A hippo in Zimbabwe

Hunting in Zimbabwe: Where, When and What to Hunt

Quick Facts about Zimbabwe:

Capital City: Harare
Official Language: English
Currency: Zimbabwe Dollar (ZWL)
Size: 390,757 Km2 (Slightly larger than Montana)

Historical Hunting Overview

Man has survived off of the land and hunted to feed the family for centuries as depicted in the numerous San (Bushman) paintings found in caves across the country. This tradition has been passed on from generation to generation. 

However, with the commercialization, modern day access to easy travel, sophisticated sporting rifles and compound bows, sportsmen from around the globe now visit the country. The safari industry in Zimbabwe is well regulated and many impoverished local communities rely on the income derived from hunting to improve their livelihoods. An added benefit is poaching decreases as local communities receive financial benefits and protein from donated hunted trophy meat. 

Despite the political, economic and social upheaval Zimbabwe offers the serious sportsman some of the finest hunting opportunities on the continent.  

a view through a cave

Hunting Areas

Zimbabwe, situated in the heart of southern Africa, is one of the continent’s most storied safari destinations. The country contains a wide variety of terrain and habitat, from the Zambezi Valley in the north to the game-rich Lowveld in the south. The Zambezi Valley in particular is a major draw for big-game hunters, known for huge herds of elephants and one of the highest concentrations of Cape buffalo in Africa, as well as good populations of lions and leopards. The islands and marshes along the Zambezi River also offer the opportunity to hunt hippos and crocodiles. A number of large, privately owned conservancies, including the Save and the Bubye Valley Conservancies, also provide excellent hunting opportunities for plains game and dangerous game. Many of these conservancies started out as marginal cattle ranches and later banded together to create large, unbroken tracts of wildlife habitat.

Zimbabwe has eleven National Parks scattered around the country, many of which have buffer zones surrounding them that provide excellent hunting opportunities. The largest of those is Hwange National Park. This unfenced park is approximately the size of the Bahamas and was once the royal hunting grounds of the Ndebele warrior king Mzilikazi. It was proclaimed a national park in 1929 and recognized as a core conservation area providing some of the best hunting in the country when animals disperse from this non- hunting area to the surrounding buffer regions.   

Hunts may be conducted on three land types in Zimbabwe, each with their own varying game regulations. These areas are:

  • Government (National Parks Controlled Hunting Areas)

These concession areas are controlled and managed by the Zimbabwe National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZPWMA) who decide on the annual quota and are situated in the more remote agriculturally marginal areas due to lack of rainfall and the presence of Tsetse flies. These blocks are sold on a public auction and include such well known hunting areas as Matetsi, Chirisa, Chete, Chewore, Makuti and the Tuli blocks.  

  • Communal or Tribal Areas

These areas are managed under the Communal Areas Management Programme for Indigenous Resources (CAMPFIRE), a Zimbabwean community-based natural resource management program. This management system entitle communities to form communal-level conservation conservancies. These areas are then leased out to safari hunting operators and the tribal council is responsible for decisions related to annual hunting quotas. 

  • Private Land

Unfortunately, many of these privately owned areas were lost during the land grab and hunters must be careful to ensure that when hunting on private land, the landowner is legitimately entitled to offer hunts on their land. The Save and Bubye Conservancies are prime sought after hunting areas which fall into this category. Clients from both the EU and USA should ensure that if they choose to hunt in such an area that they do not fall foul of their own countries sanctions and forbidden persons placed on the occupier/owner of re-occupied land that was not formally sold to the occupant.

map of hunting areas in zimbambwe
Map of Hunting Areas in Zimbabwe. Courtesy of Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Authority

Popular Hunting Destinations

  1. Matetsi

Adjoining Hwange National Park, this region is considered as the country’s premium free range dangerous game concession area. This is the country’s oldest hunting safari area and known for its good populations of migrating game crossing out of the national park. Named after the Matetsi River after which the nearby village also took its name and started life as a railway siding. Renowned for its elephants, buffalo, sable trophies and other plains game the area supports a high population of lion and leopards. Matetsi also includes the area around Kazuma Pan and Zambezi National Parks near the tourist town of Victoria Falls. Some of the more established well known community owned areas in the region are Hwange, Gwai, Tsholotsho and Bulilima Mangwe regions near the town of Plumtree.     

  1. Zambezi Valley Concessions

This area stretches from the Middle Zambezi (Lake Kariba) to Lower Zambezi regions. The National Parks in this region include Chizarira, Matusadona and Mana Pools. The well-known hunting concessions in this area are Chete, Chirisa, Charara, Hurungwe, Rifa, Nyakasanga, Sapi, Dande and Chewore. The better known campfire areas are the Omay and Gokwe areas. The area ranges from the rich floodplains and shores of Lake Kariba and the Lower Zambezi River to the rugged hills of the Zambezi Escarpment, an area also known for the it’s thick jesse and quality trophy animals. Many of the inland concessions also shoot their hippo and crocodile quota allocations in Lake Kariba.        

  1. Zimbabwe Lowvled

In the extreme southern part of the country is Gonarezhou National Park which means “place of many Elephants”. The community hunting areas south of the park along the Limpopo River bordering South Africa, produce some of the best trophy elephants. 80 to 90 lbs elephants are still taken on an annual basis in this region. Good quality buffalo, hippo, crocodiles and nyala are also some of the other attractions to the region.        

Numerous large private ranches are also found in the Chiredzi area. Two of the outstanding hunting areas found in the Southern Lowveld are the 130,000 acre Save Valley and 3743 sq. km Bubye Valley Conservancies. Both reserves boast the “Big 5” but only elephant, buffalo, lion and leopard may be hunted. Both areas provide excellent plains game hunting, from eland to nyala and some of the best tsessebe hunting in Africa. 

Climate and Hunting Season

Zimbabwe has no fixed hunting season. June through August are the most popular hunting months. November to March is known as the “wet season”. When targeting a specific species during a hunt you should be guided by your professional hunters local knowledge of the area as animals living in these free-range areas will move according to food and water availability. Most of the hunting is done in the low altitude areas and the season starts in earnest around April-May. Temperatures are relatively cool with June, July and August being the coldest months. An early start in the morning will require a warm jacket and it is recommended you dress in layers as by mid-morning it can be quite warm. As soon as the sun sets you will be reaching for your jacket again. September and October are warm to hot, with temperatures peaking in October just before the onset of the rains.         

Accommodation   

The camps in Zimbabwe range from basic safari camps to tented camps and lodges in the private conservancies.  No matter where you are, most home comforts will be available unless fly-camping. Many camps have swimming pools and many other of the modern amenities. Flushing toilets, hot and cold running water and fresh linen is provided, so if you are thinking of bringing the wife, rest assured she will not be expected to sleep on the floor of mud hut. The camps are electrified and many now have some form of Wi-Fi connectivity and some camps even have mobile phone connection.   

The camp chefs produce some of the finest safari cuisine even when there are food shortages or commoditise and they will make a plan no matter what. The people are very friendly and will go out of their way to ensure you have a pleasant stay.       

Available Hunting Species

Big Five SpeciesGemsbuckReedbuck, common
Buffalo, CapeGenetRoan, southern
ElephantGiraffeSable
LeopardGrysbok, Sharpe’sServal
LionHartebeest, Lichtenstein’sSteenbuck
HippopotamusTsessebe
Plains GameHoney badgerWarthog
African wild catHyena, brownWaterbuck, common
Baboon, chacmaHyena, spottedWildebeest, blue
Bushbuck, ChobeImpala, southernZebra, Chapman’s
Bushbuck, LimpopoJackal, black-backed
BushpigJackal, side-stripedBirds
CaracalKlipspringerDucks
CheetahKudu, greater southernGeese
CivetMonkey, vervetSpurfowl
CrocodileNyalaFrancolin
Duiker, commonOribiGuineafowl
Duiker, redOstrichPigeon & doves
Eland, Livingstone’sPorcupineQuail

TO BE CONTINUED

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