Monday 19 August 2013

Rhodesia's Wankie National Park


Reprinted from RHODESIA CALLS, by Mardon Printers, Rhodesia, and distributed by the Rhodesia National Tourist Board. ©Rhodesia Calls (Pvt.) Ltd. 1975.

Foot safaris, under the supervision of experienced guides (main picture above), are a new dimension in game viewing that has been successfully developed at Wankie Safari Lodge (inset 1). a three-star hotel just outside the national park and near to Wankie airport.

 Foot safaris are also operated from Main Camp within the park. North of Wankie National Park, stretching almost 80 km to the Zambezi river and the Victoria Falls National Park, is a vast tract of uninhabited land reserved as safari areas. Here hunting and photographic safaris are operated by private companies.

 Within the Matetsi safari area is the Matetsi. Wild Life Leisure Resort (inset 2), where "a range of accommodation from hotel rooms and fully equipped chalets to caravan and camping sites is provided. The resort offers game viewing on foot and by land-rover. Access from the resort to the northern areas of Wankie National Park is also convenient.

 For further information on Wankie National Park, or other areas of tourist interest in Rhodesia, please contact the  Rhodesia National Tourist Board, P.O. Box 8052, Causeway. Salisbury.

 BOOKINGS for National Park accommodation should be made to the Central Booking Office. P.O. Box 8151,
 Causeway, Salisbury.

 End of Pg 2

Above. National Parks are created to preserve and protect the natural landscape and scenery; and to preserve and  protect wild life and plants, and the natural ecological stability of wild life and plant communities therein; for the  enjoyment, education and inspiration of the public. Rhodesia's Parks and Wild Life Act. 

Wankie National Park is a place — and an experience. Within its 13 000 square kilometres of unspoiled wilderness the protected wild life and natural vegetation reflect a diversity and interdependence that has long disappeared from the manipulated environment in which the mass of humanity lives.
Here the visitor is given an opportunity to throw off the routine of his man-centred world and become a spectator. For many the sight of zebras caught in the light of an afternoon sun (main picture left) will be the highlight of their visit. For others, it will be the appeal of the tiny steenbok (inset 1); a secretary bird stalking across the veld (inset 3); or a herd of sable making their haughty way to a waterhole (main picture right).

The visitor will find that by and large the wild life will ignore him or. at most, find him a temporary irritant if he intrudes too far into their world — then the elephant will trumpet at him, or make a fearsome mock charge, while the smaller animals will melt away into the surrounding bush.

Although for most visitors to Wankie the greatest attraction is the variety of wild life that may be seen, the wide  range of plant life forms a splendid backdrop to any scene — from the teak forests in the southern part of the park  to the thin shade of the Mopani forests in the central and northern areas.

While Wankie is wild and untouched, the modern visitor may reach the park on wide, modern highways, or even by  regular Air Rhodesia scheduled services to the park's own airport (inset 2).

There are 107 species of animals — from the elephant to the shrew — and 401 species of birds in Wankie National Park. Yet the visitor who proceeds through the park with a checklist and a pencil will not gain the enjoyment or the lasting memories of the person who waits and watches.

An elephant is an elephant to the first visitor, but to the second it is a member of a family group, the behaviour of which is as fascinating as the spectacle of a small herd crossing a dry river bed (main picture left)

 At certain waterholes, game viewing platforms and hides (inset 3) have been erected and these provide ideal vantage points (particularly during the early morning and late afternoon) for those who are willing to sit and wait.

The behaviour of a group of animals at these waterholes will provide the patient photographer with an opportunity for particularly interesting studies — such as a young bull elephant chasing off a group of baboons (inset 4), or a white rhino with its hitch- hiking ox peckers (inset 1). To see a herd of buffalo emerge singly and then in a mass from a distant tree line, surround a waterhole (inset 5) and then recede as noiselessly as they came, is a never-to- be-forgotten experience.

 But it is not only the large animals that merit attention. The smaller species such as the bat-eared fox (inset 2), also have their appeal.

 The species of game more likely to be seen in the areas surrounding Wankie's three camps are:

 Main Camp — zebra, giraffe, kudu, elephant, steenbok. warthog, buffalo, wildebeest, sable, lion, black backed jackal, hyena, bat-eared fox.

 Sinamatella — impala, kudu, elephant, warthog, giraffe, hippo, klipspringer. hyena, lion, leopard.

 Robins — impala. waterbuck, buffalo, kudu, elephant, giraffe, sable, roan, reedbuck, lion, hyena, side-striped jackal, cheetah, tsessebe.

 The reason for the abundance of certain species in certain areas depends on the living requirements of the species concerned and how the plant ecology of the area satisfies those requirements.

Although Wankie relies for its appeal on remaining an unspoiled and undeveloped wild life area, accommodation for  the visitor is comfortable and in keeping with the natural surroundings (inset 3).

Within the park are three camps — Main, Sinamatella, and Robins — all providing serviced accommodation,caravan and camping facilities (inset 2), and liquor licensed restaurants. From these camps networks of game- viewing roads connect with the central road system on which the visitor may travel through the park from camp tocamp (although cars towing caravans are not permitted to travel within the park).

 Main Camp is situated within a few kilometres of the Wankie National Park airport; Sinamatella is built on a  plateau commanding views of the surrounding plains (inset 1); and Robins is the most northerly camp in the park.

 For those who prefer to cater for themselves, there are three self- contained lodges at Nantwich, 11 km from Robins  Camp (main picture left).

 A new development in accommodation is the creation of bush camps where, far from the normal visitor's route,  facilities for single groups of up to 12 people are provided. From these camps visitors may explore the surrounding  area and game view on foot. The word "predator" usually brings to mind the lion (main picture right) which are present all over the park but are  more numerous in the northern area near Robins Camp. But the constant life-and-death struggle that is the way of the wild may be seen in many other ways if the visitor is perceptive and patient enough.

 Wankie has an extensive and widespread population of birds of prey —large and small — and an eagle swooping on to its kill (inset 4) illustrates the principle dramatically.

 The well-known skittish nature of the wildebeest is its natural protection against predators and the slightest disturbance sets them off on their characteristic loping gallop (inset 6).

 The visitor, intent on photography, would do well to remember that sudden movement is an alarm signal to wild animals and that any approach should be slow and gradual.

 Despite the constant struggle for survival, there are moments of peace, however, and the spiral-horned kudu
will drink at their regular waterhole within metres of dozing crocodiles (inset 5).

Material made available to ORAFs by Frankie Rumbold.

Extracted and recompiled for use n the Our Rhodesia Heritage Blog which is administered by Eddy Norris

Comments are always welcome, please mail them to Eddy Norris at

(Please visit our previous posts and archives)

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At 24 August 2013 at 13:23 , Blogger Unknown said...

Spent many an enjoyable day with our family in Wankie National Park, then some most interesting times when building the border road between Point 222 and Pandamatenka with an airstrip at Cement Pan. So many interesting and dangerous encounters with elephant during those war years when based in Tjolotjo. Hamish Peters

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