highlights and main attractions of mana pools national park

An area of expansive wilderness plains with no road access, the delightfully remote Mana Pools national park was designated in 1963 and has developed as an untouched environment only explored on foot, with much of the game species you are likely to encounter completely at ease with human presence. Such is the protected beauty of the park, with no physical boundaries keeping wildlife in or out, that it was announced a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984. 

The word ‘mana’ means ‘four’ in the local Shona language and the area consists of four main pools that the Zambezi has carved out over thousands of years.

where is mana pools national park?

wildlife and landscapes

The park itself is a network of long and twisting ox-bow lakes and pools that are formed where the mighty Zambezi slows its pace after crashing through the Victoria Falls, meandering through the Lower Zambezi Valley. The river is spread across a flattened floodplain stretching as far as the distant hills of the escarpment and reflecting the many islands and sandbanks where copious animals and birds roam. This is especially so in the dry season, from June to October, when herds of thirsty elephants and buffalo make their way from the Lower Zambezi National Park to the pools, where pods of hippo, crocodiles, kudu, wild dog, leopard, lion and cheetah may be found, drawn in by the sweet water.

The largest of the four main pools, Long Pool, covers an area of 6 kilometres and it is an ideal place for walking safaris, mainly thanks to the large acacia trees that provide a shady canopy from which to observe the wildlife. This pool is a popular place for herds of elephants to congregate as they emerge from the densely vegetates forests in the south to drink, and you can also see hippo and crocodile here.

Canoe safaris are popular in the lower Zambezi area, spending a few days floating down meandering waters, dodging hippo pods as you go, and stopping at mobile camps or islands along the riverbanks is exhilarating. The world renowned Zimbabwean guides here are experts in bringing you close to the big game and you stand a great chance of spotting hippo, buffalo, elephant and even wild dog. 

Bird-lovers will be no less rewarded by this unique experience as the Mana Pools area is said to have over 380 species that include the banded snake eagle, Livingstone’s flycatcher and Nyasa lovebird.

The park has five lodges which are located along the river, two of which are larger with more facilities, the others are smaller thatched lodges and campsites which offer a good base for walking safaris. Our favourite place to stay is the lovely Ruckomechi Camp which is ideal for photographers.

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