Mana Pools is one of Zimbabwe's most popular parks, and it is easy to see why it falls into this profile. 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. ''Long Pool'', is the largest of the four pools, extending some six kilometers in a west-east direction. This pool has a large population of hippo and crocodiles and is a favourite for the large herds of elephant that come out of the thickly vegetated areas in the south to drink.
When to visit
For comfort March to August is perhaps the ideal time to travel, with moderate temperatures and the climate is warm and dry. The seeds from the albida are rich in nutrients and they drop in the dry winter months, when the animals need the nutrients the most. More crocodiles are seen in the cold season when they bask mid-morning or late afternoon to raise their body temperature towards the 30°C they prefer September and October are the best months of the valley for game viewing as the animals come to the river to drink - September is warm and October is hot with clear blue skies. The rainy season from November to February is hot but cooled by frequent thunder storms. The thick silt soil of the floodplains means that game viewing can only be done in 4x4 vehicles, preferably in groups of 2 as even they get stuck. The road the the entrance to the main camp at Nyamepi (70kms) is shale and an all-weather road.
On the old river terraces, tourists can walk unaccompanied by guides in the open Albida woodland because visibility is good and there is little danger of expectantly coming across dangerous animals. This privilege of walking alone in an area with dangerous wildlife is unique in Zimbabwe. 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.
Mana Pools is a truly remote park. Situated in the extreme north of Zimbabwe on the Zambezi River, Mana is far from any major town or human settlement. Drive along the main Harare/ Chirundu tarred road and at the bottom of the Zambezi Escarpment, branch off the tarred road onto a dirt road that will take you 70 kilometers into unspoiled bush to Nyamepi Camp. There are a number of game-viewing roads that run along the Zambezi River and further inland from which you can view the wide variety of wildlife. Visitors can get a free entry permit to enter the Nyamautsi wilderness area and Kanga Pan where vehicle entry is limited to 2 per day.