Mana Pools National Park
Credit: Ruckomechi Camp
Regarded as being both Zimbabwe’s best park and one of the finest wilderness areas in Africa, Mana Pools National Park is a superb safari destination. Situated at the northern most point of Zimbabwe straddling the Zambian border, Mana Pools is remarkably beautiful: a riverine wilderness on the Zambezi River of pools, floodplains, baobab trees and forests that feels totally remote and never gets crowded.
The park is famous for its huge elephant herds and is known for great sightings of lion and leopard as well as being one of the best places in Africa to find endangered wild dogs. The appeal of the park is not just its wildlife – it’s how you get to experience the bush in immersive ways: staying in unfenced campsites in the midst of the wilderness and going on walking and canoeing safaris to see animals without the noise of a car. Mana Pools is also one of the only parks in Africa where you can walk without a guide (although this isn’t recommended for safety reasons unless you have a lot of bush experience).
Staying in one of Mana Pool’s exclusive unfenced campsites along the Zambezi River is a highlight for many intrepid visitors to the park. Booking one of these campsites for just your group means you’ll be able to have a totally wild experience in the bush with no one else around – just the wild animals that might wander in between your tents.
Mana Pools is one of Africa’s best places to do walking safaris – the thin vegetation means that visibility is excellent, so you’ll have the chance to get up close to big game. In addition, the walking guides in the park are among the best in Africa.
Canoeing safaris in Mana Pools are an incredible way to experience raw nature at its best: you spend your days paddling along the Zambezi past pods of hippos and scores of animals drinking on the banks, and at night time you’ll camp under the stars on untouched islands.
It’s essential that you book ahead for a stay in Mana Pools, whether you’re going to be staying at a luxury camp or at one of the Zimbabwe National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority’s campsites or lodges. Since the campsites are unfenced, it’s not advisable to camp with young children under the age of 12 – rather stay at a lodge. It’s important that you stay vigilant of animals when you stay in a campsite: always keep your distance from any animal, never leave food lying around and don’t stray too far from your tent at night. The park has a “carry in, carry out” policy, so you’ll need to burn your combustible trash every night in camp and take your non-combustible trash back out with you.
It’s highly recommended that you have a 4x4 if you’re self-driving in Mana Pools.
While you are allowed to walk without a guide on the floodplain area, it’s not advisable to do it unless you are very experienced in the bush. It’s best to book a guided walking safari instead.
The ideal time to visit Mana Pools is during the dry season from June to October when vegetation is at its driest, making wildlife sightings much easier. Many roads Mana Pools are closed the rainy season between November and April. During this period, the best way to see the park is on a canoe safari.