Zimbabwe: Hwange!

Posted on 8 March 2010

I’m a wildlife lover…so my last destination of Hwange National Park (and surrounding areas), was – for me – going to be the highlight of my trip. I sincerely wanted it to fulfil my expectations.

Hwange is huge, the size of northern Ireland, and unlike some more commercial African parks, is NOT dotted with lots of campsites.

Hwange has few natural, perennial rivers, and in the south and east of the park where most of the game congregates on huge pans, there are no perennial rivers. So way back in the 1920s, wildlife authorities installed boreholes and water pumps, so that the animals would have something to drink. Most of Hwange is Kalahari Sand, blown in from other areas, and the soil is literally just sand…most rainwater drains through it quickly, and evaporation is high. The average depth is about 50 metres…where a bed of basalt stops the drainage. It’s to these depths that boreholes need to plunge to bring the water up to the surface.

Because Hwange is unfenced (like many other parks in Africa), animals may roam freely through the park and into surrounding areas, which can include village communities, but also hunting concessions. So the animals don’t have to stay in Hwange…but they choose to, because water is in steady supply (thanks to the brilliant work of organisations like Friends of Hwange who look after some pumps – more on them later). However, many plains game species are naturally nomadic…and even predators have fluent territories.

This means that there is a constant tension between wildlife and people…and in Zimbabwe, where food is in short supply, and meat a much-desired source of protein, the temptation to poach is high. For sure, Hwange is home to some spectacular game…but the human problems in Zimbabwe have seriously affected the state of conservation. And one lady – among many other dedicated conservationists – is passionately outspoken about these controversial issues.

Sharon Pincott has a brave story to tell and she does so eloquently in her book “The Elephants and I”, which was recently published. I caught up with her in Hwange for a couple of days, and while we drove around the Hwange Estate (adjacent to the national park), looking for ellies, she had a lot to say about the state of conservation in Zimbabwe. More to come on Sharon…

Want to explore Zimbabwe yourself?
Zimbabwe Tourism Authority /
Britz 4×4 Rentals / Tracks4Africa.co.za / Accommodation

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