Over millennia, the wide and slow Zambezi has changed its course, with the river’s old meanders leaving small oxbow lakes, surrounded by lush vegetation and tall stands of ebony and mahogany trees. Within the national park, these oxbow lakes have created four large pools (‘mana’ being the Shona word for ‘four’, giving the park its name) and these, along with the permanent Zambezi River, provide an abundance of water and greenery which in turn attract a wealth of big game and result in some stunning scenery.
It’s an area of outstanding natural beauty and phenomenal wildlife. Here the Zambezi River, flowing slowly eastwards for thousands of years, has left behind the remains of old river channels forming small seasonal ponds and pools spread over an area of several hundred square kilometres. These extend several kilometres back from the river where on fertile terraces huge mahogany and acacia trees cast luxuriant shade.
Today Mana pools, one of Zimbabwe‘s four World Heritage Sites, is the stage for one of Africa’s greatest natural spectacles – a classic theatre of the wild, attracting hordes of animals during the long, hot African summer, drawn by the abundance of water and the lush grazing along its banks.
Lots of zebras, kudu, eland, impala, and other antelope species flourish among which the lion and the leopard, the hyena and wild dogs find easy pickings..
Vultures, plovers, Nyasa lovebird, yellow-spotted nicator, white-collared pratincole, Livingstone’s flycatcher, banded snake-eagle, and the cliché symbol of Africa, the black and white fish eagle, haunt the riverine forest and mopane woods.
In the river, tigerfish, bream, tilapia, vundu, nkupi, chessa, electric fish, eel fish, cornish jack and lung fish sport and prey upon one another.
The park is home to most of the common safari animals, including four of the Big Five. Elephant and buffalo are abundant. There is a large concentration of lion and leopard in the south of the park. The pools harbour crocodile and hippo. Rhino, giraffe and wildebeest are all absent.
More than 350 bird species are enough to draw the breath of any ornithologist. Its banks flutter with Goliath herons, Egyptian and Spurwing geese, cormorants, storks, brilliantly coloured bee-eaters, and kingfishers.
By air: Most people fly into Mana Pools airstrip from Kariba, although charters can be booked from other destinations in Zimbabwe.
You will most likely enter the country via Victoria Falls Airport (VFA), a short distance from the town of Victoria Falls. Alternatively, you can fly to Harare International Airport (HRE) and drive from there. Your tour package likely provides for further transportation throughout Zimbabwe as arranged by your tour operator.
Where To Stay: Accommodation is limited to a few luxury safari camps, a couple of mobile safaris camps or the National Parks facilities.
Luxury safari camps include Ruckomechi, Vundu, Goliath Safaris and Chikwenya all situated along the river. Kanga Camp is situated deep inland and offers a quite different experience. A couple of safari operators have access to sites designated for mobile tented camps. These camps are not permanent and are taken down and re-erected every couple of weeks.