Mana Pools – A Photographer’s Paradise on Two Legs

Mana Pools, one of Africa’s greatest treasures…a mystical land of abundant wildlife, ancient trees and enormous elephants who can stand upright on two feet. Mana means ‘four’ in Zimbabwe’s local dialect Shona. This name was chosen for the area because of the four large permanent pools formed by the meanderings of the mighty Zambezi River. Designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1984, this photographer’s paradise lies less than 400km’s from Zimbabwe’s capital city Harare.

It’s untouched, pristine wildlife makes it one of the most beautiful game park destinations in Southern Africa. Enchanting light conditions at both sunrise and sunsets make this one of Africa’s greatest photographic destinations. A unique opportunity awaits the keen photographer in that this is one of the very few national parks that allows one to step outside the vehicle.

If you are a landscape photographer, you are in for a treat. The scenery is breathtakingly beautiful; enchanted fairytale like forests scattered along the Zambezi shoreline, intermingled with impressive open floodplains. There is nowhere similar on the entire length of the Zambezi River.  The flora varies between ancient acacias, eye-catching sausage trees, massive mahogany trees, the enormous, wise giant baobabs and many more.

If you are an intrepid wildlife photographer, then Mana Pools will make your heart beat that much quicker due to the extraordinary amount of game that is frequently visible at Mana Pools. The cast includes elephant, the rare painted wolves from the BBC Earth Dynasties, series eland, kudu, impala, waterbuck, numerous other antelope and then the smaller mammals. This is just the matinee, the gala performance is in the evening, when the stars and the moon light up the magical stage- ready for the sounds of Africa; the lion roaring, the eerie laugh of the hyena upon discovering it’s meal for the evening and the low grunts of the hippopotamus feeding, finally happy with the reprieve from the blazing sun.

On top of all this is the surreal light of Mana Pools, which is a photographer’s paradise; a place where the light varies dramatically throughout times of the day.

Early morning is accompanied by the golden glow of sunrise; a warm, iridescent light that spreads through the park. Rich yellows, reds, and oranges catch the mists above the Zambezi and bathe the park in an otherworldly radiance. Then there’s the afternoon light; spectral, filtered through the canopies of the large Faidherbia Albida trees – it gives off a surreal quality. It’s the kind of light you’d expect to float through a stained-glass window in a monumental cathedral, bathing the wildlife below in prismatic splendour.

The blue light of late afternoon gives way to the softer tones of dusk; resplendent rays catch dust kicked up by herds of buffalo and other antelope. Tangerine-tinted air starts to cool, and the animals of the day start to settle down for an anxious night. The call of a fiery-necked nightjar signals the dipping of the sun; it’s the new moon—a black night—perfect for predators.

One of the best ways to see this enchanting vista is not by a vehicle as you would assume. Bushlife Safaris offer something entirely different.  We offer you a walk on the wide side. An experience like no other. A walking safari.

A walking safari demands you throw out all the clutter of urban life and tune into the bush, to its sounds and smells, the textures, temperature and colours: it is how animals survive, much like our ancestors did before we invented air conditioning and cars!

It’s the slow and natural pace of a walk that connects you to the ground; it’s the sounds of the bush as you pause and listen; it’s the ability to stop at a moment’s notice and look at a footprint and decide what animal left it there and where it was heading. In essence, it’s the truest and authentic way of moving, and appreciating animals. If you think about it: how long have our species been walking in nature? It’s our default mode of transport, we are perfectly evolved for it. It also enables a photographer the opportunity for some incredible close encounters with rare animals that haven’t been scattered by the sound of vehicles.

In essence, there’s simply no better way to capture the wilds of Africa through a lens like you can on foot in Mana Pools.

Professional Photographers’ Showcase

Tusker Elephant Mana Pools - Mitch Riley Photography

Mitch Riley

Buffalo leaving spring Mana Pools

Nelis Wolmarans

Elephant Mana Pools - Andy Skillen Photography

Andy Skillen

Leopard drinking at night Federico Veronesi Photography Mana Pools

Federico Veronesi

Birding Vicki Jauron Wildlife Photography

Vicki Jauron

Painted Dog Bret Charman Wildlife Photography

Bret Charman

Painted Dogs Bernard De Becker Wildlife Photography

Bernard De Backer

Artur Stankiewicz - Birding Bushlife Safaris

Artur Stankiewicz

Annamaria Gremmo - Elephant Bushlife Safaris

Annamaria Gremmo