Located about 100km downstream of the Kariba dam, on the Zimbabwean bank of the Zambezi, the Mana Pools National Park is one of the finest wilderness and wildlife areas in southern Africa.
Mana Pools is part of the Zambezi Valley UNESCO World Heritage Site (see our World Heritage Safari) because of its landscapes, scenery, and wildlife, and hosts some of the biggest concentrations of animals in southern Africa. Elephant and lions are abundant, and rare and endangered species such as wild dog and nyala also occur. It is also part of the Middle Zambezi Biosphere Reserve, and one of a very few parks in which visitors may walk unaccompanied by professional guides.
It's impossible to describe the variety of habitats at Mana, from great stands of riverine mahoganies through parklike Acacia albida woodlands to the dense, biologically fascinating jesse bush; and equally impossible to describe the Mana experience.
Although 4wd is an advantage, much of the Park can be accessed by 4x2 pickups. The main requirement is for strength, as the Park access roads are often severely corrugated and potholed. The fishing can also be good at Mana, for both tigerfish and bream species, but please note that powerboats are prohibited between March and December.
The photographic opportunities are, of course, excellent - and especially so if you throw away the rule-book and experiment with up-sun shots in the Acacia woodlands, rack up your ISO for haunting low-light shots in the evenings and early mornings, and your shutter speeds to capture leaping impala in woodland glades, or lions closing in for a kill.
You might also considering approaching Mana via one of our Eastern Zambezi Valley routes. We have also combined a visit to Mana and a guided sailboat or houseboat tour of Lake Kariba and the Matusadona shoreline in our Best of Both Worlds tour.
Mana presents a huge range of topics, backed by a wealth of ZIM4x4 team experience. We have dealt with threats ranging from hydroelectric schemes to mining and oil exploration, poaching for black rhino and other species, the erosion of wilderness values, and the problems associated with the poor salaries paid to Park staff.
At present, there is serious poaching of elephant and other species in the more southerly parts of the Park, as well as in other Zambezi Valley areas. ZIM4x4 has been providing fuels and other supplies to support the anti-poaching effort through The Zambezi Society, and collaborates with the Land Cruiser Club of Southern Africa (LCCSA), who have established a formal support programme for the Park.
When to visit
December-January: A visit at this time during the rains can be a magnificent experience.The grass will be short enough to permit walking and game-viewing, and although many animals may have retreated to the Park hinterland, the wildlife viewing can be superb. Hot, sometimes humid.
February-March: Not the best for wildlife; vegetation is often too high to walk through, viewing tracks may be closed, and most species have headed for the hills and there may not be much to see. Usually hot & humid. However, it's an excellent time for birds and butterflies, and still green and very beautiful.
April-July: April and May can be particularly lovely - clear, deep blue skies and pleasantly warm.Vegetation dying down, all roads usually open & visibility improving, and wildlife beginning to trickle back onto the Mana 'floodplains'. You are likely to have some chilly nights in June and July (bring trackies, fleeces, pullovers and extra bedding. You may not need it but if you do, you'll need it badly!).
August-November: Grasses and forbs mostly disappear, leaving bare ground. Numbers of elephant and other wildlife species increasing to a peak just before first rains (usually in mid or late November). Mild in August to very hot in October & November, but a dry heat until the rains break.
ZIM4X4 RECOMMENDATION: Mana Pools is an absolute 'must' for most visitors, and is the core of most of our personalised tours.The scenery and the wildlife are both spectacular, and the haunting magic of the floodplain Acacia woodlands has to be experienced to be believed.
We've known and loved Mana - and have worked to conserve it - for over 30 years, so we know where to go and how to give you the best possible experience.
We advise our tour participants to stay at least three full days at Mana to get the best out of it - and preferably longer. Every day is a new and different experience. And be warned: drink from the Zambezi, and you'll always return!