Chizarira, a derivative from the BaTonga word ‘Chijalila’ which means ‘The Great Barrier’, referring to the daunting Zambezi Escarpment, of which Chizarira’s mountains and hills form a part, is the name given to this 2,000km² of wild bush and Zimbabwe’s third largest and most remote National Park.
The landscape of Chizarira is rough, interspersed with thick impenetrable bushes, jagged mountains including Tundazi Mountain where, according to local legend, dwells a gigantic serpent, the river god Nyaminyami, stunning gorges and breathtaking impassable narrow valleys. In between these valleys lie the open scenic plains where the lush vegetation like the winter thorn Faidherbia albida woodlands flourish from clear natural springs.
There are magnificent rivers within Chizarira, including Busi River, which marks the southern boundary as well as Mcheni and Lwizikululu, which have almost carved steep gorges into the 600 m fall of the Zambezi Escarpment. There are also Zambezian and Mopane woodlands ecoregion as well as the Southern Miombo woodlands ecoregion which make up the southern and northern portions of the Park respectively.
Four of the Big-Five, the Leopard, the African Elephant, the Buffalo and the Lion are found at Chizarira as are the Cheetah, Hippopotamus, Spotted Hyena, Kudu, Wild Dog, Tsessebe, Waterbuck, Bushbuck, Eland, Common Duiker, Nyala, Hyena, Impala, Roan Antelope, Sable Antelope and the Wildebeest.
There are over 400 bird species at Chizarira, with the five km long gorge being home to a large variety of these birds including the Big Five birds which are the Yellow-spotted Nicator, the African Broadbill, the Angola Pitta, the Livingstone’s Flycatcher and the Emerald Cuckoo.
Chizarira National Park is in the Matabeland North province and can be accessed from Bulawayo or Harare. From Bulawayo, on the A8, one turns off east at Cross Dete, 50 km south of Hwange, then drive 28 km to Kamativi and 50 more km to the Mlibizi turnoff. One would then need to continue driving eastwards for 54 km to the Binga turnoff then maintain eastwards towards Siabuwa, turning right after driving for 47 km soon after crossing the Mucheni River where there is a Chizarira National Park sigh post. A further 20 km drive on the dirt road up and over the escarpment would eventually get the visitor to the Park headquarters at Manzituba.
From Harare, on the A5, one turns off at Kwekwe towards Gokwe then at Gokwe, take the Binga road, driving for 120 km to a T-Junction bearing a sign post indicating Binga to the left. One would then need to take the dirt road towards Binga via Siabuwa Business Centre till they come upon the Chizarira National Park sign post at the 47 km peg, turn left, driving for 20 km before reaching the Park Headquarters.
Mantizuba has a light airstrip for visitors though arrangements have to be made beforehand with the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Authority.
Whilst the safari lodge, Chizarira Wilderness Lodge has been closed, Chizarira still offers seven bush camping sites, including Busi Camp, situated 40 km from the Park headquarters, Mucheni View Camp, located on the edge of the Zambezi Escarpment, Mucheni Gorge Camp, situated on the edge of a gorge and more. Each of these is limited to a maximum of twelve persons.
Best Time to Visit
Chizarira National Park is open to visitors all year around, Monday to Sunday, from 0830 to 1630. However, the best time to visit the Park is during the middle and end of the dry season, from July to October where wildlife is more easily seen because vegetation is thinner and animals drift towards the waterholes.
Weather and Climate
Mild, temperate temperatures are experienced in Chizarira, with the warmest months being from September to March, and the coldest from May to August. The altitude in Chizarira fluctuates from 700 to 1 200 m, making it possible for visitors to enjoy a variety of climates inside the Park.
April signifies the end of the wet season and the beginning of the dry winter season and whilst rains might still fall, they do so erratically. May, June, July and August are the coldest months, with daytime temperature of around 26°C and night and early morning temperatures of around 10°C.
The first rains usually arrive by late October, along with high temperature of over 31°C/88°F and 40°C/ are in the lower-lying areas of the park. December, January and February are the wettest months, raining on most days, usually as afternoon showers or incessant light rains for a couple of days. Here, daytime temperatures fall to around 28°C and night and early morning temperatures will be pegged around 19°C.
Around March, the rains ebb, signifying the end of the wet season and temperatures average between 29°C and 17°C during the day and night respectively.
Other Safety Considerations
Visitors are urged to take anti-malarial safety precautions that include prophylactics, mosquito repellent and covering exposed skin in the evening. They are also expected to get all the necessary vaccinations prior to traveling to Zimbabwe.