Mana Pools National Park- Guide to Horse Riding & Walking Safari

Mana Pools National park was inscribed, in conjunction with the Sapi Safari Area and Chewore Safari Area, as a single UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984. The Mana Pools were designated a Ramsar wetland of international importance on 3 January 2013.

Mana Pools National Park is a World Heritage Site based on its pure wilderness and beauty. It is home to a wide range of mammals, over 350 bird species, and aquatic wildlife and is one of the world’s wildest and best preserved natural ecological areas.

Lake Mburo Wildlife watching

Mana Pools National Park is in the far north of Zimbabwe and ranked as the top visited national park in the country by Self drive Travelers due to the uniqueness as its located at the southern  bank and islands of the Zambezi River, which forms the border with Zambia.

History of Mana Pools National Park

Mana Pools National Park is a 219,600-hectare (543,000-acre) wildlife conservation area and national park in northern Zimbabwe. It is a region of the lower Zambezi in Zimbabwe where the floodplain turns into a broad expanse of lakes after each rainy season. As the lakes gradually dry up and recede, the region attracts many large animals in search of water, making it one of Africa’s most renowned game-viewing regions.  Recommended for Self drive Safaris to Victoria Falls

Where does Mana Pool National Park  fit into your Zimbabwe Safari

These 2,500 square kilometres of river frontage, islands, sandbanks and pools, flanked by forests of mahogany, wild figs, ebonies and baobabs, is one of the least developed national parks in Southern Africa.

It has the country’s biggest concentration of hippopotami and crocodiles and large dry season mammal populations of the zebra, elephant and Cape buffalo. The area is also home to other threatened species including the lion, cheetah, Cape wild dog, and near-threatened species including leopard and the brown hyena, Dont miss the chance to explore Mana pools National Park with 4×4 Africa the leading operator offering Self Drive & Guided tours to Zimbabwe.

Safari activities in Mana Pools National Park

Although the Zambezi River and the four pools it once left behind are undoubtedly the centerpieces of Mana Pools National Park, the region boasts a diverse array of habitats including forests of mahogany, acacia, baobabs, and wild fig. Game viewing is therefore the top activity, whether you choose to spot animals from the comfort of a safari vehicle, a river boat or canoe, or on foot.

Mana Pools is likely one of the only places in Africa where unguided walking safaris are permitted although this is not advisable for any but the most experienced.

Game Drive on Mana Pools

Boat Cruise in Lake Mburo National park

Despite the fact that the black rhino population that partly inspired Mana Pools’ UNESCO designation in 1984 has now disappeared, the park retains its Big Five status. Here, you can spot large herds of elephant and buffalo, lion, leopard, and reintroduced white rhino. Africa’s third big cat species, the cheetah, is frequently spotted, though many people place Mana Pools on their bucket list because it is one of the best places for seeing the highly endangered African wild dog. The herbivorous species upon which these predators depend also thrive, from large numbers of Burchell’s zebra to waterbuck, kudu, eland, and impala. Meanwhile, the pools provide a sanctuary for some of the continent’s highest concentrations of hippo and Nile crocodiles.

There are several ways to encounter Mana Pools’ wildlife. Despite a relatively limited road network, traditional guided Jeep safaris are a popular option offered by most camps and lodges. It’s also possible to venture out on a self-guided safari in your own vehicle. Be aware that a four-wheel-drive vehicle is essential, and some off-road experience is highly recommended. Alternatively, the Zambezi River offers opportunities for canoe and boat safaris; these are especially good for birding.

Mana Pools remains one of the only national parks in Africa to allow unguided and guided walking safaris. However, the prevalence of dangerous animals makes going with an experienced guide a very good idea. Check on things to do in Zimbabwe

There are over 450 recorded resident and migrant bird species in Mana Pools, which was designated as a Ramsar wetland of international importance in 2013. Among its most iconic sights are the vast colonies of southern carmine bee-eaters that nest in the banks of the Zambezi during the dry season.

Along the river, specials including the rufous-bellied heron and the long-toed lapwing are often spotted, while its exposed sand bars provide valuable breeding sites for the rare African skimmer.

In large trees along the water’s edge, keep an eye out for the cinnamon-colored Pel’s fishing owl; and in the woodlands, for Lillian’s lovebirds and Ayres’ hawk-eagles. From November to April, the park’s resident birds are joined by migrants from Asia and Europe.

Bird Watching in Mana Pools

Lake Mburo Wildlife watching

Walking Safaris in Mana Pools

Horse Riding Lake Mburo

These walking safaris are offered at the full moon. Parks staff will take visitors on a 3-day hike in the wild of Mana Pools National Park. Visitors will need to be fit, provide their own rucksacks, food, and toiletries. This is a unique experience for nature lovers and those who enjoy the challenge of facing nature one on one.

The Park takes its name from the pools that still lie in the abandoned river channels that run through the terraces. Mana is said to mean “four”, referring to the largest of these pools which hold water all year. Away from the Zambezi, where pools dry up during the dry season, wildlife concentrates around a few inland pans and some springs at the foot of the Zambezi Escarpment Mountains.

The lions lie in wait, knowing that thirsty prey have no option but to drink here, and visitors to places like Chitake Spring are likely to be rewarded with incredible sightings of these predators in action. Check on Big five watching in Africa

Pools, pans and springs

Night Game Drive in Uganda

Where to stay?See lodges & Camps

Hotels in Lake Mburo National Park

Zimbabwe National Parks maintains a series of affordable lodges and campsites for those on a budget or self-drive adventure. These include: Nyamepi Camp, Kanga Camp, Nyamutsi Camp, Nyamutsi Mahogany and many others

When to go? Best time to Visit

Mana Pools National Park access is limited during the wet months from November to March. The best time to visit is during the dry season months of late April through to November. Despite the level of heat and dryness during October and November visitors are rewarded by fantastic sightings as the animals congregate along the Zambezi floodplain and at Kanga Pan and Chitake Spring which are the only source of permanent water for miles around.

How to access Lake Mburo National park?

Lake Mburo Gate

The closest international airport to Mana Pools is in Harare, the Zimbabwean capital, and approximately 240 miles away. It takes roughly 5.5 hours to reach Nyamepi Camp via the main Harare-Chirundu road. Although there are no schedule flights to Mana Pools, many people find it easier to arrive by charter plane. The most common departure airport is Kariba.

If you book an all-inclusive Zimbabwe safari with one of the operators mentioned or linked to above, you should be given options for transfers via road or air. If your planning a self drive Safari , contact the team of 4×4 Africa to arrange for you sturdily Landcruiser for your adventure >>> Hire your own 4×4 Jeep 


Hwange National Park

Hwange National Park (formerly Wankie Game Reserve) is the largest natural reserve in Zimbabwe. It is around 14,600 sq km in area. It lies in the northwest of the country, just off the main road between Bulawayo and Victoria Falls. The nearest town is Dete. Histories of the region’s pre-colonial days and its development as a game reserve and National Park are available online.

Where does Hwange National Park fit in your Zimbabwe Adventure?

The park is close to the edge of the Kalahari Desert, a region with little water and very sparse, xerophile vegetation. The Kalahari woodland is dominated by Zambezi Teak, Sand Camwood (Baphia) and Kalahari bauhinia. Seasonal wetlands form grasslands in this area.

The north and north-west of the park are dominated by mopane woodland.

Although it has been argued that elephant populations cause change in vegetation structure, some recent studies suggest that this is not the case, even with the large increases in elephant population recorded in the late 1980s.

The Park hosts over 100 mammal and 400 bird species, including 19 large herbivores and eight large carnivores. All Zimbabwe’s specially protected animals are to be found in Hwange and it is the only protected area where gemsbok and brown hyena occur in small numbers.

Safari activities in Hwange National Park

Hwange is a town in Zimbabwe that attracts tourists as a result of the nearby Hwange National Park. It’s the largest national park in the country. Home to a vast variety of wildlife, it’s a popular destination for lovers of African safaris. In order to give you a true idea of what to expect, we are going to look at the best things to do in Hwange that will turn a trip to this destination into a memorable Zimbabwe safari experience.

Game drives and walks

No visit to Hwange can be complete without a game drive through Hwange National Park. Visitors can drive through the park between 6 am and 6 pm and can encounter the Big 5, who roams freely through the park and surrounding concessions. Covering around 14 650 square km, there are over 100 mammal species to be seen, making Hwange National Park a popular destination for animal lovers. Also worth noting is the park’s status as home to one of the world’s largest herds of elephants, which is reason enough to include this experience on any Hwange itinerary.

Bird Watching

As if the abundance of wildlife wasn’t enough of a reason to visit, there are almost 400 different species of birds that can be found in Hwange National Park, making it a twitchers’ paradise! Make sure to keep your eyes directed at the sky and towards the treetops while you’re on a game drive in Hwange so that you don’t miss out on an incredible opportunity to tick some awe-inspiring bird species off your list.

Painted Dog Conservation Centre

Once having roamed through 39 countries, wild dogs, also known as painted dogs, have seen their numbers drop from around 50 000 to just 3 000. With such a huge drop in numbers resulting from urbanization and loss of natural habitat, a place like the Painted Dog Conservation Centre in Dete, Zimbabwe is an Eden for them. The conservation facility aims to address the issue through the protection and rehabilitation of injured or orphaned wild dogs, while providing long-term education and development projects to the communities in the area. The centre also works to translocate entire packs of wild dogs from problem areas to regions where they can thrive.

Walking safari

Guides at Elephant’s Eye, Hwange, offer walking safaris that showcase the best of Hwange National Park and its surrounding fenceless concession. The guides give guests an intimate Hwange bush experience and teach them about the tracking animal footprints, the endemic plants of Hwange, and they even get to learn to create fun things like a bush toothbrush.

Victoria Falls

A day trip to the glorious phenomenon of Victoria Falls, one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, is entirely possible. It is only a 30-minute flight or less than two hours by road from Hideaways Nantwich, Hwange.  Not only are the Falls and their surroundings incredibly beautiful, but they also offer a range of activities to enjoy that include helicopter trips over the Falls, daredevil bungee jumping from Victoria Falls Bridge, and other memorable encounters.

Cultural Experiences

In an attempt to empower the local villages in the Hwange District, steps have been taken to turn local villages into tourist destinations. Visitors to the region can visit traditional homesteads to learn about the local people and their unique cultures. Village markets offer locals the chance to sell their arts and crafts, enabling them to turn their skill into an activity that empowers them to support their families.

Enjoy a Sundowner at Watering Hole

The best way to toast a successful day exploring Hwange National Park is with the quintessential African sundowner. Even better in this spectacular Zimbabwe location, whether it be in private at Elephant’s Eye’s main watering hole or at one of the neighboring waterholes situated in the heart of the open bush. As the light slowly fades, watch a wide variety of game come down to drink, all whilst sipping on a refreshing cocktail until eventually, a blanket of stars lights up the sky above. This might be one of the most relaxing and romantic of the best things to do in Hwange!

Sleep out under the Stars

Elephant’s Eye is a small eco-retreat located on a private concession bordering Hwange National Park. Our sleep-out deck, The Eye, offers all the creature comforts of the main lodge, and is situated overlooking a busy waterhole. Guests are escorted from the main lodge at dusk to spend a magical night under the Milky Way. Do not worry about setting an alarm as the rising sun, or trumpeting elephants, are sure to wake you after a fantastic night of sleep under the stars.

Where to stay? See lodges & Camps

Hwange lodges are located discreetly throughout the park, sitting on private concessions to ensure their guests enjoy a complete wilderness experience.

They are classic safari accommodations: timber and thatched lodges or lamp-lit tented camps for luxury, midrange and budget options. They all look out over water, an essential feature during Hwange’s long dry season, and offer a safari experience that blends game drives and walks with cultural insights and bird watching.

These facilities include, Iganyana Tented Camp, Ivory Lodge, Elephants Eye, Toms Little Hide, Davison’s camp, Linkwasha Camp, Little Makalolo, Bomani Tented Lodge, Camp Silwane, Camelthorn lodge, Hwange Safari Lodge, Somalisa camp, Nehimba Lodge, Camp Hwange, Kapula camp, Hwange Bush camp, Robin’s camp, Main camp

When to go? Best time to Visit

The best time to visit the national park is from July to October, which is the dry season and a prime time for wildlife viewing. Many waterholes inside the park become a gathering point for many animals while the thinning vegetation makes them easier to spot. Bird lovers can enjoy the summer months from November to April when migratory birds are present.

How to access Hwange National Park?

By road

Hwange National Park is some 200 km from Victoria Falls, easily accessible by a tarred road. Some of the remote camps within Hwange can only be reached by 4×4 during the rainy season.

By air

Regular flights connect from Johannesburg to Victoria Falls Airport (VFA). Road transfers can easily be arranged. Chartered flights are also available to some of the lodges which have their own airstrips.