Mana Pools in northern Zimbabwe is one of the few wilderness areas where it's possible to explore on foot (either guided or on your own) or by canoe. Roads are few and far between so game driving is by 4x4. It's a pristine, unspoilt paradise, with abundant game, spectacular scenery and an incredible variety of birds.

Highlights
  • UNESCO World Heritage Site
  • Explore canoe trails along the Zambezi
  • Guided walking safaris
  • Authentic, rustic African safari camps
  • Excellent birding and game viewing
  • Remote and uncrowded safari destination
  • Huge herds of elephant and buffalo
  • Rivers teem with hippo and crocodile
  • Superb fishing

Mana Pools National Park is situated in the far north of Zimbabwe, in the Zambezi River Valley. It is a remote and beautiful game reserve that is home to some of the most legendary safari guides in Africa and is known for its fantastic canoe trails and walking safari adventures.

Situated right opposite the Lower Zambezi National Park in Zambia, this part of the Zambezi River Valley is home to an impressive variety of species and birds. There are a number of rustic bush camps, some permanent and some seasonal. A number of camps became a bit run-down during Zimbabwe's economic and tourism slump, but in general, the area seems to be recovering well, and it is certainly worth a visit.

Climate

Mana Pools is generally warm and hot. The winter season is from mid-May to mid-August, where evenings and early mornings can be chilly at around 12°C (54°F). Days are clear and warm at 28°C (82°F). August to October are the hottest, driest months, with temperatures soaring to between 40°C and 50°C (104°F - 122°F). November usually sees the first rains, which bring high humidity levels in their wake. December to February is the peak rainy season, which usually consists of afternoon thundershowers or a steady drizzle that can last for days. Average temperatures range from 21°C -31°C (70°F -88°F).

Mana Pools Zimbabwe Elephants enjoying the water Kavinga Safari Camp

Elephants gathering at the water on a hot day

(Image: Kavinga Safari Camp)

March and April see rains slowing down, with evenings and early mornings becoming cooler. Average temperatures 19°C -31°C (66°F - 88°F). It also depends where you are in Mana Pools as the altitude varies greatly; from 335 metres to1,181 metres above sea level (between 1,098 ft and 3,875 ft) which can also change temperatures considerably, getting cooler the higher up you are.

Best time to go

Although the height of the dry season at Mana Pools (July to October) can be unbearably hot for many, it is the best game viewing time. The area literally teems with wildlife as animals congregate around these perennial water sources. That said, Mana Pools is a rewarding destination right throughout the year. It's scenic, remote and offers an incredible outdoor and adventure safari experience.

Wildlife

Mana Pools is renowned for its huge herds of buffalo and elephant. You may also be lucky to see wild dog as there are several resident packs in the area. The waterways are alive with hippo and crocodile. The birdlife is also excellent. The elephants of Mana are renowned for standing on their hind legs to reach up high into the Acacia Albida trees for the protein-rich, apple-peel like pods.

Mana Pools Zimbabwe Leopard Kavinga Safari Camp

Lazy Mana Pools leopard

(Image: Kavinga Safari Camp)

Getting there

While self-drive is possible (it's a good five- or six-hour drive from Harare), we recommend you use a 4x4 vehicle with an experienced driver. Conditions can be gruelling, especially in the wetter months. Fly-ins from Victoria Falls, Harare and Kariba are usually preferable.

Accommodation

Besides the national park camps, there are some excellent tented safari options, ranging from budget to upmarket. The private lodges have superb guides who will help you explore this compelling, untamed safari destination. We have personally visited many of these camps and areas and can give you unbiased advice on which option(s) would suit you best.

Kanga Camp
Deck At Kanga Camp With Elephants Waterhole

Kanga Camp is in one of the most remote sections of the pristine Mana Pools area, a World Heritage Site not far from Chitake Springs. This vast, untouched wilderness is a veritable eden, offering excellent and varied safari experiences. Closed mid-December until 1 April each year.

Ruckomechi Camp

Ruckomechi Camp is situated just outside of Mana Pools National Park, on a private concession area. The camp overlooks the Zambezi river and is a great base from which to explore the wonderful wildlife and scenery of the Mana Pools region.

Goliath Safari Camp
Goliath Safaris Banks Of Zambezi

This safari company has been going for 30 years in Zimbabwe's Mana Pools National Park and it consistently gets rave reviews. It's owned and run by ‘Stretch’ Ferreira, one of southern Africa’s most experienced and legendary guides. By all accounts, he seems to be an ‘elephant whisperer', able to communicate and develop relationships with individual wild animals and get really close to them and other dangerous game.

Lake Kariba
Feature Lake Kariba Zimbabwe Sunset cruise on the lake Bumi Hills Safari Lodge

Straddling a portion of the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe, Lake Kariba is the world's largest man-made lake. Its creation provided perfect conditions for wildlife in Matusadona National Park, located on a section of its shore on the Zimbabwean side, to thrive. Game viewing along Lake Kariba's shoreline can be done by houseboat, canoe or boat, and from inside Matusadona on foot; preferably with an expert guide. The roads are rough and gruelling and 4x4 vehicles are required.

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Kanga Camp

Kanga Camp is in one of the most remote sections of the pristine Mana Pools area, a World Heritage Site not far from Chitake Springs. This vast, untouched wilderness is a veritable eden, offering excellent and varied safari experiences. Closed mid-December until 1 April each year.

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