Mana Pools National Park is synonymous with the Zambezi River, elephants, lions, remote location and wilderness. Its wildness and beauty, together with the wide range of large mammals, over 350 bird species and aquatic wildlife make it the perfect African safari destination.
The name “Mana” means “four” in the local Shona language. This applies to the four large pools inland from the Zambezi River. These pools are the remnant ox-bow lakes that the Zambezi River carved out thousands of years ago as it changed its course northwards. Hippopotamus, crocodiles and a wide variety of aquatic birds are associated with the pools. ”Long Pool”, is the largest of the four pools, extending some six kilometers in a west-east direction. This pool has a large population of hippo and crocodiles and is a favorite for the large herds of elephant that emerge from the thickly vegetated areas in the south to drink.
The mighty Zambezi River flows from Lake Kariba through the Lower Zambezi Valley, a huge rift in the earth’s crust. Over the millennium the Zambezi has rushed through this valley creating islands, channels and sandbanks. Old river meanders, left in the mineral-rich volcanic soils, have formed into small ox-bow lakes surrounded by lush vegetation and tall old stands of mahogany and ebony. This abundance of water and luxuriant greenery accounts for the valley’s wealth of big game.
In 1984, Mana became the first national park in Zimbabwe to be designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It has since been joined by four other Zimbabwean sites including Victoria Falls, the Great Zimbabwe Ruins, the Khami Ruins and Matobo Hills National Park.
The undergrowth in the park is often sparse, so the land is perfect for walking safaris. On the waters of the Great Zambizee, canoe safaris are one of Zimbabwe’s ultimate big game adventures, and a unique way to see the valley.
During the rains, from January to March, the lodges here are closed and 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 pools in the bush dry up. As the year progresses, increasingly large herds of elephant and buffalo begin to appear, as well as kudu, eland, waterbuck, zebra, impala and many other antelope. The wildlife in Mana is incredibly relaxed around persons on foot, making the park one of the best for an African walking safari.
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