The halfway point of the course landed us in Hwange, Zimbabwe’s oldest and largest National Park. Renowned for its vast elephant populations, large lion prides and 1000-strong herds of Buffalo, Hwange is a guiding paradise and offered some incredible wildlife experiences throughout our two weeks there.
Hwange National Park
Hwange is home to a tremendous variety of wildlife with over 100 mammals and 400 bird species.
The Pathfinders course ventured into the National Park for multiple full-day excursions, with these days never being short of excitement and presenting some spectacular sightings.
Some of the highlights included seeing a Honey Badger in full daylight, huge herds of Buffalo, Wild Dogs wandering down the main road, a male coalition of three Cheetah snoozing under a bush and two sightings of Lions devouring their recent kills.
Of course, it’s impossible to visit Hwange and not mention the enormous population of Elephants. With over 40,000 present, Hwange is home to one of the world’s largest populations, however, this number has now exceeded that of which can be naturally supported by the area, with the resources in the park being under tremendous strain.
Throughout our two weeks in Hwange, we saw the result of this overpopulation of Elephants, combined with a severe drought occurring in the area at the time. Due to limited vegetation available for these animals, we found elephant carcasses scattered around the waterholes, with not only Lions but hundreds of Vultures seen feasting on their remains.
The experience gave us a new perspective on nature and furthered our understanding of the complexities within the ecosystem.
Our Pathfinders campsite was situated on a private concession bordering the National Park. As there are no fences in the area, animals can move freely between the National Park and the reserves. With a waterhole right in front of our campsite, we were able to enjoy our daily lectures whilst watching numerous animals come down to drink.
Access to the private concession allowed us to practice our driving and guiding as well as have the freedom to conduct walks and hone our tracking skills. We explored multiple topics including conservation management and the influence of human activities on an ecosystem, local flora and fauna, weather, climate and astronomy.
After each busy day absorbing the wonders of the African bush, we would enjoy the sunset over one of the many waterholes, listening to the sounds of the night come alive!
With the summer heat reaching temperatures of 35°C+, we were privileged to have access to a swimming pool overlooking the waterhole. This pool was also a favourite to the resident warthogs who were seen running around camp munching on the green, irrigated grass.
One night we even had a cheeky elephant sneak through the boundary fence of camp to enjoy the fresh vegetation and clean water in the pool.
Other camp residents included a variety of bird species such as Purple Rollers, Magpie Shrikes, Pearl Spotted Owlets and a Pennant-winged Nightjar in full breeding plumage.
Each night the waterhole was lit up by spotlights and frequented by hundreds of Elephant as well as Hyena and other game. One morning on one of our bush walks we found Leopard tracks by the water showing it had also paid us a visit throughout the night.
The time we spent in Hwange not only enhanced our understanding of the bush but also led to some unforgettable memories that the group will cherish forever!
“We were in Hwange during a terrible drought and could see how the animals, especially the elephants suffered from it. The feeling of the wilderness was by far the best there.” – Constantin, Germany
“The abundant wildlife we saw in Hwange, all the elephants, lions, birdlife… it was just a really special place.” – Daniel, Australia
“In Hwange, we camped right in front of a watering hole lit up with spotlights so we could see all the game coming down!” – Olivia, Sweden
“Going on game drives where you have a full day in the park was absolutely insane. Just seeing the elephants and the bush the way that we saw it in Hwange, you can’t beat that.” – Gina, South Africa