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.

 

Four of the Big Five are to be found in the park – there are no rhinos – together with wild dogs (often on visitors “must see” list) and the bird count is almost 400 different species. There is always something to see!

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.

 

Vervet monkeys are constantly present in the campsite and car doors have to be kept closed at all times to avoid theft. Step away from an open door even for a moment and you are bound to lose something, usually something edible. It seems that every newly arrived camper loses at least one item before they believe the message. The antics of the monkeys, though, are a constant entertainment.

 

The banks of the river were visited often by White-fronted Bee-eaters, Little Bee-eaters, Red-billed Firefinches, Striated Herons and Red-billed Queleas in their usual flocks of thousands.

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.

 

The sunrises and the sunsets over the Zambezi are simply incredible! The colours change every few seconds as the sun approaches the horizon, producing a spectacle that in itself makes the visit to the park worthwhile.

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