Hwange National Park – At over fourteen and a half thousand square Kilometers Hwange is the same size as the Serengeti in Tanzania and by a long shot Zimbabwe’s largest National Park. It has an incredible diversity of flora and fauna, attributed to the variable terrain, which includes four main geological base systems and a reliable but low annual rainfall, subsidized on a major scale by water pumped to the surface by environmentalists and donor funding.
The park is split into different regions for management purposes, in the North West of the park is the Robin’s area. This was an old farm, handed over to the people of Southern Rhodesia in 1939 when the late Harold Robins died. We spent the last weekend there and were impressed by the game sightings and the standard of the road network in this more remote and less known part of Hwange.
It is called remote because of its distance from “Hwange Main Camp” through which most visitors access the park. We found out that it is just 100km from Victoria Falls to the Robin’s gate – 40km on tar and the rest on a well maintained road through the Matetsi Safari areas. It took us just over two and a half hours before we were signing in at the Robin’s Parks offices where we were greeted by friendly staff.
The parks offices here are “well used” and could do with some TLC, we learned from people in the know, that the accommodation and public areas at Robin’s have recently been awarded, via a tender process, to some well-known and experienced tourism players. They have promised to provide the TLC required. If they get it right it will be an excellent place to visit on a camping or self-catering basis with over 20 chalets and large camping areas, as well as pub and restaurant situated just beneath the old Clock Tower which was part of the original farm building. This side of Hwange is also closest to Botswana and the self drive market can access the park directly off the Francis Town to Kazungula road by using the border post at Pandamatenga.
For us though it was onwards to Detema spring, where a friend has a seasonal bush camp. The Detema river system crosses the road between Robins and Sinamatella some twenty five kilometers from Robins. This area of Hwange well known for the large numbers of elephant that congregate at water holes – The Detema dam is at the top of the list for seeing upward of three hundred elephant at a time.
Once again we found the road to be in good repair but were warned that it gets very slippery in the rains. Arriving at the camp late in the afternoon we were greeted with the news that a mating pair of Lion were near the spring five hundred meters from camp. So with cold beers in hand we used the last of the light to watch two very tired animals doing their best to improve lion numbers in Africa.
This area of Hwange has been picked by the Oxford Lion research team as the highest population of Lion per square kilometer, in Zimbabwe. I believe the figures were around ten lion for every 100 square kilometers. We saw three different groups of lion in the time we were in the area and according to a film crew, making a feature film for Disney on the Elephant of Hwange another pride of eleven lion attacked and killed a sub adult elephant at a water hole closer to Robin’s Main offices. It seems that lion numbers in wildlife areas in Western Zimbabwe are pretty healthy.
Hwange Bush Camp is the comfortable, but simple little camp we stayed at, the tents are spacious with large double bed and walk through change area, before a lovely bathing area, running water and flush toilet at the back. According to my wife the most important thing about the tents was the security, what with all this lion action. We had premonitions of a very basic tented camp and were blown away by the comfort and level of service offered in the middle of the bush by this seven-man team.
For us getting out and walking is always a highlight, a specialty of the guiding team at HBC which is linked to the larger and more established Camp Hwange. The long walk we did with David Carson was memorable to say the least, guiding us neatly around a breeding herd of elephant David pointed out some of less seen and understood details of the bush, we spent three hours in absolute bliss. Important always to remember how fortunate one is to spend time with world class professional guides in big game areas, even Jo relaxed a bit in proximity to the elephant cows as they grazed 100 meters away with their calves drinking milk, oblivious to our presence.
We will have fond memories of our weekend at Hwange Bush Camp – evenings spent around the fire after a delicious meal and early morning coffee discussions on the animals that past through the camp during the night.
With a very impressive mammal list which included a beautiful Roan Antelope Bull and a few new ticks on our bird list we felt very satisfied, but two nights in a quality game areas is never enough and we could happily have spent another two nights exploring. It was not to be and Sunday evening saw us back at base in the Victoria Falls looking forward to another busy week in the office.