The Kavango–Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (KAZA Frontier) includes a major part of the Upper Zambezi River and Okavango basins and Delta, the Caprivi Strip of Namibia, the south-eastern part of Angola, south-western Zambia, the northern wildlands of Botswana and western Zimbabwe. It is also where the renowned Hwange National Park can be found.
What many tourists may not know is that Hwange is the largest wildlife estate on the planet, notes Simon Teede, General Manager of Bushtracks Africa Zimbabwe. To put the size of Hwange into perspective, the 14 651km² park is the size of Montenegro, a beautiful Balkan country along the Adriatic coastline.
A selection of lodges in the park offer a very high standard of accommodation, not to mention the fact that we arguably have some of the best in all of Africa because you have undergo a five-year programme before you can become a guide, adds Teede. Just an hour’s drive from Victoria Falls International Airport, and with quick access to Victoria Fall, Zambia and Botswana, the park is a must for anyone touring the region.
Tina Kennedy, product manager at Wilderness Safaris, describes Hwange as one of the key safari destinations in Zimbabwe. With such diverse habitats, a wide range of species are found here, allowing for some fantastic wildlife sightings, she explains. This is especially true even during the dry winter months, when visitors have the opportunity to witness some of the densest concentrations of wildlife in Africa – especially when it comes to elephant. In fact, because it is part of this enormous game corridor, it’s the only area on the planet where wild elephant populations are growing because they have the freedom to roam, adds Teede.
Hwange has one of the highest diversities of mammals when compared to other parks in the world with over 100 species, notes Beck Edwards, a Director at Off 2 Africa. Buffalo, wildebeest, giraffe, lion, leopard, wild dog and cheetah as well as less common antelope such as gemsbok, sable and roan can all be seen in the park. The birdlife is also abundant, with over 400 bird species in the region, adds Edwards.
But it’s not only about viewing game from the comfort of a vehicle. “While game drives are the key activity, it is also possible to experience the reserve on foot, by doing a walking safari with a highly trained and passionate guide. Sleeping out in a Star Bed at one of the pans, provides a whole other dimension – stars above and wildlife below, going about their nocturnal activities,” explains Kennedy.
Each camp offers different activities, from horse riding to mountain biking excursions. For Edwards, the Elephant Express train, which was launched in 2015, has totally re-invented safari transfers. Travelling between Ngamo Siding – near the Bomani and Camelthorn Camps – and Dete Railway Station near Hwange Main Camp, the trip offers a unique way to experinece the park.
From an accommodation perspective, there are a number of properties both in the reserve and on the perimeter, catering for a range of needs when it comes to budget, experience or luxury, explains Kennedy. Some are in a private concessions – for those seeking exclusivity – while others are accessible to those visiting on a self-drive basis. Tourists travelling on a budget can choose from various three-star and self-catering accommodation options. There are so many five-star spots that are havens for honeymooners or anyone looking for an exclusive and personalised experience.