Hwange National Park

At 14,651 kmĀ², Hwange National Park in Matabeleland is the largest national park and game reserve in Zimbabwe.


A lion resting.


Established 1928 as a game reserve, Hwange has been a national park since 1961. Wildlife within the park is legally protected, prohibiting hunting and predation against at-risk species by humans.


The land on which the park was constructed is arid; pans and waterholes have been artificially constructed with intensive water pumping during the dry season to aid the survival of large herbivores and major predators such as the lions.

Most of the traveller facilities are in the north (Main Camp, Sinamatella, Robins Camp); the south and southwest portions of the park are wilderness areas with no roads or travel infrastructure.

Flora and fauna

Among the more than a hundred mammal and four hundred bird species in the park are nineteen large herbivores and eight large carnivores. Protected animals include gemsbok and brown hyena; one may also spot elephants, lions, leopards, African wild dogs, spotted hyena and cheetahs. All of Zimbabwe's specially-protected animal species may be found in Hwange in reasonable number.

Various research projects actively observe park wildlife, including Oxford University's Wildlife Conservation and Research Unit (WildCRU), the National Leopard Project and Painted Dog Project.


The rainy season (late November to April) brings lush green fields, an abundance of food and the arrival of newly-born animals. The Southern Hemisphere spring and summer (September-May) can be extremely hot, while winter (June-August) brings warm days and extremely cold nights (with occasional night time frost). The dry season (August-October) offers opportunities for game viewing, as one can quietly wait at one of the few pumped waterholes in an otherwise-parched savannah.

Get in

The closest scheduled passenger airport is at Victoria Falls (with flights to Johannesburg); travel from there to the park is by road.

There is an airstrip in the park for chartered aircraft.

Pathfinder runs three buses weekly from Victoria Falls cross-country to Bulawayo which stop at the park en route; cost is $25-50/person and it's best to book ahead.


For non-residents, $20/person plus $10/vehicle for day visitors, children (6-12 years) half price. Additional fees apply for camping and picnic sites.

Get around

There is more than 400km of road of variable quality within the park, much of it concentrated in the northern or northeastern portion. The main camps are reachable by 2WD vehicles, but four wheel drive, high clearance vehicles may be needed to access much of the park. Some roads may be muddy or impassible during the rainy season.

Imvelo's tourist train, the Elephant Express, makes a two hour, 70km run between Impofu Siding (8km from the Hwange main camp) and Ngamo Siding (where game-viewing vehicles make the transfer to the Bomani or Camelthorn Lodges). As the tram (a single-car sightseeing train which seats 22) uses the Bulawayo-Victoria Falls rail mainline along the northern boundary of Hwange National Park, the schedule is very much at the mercy of other through traffic which has priority.


A muddy elephant



There is a small shop and fuel station at each of the three principal camps, although availability of fuel tends to be unreliable. There is a curio shop and a grocery store at Main Camp.


There are various picnic sites scattered through the touristed areas of the park. There is a restaurant/bar at Main Camp, Robins Camp and Sinamatella Camp; conference facilities are available at Main Camp by prior reservation.





Stay safe

It's a jungle out there; dangerous animals and insects are very much on their protected home turf. People have been killed.

Roads within the park are widely variable in quality, with many suited only for four-wheel-drive vehicles. There is a risk of getting stuck in awkward locations, especially off the most beaten paths or in rainy season.

There have been multiple, widely-reported incidents of illegal wildlife poaching. Nine elephants, five lions and two buffalo were killed in 2011. In 2013, poachers killed more than a hundred African elephants by poisoning one of the waterholes with cyanide; in 2015, a protected lion was lured out of the park at night using a dead animal as bait and silently shot with a bow-and-arrow. Poachers are virtually certain to be armed and some may be operating as criminal gangs, often to smuggle ivory from poached elephants out of the country.

Go next

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Friday, January 15, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.