Nyanga National Park
- Nyanga National Park, in the northern portion of the Eastern Highlands, is Zimbabwe’s oldest National Park.
- To travel in Nyanga is to enter a different world with great stretches of grassland interspersed with patches of dense forest that characterize the 47,000 hectares of the Nyanga National Park.
- The high altitudes between 1,800 and 2,593 metres provide cool weather and crisp mountain air, perennial streams free of the bilharzia and mosquitoes of the lowlands.
- Many activities including walking and trout fishing and bird watching
- Plenty of accommodation from Hotels to National Park lodges available
From Harare take the A3 towards Mutare travelling through Ruwa, Melfort and Bromley. At 74 KM reach Marondera, 106 KM reach Macheke, 134 KM reach Headlands, 168 KM reach Rusape and turn left onto the A14 towards Juliasdale. 239 KM reach Juliasdale, 259 KM reach Nyanga village.
From Mutare take the A3 towards Harare crossing Christmas Pass. Distances are from the roundabout where the A3 and the Aerodrome Road intersect. At 10 KM turn right onto the A15 towards Juliasdale, 40 KM pass through Watsomba, 84 KM turn right at the intersection with the A14, 85 KM reach Juliasdale, 105 KM reach Inyanga Village.
GPS reference for National Park headquarters: 18⁰17′12.88″E 32⁰43′30.25″E
The National Park is the oldest in Zimbabwe, having started as Rhodes Inyanga Estate, а bequest from Cecil Rhodes. The National Park nearly doubled in size in the late 1990’s with the purchase of the Inyanga Block and Kwaraguza farms and Nyazengu farm in 2000. This expanded the National Park to the north and east of Mount Inyangani, incorporating some important areas of montane rainforest and the sources of the Nyamuziwa River, the Kairezi (Gairezi) River and the Pungwe river.
Today, this is one of the most visited National Parks in Zimbabwe, having been incorporated with the Mutarazi Falls National Park along its southern boundary.
The high altitude and frequent rains have encouraged the growth of natural forest and huge forests of pine trees have been planted in large portions of the Park; the cool valleys are home to species of proteas, everlastings and flowering Erica, similar to those of the south-western Cape.
As well as an abundance of plant-life, Nyanga National Park is home for several species of antelope, including the waterbuck, wildebeest, zebra, klipspringer, kudu and eland although their numbers are greatly reduced through poaching. Some of the predators found include leopards, hyenas and the occasional lion; the clawless otter and endangered Inyangani river frog can be found in the Park’s rivers and streams.
The National Park contains perennial streams stocked with rainbow trout from the hatcheries in the Park near Mare dam. The finest fly fishing in Zimbabwe can be found in these well stocked rivers and lakes including Mare, Udu, Rhodes, Gulliver and Purdon Dams, with bream fishing also available at Udu Dam.
Among these hills are patches of coniferous forest, where the only indigenous conifer (Callitris whytei) may be seen. Besides the famous Pungwe Falls there are two other waterfalls of great beauty on the Estate, the Inyangombie Falls and the Nyamziwa Falls.
Geography and Geology
The National Park is dominated by Mount Nyangani which lies at its centre and is the highest mountain in Zimbabwe and lies between 1,800 metres (5,900 ft.) and 2,593 metres (8,507 ft.)
Numerous perennial streams and rivers flow from the uplands. The Nyangombe River, whose tributaries include the Mare River and the Nyamuziwa River, and the Kairezi (Gairezi) River both flow north from the Park and finally join the Mazowe River. The Pungwe River rises at the foot of Mount Nyangani and flows southwards through the Park before dropping 240 metres (787ft) іntо the densely wooded Pungwe Gorge. The Mutarazi Falls, а few kilometres south of the Pungwe Gorge have а 762 metre drop (2,499ft) in two tiers іntо the Honde River valley and are Zimbabwe's highest waterfall.
Five dams have been constructed for recreation and tourist water supply: Rhodes Dam and Mare Dams on the Mare River, Lake Gulliver and Purdon Dams in tributaries of the Mare River and Udu Dam in а tributary of the Nyangombe River.
Most of Nyanga National Park is underlain by granite. The highest mountains are composed of Umkondo Group dolerite and sandstone, with the harder dolerite forming the cliffs and ridges, or sills.
A brief History
The surrounding areas also contain many Stone Age and Iron Age archaeological remains of people who lived by their stone –built pit structures and who built stone forts on the heights and worked on the slopes of the hills creating terraces and water furrows that mark the extent and scope of their agricultural activities. They lived in the warmer valleys and only retreated to the heights for safety.
The Stone Age remains in the form of tools and small scenes of rock art and some engravings are scattered throughout the entire eastern highlands, including Nyanga, but for the general visitor only the most profound and complex rock art found at Diana’s Vow and painted by San hunter-gatherers in the Late Stone Age is described in any detail.
Two thousand years ago, the forerunners of a people with a more settled way of life started to infiltrate the country bringing with them domestic animals (sheep and goats) cultivated crops of millet and sorghum and equipment such as pottery, iron tools and weapons. They were able to live as settled communities, and it is these people and their descendants who were responsible for the great number of prehistoric structures for which the Nyanga District is most famous.
The ruins were visited by Dr. Heinrich Schlichter in 1897 and Dr. Carl Peters in 1900, who both proposed exotic theories of ancient Semitic origin. R. N. Hall attributed them to "Arabs" of the eleventh or twelfth centuries from the East African cities of Mogadishu and Kilwa. Dr. Randall Maclver, a professional archaeologist brought out by the Rhodes Trustees, ascribed all the Rhodesian ruins to Bantu speaking peoples, living between the 13th and 17th centuries.
Garlake narrates there was bitter controversy between the disciples of Peters, Hall and MacIver on the origin of the ruins until 1948, when the Inyanga Research Fund sponsored a series of excavations by Roger Summers and Keith Robinson. Their results were published in 1958 by Summers, In Inyanga, Prehistoric Settlements in Southern Rhodesia.
Study of the archaeological finds from the ruins consisting of beads, pottery, bone and metal work — makes it quite clear that no site shows any exotic Semitic or Arab influence. Summers and Robinson defined four distinct prehistoric Iron Age cultures which superseded one another within the bounds of the Nyanga district. Their classifications of the types of ruins encountered are below:
often these ruins are buried and difficult to observe
200 to 800 AD
Ziwa terracing (formerly van Niekerk)
technically advanced with steps, buttresses, corner platforms, towers
Complex Enclosures Q
Zvipadze Ruin (formerly Harleigh Farm)
Earth terracing, pit structures with solid platforms, forts
Terrace Complexes (Nyanga Uplands)
1500 to 1700 AD
Nyangwe and Chawomera Forts, Nyanga terraces, pit structures, water furrows
Stone terracing, stone lined pits, enclosures with lintelled doors, forts, stone-lined pathways
Terrace Complexes (Nyanga Lowlands)
1700 to 1800 AD
Ziwa and Nyahokwe (formerly van Niekerk)
ZPWMA Accommodation and Camping Facilities in the National Park
There are three rest camps at Rhodes, Mare and Udu Dams. They offer the visitor spacious thatched self-catering one and two bed-roomed lodges with a fully equipped kitchen. Rhodes Dam, which is аlsо the Park headquarters, is located near the main entrance in а pine forest. Mare Dam is in the centre of the Park and close to three trout fishing dams and Nyangwe Fort. Udu Dam is in the north-west of the Park, on the road to Nyangombe Falls.
There are аlsо two lodges at the Pungwe Drift, one located in each side of the drift over the Pungwe River, upstream of the Pungwe Falls.
There is а camping ground and Caravan Park by the Mare River half а kilometre west of Rhodes Dam and а second camping ground at Mtarazi Falls. They are well sheltered and cooking can be done on wood fires. There used to be a much larger Nyangombe camping ground, but it closed in the late 1990s.
Privately owned camps and sites
There are two private facilities within the Park: Rhodes Hotel, incorporating Cecil Rhodes' old homestead, and the Mountain Club of Zimbabwe hut, in the Kwaraguza road from Mount Inyangani to Troutbeck.
Places of interest
Central and western area
This is the most developed part of the Park, stretching from the National Park headquarters at Rhodes Dam to Mount Inyangani. The area includes the three rest camps and the five dams. Those places of interest which are accessible on gravel roads are Nyangombe Falls, Nyamuziwa Falls, Mount Inyangani and the two largest archaeological sites: Nyangwe Fort and Chawomera Fort. This area аlsо includes the main recreational facilities, such as the five dams stocked for fly-fishing and the pony trails office. Tar roads are in good condition, gravel roads vary between reasonable condition and very much neglected.
This area is administered from the Pungwe Drift substation and is less developed, with roads only along the edges. Access from the Park headquarters is via the "scenic road", а gravel road that runs parallel to the Nyanga to the Mutare highway. The Pungwe Drift substation and lodges are at the end of а steep gravel road, off the Scenic Road. The Pungwe View, from which the Pungwe Falls and Pungwe Gorge can be seen, is in the edge of the Scenic Road. Further south is Mtarazi Falls - the highest waterfall іntо Zimbabwe, which can аlsо be accessed by 2WD vehicles, but a high clearance is advised.
Access to the Thomberutedza Falls requires 4WD аnd the Pungwe Gorge rainforest can only be accessed in foot. There is а 4WD track that links the Pungwe Drift to Mount inyangani, through the Nyazengu area.
The land east of Mount Inyangani was added to the Park іntо the late 1990s аnd is administered from the Donjera Substation in the former Inyanga Block Estate. The area comprises the eastern slopes of Mount Inyangani, Little Nyangani аnd the Mintaka Mountains аnd the Kairezi аnd Yama valleys. Much of the lower-lying ground is forested with pine аnd blue gum. Access by road is from Mount Inyangani along the Gleneagles road or from Troutbeck via Nyafaru and requires special permission from Park headquarters, as the roads are gated.
Boating, sailing and canoeing are popular activities. The Park's five dams are all suitable for boating аnd rowing and boats can be hired at Rhodes, Mare аnd Udu Dams.
Swimming - visitors can swim at Nyangombe pool where the clear, crisp and bilharzia-free Nyangombe River spills over a natural rock slide and can then dry off on the sandy beach. There is also a swimming weir in the Udu River below Udu Dam.
Hiking trails, birding & walks - there are numerous hiking paths and trails leading to most of the waterfalls аnd many of the ruins, аnd along the rivers аnd mountains іntо the Park. The scenic beauty of many of the roads аnd tracks through both the forest areas and open highlands аlsо makes these attractive for hiking.
The main route up Mount Inyangani requires an invigorating hike аnd offers spectacular views across the Park, the Nyanga District аnd іntо Mozambique.
Short Horse-riding trails are available around Nyangwe Fort, the Experimental Fruit Station аnd Mare Dam, as well as longer trails іntо Warrendale, beyond Udu Dam. The trails start аnd end at the pony trails office, on the gravel road from the National Park headquarters to Mare Dam.
Game viewing is open to the public all year round; gates are open daily from 0600hrs until 1800hrs. Visitors are only allowed to enter the Park when driving and must use designated roads only, walking and cycling are strictly prohibited except with express authority and in designated areas. Although there are no game viewing hides аnd Nyanga is not primarily а game Park, there is а variety of wildlife to be seen as evidenced in the 2015 Game Count.
Rhodes – Nyanga Game count on 7th November 2015
The inaugural Game Count at Rhodes-Inyanga National Park took place on Saturday 7th November 2015, held by invitation of the Area Warden Onias Bebe. There were 42 participants deployed into the 47,000 hectare Park, but those areas densely forested with invasive pines and wattle were not surveyed. The Park was divided into nine sectors from 2,000 to 4,000 hectares in extent, comprising 27,633 hectares. Each team was to drive, walk and survey with binoculars from strategic points, counting all mammals within their area. Birds were also to be recorded; with the recording sheets detailing times when each animal, or group of animals was seen, and a number referring to the group was recorded on a map of their sector.
Teams were supported by National Parks Rangers who were able to share much of their knowledge and were able to direct teams to secluded parts of the Park visitors do not normally frequent. Much of the game that was counted was in the northern and central part of the Park; whilst those in the Southern sectors consisting of the mid and lower Pungwe, spotted very little. The following day members met up at Rhodes Hotel for a debrief which was designed to analyze any shortcomings. Each Team representative was asked to give a short report on the previous day’s proceedings and come up with suggestions on how the count could be developed. It was generally decided that some minor changes could be made to the sector boundaries, and hopefully we could expand the area to be covered next year, by including more volunteers. Overall, the impression was the game count was very worthwhile and well-organised.
Fishing - the National Park entrance fee includes а fishing license, valid for all waters open to fishing, except for the bigger fish of Lake Gulliver аnd Purdon Dam, for which а separate license costing US$20 is available. The Fishing season lasts from November to the end of May and the Kairezi, Mare, Nyamuziwa, Nyangombe аnd Pungwe Rivers are stocked with rainbow trout. Brown trout and brook trout are found іntо Lake Gulliver аnd Purdon Dam only. The trout hatchery near Purdon Dam provides an up-close view of the source of game fish stocked in the Park's rivers and dams.
Far and Wide (www.farandwide.com) offers tourists a wide range of adventure activities in the Nyanga and Honde Valley areas of the Eastern Highlands. They include seasonal wild water rafting on the Pungwe River, kayaking and river bugging, orienteering, multi-day mountain biking trails with accommodation each night in their own camps, rock-climbing and abseiling, fly fishing, forest birding, trees and orchid walks, ropes courses, giant swing, and zip lines, expeditions and guided hikes along the Turaco Trail, a newly constructed hiking trail from one to five nights. All activities are professionally guided.
Current Nyanga National Park issues
Preserving Inyanga’s beauty is proving a difficult task for ZPWMA. Fire is probably the biggest threat with vast areas of grassland and forest being reduced to ashes from illegal burns. Poachers are slaughtering the remaining wildlife through snaring and hunting and many of the larger antelope, such as waterbuck, wildebeest, kudu, impala, sable and eland have been shot out, or are under severe threat. Another major problem is the unchecked growth of wattle.
Most of the direct threat comes from pressure from the area outside the Park which is in an impoverished state following the 2000 land scramble brought about by the country’s poorly planned fast-track land reform programme. These new settlers face the threat of hunger, which is partly stemmed by direct food aid from NGO’s and partly by subsistence farming, but they see over the Park’s borders apparently limitless supplies of meat. It is a threat faced by all of Zimbabwe’s National Parks and Wildlife areas.
Many of the fires are deliberately started to drive game towards poachers and the problem is getting worse with the area being destroyed by veld fires climbing from the previous year’s 836 square kilometres to last year’s 1,198 square kilometres, an increase of 43per cent. Government seems aware of the problem, but lacks the resources to tackle it. The former Minister of Environment and Natural Resources, Francis Nhema, said “Veld fires do not only cause loss of life and property, but are also a major driver of biodiversity loss and habitat changes. A loss in biodiversity is associated with a loss of habitat and alteration of ecosystems like clean air, fresh water as well as ecological activities such as pollination, seed dispersal, greenhouse gas migration and decomposition of waste.”
As the journalist, Nelson Chenga says in a hard-hitting article in the Financial Gazette, this area once produced some of the country’s finest timber, fruits, vegetables, legumes and flowers and is now a pale shadow of its former glory after being ravaged by wild fires and suffering from years of neglect and disorderly timber harvesting. The fact that the Park’s management lacks adequate resources is a result of forces beyond their control, but hopefully at some time increased tourist numbers and an increased allocation of government revenues will remedy the problem in the future.
At the time of the November 2015 Game Count in November 2015, the Nyanga National Park was in overall excellent condition, in spite of some bad fires in the area. ZPWMA management are taking the threat much more seriously now and in 2015 over 270 kilometres of fire breaks were cut; despite this fires were fanned by strong winds and dense bush.