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Zimbabwe National Parks

Hwange National Park (formerly Wankie Game Reserve) is the largest game reserve in Zimbabwe and lies in the west, between Bulawayo and Victoria Falls.

Hwange National Park hosts over 100 mammal and 400 bird species and is one of Africa’s finest havens for wildlife and is home to vast herds of elephant, buffalo, zebra and has a very large concentration of giraffe.
All Zimbabwe’s specially protected animals can be found in Hwange and it is the only protected area where gemsbok and brown hyena occur in reasonable numbers.
The population of African wild dogs to be found in Hwange is thought to be of one of the larger surviving groups in Africa today, along with that of Kruger National Park and Selous Game Reserve. Other major predators include lion, leopard, spotted hyena and cheetah.

There is no natural year round permanent source of water in Hwange and the park and its wildlife depend on a system of pumps and pans for their water during the dry season. These pans are the focal point for large congregations of animals and provide many outstanding opportunities for photography.

Due its size, Hwange has many varied landscapes and habitats and it is well worth dividing your stay between 2 camps or lodges located in different areas of the park.

Hwange is easily accessible by road from Victoria Falls and Bulawayo (journey time approx 4 hours). Alternatively there are a number of airstrips for those who prefer to fly in.

It’s proximity to Victoria Falls and Bulawayo means that Hwange can easily be combined with accommodation in Victoria Falls, Zambezi National Park and Matobo National Park.

Victoria Falls and Zambezi National Parks are situated on the western tip of Zimbabwe.

The Falls, known by the local Kololo tribe as Mosi oa Tunya- The Smoke that thunders, is one of the “Seven Wonders of the World” and while it is neither the highest nor the widest waterfall in the world, it is classified as the largest, based on its width of 1,708 metres (5,604ft)and height of 108 metres (354ft) resulting in the world’s largest sheet of falling water.

As well as the natural wonder of the falls itself, the town of Victoria Falls is renowned as a centre for activities like white water rafting, Zambezi sunset cruises, helicopter flights and bungy jumping.

The area around Victoria Falls, in particular the Batoka Gorge, is very good for bird life.

Victoria Falls has an International Airport and is one of the main entry points into Zimbabwe, giving easy access to Hwange NP.
It is also a good access point for Chobe NP which is only a short distance away, across the border in Botswana. 

Located in south-eastern Zimbabwe, Gonarezhou is the country’s second largest national park (5,053km²) after Hwange and also one of the country’s least visited.

Its habitat features beautiful spreads of mahoganies, ironwoods and tall acacia albida trees, amongst which the bird-life is prolific, particularly after the rains. The game-viewing is good, but it is the sense of being in a truly unspoilt wilderness that draws visitors.
One of the park’s outstanding highlights is the impressive red sandstone Chilojo Cliffs.

Gonarezhou borders onto South Africa’s Kruger National Park and Mozambique’s vast Limpopo National Park. Together these three huge parks go to make up a truly vast wild area known as the The Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park covering around 35,000km², an area similar to the size of the Netherlands.

In 1984, Mana Pools became the first national park in Zimbabwe to be designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Mana Pools is a located by the lower Zambezi River in Zimbabwe where the flood plain turns into a broad expanse of lakes after each rainy season. As the lakes gradually dry up and recede, the region attracts many large animals in search of water, making it one of Africa’s most renowned game viewing regions; bursting with a profusion of birds and animals, especially during dry season from June to October.
Four main pools and several smaller pools are scattered along the river course and the cliffs hanging over the river and floodplains provide shelter to a large and varied wildlife population. Long Pool is the largest and extends some 6km in a west to east direction. Lovely big old trees provide a shady canopy with sparse undergrowth. This makes for easy walking and is one of the reasons why this area is perfect for walking safaris.
The park stretches across 2000km² of prime Zambezi riverfront vegetation, much of which is inaccessible except on foot and as a result is completely unspoilt. The landscape includes islands and sandbanks fringed by dense forests of baobabs and indigenous trees, as well as the rugged Zambezi escarpment.

In the south Chitake Springs is of vital importance to the interior of the park as the springs form a crucial source of water as the river systems dry up during the dry season. Wildlife congregate around this precious water resource and walking safaris to the area are intensely exciting and full of action.

Because it offers water based and land activities Mana Pools is a park ideally suited to stays of 4-8 days. Visitors will often divide their time between a camp situated one the banks of the Zambezi and another in the interior of the park.
Visitors can either book a private mobile tented camp, usually economical for groups of 4 or more, or stay in one of the more established camps.

Matusadona is a game reserve in northern Zimbabwe that boasts a unique combination of pristine and rugged wilderness, together with the water frontage on Lake Kariba.
It is one of the last remaining sanctuaries of the endangered black rhinoceros and is commonly recognized as having the second largest concentration of wild lions in Africa after Tanzania’s Ngorongoro Crater.

Relatively poor accessibility by road and extremely harsh internal network of roads keep the crowds and traffic low. It can be reached more easily by boat from Kariba and by light aircraft.

Many of the animals rescued during Operation Noah, when Lake Kariba was filling (following the construction off the Kariba Dam) were released into Matusadona, which now holds strong populations of most mammals occurring in the Zambezi valley. Buffalo are especially prominent and herds of up to 1,000-strong often congregate along the shoreline in the dry season.

Matusadona is an ideal place to get out of your game vehicle. As well as being popular for foot safaris one of the real highlights of any visit is the chance to take a boat safari on the lake; giving you a wonderful viewpoint from which to enjoy the wildlife and, especially, the prolific bird life.

Situated in the magnificent Matobo Hills and covering an area of 44,500 hectares Matobo National Park was established in 1953 awarded Unesco World Heritage Status in June 2003.
The Park includes an Intensive Protection Zone where a large population of Black and White Rhinoceros are successfully breeding.
Matobo meaning ‘bald heads’ was the name chosen for the area by the great Ndebele King, Mzilikazi. He is buried in the hills just a short distance from the park. The Park is also the site of the grave of Cecil John Rhodes. He is buried at the summit of Malindidzimu -‘ hill of benevolent spirits’. He referred to this hill as having a ‘View of the World’.
The area has great spiritual and cultural significance to the local people and there are many sites within the park where important ceremonies still take place.

The Park is home to a wide variety of animal species including: black and white rhinoceros, zebra, wildebeest, giraffe, kudu, eland, sable, klipspringer, leopard, hyena, cheetah, hippo, warthog, rock dassies, waterbuck, wildcat, springhare, common duiker, crocodiles, baboons and monkeys.

When deciding which of Zimbabwe's National Parks to include in your itinerary don't forget to take distances and travelling times into consideration. 
In many cases, although it is possible to drive between parks, the distance and road conditions will make it a long & tiring journey so most people choose to fly.