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World Heritage Site, Core Area of the Middle-Zambezi Biosphere Reserve, Important Bird Area, and one of the wildest of Zimbabwe’s National Parks, situated in the extreme north of the country.
The Park has special significance for photographic tourism. It extends for a distance of some 50ms from the Zambezi escarpment mountains, through the flat floor of the Zambezi valley to the river itself, its focal point being the system of alluvial river terraces, up to 3.5km wide, which flank the Zambezi River along the park’s 50 km river frontage. This narrow and fertile strip of land supports mature woodlands of magnificent “Winter-thorn” or “apple-ring” acacia, mahogany, ebony and fig trees. In the dry season, the shady glades beneath these huge trees, are filled with huge concentrations of African wildlife – herds of impala, eland, elephant, zebra, buffalo, waterbuck and kudu – a plentiful supply of prey for the lion, leopard, wild dog, hyaena and other predators and scavengers that inhabit this unique and wonderful place.
Thousands of zebra, kudu, eland, impala, and other antelope species flourish among which the lion and the leopard, the hyena and wild dogs find easy pickings. The sanctuary, one of the only two pockets of nyala in the country, is also home to 16 000 buffalo and more than 12 000 elephant – Zimbabwe’s largest concentration after Hwange. Many female elephants in the region do not have tusks and are much more aggressive than those with tusks.
Along the river bank where one of the greatest varieties of bird life in the world flourishes, hippos warm themselves in the morning sun. Later in the day, they keep cool by remaining all but submerged in the river, sharing their hidden sandbanks with silent and almost unseen crocodiles.
More than 380 bird species are enough to draw the breath of any ornithologist. Its banks flutter with Goliath herons, Egyptian and Spurwing geese, cormorants, storks, brilliantly coloured bee-eaters, and kingfishers.
Vultures, plovers, Nyasa lovebird, yellow-spotted nicator, white-collared pratincole, Livingstone’s flycatcher, banded snake-eagle, and the clich symbol of Africa, the black and white fish eagle, haunt the riverine forest and mopane woods.
In the river, tiger fish, bream, tilapia, vundu, nkupi, chessa, cornish jack and lung fish sport and prey upon one another.
The richness of the forest trees and plants is the vital link in Mana Pools chain of continuity. The apple ring acacia keeps the elephant herds alive during the fierce October-November dry season. These handsome trees paint a unique an picturesque landscape which this park is famous for.
Mana Pools National Park, a World Heritage Site, is pristine wilderness on the Zambezi River. The park is usually explored by canoe or on foot, uniquely offered as guided or unguided activities, and is particularly appealing to adventure seekers. Four of the Big Five are present.
Access to this remote park is by air charter, 4×4 or boat transfers on the Zambezi River from Chirundu. There are no shops and mobile phone network coverage is very limited. Accommodation is restricted to a handful of safari lodges, and eco-friendly tented or mobile camps as well as 4 self-catering Parks chalets and a 5-unit tented camp. Camping on the banks of the Zambezi river is a feature of the Mana experience. There is the large and attractive Parks public campsite at Nyamepi, with shower and toilet blocks or several remote wilderness campsites which can be booked for exclusive use, dotted along the river with basic “long-drop” facilities. Entry to the park is strictly controlled by the National Parks Authority and prior booking is essential, either through an agent or operator or through the Authority itself.
Mana Pools National Park has a warm climate. September to March is the warmest time of the year, while May to August makes up the coolest period. The Dry season (winter), from April to October, brings pleasant weather and a bright, clear sky. Downpours followed by sunny skies are typical of the Wet season (summer), from November to March.
The best time for wildlife viewing in Mana Pools National Park is during the Dry season, from June to October. Animals are easier to spot because the dry weather thins the bush and wildlife concentrates around the Zambezi River and the pools on its floodplains. Part of the park might get closed off for vehicles during part of the Wet season (from December to March).