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Hwange National Park is the largest National Park in Zimbabwe, over 14 600 sq km in extent, and is one of the country’s main tourist attractions. The bird list for this huge area is currently over 420 species. There are two main birding areas, the one around Main Camp and the other in the north of the Park around Robins and Sinamatella Rest Camps. Both areas are linked by a network of roads taking visitors through a variety of habitats including many waterholes which attract large numbers of animals as well as birds.

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Specials

Bradfield's Hornbill, Crimson-breasted Shrike, Southern Pied Babbler, Violet-eared Waxbill, Black-faced Waxbill, Meyer's Parrot, Red-billed Spurfowl, Broad-tailed Paradise-Whydah, Red-billed Oxpecker, Yellow-billed Oxpecker, Lesser Spotted Eagle, Red-footed Falcon, Eurasian Hobby, Racket-tailed Roller, White-breasted Cuckooshrike, Miombo Tit, Miombo Rock-Thrush, Southern Hyliota, Arnot's Chat, African Golden Oriole.

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Habitats

Miombo, mopane and teak woodland, acacia savanna, grassland, waterholes, dams and pans.

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Facilities

A good network of gravel roads, hides, guided walking trails, night drives, hutted camps, campsites, safari lodges. The roads in the Sinamatella area can be difficult so it is advisable to check which are serviceable before setting off.

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Birding

1. Main Camp Area This is the heart of the kalahari sand region of the Park and the dominant woodland around the camp site is Zimbabwe Teak Baikiaea plurijura. Time spent walking around the camp site itself can be very rewarding. Crimson-breasted Shrike is a common species here and feeds in the grounds surrounding the lodges and chalets, together with Cape Glossy Starling. The bird bath outside the office attracts many different species including Southern Pied Babbler, Violet-eared Waxbill, Black-faced Waxbill and Meyer's Parrot. Around the camp also look for Magpie Shrike, Groundscraper Thrush, Southern White-crowned Shrike, Red-billed Spurfowl and Lilac-breasted Roller. Bradfield's Hornbill is a species that is restricted to the teak woodland in this part of the country.

The open grassland with scattered thorn trees just outside the gate is a good area for Southern Ground-hornbill, Grey Crowned Crane and Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill and in summer Southern Carmine Bee-eater and Woolly-necked Stork. A stop at Nyamandhlovu Viewing Platform can be well worthwhile. In addition to the many mammals that come down to drink, several species of sandgrouse can be seen here including Double-banded Sandgrouse and Burchell's Sandgrouse. Capped Wheatear is a common winter visitor to this area and Common Ostrich feed in the grassland next to the pan.

The scrubby areas along the roads are home to Red-crested Korhaan, Coqui Francolin, Shaft-tailed Whydah and Black-eared Seedeater. Keep an eye out for Broad-tailed Paradise-whydah, very distinctive in its summer breeding plumage.

Hwange is probably best known for its huge population of raptors, big and small. Bateleur, Martial Eagle, Tawny Eagle, African Hawk-eagle, Brown Snake-eagle and Black-chested Snake-Eagle are all common. In the summer months it is possible to see Steppe Eagle and Lesser Spotted Eagle throughout the park as well as Amur Falcon, Red-footed Falcon and Eurasian Hobby. Look for African Hobby which sometimes joins the flocks of kestrels and Eurasian Hobby in the Main Camp area particularly during summer when the termite alates emerge.

During the wet months, an astounding number of waterbird species frequent the pans and dams with some of the birds actually breeding. Large flocks of Open-billed Storks have been seen along with plenty of Spurwinged Geese, Cape Teal and Redbilled Teal and Comb Ducks. The Comb Duck offspring often cause consternation and thoughts of some yet-to-be-discovered species having arrived!

Red-billed Oxpecker and Yellow-billed Oxpecker can be seen throughout the park feeding on the many mammal species.

A trip south east of Main Camp into the Kennedy vlei area is truly worthwhile. The picnic sites at Kennedy One and Ngweshla can be booked for overnight camping where birding is excellent. A wide variety of species can been seen at the bird baths in the picnic sites as well as the surrounding areas. Campers are also treated to the sounds of the nocturnal avians such as the Pearl-spotted Owlet, African Scops-owl, Verreaux’s Eagle-owl and Barn Owl as well as the various nightjars, the Water Thick-knee and Three-banded Courser. There are always Southern Ground-hornbill families in the vleis and Kori Bustards and Secretary birds are frequently encountered. Another good birding area is along the main road leading to Main Camp. The section from Hwange Airport towards the park passes through some excellent miombo woodland and this is the best place to look for Racket-tailed Roller. Southern Ground-hornbill is also seen regularly here. White-breasted Cuckooshrike, Miombo Tit, Miombo Rock-thrush and Southern Hyliota have also been recorded.

2. Robins and Sinamatella Camp area These two camps are located in the northern basalt area of the Park. The predominant woodland type is mopane and around Robins Camp there are areas of open grassland. Both Robins and Sinamatella camps are in poor condition due to the lack of finance for repairs and lack of tourism in the past few years. However, it is still worth going into both areas with Shumba, Masuma and Mandavu Dam in the Sinamatella area and Deteema Dam in the Robins area offering overnight camping.

The dams and pans in this area are good for birding, and Mandavu dam near Sinamatella Camp has produced some interesting records including African Skimmer, Greater Flamingo, Lesser Flamingo, Collared Pratincole, Black-winged Pratincole and Whiskered Tern. Black-bellied Bustard can be seen in the open grassland at Robins, some of the species and Arnot's Chat, African Golden Oriole, Meves's Starling, Green Wood-hoopoe and White-crested Helmet-shrike in the Mopane woodland.

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General

Main Camp: The turnoff to main Camp is at the 264.5 km peg on the main Bulawayo/Victoria Falls Road. Follow the tar road past the airport and Hwange Safari lodge for 15 km until you reach the Park boundary at the railway line. Main Camp is a few kilometres from here. Accommodation available in the area ranges from camping and caravan sites as well as self-catering chalets at Main Camp, to many superb tented safari camps within the concession areas. All offer good birding opportunities.

Robins and Sinamatella Camp area: The area is accessible via Main Camp but visitors must leave Main camp by midday in order to reach these camps before dark. Robins can be reached via a gravel road 48 km south of Victoria Falls. From here it is approximately 70 km to the camp. To reach Sinamatella take the turnoff just south of Hwange town. The camp is 45 km down this road which is only tarred for a short distance.

Picnic sites: Many of the picnic sites may be reserved for exclusive overnight camping. The sites are fenced and generally have shade, a thatched area and modest ablution facilities. Work is in progress to upgrade these facilities with Masuma and Guvelala almost complete.

Entry fees into the National Park change frequently and should be ascertained from Parks at the time of booking.

Contact details
National Parks Central Reservations
tel +263-4-706077 or 706078
fax +263-4-793867
e-mail reservations@zimparks.co.zw
Website Zimbabwe Parks Website
National Parks Bulawayo Office tel+263-9-65592
Hwange National Park tel+263-18-371-374

John and Jenny Brebner 2008
Derek Solomon 1997



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