Located in the northern region of Zimbabwe, on the southern banks of the Zambezi River, Mana Pools National Park is one of Africa’s most popular game-viewing parks. The Park derived its name Mana, ‘Four’ in Shona, from the four large permanent pools produced by the winding of the middle Zambezi.
The park is a 2,500 km² stretch of pools, sandbanks, river frontage and islands, bordered by Winter-thorn or Apple-ring Acacia, Baobab, Mahogany, Ebony and Wild figs forests. In the dry season, the cool clearings underneath these trees are filled with huge concentrations of African wildlife. The Zambezi River provides a breathtaking view, strewn with islands and wildlife searching for food.
The sanctuary, one of the only two habitats of the Nyala Antelope in the country, has the country’s largest concentration of Hippopotami and Crocodiles as well as large populations of Buffalos, Elephants and Zebras. It is also a habitat for other endangered species including the Lion, Cheetah, Cape wild dog, and the near-endangered species including leopard and the brown hyena. Plenty of Kudu, Eland, Impala, and other antelope species also thrive in the park.
One of the greatest varieties of bird life flourishes along the Zambezi River banks making up over 350 bird species including the elusive Pels Fishing Owl and the Fish Eagle, the African Skimmer and the Nyasa Lovebird, the Livingstone’s Flycatcher and the Egyptian and Spurwing Geese, the Yellow-spotted Nicator and the White-collared Pratincole, the Goliath Heron, Cormorant, Stork, Kingfisher, Scarlet Carmine Bee-eater, Vulture, Plover and the Banded Snake-Eagle. The River is filled with the Lung fish, Tiger fish, Electric fish, the Cornish Jack, Bream, Tilapia, Eel, Vundu, and more.
Access to Mana Pools is by four wheel drive vehicles, boat transfers on the Zambezi River from Chirundu or by air and admission into the park is controlled by the National Parks Authority and prior booking is fundamental. Nyamepi Campsite, among others, provides an attractive public camping area with ablution facilities.
Best Time to Visit
The best months to visit Mana Pools are August, September, October and early November as water inland would have become exceedingly scarce, forcing the animals to naturally drift towards the river and the natural pools of Mana, thereby allowing great game viewing in this park.
The wet season of late November to April produces an entirely changed park from that of the dry season, turning the dry Savanna into lush green forests that provide ample grazing and habitats for the birdlife. Some animals scatter inland, limiting game viewing.
Weather and Climate
The winter months from mid-May to early August have mild the days and cool nights whilst the summer months from late August to early May experience hot to extremely hit days and warm nights. Rains usually fall from mid November to April.
Where To Stay
Mana pools is difficult to reach especially during the rainy season. Some of the camps in around the park are usually open for certain periods of the year and then close during the rainy season. There are beautiful lodges and camps that you can book. Kanga Camp on a private concession at the Kanga Pan is a great option.
The beauty of this camp lies in its proximity to the Kanga Pan which is usually the a sole source of water during the dry season. This makes for a great encounter with most of the animals as they come to the water hole.
Areas in the Zambezi valley, being at low altitude, do harbor malaria-carrying Anopheles mosquitoes though the risk of contracting malaria is only great between November and May during and just after the rainy season. Most people visit the Zambezi area during the dry winter months when there are fewer mosquitoes, and the threat is considerably reduced. However, visitors are advised to take precautions that include; covering up exposed skin at sundown, using insect repellent spray or cream, burning mosquito coils at night, sleeping under a net and taking a course of recommended prophylactics.
As it is almost always sunny and hot during the safari season, visitors need to take precautions against sunburn and sunstroke, drinking plenty of water, applying sunscreen and lip balm as well as wearing hats and sunglasses. Visitors are not to swim in Lake Kariba or the Zambezi River as crocodiles are a huge threat.