Gonarezhou National Park

Situated in South Eastern Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe has a number of impressive game parks all of which offer something different and unique and Gonarezhou is no exception. Three major rivers, the Save, Runde and Mwenezi, cut their courses through the Park, forming natural pools from which hundreds of species of birds, wildlife and fish gather to feed and drink. In all there are over 400 species of birds, 114 species of animals and numerous species of fish, reptiles and frogs.

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Gonarezhou is Zimbabwe’s second largest National Park and is situated in the south eastern lowveld of Zimbabwe on the border with Mozambique. It 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. Owing to its vast size, rugged terrain and its location away from main tourist routes, large tracts of Gonarezhou remain as pristine wilderness.

The park is very much characterised by its spectacular sandstone cliffs, the numerous Baobab trees, the impressive river systems and the wildlife.

Gonarezhou National Park borders Mozambique and forms 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.

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. Historically the park has been a habitat for the endangered Cape wild dog (Lycaon pictus pictus); and there have been several sightings of wild dogs in the park.

Largely undiscovered by the outside world, this striking land is one of the last great pristine wildernesses in Africa and takes in a huge diversity of habitats. Gonarezhou has plenty of appeal to wildlife enthusiasts  and hosts a wide range of predators and herbivores including lions, cheetah, wild dogs, Kudu, Suni, Roan, hyena, buffalo, hippo and giraffe within its boundaries.

The park is best known for its elephants, which are called ‘nzhou’ in Shona and these huge and intelligent creatures give their name to the park where they number in their thousands. Gonarezhou was previously a stronghold for the endangered African wild dog, and there are still frequent sightings of this striking canine predator.

Any journey into the heart of Gonarezhou begins with the realisation that this is wild country. This is a country of red sandstone, thorny scrub and baobabs. Buffalo gather at watering holes, big cats prowl silently in pursuit of agile impala, hippo wallow midstream attended by squadrons of fluttering birds. The presence of elephants is everywhere as their families travel along historic routes in search of food, safety, and water. 

The best time to visit Gonarezhou is during the dry season when the bush is less thick and the water holes are less in number. Animals gather at permanent water points, making them easier to spot. Conversely, there is a proliferation of birdlife during summer with migrant species being drawn to the warmer weather of Gonarezhou. At this time of year, roads may become unaccessible and some camps close for the wet season.

In addition to the flora and fauna it is the physical landscape which many visitors find so special. The sandstone Chilojo Cliffs are breathtaking  and there are many impressive  rocky outcrops, flowing rivers, and plateaus of dense bush and of course the baobabs which number in their thousands.

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At A Glance



Chilo Lodge – 10 Double Rooms (20 beds)

Nhambo Self Catering (Chilo Lodge) – 4 Double Rooms (8 beds)

Tiger Fish Family Cottage (Chilo Lodge) – 2 x Double & 2 x Single beds

Chilo Tented Camp Mahove (Chilo Lodge) – 4 x twin bed tents with on suite ablutions

Mahenye Safari Lodge

Located on an island in the Save River, accommodating in 8 thatched chalets

Pamushana Lodge

  • 4 x 1-bedroom suites each with a private plunge pool
  • 1 x 2-bedroom family suite (2 adults, 2 children) with a private plunge pool
  • 1 x 3-bedroom family suite (2 adults, 4 children) with a private plunge pool
  • 1 x 5-bedroom villa with a private infinity pool

See ZIMPARKS Accomodation


Road and Transfers

Self-drive from either Harare or Bulawayo is approximately seven and a half hours.

Harare: For guests travelling from Harare a detour through the beautiful Eastern Highlands is recommended as a way of breaking up the journey. There is a lot to see and do so 2-4 nights is very doable.

Alternatively you can travel from Harare to Masvingo and stop over to see the Great Zimbabwe Ruins and Lake Mutirikwi (Kyle). From there you can drive down to Chilo or go via the beautiful Vumba Mountains in the Eastern Highlands.

Bulawayo: Guests travelling from Bulawayo can break their journey by travelling to Masvingo to see the Great Zimbabwe Ruins and Lake Mutirikwi (Kyle). From there they can either drive through to Gonarezhou or go via the beautiful Vumba Mountains in the Eastern Highlands and then travel down.

It all depends on how much time you have.

Most of the roads are tarred and in reasonable condition but the last stretch to Chilo is dirt road and quite rugged so 4WD is necessary. Alternatively, you can arrange to leave your vehicle in Chiredzi  and a transfer can be arranged to the lodge for a fee. 

See ‘Travel Distances’



Air Travel

By Air

  • We can arrange scheduled flights or private charters for your trip. The Federal Air scheduled flight to/from Buffalo Range International Airport is currently only active on Mondays and Thursdays from OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg. A minimum of three nights’ accommodation at a lodge is necessary when selecting this option with a minimum of two guests traveling.
  • Chartered flights can land at Lonestar airstrip. Guests are collected off the flight and transported to their lodge in a closed, air-conditioned vehicle
  • Scheduled flights from Johannesburg O.R Tambo International Airport – Buffalo Range International Airport: approximately 2hrs 30 minutes.
  • On scheduled flights, the weight of luggage is restricted to 20kg (44lb) for checked baggage and 5kg (11lb) for hand luggage. Only soft-sided luggage is permitted.
  • All flights land at Buffalo Range Airport. 
  • Private aircraft pilots land at their own risk and are advised to broadcast their intentions on frequency 118.700MHz.
    • Latitude: 21° 03” 40’ S
    • Longitude: 31° 42” 22.2’ E
    • Elevation: 4 400ft Surface: Gravel
    • Length: 1 000m

* If flying from South Africa, guests need to clear customs at Buffalo Range.



Road Travel Distances

Beitbridge – Bulawayo 322 kms 200 (miles)

Bulawayo – Chiredzi 432 kms (270 miles)

Bulawayo – Masvingo 280 kms (174 miles)

Chiredzi – Gonarezhou NP Entrance 53 kms (33 miles)

Masvingo – Chiredzi 197 kms (123 miles)

Bvumba – Masvingo 306 kms (191 miles)

Bvumba – Chiredzi 327 kms  203 (miles)

Bvumba – Birchenough Bridge138 kms  (86 miles)

Mutare – Bvumba 30 kms (18 miles)

Mutare – Chiredzi 315 kms (196 miles)

Harare – Chiredzi 433 kms (269 miles)

Harare – Rusape 169 kms (105 miles)

Harare – Nyanga 274 kms (170 miles)

Nyanga – Bvumba 135 kms (84 miles)

Harare – Mutare 262 kms (163 miles)

Harare – Masvingo 293 kms (183.13 miles)

Rusape – Nyanga 105 kms (65 miles)

Nyanga –  Mutare 116 kms (72 miles)

Nyanga – Melsetter 266 kms (165 miles)

Nyanga – Birchenough Bridge 250 kms (156 miles)

Nyanga – Masvingo 425 kms (264 miles)

Location Pin

ZIMPARKS Accommodation


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.
Caravan sites

Visitors with caravans on tow can also camp at Swimuwini and use the same facilities for standard camp sites.

Picnic 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.

Chipinda Pools


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. 

Camp Sites

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.

Picnic Sites

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.


Activitiies, Flora & Fauna

There are a number of exciting things to whilst staying in Gonarezhou. These include:

  • Camping
  • Fishing
  • Walking safaris
  • Game drives
  • Birding
  • Photography
  • Community visit
  • Viewing the cliffs at Chilojo, Mwatomba Pool and Makonde Pool
  • Viewing points – these can be found at Guluji and Chamuchanzi among other places
  • Visiting with the people of Mahenye Village
  • Walking to Chivilia Falls
  • The Runde,  Save and Mwenezi Rivers
  •  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

Flora and Fauna

Animals: Lion, leopard, cheetah (including the rare king cheetah), buffalo, giraffe, zebra and many species of large antelope are present within the Park. The rare nyala and smaller suni are two of the highlights of the Park’s smaller antelopes.

Birds: In addition, hundreds of species of birds may be spotted in the Park. these include: Herons, storks, egrets, waders, common vultures, Cape vulture,  African Skimmers, Southern Carmine Bee-eaters, Purple-crested Turacos, Grey-headed, Brown-headed and Meyer’s Parrots,  Mangrove Kingfisher, Bat Hawks, Pel’s Fishing-owl, Verreaux’s Eagles, Peregrine Falcons, Black Storks, Swifts Eastern Nicator, African Emerald Cuckoos, Green Malkoha,  Bush-shrike, Barred Long-tailed Cuckoo Green Twinspot,  Orange-winged Pytili,  Senegal Lapwings,  Plain-backed Sunbird, Mottled Spinetail, Lemon-breasted Canary, Southern Boubou, Southern Banded Snake-eagle

Fish: 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.

Chilojo Cliffs

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.

Sign Post


Gonarezhou’s climate is warm. The most temperate months are September to March, while May through August tends to be cold. April to October (the dry season) is characterized by cloudless skies and plenty of sunshine. November to March (the wet season) brings afternoon storms which are most always followed by sun. It can also rain lightly over several days. Winter (the dry season) and summer (the wet season) happen at opposite times as in Europe and North America.

Dry season – April to October – Winter

  • April – The wet season comes to an end. Rains are still possible, but become fewer and farther between. Temperatures begin to cool, particularly at night.
  • May, June, July, August – This is winter and the coldest time, with August warming a bit. It is very dry, with the air and greenery becoming more so throughout the winter. During the day, temperatures are around 27°C/81°F, with it getting cold at night – around 11°C/52°F. Make sure to bring enough warm clothing for game drives early in the morning.
  • September, October – It remains dry most of the time although the end of October brings the first rains, which are relieving. This rain brings new, green grass and tempers the dust. Days are hot with temperatures of over 30°C/86°F. Morning game drives tend to be warmer.

Wet season – November to March – Summer

  • November – Although rains don’t come every day, the wet season has begun.
  • December, January & February – These are the months of the most rain. Rain is common most days (usually in the form of afternoon showers), although it won’t rain all day long. Sunshine typically follows. However, it can also drizzle continuously for a couple of days. Daytime temperatures average 32°C/90°F while night and early morning average 20°C/68°F.
  • March – The end of the wet season comes and rains slow. Temperatures average between 30°C/86°F and 19°C/66°F.
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