Mana Pools is a one of a kind, a piece of paradise on earth and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This special spot is often a bucket list item on the safari circuit, that then becomes a repeat adventure when guests fall in love with it. Mana Pools National Park has a distinctive landscape of floodplains, forests, islands, sandbanks, pools and pans on the south bank of the Zambezi River in northern Zimbabwe.
The name is derived from Mana, meaning “four” in Shona, a reference to the four permanent pools that form in the meandering Lower Zambezi Valley. Life here is governed by the ebb and flow of the seasons – hot wet summers, and mild dry winters. In the rainy season, the floodplain turns into a criss-cross of pools and pans, with lush expanses of mahogany, wild figs, ebonies, baobabs and acacias. During the dry season, only the mighty Zambezi and the four main pools remain and are a magnet for thirsty wildlife.
Mana Pools literally teems with wildlife – hippos wallow in the Zambezi whilst elephants, zebras and herds of buffalo and antelope can be found on the floodplains. Crocodiles, lions, hyenas and painted wolves are drawn to the rich pickings of prey. Bushlife Safaris have been lucky enough to call Mana Pools their home for the last two decades, and our team of skilled guides are ready to show you this truly extraordinary place.
Proclaimed as a National Park in 1963, Mana Pools is 2,230 sq.kms with an altitude that ranges from 329m to 1,180m. It is bounded by the Zambezi River in the north and the Nyakasanga safari area in the east. Visitors will spend most of their time on the “floodplain” – an area covering around 80 sq.kms. The park is best explored on a walking safari or canoeing, and is particular appealing to photographers.
May to August are the cooler months – with pleasant daytime temperatures around 28’C, bright blue skies and low humidity. The evenings and early mornings can be cool – around 10 – 15’c, so warmer clothes are a must.
September is the start of the summer, and the October can be intensely hot with temperatures often in the mid-30s celcius. The rains have started later in the last few years, towards the end of November. The humidity builds up during the day, resulting in dramatic afternoon thunderstorms and sweet relief for the land and wildlife. Our camps are closed during the warm, wet season from December to March as access into Mana Pools becomes muddy and limited. It rains mosts days – either afternoon thunderstorms, or drizzle that sets in for a few days.
Mana Pools has a high density of mammals, but a limited number of species. There are no giraffe not wildebeest which are common in other areas of Zimbabwe. This is because these animals have not venuted into the area, nor being introduced.
Four of the Big 5 can be found in Mana Pools – leopard, lion, buffalo and elephant. The elephants in Mana Pools are truly special as some of the iconic bulls can stand on their hind legs to reach the uppermost branches are their favourite trees, Acacia ablida. Pictured here is beautiful Boswell.
Last but not least, Mana Pools has a high density of painted wolves, or African wild dog. The epic BBC Earth series, Dynasties, which was narrated by Sir. David Attenborough was filmed at Vundu Camp, and Nick Murray was the lead guide. Nick has a special realtionship with the dogs, personally namiong the majority of them and following them over decades.
The birdlife in Mana Pools is a truly a feast of sights, colours and sounds, fantastic in range and diversity. The number of species in Mana Pools are estimated at around 350 – at least 280 can be spotted during the dry season.
Bright and beautiful flocks of Lillian Lovebirds can be seen feeding on the ground and the migratory Southern Carmine Bee-eaters making their nests along the riverbank. A pleathora of waterbirds can be seen along the shore of the Zambezi River and pools on the floodplains, including the skilful African Skimmer . You can expect excellent sightings of raptors such as the Martial Eagle attacking guineafowl and monitor lizards.