Hwange National Park Safari Guide

safarigo   Zimbabwe  

Hwange NP is the largest and most popular park in Zimbabwe. It offers excellent wildlife viewing, and most big safari animals can be seen, including the Big Five. Hwange is most known for the impressive concentration of elephant that are attracted to the park's waterholes during the Dry season.




Pros & Cons


Top wildlife viewing with all of the Big Five present (rhino are rare)
Wide variety of animals
Night drives and walking safaris are available at most camps
Proximity to the popular Victoria Falls
Accommodation options for all budgets
Excellent park for self-drive and self-catering
Roads which were previously tarred, and in good condition, have mostly disintegrated


Wildlife & Animals

The elephant population in Hwange is one of the largest in the world. The number of elephants congregating around the waterholes at the end of the Dry season is a sight to behold. All of the Big Five are present and easily spotted, with the exception of the white rhino or the black rhino, which is shy and tends to stick to the bushes.

Wildlife Highlights
Hwange is one of the few places in Zimbabwe to see giraffe. All the unusual antelope are resident and spotted quite easily, including greater kudu, gemsbok, sable and roan antelope. Brown hyena can sometimes be spotted at dawn or dusk, and the population of wild dogs is one of the largest in Africa.


Birds

Zimbabwe has over 650 bird species and is an excellent birding destination. The country has no endemic birds unique to the country, but several near-endemics (occurring in Zimbabwe and its neighboring countries only) can be found in the globally important Eastern Zimbabwe Mountains Endemic Bird Area (EBA). The high standard of guiding in Zimbabwe’s National Parks, and the many opportunities for walking safaris, make Zimbabwe a particularly rewarding birding destination. Migratory birds are present from November to April, and the general number of birds is phenomenal.

Best Time to Visit

July to October, in the Dry season, is the prime time for wildlife viewing in Hwange National Park. The many waterholes become gathering places for animals, while the thinning vegetation makes them easier to spot. Keen birders, however, might enjoy the summer months from November to April when migratory birds are present.

April to October – Dry Season


Wildlife is easier to spot since waterholes become a place for animals to gather and thinned vegetation assures they are more easily seen
Bright skies are common, it hardly ever rains
May to September is the best time to visit Victoria Falls
The numbers of mosquitoes are few, so malaria risk is at a minimum
The heat seems less oppressive (except in October) since there is little humidity
Main Camp area can become crowded
It is dusty and dry
Early morning game drives in open vehicles are cold
November to April – Wet Season
The scenery is green and fresh
There are few tourists and rates might be lower
Baby animals are plentiful
Migratory birds arrive – this is the best time for birding
Some roads become challenging or even impassable
Wildlife viewing in the Dry season is better
It feels hot and damp in the afternoons
Camps and lodges could close from January to March


Weather & Climate

Hwange experiences a mild to warm climate. The warmest months are September to March, while May to August are the coolest. The Dry season occurs in April through October and brings fine, fair weather. The Wet season happens from November to March, and consists of showers in the afternoon followed by clear, sunny skies. It can sometimes lightly shower for days at a time. Winter corresponds to the Dry season and summer to the Wet. They are at opposite times to those seasons in Europe and North America.

Dry Season – April to October


April – This month brings an end to the Wet season with rains becoming increasingly less. The nights are cool. Prepare for early morning games drives in open vehicles to be cold.
May, June, July & August – The coldest months of winter (although it starts to warm up a bit in August). It is a very dry time. Daytime temperatures are around 26°C/79°F, but it gets very cold at night with average temperatures of around 7°C/40°F.
September & October – The dry weather continues but is broken up by the first rains in late October. This settles the dust and brings new vegetation. Daytime temperatures are over 32°C/90°F. October is the hottest month, and temperatures frequently peak over 40°C/104°F.


Wet Season – November to March


November – This month brings a start to the rainy season, although it is rare for rain to fall every day. It is still hot, and daytime temperatures average around 32°C/90°F.
December, January & February – The wettest months bring rain most days, but rarely lasting the whole day. Rains are usually afternoon showers, followed by hours of sunshine – although it can also drizzle continuously for a couple of days. Daytime temperatures average 29°C/84°F, while night and early mornings average 18°C/64°F.
March – Temperatures average between 30°C/86°F and 16°C/61°F, and the Wet season slowly comes to an end.


Getting There

Hwange National Park is very accessible. Main Camp can be reached on a tar road, 200km/124mi south of Victoria Falls. The drive takes less than three hours. To reach some of the other camps deeper in the park, a 4WD might be necessary, especially during the wet months, from May to October. Your tour operator can easily organize chartered flights as some lodges have airstrips.
You will likely travel to Hwange NP as part of a package and not as a solitary destination. You will probably arrive in Zimbabwe by way of Victoria Falls Airport (VFA), near the town of Victoria Falls. Usually, you will be picked up from the airport or hotel by your tour operator, who will also organize additional travel throughout the country as part of your tour package.