Chimanimani National Park, Untamed and Pristine

Overview

Chimanimani National Park in Zimbabwe is located in the southernmost area of the Eastern Highlands, around 150 km from Mutare. The Park which shares a border with Mozambique is still very untamed and pristine, unspoiled, with scenic views and, lush woodlands and gushing streams. The Chimanimani National Park, which together with the Chimanimani National Reserve in Manica, Mozambique, forms the Chimanimani Transfrontier Park, also includes the Eland Sanctuary. The name Chimanimani or Tshimanimani translates to ‘to be squeezed together’ referring to the narrow gorge through which the Musapa River passes the Mountain Range.

Mussapa Gap where the Mussapa river cuts the Chimanimani mountain chain. Mozambique Ton Rulkens Licence: CC

Scenery

The Chimanimani Mountains, part of the Park, are a significant part of the ‘Afromontane Archipelago’, a chain of mountain groups that follows the East African Rift from the Red Sea to Zimbabwe. The Mountains, made up of water-deposited sediments which have fused over 1.25 billion years into limestone, quartzite, quart schist and calc-schist, stand at about 2,440 m on the border Zimbabwe – Mozambique border.

Chimanimani range Panorama Brian Gratwicke Licence: CC

The schist soils support vegetation that is similar to that of the upland eastern districts whilst the quartzite soils sustain very distinctive vegetation with over recorded flora 80 species including the Disa Chimanimaniensis, the Protea Enervis, the Helichrysum Africanum, the Platycaulos Quartziticola, and the Aeschynomene Chimanimaniensis.

The Park also bears the peculiarly eroded granite rock forms on the Mawenje Mountain where mountain flora including the odd Barrosus Palm tree grows. There are also paths within the Park that meander up the mountain slopes, through deep woodlands and appear onto a grassy plateau that allows diverse types of Protea, golden-yellow Everlasting, Erica and Leucospermum to thrive.

Chimanimani first range Brian Gratwicke Licence: CC

Wildlife

Though the Chimanimani National Park is not entirely rich in wildlife, a number of animals can be spotted there  including the Blue Duiker, the Sable, the Bushbuck, an occasional Leopard and the rarely seen Klipspringer.

Bushbuck Bernard DUPONT Licence: CC

The deep, lush, evergreen forests are home to a number of types of birds, snakes and butterflies. Birds that can be found in the Mountains include the Livingstone’s Turaco, the African Firefinch, the Yellow-throated Woodland-warbler, the Orange Ground-thrush, the White-eared Barbet, the Chirinda Apalis, the Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird, the Cape Robin-chat, the Scaly-throated Honeyguide, the Grey Cuckooshrike and more. More birds found in the Park include the Grey Wagtail at the Bridal Veil Falls, the Miombo Rock-thrush in the Miombo Woodlands as well as the Red-faced Crombec, White-breasted Cuckooshrike, the Miombo and Rufous-bellied Tit the Southern Hyliota, the Green-backed Honeybird, the Striped Pipit and the Orange-winged Pytilia. The Park’s open are home to the Red-necked Spurfowl, the Moustached Grass-warbler, the Harlequin Quail, the Verreaux’s Eagle, the Striped Flufftail, Gurney’s Sugarbird, the Blue Swallow, the Taita Falcon, the Cape Grassbird and more.

Slugeater in Chimanimani Garden Brian Gratwicke Licence: CC

Getting there

To get to the Park from Mutare, one heads southwest on Dorset Close, going towards Pike Place then turn right onto Pike Place, turning right again into Coull Avenue before turning another right onto Simon Mazorodze Road. One has to proceed straight onto Railway Avenue then turn right into Herbert Chitepo or the A9, continuing straight on that road then turning right onto the A10 and keeping on the A10 till reaching the Chimanimani National Park Entrance. The trip altogether is 159 km long and can take about 2 hours 38 minutes by car.

Chimanimani mountains Dr Mary Gillham Archive Project Licence: CC

Accommodation

Visitors are allowed to camp free of charge anywhere within the Park except at the base camp but do so at their own risk. They can choose to spend a night in the unfurnished Mountain Hut. The hut, built 1630 m above sea level, works as a rest point and shelter which may be used communally with ablution and cooking amenities ideal for up to 20 visitors. Bold visitors also have the alternative of sleeping in the abandoned mine shafts termed Terry’s or Peter’s caves. The base camp is offered to a limited number of visitors wanting to spend the night at the foot of the Mountains. The camp offers ablution facilities, an information office and a car park at the prevailing camping rates.

In the rainforest, at Chimanimani Park Andrés Moreno Licence: CC

Best Time to Visit

The Park is open all year long from Monday to Sunday from 9 am to 6 pm, offering stunningly beautiful views of the wilderness, crisp clean air, crystal clear rivers, stunning waterfalls, profuse flora and a breathtaking feeling of solitude. However March/April and August/September are said to be the best times to visit Park for those who would like to hike the mountains, as from May to July, temperatures drop to below zero degrees Celsius and November to February are the wet months. For those not interested in hiking, there are options to visit the Corner Camp for a swim in the Muhohwa River or a visit to the Muhohwa Falls.

In Chimanimani Brian Gratwicke Licence: CC

Weather and Climate

Chimanimani enjoys warm and temperate climate with average annual temperatures of 16.0 °C. The area receives rainfall throughout the year though in winter, much less precipitation is recorded than that in summer.

The warmest month of the year is January with temperatures averaging 18.5 °C whilst in July, the coldest month of the year, the average temperature is 11.6 °C.

Other Safety Considerations

Visitors interested in hiking are reminded not to camp near a river during the rainy season and to stay on higher ground as flash floods are frequent and dangerous.  Visitors are also warned that landmines, laid during the Zimbabwe independence war in the mountain passes in the Chimanimani area, continue being a risk , particularly after heavy rains.

Leucospermum saxosum, Chimanimani Mountains Ton Rulkens Licence: CC

Walkers are urged to carry with them warm, wind and waterproof clothes, a warm sleeping bag and a torch as well as  a basic first-aid kit. 

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