Hwange National Park

This vast national park is located only 2 hours from Victoria Falls town. It was founded in 1928 as a game reserve and upgraded to a national park in 1949. With 14’600 km2 (5863 square miles) it is Zimbabwe’s largest national park. Hwange National Park has the greatest variety of mammals and birds in the country. Typical activities in the park include game drives, night safaris, walking safaris and photographic safaris. People have lived in the region for tens of thousands of years. Numerous archaeological sites ranging from the early Stone Age to the historic era can be visited in the park. 

When to visit:

The park is worth visiting all year round. Game viewing is best in August, September, October, and early November. During this dry season, water becomes very scarce, and the animals tend to congregate around the few pumped waterholes from where you can easily see a variety of mammals. During the rainy season (late November to April) the landscape at Hwange will look completely different. The abundance of lush grazing areas means that animals disperse, and game viewing becomes more difficult. The birdlife during the rainy season is also excellent as the resident species are joined by a vast array of Palearctic and intra-African migrants. It is also the nesting season for the resident birds and a great time to see them in their colourful breeding plumage.

Nature & Wildlife:

Hwange National Park has two distinct geographical zones. The well-drained north and northwest are part of the Zambezi watershed and are dominated by mopane woodland. The other geographical zone is at the edge of the Kalahari Desert and is called the Kalahari scrubland. It is covered with stunted, scattered woodlands of teak and umtshibi trees. The Kalahari scrubland is characterised by seasonal wetlands that form fragile grasslands on shallow soils and marshy depressions.

With more than 400 species of birds, Hwange National Park is a paradise for birdwatching. Hwange National Park is home to the Big Five (lion, leopard, rhino, elephant and buffalo). As of 2022, the White Rhino was extinct but reintroduced at Imvelo Ngamo Wildlife Sanctuary bordering the park. With 107 mammal species, it is the park with the highest mammal diversity in Zimbabwe. 19 large herbivores and 8 large carnivores can be found in the park. Hwange is the only protected area where Gemsbok and Brown Hyena occur in small numbers. The population of African Wild Dogs (Cape Wild Dog) is thought to be one of the largest surviving groups in Africa today. Elephants have been enormously successful in Hwange National Park. As of 2017, there was an elephant population of over 45’000. This very high number of elephants has put a lot of strain on the resources of the park. There has been a lot of debate on how to deal with this problem, with park authorities implementing culling to reduce populations.

Interestingly, before the establishment of Hwange in 1928 as a game reserve, the area only had occasional large numbers of mammals. The low rainfall on the poorly drained Kalahari sands meant that the region was unable to permanently support large wildlife populations and was also completely unsuitable for agriculture. In the years following the establishment of the park, boreholes were drilled to create sixty new pans, linked to the seasonal pans that already existed. Animals moved back slowly and Hwange became what it is today, a park that offers excellent wildlife viewing all year round.


The park’s Bradfield Hornbill protected population is probably the highest in the world and the Yellow-billed Oxpecker probably the highest population in the subregion. The pans and surrounds are popular birdwatching spots with Common Ostrich, Burchell’s Sandgrouse, Woolly-necked and Saddle-billed Storks, Kori Bustards and Red-crested Bustard (Red-crested Korhaan), Southern Ground-hornbills, Secretarybirds, lapwings and a wide variety of waders, Collared and Black-winged Pratincoles, Three-banded Coursers, Yellow-throated Sandgrouse, Chestnut-backed and Gray-backed Sparrowlarks and many others to watch whilst you game-watch. Lion kills will bring in vultures and Marabou Storks and the park is an important area for many raptors including Bateleur, Tawny and Martial Eagle, African Hawk-eagle, Pale Chanting-goshawk, Dickinson’s Kestrel, African and Eurasian Hobby, Red-necked Falcon and a wide of others plus harriers in the wet season. The pans themselves have herons and egrets, Dwarf Bittern, flamingos and ducks including Maccoa Duck, Lesser Moorhen, terns and African Skimmer, and it is worth checking the more vegetated ones in the rains for Corn, Spotted, Striped and Baillon’s Crakes. The woodlands and drier bush and acacia have Southern Pied-Babbler, Black-fronted Bulbul (African red-eyed Bulbul), Arnot’s Chat (White-headed black chat), Kalahari Scrub-Robin, Barred Wren-Warbler and Stierling’s Wren-Warbler, Tinkling Cisticola, Black-chested Prinia, Magpie Shrike and Crimson-breasted Gonolek (Crimson-breasted Shrike), White-crowned Shrike, Meves’s Starling, Red-billed Buffalo-Weaver, Orange-winged Pytilia, Shaft-tailed Whydah and Broad-tailed Paradise-Whydah and Black-faced Waxbill. (Source of this section: www.birdlifezimbabwe.org)