Mana Pools ~ rugged and wild

Mana Pools National Park ~ rugged and wild is one of Zimbabwe’s most remote and least developed safari parks. It is a 220-hectare wildlife conservation area and National Park in Northern Zimbabwe adjoining the mighty Zambezi River. In 2013 Mana Pools was deemed a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Map of Mana Pools location
Map of Mana Pools location
About mana pools

It was named Mana Pools due to the Zambezi River’s four large watering holes or pools. Having four water pools provides much-needed water for wildlife and maintains lush green forests. Due to the abundance of water, the park is full of wild figs, baobab, and mahogany trees.  Mana means “four “in the local Shona language. 

The park has the usual array of wildlife. Its main attraction is its large herds of elephants. There are around 12,000 elephants and a large wild dogs’ population. In addition, lions, leopards, spotted hyenas, elands, impalas, monkeys, zebras, warthogs, various birds, and other smaller animals inhabit Mana Pools. 

landscape and photographers paradise

As a result of the stunning landscapes and abundance of wildlife, Mana Pools is a photographer’s paradise. Sunrises and sunsets over the Zambezi River while enjoying sundowners with elephants galore, wild dog packs, trees, forests are incredible, and one never tires of this magnificent wildlife park.

Walking safari with local guide Henry ~ one of the best guides on the planet
Inquisitive elephants

Mana Pools is one of the only places that allows walking safaris with wildlife a few metres away. Animals in this park are very used to human presence on foot. Animals at Mana Pools are accustomed to humans and therefore are not bothered by humans observing, photographing and walking around.

With some apprehension, I agreed to a walking safari. was very apprehensive both for myself and the wildlife but was assured by my local and experienced guide Henry Bandure that it was very safe. Although viewing wildlife from a vehicle is a great experience, it doesn’t compare to a walking safari.

incredible experience

Observing wildlife at ground level and photographing them is entirely another experience and so unique. However, there are strict rules for walking safaris at Mana Pools. For example, keep a safe distance, remain quiet, and move slowly.  For me, it was the elephants and the wild dogs walking safari that I loved the most.  

The magnificent elephants were aware, curious and did approach very slowly!  My initial reaction was to flee back to the safety of my vehicle. However, I was told, or rather ordered to be quiet, remain still, keep smiling and ignore them! So, feeling safe with Henry’s presence and reassurance, I stayed calm.

Close encounter with a bull elephant
Bull elephant

Curious elephants approached within a metre or two. Then, briefly sniffing us with their trunks in the air. Then, they proceeded to pass on their merry way! I think they knew my guide Henry, one of the most experienced guides in Mana Pools. He is one of the most professional wildlife guides I have ever had, and in addition, he is very knowledgeable about wildlife guides I have ever had. This unique experience one never forgets.

Elephant checking us out
Friendly elephant coming to check the new visitors at Mana Pools

Staying at Mana Pools was a fantastic experience due to the mobile tented camp set just beside the mighty Zambezi River. One wakes up each morning to the sounds of the flowing river. Not to mention the hippos calling and the lions roaring.

Daily visits from the elephants!
Daily visits from the elephants coming to check out the campsite
African Bush Camp

I stayed at a mobile camp courtesy of African Bush Camps. African Bush Camps have camps in Botswana, Zimbabwe, and Zambia. All tents have an ensuite bathroom. Hot showers were always available as the hot water buckets were constantly filled before sunrise and each day. While each tent doesn’t have electricity, the central area tent has a charging station for cameras and other devices.

In spite of the very remote location, fantastic meals were prepared and cooked by local and experienced chefs, with the assistance of local staff. In addition, African Safari Bush Camps pride themselves with their great attention to detail place great emphasis on ensuring all guests have an enjoyable stay at Mana Pools.

Meals are served outside to make the most of ones experience in Mana Pools
Meals are served outside beside the Zambezi River
Beautiful view of the Zambezi River from the tent
Beautiful view of the Zambezi River from my tent

Being an unfenced camp, it has an incredible feeling of raw nature, with wildlife wandering through the camp day and night. 

Elephants coming for their daily visit to check out the new visitors
Daily visitors
Sundowners on the banks of the mighty Zambezi River
Sundowners on the banks of the mighty Zambezi River

Elephants are a big attraction and a firm favourite for visitors to Mana Pools. As a result of the tall trees at Mana Pools elephants have learned to heave themselves up to reach high into the trees. Balancing their weight on their hind legs, they extend their trunk, for the purpose of gaining access to the lush foliage in the treetops. This is a unique elephant adaptive behaviour for this area. 

Elephant standing on two fee to reach the top of the lush trees
‘Boswell’ the most famous standing elephant at Mana Pools
Beautiful landscapes with elephants always in the shot!
Beautiful landscapes with elephants always in the shot!
african wild dogs

Having an opportunity to observe a pack of wild dogs from ground level, only metres from me as opposed to sitting in a vehicle was an awesome experience. The pack was on its morning outing, getting ready for a hunt. Watching their’ ritual greeting ceremony’ at eye level was very special. Their ritual greeting ceremony is an integral part of keeping the pack together, reinforcing mutual respect between all dogs in their respective packs. This ritual occurs after sleep, when the pack joins up after being separated, and before a hunt.  It involves them running together, sniffing, licking and playing together with a lot of affection towards one another. Greetings don’t last very long, so one must be ready with their camera poised, waiting for the moment.

African wild dog greeting
African wild dog greeting

While the African wild dogs were aware of our presence, they were not curious about making friends with humans. Instead, they continued their daily rituals without a care for our presence.

Daily ritual greeting for the African wild dogs
Daily ritual greeting for the African wild dogs
A pack of African wild dogs part-taking in their unique ritual greeting
A pack of African wild dogs part-taking in their unique ritual greeting
A pack of African wild dogs lining up prior to heading out for their usual well coordinated hunt
A pack of African wild dogs lining up before heading out for their usual well-coordinated hunt
Stunning landscapes
Beautiful light filters through the trees every day
Beautiful light filters through the trees every day
Looking out over the Zambezi River on to the mountains of Zambia
Looking out over the Zambezi River to the mountains of Zambia
Reaching up
Reaching up
Lone zebra
Lone zebra
Spotted hyena
Spotted hyena
Python just finishing devouring a squirrel
Python is just finishing off devouring a squirrel

Sadly, twelve thousand elephants have been poached from Mana Pools over the past ten years. However, with the help of Global Conservation support and the local Bush-Life Conservancy Support Unit, they are making significant progress in protecting elephants and other wildlife in Mana Pools.

These initiatives include:

  • antipoaching patrols
  • ranger training
  • improving roads
  • human-wildlife conflict resolution
  • collaring of wildlife for close monitoring
  • employing teams of local women rangers

Please enjoy this short video on the wild dogs of Mana Pools

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