Gonarezhou National Park is Zimbabwe's second largest National Park, taking up an area of 5000 sq km in the far south eastern corner of the country. It lies on the Mozambique border and forms part of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park; a massive Pan-African Park that includes South Africa's popular Kruger National Park and Mozambique's Gaza.
This huge Transfrontier area is dedicated to conservation, biodiversity and the economic development of the surrounding local communities. The combined Park includes 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.
One of the most prominent features of Gonarezhou National Park is the beautiful Chilojo Cliffs, which present magnificent red sandstone cliffs that have been formed through eons of erosion and overlook the scenic Runde River valley.
It is best to visit Gonarezhou during the dry season for the same reason as most other highly vegetated destinations, as the thickness of the bush is less and animals gather at permanent water points, making them easier to spot.
Gonarezhou has plenty of appeal in the wildlife department and hosts a wide range of predators and herbivores, but often what people may find most astounding about this remote region is the landscape: rocky outcrops, sandstone cliff faces, flowing rivers, and plateaus of dense bush, and baobabs.
Once, this national park was a stronghold for the endangered African wild dog, and there are still frequent sightings of this canine predator. It is the correct habitat for these animals, and the link to Mozambique and South Africa gives it a huge terrain.
Birding during summer is wonderful, as the migrant species are drawn to the warm weather in Gonarezhou. Despite the beauty at this time of year, roads may become unaccessible and some camps close for the wet season.
Lion, leopard, cheetah (including the rare king cheetah), buffalo, giraffe, zebra and many species of large antelope are often seen within the park. The rare nyala and smaller suni are two of the Park's diminutive antelopes. In addition, hundreds of species of birds may be spotted.
Gonarezhou National Park has 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.
Game viewing is best along the riverine regions and close to the many perennial pools and springs. The elephants in Gonarezhou National Park are notoriously aggressive so guests are advised to keep a safe viewing distance.
There are also walking safaris at the park. Walking safaris are permitted in certain areas only and at the pools at Samalena Gorge. Guests are able to view game from the cliffs at Chilojo, Mwatomba Pool and Makonde Pool.
Gonarezhou National Park has a warm climate throughout the year with temperatures only really dropping in mid-winter, from May to August, when it can get as cold as 10 degrees Celsius at night.
April to October, which is the dry season, is characterised by clear skies and plenty of sunshine despite it being winter.
The hottest month are from September to March, which is considered summer, and the temperatures during the day peak to the mid-30s.
November to March, which is the rainy season, brings afternoon thunderstorms followed by clear skies once again. Alternatively it rains lightly over a few days, watering the ground and encouraging the growth of new grass. Summer also introduces higher water levels, and guests can enjoy boating activities on the Save River.
Chilo Gorge Safari Lodge is situated high atop a tree-filled rocky ridge overlooking the Save River. This luxury lodge is located on the northern edge of Gonarezhou and its aim to 'bring the outside in' and make use of the exceptionally beautiful surroundings. Locally crafted intricate reed weaving, individually carved jacaranda headboards, luxurious cotton bedding and a mini bar have all been carefully selected for guests.
Mahenye Safari Lodge is the sister camp to Chilo Gorge and it is privately located on an island in the Save River, accommodating in 8 thatched chalets. Mahenye offers walking safaris with knowledgeable and professional guides, game drives, bird watching, visits to a local village and trips to the Chilojo Cliffs. During the wet season, boat cruises on the Save River are available.
Gonarezhou National Park is located in the far south eastern corner of Zimbabwe, on the border of Mozambique. Self-driving is not recommended, as it is a mostly inaccessible area and the roads are tricky, especially in the rainy season.
Sun Safaris will usually add Gonarezhou National Park to a tailor-made safari package that includes other areas of Zimbabwe, South Africa or Mozambique, as it is not a destination often visited on its own. Guests can fly into Zimbabwe at Victoria Falls airport, from where they will connect with a chartered flight to an airstrip in Gonarezhou.
Alternatively, guests can fly to Harare International Airport (depending on prior arrangements), from where Sun Safaris will arrange a 6 hour road transfer to their booked accommodation in Gonarezhou.