Mana Pools National Park is considered to be one of the most exciting places to visit on an African safari. Located in the northern parts of Zimbabwe, the national park consists of 219 600 ha of pure, untouched wilderness. It was declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984. Since then, the area has also become known for the important bird life and endangered species that make this national park their home during the dry winter months.
The park is closed during the rainy season from late November until April. From May, animals come from far and wide to drink from the water of the Zambezi, which gets trapped in four pools that form on the flood banks. These four pools are where Mana Pools got its name from. Mana means ‘four’ in Shona.
Visitors are treated to close encounters with some of Africa’s best known mammals like elephants and wild dogs, and also get to experience the breathtaking beauty of the Zambezi River – all from the comfort of a private safari lodge on the banks of the river.
Mana Pools is completely untouched by the hand of man. There are a couple of lodges and camping sites next to the river, but campers will more likely run into a wild animal than a neighboring camper. Mana Pools remains one of the few parks in Africa where visitors are welcome to wander into the bush unaccompanied. Keep in mind that there are wild animals around, however, and it is best to participate in a guided experience.
Guests can view the game in the park by exploring on foot in the company of a lodge ranger, renting a canoe from the park’s main office, or participating in open-air 4x4 game drives in the morning and in the late afternoon or early evening.
During the months when there is still a lot of water on the escarpment, bird watchers will be treated to sightings of secretary birds, Goliath herons, Egyptian- and Spur-winged geese, storks and bee-eaters. Fishing is also permitted and the flora in the park will intrigue all botany lovers.
Mana Pools National Park is roughly 280km from Harare and is typically accessed via charter flight from either Victoria Falls or Harare airport. From Harare, the charter flight is around 1 hour and 30 minutes, while the flight from Victoria Falls is 2 hours and 30 minutes. Overland from Harare, the drive is roughly 5 hours, so flights are recommended to maximize time spent on safari rather than time spent in transit.
The park is closed during the rainy season as the drenched floodplains make it virtually impossible for vehicles to pass through. When the water starts to dry up in April, the park turns into a green, lush environment and stays green deep into the winter. In the dry months (May to September) the animals become more visible as the bush becomes dry. The best time of the year to spot animals is between September and the beginning of November, though the summer becomes very hot with temperatures in the high 30s.
Mana Pools becomes home to thousands of different species during the dry winter months. From big mammals including elephants, hippopotamuses, Cape buffaloes and a wide variety of antelope species, to predators such as lions, cheetahs, leopards and Cape wild dogs. The river also teems with crocodiles and fish species such as tilapia and tiger fish. It’s a bird viewer’s paradise with colorful species such as Goliath herons and bee-eaters. All visitors are advised to be on the lookout for wild animals, even at the camp sites. Remember that all wild animals can be dangerous.
Mana Pools consists largely of flood plains, with chief vegetation consisting of mahogany forests, wild fig, ebony trees and even the towering baobab.
Standard safari activities are available in Mana Pools National Park, like guided game drives conducted by lodge rangers, immersive walking excursions and birdwatching. Uniquely, guests are also able to partake in canoeing adventures and fishing on the Zambezi flood plains.
Mana Pools National Park offers distinct experiences to be relished, many of them largely unique to the park itself. These are sights and adventures that are considered iconic in relation to this stunning wilderness area.
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