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Mana Pools
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Mana Pools safari


... tends to be quite an outdoorsy and authentic experience, the best in Zimbabwe and right up there with the very best in Africa. The area is particularly well known for epic canoe safaris along the river and some serious walking safaris, including on foot approaches to larger wildlife including elephants and lions.

At 2196 square kilometres, Mana Pools is at the heart of a very important conservation area which also includes Lower Zambezi national park across the river in Zambia and several substantial game management areas.

The scenery in Mana Pools is magnificent, centred on the mighty Zambezi River, whose meandering waters are responsible for depositing the unusually rich soils that line the river, creating broad grassy floodplains and impressive stands of open mahogany and ebony forests.

The area contains excellent densities of wildlife, notably elephants, lions, leopards, spotted hyenas, hippos and crocodiles. But perhaps most excitingly, this is one of the very best locations in Africa for wild-dogs.

Mana Pools is renowned as one of the very best locations in Africa for walking safari. Some of the guides here have been in the park for decades and have personal relationships with individual elephants and other animals.

One of the very best locations for walking safari is the simple but fabulous Goliath Safari Camp, personally hosted by legendary guide Stretch Ferreira, who is famed for his remarkably close animal interactions.

Mana Pools is also famous for canoe safari on the Zambezi River, which can also get rather exciting at times, the resident hippos can be quite unpredictable.

Camps here tend to be relatively rustic and authentic, small personable places which tend to appeal most to a more outdoorsy and experienced safari traveller.

When to visit ...

Jun/Oct ... is the dry season in Zimbabwe and generally considered to be the best time to be out on safari as the majority of animals converge on the few year round water sources. During the early part of the season, May/Jun, night time temperatures can be rather low, so do bring warm layers and a decent jacket. The grass and foliage cover can also be a little high during the first month or so, making it a little bit more difficult to find the animals. Towards the end of the season the wildlife viewing should be at its absolute best, but it can become extremely hot and humid day and night. Visitor numbers are relatively high, but this tends not to be too much of an issue here.

Nov/May ... is the green season, with showers being possible at any time, but generally focussed on Dec/Feb when they can become persistent. This rain can cause many of the minor tracks to become difficult and increase the grass and foliage cover, both of which make wildlife viewing more challenging. However the bush looks beautiful, with lots of wildflowers and baby animals. Visitor numbers are very low, except for the Dec/Jan holiday season, and prices are often considerably reduced.

Where to stay ...

Goliath Safari Camp ... is an intimate, rustic and owner-hosted facility, the stand-out option for walking safari in the reserve.

Ruckomechi Camp ... is a slightly more upscale and comfortable option, situated on an adjoining private reserve to the west, which means that it is also possible to do motorboat safari and night vehicle safari.

Mana Canoe Trail ... is an adventurous multiple night journey which traverses 50km of the Zambezi River and is particularly popular with our more outdoorsy guests.

Zambezi Lifestyles ... is another of the more earthy bushcamp options along the river inside the main reserve.

Vundu Camp ... is a relatively simple but pleasant facility along the main river and inside the main reserve, which also benefits from being owner-hosted.

Kanga Camp ... is a very pleasant little place which is set by a waterhole well away from the main river, so tends to only be included in longer stays in combination with a riverside camp.

How we like to include this area in trips ...

Considering the quality of the safari here, Mana Pools remains surprisingly little-visited. But it naturally tends to feature prominently in a high proportion the trips that we help our guests to put together through the country.

The area can be accessed by light aircraft from Victoria Falls or by road from Lusaka in Zambia to the Chirundu border post, from where it is an hour by motorboat.

Guests who are less inclined to do a lot of walking safaris and canoe safaris tend to stay in just one camp, typically for 3 to 4 nights.

Guests who really want to take full advantage of the full range of activities and experience different styles of guiding and accommodation often stay a good deal longer, perhaps combining two or three camps, as well as undertaking a multiple day canoe trail. These combinations are usually over 5 to 9 nights.

Almost all safaris to Mana Pools are combined with nights in either Victoria Falls or immediately across the Zambezi River in Livingstone. Many trips also combine with other safari camps over Hwange national park to the north-west of the country.

The area can also be combined with locations in Zambia, Botswana and South Africa. Connections to other countries are possible but can be relatively arduous.

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Jay Hanson
Jay Hanson, Senior Safari Consultant
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