Hwange is a very large park situated in western Zimbabwe on the boarder with Botswana. It has three main camps in the park with many satellite camps and picnic sites scattered around them. Although people are able to visit these picnic sites during the day, if you book one for camping you have it all to your self at night. Naturally, we went for picnic sites.
When booking Hwange we knew nothing about the campsites that were there and what they were like. We left our fates in the hands of Christina and Choice from ZimParks and they picked us 3 of these picnic sites for the first 5 nights and Cheryl and I chose to stay in one of the larger main camps our last 2 nights. We worked our way from the South-East to the North-West of the park over the course of 7 nights.
We started by driving to the South-easternmost point in the park and camped at Ngweshla (spelling is different depending on who you ask.) Here we saw the largest herds of game, especially elephants. The site itself was great with Brian, the camp attendant, lighting a cooking fire for us (what luxury to have someone do this for you so its ready when you get back from your game drive!) He also lit a fire under the water heater so we could take hot showers. What service. There was a small fence around the campsite but I think this was more to keep the people in rather than any animals out. We really enjoyed Ngweshla and if you really forced us to do this trip again (like just saying “want to go again?”) we would spend more time at this camp. During the wet season (which we are just at the end of now) the game tends to be more plentiful in this area of the park. We didn’t know this at the time of booking so we only spent one night at this lovely spot.
Herd of elephants on the way to Ngweshla
Sunrise on my birthday at Ngweshla
From there we moved to Masuma Dam, more centrally in the park, for the next 3 nights. The site itself is more of a dirt parking lot with a braai area and some toilets on the other side but the locale boasts a beautiful hide overlooking a well-used waterhole. We spent most of our time there (when we weren’t cooking) in the hide and looking out over the water. We saw some great game there. During the dry season we were told this water hole sees up to 1000 elephants per day. Hard to believe but I’m not surprised it’s a high number. There was only one unfortunate part to this hide: it was so nice that during the day it was frequented by each of the 20 or so visitors that are currently staying in the park. (Yes, I am not exaggerating, we saw max 20 other visitors the whole time which is really unfortunate because you can see how such a beautiful park is not economically sustainable for the country and the people who live in its surrounds. Zimababwe in general is hurting for tourists but they don’t make it easy to be here. The sad part is that this will inevitably lead to the slow demise of the park, its facilities and the animals that live here if it continues.) All the people left after looking for animals but we didn’t have the isolation that we enjoyed to-date on the trip.
Sundowners in the hide
Tents pitched for the night in the “parking lot”. You can see the thatch roof to the hide on the right and the dam itself between the two vehicle. Great view from the tents.
The third site we stopped at was Deteema Dam. We really enjoyed this site. When Cheryl and I first arrived we set up the awning and sat next to the dam enjoying some elephants drinking and playing. We cracked open a few beers and I penned a few of these posts. We spent most of our time outside the hide here because the fences that once prevented people from viewing the dam from other parts of the camp had long-since fallen down so we chose instead to stay in the comfort of our own set-up. We liked this place so much that Cheryl and I came back to spend the day a couple of days later. (Hence this post is being written…)
Cheryl reading in the shade of our spot
It wasn’t a hardship to sip a Zambezi lager and write these posts
The last site we stopped at was Robin’s camp. Upon arrival we were given the tour of the camp including a view from a fire tower which looks out over the whole park. Beautiful. In the visitor centre our host Prosper showed us some photos of 3 cheetahs that were taken that morning. He was very proud. He then showed us the book to show who had taken those photos. It was Michael and Lisa. They had left us that morning to begin their trip back to Joburg. We shook our heads in disbelief. Lucky devils.
Robins camp has a large campsite and some chalets. They claim to have a food store but the only ‘edible’ things there were some tinned sardines and canned beef that looked like it was from the 60s. We decided to pass and stick with our pasta for the evening. They did have a well stocked bar that was showing a Manchester United game though. We skipped the football but purchased some beers to enjoy while doing some clothes washing (needed after 16 days in the bush.)
Clothes hanging to dry at our spot in Robin’s Camp
That evening was kind of eerie. We were the only people in the site (which had over 20 spots). It feels more eerie being in a large camp and being the only people vs. being in a remote campsite where you know you are the only ones. We also felt like we were part of a bad horror film when we went into the ablutions. Upon entering you were greeted with a loud bzzzz of mosquitoes. 100’s of them. Needless to say, we didn’t use the toilets or showers any more then we had to and when we did we made sure to put on a thick layer of bug spray first. Before showering I took my fly swatter and went to town. I barely made a dent. It was a quick shower.
Now we head out of Zimbabwe and into Botswana. Looking forward to the shops being full of groceries, the price of diesel decreasing by ~50% and the police road blocks stopping. Zimbabwe was a great experience and I place I would definitely love to return to. There were few other tourists and we really felt like we were “off the beaten path.” It’s sad how it has declined since it was known as the Breadbasket of Africa, but we hope that its fortunes will turn in the coming years.
Beautiful spot overlooking the Salt Pan Dam