Mana pools

the best of africa

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Mana Pools offers a truly remote and rugged wilderness experience. Here, visitors to the park can encounter a plethora of wildlife that ranges from large mammals to over 350 bird species.

Meaning “four” in the local Shona language, Mana refers to the park’s four large pools that are vestiges of ancient ox-bow lakes carved out by the mighty Zambezi. Situated in the middle of the Zambezi Valley, the Mana Pools National Park offers the incredible opportunity to embark on expertly guided canoe trails.

Hwange National Park may be the obvious choice for those planning a Zimbabwean safari; but for those in the know, there are many reasons to head further north to Mana Pools National Park instead. Located on the Zambian border and contiguous with Lower Zambezi National Park, this special destination is named for the Shona word meaning “four.” This is in reference to its four permanent pools carved out by former channels of the mighty Zambezi River, which together provide a critical source of water for the region’s wildlife during the long, dry winter. At this time, vast herds of elephants, buffalo, and other herbivores migrate to the park in their hundreds of thousands; drawing an equally impressive number of predators in their wake. 

This annual congregation of animals has been described by UNESCO as “one of Africa’s most outstanding wildlife spectacles,” and was one of the reasons why the 850-square-mile park was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984 along with the adjacent Sapi and Chewore Safari Areas.

“If anyone wants to know what elephants are like, they are like people only more so.”

Tricky to access and little known on the grander safari scene, Mana Pools remains one of the most remote, untamed, and rewarding national parks in Southern Africa—making it the ultimate paradise for off-the-beaten-track adventure seekers. Above all, it’s renowned for alternative game-viewing opportunities, including canoe and walking safaris.

Although the Zambezi River and the four pools it once left behind are undoubtedly the centerpieces of Mana Pools National Park, the region boasts a diverse array of habitats including forests of mahogany, acacia, baobabs, and wild fig. This, as well as its status as a permanent water source in times of drought, make it a haven for many different types of wildlife. Game viewing is therefore the top activity, whether you choose to spot animals from the comfort of a safari vehicle, a river boat or canoe, or on foot. Mana Pools is likely one of the only places in Africa where unguided walking safaris are permitted—although this is not advisable for any but the most experienced.