Perhaps like many of our travelers, you’re hearing more about Zimbabwe safaris, and are curious about where to begin, and what you might see. To answer the second question first, everything: you’ll experience classic African game-viewing, including some of Africa’s largest elephant herds, in a very private setting, at a much lower price than comparable wildlife parks. And you should start your research by getting to know Hwange.
1. Year-Round Game Viewing in Zimbabwe's Largest Reserve
Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe’s largest reserve, should be the cornerstone of any Zim safari, conveniently located halfway between Victoria Falls to the north, and Bulawayo. The park’s 5,600 square miles (about the same size as the state of Connecticut) encompass extremely diverse terrain ranging from semi-desert scrub on the edge of the Kalahari, to forests, granite hills, and valleys of mopane woodlands. This diversity creates habitats for a wide range of wildlife, and supports productive, year-round game viewing.
With over 100 mammals and 400 bird species resident in the park, visitors are in the perfect place to spot the Big Five, unusual antelope species like the greater kudu, sable and roan, and some of the largest elephant and buffalo herds to be seen anywhere in Africa. Hwange is a stronghold for painted dogs, or African wild dogs, among Africa’s most endangered species. The Painted Dog Conservation project in Hwange is making progress in growing the dwindling population of these splotchy-coated, large eared canines.
Camps in the national park are distributed far apart from one another, creating a greater sense of privacy and room to explore. Little Makalolo, in the Makalolo concession in the eastern part of Hwange overlooks a waterhole which draws a “Noah’s ark” parade of animals. The intimate six tent permanent tented camp includes ensuite bathrooms, a plunge pool, and a log pile hide for easy wildlife viewing back at camp.
For an authentic bush camp experience, Somalisa Camp is set on an acacia island situated in the national park within a private concession with views of the Kennedy Vlei Line’s savannah plains. Six elegantly furnished canvas luxury tents are connected by well-traversed elephant paths to the lounge, pool and dining areas. Its sister camp, Somalisa Acacia, with just 4 luxury tents, is perfect for a small group wishing to have this beautiful space just to themselves – of course, under the care of experienced staff and guides.
Of note, in May 2015 stylishly contemporary Linkwasha Camp is scheduled to open, in a 1,000 square mile private concession in Hwange’s southeast corner. The stunning 7 luxury tents, plus one family tent, surround a multi-level deck main area with a pool, lounge and library. Game drives in four wheel drive Land Rovers and walks with an armed guide form part of the experience at Linkwasha. The camp's beautiful location overlooking a pan that is a magnet for wildlife creates opportunities for wildlife encounters close to camp: up-close at a number of hides, or sipping sundowners by a waterhole at sunset.