Mana Pools National Park

Mana Pools is the ideal place to get close to nature. It is a truly remote park, far from any major town or human settlement. The national park is home to magnificent and enormous elephants that return year after year to the same places and are well known to the locals in the area. During the winter months, Mana Pools has the highest concentration of game in the entire continent of Africa. Both walking and canoe safaris are available.

About Mana Pools National Park

After Lake Kariba comes the lower Zambezi valley and here you will find the Mana Pools National Park. The river spreads out over a floodplain and forms pools, oxbow lakes and other formations. There are four main pools, with Long Pool being the largest, and lots of smaller ones. The flora and fauna of this area are outstanding and it’s a very popular area for either walking safaris or canoe safaris, both excellent ways to get close to the wild animals in a safe way. Bird watchers can try and spot one of the 380 different species of bird including the Livingstone’s flycatcher and the banded snake eagle. In the Mana Pools area, you can stay in a traditional safari camp in tents with no electricity or running water, a truly eco-friendly holiday.

Situated in the extreme north of Zimbabwe, Mana Pools is part of the 10,500 square kilometre Parks and Wildlife Estate that runs along the Zambezi River from the Kariba Dam in the west to the Mozambique border in the east.

This unique park has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, based on its wildness and beauty as well as the wide range of large mammals, over 350 bird species and aquatic wildlife. It is a large area is without physical boundaries and the wildlife is free to move throughout the region - even northwards across the Zambezi River into Zambia, where there are also large wilderness areas set aside for wildlife conservation.

Four main pools and several smaller pools are scattered along the river course and the cliffs hanging over the river and floodplains provide shelter to a large and varied wildlife population. The landscape includes islands and sandbanks fringed by dense forests of baobabs and indigenous trees, as well as the rugged Zambezi escarpment. Hippopotamus, crocodiles and a wide variety of aquatic birds are associated with the pools. ''Long Pool'', is the largest of the four pools, extending some six kilometres in a west-east direction. This pool has a large population of hippo and crocodiles and is a favourite for the large herds of elephant that come out of the thickly vegetated areas in the south to drink.

One of Africa's Most Renowned Game-viewing Areas

Mana Pools Elephants with their calvesThe park is in a region of the lower Zambezi River in Zimbabwe where the flood plain turns into a broad expanse of lakes after each rainy season. Mana means ‘four’ in Shona, in reference to the four large permanent pools formed by the meanderings of the middle Zambezi.

As the lakes gradually dry up and recede, the region attracts many large animals in search of water, making it one of Africa’s most renowned game-viewing areas. It has the country’s biggest concentration of hippopotamuses and crocodiles and large dry season mammal populations of elephant and buffalo.

On the old river terraces, tourists can walk unaccompanied by guides in the open woodland because visibility is good and there is little danger of unexpectedly coming across dangerous animals. Elephant, eland, buffalo, impala, waterbuck, baboons, monkeys, zebra, warthog and hippo are some of the larger herbivores to be seen regularly on the river terraces as they come out to eat the fallen fruit of the tree Faidherbia albida.

Lions, leopards, spotted hyaena and cheetah are present in the area, but their secretive nature makes them more difficult to see. Despite this, it is not often that the visitor leaves Mana Pools without seeing at least one of these large predators.

The Best Time to Visit Mana Pools

For comfort, March to August is perhaps the best time to visit Mana Pools. The temperatures are moderate and the climate is warm and dry. September and October are the best months of the valley for game viewing as the animals come to the river to drink. September is warm and October is hot with clear blue skies. The rainy season from November to February is hot but cooled by frequent thunder storms

Facilities

Tourist facilities include lodges, a communal campsite with ablution facilities and exclusive campsites where the visitor can be alone.

Lodges
There are 5 lodges in the Park, all located along the Zambezi River. There are 2 large lodges situated a short distance upstream from Nyamepi Camp, Musangu and Muchichiri. These lodges have a bathroom and shower with hot and cold running water; 2 toilets and a fully kitted kitchen with stove and deep-freeze and all utensils such as cutlery, crockery and cooking utensils. All bedding and towels, etc are supplied. There is a large dining room and lounge, an outside braai area with seating where one can view the river and the wildlife coming down to drink or simply watch the African sun setting over the Zambezi River.

There are also 3 four-bedded lodges, all under thatch. Each lodge has 2 bedrooms with 2 beds each, a shower and toilet and seating areas outside near the Zambezi River. The kitchen is supplied with a deep-freezer, cooker, crockery and cutlery and other cooking implements. Bedding and towels, etc are supplied.

Curious Mana Pools ElephantsCamping Sites
There is one large communal campsite along the Zambezi River, and a number of exclusive campsites where visitors can ensure their solitude.

Communal Campsite
The Nyamepi Camp camping area located along the Zambezi River is situated near the Mana Pools National Park reception office. Visitors need to bring their own camping equipment, bedding, toiletries, cooking implements, etc. There are ablution blocks nearby with hot and cold running water, flush toilets and laundry basins. Visitors can buy firewood at the reception office, and each campsite has a braai area. This camping ground has 30 sites.

Exclusive Campsites
There are a number of exclusive campsites situated along the Zambezi River. These camps are for the visitor who seeks solitude and who wants to truly experience the wildness and challenges of the bush. There is a braai stand at each site and rudimentary toilet. Water is collected from the river or the reception office. Visitors to these sites need to be fully self-equipped and be able to handle the remoteness and solitude of these unique camps. The camps are only allowed 2 vehicles and 12 persons per stay. Water may be drawn from the river

Mucheni
8 kilometres west of Nyamepi and has 4 secluded camp site

Nkupe
Just over 1 kilometre east of Nymepi and has 1 camp site

Ndungu
Just east of the carpark area and has 2 campsites

Gwaya
A short distance upstream from the lodges has 1 campsite, with cold-water shower, flush toilet and basin and a braai stand.

Wild Exclusive Camp Sites
There are 2 completely wild camping sites located in the southern sector of the Park - close to Chitake Spring, near the foothills of the Zambezi Escarpment. The check-in point for these camps is at Nyakasikana Gate. Both campsites are without any facilities and are accessible only with four-wheel drive vehicles.

Chitake Camp 1 (Nzou)
Located 150 metres downstream from the Chitake River crossing under a large Natal Mahogany near the river.

Chitake Camp 2 (Shumba)
Situated on top of a small hill near a number of baobab trees and has a magnificent view south to the escarpment, north to the far off Zambezi, east to Mangangai and west to the Rukomechi River. The camp is about 1 kilometre from the spring.

Activities

The following are some of the main activities offered at Mana Pools National Park:

Camping
Available around the Park at developed, minimum development and exclusive sites

CanoeingCanoeing
Canoeing on the Zambezi is a favourite activity in Mana Pools and affords an unparalleled opportunity to experience the river.

Guided Walks
Visitors can hire qualified armed Parks staff to take them for game viewing on foot .

Walking Safaris
These safaris are offered at full moon. Parks staff will take visitors on a 3 day hike in the wild of Mana Pools National Park. Visitors will need to be fit, provide their own rucksacks, food and toiletries. This is a unique experience for the nature lover and those who enjoy the challenge of facing nature one on one.

Lion Tracking
This is a limited activity whilst the lion research project at Mana Pools is in progress. Visitors can join Parks staff as they track radio-collared lions on foot. Visitors are guaranteed a close view of the lions in most instances. This activity is unique and also assists in data collection for research projects.

Fishing
Visitors can fish in the Zambezi River and experience the excitement of hooking large fish for the pot. Half of the joy is experiencing the quiet, solitude and beauty of the unspoiled bush around you.

Game Drives
Usually most rewarding in the early morning and late afternoon. Long Pool is often worth visiting soon after sunrise.

Amenities
The Park is generally remote and far from any business centre. The nearest shops and fuel supplies are nearly 100 kilometres away, therefore visitors should be fully equipped for their visit.

Why Visit Mana Pools?

  • The unique guided and self-guided walks in the Park amongst many wild animals
  • Renowned ''World Heritage Site''
  • One of the world's wildest and preserved natural ecological areas
  • Rated the 5th Best Park in Africa by Getaway magazine (September 2003)
  • Excellent canoeing and river fishing
  • The remnant pools of the mighty Zambezi River are a marvel to watch as a prime habitat for several bird and mamal species

Information and images kindly contributed by www.zimparks.org and www.wildzambezi.com