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Zimbabwe Parks & Reserves
There’s no point trying to hide the obvious: despite the fast that 13% of Zimbabwe’s surface area is taken up by national parks and reserves, these conservation areas are not what they used to be. A decade of neglect and abuse have had a negative effect on what were some of Africa’s best wildlife reserves, and animal numbers and park infrastructure have suffered.
However, Zimbabwe has turned the corner and people are cautiously optimistic. The parks and reserves are still there, wilder than ever, and with conservation and safari travel once again on the rise, provide some very authentically challenging safari experiences.
Most Zimbabwe parks are in the north and north-west of the country and are typically open wooded savannah environments, perfect habitat for classic African mammals such as elephant, buffalo, lion, giraffe and the usual range of antelope and other big predators like leopard and cheetah. Many parks are located close to major water sources, a fact which means great aquatic life such as hippos, crocodiles as well as superb bird watching.
Victoria Falls National Park
The waterfall may take centre stage but the easy-to-access Victoria Falls National Park and adjoining Zambezi National Park deliver a great introduction to Zimbabwe’s wildlife, and the bird watching is amazing.
Hwange National Park
Zimbabwe’s monster-sized flagship park has seen better days but a visit to Hwange still ranks as one of Southern Africa’s best wildlife experiences. It’s classic open savannah and forest country, easy to get to and home to the full range of big mammals, especially elephant, buffalo and lion, plus it’s close to Victoria Falls.
Matobo National Park
Home to both black and white rhinos as well as a good range of classic game species, superbly scenic Matobo National Park is a great introduction to African wildlife and is also home to the greatest concentration of rock art in Southern Africa. It’s close to Bulawayo and one of the easiest Zimbabwe parks to access.
The Matobo hills are the final resting place of the controversial British Imperialist Cecil John Rhodes, who requested that he be buried here. There are great views over the park from his grave perched on top of a rock, an area aptly known as ‘World’s View’.
Matusadona National Park
The great thing about Matusadona National Park is that it combines the lake shores and wetlands of Lake Kariba with wooded savannah and forest, which makes for a fantastic range of big mammals and an amazing birdlife.
Matusadona National Park is most easily accessible by boat from the town of Kariba, some 20km north but its relatively poor accessibility by road and rudimentary internal network of roads keep the crowds and traffic out. If you like wild, you’ll love Matusadona.
Mana Pools National Park
With Lake Kariba forming its northern boundary, this wild and little-visited World Heritage Site has an excellent reputation for wildlife and can be explored by canoe, on foot and by 4X4.
It’s a challenging destination though: the park is only open to cars during the dry season months of May to October; rainy season access is by boat or foot but be aware that the park is extremely remote at the best of times and things get wilder and more difficult during the rains.