Gonerezhoa National Park
Gonarezhou National Park is situated in the south eastern lowveld of Zimbabwe and covers an area in excess of 5 000 square kilometres. “Gonarezhou” meaning “Place of many Elephants” is an extremely scenic Park full of rugged and beautiful landscapes.
Alternative folklore suggests the are was named for the herbalists who would stock their medicines in tusks (known as gona in the Shona language).
Three major rivers – The Save, Runde and Mwenezi – cut their courses through the Park, forming pools and natural oases from which hundreds of species of birds, wildlife and fish gather to feed and drink. As its name implies, Gonarezhou is famous for its elephants, and many of the largest-tusked elephants in the region maybe found within the Park
Gonarezhou National Park is part of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park (GLTP), a massive Pan-African Park that includes South Africa’s famed Kruger National Park and Mozambique’s Gaza. This huge area is set to become one of the finest “peace parks” in the world and is dedicated to conservation, biodiversity and the economic development of the surrounding local communities. The vast and diverse nature of the mega-park will provide world-class eco-tourism to the visitor and strive to re-establish historical animal migration routes and fragile regional ecosystems.
The combined Park will include more than 500 species of birds, 147 species of mammals, at least 116 species of reptiles, 34 species of frogs and 49 species of fish.
Flora and Fauna
Lion, leopard, cheetah (including the rare king cheetah), buffalo, giraffe, zebra and many species of large antelope are also present within the Park. The rare nyala and smaller suni are two of the highlights of the Park’s smaller antelopes. In addition, hundreds of species of birds may be spotted in the Park. Unique species of aquatic wildlife such as the Zambezi Shark, Freshwater Goby, Black Bream and the unique turquoise killifish can be seen within the Park’s rivers and pools.
One of the most prominent and enduring natural features of Gonarezhou National Park is the beautiful Chilojo Cliffs. These magnificent red sandstone cliffs have been formed through eons of erosion and overlook the scenic Runde River valley.
Seasons – Gonarezhou experiences mild, dry winters and warm, wet summers (temperatures in excess of 40 degrees Celcius can occasionally be expected). Mabalauta and Chipinda areas are open throughout the year. During the rainy season (November – April), access to certain parts of the Park is restricted and the visitor should consult with the Park’s offices before undertaking game drives.
Bilharzia is endermic to all lowveld rivers and visitors should take appropriate precaution. In addition, malaria can be present within the region so visitors are advised to take prophylactics before, during and after their stay in the Park.
Facilities-Lodges – Mabalauta was once a communal area until the 1960s when it became a game reserve. It was later declared a national park in 1975 when it became part of Gonarezhou. The name Mabalauta hails from a hardwood tree species common in the region. The Mabalauta section in the Mwenezi sub-region includes the Swimuwini rest camp, “The place of the Baobabs”. The camp is situated 8 kilometres from the warden’s office and overlooks the the Mwenezi River. There are thatched self-catering accommodation facilities at the camp.
Camp Sites – Camping is possible at Swimuwini at the Mabalauta Camping site which has ablution facilities.
Caravan sites – Visitors with caravans on tow can also camp at Swimuwini and use the same facilities for standard camp sites.
Picnic Sites – There are several picnic and braai sites located in the Park.
Amenities – Visitors are encouraged to bring in adequate provisions from Mwenezi or from larger business centres since there are no shops in the Park.
Facilities – The name Chipinda is derived from the Ndau dialect meaning “enter”. There are predominantly camping facilities in this section and there are no self-catering accommodation facilities.
Camp Site – There are 9 sites at the beautiful Chipinda Pools Camp, each with basic shelter, braai area and ablution facilities.
There are 5 camping sites in the Runde sub-region at Chinguli which also have similar facilities to those at Chipinda.
Undeveloped Camping Sites – 44 Camps with minimum facilities are located at Nyahungwe, Madumbini, Bopomela, Lisoda, Gota, Chitove, Chamaluvati and Chilojo. These exclusive sites may be booked by a single party of up to 10 people and there are no attendants available. Visitors need to bring their own water. Dead wood in the vicinity may be collected for firewood.
Picnic Sites – There are also several picnic and braai points in this section of the Park that include Massasanya and Machaniwa.