Hwange National Park: The Ultimate Guide

Hwange National Park borders Botswana and covers an area of 14600 km2. The park’s immense size allows for a variety of landscapes, wildlife, and wild bush. It moves from the Kalahari Desert at the southern edge to granite hills and forests containing mopane and teak in the north.

Visitors to Hwange will notice one characteristic: the importance of water. Pans, or managed water holes, are the only way to sustain the park’s large wildlife population. Hwange National Park is home to nearly 100 mammal species. This includes all five big animals and even the endangered rhinoceros.

It is easy to access and is home to the largest number of animals. They are most easily spotted during the dry season (August-October), when wildlife congregates around the small water holes.

When to Visit Hwange National Park

Like most parks in Africa in the dry season, Hwange is the best place to spot wildlife.

  • Best Time: July to October (dry season).
  • High Season: June to October (Hwange’s main area can become crowded).
  • Low Season: January to May (some lodges close during part of the wet season).
  • Best Weather: April to September (it hardly ever rains).
  • Worst Weather: December to March (wet season).

June to October: Dry Season

From late June to October, the dry season in Zimbabwe reaches its peak in Hwange. It is easy to spot animals in the bush during dry seasons as they are more likely to be near water sources. Hwange is blessed with water, as most of the water holes are maintained by pumps all year to provide nourishment to the animal population.

April to October: Winter

  • It is much easier to spot wildlife.
  • It rarely rains and you can expect blue skies.
  • Victoria Falls is best visited between May and September.
  • The risk of malaria is very low.
  • The heat is not as intense as it used to be.
  • It’s dusty and dry.
  • Mornings get cold, pack a jacket for your game drives.

November to April: Summer

  • The scenery is beautiful.
  • There are many baby animals
  • This is when migrating birds arrive.
  • Some roads are difficult or impossible to pass.
  • The dry season is the best time to see wildlife.
  • It can get very hot in the afternoons.

From January to March, camps and lodges may close.

The National Park is accessible all year. The Zimbabwe National Parks are comparable to other parks in Southern Africa, and they are also very affordable.

  • Citizen: Adult – $5.00 USD per day
  • SADC: Adult – $15.00 USD per day
  • Non-resident: Adult – $20 USD per day

Visit Our Somalisa Camp in Zimbabwe – A two-time award-winning tented camp in the heart of Hwange National Park

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The Landscape  

Hwange National Park is Zimbabwe’s largest park. The name Hwange National Park is a tribute to the local chief, who ruled in 1929, when the park was developed. Hwange is just one hour south of Victoria Falls. You can easily incorporate a visit to the iconic Vic falls on your visit.  

vic falls

The landscape consists of Kalahari sand, woodlands, and teak forests. The lodges located in the area often use teak for firewood, since it is forbidden to take wood out of the park. You will also find wide grasslands that are dotted with palm trees and acacias. Large herds of elephants and Cape buffalo rely on this diverse landscape for food. 

Wildlife in the Area 

Hwange National Park is home to a diverse group of wildlife and bird species. The park is well-known for its large population of elephants and other predators such as, leopards, cheetahs, and wild dogs. 

cheetah in Hwange

The best time to see wildlife in the park is between July and October, which runs from July through October. These months are when the vegetation is less dense and animals congregate around water sources. It is not uncommon to see many animals at the waterholes during this period, and it is possible to witness a kill. 

If you’re lucky, you may even get the opportunity to see a wild dog hunt and kill its prey or a kill by a lion on your African safari. Hwange is also home to the rare sable and roan antelope. 

Climate 

Hwange has a tropical climate. September to March are the hottest months, while May to August are the coolest. From April to October, the dry season delivers pleasant weather. In the wet season, which runs from November to March, afternoon showers are typical. The dry season is winter, and the wet season is summer. 

Dry Season  

  • April: The wet season comes to an end this month, with the rains becoming less intense. Be prepared for cold mornings in open vehicles.
  • May, June, and July are the coldest months of winter. However, it warms up slightly in August. It is very dry during the day, with temperatures around 26 °C (79 °F). However, it becomes cold at night, with temperatures around 7 °C (40 °F).
  • September and October: The first rains fall in late October. This helps to settle the dust and brings new vegetation. Temperatures during the day exceed 32°C (90°F). October is the hottest month. Temperatures often peak at 40°C (104°F).

Wet Season 

  • November – This month marks the beginning of the rainy season. However, it is very rare for rain to fall every single day. It’s hot and the daytime temperature is around 32°C/90°F. 
  • December, January and February are the wettest months. Most afternoons it rains. Average daytime temperatures are 29 degrees Celsius/84 degrees F, while average night and early morning temperatures are 18 °C /64°F . 
  • March – Average temperatures are between 30°C (86°F) to 16 °C (61°F) . 

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Our Camps in Hwange National Park

Somalisa Camp  

The stunning views from Somalisa offer guests breathtaking views of Hwange’s golden savannah plains. You can enjoy a cocktail and listen to the distant roaring of lions while sipping gin and tonic. The next moment, you’re gazing at elephants just meters away enjoying a sundowner. Hwange National Park offers guests a wide range of contrasts, from dense teak and acacia forests to vast open savannahs. It is an area that showcases a variety of Africa’s natural beauty. Somalisa Camp is our first ever Hwange safari lodge. It was built by  Beks Ndlovu, and offers the ultimate African Bush Camps experience. It is located at the edge of an old seasonal floodplain, in the shade of acacia trees. 

somalisa camp

This intimate bush camp is ideal for relaxing Hwange safaris with your friends and family. Natural wood and the natural features of the bush give this camp a refined look. Kudhinda is the Zimbabwean national material. It’s carefully paired with contemporary decor influences to create an authentic, modern African style. Somalisa Camp is a leader in eco-friendly safari accommodation. The camp has a full solar power plant and water purification system that allows it to recycle 80% of the water used. The camp has received the first GOLD Green Tourism Certification in Zimbabwe.

Somalisa Acacia 

Trees are symbolic of connection and rooting, which is why our camp for families with children is named after one of our favourite African trees. The most important symbol of Africa is the Acacia tree. Its silhouette, with its vivid orange and pink hues, blends with the peaceful sounds of the hornbill to create a serene atmosphere to share with family and friends.

somalisa acacia

Somalisa Acacia offers a memorable Hwange safari lodge experience, suitable for younger children and smaller groups of safari-goers. The camp is located just to the west of its sister camp, and sits at the edge of Hwange National Park’s seasonal floodplain. Somalisa Acacia can be found in the shade of Acacia trees. It is possible to meet an elephant in your own backyard. Your backyard is the largest natural reserve in Zimbabwe and is known for its diverse wildlife. Keep an eye out for the elephants and other large groups that frequent Hwange’s golden plains to see the camp’s elephant pool. Also, be on the lookout for the swift cheetahs, graceful giraffes, honking hippos, and the dazzling zebra that might make an appearance.

Somalisa Expeditions 

Somalisa Expeditions is full of adventure and will bring you face-to-face with Africa’s greats. As you sit in your chair, nature will come to you. Somalisa Expeditions offers a place for stories and laughter. It is a place where you can sit in your armchair and watch the natural world move towards you. 

somalisa expeditions

Game drives, bush walks and bird watching excursions awaken the senses. Cultural visits can also be a great way to get your mind rewired. Professional guides make an experience more than just passive observation of sights. They show passion for beauty and wonder. Your curiosity about Africa’s wilderness will be awe-inspiring. 

Additional Information on Hwange National Park  

It is one of Africa’s largest parks 

Hwange is Zimbabwe’s biggest national park at 14.651 km (5.656 miles) and one of the 10 most extensive parks in Africa.

Elephants abound 

The “Presidential Herd”, an elephant herd, is found in Hwange National Park. It is estimated to be one of the biggest elephant herds in Africa, with 40,000 members. It’s not unusual to see up to 100 pachyderms simultaneously.

Beautiful lodges

There are two options for accommodation: inside or outside the park. However, the best accommodations can be found in the private concessions around Hwange. My favourite property is Ivory Lodge. It’s located right next to an elephant-friendly waterhole. The animals can freely roam between the park’s safari lodges and the parks within the park without restriction.

You can “hide away

No matter what lodge you choose, there will be a hide. You should check it out. Hides, or protected viewing areas, are usually found near watering holes and allow visitors to observe wildlife up close. Hides are great for night viewing. It is critical to remain silent while in the hide.

It is one of the Big Five countries 

Hwange also has 106 species of other animals, including big cats. Bird lovers will find more than 400 species here.

Time your visit carefully 

Hwange is best visited during the dry season (July to October) in order to maximise your chances of seeing big cats and other animals. Animals are more thirsty during this period and will travel great distances to get water from the park’s 60 watering holes. Park officials keep many of these holes stocked.

Painted dogs

Hwange’s most unique animal to spot is the painted dog. This is especially true if you can see them hunting in packs. This endangered species of African wild dog is now down to 5,000. Zimbabwe is their last stronghold.

It also has a wild dog rehabilitation centre 

If you’re not lucky enough to see a painted dog while on safari, then visit Zimbabwe’s Painted Dog Conservation. The rehabilitation centre treats sick and injured dogs with the hope that they will be able to return to the wild once they are fully healed.

Attention Twitchers

Hwange is home to an incredible array of birdlife. But, even the most experienced birdwatcher can not miss one. The Kori Bustard, the largest bird to fly in the park, is not allowed to take off unless absolutely necessary.

Dry and cold seasons

It’s hot in the dry season. But it can be cold at night. The dry season is a better time to see animals as they congregate around man-made watering holes. There are no man-made woollies knitted for elephants!

Nocturnal wonders

One day, you might be able to spot a curious little creature that hops around the world looking like a small kangaroo. This is a springhare. You can drive overnight at some lodges that are privately owned. Keep your eyes peeled!

Time travel

Hwange National Park offers a glimpse into the past. This is what much of Africa’s interior might have looked like 150 years ago.