Mana Pools National Park lies in a remote, unspoiled area which stretches 200 miles to the Mozambique border. The spectacular wildlife area of the Zambezi Valley is one of the few remaining regions still unchanged by modern man. The combination of forest, river and mountains attract a bewildering array of wildlife. A rift valley floor, stretching to Mozambique, is bisected by the life-giving Zambezi River.
The whole length of this river is a protected wilderness area. The gem of this river is the Mana Pools National Park, which fronts the river for 50 miles and supports one of the richest wildlife concentrations in southern Africa. The Zambezi flood plain dominates much of the scenery. Elephant, buffalo, lion and leopard are among the large mammals found. The forest bordering the river contains ebony and mahogany trees, which in turn, provide a haven for birds. Canoeing on the Zambezi, with its slow pace and unique vantage point, is a popular activity here.
By Road: The remote Mana Pools National Park is located in the northern tip of the country, 388km/241mi from Harare and far from any human settlement. The park is mostly off limits to vehicles from November to April. Travel by 4WD is essential.
To get to Mana Pools visitors should drive up the main tarred road from Harare/Chirundu. Once you reach the bottom of the Zambezi escarpment turn off the tarred road onto a 70 kilometre (43.5 mile) dirt road and travel towards Nyamepi Camp. Entry permits are provided for free from the Nyamauti wilderness area and also from the Kanga Pan. There is a 2 day pass limit per car.
The national park is only open to vehicles during the dry season when the roads are manageable by 4X4. During the wet season visitors can only enter the park on foot on a walking safaris or by boat on a canoe safari. The best time to visit the reserve is between May and September, however the best game viewing is said to be between late September and early October but this period is not recommended due to the intense heat - temperature reach up to 38°C (100°F) or higher. Between December and March the park is usually closed, or very limited access is granted.
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.
The park is home to most big safari animals. The endangered black rhino is not often spotted, but most visitors will encounter at least one of the big cats. Buffalo and elephant are abundant, and large herds roam around the floodplains. The river teems with crocodile and hippo. Wild dog are resident in the area as well.
With over 380 birds recorded, Mana Pools is a great birding destination. The range of habitats includes woodland, escarpment cliffs and savannah. Waterbirds are well represented along the shore of the Zambezi River. Carmine bee-eaters nest on the riverbanks in the dry months. African skimmer and Pel's fishing owl are just some of the rare treats to be expected. Migratory birds are present from November to April.
Best Time to Visit
The best time for wildlife viewing in Mana Pools National Park is during the Dry season, from June to October. Animals are easier to spot because the dry weather thins the bush and wildlife concentrates around the Zambezi River.
The weather at Mana Pools is at its most pleasant in the Dry season (April to October). There can be a bit of dust in the air, and the temperature skyrockets just before the rains break in October. But overall the conditions are much more agreeable than those in the Wet season (November to March), when rain is a daily occurrence and humidity hangs in the air.