This unique park is a World Heritage Site, based on its wildness and beauty, together with the wide range of large mammals, over 350 bird species and aquatic wildlife. Mana Pools is one of Zimbabwe’s most popular parks, and it is easy to see why it falls into this profile. Easily accessible by road from Harare or Lusaka (although you will need a good 4×4 for driving in the Park) or by light air charter from Harare or any of the parks in Zimbabwe.
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. As one moves northwards towards the Zambezi River from the forests on the Karoo sediments, the vegetation changes to open Faidherbia albida woodlands on the old river terraces. This vegetation gives a unique look to the area and a surreal light filters through the trees giving Mana Pools its distinctive cathedral-like atmosphere. The old river terraces are ideal areas for walking.
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 hyena and cheetah are present in the area, but their secretive nature makes them more difficult to see. Despite this, it is not often that the visitor leaves Mana Pools without seeing at least one of these large carnivores. Northwards, off the river terraces, is the mighty Zambezi River flowing sedately on its way to the Indian Ocean. Mana Pools is 2,196 square kilometers in extent but is part of the 10,500 square kilometer Parks and Wildlife Estate that runs from the Kariba Dam in the west to the Mozambique border in the east. This large area is without physical boundaries and the wildlife is free to move throughout the area – even northwards across the Zambezi River into Zambia, where there are also large wilderness areas set aside for wildlife conservation.