While game viewing can never be guaranteed there are some trends in animal distribution, density and occurrence related to habitat types and water availability that allow an overview along the lines of the below. We have focused here on only a handful of species most generally sought after by visitors.
Elephant herds occur throughout north western and northern Zimbabwe but concentrations vary according to the season and as a result of vegetation and water availability. During the dry season elephant occur in concentrations around permanent water points such as the Zambezi River upstream of Victoria Falls, in the Mana Pools area and of course around the remaining water points in Hwange National Park. During the wet season elephants are dispersed due to water and forage abundance and the concentrations seen in the dry season are thus generally not encountered. Elephant viewing is perhaps best in Hwange at camps like Makalolo Plains, Little Makalolo and Linkwasha. Large herds utilise the water points in front of camp and even the swimming pools. While this viewing is most spectacular in the dry season it is possible all year round. Elephant viewing on the fringes of Victoria Falls town is generally of bulls, but further upstream breeding herds can be seen particularly during the dry season. Elephant viewing at Ruckomechi is good during the dry season when the pods of the albida trees and the water of the Zambezi ensure a constant presence around camp. During this time of the year walks from the Mana Canoe Trail invariably produce encounters with bulls and even herds on the banks of the Zambezi River.
Lion also occur throughout the areas in which Tracks Safaris operates in Zimbabwe. The Hwange camps (Makalolo Plains, Little Makalolo & Linkwasha) as well as Ruckomechi at Mana Pools all produce regular viewing of well known prides. In both areas Wilderness Safaris assists the national parks authorities and independent researchers in work on understanding the ecology of this species in the respective areas. Viewing also frequently takes place from either canoe or on foot on the Mana Canoe Trail.
Leopard occur throughout Zimbabwe and are viewed on a regular basis at all Zimbabwe camps. Viewing of this species is dependent on habituation and knowledge of individuals by the various camps and the best viewing often takes place when specific females have cubs. As a result the best leopard viewing is cyclical and one camp need not necessarily be best for leopard viewing throughout the year. Currently Ruckomechi is regarded as providing the best leopard viewing, while sightings at the Hwange camps are less frequent albeit on a regular basis.
Cheetah, as a smaller and more specialised predator species, are less commonly encountered than lion or spotted hyaena and to a large extent occur in those areas which have lower densities of these afore-mentioned species. As a general rule therefore wherever there are high densities of these predators, cheetah sightings are not common. Prey densities ensure the presence of predators however and in prey-rich areas all species of predators occur alongside each other, the large home ranges of cheetah allowing them to move away from areas of temporarily high predator concentrations. Cheetah are very occasionally seen on game drives from Makalolo Plains, Little Makalolo, Linkwasha and Ruckomechi.
Wild dog are similarly vulnerable to larger predator species and also occur at their highest densities in the absence of these larger predators. They also have huge home ranges and are notoriously difficult to see. The best time to see this species is during the denning season which spans the dry winter months between June and August. At this time the pack is tied to a much smaller area than normal because of the immobility of the pups and if the site of the den is known sightings can be regular. In recent years viewing in the Hwange camps has been sporadic while sightings at Ruckomechi and on the Mana Canoe Trail have been more regular.
White & Black Rhino
No rhino of either species occur at Mana Pools so cannot be seen at Ruckomechi. Black rhino are not seen in the concession areas of Makalolo or Linkwasha but a small population of white rhino is present in the area and is seen on a regular basis. In 2007 some 20 animals will be released into this area which is regarded as favourable for white rhino in particular. Some viewing takes place on foot due to the need to track these animals.
Buffalo social structure is based on either larger breeding herds of missed age and sex, or small groups of bulls. The large herds inhabit large home ranges which need not necessarily overlap the game drive areas of specific concessions on a permanent basis. Large herds do however provide consistently good viewing at both Makalolo Plains / Little Makalolo and Linkwasha. Herds are also seen regularly from Ruckomechi. Groups of bulls are seen on a regular basis throughout all the camps and also on the fringes of Victoria Falls town.
Some more specialised species sought after by visitors to Zimbabwe include Roan, Sable and Eland. All three species are regularly seen at the Hwange Camps with sable the more common of the three and roan the least. Eland, as they are everywhere may be shy of vehicles here, but can be seen in herds of up to 200 although smaller numbers are more common. Of the three only eland are encountered at Ruckomechi where regular viewing takes place during the dry season when herds and bachelor groups are drawn to the floodplain to feed on albida pods.
More common plains game species such as plains zebra, blue wildebeest, impala, warthog, giraffe, waterbuck, chacma baboons and hippo be encountered at any of the Hwange camps, while the same species (excepting wildebeest and giraffe) can also be seen at Ruckomechi.