Mana Pools National Park

Mana Pools National Park is a very remote  and undeveloped reserve situated on the lower Zambezi River in the Zambezi Valley in northern Zimbabwe. It was declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 1984.  During the seasonal downpours the flood plain turns into a broad expanse of lakes which, with the cessation of rain, gradually dry up and recede, thus attracting many varieties of animals in search of water and  making it one of Africa’s most renowned game viewing areas. Mana Pools National Park  is a  World Heritage site based on its pure wilderness and  beauty, It  is home to a wide range of mammals, over 350 bird species  and aquatic wildlife. 

Mana Pools is a wildlife conservation area centered around four large permanent pools.

The designated site consists of three different areas: Mani Pools National Park, and the Sapi & Chewore Safari Areas. All are situated in the Zambezi valley, along the Middle and Lower Zambezi river and near the border with Zambia.

The river and the sand-banks that are formed by erosion and deposition is the key to the exceptional natural value of these areas. On the riverine strip, large groups of animals congregate annually during the dry season when water elsewhere is scarce. The area is one of the three most important refuges for black rhino in Africa. Also, over 6.500 elephants, 11.000 buffalo, lions, hippos, crocodiles, leopards and cheetahs live in these protected areas.

Visitors to Mana Pools experience the African wilderness in its ‘raw’ form, untainted by commercialization. The park is characterised by its tranquility, wide open spaces, close up wildlife experiences and unblemished natural terrain. It is renowned for its walking and canoe safaris and large numbers of wildlife, particularly crocodiles, hippos, buffalo and elephant. The impact of man has been minimal so it is common for visitors to have ‘close up’ sightings of wildlife in their natural state.

During the rains, most of the big game animals move away from the river and into the escarpment. They start returning to the riverine areas from around April, as the pans in the bush dry up. As the year progresses, increasingly large herds of elephants and buffalos are seen, as well as kudu, eland, waterbuck, zebra, impala and many other antelope.The game is very relaxed about people on foot, making Mana Pools one of Africa’s best national parks for walking safaris.

There are over 20 000 km² of wildlife protected land in the vicinity of Mana Pools. It is in the Middle Zambezi Valley covering an area of 2196 square kilometers (848 square miles) extending from the Zambezi River in the north to the escarpment in the south. Mana Pools is a timeless wilderness considered by many to be the ‘Jewel of Zimbabwe’. 

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Mana Pools NP Website

Mana Pools is excellent for walking safaris and this has been a popular activity over a number of decades. Unusually, these have been encouraged by the authorities since the park opened in 1963. In addition, with a low human population in the surrounding area, the human–wildlife contact / conflict has historically been minimal, so the game is relatively relaxed when encountered on foot.

Zimbabwe is renowned for the quality of its guides and under such guidance visitors can safely approach and get within close proximity of elephant, lion and wild dog.

Mana Pools (219,600 ha) extends over 2,196 square kilometres and together with the Sapi (118,000 ha)  and Chewore (339,000 ha) Safari Areas was declared a World Heritage Site in 1984. This substantial property of 676,600 ha provides the perfect environment for large congregations of Africa’s large mammal populations which gather in its flood plains during the dry season. The park is physically protected by the Zambezi River to the north and the steep escarpment to the south which rises to over 1,000 m from the valley floor.

Over millions of years the meandering Zambezi river has changed its course, leaving small oxbow lakes surrounded by lush vegetation and tall stands of wild fig, ebony and mahogany trees as well as Baobabs. ‘Mana’ is the local Shona word meaning ‘four’ and within the national park, the oxbow lakes have created four large pools thus giving the park its name.

The ‘Mana Pools’ are in essence the former channels of the Zambezi River. ”Long Pool”, is the largest of the four pools, extending some six kilometres in a west-east direction. This pool has a large population of hippo and crocodiles and is a favourite for the large herds of elephant that come out of the thickly vegetated areas in the south to drink.

Together with the wide range of mammals Mana Pools has over 350 bird species and thriving aquatic wildlife.

For those that are inexperienced or first time visitors it is recommended that a guide is used. Having said that, on the old river terraces visibility is good and visitors can walk unaccompanied by guides in the open Albida woodland as there is little danger of unexpectedly coming across dangerous animals. Caution is required as these are wild animals and they can be unpredictable.

This privilege of walking alone in an area with dangerous wildlife is unique in Zimbabwe to Mana Pools. Elephant, eland, buffalo, impala, waterbuck, baboons, monkeys, zebra, warthog and hippo are some of the larger herbivores to be seen regularly on the river terraces as they come out to eat the fallen Albida fruit. Lions, leopards, spotted hyaena and cheetah are present in the area, but their secretive nature makes them more difficult to see.

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Rates:  ZIMPARKS Camping and Lodge Fees





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At A Glance



  • Ruchomechi Camp
  • Little Vundu Camp
  • Vundu Camp
  • Chessa Camp
  • Nyamatusi Camp
  • Chikwenya Camp / Lodge
  • Kanga Camp
  • Mucheni Camp (ZIMPARKS)
  • Nyamepi Camp (ZIMPARKS) 
  • Nkupe Camp (ZIMPARKS)


There are 5 lodges in the Park, all located along the Zambezi River.

There are 2 large lodges situated a short distance upstream from Nyamepi Camp, Musangu and Muchichiri.

These lodges have a bathroom and shower with hot and cold running water; 2 toilets and a fully kitted kitchen with stove and deep-freeze and all utensils such as cutlery, crockery and cooking utensils. All bedding and towels, etc are supplied.

There is a large dining room and lounge, an outside braai area with seating where one can view the river and the wildlife coming down to drink or simply watch the African sun setting over the Zambezi River.

There are also 3 four-bedded lodges, all under thatch.

Each lodge has 2 bedrooms with 2 beds each, a shower and toilet and seating areas outside near the Zambezi River.

The kitchen is supplied with a deep-freezer, cooker, crockery and cutlery and other cooking implements. Bedding and towels, etc are supplied.


ZIMPARKS Campsites

Camping Sites:

There is one large communal campsite along the Zambezi River, and a number of exclusive campsites where visitors can ensure their solitude.

Communal Campsite:

The Nyamepi Camp camping area located along the Zambezi River is situated near the Mana Pools National Park reception office. Visitors need to bring their own camping equipment, bedding, toiletries, cooking implements, etc. There are ablution blocks nearby with hot and cold running water, flush toilets and laundry basins. Visitors can buy firewood at the reception office, and each campsite has a braai area. This camping ground has 30 sites.

Exclusive Campsite:

There are a number of exclusive campsites situated along the Zambezi River. These camps are for the visitor who seeks solitude and who wants to truly experience the wildness and challenges of the bush. There is a braai stand at each site and rudimentary toilet. Water is collected from the river or the reception office. Visitors to these sites need to be fully self-equipped.

The camps are only allowed 2 vehicles and 12 persons per stay. Water may be drawn from the river.

Mucheni: 8 kilometres west of Nyamepi and has 4 secluded camp sites

Nkupe: Just over 1 kilometre east of Nymepi and has 1 camp site

Ndungu: Just east of the carpark area and has 2 campsites

Gwaya: A short distance upstream from the lodges has 1 campsite, with cold-water shower, flush toilet and basin and a braai stand.

Wild Exclusive Camp Sites: There are 2 completely wild camping sites located in the southern sector of the Park – close to Chitake Spring, near the foothills of the Zambezi Escarpment. The check-in point for these camps is at Nyakasikana Gate. Both campsites are without any facilities and are accessible only with four-wheel drive vehicles.

Chitake Camp 1 (Nzou): Located 150 metres downstream from the Chitake River crossing under a large Natal Mahogany near the river.

Chitake Camp 2 (Shumba): Situated on top of a small hill near a number of baobab trees and has a magnificent view south to the escarpment, north to the far off Zambezi, east to Mangangai and west to the Rukomechi River. The camp is about 1 kilometre from the spring.


Air and Road Access


Air Zimbabwe has three scheduled  flights a week to Kariba. 

Charter flights can be arranged from Harare, Kariba and other destinations in Zimbabwe  to Mana Pools.

Transfers can also be arranged by vehicle from Kariba


Driving from Harare to Mana Pools:

Approximately 380 kms (5 ½ hours).



Road Distances and Ferry

Harare – Kariba 367 kms (228 miles)                        

Harare – Mana Pools 380 kms (238 miles)

Kariba – Mana Pools 150 kms (94 miles)

Beitbridge – Bulawayo 322 kms 200 (miles)

Bulawayo – Harare 441 kms (274 miles)

Kariba – Victoria Falls 531 kms (332 miles)

Note: The drive on the Zimbabwe side between Kariba and Victoria Falls is extremely long and arduous, the only route being via Karoi and Binga.

It is a remote dirt road through the mountains behind Matusadona and is only recommended for 4 x 4’s or seasoned travellers.

Visitors can drive through Zambia. This is a good tarred road, and will take approximately 6 to 7 hours via Siavonga andLivingstone.

Be aware that depending on your passport you might incur the costs of a Visa to enter Zambia as well as additional vehicle entry costs.

Kariba to Milibizi Ferry: 

The Service operates between Andorra harbour in Kariba and Mlibizi in the western end of the lake. They can accommodated up to 70 people and 15 vehicles

It’s a an overnight journey of 22 hours. During this time you can completely relax and take in the breathtaking scenery of lake Kariba as you cruise its full length.

Three meals are included Lunch, Dinner and Breakfast, plus morning and afternoon tea is also provided. There is also a cash bar available for those inevitable sundowners.

Sleeping is communal on chair-beds in the central lounge area – mattresses and all bedding is provided. There are toilets and hot showers available.

Note: Visitors travelling on the ferry without a vehicle will need to arrange for a road transfer from Mlibizi to Victoria Falls or visa versa.


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Flora and Fauna

The Dry season (from July to October) is the best time for game viewing in the park. 
Animals include: elephant, crocodiles, hippos, leopard, wild dogs, lion, zebra, honey badgers, wildebeest, eland, impala, waterbuck, baboons, monkeys, warthog, cheetah.
Over 380 birds have been recorded at Mana Pools. Birds include: Carmine bee-eaters, African skimmers, Pel’s fishing owl, Arnot’s chat, Blue-cheeked bee-eater, Böhm’s spinetail, Brown-throated martin, Crested guineafowl, Lilian’s lovebird, Little bittern, Livingstone’s flycatcher, Mottled spinetail, Nyasa lovebird, Red-billed helmetshrike, Red-throated twinspot, Rock pratincole, Rufous-bellied heron, Sombre bulbul, Wattle-eyed flycatcher, Western nicator , White-backed night heron, White-crowned plover
Migratory birds are present from November to April.

There are over 75 fish species found inhabiting the Zambezi waters with some only occurring below the dam wall.

The most sought-after of these is the Tiger Fish   which is considered to be one of the toughest fighting fresh water fish to catch. It is a ferocious species which can grow as large as 33 lbs (15 Kg) in weight.

Other common varieties include: Three-spot, Pink-happy and Yellow-belly bream, Upper Zambezi Yellowfish, African Pike and Silver Barbel 

The main vegetation types consist of mixed miombo and Brachystegia woodlands on the escarpment and higher areas of Chewore. The valley floor is dominated by vast expanses of mopane   woodlands or dry deciduous thickets known as ‘jesse bush’.
More dense plant habitats and communities can be found along the river banks and the banks of the pools. The more open woody vegetation on the alluvial soils of the floodplains is dominated by open forests of large indigenous Faidherbia albida, also commonly known as apple-ring acacia.  There are also small patches of more diverse woodland on slightly higher ground of old islands or termite mounds, featuring Kigelia africana (sausage tree), Trichilia emetica ( Natal-mahogany) or majestic specimens of Ficu (fig trees)
The soils are mainly sandy except for the alluvial soils deposited by the river in areas that have been subject to regular flooding and the rocky areas on the escarpment.

Activities and Attractions

There are a number of exciting things to whilst staying in Mana Pools. These include:

  • Camping
  • Walking safaris
  • Fishing
  • Game drives
  • Birding
  • Photography
  • Community visit

Camping: Available around the Park at developed, semi-developed and exclusive sites

Walking Safaris: These are offered by individual safari camps however ZIMPARKS offer a 3 day hike in the wild of Mana Pools National Park.

Visitors will need to be fit, provide their own rucksacks, food and toiletries. This is a unique experience for the nature lover and those who enjoy the challenge of facing nature one on one.

Fishing: Visitors can fish in the Zambezi River and experience the excitement of hooking large fish for the pot. Half of the joy is experiencing the quiet, solitude and beauty of the unspoiled bush around you.

Game Drives: Usually most rewarding in the early morning and late afternoon. Long Pool is often worth visiting soon after sunrise.

Amenities: The Park is remote and the nearest shops and fuel supplies are nearly 100 kms away, therefore visitors should be fully equipped for their visit.

Sign Post


 Dry season – April to October – Winter
  •  April – This is when the Wet season ends. It cools down-particularly at night, and the rains occur with less and less frequency.
  • May, June, July, August – Although there is a warming trend in August, these months are typically the coldest and driest. Daytime temperatures are around 28°C/82°F, but at night and during the early mornings the temperature hovers around 12°C/54°F. 
  • September, October – The first rains take place in late October, which brings a much needed break to the continued dry weather. The landscape is less dusty and new growth appears. The heat builds and reaches its peak in October with average temperatures of 36°C/97°F during the day, with it frequently rising to well over 40°C/104°F. The combination of high temperatures and increased humidity (once the rains have begun) can make it feel oppressive and uncomfortable. 

Wet season – November to March – Summer

  • November – The rains are in full force, although it would be unusual for them to take place every day. It often feels quite humid due to the high temperatures (34°C/93°F on average) and increased humidity.
  • December, January & February – During the wettest months, it rarely rains all day but it will rain frequently. Afternoon showers are followed by bright skies, but rain can also come in the form of a continuous drizzle lasting for a few days. Daytime temperatures average 31°C/88°F while night and early morning average 21°C/70°F.
  • March – The Wet season ends as rains decrease. Temperatures average between 31°C/88°F and 19°C/66°F.


Average High Daytime Temperatures

Summer day time highs can reach 38° to 42°c

Winter night time lows can reach 5° to 10°c

Mana Pools has a climate that is warm and hot. September to March is the warmest time of the year, whilst May to August are the cooler months.
Mana Pools has greatly varying altitudes (from 335 to 1181m or 1099 to 3875 ft) which cause rather wide temperature changes within the park. Temperatures decrease by about 6.5°C for every 1000m traveled upward. 
The Dry season is from April to October, bringing pleasant weather and a bright, clear sky. Downpours followed by sunny skies are typical of the Wet season (November to March), although it can sometimes lightly shower for days at a time.
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