Morning Coffee at Mana River at Mana Pools National Park

Safari Guide: Mana Pools National Park

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Niarra Travel

A safari holiday in Mana Pools National Park is nothing short of spectacular. Situated far away from human settlements, the sense of utter remoteness offers peace, serenity and a true escape into the wild.

Mana Pools, in Zimbabwe, lies in the lower Zambezi Valley. To the south, the dramatic Zambezi Escarpment rises steeply, creating a natural barrier that adds to the park’s sense of isolation and unspoiled beauty. The powerful Zambezi River flows to the north, a lifeline that nourishes the park's diverse ecosystems.

Leopard in tree at zambezi expeditions in mana pools national park

History of Mana Pools National Park

Mana Pools Game Reserve was established in 1963 before being named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984 to protect immense congregations of Africa’s large mammal populations and the park’s unique natural features.

It is now one of the world's wildest and best preserved natural ecological areas, encompassing 220,000 hectares of Zimbabwe in total. The conservation efforts in the area have been recognized globally, which encompass biodiversity monitoring, anti-poaching efforts, and reintroducing endangered species to the park.

The four large pools that created the park’s name, Mana, meaning four in the local Shona language, are vestiges of ancient ox-bow lakes that the mighty Zambezi River carved out thousands of years ago. During the dry season, these lakes become a vital source of water for wildlife, attracting animals from miles around.

Hippo in the water in Zambezi river

Best time to visit Mana Pools National Park

Each season brings something different to Mana Pools, and Zimbabwe in general, due to the heavy rainfall that nourishes the park during the summer months. Mana Pools is a seasonal park and access to the park is limited during the wet season.

Dry Season - April to October

Average Temperature: 29oC

Average Rainfall: 7mm

The once green landscape begins to dry out as the winter season sets in, with chilly nights but sunny days and clear blue skies. The savannah begins to dry out, with golden grasses stretching far into the distance.

From August, as days become warmer and water is most scarce, animal movements are more predictable, often congregating around the Zambezi River. Due to this, August and September are often considered the best months to visit Mana Pools National Park.

Find a herd of elephants cooling off in the shallows, spraying each other with the river water while zebras, elands, and buffalo drink nearby. Meanwhile, lions and other predators lurk in the shadows of nearby foliage, taking advantage of the concentration of prey.

Hyenas at Zambezi Expeditions at Mana Pools National Park

Wet Season - November to March

Average Temperature: 33oC

Average Rainfall: 145mm

Temperatures heat up from November into the rainy season. The wet season in Mana Pools is a period of rebirth as heavy rains and storms create vibrant, lush greenery around the park. The abundance of fresh water sources and camouflage make it more challenging to spot animals, but once you do, the striking backdrops and newborn animals are worth the wait.

The sunsets over the Zambezi River are incredible during this time, shimmering in hues of deep oranges and bright pinks. The migrating birds flock to the park around this time, so birdwatchers can expect paradise with hundreds of species.

A female kudu at Mana River in Mana Pools National Park

Wildlife in Mana Pools National Park

Mana Pools is a wildlife-rich, biodiverse wonderland. Elephants are abundant, with over 12,000 gentle giants wandering around the park. Mana Pools is home to numerous zebras, buffalos, and antelope as well as predators such lions, hyena, and leopards.

Parts of Mana Pools are only accessible by foot, showing just how untouched this park is. Traverse the rugged savannah plains, dotted with acacia and baobab trees in search of big game, animal tracks, and birds with an expert guide. Walking safaris offer a unique immersion into the wilderness around you as you connect with the earth beneath your feet.

Embark on a canoe or boat journey down the Zambezi to experience wildlife up close. With your guide, you’ll pass towering riverine trees lining the banks where their lush foliage provides shade for a myriad of bird species. Watch majestic elephants graze on the riverbank or perhaps encounter hippos wallowing in shallow pools, where they take refuge from the beating African sun.

Mana Pools is a place of magic, where things happen that cannot be experienced anywhere else in the world. Watch in wonder as an elephant rises onto its hind legs to reach their favoured pods of the ana tree or observe one of the most endangered mammals, the painted or African wild dog, bolt across the plains in the fading evening light.

Buffalo seen at Mana Pools National Park

Lodges in Mana Pools

The lodges in Mana Pools National park offer an unparalleled immersion into the natural world around you. Here, you’ll receive an authentic yet luxurious experience of an African safari. If you are wondering where to stay, we have compiled a few of our favourites below.

Tembo Plains Camp

Situated in Sapi Reserve, a private game reserve bordering Mana Pools National Park, this camp offers remote luxury. This 128,000-hectare reserve has only four canvas and stone suites, each with their own indoor lounge area and outdoor swimming pool, dining area, and shower.

Step out onto your private veranda where you’ll be greeted with the view of the Zambezi River and lush vegetation around you. Walk down to the central shared area, the wine cellar and interactive kitchen where you’ll be served Relais & Châteaux quality cuisine.

Zambezi Expeditions Camp

Comprising six Meru-style tents, this camp offers a raw immersion into the wilderness around you. Fall asleep to the sounds of the Zambezi flowing and splashes from the hippos and wake up to the nearby birds singing their morning chorus.

The central area has an open dining room and fire pit, where you can gather and share stories in the evenings after a hearty meal. Set off from the nearby riverbank on a canoe to get a more personal look at the abundant nature that gathers here on a daily basis.

Ruckomechi Camp

The lush forest location is a dream for wildlife enthusiasts. Consisting of 10 tented suites, blending traditional African elements with modern contemporary design, the camp exudes a sense of understated luxury.

Step out of your suite onto your private deck and soak up the natural sights or unwind in a bubble bath in the freestanding tub with a view of the Zambezi River. You can also choose to spend a night on a starbed, where you’ll be lulled to sleep by the gentle sounds of the night.

If you would like to experience untamed nature on Mana Pools safari holiday then get in touch with our expert travel team on +44 (0) 20 3821 5994 (UK), +1 (833) 215 9353 (US) or at explore@niarratravel.com and start creating your life-changing Zimbabwe safari trip today.

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