Chikombedzi — ONE of Zimbabwe's leading tourist attractions, the Gonarezhou National Park, has embraced solar energy in the wake of insufficient electricity supply in the Southern African country.
Park operators are making the most of the vast sunshine available, with the 5 000-square kilometre animal sanctuary located in one of the hottest regions.
The Lowveld, located in geographical region 5, is characterised by hot and sunny weather throughout the year.
"We are fast moving away from ZESA (Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority)," said Alvious Mpofu, Senior area manager at the park.
"In fact, at all our new lodges and guest houses that are under construction, we are going to use solar energy."
Mpofu also highlighted that indirectly, the park was helping combat deforestation.
"There is no cutting down of trees like what happens when constructing a power line. Our lodges are distant apart from each other, which would result in deforestation if power lines were to be set up," he said.
"Should we want to connect electricity, we have to clear the bush killing flora and fauna along the way. There is also a lot of money and labour needed to complete such a task," Mpofu added.
In addition to the insufficient power supply at the park, elephants were adding to the challenges by felling power lines.
"This was causing serious power outages hence inconveniencing our clients. With the use of solar energy, we have sufficient power without any outages," Mpofu explained.
Solar panels are fitted on top of lodges and guest houses.
All facilities use gas for cooking.
"We don't allow our visitors to cut down trees. We fitted all our kitchen compartments at all our lodges and guest houses with gas stoves," Mpofu emphasised.
Situated southeast of the country, Gonarezhou is the second largest conservancy after Hwange, in the west.
Chiredzi district, situated southeast of Zimbabwe, Masvingo province houses Gona reZhou, which forms one of the world's largest joint parks under 35,000 km² Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park.
The Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park comprise the Limpopo National Park (formerly known as Coutada 16) in Mozambique, Kruger National Park in South Africa and Gonarezhou National Park, Manjinji Pan Sanctuary and Malipati Safari Area in Zimbabwe, as well as the area between Kruger and Gonarezhou, the Sengwe communal land in Zimbabwe and the Makuleke region in South Africa.
The Southern African Development Community (SADC) region and world's largest park is home to the Big Five game animals such as lions, leopards, rhinoceros, elephants and buffaloes.