Gonarezhou National Park is a national park located in south-eastern Zimbabwe. It is situated in a relatively remote corner of Masvingo Province, south of Chimanimani along the Mozambique border. Owing to its vast size, rugged terrain and its location away from main tourist routes, large tracts of Gonarezhou remain as pristine wilderness.
At 5,053 km2 Gonarezhou is the country’s second largest game reserve after Hwange National Park.Gonarezhou is a Shona name meaning "elephant's tusk." It forms part of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park, a peace park that links Gonarezhou with the Kruger National Park in South Africa and the Limpopo National Park in Mozambique. Animals can move freely between the three sanctuaries.
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.
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.
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.
Camping is possible at Swimuwini at the Mabalauta Camping site which has ablution facilities.
Visitors with caravans on tow can also camp at Swimuwini and use the same facilities for standard camp sites.
There are several picnic and braai sites located in the Park.
Visitors are encouraged to bring in adequate provisions from Mwenezi or from larger business centres since there are no shops in the Park.
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.
• Chipinda Pools
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
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.
There are also several picnic and braai points in this section of the Park that include Massasanya and Machaniwa.
Supplies must be obtained from Chiredzi town as there are no shops within the Park.
• Game viewing - best along the riverine regions and close to the many perennial pools and springs. The elephants in this Park are notoriously aggressive so visitors are encouraged to keep a safe viewing distance.
• Walking safaris - permitted in certain areas and at the pools at Samalena Gorge ("the place of killing") are of major interest
• Viewing the cliffs at Chilojo, Mwatomba Pool and Makonde Pool
• Viewing points - these can be found at Guluji and Chamuchanzi among other places
• Natural water pans - include the one at Chindhlambai and Tembahata, an exceptional birding place
• Chibilila Falls - the falls are on the Runde River and are 600 metres wide and 7 meters deep
• Duguvi Falls - on the Pambazi River and are very attractive during the rainy season
Why visit Gonarezhou?
• Daytime and full moon walking trails
• Excellent bird watching
• Unique view of the sunset from the red hills
• Panoramic platform views
• Numerous viewing points from numerous pools and pans
How to get to Gonarezhou National Park
Visitors may access the sections of the Gonarezhou National Park as follows:
Chipinda Pools (Runde and Save sub-region)
Follow the main tarred road from the Chirediz turn-off to Mutare for 18 kilometres.Turn off to the south at the Chipinda Pools sign post. Follow the gravel road for approximately 34 kilometres to the entrance of the Park, about 59 kilometres from Chiredzi
Mabalauta (Mwenezi sub-region)
Turn east off the main Masvingo - Beitbrifge road at the Mwenezi Police Station turn-off, about 20 kilometres south of Rutenga. Proceed down the the dirt road about 3 kilometres and turn left at the entrance to the Police Station - the signboard indicates Mwenezi Ranch HQ and Chikombedzi. Follow this road for about 60 kilometres to Chikombedzi Business Centre. Do not turn off this road. The road you take follows the Mwenezi River southeast from the Mwenezi Police Station to Chikombedzi (the river will not be visible from the road). The only major intersection you will encounter is 20 kilometres from the Mwenezi Police Station and is signposted. Head straight through the intersection to Chikombedzi.
Turn right after entering Chikombedzi Business Centre at a 4-way intersection where a National Parks sign indicates the route to Gonarezhou, Mabalauta, Right. About 300 metres down the road another sign indicates the route - turn left. Follow this road around a small dam and DO NOT turn off it.
About 6 kilometrees further you will pass Zhou School and 3 kilometres later you will come to Gonarezhou Natioonal Park boundary. The route from there to the Warden's Office, Mabalauta is clearly signposted. The total distance from the Masvingo - Beitbridge Road to Mabalauta is 105 kilometres.
The north-eastern end of the park is located within the Zambezian and Mopane woodlands, while the southwest is located within the Southern Africa bushveld ecoregion.
The Gonarezhou National Park was formed in 1975, by uniting former hunting areas and tsetse fly control corridors.
The park was closed to the public during the Rhodesian War and again during much of the Mozambique civil war but was re-opened in 1994.
The park is part of the international Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park.
The park is a lowveld region of baobabs, scrublands and sandstone cliffs.
Historically the park has been a habitat for the endangered Cape wild dog (Lycaon pictus pictus); and in 2010 there were several sightings of wild dogs in the park. It is thought that the cross-border link to national parks in Mozambique would be the best opportunity to restore or preserve the viability of this species in adjacent national parks in the adjoining countries of South Africa and Mozambique. Other mammals that inhabit the park are elephant, giraffe, hippopotamus, Cape buffalo, zebra, wildebeest, black and white rhinoceros, lion, leopard, cheetah, and hyena.
Swimuwini Rest Camp - managed by the National Parks and Wildlife Authority, this is self-catering accommodation on the Mwenezi River