The word Mana means ‘four’ in Shona and refers to the number of large natural pools that were once ox-bow lakes carved out by the Zambezi River thousands of years ago as it changed its course northwards.
Mana Pools National Park is found in northern Zimbabwe and is 6766km² of protected wilderness that teems with a high density and diversity of large mammals, birds and aquatic life. This is the main reason it, together with the Sapi and Chewore Safari Areas, were inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984. There are hefty herds of buffalo and elephant, large prides of lion, along with an important concentration of Nile crocodiles in the area. As a stronghold of the endangered African wild dog, there are regular sightings of these painted beauties. Leopard and cheetah are seen but not as commonly as other wildlife.
Moving further north towards the Zambezi River from the forests on the Karoo sediments, the vegetation changes to open albida woodlands on the old river terraces. The light filtering through the trees is what gives Mana Pools its distinctive cathedral-like atmosphere and is made even more captivating if you spy an adult bull elephant or two on their hind legs stretching for the seeds of the albida trees.
Mana Pools is known as an excellent birding destination in Southern Africa, with over 380 species, including migratory species like the African skimmer and southern carmine bee-eaters. Pel’s fishing-owl, Lilian’s lovebird, long-toed lapwing and rufous-bellied heron are some of the specials birders can look out for. Mana Pools is without physical boundaries so wildlife roam freely throughout the area, even northwards across the Zambezi River into Zambia.
Along with guided walking safaris through the ancient forests of mahogany, wild fig and baobabs, the other main safari activities in Mana Pools are game drives and canoeing, which are offered by most of the safari camps with licensed and experienced guides. Anglers can stick to the Zambezi riverbank or hop onto a canoe to experience excellent river fishing. This enchanting national park is easy accessed by road from Harare and Lusaka or by light air charter from Harare or any of Zimbabwe’s other parks, which adds to its popularity.
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