Situated in the north of Zimbabwe’s Eastern Highlands, Nyanga National Park is one of the first national parks to be declared in the country as well as one of the most visited National Parks in Zimbabwe. The Park includes the highest point in Zimbabwe, Mount Nyangani which lies in the centre of the Park and as well as the highest waterfall in Zimbabwe, Mutarazi Falls, in the south of the Park, which incorporates the former Mutarazi Falls National Park on its southern boundary.
Nyanga National Park is dominated by Mount Nyangani, mainly composed of Umkondo Group dolerite and sandstone and whilst most of the Park is underlain by granite and the harder dolerite forming the cliffs and ridges, or sills.
The vegetation of Nyanga is part of the Eastern Zimbabwe Montane forest-grassland variety, within the Montane grasslands and shrub lands ecoregion. Tree ferns are a very visible part of the Nyanga flora, with the familiar tree fern being found on the moorlands and the forest tree fern in the rainforests.
The rainforest, dominated by Syzygium, is found mainly on the eastern slopes, as well as in the steeper valleys on west-facing slopes whilst the dwarf Msasa forests have developed on some westward-facing slopes. The Nyanga aloe, Aloe inyangensis, is found on higher ground and groves of Mulanje Cypress Are found thriving in areas safe from fire. There also is Black Wattle, Pine and the indigenous conifer, Callitris Whytei. In the valleys, species of Proteas, Flowering Erica and Everlastings, similar to those of the south-western Cape are found.
Several perennial rivers and streams flow from the uplands with the Nyangombe and Gairezi Rivers flowing north from the Park and joining the Mazowe River whilst Pungwe River starts from the base of Mount Nyangani, flowing southwards through the Park before falling 240 metres into the thickly forested Pungwe Gorge. Besides the famous Mutarazi Falls, located а few kilometres south of the Pungwe Gorge, there are also Pungwe, Inyangombie and the Nyamuziwa Falls.
As well as a profusion of flora, Nyanga National Park is a habitat for several species wildlife, including the Waterbuck, Kudu, Wildebeest, Eland, Hyena, Zebra, Klipspringer, Leopard and the occasional Lion. The park is also well known to house the Blue Duiker and Samango Monkey.
The mountains are important for the rare Taita Falcon and summer brings Blue Swallows to the montane grasslands to breed. Wattled Crane also breeds in the area. The forests are known for restricted range Chirinda Apalis and Roberts’s Warbler. Other special forest birds include Orange Ground-thrush, White-starred Robin, Swynnerton’s Robin, Red-capped Robin-chat, Stripe-cheeked Greenbul, Barratt’s Warbler, White-tailed Crested Flycatcher, Yellow-throated Woodland-warbler, Barratt’s Warbler, Olive and Black-fronted Bush-shrike. Red-faced Crimsonwing can be looked for in the tangles and in more open situations the Yellow-bellied Waxbill is common and Livingstone’s Turaco often seen and heard. Orange-winged Pytilia can also be found in the more open habitats. A recent range expansion involves the Swee Waxbill in the western parts of Nyanga.
The perennial streams running in the Park are stocked with Rainbow Trout from the hatcheries close to Mare dam. The American Book, the Brown Trout, the endangered Inyangani River Frog and the African Clawless Otter are also present on the Park’s waters. The abundance of fish allows for fly fishing in the well stocked rivers and dams including Udu, Purdon, Mare, Rhodes and Gulliver Dams.
To get to the Park, from Harare, one takes the A3 road towards Mutare, driving past Ruwa, Melfort and Bromley then reaching and going past Marondera after 74 km, go past Macheke after 32 more kilometres, drive for 28 km to reach Headlands, 34 more kilometers till Rusape then turn left onto the A14 going towards Juliasdale and drive on till Inyanga village.
From Mutare, one drives on the A3 towards Harare, crossing Christmas Pass then turning right at the 10 km turn onto the A15 towards Juliasdale, pass through Watsomba then turn right at the intersection with the A14, drive on to Juliasdale and go past it to Inyanga Village.
The Park has two privately owned facilities which are Rhodes Hotel and the Mountain Club of Zimbabwe hut. There are also three rest camps at Udu, Rhodes and Mare Dams, offering visitors roomy thatched self-catering one and two bed-roomed lodges, with a fully equipped kitchen as well as two lodges at the Pungwe Drift. A Caravan Park and camping grounds can be found by the Mare River as well as at Mtarazi Falls, well protected with cooking being done on wood fires.
Best Time to Visit
Though the Park is open all year around, from Monday to Sunday, 6am to 6pm and birdlife is good year-round, it is better to visit from November to April when lots of resident birds are in breeding plumage the migratory birds are present. The Wet season, from November to March, is also a great time to visit as vegetation will be lush making the scenery beautiful.
Weather and Climate
Nyanga National Park experiences cool temperatures, with summer temperatures around 26⁰ C and winter temperatures at -3⁰ C. The months with the least possibility of noteworthy rainfall are July, August and September, whilst the least chance of rain or snow occurs around early to mid April.
Other Safety Considerations
Rivers in the Park are free from bilharzia and visitors are free to take advantage of the natural swimming pool on the Nyangombe River, near the park headquarters as well as a swimming weir on the Udu River below Udu Dam.
As Malaria is prevalent in many parts of the country, visitors are recommended to take a precautionary measures including a course of antimalarial tablets, preventing bites by wearing long-sleeve clothing in the evenings and bringing along Mosquito repellent.