep of horns.

Hwange is dry but the abundant wildlife is sustained by water pumped to waterholes and pans. Most of the park’s wetlands, waterpans and rivers are seasonal, with only a few natural pools left in the northern rivers in the dry season. Sausage trees (Kigelia africana) with their massive pods indicate underground water.

Game viewers and birdwatchers will be enthralled by the various hides that are a feature of the park. Ngweshla, Guvalala and Nyamandlovu platforms are built on stilts over waterholes and offer close-up views of Hwange’s game. The driest months, July to October, offer the best game spotting because of the reduced vegetation and because wildlife is drawn to waterpans and waterholes – to those that are not fed by springs or rivers. Look for black rhino in the Sinamatella Intensive Protection Zone, a protected breeding area for the critically endangered beasts.

Hwange is located where the great 19th-century king of the Matabele, Mzilikazi, had his hunting grounds. The wildlife reserve established here in 1928 and named after the local chief was enlarged and proclaimed a national park in 1949.

Don’t miss Hwange’s archaeological and cultural treasures — ruins at Mtoa, rock carvings at Deteema and both at the most important site, Bumbusi National Monument, which has ruins reminiscent of those at Great Zimbabwe.

Hwange National Park

Things to do in Hwange National Park

Game-viewing drives

Nature walks

Cultural interactions

Archaeological ruin visits

Tram rides

Accommodation in Hwange National Park

Little Makalolo Camp

Little Makalolo Camp offers real privacy, remote from more touristed areas. Situated in a vast private concession area within the park, Little Makololo is sister to the Makololo Plains Camp. The varied ecosystems of the Makololo area, with open plains, teak forests and acacia woodlands, ensure a rich diversity of fauna and flora, with especially good game viewing at the concession’s numerous waterholes and pans during the winter months. In a teak forest overlooking a busy waterhole, Little Makalolo melds the natural style of the traditional bush camp with low-key elegance, indulgent comfort and excellent service. Six airy safari tents…

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Accommodation in Hwange National Park

Somalisa Camp

Recently rebuilt and upgraded, the marquees and sails of award-winning Somalisa Camp evoke Arabian nights in the heart of the southern African bush. Two waterholes flanking the camp attract Hwange’s famous elephants as well as lion, buffalo, rhino, giraffe and a rich variety of smaller game. At Somalisa, every attention is paid to excellent hosting and guiding, contributing to an unforgettable safari experience. The camp’s focus on environmental sustainability is evident in its use of solar power and recycled building materials, and the recycling of 80% of its water. Seven sumptuous Sail Tents accommodate 14 guests in elegant style, with…

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