Its a party at Hwange

Hwange National park is our very first National park in Zimbabwe, so it takes a while for us to understand that we only need to pay one park-fee which is valid for 7 days – as opposed to the other southern African countries which make you fork out park fees everyday on top of the daily expense of camping. The national parks worker couldn’t seem to grasp why we kept trying to arrange to come back tomorrow to pay the next days fees.

Zim just gets better and better. On top of the one park fee, we also get free firewood, which means no more stingy fires to keep us warm and the luxury of slow-cooked meals.

Zimbabwe is starting to unfold into a great African experience.

Hwange has long been the flagship of Zimbabwes’ national parks. It covers 14,651km in western Zimbabwe with vastexpanses of Kalahari sands topped with savannah woodland, teak forests, camel thorn stands and open grassy plains.

Its home to 400 species of birds and 107 types of animals and just a decade ago the park was receiving 200 flights per day. Today at our first camp in Sinamatella we are one of 3 groups camping atop a 55m mesa with a 50km panaromic view – at which lion roars emerge from at night. Funnily though, the highlight of our stay here is meeting our fellow NPS friends – from Port Shepstone: home of our beast/bakkie/hilux. We are invited to their camp fire and jol to enjoy their memorable company, share in a delicious chilli-con-carne potjie and are included in their regular “fines meeting”.

Hwanges estimated to have 40,000 elephants, which explains why they make up for 80% of our animal sightings along the400kms of roads on which can be explored. The animals were extremely skittish in comparison to Kruger and Chobe National park where a vehicle sighting for an animal could simply become another common impala.  Elephants, kudu, impala could all be seen running off into the distance scared off by the sound of our car. A majority of our sightings were of animals running from us. I can’t decide if this is because of fear of poachers, or lack of vehicles coming through the park. The only exception to this is the ellie (see pic) that happily roamed our campsite.

Our sightings, other than the usual plain game include our first sighting of Roan, a beautifully masked antelope with long skinny ears – looking somewhere in between a sable and gemsbok – two other very beautiful antelopes. Kind of like Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt producing beautiful offspring (except for the odd looking ears which make you wonder…).  We also spot for the first time, a Slender mongoose with a black tipped tail and our first white rhino without a horn. We’ve seen plenty of rhino’s before, but all had heads adorned with their 2 horns. In Zimbabwe though,there’s environmental conservation programs , that involve tranquilising the rhino and removing both their horns to prevent poachers coming in who will usually leave the rhino to die after removing its horns. Shame man.

Although Hwange is thought to have around 150 of Zims 750 wild dogs, despite our long game drives and fervent searching we don’t get to see these big eared spotty dogs.

Our next camp site at Shumba Picnic site (near an elephant filled waterhole) doesn’t prove any less social than Sinamatella as we are invited to a 9 yr old birthday party. We sing happy birthday to Auralien by the campfire in the wild and cheer as he blows out his wax candles placed on a brick cake (literally a brick). For Auralien – who is beaming brightly – you’d think it was a large caramel cake topped with chocolate icing and smarties. This French family currently living in South Africa are doing a trip through Zimbabwe with their 3 very well behaved young children – Auralien, Timothy (6) & Matilde (3).

We giggle when their mum tells us that the youngest one – Matilde, born in South Africa –  points at cows and asks “antelope?”.

We share some cheese on crackers (relishing in the cheese which we so miss), vorse, mash and marvel at the children’s ridiculously cute french accents.

Things we about Zimbabwe!

- free firewood

- borehole water out of the tap (read: free water)

- one national parks entry fee

- the people that visit zim

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