Nyanga National Park – Eastern Highlands

by Mike Cadman

Nyanga National Park – Eastern Highlands

Located in the mountains of Zimbabwe’s Eastern Highlands the Nyanga National Park is a place of high peaks, clear cold streams, waterfalls, rainforest and rolling high-altitude grasslands. It lies about 82 km north of the city of Mutare, which is approximately 220 km (120 miles) east of Harare.

Zimbabwe’s highest mountain, the Nyangani Massif (2 592 m – 8 503 feet), and Mtazari Waterfall, which plunges 380 meters (1 246 feet) and is the highest in the country, are two of the central geographic features of this national park which is one of the oldest in Zimbabwe.

Several rivers, the Pungwe, the Nyangombe and the Gairezi, rise in the north of the park and many streams throughout the park are fed by run off from the Nyanga Mountains. Numerous waterfalls are found throughout the 330 km2 (121 miles2) park.

Temperatures at higher areas in winter are cool to cold and frost is common, although the lower areas of the park sometimes experience high temperatures in summer.

The vegetation in the park is diverse with high-altitude forest growing on the slopes of the mountains, and grasslands covering the rolling hills and some valleys. A variety of woodland types are found elsewhere.

Exotic pine and wattle trees have invaded large grassland areas of the park, but authorities maintain regular clearing programs to try and control these trees.

Kudu, wildebeest, klipspringer, and other antelope are found in the park as well as leopards and smaller predators including genets.  More than 300 species of birds, some specific to the region, have been identified in the park. Birders travel to the park specifically to look for Gurney’s sugarbird which feeds on proteas and aloes, the Chirinda appalis and Swynnerton’s robin which inhabit the forested areas and the blue swallow, a migrant that moves across the African continent and breeds mostly in the Eastern Highlands of Zimbabwe.

Trout, which were introduced to the area about 100 years ago, (trout are not indigenous to Africa) are found in many streams and dams in the area, a drawcard for fly fishermen during the fishing season from November to the end of May.

The region has a long history of human occupation dating back to the early Stone Age. The Ziwa Museum site just outside the park covers a large area and preserves a wide range of cultural artifacts including Stone Age tools, rock art, and remains of structures as well as the evidence of more recent Iron Age furnaces used for iron smelting and the manufacture of iron tools.

The rugged nature of the park and the complex biodiversity attracts hikers, birders, anglers, and botanists. There are several rest camps with chalets and camping sites in the park and a number of lodges and other types of accommodation in the area.

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.