Chimanimani National Park – Eastern Highlands

by Mike Cadman

Chimanimani National Park – Eastern Highlands

High quartzite crags and ridges interspersed with rolling grassland and mountain streams typify the landscape of this park situated in the mountainous Eastern Highlands which border Mozambique. The 171 km2 (66 miles2) park forms part of the Chimanimani Transfrontier Conservation Area which is shared with the Chimanimani Nature Reserve in Mozambique. Chimanimani National Park is located south of the border city of Mutare, about 220 km(120 miles) east of Harare.

The vegetation of the park comprises a mosaic of montane grassland, savanna woodland and moist forest.

This region is recognised as a critically important botanical hotspot and according to recent studies (see the Biodiversity Foundation link below) almost 1000 plant types, of which 78 are believed to be endemic (which means they occur nowhere else), have been identified.

Most of the park lies at between 1000 and 1800 metres (3 300 – 5900 feet) and winters are cool to cold. In the summer months, temperatures are warm, but not excessively hot and the park receives between 1000 – 1200 mm (39 – 47 inches) of rain annually.

About 180 bird species have been recorded in the park and a number of small mammals including antelope occur there.

The park has few roads and is best suited to hiking, birdwatching, botanists, and anglers who visit to catch trout which were introduced about 100 years ago (trout are not indigenous to Africa). The office at the base camp provides information on areas, but if you are not familiar with the area it is recommended that you hike with a guide, especially if tackling higher ground which can be challenging.

Accommodation consists of basic camping facilities at the base camp which are charged for. It is possible to camp free within the park or stay over at the unfurnished, communal, mountain hut with basic ablution and cooking facilities at 1630m. This can sleep up to 20 people and cannot be booked exclusively. You cannot book campsites inside the park and need to be fully self-sufficient and prepared to take out whatever you bring in with you. Visitors are warned not to camp near rivers in the rainy season because of the risk of flash floods.

Mike Cadman

Mike has worked as a journalist for a variety of international and local media organisations as well as environmental NGO’s for the past 38 years and is the author of five books. During his career, he has covered all major news developments in southern Africa and has travelled extensively throughout many parts of the continent. He spends as much time as possible in the bush and has extensive knowledge of broader environmental issues as well as the creatures that live there.