Situated in the northwestern area of Zimbabwe, Chizarira National Park is one of the most isolated national parks. Its location atop the great Zambezi Escarpment provides stellar views of the Zambezi Valley and Lake Kariba below, but also makes it difficult to access. The remote nature of the park is often a lure for those wishing to visit a park with little tourism.
Chizarira was declared a non-game reserve in 1958, but there appears to be some discrepancy with regards to the origins and mean of the name Chizarira. Some sites state it means ‘great barrier’ in the local Tonga dialect, while others state it is a Shona word meaning ‘cage trap’.
This remote area of wild, untouched flora and fauna is endowed with stunning, green gorges, natural springs, plateaus, dense woodland and flood plains, which may explain why it’s often referred to as the most scenic park in all of Zimbabwe. The park is renowned for its walking trails which come in a wide-variety of difficulty levels and offer stunning vistas from the escarpment. Due to the presence of large game and predators, visitors are only allowed to walk under the supervision and protection of an experienced guide. Visitors are able to make game drives in their own vehicles or book guided tours with the local operators.
Chizarira National Park is home to four of the big five: buffalo, elephant, leopard and lion can still be seen here. Unfortunately, the black rhino was hunted to near-extinction and the remaining animals were relocated to hopefully protect their diminishing numbers. Other large animals can be found here, including the following: cheetah, hippos, warthogs (large-ish animals), zebra and several species of antelope. Game viewing can be difficult at times, due to the tall grass in the valleys. At the height of the dry season the viewing is its peak, due, in part, to the reduced greenery. The park also features a vast array of birdlife – up to several hundred species.
The Park is usually open to visitors all year round, with restrictions on local movement being imposed during the wet season. The main rainy season in Chizarira comes during Zimbabwe’s fall – March through May. During this time, travel may not be possible due to extremely muddy conditions. The dry season, roughly June through October, is recommended as the best time of year to visit.
Off-road vehicles and 4x4s are recommended as the only way to view this part of Zimbabwe.