From the popular, to those hardly ever heard of, there is an incredible abundance of national parks in Zimbabwe.

The country once known as ‘the bread basket of Africa’ has seen political unrest over the years and the conflict has unfortunately had a direct impact on its wildlife and the areas in which they live. Severe poaching has seen elephant and rhino numbers drop dramatically, and rhino are still not found in certain locations.

However, wildlife is making an incredible comeback in some of Zimbabwe’s national parks and game reserves, some of which are still among the finest in the world and well-worth a visit!

How many national parks are in Zimbabwe?

Zimbabwe is home to some of the most abundant wildlife populations in Africa. Along with numerous protected areas and private farms, there are 11 national parks in Zimbabwe.

Many of these are world-renowned and feature luxury lodges with 5-star accommodation.

Here are 10 amazing national parks in Zimbabwe:

Hwange National Park

Founded in 1928, Hwange is the oldest national park in Zimbabwe. It is also the most popular thanks to having the highest density of elephant  of any wildlife reserve in Africa. It also boasts over 100 mammal species and 400 species of bird.

Hwange National Park was named in honour of a respected leader of the local Nhanzwa tribe, and gives life to an abundance of animals who thrive within its unique ecosystem of forests at the edge of the Kalahari Desert.

10 incredible national parks in zimbabwe
Elephant family herd in Hwange National Park | Pixabay

Along with the elephants – large herds of buffalo, eland, sable, roan and zebra all the thrive in the park, and so do the predators who prey on them. Lion, cheetah, leopard and wild dogs are readily seen in Hwange.

Unfortunately, Hwange has suffered severe poaching in recent years, including the tragic death of Cecil the lion – who was baited and killed by an American trophy hunter.

The primary attraction is safari and eco-tourism, which can be enjoyed either in a classic safari vehicle or by walking side-by-side with what are possibly the finest guides on the continent.

Mana Pools National Park

Situated just below Lake Kariba, Mana Pools National Park is considered to be one of the very best national parks in Africa.

The UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a particular favourite for keen photographers in search of iconic wildlife in a unique setting.

Large herds of impala, eland, elephant, zebra, buffalo, waterbuck and kudu can be found in Mana Pools and of course these attract predators like lion, leopard, wild dog and hyena.

10 incredible national parks in zimbabwe
An elephant reaches for fruit high up in a tree in Mana Pools National Park | Pixabay

With more than 70 kilometres (43 miles) of the Zambezi river running through the park, the name ‘Mana Pools’ was inspired by pools of water formed in abandoned river channels.

During the dry season, animals gather around these inland pools in search of water, making for incredible wildlife sightings as cunning predators lie in wait. Another unique drawcard to Mana Pools are their population of elephants who can readily be seen standing up on their hind legs, reaching for fruit high up in the forest canopy.

Mana Pools is a must-visit national park for birders. Fish eagles, heron, scarlet carmine bee-eaters, Pels Fishing Owl and the African Skimmer are all known to frequent the water ways.

All accommodation is unfenced, and bush walks provide a wilderness experience like no other.

Victoria Falls National Park

Home to the mighty Victoria Falls – one of the seven natural wonders of the world – the national park is one of the most unique regions in Africa.

While Vic Falls is neither the highest nor the widest waterfall in the world, it is classified as the largest, based on its combined width of 1,708 metres (5,604 ft) and height of 108 metres (354 ft).

This results in the world’s largest sheet of falling water, roughly twice the height of Niagara Falls.

The Mighty Victoria Falls seen from a helicopter | Pixabay

At only 2,300 hectares, Victoria Falls National Park is far from the most impressive national park in Zimbabwe, however it is without doubt the most unique. The park is home to an incredible rainforest, which is the only place in the world where it continuously rains, all day every day. This is the result of water vapour rising directly from the falls.

This spray typically rises to over 400 metres (1,300 ft), and is visible from up to 48 kilometres (30 miles) away. Various trees grow within the spray of the falls, including: ferns, palms, liana vines, and a number of trees such as mahogany which are not found anywhere else in the park.

The park is home to a variety of wild animals with the most notable species being elephant, buffalo, white rhino, hippo, eland as well as a variety of other antelope. If you’re lucky, you may even be able to spot a few nile crocodiles as they bask along the banks of the Zambezi river.

Matobo National Park

Situated just outside Bulawayo, Zimbabwe’s second largest city, Matobo National Park is more than just a wilderness area.

The 43,200 hectare reserve is one of the country’s most important heritage sites, with the graves of both Cecil Rhodes and King Mzilikazi – after which its name is inspired. The similarity between the smooth granite whaleback boulders (dwalas) and the clean shaven heads of his warriors led Mzilikazi to the name amatobo – ‘the bald ones’.

Mind-boggling rock towers, contain numerous smooth-walled caves, many of which feature ancient bushman rock art of incredible diversity and animation. Below these lie vast savannah plains, woodlands and grassy marshes.

The elusive leopard in Matobo National Park | Pixabay

Matobo is one of the most wildlife-rich national parks of Zimbabwe with 88 mammal, 175 bird, 39 snake and 16 fish species.

Here you’ll find Africa’s highest concentration of Black eagles, and a strong contention for the highest leopard density. The park’s borders also protect both endangered rhino species, while hosting a variety of others including: zebra, giraffe, leopard, wildebeest, hyena and many kinds of antelope.

The absence of dangerous game means that guests are offered unique experiences like hiking and horse-riding among the hills. Matobo is also of the only national parks in Zimbabwe where self-drive safaris are allowed.