Mana Pools National Park
Mana Pools is a jewel in Zimbabwe’s safari crown in the Lower Zambezi across the river from Zambia’s national park of the same name. A UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1984, it offers a varied safari experience marked by exceptional wildlife sightings and diverse activities with walking and canoe safaris being a speciality in this remote and wild setting with the added bonus of spectacular scenery.
Mana Pools National Park is one of the most exciting safari destinations imaginable and really does offer the full package of wonderful game viewing and a rich and varied safari experience all wrapped up in one of the most beautiful settings in the country. The park lies on the southern bank of the Zambezi with Zambia clearly visible across the water, with game swimming between the two – the sight of elephants making the crossing is not uncommon. Mana is named after the pools that have been created by oxbow lakes formed by the meandering Zambezi carving new channels.
The alluvial floodplain that comprises Mana Pools is incredibly fertile and with the permanent water of the river, a wide range of wildlife is seen in the park, making for a rewarding safari. Elephants are common with some bull elephants having the skill to stand on their hind legs to reach up for vegetation usually too high up – an ever-impressive sight! Big cats are common too with outstanding lion and leopard sightings as well as Mana being a stronghold for the elusive and endangered wild dog, with some of the best sightings in the world experienced here. The riverine setting also makes for exceptional birding opportunities with a wide range of species seen including rare ones such as Angolan pitta and white-backed night heron whilst bee-eaters and fish eagles are commonly seen.
Game viewing in Mana Pools is best during the dry season from May to November when animals congregate at the river or at a limited number of in-land waterholes. Due to the black cotton soils the park largely shuts down during the rainy season from December to April when the majority of the park becomes impassable. The best way to experience Mana Pools is out on foot as part of a walking safari. Or even better, take to the Zambezi on a canoe safari which will allow you to glide close to wildlife without disturbing, the slower pace is also the perfect way to appreciate the intense beauty of the area.