Mana Pools National Park
Top Attractions in Mana Pools National Park
Mana Pools National Park
Welcome to Mana Pools National Park! Undoubtedly one of Africa’s finest and most glamorous virgin well-maintained Africa Safari Park. The park is jam-packed with flawless features that leaves all its visitors speechless, for its beauty is fresh and colourful to the eyes that behold. A slice of paradise if we may. The breath-taking scenery in this Zambezi valley consists of the legendary four pristine sparkling “Mana” pools (meaning four in the local Shona language).
The park gets its name from these four pools comprising of Main, Chine, Chisambuk and Long pool with the latter being the largest of them all being overly 6 km in length. The pools formed as a result of over a millennium change of course of the Zambezi River northwards to Mozambique resulting into these phenomenally beautiful small oxbow lakes. The fertile strip of the park is effortlessly decorated with rich ageless forests of beautifully canopied tall large trees of mahogany, winter thorn, ebony, fig, apple-ring acacia and Albida. The dreamlike lighting that penetrates through these emerald green thick African forest canopies create a psychedelic cathedral like African jungle ambiance that is incomparable. The park takes it a notch higher where its rolling short of divine beauty is gift-wrapped by the mighty blue sparkling Zambezi River on the northern flank and an over-the-top rift valley emerald green cliff which rises up to 1,000 m on its southern flank, pure hair raising bliss.
How come this Africa jungle beauty has maintained its remote glamorous pristine status from time immemorial. Historically, Mana Pools National Park was originally inhabited by Bushmen whose proof of inhabiting the expanse exists in the park’s precinct to date in 4 different places where you can still view their cave paintings. Then in 1952 it was more of a hunting area and due to the destructive nature of the activity in 1963 the area was gazetted as a game reserve to mitigate the destructive effects of hunting. A few years later it was established as a national park under the parks and wildlife act of Zimbabwe in 1975 managed by the Zimbabwean Department of National Parks and Wildlife.
Due to its sheer beauty and biodiversity in 1984 together with Chewore and Sapi Safari Areas it was inscribed as single UNESCO World Heritage site. In 2012, this was the first national park of Zimbabwe’s national parks to implement the admirable “carry in – carry out” rubbish policy, which is rigidly enforced to date. In the following year The Mana Pools were designated a Ramsar wetland of international importance on 3 January 2013, an international treaty for the conservation and sustainable use of wetlands.
Mana Pools National Park occupies around about 2,200 km2 of land, at an altitude ranging between (360- 1224) m. The park is surrounded by safari concessions that act as an effective safeguard between human activities and the wildlife. This classic wilderness considered by many to be the Jewel of Zimbabwe and an African Treasure! is located right in the core of a network of protected areas in Zimbabwe. It stretches from Kariba to the Mozambique border, measuring well over 20 000 km². It is specifically google pinned 110 km downstream from Kariba Dam between 15° 37′ to 16° 25′ S & 29° 08′ to 30° 20′ E in Northern Zimbabwe, Mashonaland West Province and falls under the influence of the Hurungwe Rural District Council along the Zambezi River right opposite the Lower Zambezi National Park in Zambia. Approximately around about 15 km north of the Harare-Lusaka highway with the closest towns being Chirundu on the Zambian side and Kariba.
The Mana Pool theatrical wildlife show doesn’t stop with its epic features! The prolific animal and bird fairs of mana pools are such a show, for here you will witness what eyes have not yet seen and hear the African wildlife symphony ears have not yet heard. The diverse habitats of Mana Pools National Park are laden with perennial waters of mana pools and Zambezi River coupled with its plentiful forage that sustains the prolific wildlife spectacle here.
Mana Pools National Park has four of the African big five (buffalo, elephant, leopard and lion). Poaching activities decimated the numbers of rhinos in its precinct and the surviving 10 were transferred to the intensive protection zone (IPZ) within Matusadona National Park for conservation purposes.
The park has the highest concentration of Hippopotamuses and the Nile crocodiles’ in Zimbabwe! That said the large Mana elephant bulls are well-known for standing on their hind legs to reach up high into the Acacia Albida trees for the protein-rich apple-peel like pods. These iconic elephants keep coming back to this expanse year in year out and most of them are known by the guides and likewise they know the guides, a situation that enables composed close encounters with them on foot. Their large herds are mainly found at their favourite water hole of long pool in company of equally large herds of hippos.
Several other herbivores like the Burchell’s zebras, buffalos, elands, Greater kudu, impala, warthogs and common waterbucks are a plentiful and commonly sighted grazing and browsing in the park’s precinct. Not forgetting primates like monkeys and baboons are as well a common sighting in mana pools. These herbivores that are plenty in number equally attract plentiful of predators like lions, cheetahs, African dogs (100’s of them) and leopards.
So there is plenty of bloody adrenaline pumping dinner acquisition action that awaits you in these pristine remote jungles of Mana Pools National Park. The park’s sheer finery coupled with its prolific wildlife make it undoubtedly an absolute number one African safari destination. Amidst the teeming wildlife, conspicuously Giraffes and Wildebeests are absent from the park and the conspiracy theory as to why these two animals have never come to the park, is that their physique cannot enable them make it over the Zambezi rift valley escarpment.
For a wild out phenomenal wildlife display the months of July and October are spot on, for the animals always flock the perennial mana pools during the dry season that it is around about these months since other watering holes would have dried up and the undergrowth vegetation of the park would have thinned, enabling an impeccable game view.
Mana Pools National Park is blessed with several diverse habitats that sustains well over 380 species of migratory, residential, terrestrial and aquatic birds, an exploit that makes the park a birders haven. That said avid birders and regular visitors alike should gear up for the prolific lovely feather festival of sights, colours and sounds of birds like the skilful African Skimmers that nest on sandbanks mid-River, the Martial Eagles picking up dinner (fish) from the Zambezi waters, the guinea fowls, the bright coloured flocks of Lillian Lovebirds, storks, white-backed night herons, scarlet carmine bee-eaters on the River banks, the elusive pel’s fishing owl.
The Inland birds commonly sighted are the banded snake eagles, Livingstone’s flycatchers, nyasa lovebirds, yellow-spotted nicators and white-collared pratincoles. The River shorelines are synonymous with storks, cormorants, darters, African fish eagles and kingfishers perched in trees above the the zambezi River waters. Birding in this area is remarkable owing to the beautiful picturesque and the fact that the activity incorporates canoeing and boat cruises that give birding a fresh twist. The April season is epic for birding for it is the end of the wet season and plentiful summer Eurasia migrant birds are lured to the park by food and breeding habitats.
Mana Pools National Park being a terrestrial and aquatic park at the same time a sensitive biosphere, several eco-friendly activities are carried out with the utmost courtesy possible. Canoeing is the foremost activity of the park coupled with bush walking as it’s the only park in Africa that allows unguided bush walks. Of course game drives, birding, camping, fishing, photography, animal tracking are all carried out in the precinct of this park but gingerly not to threaten the delicate bionetwork of the park.
When you visit! please don’t forget to visit the Chitake Spring located south of the park, here remains of dinosaur skeletons have recently been discovered entrenched in deep layers of rocks exposed in the eroded bank of a nearby River.
Things To Do in Mana Pools National Park
Boat cruises and other activities along the Zambezi River banks offer an incredible opportunity for bird watching showcasing an astonishing amount of diverse bird species. Mana Pool is home to well over 380 bird species terrestrial, aquatic, resident and migratory alike. The Zambezi River and the floodplains provide the ideal habitat for the bird’s nesting and feeding. Therefore, avid birders and regular visitors alike should gear up for the prolific lovely feather festival of sights, colours and sounds of birds like the skilful African Skimmers that nest on sandbanks mid-River, the Martial Eagles picking up dinner (fish) from the Zambezi waters, the guinea fowls, the bright coloured flocks of Lillian Lovebirds, storks, white-backed night herons, scarlet carmine bee-eaters on the River banks, the elusive pel’s fishing owl. The Inland birds commonly sighted are the banded snake eagles, Livingstone’s flycatchers, nyasa lovebirds, yellow-spotted nicators and white-collared pratincoles. The River shorelines are synonymous with storks, cormorants, darters, African fish eagles and kingfishers perched in trees above the the zambezi River waters. Birding in this area is remarkable owing to the beautiful picturesque and the fact that the activity incorporates canoeing and boat cruises that give birding a fresh twist. The April season is epic for birding for it is the end of the wet season and plentiful summer Eurasia migrant birds are lured to the park by food and breeding habitats.
Canoe Safari is one of the major activities in Mana Pools National Park and rightfully so, for the Zambezi River which is the fourth largest in Africa meandering through six countries to empty into the Indian ocean has without reservation blessed this park like no other with a large wilderness. This has translated into an enormous biodiversity hotspot it shares with the lower Zambezi national park in Zambia just across the River. This affords the visitors an up-close encounter with wildlife crisscrossing the River between the two parks. Paddling down the River is an exciting mixture that involves being relaxed, terrified and revitalised, all in one trip. For every second that passes there is an unscripted wildlife action taking off in the waters, one minute you will be easily paddling enjoying the breeze down the River, next you come face to face with a grumpy hippo, then an exhilarating herd of elephants crossing the River or munching on one of the island forage, the hippos half submerged, crocodiles sunbathing, the sunsets, the prolific water birds. Of course this comes with stop overs at islands and vintage points to stretch, have photographic moments and catch a bite. It doesn’t get any better canoeing anywhere else in the world than at Mana Pools. For the extra daring visitors an option of a multi-day canoe trips down the River is arranged. The most popular route for such daring visitors is the Tamarind canoe safaris route (75 km) that spans 4 days beginning from the border town of Chirundu in Zambia and ending in Mana Pools. Perfect for an authentic safari arrival into Mana Pools just like it was done back in the golden explorer era of colonial safaris.
Camping at Mana Pools is such a thrill irrespective of the camping site, whether it’s the exclusive ones or common space ones, for they are all amazingly laden with outpouring beauty tinted with watering holes and the Zambezi River view. It’s an experience that truly immerses visitors in the true wilderness that Mana Pools National Park is. For the night African symphony show is on, in the background of the moon lit River all draped in the expansive star decorated beautiful dark African skies. Not forgetting the beautiful warm African sunsets. The wildlife here knows it has guest who mean well, so they won’t shy away hence they will be dropping by to say hello every now and then. Of course the bush dinners, coffee or gin coupled with an open space shower are just impeccable and such a diaper in this remote part of town.
Mana Pools is an unrivalled African walking safari destination. For the park is remote and oozing with untold beauty coupled with prolific wildlife in all corners of the park, hence one is assured of having a close encounter with an animal of their choice. All in the comfort of the forest canopies filtering the unrelenting sun of Africa. Furthermore, the guides of Zimbabwe are incredible to say the least and will aid the visitors on where to find the various animals. The icing on the cake is the park even allows for unguided walks, an unprecedented move if we may. This makes Mana Pools the first and only one in Africa to have such an adventure.
Lion tracking in Mana Pools is a limited activity where visitors are guaranteed a close view and encounter with the lions on request. This activity is rare and its mostly a research activity or documentary activity collecting data on the big cats.
The Zambezi River is laden with fish hence the visitors of Mana Pools can partake in this tranquil meditative activity to catch fish for dinner or purely as sport catch and release, the choice is for the visitors to make. As for Mana Pools it gives the visitor access to the fish loaded ancient bellies of Zambezi River. It is a joyful activity for it gives one ample time to soak in all the untamed beauty rolling on the River and its shores whilst tanning.
Whitewater Rafting on Zambezi River
Mana Pools National Park offers visitors access to the mighty River Zambezi which has one of the finest rafting courses in Africa with several rapids lined along its course. The main challenge is rafting not an all year activity on the River. In order to take part in a white-water rafting tour one needs to descend down a steep and not always easy-going descent into the Gorge to their boat and at the end of the of course tiring raft run one need to get out of the gorge. This requires tenacity and grit not a cup of tea for all.
Boat cruises provide a fresh exotic experience when at Mana Pools. For as one glides quietly along the tranquil Zambezi waterways obviously enjoying close wild encounters with water birds and wildlife crossing from one park to another. Visitors will not only be charmed but hypnotised by the seemingly floating beauty that they will fully immerse in as they sip their favourite drink while being warmed by the sunset rays or sundown rays. Choose to explore the River on float boats or via speedboats, although park regulations limit the areas where speedboats are allowed.
Chitake Springs located south of the park is a fascinating tranquil archaeological site within the precincts of the park. At the site one will come in close contact with dinosaur fossils that have been exposed by a nearby River erosion. It’s being close to perennial water source means its environs are beautiful dotted with wildlife hence offering stunning close encounter wildlife views.
It is in one of the many Mana Pools exclusive unfenced campsites along the Zambezi River. It offers its visitors an exotic wild experience in exclusivity. Just the visitor, wild animals, the ancient Rivers and forests. It as well offers an opportune moment to act as the biblical edam and Eve in the gardens of eve before they ate the forbidden fruit, to take that long dreamt of wild open air warm shower without a care as well as a candle lit bubble bath along the Zambezi Riverside.
Best Time To Go
How to get Here
All visitors to Mana Pools National Park must check in and obtain an entry permit at the ZPWMA Zambezi Valley HQ at Marongora (GPS Reference: 16⁰13′23.86″S 29⁰09′41.11″E) at the top of the Zambezi escarpment, BEFORE descending the hills and turning right at the first entry gate. Without this permit, the gate officers will send visitors back up the hill to Marongora to collect one! On arrival at Mana Pools visitors must also check in at the Parks HQ at Nyamepi to show your accommodation booking form and pay conservation Fees. Visitors will not be allowed out of the Park exit gate if they cannot show proof that they have paid their fees, so keep the receipt for inspection.
Where To Stay
Customizable Safari Packages