Located in northern Zimbabwe, Mana Pools National Park is a national park and wildlife conservation area that covers an area of 219,600 hectares. The Mana Pools National Park is known for creating a broad network of lakes after each rainy season since it is located in the lower Zambezi River region. As the water starts to dry up and the level recedes, many animals gather in groups for water.
Therefore, as a result, the Mana Pools National Park becomes a source of the most amazing and exciting wildlife experience. Although it is one of the least developed parks in Africa, the Mana Pools National Park does not disappoint its visitors each year. Therefore, let us take a closer look at what this park has to offer.
The name ‘Mana’ means four in the Shona language. It is basically a reference to the four pools that are formed by the middle Zambezi river. The Zambezi is a life force supporting great numbers of huge crocodiles that resemble floating logs and pink-eared hippos. Many people come here to fish for large perch, fighting tiger fish, slippery catfish , and delicious bream. These are permanent pools that feature 2,500 square kilometers of islands, river frontage, pools, and sandbanks along with baobabs, wild figs, ebonies, and mahogany forests. Although it is Africa’s one of the least developed areas, The Mana Pools National Park highlights the biggest concentration of Hippos and crocodiles in Africa. Not only that, but dry mammals such as elephant, zebra, and Cape buffalos are also spread throughout the area as well.
If you were wondering about wild animals like lion, cheetah, and Cape Wild dog, they are also found here but are threatened. Since both brown hyena and leopard are close to extinction, the authorities of this park are quite conscious about their well-being. Efforts are made to maintain their habitat so that they can breed naturally and increase the population. Many other animals can be found along this river valley and predators such as hyena, lions, wild dog, leopards, and jackal have a decent stock of food.
Back in the eighties, the area of Mana Pools National park was saved under a hydro-electric scheme, which otherwise would have resulted in the flooding of the area. The Kariba Dam threatens the ecology of the area and there are concerns that another dam on the Zambezi River will cause the value of the area to decrease. The authorities are working on bringing a permanent solution to the table so that the park remains conserved for years to come.
Activities at Mana Pools National Park
The Mana Pools National Park offers sufficient activities. The most popular is the walking safari. Although you could choose to experience wildlife in open safari vehicles as well but visitors tend to prefer walking on foot. Accompanied by a guide and your luck, it might be that you come across land giants such as elephants. Depending on their mood, you might even get luckier as to pat them and snap a few pictures. Furthermore, you could catch some fish depending on the camps where you are staying. However, you will need to release them, as they are not meant to be consumed.
The Mana Pools National Park is an area that features minimal human population. Therefore, the entire area along with its inhabitants mostly remains undisturbed. Therefore, if you were to walk on foot, the animals you encounter might be relaxed as well, allowing you to come closer.
Flaura & Fauna of Mana Pools National Park
As already mentioned, the Mana Pools National Park features wild fig, mahogany, baobab, and mopane trees. During rainy seasons, animals tend to move up to upper ground levels when the area experiences flooding. Once the water starts to dry, they return to the permanent water pools in search of water. The Mana Pools National Park is known for its large bull elephants that arrive in the same areas every year. As a result, many guides are able to identify them individually. This allows them to get close to these giants. Other than that, visitors could catch a glimpse of impalas, eland, zebra, kudus, and antelope species.
Furthermore, Mana Pools National Park is also home to predators such as lions, cheetahs, leopards, and wild dogs. You might come across lions and cheetahs while traveling on a safari vehicle and on foot as well. The guides make sure that a safe distance is maintained so that they are not disturbed by your presence. However, leopards, cheetahs, and spotted hyena are also housed here but are not a regular sight, as they tend to be shy.
Apart from the wildlife diversity offered by Mana Pools National Park, two popular species are not present here, rhino and giraffe. While giraffes have never existed in the area, there was a time when the eastern black rhino was a constant sight here. However, in the mid-90s, poachers had hunted them down and completely wiped them from this area until only 10 remained. These individuals were then transferred to an intensely protected zone in Matusadonna National Park.
Bird life is delightful with intrusive yellow-billed kites pouncing down to have a look at you and other vultures and raptors circling high in the thermals. Carmine bee-eaters flit about in a purple haze as they arise from the sandbank pitted with their nesting holes.If you are someone who is a big fan of birds, the Mana Pools National Park has around 380 bird species for you to discover and explore. The best time for the ultimate bird watching experience is in April. Just as the wet season ends, you could see flocks of birds including summer migrants munching on their favorite food. Popular bird species such as the Kingfisher, darters, storks, and herons along with Livingstone’s flycatcher, yellow-spotted nicator, and Nyasa lovebird all are sufficiently numbered in this area.
Dry Season: Large numbers of animals come to the river to drink and scratch along the lush banks during June to October. The increasing build-up to rain in October creates significant heat with temperatures over 86°F (30°C).
Rainy Season: it rains irregularly from early November to the end of April and most animals move away from the river towards the cliff. It is hot and humid with temperatures around 82°F (28°C). Most roads within the park are closed during this period but charter flights operate to two airstrips in the park.
Considering its size, the Mana Pools National Park does a great job of providing a once in a lifetime wildlife experience. A splendid combination of birds, mammals, and wilderness awaits that is bound to keep you on your toes. However, make sure that you visit the park at the right time. The rainy seasons push the animals towards areas where they cannot be regularly and easily seen. Therefore, the hot season might be perfect, if you were to sacrifice your comfort.