Mana Pools is a hidden Gem which lies in the Northern parts of Zimbabwe bordering Zambia. The Reserve is very remote and therefore untouched and still very wild. The beauty of Mana Pools its that it is a walking concession with massive flood plains and, with the prominent Zambezi River flowing, it boasts a number of spectacular sights and interactions with its inhabitants. For every wildlife enthusiast Mana Pools is simply a must. It adds a whole new dimension and feel to a safari.
The best time to visit Mana Pools is May through to November which during the dry season, making the reserve accessible as opposed to the wet season it becomes almost impossible.
Here are 6 reasons why I think Mana Pools should be on every wildlife enthusiast's bucket list
1 - Walking
The big draw card for this reserve are the walking safari's. Most Southern-African reserve's offer walking as an optional activity but not nearly to the extent that Mana Pools does. Often animals see humans as a threat and therefore tend to move away quickly upon seeing humans on foot. But, in Mana Pools because walking is such a big part of the experience and been done for so many years, walking amongst general game on the flood plains is both a feeling of immersion and something that results in little to no disruption of the animals that inhabit these enchanted forests.
2 – High Profile Animals
In many Reserves, high profile animals such as lions, elephant, buffalo, leopard and wild dog are viewed from the comfort of a vehicle, where over time the animals have been habituated to the sounds, smells and look of vehicles which has relaxed (not tamed) the animals. In Mana Pools the emphasis has always been an on-foot experience, allowing individuals to approach these high profile animals at a safe distance in order to view their natural behaviour on foot. In case you're wondering, it's always with an experienced guide who can read the situation and monitor the group's safety at all times.
3 – The Sounds
Lying in the tent at night opens up a whole new experience in itself. With such a variety of nocturnal creatures moving around and through the area there is always something on offer in the darkness to hear from the safety of the tent. The sounds are simply incredible, the hippos splashing water as they head out to start feeding, an elephant gently picking up and feeding on seed pods nearby, the distant whoop of a hyena, the clicking noises from an eland as it walks by and of course the booming sound of a lion as it moves through the area patrolling it's territory. These are just some of the special evening sounds experienced in Mana Pools
4 – The Zambezi River
The River offers another aspect to the Reserve and once again a different feel. Canoeing down the river is a very special experience as there is an abundance of wildlife which use the river systems on a daily basis such as hippo, crocodile, elephants, buffalo and a variety of bird species depending on the time of year of coarse.
If you fancy yourself as a fisherman then the Zambezi is the place for you. There is a variety of fish in the river and in terms of game fish, tiger fish is the common species.
During the heat of the day Elephants head down to the waters edge for a refreshing drink and sometimes even a swim which in itself is an incredible sight. Early morning and late afternoon sees a number of bird species traveling up and down the river system in search of food and to quench their thirst. In the summer months’ bee-eaters are seen nesting in the banks of the Zambezi river which is a great opportunity for any birder or photographer to witness.
5 – Camp Life
The experience of camp life is worth the trip alone. Obviously there are a couple of different ways to experience Mana Pools from five-star lodge operators to camping on your own. Having said this, 'camp life' in terms of the passing wildlife is much the same regardless of your accommodation. Sitting outside during the heat of the day, feeling the cool breeze as it comes off the Zambezi, one feels like they are in heaven, and having a variety of animals move through camp is just a bonus. Picture yourself sitting in camp amongst the large Albida trees while elephants, eland and a variety of other animals move through calmy and quietly, feeding on the seed pods dropping from the trees.
6 – A Photographers Dream
It is no secret that Mana Pools offers a different type of photographic experience. Being able to walk amongst the wildlife and watching its inhabitants go about their daily business gives photographers the chance to capture unique images to any other Reserve. Being able to spend time with animals at eye level creates a whole new feel to an image too. Besides the animals, the light is simply spectacular during golden hour in the enchanted forests and flood plains offering a whole array of colours from brown, greens and oranges to a beautiful shade of blue. Being there in the dry season offers great opportunities to capture animals in the flood plains as they move through the area and create large clouds of dust.
Bird photography is also great in the area offering a number of different opportunities. From The bee-eaters on the banks of the Zambezi, skimmers in the late afternoon light over the pools of water to tracking down the beautiful and elusive pels fishing owl.
Until next time,