UNESCO Natural World Heritage Site
Mana Pools National Park is synonymous with the Zambezi River, elephants, lions, remoteness and wilderness.
This unique park is a WORLD HERITAGE SITE, based on its wildness and beauty, together with the wide range of large mammals, over 350 bird species and aquatic wildlife. Mana Pools is one of Zimbabwe’s most popular parks, and it is easy to see why it falls into this profile.
The name “Mana” means “four” in the local Shona language. This applies to the four large pools inland from the Zambezi River. These pools are the remnant ox-bow lakes that the Zambezi River carved out thousands of years ago as it changed its course northwards. Hippopotamus, crocodiles and a wide variety of aquatic birds are associated with the pools. ”Long Pool”, is the largest of the four pools, extending some six kilometres in a west-east direction. This pool has a large population of hippo and crocodiles and is a favourite for the large herds of elephant that come out of the thickly vegetated areas in the south to drink.
As one moves northwards towards the Zambezi River from the forests on the Karoo sediments, the vegetation changes to open Faidherbia albida woodlands on the old river terraces. This vegetation gives an unique look to the area and a surreal light filters through the trees giving Mana Pools its distinctive cathedral-like atmosphere.
On the old river terraces, tourists can walk unaccompanied by guides in the open Albida woodland because visibility is good and there is little danger of unexpectedly coming across dangerous animals. This privilege of walking alone in an area with dangerous wildlife is unique in Zimbabwe. Elephant, eland, buffalo, impala, waterbuck, baboons, monkeys, zebra, warthog and hippo are some of the larger herbivores to be seen regularly on the river terraces as they come out to eat the fallen Albida fruit. Lions, leopards, spotted hyena and cheetah are present in the area, but their secretive nature makes them more difficult to see. Despite this, it is not often that the visitor leaves Mana Pools without seeing at least one of these large carnivores.
Northwards, off the river terraces, is the mighty Zambezi River flowing sedately on its way to the Indian Ocean. This now tranquil river was a major route for the trade in ivory and slaves in the dark past.
Mana Pools is 2,196 square kilometres in extent but is part of the 10,500 square kilometre Parks and Wildlife Estate that runs from the Kariba Dam in the west to the Mozambique border in the east. This large area is without physical boundaries and the wildlife is free to move throughout the area – even northwards across the Zambezi River into Zambia, where there are also large wilderness areas set aside for wildlife conservation.
Tourist facilities include lodges, a communal campsite with ablution facilities and exclusive campsites where the visitor can be alone.
There are 5 lodges in the Park, all located along the Zambezi River. There are 2 large lodges situated a short distance upstream from Nyamepi Camp, Musangu and Muchichiri. These lodges have a bathroom and shower with hot and cold running water; 2 toilets and a fully kitted kitchen with stove and deep-freeze and all utensils such as cutlery, crockery and cooking utensils. All bedding and towels, etc are supplied. There is a large dining room and lounge, an outside braai area with seating where one can view the river and the wildlife coming down to drink or simply watch the African sun setting over the Zambezi River.
There are also 3 four-bedded lodges, all under thatch. Each lodge has 2 bedrooms with 2 beds each, a shower and toilet and seating areas outside near the Zambezi River. The kitchen is supplied with a deep-freezer, cooker, crockery and cutlery and other cooking implements. Bedding and towels, etc are supplied.
There is one large communal campsite along the Zambezi River, and a number of exclusive campsites where visitors can ensure their solitude.
The Nyamepi Camp camping area located along the Zambezi River is situated near the Mana Pools National Park reception office. Visitors need to bring their own camping equipment, bedding, toiletries, cooking implements, etc. There are ablution blocks nearby with hot and cold running water, flush toilets and laundry basins. Visitors can buy firewood at the reception office, and each campsite has a braai area. This camping ground has 30 sites.
There are a number of exclusive campsites situated along the Zambezi River. These camps are for the visitor who seeks solitude and who wants to truly experience the wildness and challenges of the bush. There is a braai stand at each site and rudimentary toilet. Water is collected from the river or the reception office. Visitors to these sites need to be fully self-equipped and be able to handle the remoteness and solitude of these unique camps. The camps are only allowed 2 vehicles and 12 persons per stay. Water may be drawn from the river.
8 kilometres west of Nyamepi and has 4 secluded camp sites
Just over 1 kilometre east of Nymepi and has 1 camp site
Just east of the carpark area and has 2 campsites
A short distance upstream from the lodges has 1 campsite, with cold-water shower, flush toilet and basin and a braai stand.
Wild Exclusive Camp Sites
There are 2 completely wild camping sites located in the southern sector of the Park – close to Chitake Spring, near the foothills of the Zambezi Escarpment. The check-in point for these camps is at Nyakasikana Gate. Both campsites are without any facilities and are accessible only with four-wheel drive vehicles.
Chitake Camp 1 (Nzou)
Located 150 metres downstream from the Chitake River crossing under a large Natal Mahogany near the river.
Chitake Camp 2 (Shumba)
Situated on top of a small hill near a number of baobab trees and has a magnificent view south to the escarpment, north to the far off Zambezi, east to Mangangai and west to the Rukomechi River. The camp is about 1 kilometre from the spring.
The Park is generally remote and far from any business centre. The nearest shops and fuel supplies are nearly 100 kilometres away, therefore visitors should be fully equipped for their visit. The park closes during the wet season (Dec – April) but this should be verified at the time.
How to get to Mana Pools National Park
The drive from Harare to Mana Pools takes approximately 5 ½ hours.
- Drive along the main Harare – Chirundu road, you will pass the Makuti Garage and Hotel, this is approximately 295 km from Harare, about 3 hours travel time. Continue past Makuti to Marangora National Parks office (GPS Co-ordinates: -16° 13′ 23.63″, +29° 9′ 40.69″).
- Please stop at the Marongora National Parks office, which is easy to find, on the left hand side after Makuti, it is sign posted. There you must obtain a permit to enter the park.
- From Marongora continue towards Chirundu down the escarpment, through the Tsetse Fly Control Point after which you turn right onto a dirt road to Mana Pools, it is clearly sign posted. This road is currently very corrugated, and should be driven with caution.
- At the turning point onto the dirt road you will come across the first of two security booms (Chimutsi Gate). You will have to show the entry permit you got from Marongora.
- After the first boom follow the road until you reach the second boom (Nyakasikana) from here you will turn left and continue on to the Wardens Head Office at Nyamepi.
- Follow the signs that will take you to the Warden’s Head Office at Nyamepi where you will need to sign in.
- When exiting the park it is essential to return to Nyamepi in order to sign out.