Memories of Mana Pools

Zimbabwe was the first African country I visited and, as a result, it has always held a special place in my heart. Victoria Falls, Hwange National Park and Lake Kariba are all ‘must-sees’ but Mana Pools National Park actually ranks above all of them as one of my favourite places – not just in Zimbabwe, but in the whole of Africa.

Emanating out from the southern banks of the Zambezi River, Mana Pools National Park is a stunningly beautiful UNESCO World Heritage site where abundant water and vegetation provide for a wealth of big game and allow for river and land-based safari activities including walking and canoeing safaris. The wildlife is prolific with regular sightings of huge herds of elephant (more than 12,000 in the dry season), zebra, hippo, buffalo and various antelope species. All the major predators (lion, leopard, cheetah and wild dog) are there in force of course.  And for a ‘twitcher’ such as myself the variety of birdlife (over 380 species recorded) is icing on the cake – from carmine bee-eaters to lilac-breasted rollers, hornbills, lovebirds and fish eagles.

I was privileged to stay at Zambezi Expeditions, a comfortable yet classic semi-mobile camp on the banks of the river in a remote and magnificent setting. The tents (only six in total with a maximum of 12 guests) are shaded by winter thorn and ebony trees and each has an en-suite bathroom with hot bucket shower and comfy beds.  Being so far from human habitation gives you a truly wild experience and sitting around a camp fire at night while elephants cautiously pass you by only feet away is an encounter I will never forget.

Days at Zambezi Expeditions are never dull.  I highly recommend walking safaris in Mana Pools, with some incredible interactions with wild dog packs possible. Other game-viewing options  include canoeing, bird watching, catch-and-release shore fishing and morning and afternoon game drives in open 4×4 safari vehicles along the flood plains and into the heart of the National Park. If you visit in winter you’ll find yourself exploring amongst the highest concentration of wildlife in Africa.

In all my years of travelling to Africa and selling safaris, I still retain Mana Pools National Park right at the top of my personal recommendations.  A visit to Mana Pools also means you are supporting the recently reborn safari sector in Zimbabwe. Better still, combine it with Lake Kariba, Hwange National Park and Victoria Falls for a well-rounded Zimbabwean experience that will stay with you forever.

My recommended itinerary is The Zambezi Experience.

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