Mana Pools is synonymous with the Zambezi River, With a raw beauty and a deep sense of soul there are few places that offer a more authentic African safari. The slow flowing Zambezi meanders its way through floodplains where the four “Mana” pools are surrounded by lush vegetation. There are spectacular views over the river to the mountains of the rift valley escarpment in Zambia.
Covering 2230km² much of the park is inaccessible as, despite its size, the road network is limited to one loop road and a few access roads. To truly appreciate Mana Pools, one has to explore off the beaten track on foot in the company of a pro-guide.
Mana is famous for its population of bull elephants who have adapted to standing on their hind legs with their trunks at full stretch as they feed off the rich nutritious pods from the top branches of the Ana trees. Generally the wildlife viewing is excellent. The park attracts vast numbers of game, among them enormous bull elephants, large herds of zebra and buffalo, lion, leopard, hyena and is a stronghold for African wild dog packs. Hippos and Nile crocodiles populate the river in large numbers. Further inland baobabs and acacia albida trees provide a parkland canopy spreading on towards the rugged escarpment. The sparse vegetation beneath the tree canopy means it’s perfect for walking. There are no rhino or giraffe to be found in Mana. The river is home to large pods of hippo which makes for exciting canoeing.
Unlike so many reserves the sheer beauty of the woodlands, the purity of light, magnificent sunsets over the rugged escarpment means you don’t have to see the typical must-see species to have a great time in Mana Pools.
Regarded as Zimbabwe’s finest wilderness area and a wildlife paradise, Mana Pools is a remote and beautiful location with outstanding scenery and riverine beauty. This is one of the wildest and preserved natural ecological areas in the world which, since becoming a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984, has become one of the country’s most popular destinations. Bursting with a profusion of birds and one of the highest dry-season concentrations of animals for Zimbabwe, Mana Pools is far from any major town, making it a true wilderness location.
Situated at the heart of the Zambezi Valley, the mighty Zambezi River meanders from Lake Kariba through the valley to Mana; creating stunning islands, channels and sandbanks fringed by dense forests of baobab and indigenous trees. Distant purple hills of the Zambian escarpment shape the horizon to the north, whereas woodlands characterise the south. The area is famous for four main pools; Main, Chine, Long and Chisambuk along with outstanding large thorn Ana Trees dotted on floodplains which are usually located in Namibia. Due to the abundance of water in the area, the landscape is green with lush vegetation and tall old stands of mahogany and ebony.
Mana Pools is alive with exciting game, most notably a wide range of predators including lion, wild dog, leopard and cheetah along with unusually large packs of endangered painted dogs which regularly move between Nyampi and Vundu camps. Huge concentrations of buffalo and magnificent elephant populate the river edges whilst zebra and numerous antelope species feed on the surrounding plains. Mana Pools is a haven to the country’s biggest concentration of pink eared hippos and Nile crocodiles, as well as being home to a small population of black rhino.
In the south, the Chitake Springs becomes a vital source of water for wildlife in April and some of the most intensive predator-prey experiences of Southern Africa occur here. In addition, rare dinosaur fossil are exposed in the eroded riverbanks.
With over 400 of Zimbabwe’s 700 bird species recorded in Mana Pools, the National Park is superb for woodland and riverine species throughout the year, but exceptional in winter. Numerous local species reside including the Black-throated Wattle Eye, Yellow-Billed Kites and the Red-necked falcon. Water-loving birds feature along the river banks of the Zambezi amongst the reeds and marshland, with storks and waterfowl particularly common, whilst banded snake eagles and other raptors circle overhead.
The Zambezi River and Pools act as a lifeline to wildlife, so there is no better way to view the amazing biodiversity than on Zimbabwe’s ultimate big game adventure; canoeing safari. Weave your way amongst the network of islands that line the river, amidst pods of hippo and elephant and carmine bee eaters nesting in the sandy banks. Alternatively, 4WD game drives, motorboat and walking excursions are offered by various lodges which add variety and a chance to appreciate the wildlife in addition to the wondrous scenery of the Zambezi Valley.
Game gravitates towards the river in the dry season (April to October), making this the best game-viewing time. Limited accommodation is available during the rains of November to March as much of the park is inaccessible. Therefore, the months of June to October are preferential to get the best experience and see a well-rounded variety of wildlife.
January to April – The majority of lodges are closed during the rainy green season as most big game has moved away from the river towards the escarpment between December and March. Heavy and prolonged rain features in January and February, making road conditions poor and sometimes impassable. The wet season however is great for birding and scenic photography as the bush however is lush and vibrant as a result of the rains.
By April, the animals begin to return to riverine areas as the pools in the bush have dried up. This is a beautiful time of year with clear blue skies and lush green bush that is dotted with flowers. The animals are healthy and there are a lot of babies around
May and June – This shoulder season between the green and dry season is drier. Most safari lodges open during May and discounts are available.
By mid-May the rains are over. Although still thick the grass is beginning to dry out. Pans away from the river are full and the game dispersed. As the season creeps into winter the winter thorn trees on the flood plain come out in full leaf and flower with the promise of a good pod crop to sustain the game through the dry season. Although the valley never reaches freezing early morning and late evening are beginning to cool down which is a reminder winter is on its way.
June – vegetation is beginning to thin out and, as the inland pans dry out, the animals start to move slightly closer to permanent water sources. Towards the end of the month until the end July/August the winter thorn trees drop their nutritional seed pods which are gobbled up by the elephant and whatever other game that can get a look in. Frequent mists along the Zambezi River on the winter mornings of late June and early July are a photographer’s delight.
July to October – The main dry season is the traditional time to visit the park, with September and October being the best months for game-viewing. Large herds of elephant, buffalo, kudu, eland, waterbuck, zebra and impala come to the river to drink and graze along the lush banks which provides great game-viewing opportunities. Temperatures are around 30°C, which peak in October in the mid 40°C’s. Carmine Bee Eaters arrive in late August and stay until November.
July – is becoming cooler. Expect great elephant sightings as they move down to the river and to inland springs for their daily afternoon drink.
August – is windy. Leaves are falling and the animals make their way to river to drink as the last few pans dry out. The wind usually picks up at around 10.00 and by mid-afternoon is calm. Out on the river the days canoeing is planned around the wind factor.
September – most of the shrubbery has disappeared, elephants are everywhere and plains game plentiful as they feast off the fruit of the fig and wild mango trees. The wild dog puppies are a few months old and the dogs appear in full force on the floodplain. As temperatures begin to rise tsetse flies are more prevalent.
October – is very hot. Sightings are amazing as there is always plenty of action. This is when tsetse flies are at their worst.
November and December – Early November is extremely hot and humid (28°C) and game starts to move away from the river towards the escarpment. Most roads are inaccessible so charter flights operate to two airstrips. The interior areas of the park are limited in accessibility during these months. Migrant bird species are abundant; however the African Skimmer departs in December.
Luxury mobile and semi-permanent camps are a wonderful way of feeling closer to nature and come ...read more
Luxury mobile and semi-permanent camps are a wonderful way of feeling closer to nature and come with full beds and Egyptian cotton sheets and your own personal guide.
Mana Pools in the Zambezi Valley is stunning, as seen in this aerial view. It offers remote ...read more
Mana Pools in the Zambezi Valley is stunning, as seen in this aerial view. It offers remote authentic bush camps, some semi permanent, some mobile, strung out along the Zambezi river – all unfenced allowing the wildlife to drift or gallop through! The proximity of the river allows for boat and canoe safaris, tiger fishing as well as stunning views over the Zambezi – just perfect for sundowner G&T’s.
Photo Credit: Mike Myers
Whether you decide to have a multi day canoeing safari down the Zambezi River or simply a few hours ...read more
Whether you decide to have a multi day canoeing safari down the Zambezi River or simply a few hours on the river out of camp, you will experience the thrill of approaching close to elephants and other wildlife.
The open nature of the terrain alongside the river and the high densities of wildlife during the ...read more
The open nature of the terrain alongside the river and the high densities of wildlife during the dry season make Mana an ideal area for experiencing a guided walking safari.
Photo Credit: Dana Allen
Mana Pools offers you the opportunity to have very close encounters with elephants. Some of the ...read more
Mana Pools offers you the opportunity to have very close encounters with elephants. Some of the huge bull elephants are especially gentle and tolerant if you approach them in the correct way on foot.
Photo Credit: Dana Allen
Mana Pools is home to some exceptional professional guides who have spent years in the bush passing ...read more
Mana Pools is home to some exceptional professional guides who have spent years in the bush passing on their indepth knowledge of the flora and fauna as well as playing a key role in protecting the environment.
Photo credit: Dana Allen
Mana Pools scenery is untouched and wild, yet still with elegant parkland vistas in the woodland ...read more
Mana Pools scenery is untouched and wild, yet still with elegant parkland vistas in the woodland where dappled light filters through the canopies – spectacular photography at dawn and dusk.
Lion sightings are phenomenal in Mana Pools and the thrill of walking through thick bush and ...read more
Lion sightings are phenomenal in Mana Pools and the thrill of walking through thick bush and shoulder high grasses knowing there are predators in close proximity will get the adrenaline pumping.
African wild dogs den in or around Mana Pools each year, so the park is a magnificent destinations ...read more
Chikwenya is a photographer’s paradise as it looks out over an open floodplain and the broad Zambezi River, with a backdrop provided by the ... Read More
Goliath Tented Camp is on the floodplain in Mana Pool National Park, on the banks of the Zambezi River. All walking safaris are ... Read More
Named after renowned safari guide John Stevens, John’s Camp is an authentic charming camp. John's Camp is a semi-permanent tented camp situated ... Read More
An explorer’s paradise within Mana Pools National Park, Kanga Camp nestles alongside a seasonal floodplain in a private concession, 15 kms from the ... Read More
Ruckomechi is an exclusive tented camp situated in a private concession on the western boundary of the Mana Pools National Park. The camp ... Read More
Ruwesi Canoe Trails is a mobile canoe safari offering three to four nights down the Zambezi River. Canoeing is a unique experience and ... Read More
The Big 5 Safari company is a supporter of the The Zambezi Society and support its vital conservation work and anti-poaching patrols.Discover