Case Study – Chizarira National Park
Chizarira National Park is situated on top of the great Zambezi Escarpment, overlooking the upper waters of Kariba and the mighty Zambezi Valley. As Zimbabwe's third biggest National Park, Chizarira is likely the most remote wilderness countrywide, going from low-veld valley vegetation with Mopane timberlands and Baobabs, to high-veld wide leaf Miombo forests. It is undoubtedly one of the most sensational and far off wild territories and, undeniably, one of the most breath-taking scenes with the most amazing perspectives accessible in the country.
National Park Rescue have been working with ZimParks in Chizarira since early 2018. The park had suffered from a lack of investment for many years, meaning that staffing levels were low, poaching levels were high and much of the infrastructure was defunct. Working with ZimParks, we have completely overhauled the law enforcement capacity of the park, providing training and equipment to the rangers, building and repairing infrastructure, and integrating the surrounding communities through employment and commerce. As a result, Chizarira is beginning to thrive once more: over 60 people now work in the park, the infrastructure is working well, animals that were afraid of people only three years ago can now be seen in abundance, and poaching levels are way down.
- Chizarira National Park falls under Zimparks, a government authority dedicated to the conservation of land, wildlife, botanical gardens & reserves, and sanctuaries in Zimbabwe, with head offices in Harare. NPR’s management headquarters is also outside of the park, this means a constant communication link between Chizarira National Park, Zimparks’ HQ and NPR HQ was necessary to allow exchange of critical data and information.
- Slow connection speeds and high metered data costs limited interaction with the world outside of Chizarira. Like other areas and national parks, Chizarira needed high-speed, cost-effective connectivity to the rest of the world – without limits on data volumes.
- Long lead times for installation of Fibre and LTE infrastructure are the rule in the area that we operate, as Chizarira is very remote. Chizarira required local presence and international connectivity and satellite was undoubtedly the best option.
- Internet access is becoming an absolute necessity for business travellers and some leisure tourists, as well as conservation practitioners. Many travellers have children, parents, other relatives and friends back home that may need to stay in touch. They want to connect via Skype, watch movies online, capture live videos and share them on social media. They should be able do these things, and check for emergency e-mails and such other communication, without hassle while in the National Park.
- Our main goal is a National Park experience where exploring the outdoors doesn’t have a time limit, and we can connect from anywhere, reliably.
- As many parts of the park are out of cell phone reception area, access to Wi-Fi is necessary to help staff communicate with the outside world and visitors make emergency calls, situate themselves when they are lost, or look up wilderness survival tips. From an operational perspective, having fast and secure communications is vital for keeping the park rangers, staff and visitors safe.
- We also hope that being able to advertise high quality wifi will help to increase park visits, as many visitors wish to stay connected for personal or business reasons while enjoying their safari excursions, while the inevitable social media shares have the potential to increase public awareness of the park and inspire a few additional visits from behind-the-screen audiences.
- By enabling email, online video conferencing and a host of other social media elements that, today, define human interaction, satellite internet connectivity has afforded Chizarira, an isolated wilderness park, a sense of identity and inclusion, while also enabling learning, basic administration and tourism success.
- During the pandemic, when the park has been even more cut off from the outside world than usual, having fast and reliable internet has allowed park staff to stay in contact with management and with their families. Never has connectivity been more important than during this pandemic, and we have been able to rely on Zodsat to keep us connected.
- We discovered our visitors shared a love of the outdoors, but couldn’t stay in the national park for more than a few days due to internet that would not even load a web page. Satellite connectivity addressed the need for predictable, quality internet in the park, allowing visitors to experience the outdoors we love, for longer periods of time, and with the untethered freedom of exploring confidently. Now our internet serves park staff and visitors every month in probably the remotest national parks in the country.
- Using Zodsat as our internet service provider, Chizarira National Park enjoys high-speed connectivity that allows knowledge sharing between staff and other institutions in the parks and wildlife industry. At the same time, it saves money and predictable invoices make budgeting easy. They offer 25 Mbps download speeds and 10Mbps upload speeds, as quick as you would expect on your computer back home. It can be used for everything from downloading emails to uploading photos and videos to social media.
- It seems that it would be the opportune time, especially, as international tourists are inspired and motivated to check out national parks, to make sure that our parks’ trails, roads and buildings can accommodate their needs. Chizarira National Park is meant for disconnecting but the convenience and connectivity that the internet offers can has proven to be helpful for both our staff and visitors.
Zodsat provided Chizarira National Park with:
- VSAT Internet and installation of the equipment in one complete package
- Cost efficient solutions for the park’s broadband needs allowing staff and clients the data volumes they need
- 24/7 tech support from in-house Zodsat experts
Whenever we have needed them, Zodsat have responded to our queries immediately. But most importantly, we have not had to worry about connectivity at a time when there are so many other concerns.