By David Rogers

The road to Hwange

Leaving the rushing waters of Victoria Falls behind, my family and I followed a road fringed by twisted boababs and teak forests that glowed red and orange in their autumn foliage and into the dry and isolated heart of Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe. For the next week, we would be hosted at Machaba’s three classic safari camps and discover an authentic safari experience that I thought was long forgotten.

Geography and history of Hwange

Hwange is the largest national park in Zimbabwe covering 14600 square kilometres. It butts onto the Kalahari and is part of single and magnificent, unfenced ecosystem that extends into Botswana, Namibia and Zambia. Hwange’s natural pans and river systems are filled with water in summer, but it is essentially a dryland area and the game here relies on waterholes.

Originally the hunting grounds of Lobengula and Mzilikazi what game was found in the region was hammered during the early colonial times, but it became as a game reserve in 1928 and was placed under the stewardship of Ted Davidson. He was to Hwange what Stevenson Hamilton was to Kruger, and what Norman Carr was to South Luangwa, and helped the park take its first baby steps to become one of the great tourist parks of Africa.

Davidson drilled 60 or more waterholes in order to keep the natural pans topped up during the dry season and the effect was dramatic. From a population of just 4000 elephants, the herds swelled to more than 40 000. Buffalo also swelled in numbers and so did the prides of lion and other species.