• Hwange Trip Report and Photos - Oct. 2013

    We're now nearing two months into our five-and-a-half month trip through southern Africa. The people on this forum have been enormously helpful in planning it. Here is the first trip report:

    Hwange National Park
    The Route There
    We drove north from Bulawayo and entered through the Sinamatella Gate.
    Most of this road was in fine condition - paved, free of potholes, and (save for the inevitable police blockades), fast. The forty kilometres after the Sinamatella turnoff took us onto a corrugated gravel road that cut through a foul-smelling coal mine. Massive trucks rumbled by, spattering the truck with black soot, while smoking chasms to our right recalled the orc-spawning pits of Mordor. One can only hope that ZimParks is getting a cut of the profits.

    General Impressions
    Hwange is a fine park and I'm very glad we went - Masuma Dam alone was worth the trip - but, as others have posted, it has seen happier days.

    Hwange seemed to have the same basic infrastructure as Kruger: a network of roads built around waterholes, some natural and some artificial, with campsites spaced around a few central areas. As in Kruger, there are water pumps, washrooms, braai stands, ablution blocks, and (in theory) a store and a restaurant at the major camps.

    Unfortunately, few of these amenities have had much maintenance for quite a while now. Cement blocks canít deteriorate too much, so the washrooms and shower areas are essentially intact (though toilet paper and soap are invariably absent). The pumps, on the other hand, fail regularly; and the fences around the camps are tortuous constructions of crooked sticks and rusted wire. None of this is the fault of the campsiteís caretakers, who work hard to keep everything clean and operational. They simply don't have the tools or parts to fix everything that needs fixing.

    Much of the Sinamatella area feels faintly post-apocalyptic; partly due to the fact that everything is in disrepair and partly due to the dead shrubs, the blowing sand, and the sun-bleached animal skulls. The landscape gets a touch greener around Main Camp.

    The main Sinimatella area appeared deserted when we went to reception to pay our park fees. The restaurant that was once there has closed, and the store had only the barest provisions (maize meal, Fanta, Coke). The man there pointed us towards our first campsite, Mandavu Dam. We were lucky to be the only people there (though I later discovered that they only book one group per picnic site, so I suppose it wasn't luck after all). The two young men who tend Mandavu were friendly and helpful; they kept us well supplied with firewood and I believe they swept the spiders from the ablutions each morning. There is a working shower with a donkey boiler.

    Mandavu Dam is vast. The view from the campsite was mostly water - very calming. Baboons and herds of elephants were often visible on the far side of the dam, although they did look quite small. Hippos lolled closer the to banks. We were visited by scads of rock dassies when preparing meals.


    We later went down to Main Camp. The road was dreadful - broken tarmac with potholes so big they've developed their own corrugations. It was slightly better between Main Camp and our next campsite at Jambile. Our stay there was also very pleasant. The site has character, with lots of blown sand and bleached animal bones arranged around the trees. An artificial waterhole was visible from our rooftop tent (though Simon, the current Jambile caretaker, was kept busy keeping the pump in working order). Each evening, several herds of elephants would head for the waterhole, which was not nearly big enough for all of them, and spend hours wading and drinking and giving themselves dust baths. There was the occasional standoff between the bulls of different herds. At night, we could often hear these skirmishes.


    The park is hot and very dry at the moment (though it got cold at night), and the game was very concentrated around the waterholes. We saw little when driving through the park, but a good deal when we stopped at a water source. The best day on our trip to Hwange was the one we spent at Masuma Dam. If we went back, I'd plan to be there longer. We sat in the hide and watched an endless procession of zebras, warthogs, impala, elephants, and kudu make their way down to the water. A herd of blue-helmeted guineafowl kept scurrying down to the edge of the dam, fluttering their polka-dot feathers, only to dash away in a twittering panic when a crocodile glided into their field of vision or a martial eagle, talons bared, plummetted into their midst. The muddy water in the middle of the dam was broken by the rounded backs of the resident hippos, glistening like fat plums bobbing in a sea of murky custard. We also saw a few black-backed jackals.


    Other sightings: roan antelope and giraffes at Deteema; three lions near Ngweshla; a kori bustard.


    Many more photos here.

    There is a longer trip report here, but it was written for people with no familiarity with Hwange or Zimbabwe.
    This article was originally published in forum thread: Hwange Trip Report and Photos - Oct. 2013 started by Swamp Lantern View original post