Last week I went camping with my Mom to a place called Mana Pools, this is one of the National Parks here in Zimbabwe and it is located in the Zambezi Valley which is in the Northern part of the country on the border between Zimbabwe and Zambia. There is a river which divides the countries called the Zambezi and it is on the banks of this river that we were camping. Mana Pools has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1984 and as a Ramsar Wetland since 2013.
Now it is awfully wild out there, and from where we live (the capital, Harare, it took us approximately 8 hours to drive there) 5 of these hours were spent on tarred roads(Approx 180 miles) and 3 on dirt roads(Approx 62 miles). There is no mobile reception or wifi in Mana nor is there a convenient shop which one could purchase forgotten consumables. So if you’ve forgotten to pack something, you’re just going to have to go without!
I have had family holidays to this magical place since I was in my early teens and it was so special to be back. It’s a very peaceful place where one can go for a drive to try spot some wildlife, for walks around the campsite or just simply sit and marvel at the river running past and see all the birds and animals that inhabit the area. It is possible to walk through the park however one is required to do this with a professional guide for safety reasons. It would not be a wise choice to walk by yourself through this wilderness as you will inevitably encounter wild animals in close contact; there aren’t any fences here to protect you!
Accommodation in Mana consists of either occupying one of the lodges or taking your own equipment and camping. We opted to camp for the four days and thankfully got to make use of my cousins ingenious homemade trailer which had a tent that folded away on top of it! Trust me, sleeping in something that is raised off the ground gives great peace of mind as through the night, chances are you will be visited by multiple wild guests!
My Mom and I saw a plethora of game on our drives; Kudu, Eland, Impala, Warthog, Buffalo and Zebra, along with many elephants, baboons and monkeys and of course Hippos and Crocodiles in the river. Not to be forgotten were the scavengers which show themselves at night, Hyenas. Other game which, if you’re lucky, can be seen in the park are Lions, Leopards, Cheetahs and Wild Dog. There used to be Black Rhino in the area but sadly their numbers were greatly reduced due to poaching and the few remaining Rhinos were relocated for their safety.
The birdlife in this region is just incredible! I was so fortunate to see my favourite bird too which is the Southern ground hornbill, a fascinating creature which has a call that one can listen out for at dawn and dusk, a very low reverberating “hoot” This sound makes the hairs on the back of my neck and arms stand up, I love it so much!
At night along the banks of the Zambezi it is a whole other world, one crafted with the calls of a wide range of both birds and animals. There is something quite out of this world being able to lay in bed and listen to distant roars of lion, or the echoing “whoop” of a Hyena and the comical laughing grunts from the Hippos. Added to these sounds is the incredible vista which the stars provide. With hardly any light pollution in the area, stargazing is most certainly something to occupy your nights for the entire Milky Way is strewn above you in all its wonder!
Suffice to say that Mana is a very tranquil place and if you ever get the chance to visit Zimbabwe, I would highly recommend that you make the extra journey to Mana Pools because it will be time well spent for a truly unique experience.