Chizarira National Park covers 2,000 square kilometres of contrasting ecological zones in the northwest of Zimbabwe. Defined by looming jagged mountains and deep-cut gorges dotted with rocky ravines, Chizarira’s vast wilderness holds great appeal. The narrow gorges and steep rocks provide the perfect habitat for leopards, which are commonly spotted in this area.
Deep in the structural valleys, there are pockets of open floodplains, fed by natural springs that seem to accentuate the remarkable landscape. The steep Zambezi escarpment, rising 600 metres from the river valley, looks out over the floodplains below and Lake Kariba in the distance. Chizarira is Zimbabwe’s third-largest park and is positioned just below Lake Kariba. The region is known for its day trails and walking safaris. Visitors stick to well-worn routes that meander their way across rocky terrain, valleys, and woodlands.
Chizarira National Park is one of the most remote wilderness areas in Zimbabwe and is not easily accessible. The Victoria Falls Airport is the closest international airport, which is about 200 kilometres from the park. The closest tourist towns to Chizarira National Park are Masvingo and Lake Kariba.
There are seven ecological zones in the park, from Lowveld valley vegetation to highveld broadleaf woodland.
The park has good general wildlife, the scenery is breathtaking and the remoteness makes for excellent walking safaris.
Leopards are the main feline predators found in Chizarira National Park, but lions also inhabit the area. There are two main lion prides in the park, and both are collared for tracking and research purposes.
Other big game sightings in the park include elephants, buffalo, crocodiles, and hyenas. Most wildlife tends to congregate in the ravines and floodplains. The rocky terrain lends itself to being perfect for klipspringer, while the flatter areas see plenty of impala and kudu herds. Roan and Tsessebe are present, but not often spotted.
There are 400 species of bird in the park, which include the Taita falcon, black eagle, Livingstone flycatcher, yellow-spotted nicator, carmine bee-eater, and the African pitta.
July to October is the dry season in Chizarira National Park. This is the best time of year to visit. The dry season is the time of year when the vegetation is sparse, making it easier to spot animals. It’s also the time of year when mosquitoes are less active.
November to March is the wet season when the rains drench the landscape. This summer season sees the landscape colours shift from crunchy browns to emerald greens. The summer is ideal for birdwatching, but not for game viewing.
Walking safaris and guided hiking trails are the main activities to take place in the park. Wilderness trails are guided by a professional and provide an immersive and informative experience. Visitors can sign-up for trails that normally range from a couple of days to four days in length.
On the walking safaris, visitors will be led by an armed guide who will try to locate the collared lions that are monitored closely by a lion research team. Swimming is another adventurous part of the safari experience in Chizarira, where visitors have the opportunity to explore the many rock pools in the gorges.
There is no accommodation inside Chizarira National Park or on the outskirts of the park. If visitors would like to stay inside the park, their only option is to camp – but they would need to be completely self-sufficient. Camping is also only really viable during the dry season. The closest town for hotels, bed and breakfasts and lodge accommodations is Masvingo. Lake Kariba is also a popular destination for visitors and offers an array of houseboat options.