I recently hosted a safari to Mana Pools for the first time in about 6 years. If you have been to Mana Pools or seen videos and images from Mana Pools you will know it is quite a special place, so you can imagine my excitement to return to this magical place. So how do I explain experiencing Mana Pools?
I often get asked what my favorite safari destination is, to be honest it’s a really tough question to answer because each destination offers something completely different and a unique experience. So, it is impossible for me to choose a favorite one, but what I can do is explain why Mana Pools is such a special place.
Mana Pools National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is a beautiful 2,196 sq. km wildlife conservation area in northern Zimbabwe.
Mana means "four" in Shona, (one of the main vernacular languages in Zimbabwe) and it refers to the number of large permanent pools left by the Zambezi River as it flows into the flood plain. Mana is known as one of Africa’s best game viewing areas, as many large animals come here in search of water. It is also an excellent area for fishing and bird-watching, being rich in vegetation diversity from river frontage to forests of mahogany, wild fig, acacia albida and baobabs. The landscapes in Mana Pools are beautiful too, dotted with acacia trees, whose shade becomes vital to the parks’ more than 12,000-strong elephant population in the dry season, as well as a sprinkling of vibrant plant life. Far away from any human settlement, you’ll relish the feeling of remoteness here. Surrounded only by extreme wilderness, and if you visit in winter, you’ll find yourself exploring amongst the highest concentration of wildlife in Africa. An experience for which words can do no justice.
As you can see from the above it is an extremely diverse park with something for anyone and everyone when it comes to being out on safari.
A huge draw card is the floodplains on the banks of the mighty Zambezi River. During the dry season this attracts plenty of general game as well as buffalos, lions and leopards. This is the best time to visit the Park and experience Mana Pools at its very best.
The main attraction to Mana Pools is being able to get out on foot and spend quality time with high profile animals such as lions, buffalo, wild dogs and elephants from a completely different angle.
One of my favorite things to do is just walk through the flood plains. Coming from a guiding background and guiding in South Africa, walks are conducted very differently and the animals' behavior is very tense and generally very skittish, so they tend to either run away from you or you get a fleeting glimpse before they disappear. In Mana Pools, because people have been habituating these animals on foot for many years, its a completely different feeling. Don't get me wrong, they are still wild animals and we always have a local guide as well as a Wild Eye guide who will manage the situations, watch the animals behavior and approach animals with caution. It is always done in a safe way and we always keep our distance. My biggest thing wherever I go on safari is try to have as little impact on an animal as possible, whether that be driving in a vehicle or on foot, I never want to alter an animals behavior, because that tells me that I have done something wrong, so that is something that is always in the back of my mind.
Walking through the flood plains is tough to explain, but I would describe it as being part of the wildlife. Animals don't really notice you or pay attention to you and being out of the vehicle gives you such a different perspective to driving around looking for game.
Whether you are photographically inclined or not, being able to have these experiences will blow your mind, from a photographic point of view, the angle makes a massive difference and can change the feeling of an image completely. From a non-photographic perspective, to be able to sit on the ground close to an elephant bull while he feeds on the trees is a truly humbling experience.
As I mentioned, this experience is very difficult to put into words or to describe because it doesn't do it justice. In my opinion, you just have to go! Trust me when I say you won't regret it. It is an experience that will leave you with memories that will last a life time.
Take a look at the picture below, YOU can also have experiences just like this.
Until next time,