Mana Pools National Park is located in northern Zimbabwe, along the Zambezi River, which forms the boundary between Zimbabwe and Zambia. The park covers an area of over 6,500 sq km and it is named for the four permanent pools that remain when the flood waters of the Zambezi recede during the dry months (“Mana” means four in Shona, the local language of the area). These pools offer excellent game viewing as the smaller water holes dry up after the summer rains have ended.
The park is quite remote, and it is a long drive to get there, but it is worth every minute. The remoteness itself offers a true wilderness experience that is increasingly difficult to come by as more and more people venture into what were the domains of the truly adventurous just a few years ago, and luxury lodges, often with airstrips adjoining, spring up in the boondocks.
The campsite that we stayed at is on the banks of the Zambezi and is unfenced; elephants are frequent visitors to the campsite and although we were parked just a few metres from the river, on one occasion a large bull elephant still wandered through this narrow gap on his way to the water to drink.
The campsite has spectacular views of the Zambezi, but the facilities are not particularly well maintained and one of the ablutions was without water at the time of our visit, while the other was seriously in need of maintenance. In a stroke of bad planning the men’s bathroom has a mirror over each of the urinals, but there isn’t one over the handbasin – shaving over a urinal is a novel experience, I guess. Just be careful where you rinse the razor.