Mana Pools National Park, a World Heritage Site, is a beautiful wilderness area in northern Zimbabwe.
The park extends from the mighty Zambezi River back to the Zambezi Valley escarpment and is one of Africa true ‘gems’. The floodplains of the Zambezi are wooded with acacia and mahogany trees, and stretch out on either side of the river. During the dry season, the floodplains teem with a wide variety of wildlife and birdlife. Herds of elephant, buffalo, kudu, eland, and waterbuck graze the sweet grasses or browse on the tasty albida pods. Lion rest in the shade of the giant figs.
Fringing the floodplains, the thick ‘Jesse’ bush shelters the shy creatures such as leopard, honey badger, nyala and bushbuck. Wild dog roam through the area, and crocodiles bask in the shallows, awaiting their chance of a meal when the animals report to quench their thirst. Hippo are everywhere, and the birdlife is impressive. During the late season (late August onwards), both white fronted and carmine bee-eaters nest in the banks of the river providing a colourful spectacle.
Activities include game drives by day, walks, canoeing and fishing. Outside the park itself, or in limited private concession areas, motorised boat cruises and night drives are also possible (limited camps). Walking safaris often form a significant part of a Mana Pools safari as the walking habitat is excellent along the river and some well-known safari guides have the experience to walk guests up to big game, including some very relaxed old bull elephants. Mana Pools is also known for its healthy wild dog population and remains one of the best places in Africa to observe these fascinating predators.
Most camps are set on the Zambezi, with direct access to the core game-viewing areas along the floodplains. However as the dry season progresses three ‘inland’ locations, Kanga Pan, Kavinga Pan and Chitake Springs provide much needed water for wildlife, and are worth visiting. In September and October in particular, wildlife from a wide area is drawn to these water sources and game-viewing can be superb without even venturing out on game drives! There are good camps at both Kanga Pan and Kavinga Pan, whilst the more remote Chitake can be visited on a private camping trip. For an insight to what these water holes can be like at the end of the dry season, please see our short film on Kavinga, taken in early November 2019.