Mana Pools National Park
As the Zambezi River travels down to the ocean after Victoria Falls, it flows first into Lake Kariba. A behemoth of a dam wall generates hydro-electrical power here, using the force of the trapped water, and marks the start of the Lower Zambezi Valley - home of the Mana Pools National Park.
Further on down, the river emerges from a deep gorge to spread across a flattened, fertile floodplain which is being methodically ground away to form pools and ox-bows. Ringed by the far distant blue hills of the escarpment, the area on Zimbabwe’s southern bank is known as Mana Pools National Park. Bursting with a profusion of birds and animals, especially during dry season from June to October, this is Zimbabwe’s second world heritage site.
Four main pools and several smaller pools are scattered along the river course and the cliffs hanging over the river and floodplains provide shelter to a large and varied wildlife population. Long Pool is the largest and extends some 6km in a west to east direction. Lovely big old trees, mainly faidherbia (used to be known as acacia albidia), provide a shady canopy with sparse undergrowth. This makes for easy walking and is one of the reasons why this area is perfect for walking safaris.
The park stretches across 2000km² of prime Zambezi riverfront vegetation, much of which is inaccessible except on foot and as a result is completely unspoilt. The landscape includes islands and sandbanks fringed by dense forests of baobabs and indigenous trees, as well as the rugged Zambezi escarpment. Aside from the excellent walking safaris in Mana, the river adds another dimension to any safari as it is ideal for canoe safaris. Here's an example of the Mana Pools Explorer safari.
The national park is home to magnificent and enormous elephants that return year after year to the same places and are well known to the locals in the area. Big, beefy black buffalo are always about and predators like leopards, lions and cheetah are seen regularly. It is also a haven for Nile crocodiles and large hippo pods as well as several black rhino. Amongst the 380 bird species are the Nyasa lovebird, Livingstone’s flycatcher, white-collared pratincole, banded snake eagle and yellow spotted nicator.
In the south Chitake Springs is of vital importance to the interior of the park as the springs form a crucial source of water as the river systems dry up during the dry season. Wildlife congregate around this precious water resource and walking safaris to the area are intensely exciting and full of action. We recommend this for more experienced safari enthusiasts.
The park is open to cars only during the dry season and during the rainy season guests have to travel by foot or by boat. The best time to visit in terms of access and temperature is from May to early September. Late September to end of October is the best game viewing season but temperatures will be in excess of 38 degrees Celsius for most of this period.
Canoe safaris run year round and although we do offer combination caneoing/walking during the rainy season, access into the interior of the park is very limited from December to March.
There is an active campaign to protect Mana Pools from further development which could affect its status as a World Heritage Site and will definitely have a detrimental effect on visitor experiences. Help save Mana Pools on Facebook.
Our Recommended Tours
Our most popular lower Zambezi canoe safari over 4 days from Chirundu down to Mana Pools World Heritage Site. One of the best ways to experience big game and real African wilderness.
Unquestionably the best canoe safari in Africa
Lower Zambezi River - Chirundu to Mana Pools - 4 days/3 nights
Camp Zambezi sits on the edge of the Zambezi River within the floodplains of Mana Pools National Park, Zimbabwe. A truly eco-friendly and comfortable safari set in the traditional style.
Experience nature at its best.
Mana Pools National Park, Zimbabwe - 4 days/3 nights
The ideal Zimbabwe safari including best wildlife reserves and World Heritage Sites. Ideal for big game from wild dog, elephant, lion, leopard, black rhino, buffalo to giraffe.
Safaris the way they were always intended!
Victoria Falls, Hwange, Lake Kariba and Mana Pools - 12 days/11 nights