Mana Pools National Park, deservedly a UNESCO world heritage site, is synonymous with the Zambezi River, elephants, lions, and remote wilderness.
Mana Pools National Park
The name “Mana” means “four” in the local Shona language and it refers to the four large pools inland from the Zambezi River. These remnant ox-bow lakes have been carved out over thousands of years as the mighty Zambezi River changed its course on its way to the Indian Ocean. Scars of the past, today the pools are an inherent feature in this wild paradise. Away from the Zambezi, where pools dry up during the dry season, wildlife concentrates around a few inland pans and springs at the foot of the Zambezi escarpment. Here lions lie in wait for thirsty prey and visitors are most often rewarded with incredible sightings of these predators in action.
Mana Pools is part of the 10,500 square kilometre Parks and Wildlife Estate that runs from the Kariba Dam in the west to the Mozambique border in the east. 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.
Hippopotamus, crocodiles and a wonderful variety of aquatic birds frequent the pools. ”Long Pool”, is the largest of the four, extending almost 6 kilometers. This pool has a large population of hippo and crocodiles and is a favourite for large herds of elephant that come out of the thickly vegetated areas in the south to drink.
As one moves north towards the Zambezi River from the forests on the Karoo sediments, the vegetation changes to open Faidherbia albida woodlands on the old river terraces. Beneath the wooded canopy where a surreal light filters through the trees giving Mana Pools its distinctive cathedral-like atmosphere – one feels sacred and soulful and privileged to witness this quiet beauty.
On the old river terraces, tourists can walk in the open Albida woodland because visibility is good and there is little danger of unexpectedly coming across dangerous animals. This great privilege of walking 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 hyena 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.
Northwards, off the river terraces, the mighty Zambezi River flows sedately on its way to the Indian Ocean. This now tranquil river was a major route for the trade in ivory and slaves in the dark past.
When To Visit
When to Visit
Mana Pools access is seasonal. Heavy rainy seasons prohibit travel and activity between December and March. Whilst some camps may be open during this period, activities may be limited and guests are guaranteed wet weather. From a photographic point of view the most rewarding photographs in Mana Pools for example are to be taken in January and February. The contrast of the vegetation with the clear light conditions is extraordinary.
Remote. Vehicle transfers available form Harare – travel time approximately 6.5 hours. Air charter is the preferred access and routes to Mana from around the country, including from Harare to Mana Main Airport, are readily available.
Walking, hiking, game driving, birding, canoeing