Mana Pools Nat'l Park

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Elephant with baby elephant gazes at safari guests in a grooved canoe mere feet away in the Zambezi River in Mana Pools National Park, Zimbabwe view larger image

Mana Pools lies on the southern bank of the Zambezi River, bordering Lower Zambezi National Park in Zambia. Together the two parks protect a riverine environment that supports an intense concentration of wildlife, ideal for exploring by canoe safari. “Mana” means four in the Shona language, referring to the four large pools, remnants of ancient oxbow lakes, which sustain great numbers of hippo, crocodile, elephant, buffalo, waterbuck and aquatic birds on islands and sandbanks.

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Zebras abound on the African plains as they search for the greenest grasses to eat in Mana Pools National Park, Zimbabwe view image gallery

The Safari Experience

From Mana Pools, you face over the wide Zambezi River toward the Rift Valley escarpment that rises up on the other side. Within sight are also the river, floodplains and riverine forests. The landscape is stunning and varied here. Mana Pools has areas of land that are not drivable, making it an ideal locale for both guided canoe safaris for all levels and walking safaris along the river, with never the least bit of noise interference from vehicles. Canoeing gives you a perspective of wildlife on the riverbanks and in the river that you otherwise would never have. Stops on the banks for tea and coffee and short walks into the forests are intimate and exclusive experiences where you rarely see another soul. Wildlife drives are also done in part of the park by custom-built, open, 4x4 safari vehicles, getting you very close to the big game and larger herds of animals.

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Lone elephant walks along the green banks of the Zambezi River, stunning mountains and encompassing tree, Mana Pools National Park, Zimbabwe view image gallery


In the dry season, the wildlife that has been dispersed during the rains moves down toward the river as water sources begin to dry. Elephants enter the river to bathe and play, often right next to camp! Canoeing reveals pods of hippo grunting and nests of crocodiles lazily sunning themselves on banks and islands. You’ll get a dog’s eye view of elephant coming to the riverbanks to drink, often crossing directly in front of you or using their trunks like snorkels to cross the river. In the dry season they stand on their hind legs to reach into the tree canopy for fruits. Other wildlife in the area includes large herds of Cape buffalo, lion, leopard, cheetah and wild dog as well as Burchell’s zebra, waterbuck and greater kudu on the surrounding plains. Water birds are plentiful, and some special sightings include western banded snake-eagle, Arnott's chat, rufous-bellied heron and the occasional Pel’s fishing owl.

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Lionesses paw their way across a dirt patch in the African bush as safari guests snap shots from a rover in Mana Pools National Park, Zimbabwe view image gallery

How to Include Mana Pools in Your Safari Itinerary

Recommended Number of Nights

Nature Travelers: 3 nights
Photographers: 3 nights
Families: 3 nights
Active Travelers: 3 nights or 1 night before and after a 3-night canoe safari

Other Regions to Include

Either before or after Mana Pools’ riverine walking and canoe safari, fascinating elephant behavior and unique scenery, Hwange National Park can offer a varied terrain of semi-arid desert and grassland with enormous herds of elephant along with a hugely diverse mammal population, and possibly white rhino. Victoria Falls is a nice way to start, finish or combine your Zimbabwe safari with Botswana or Zambia. The Okavango Delta offers a perfectly unique experience of waterways, mokoro boating, brilliant fishing and fantastic large wildlife and birdlife. If combining Mana Pools with Zambia, the South Luangwa is a must, with the best walking safaris and unique subspecies of mammal, like the Crawshay’s zebra, Thornicroft’s giraffe and birdlife found nowhere else. For seemingly guaranteed rhino sightings, include a stop in Namibia's Damaraland and Palmwag region, where desert-adapted black and white rhino are fiercely protected by the Save the Rhino Trust.

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