Mukuvisi Woodland is one of the few places in the city where you get the feel of town and the wilderness at the same time. Situated in Hillside and boasting more than 300 species of indigenous trees and animals, visitors can really experience the beauty of nature without leaving the city limits.
To set the park in context, here is a brief history. In 1940, Douglas Aylen, who used to picnic on the rocks by the waterfall, realised the land could be used as a recreational area. He lead the campaign to preserve the area from housing development. However it was only in May 1979 that the Makabusi Woodland Association was formed, with one of its expressed objectives being to provide nature conservation education. Just over a year later, on 14 July 1980, a 33-year lease between the Makabusi Woodland Association and the Municipality of Salisbury was signed. This was later extended to a 99-year lease. In 1981 by-laws were put in place to ensure the protection of the area, making activities such as damage to flora and fauna, hunting and pollution an offence. The by-laws also meant that wardens were appointed and empowered to protect the area. In 1982 a dam was constructed on the Chiraura River, one of the two rivers running through the park and a year later the Game Viewing Platform overlooking a small dam, called The Pan, was constructed. That same year seven sable were released into the woodlands from Ingezi Park in Mhondoro by the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Management. It was in 1983 that the name changed to the Mukuvisi Woodlands. In 1984 President Canaan Banana and Mrs Chitepo officially opened the Game Viewing Platform. In 1991 the David Shepherd Wildfowl and Close Encounter was opened and in 2005, as part of the Woodlands’ 25th Anniversary celebrations, Minister of Environment, Francis Nhema opened the Bird Hide, which overlooks another small dam.
What’s on offer
Today, the Mukuvisi Woodlands offers a variety of activities including student attachment programmes, and volunteer opportunities. For the general public there are horseback safaris, pony rides, bird-walks and guided safari-walks. There is a coffee shop that serves meals and snacks every day of the year. Cars are not allowed to be driven in the park as this would disturb the animals and the quiet environment.
Strong education focus
The Mukuvisi Education Centre motto is My environment, My future, My responsibility. Estate manager Mathew Hativagone and the environment education co-ordinator, Gibson Nhokwara define their main target audience as school children from grade zero to secondary level and at times colleges and universities. They run guided educational tours with students from schools in and around Harare. There is a growing Eco-Schools Programme which encourages environment projects within schools.
A number of environmental organisations also operate out of Mukuvisi. Campfire, the Orchid Society, Action Magazine, the Zambezi Society and Wildlife and Environmental Zimbabwe all have their offices there. Human Wildlife Conflict Management launched their EU-funded project there at the end of February.
What can you see?
Impala, eland, zebra, giraffe and reptiles such as crocodiles and snakes are a few of the animals that call the woodland home. And there are plenty of birds – the quick sighted could find as many as 300 species there. There are more than 143 identified species of indigenous trees including musasa, muhacha and munhondo. Exotic trees are not welcome and are often used for firewood. A guide to the trees, which have been numbered, and their important uses can be found at the reception.
Two orphaned elephants were once a strong attraction for Mukuvisi but as they reached teenage years they caused too much damage to the woodland trees and they were transferred. They can now be seen at Antelope Park in Gweru. Two young giraffes, 5 eland, 4 zebra and 4 wildeest were recently born at the Mukuvisi Woodlands and joined the growing family. Visitors are reminded that the animals in the park are wild, “so one should treat them with respect and be cautious when approaching them. Don’t do things like trying to pat them,” says Hativagone. Another suggestion for visitors is to wear dull colours to be camouflaged from the animals. The park is also insistent that visitors should not create litter nor feed the animals. “Take nothing and leave only footprints,” they say.
Mukuvisi Woodlands has come a long way since the 1940s and is still going strong today. The wardens and management work tirelessly to keep the area preserved.
Reference: Buckle, C. (2010) History of the Mukuvisi Woodlands, 1910-2010.
The Mukuvisi Woodlands Walk/Run takes place on both the second and last Sundays of every month. You may start any time between 6.30 to 10.30am.Adults are $5, and children $2. Dogs on leashes $1.