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Mana Pools National Park
Sunset by Mana Pools © Jez Bennett, Shutterstock
See wildlife from a different perspective at this UNESCO World Heritage Site, regarded by locals as the finest wilderness area in the country.
Entry to this park – a UNESCO World Heritage Site – is strictly controlled by the Zimbabwe National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority. Note that this park charges entry fees per day. Prior booking is essential, through an operator or directly with ZPWMA.
This park is regarded by many regular visitors and locals as the finest wilderness area in the country. It’s actually part of a much larger wildlife area adjacent to Sapi and Chewore safari areas to the east, also bordering the Zambezi. Not only is Mana Pools richly stocked with game and blessed with outstanding scenic, riverine beauty but it is also relatively little visited, at least compared with Hwange and Victoria Falls. This is one of the few national parks where visitors are allowed to walk at their own risk but while this is welcomed by enthusiasts with plenty of bush experience, it is advisable to be accompanied by an armed professional guide or a national park ranger. Probably because of its outstanding qualities as a game-viewing destination, this park is home territory to some of Africa’s finest professional guides.
Limited fishing is allowed, but only from land. Motorboats are not permitted in the dry season because of noise, pollution and wave action disturbing the wilderness qualities of the park. Check with Parks regarding use of powered boats in the rainy season as they are currently experimenting with relaxing the rules. A ‘Respect the Wild’ code of conduct for visitors to Mana Pools and other wild areas is displayed at accommodation points throughout the park; visitors are advised to take heed of its advice to get the best out of their wild experience and to ensure they leave the area as they found it. In 2012, this was the first of Zimbabwe’s national parks to adopt the excellent ‘carry in – carry out’ rubbish policy with visitors being given a plastic bag and expected to return it with rubbish on exit of the park.
There are no shops, and cellphone coverage is very limited. Accommodation is restricted to a handful of safari lodges and eco-friendly tented or mobile camps as well as self-catering national park chalets. Camping on the banks of the Zambezi River is a feature of the Mana experience. The park is open to cars during the dry season but during the rainy season roads are frequently closed. Access to the interior of the park is very limited from December to March. The best time to come here in terms of temperature and rainfall is March to October.
Despite the fact that this is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a designated Ramsar wetland of international importance, as this book goes to press the whole area is under threat from a proposal to mine for heavy metals that are thought to be deposited in the riverbed. A major international campaign has been mounted to prevent this development, which would have devastating effects on the environment, ecology and wildlife of the area.