The Hwange National Park, formerly known as Wankie, was once home to the nomadic San Bushmen and the warrior king Mzilikazi. Founded by a young game ranger called Ted Davidson, it was declared a national park in 1929 and is now the largest game reserve in Zimbabwe - covering an area of 5,600 square miles (about the same size as Belgium). It lies to the west of Zimbabwe between Bulawayo and Victoria Falls, which is a mere two hours drive away. Hwange has a good infrastructure with roads, shops and even an airport however it is not touristy and offers a fantastic wilderness experience.
Lying close to the edge of the Kalahari Desert, the region has little water with sparse, xerophile vegetation. It is a place of extreme contrasts. During the dry months the park is very inhospitable with crusted and cracked salt pan landscapes. The animals are helped by 60 man-made waterholes which provide them with much needed water until the rains arrive bringing new growth. Despite these harsh conditions the park is home to 105 species of animals, including 19 herbivores and eight carnivores. This protected area is also inhabited by one of the largest surviving groups of African wild dog and it is a bird lover’s paradise with over 400 species including 50 different types of raptor and huge numbers of the ground dwelling Kori Bustard. The elephant population has thrived in Hwangwe and the population exceeds that which is naturally supported in the area.
Hwange combines well with contrasting Victoria Falls offering superb game viewing with the thrills of the falls. It is also a great destination for horse riding safaris – being the first national park in Africa to allow riding.