Hwange National Park

Country: Zimbabwe
 
Hwange National Park is in west Zimbabwe.
Its grasslands and mopane woods are home to large elephant herds, lions and African wild dogs. In the northwest, animals gather at Mandavu and Masuma dams, where there are concealed lookouts. Bumbusi National Monument includes 18th-century ruins and pre-colonial rock carvings. In the southeast, waterholes include the Nyamandhlovu Pan, with its elevated viewing platform.
 
Named after a local Nhanzwa chief, Hwange National Park is the largest Park in Zimbabwe occupying roughly 14 650 square kilometers. It is located in the northwest corner of the country about one hour south of the Mighty Victoria Falls.
It became the royal hunting grounds to the Ndebele warrior-king Mzilikazi in the early 19 th Century and was set aside as a National Park in 1929. Hwange boasts a tremendous selection of wildlife with over 100 species of mammals and nearly 400 bird species recorded. The elephants of Hwange are world famous and the Park’s elephant population is one of the largest in the world. The Park has three distinctive Camps and administrative offices at Robins, Sinamatella and the largest one at Main Camp.

Vital Information

Hwange National Park Vital Information

Activities

Hwange National Park Activities

Hwange National Park Gates

Hwange National Park gates

Vital Information

Weather & Climate – Hwange NP

Weather & Climate – Hwange NP

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 – Winter
  • 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 – Summer
  • 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.

Access to the Park may be made by:

Air
An unlicensed airstrip exists at Main Camp for private/ charter aircraft. Prior permission to land must be obtained at Main Camp. Please note there are no hangars. Hwange National Park Airport is situated nearby.

Road
It is usually possible from May to October to enter the Park by any designated access road and to drive to any of the camps. During the wet season though, advice should be sought as to the best routes. The visitor reception at each camp will provide advice on the many game-viewing drives of the 480 kilometres of the Park’s road system. Please note that the camps are interconnected by a road network, however, the roads are not always in the best of conditions.

To Main Camp 
The turn-off to Main Camp is at the 264,5 kilometre peg on the Bulawayo-Victoria Falls Road. From here a tar road (15 kilometres) leads to the Park boundary at the railway crossing, a short distance from the Camp.

To Sinamatella Camp
A tar then gravel road branches off the main Bulawyo – Victoria Falls Road near the town of Hwange. The Camp is reached 45 kilometres further on via Mbala lodge in the Deka Safari Area.

To Robins Camp
A gravel road turns off the main Bulawayo – Victoria Falls Road 48 kilometres south of Victoria Falls. From the junction it is approximately 70 kilometres to Robins Camp and en route there is a turn off to Matetsi Safari Area headquarters and to Pandamatenga. Robins Camp can also be reached by road through the Park from Main Camp and Sinamatella during the dry season. If proceeding through one of these camps obtain information about the route from the relevant camp.

Hwange: International – US$20, Regional – US$15, Local – US$5

Tipping in Zimbabwe

A common and sensible question when travelling to Zimbabwe is “who should we tip, how much, and when?”. Below is some information on tipping in Zimbabwe to help you budget for your trip and avoid any potentially embarrassing situations.

Tipping in Zimbabwe and the local economy.

As is so often the case with tipping, the amount you give (if anything) will be dependent on your satisfaction with your stay and is never compulsory. If you have enjoyed your stay though then we would encourage our travellers to share their appreciation with a tip, although you should be aware of the potential impacts tipping may have on the local economy.

Tips can significantly improve the take-home wages of those working in the service industry in Zimbabwe, including waiters, guides, and national park scouts. There’s a fine line though between an appropriate tip, and an excessive tip that may have a negative influence on the local economy.

For example, there are many skilled jobs that aren’t client facing, such as park rangers who often carry out vital anti-poaching work. A senior ranger will require a formal education and years of experience to carry out their role, and they will be paid a fair but modest wage for their government role.

By contrast, a camp hand who carries bags and helps out at camp carries out an important role, but not as vital for the preservation of Zimbabwe’s national parks, and their role won’t require nearly as much knowledge or experience. As they have direct interaction with guests though they may receive overly large tips, sometimes adding up to hundreds of dollars a month, potentially paying more than the rangers job.

In such a case the responsibility and remuneration can become unfairly unbalanced, and could feasibly result in parks rangers changing jobs to guest facing roles, leaving vital positions unfilled.

So please do tip where you feel appropriate, but also bear in mind the importance and extent of the work someone is doing for you.

On safari, who do you tip in Zimbabwe?

Tipping your guides

Guides in Zimbabwe train for years and are a key part of a safari to Zimbabwe. They are normally tipped separately from other staff.

Tips for the back of house team

Running a safari camp requires a huge amount of work from a large team, many of whom you won’t see including kitchen staff, mechanics and cleaners. Most camps will have a collective tip box to split between this team.

Tipping the managers?

Similalry to being in a restaurant, we generally wouldn’t recommend tipping managers, unless of course they have done something outstanding to improve your stay.

When to tip

Occasionally we get asked when the right time is to give the tips. There are a few options:

After each activity
At the end of each day
At the end of your stay

General rule of thumb: just tip once, always at the end of your stay at each safari camp or lodge. Not at the end of each activity, or each day.

Guides wouldn’t expect you to tip after each of the daily activities, as it could create the impression that the guides need to ‘perform’ for the person giving the tips, which can distort the relationship between them and the other guests. Imagine the position other guests might find themselves in should you be offering tips this frequently and they were not.

How to tip

In general, Zimbabwean camps will have a main ‘tip box’ that is shared out between the general staff equally, while guides you would normally tip directly in person. The majority of camps will explain their exact tipping policy in their camp literature, although the camp manager will certainly be able to help you out if there’s any confusion.

The normal practice is to tip in cash, and as US Dollars are currently Zimbabwe’s official currency this is the best currency to tip in. However, UK Sterling, Euros and Rand will also be happily accepted.

How much to tip

Tipping in Zimbabwe is not compulsory but always appreciated, and the amount will always depend on your own opinion and personal satisfaction. Based on our own experiences, and discussion with camp managers, we would suggest the following amounts as a rough guide:

  • US$10 per guest per day for a group guide
  • US$20 per guest per day for a private guide
  • US$5 per guest per day for general staff

To put these suggestions in perspective, bear in mind that the Gross National Income (GNI) in Zimbabwe is about US$5.26 per person per day.

In contrast, the equivalent GNI in the UK is about US$118.74, in the United States about US$150.58, in New Zealand about US$109.80 and in Germany about US$125.45.

Tipping can be a sensitive issue, but there’s no need to be embarrassed by it. It’s a normal part of the service industry in Zimbabwe, and the staff will have seen a huge range of tipping practices from international guests. Just remember that relatively affluent visitors can have a large impact on the local community: tipping can influence the economic and social balance – so do bear this in mind when tipping in Zimbabwe.

The tap water in some areas of Zimbabwe is fine to drink, and in others it is not.

We would recommend you always drink bottled water to be safe during our time away and to eliminate any worry you may have.

​​​​​​​WATER FOR HWANGE

Sustainable solutions for an African park
 
During the harsh dry season, thousands of elephants and other wildlife compete for scarce water in Zimbabwe’s oldest and largest game reserve, Hwange National Park. With no rivers flowing through it and few natural water sources, Hwange has long depended on artificially pumped water, as have communities bordering the park. 
Hwange’s water is mostly pumped from underground boreholes using diesel engines, which are dirty, unreliable and expensive to maintain. Solar hybrid pumps offer a cleaner, more sustainable and cost-effective alternative. 
 

Taking action 

Water for Hwange is an initiative co-driven by Zimbabwe’s Imvelo Safari Lodges and Seattle’s Wildland Adventures. The goal is to raise funds to purchase, install and maintain solar hybrid water pumps in and around Hwange National Park. These pumps will provide more sustainable and reliable water sources for Hwange’s wildlife, as well as clean drinking water for local villages. Water for Hwange recently won a $20,000 grant from the Adventure Travel Conservation Fund.
 

How you can help

Donate to the Water for Hwange GoFundMe campaign
Join a Water for Hwange Safari. Enjoy incredible wildlife viewing, experience village life, participate in community development, and meet the game rangers and scientists working on the front lines of African wildlife protection and rural community development. Part of your trip fee will go directly toward new water pumps for Hwange. For more information, contact Wildland Adventures’ Chris Moriarty.

Best Time to Visit – Hwange NP

Best Time to Visit – Hwange NP

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 – Winter

  • 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 – Summer

  • 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

Zimbabwe Currency

Although the information below applies to Zimbabwe as a whole, it is more focused on what is happening in Victoria Falls. Centres like Harare and Bulawayo will have certain differences because they are not as forex based.

January 2019

The money situation in Zimbabwe has become very confusing, so I thought I would try and explain it as best I can, so foreign tourists visiting centres like Victoria Falls don’t get caught out. The situation is fluid so we will try to keep this page updated as and when changes happen.

Zimbabwe has two main currencies. The US$ and our local currency which is referred to as a Zollar, ZW$, RTGS or Bond note. Currently the official exchange rate between the two is 1:1 but in reality the rate is around US$1 to ZW$3 or more and this is where the big problems and confusion lie.

Eating Out

If you are staying at a Hotel; food, drinks and shop purchases are most likely priced in US$ – no problem, that is quite clear and easy. But if you go out to a restaurant the prices could be in US$ or ZW$. In Victoria Falls it will mostly be US$, in Harare it will mostly be in ZW$ – so it’s important that you ask and are clear.

If the menu is priced in ZW$ it will appear very expensive, but if you are paying with a foreign card or US$ cash you will get a discount. For example a Burger might be on the menu at $30 which is exorbitant but with a 50% discount for forex it is $15 which is a reasonable price.

Main thing is to be aware of these disparities and confirm with the restaurant.

General Shopping

If you are buying curios from shops or the market you need to ask whether it is a US$ or a Bond price. Because Victoria Falls is a tourist town most prices will be in US$, but in the capital Harare most shops still price in local ZW$ at the inflated amount.

Some shops in Victoria Falls are hybrids where you have prices in both US$ and ZW$. The US$ prices are for imported products and the ZW$ for locally produced products. Again rather confusing unless you are aware of it, if in doubt ask.

Supermarkets

Most tourists don’t need to go to the supermarket as they have everything they need at their hotel or restaurant but if you are self-catering, then you NEED to READ this. The prices in the large Supermarkets are in ZW$ Bond, so essentially three or more times higher than what they should be in US$.

If you are paying with a foreign card or even US$ cash, the amount does NOT change. There is no discount or two tier pricing system in this instance. For example a standard bottle of wine on the supermarket shelf is priced at $36. This of course is a ludicrous price in US$ but its value is derived from the parallel market rate of 3 to 1, meaning the bottle really costs US$12.

But if you swipe your foreign card, US$36 is going to be debited from your account, making it a very expensive bottle of wine. The one solution to this currently, is for you to trade your foreign currency with a local Zimbabwean for Bond notes. At present you will get anywhere between 2.5 to 3.5 to 1, then take these notes into the supermarket and buy your goods. Banks will give you an exchange rate of 1:1.

Another solution is to find the smaller shops and liquor stores who price in and accept US$.

Buying Fuel

Petrol has just had a massive price hike from $1.45 to ZW$3.31, but that was to give it a realistic local bond price. The US$ price has in fact gone down a bit to US$1.32.

So if you are purchasing fuel with a foreign card or cash you MUST ensure that you are charged the US$ price of US$1.32, otherwise you will pay US$3.31, which is the most expensive fuel in the world.

Fuel is still not readily available, so the above only applies when you can get it.

Activities

Victoria Falls Activities for internationals are all priced in US$ and have not changed much for several years now.

I hope that makes some sense in this bizarre situation we find ourselves in. It can’t stay like this forever and the sooner the currency situation is resolved the sooner our economy can get back on track, but at the moment it’s complicated.

End of Update

Zimbabwe Money Matters

As a nation Zimbabwe is one of the poorest countries in the world, the economy is in tatters and basically the country is bankrupt but in tourist centres like Victoria Falls, you are not like to be aware of this. It looks like boom town, which in effect it is as tourism is flourishing. However it is critical that you are aware of some important factors detailed below that will ensure that you don’t have any problems when visiting.

The Zimbabwe Dollar

The US dollar is now the official currency of Zimbabwe. However there is also a local currency, known as a Bond Note or Zollar, in a local bank account it is called RTGS. Bond notes can be used for some purchases in Zimbabwe but are worthless outside the country. So if you are given a bond note as change make sure you spend it whilst in the country.

Credit Cards

Almost all hotels, shops, restaurants and activity operators now accepts credits cards; MasterCard and Visa onlyNOT American Express. However as with everywhere occasionally a card machine won’t work so it’s always best to have a reserve of cash in these instances.

Best advice is to book and pay for as much as you can in advance so that you don’t have any problems whilst here.

Entry Visas at the ports of entry can be paid for by card but again occasionally the machine or your card won’t go through so a reserve is advisable. The exact same applies to entrance fees for the Victoria Falls rainforest.

Cash and ATM machines

All banks have ATM machines however there is a CRITICAL shortage of hard cash within the country. You must bring enough cash with you, as there is none available in the ATM’s.

You will need cash for National Park fees if you are doing any activities like helicopter flights, sunset cruises, rafting, game drives etc please check with your booking agent for details. Also for curio purchases, or any purchases of a small amount that don’t warrant a credit card fee transaction.

Plus you must have a cash reserve for when a credit card transaction fails as mentioned in the credit card section above.

Travellers Cheques

Are NOT accepted.

South African Rand, Sterling, Euro and Botswana Pula

You can pay for things in Sterling, Euro, Rand or Pula but some places when converting to US$ will give you shocking exchange rates.  So it is always best to have US$ cash.

Overall Advice:

** BE AWARE OF THE DISPARITY BETWEEN THE US$ AND THE LOCAL BOND NOTE**
** VISA AND MASTERCARD WIDELY ACCEPTED**
** BRING ENOUGH CASH RESERVE WITH YOU **
** DON’T RELY ON ATM MACHINES TO WITHDRAW CASH **
** DO NOT USE TRAVELLERS CHEQUES**
** PAY FOR ACCOMMODATION AND ACTIVITIES BEFORE YOU GO **

* Carry mostly small denominations of currency. This makes paying for small purchases like curios easier, as change is not always available.

Activities

Game drives in private concessions through the park are a veritable feast for the senses, encompassing unbelievable scenery, fresh breezes, natural dusky perfumes and an orchestra of African sounds. The open-sided 4x4s can accommodate six passengers in tiered seating, ensuring unobstructed views and key photographic opportunities. Game tours are led by experienced and trained guides who tailor excursions to suit the preferences of every guest, whether it’s to view a certain animal, learn about the mannerisms of different species and their habitats or simply to enjoy the vast expanse of the bush. Guides are always eager and willing to impart their vast knowledge and expertise to interested travellers.

Hwange National Park is one of Africa’s renowned wildlife areas and the largest game reserve in Zimbabwe. It stretches over 1.4 million hectares (3.5 million acres) of pristine bush and forest. The park is home to myriad four-legged residents, with over 100 mammal species, including all the members of the famed Big Five, elegant giraffe, swift cheetah and striped zebra. At a time when Hwange experienced the worst of its dry era, lions adapted to the point of hunting majestic elephants. This rare phenomenon was unparalleled and simply astonishing at the time.

Today, Hwange is one of the few great elephant sanctuaries left in Africa. The famous battleground now teems with lush grazing land and is home to herds of wildlife, including the rare roan and sable antelope. As the winter months approach, marvel at increased sightings of the African wild dog, eager for the arrival of puppies. End the day tour or begin the evening one by indulging in decadent drinks enjoyed against the backdrop of the streaked African sky.

Once having roamed through 39 countries, the Painted Dogs – also known as Wild Dogs – have seen their numbers drop from around 50 000 to just 3 000. With such a huge drop in numbers resulting from urbanisation and loss of natural habitat, a place like the Painted Dog Project Centre is an Eden for them. The conservation facility aims to address the issue

through the combined efforts of taking direct action through the protection and rehabilitation of injured or orphaned Wild Dogs, while providing long-term education and development projects to the communities in the area. The centre also works to translocate entire packs of Wild Dogs from problem areas to regions where they can thrive.

In an attempt to empower the local villages in the Hwange District, steps have been taken to turn local villages into tourist destinations.

Visitors to the region can visit traditional homesteads to learn about the local people and their unique cultures.

Village markets offer locals the chance to sell their arts and crafts, which not only ensures that local traditional crafts do not die out,

but enables locals to turn their skill into an activity that empowers them to support their families.

 

 

 

 

 

 

No visit to Hwange can be complete without a game drive through Hwange National Park! Visitors can drive through the park between 6am and 6pm and can encounter the Big 5, who roam freely through the park and surrounding concessions. Covering around 14 650 square km, there are over 100 mammal species to be seen, making Hwange National Park a popular destination for animal lovers. Also worth noting is the park’s status as home to one of the world’s largest herds of elephants, which is reason enough to include this experience on any Hwange itinerary.

 

 

Luckily, visitors can take a day trip to visit the World Wonder that is the Victoria Falls. Not only are the Falls and their surroundings incredibly beautiful, but they also offer a range of activities to enjoy that include helicopter trips over the Falls, daredevil bungee jumping from Victoria Falls Bridge, and other memorable encounters.

 

Guides at Elephant’s Eye, Hwange, offer walking safaris that showcase the best of Hwange National Park and its surrounding fenceless concession. “Our guides give guests an intimate bush experience and teach them about the tracking animal footprints, the endemic plants of Hwange National Park – and they even get to learn to create fun things like a ‘bush toothbrush’,” says Jonathan Slot-Nielsen from Hideaways.

Breathe a sigh of relaxation when embarking on a visit to Elephant’s Eye on site spa, Jwapi Spa. Jwapi means ‘Ground Hornbill’. Enjoy a variety of luxurious treatments in the natural tranquillity of Mother Nature as the spa’s philosophy centres on rejuvenating the mind, body and soul through a unique combination of African and Western massage techniques. Guests can soothe the tension of city life and leave feeling renewed.

Hwange National Park Gates

TRANSFERS Camp

Hwange meets inbound & outbound transfers at Mbala Gate twice a day:
  • 10h00 and again at 14h30
Transfers can be arranged on request from Main Camp & Hwange National Airport.
Self Drive directions are available on request.
Below are approximate times for transfers
  • Vic Falls to Mbala gate1½ hours drive
  • Vic Falls to Hwange Main Camp 3 hour drive
  • Mbala gate to Camp Hwange 2 hour game drive
  • Camp Hwange to Hwange Main Camp 2 hour game drive
  • Main Camp to Hwange Airport 25 minutes

Hwange National Park Accommodation

Ivory Lodge

Ivory Lodge is a small intimate lodge featuring nine luxurious suites set on elevated platforms among the indigenous flora of Hwange Game Park Deep, in the mystical teak forests of Hwange is this unobtrusive camp, bathed in the tales of pioneering hunters and explorers. Lumbering giants drift around your stilted platforms, their tusks glinting in salute to the sanctuary of shade offered up by these massive trees.

Gwango Heritage Resort

Situated on an estate bordering Hwange National Park, Gwango Heritage Resort offers an authentic wilderness experience for the adventurous visitor.Discover a hidden gem situated right outside Hwange National Park, where you'll sleep around a fire at night within the comfort of furnished dome tents. Enjoy walks through magnificent wilderness on the Gwango estate with a professional guide, savour delicious meals at the Gobelo Bar & Grill,

Sikumi Tree Lodge

The lodge is located in a 250-km² private wildlife estate and game reserve bordering the Hwange National Park. It is 180 km from Victoria Falls and 260 km from Bulawayo. The Hwange National Park is around 10 minutes' drive away and the Gwayi River is some 30 minutes' drive from the hotel. Guests can fly into Victoria Falls Airport which is about 180 km from Hwange.The lodge consists of 13 tree houses set within a forest of Mangwe and acacia trees.