Downstream from Kariba and covering an area of almost 2500sq kms, Mana Pools National Park is situated on the banks of the Zambezi River as it meanders through a shallow valley filled with islands and sandbanks for over 80 kms. The habitat is stunning – so much so that it has been declared a world heritage site – affording extra protection to its varied fauna and flora. This large area is without physical boundaries and the wildlife is free to move throughout the area – even northwards across the Zambezi River into Zambia, where there are also large wilderness areas set aside for wildlife conservation.
Mana Pools gets its name from the Shona word “Mana meaning four”. This is in reference to the four large permanent pools formed by the meanderings of the middle Zambezi. These pools are the remains of lakes that the Zambezi River carved out thousands of years ago as it changed its course northwards. ”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.
On the old river terraces, tourists can walk unaccompanied by guides in the open Albida woodland because visibility is good and there is little danger of unexpectantly coming across dangerous animals.
This privilege of walking alone in an area with dangerous wildlife is unique in Zimbabwe. 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 Albida fruit. Lions, leopards, spotted hyenas 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 carnivores.
This in conjunction with its over 350 bird species and aquatic wildlife makes it easy to see why Mana Pools is one of Zimbabwe’s most popular National Parks.
Where to stay and what to do
Why we like it – the scenery is stunning, the escarpment in the background, the Zambezi River running through the flood plains, unbelievable game and walking activities. Where else in the world can you paddle between hippo and crocodile while watching elephant drinking a few meters from you? Boat excursions and fishing, canoe trails – this park probably offers more experiences and activities then any other.
Accommodation on the Lower Zambezi, Mana Pools
On the Zambezi river
Zambezi Lifestyles Camp, Goliath Tented Camp, Vundu Tented Camp, Ruckomechi Camp
In the bush
Mobile Safari , Canoeing Safaris, Specialist Walking Safaris, Self drive
How to get there – either by road from Harare – 6 hours, or from Kariba – 2 hours. Or a charter flight from Harare / Victoria Falls or one of the other safari camps in northern Zimbabwe