|Impala at Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe|
I've been coming to Zimbabwe almost yearly since 2009, and at the end of 2018 I returned, this time hoping to spend six months volunteering for a foundation, while also seeing as much wildlife and birds as I can. Not long after arriving, an unexpected opportunity came up to spend four nights at a wonderful lodge in Hwange National Park at a very special rate. Here are some of the highlights.
The rainy season is birthing time for many antelope and gazelle – here are some young eland from a herd of about 200, the largest eland group I've ever seen. Below, a bull; I love his velvety appearance.
|Bull (male) eland|
Hwange has one of the largest elephant populations in Africa, between 49 and 60 thousand. In the dry season elephants concentrate in and around water holes. With the rains they disperse widely, as water is everywhere, and we saw elephants only once. This young teenager mock-charged our vehicle several times before rubbing his rear on a dead tree stump. As we started to drive away, he approached our vehicle, raised his trunk and trumpeted at us, convinced he was chasing us away.
When I go to Hwange I am accustomed to joining a walking safari. I love this way of seeing wildlife, following the tracker as he picks up the spoor of a lion or rhino. There's nothing between me and the wildlife, and ... I get to walk. On this safari we viewed everything from a vehicle, but I did appreciate that we were able to approach wildlife much closer without disturbing them and we saw more animals.
Hwange has a great diversity of ungulates (hoofed mammals.)
The sable is one of the most beautiful of all antelopes. We saw them in the forests and on the open grasslands.
Impala are one of Africa's most common gazelles, but I never tire of seeing these elegant, graceful animals. One afternoon we watched in amazement as a group of young impala raced round and round in large circles, seemingly for the pure joy of running and kicking their legs high in the air...they continued for quite a while.
|Zebras are very affectionate!|
In this season of abundant food and water, the animals seemed more relaxed than during the dry months – the need to be vigilant for predators is always present, but there's also time for fun and play and socializing. Meanwhile, the black-backed jackal (below) often hangs around on the grasslands, awaiting perhaps a lion kill? The jackal scavenges but is also a predator.
While parked one very late afternoon to enjoy drinks at sundown, we heard a lion begin to roar from perhaps 1/2 a mile away; he continued and soon came into view, about 100 meters from us, roaring as he walked...it is the best sound in the universe, soothing and comforting when you know you are in a safe place.
We watched as he roared his way towards one of Africa's spectacular sunsets...