The name "Mana'' means “four” in the local Shona language. This applies to the four large pools inland from the Zambezi River. These pools are the remnant ox-bow lakes that the Zambezi River carved out thousands of years ago as it changed its course northwards. Hippopotamus, crocodiles and a wide variety of aquatic birds are associated with the pools. ''Long Pool'', is the largest of the four pools, extending some six kilometres in a west-east direction. This pool has a large population of hippo and crocodiles and is a favourite for the large herds of elephant that come out of the thickly vegetated areas in the south to drink.
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. As one moves northwards towards the Zambezi River from the forests on the Karoo sediments, the vegetation changes to open Faidherbia albida woodlands on the old river terraces. This vegetation gives a unique look to the area and a surreal light filters through the trees giving Mana Pools its distinctive cathedral-like atmosphere providing 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.
On the old river terraces, tourists can walk unaccompanied by guides in the open Albida woodland because visibility is good and there is little danger of unexpectantly coming across dangerous animals. This privilege of walking alone in an area with dangerous wildlife is unique in Zimbabwe. 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 the predators like leopards, lions and cheetah are present in the area, but their secretive nature makes them more difficult to see. Despite this, it is not often that the visitor leaves Mana Pools without seeing at least one of these large carnivores.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.
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. During the winter months Mana Pools has the highest concentration of game in the entire continent of Africa 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.
Northwards, off the river terraces, is the mighty Zambezi River flowing sedately on its way to the Indian Ocean. This now tranquil river was a major route for the trade in ivory and slaves in the dark past.
Mana Pools is 2,196 square kilometres in extent but is part of the 10,500 square kilometre Parks and Wildlife Estate that runs from the Kariba Dam in the west to the Mozambique border in the east. This large area is without physical boundaries and the wildlife is free to move throughout the area - even northwards across the Zambezi River into Zambia, where there are also large wilderness areas set aside for wildlife conservation.
Tourist facilities include lodges, a communal campsite with ablution facilities and exclusive campsites where the visitor can be alone.
There are 5 lodges in the Park, all located along the Zambezi River. There are 2 large lodges situated a short distance upstream from Nyamepi Camp, Musangu and Muchichiri. These lodges have a bathroom and shower with hot and cold running water; 2 toilets and a fully kitted kitchen with stove and deep-freeze and all utensils such as cutlery, crockery and cooking utensils. All bedding and towels, etc are supplied. There is a large dining room and lounge, an outside braai area with seating where one can view the river and the wildlife coming down to drink or simply watch the African sun setting over the Zambezi River.
There are also 3 four-bedded lodges, all under thatch. Each lodge has 2 bedrooms with 2 beds each, a shower and toilet and seating areas outside near the Zambezi River. The kitchen is supplied with a deep-freezer, cooker, crockery and cutlery and other cooking implements. Bedding and towels, etc are supplied.
There is one large communal campsite along the Zambezi River, and a number of exclusive campsites where visitors can ensure their solitude.
The Nyamepi Camp camping area located along the Zambezi River is situated near the Mana Pools National Park reception office. Visitors need to bring their own camping equipment, bedding, toiletries, cooking implements, etc. There are ablution blocks nearby with hot and cold running water, flush toilets and laundry basins. Visitors can buy firewood at the reception office, and each campsite has a braai area. This camping ground has 30 sites.
There are a number of exclusive campsites situated along the Zambezi River. These camps are for the visitor who seeks solitude and who wants to truly experience the wildness and challenges of the bush. There is a braai stand at each site and rudimentary toilet. Water is collected from the river or the reception office. Visitors to these sites need to be fully self-equipped and be able to handle the remoteness and solitude of these unique camps. The camps are only allowed 2 vehicles and 12 persons per stay. Water may be drawn from the river.
8 kilometres west of Nyamepi and has 4 secluded camp sites
Just over 1 kilometre east of Nymepi and has 1 camp site
Just east of the carpark area and has 2 campsites
A short distance upstream from the lodges has 1 campsite, with cold-water shower, flush toilet and basin and a braai stand.
Wild Exclusive Camp Sites
There are 2 completely wild camping sites located in the southern sector of the Park – close to Chitake Spring, near the foothills of the Zambezi Escarpment. The check-in point for these camps is at Nyakasikana Gate. Both campsites are without any facilities and are accessible only with four-wheel drive vehicles.
Chitake Camp 1 (Nzou)
Located 150 metres downstream from the Chitake River crossing under a large Natal Mahogany near the river.
Chitake Camp 2 (Shumba)
Situated on top of a small hill near a number of baobab trees and has a magnificent view south to the escarpment, north to the far off Zambezi, east to Mangangai and west to the Rukomechi River. The camp is about 1 kilometre from the spring.
Tour Operator All-inclusive Tours
Visitors can book with a number of registered tour operators who will take care of all requirements including transport, food, accommodation, activities, safety and transfers. Visitors will need to make their own arrangements to hire a tour operator.
The following are some of the main activities offered at Mana Pools National Park:
Available around the Park at developed, minimum development and exclusive sites
Canoeing on the Zambezi is a favourite activity in Mana Pools and affords an unparalleled opportunity to experience the river.
Visitors can hire qualified armed Parks staff to take them for game viewing on foot
These safaris are offered at full moon. Parks staff will take visitors on a 3 day hike in the wild of Mana Pools National Park. Visitors will need to be fit, provide their own rucksacks, food and toiletries. This is a unique experience for the nature lover and those who enjoy the challenge of facing nature one on one.
This is a limited activity whilst the lion research project at Mana Pools is in progress. Visitors can join Parks staff as they track radio-collared lions on foot. Visitors are guaranteed a close view of the lions in most instances. This activity is unique and also assists in data collection for research projects.
Visitors can fish in the Zambezi River and experience the excitement of hooking large fish for the pot. Half of the joy is experiencing the quiet, solitude and beauty of the unspoiled bush around you.
Usually most rewarding in the early morning and late afternoon. Long Pool is often worth visiting soon after sunrise.
The Park is generally remote and far from any business centre. The nearest shops and fuel supplies are nearly 100 kilometres away, therefore visitors should be fully equipped for their visit.
Why Visit Mana Pools?
• The unique guided and self-guided walks in the Park amongst many wild animals
• Renowned ''World Heritage Site''
• One of the world's wildest and preserved natural ecological areas
• Rated the 5th Best Park in Africa by Getaway magazine (September 2003)
• Excellent canoeing and river fishing
• The remnant pools of the mighty Zambezi River are a marvel to watch as a prime habitat for several bird and mamal species
How to get to Mana Pools National Park
Mana Pools is a truly remote park. Situated in the extreme north of Zimbabwe on the Zambezi River, Mana is far from any major town or human settlement. Drive along the main Harare/ Chirundu tarred road and at the bottom of the Zambezi Escarpment, branch off the tarred road onto a dirt road that will take you 70 kilometres into unspoiled bush to Nyamepi Camp. There are a number of game-viewing roads that run along the Zambezi River and further inland from which you can view the wide variety of wildlife. Visitors can get a free entry permit to enter the Nyamautsi wilderness area and Kanga Pan where vehicle entry is limited to 2 per day.