Mana Pools National Park

Mana Pools National Park stands as a breathtaking testament to the raw beauty of the African wilderness. Situated on the southern bank of the Zambezi River in northern Zimbabwe, this UNESCO World Heritage Site captivates visitors with its unparalleled scenery and abundant wildlife.

What does Mana mean?

The park derives its name from the Shona word “Mana,” meaning “four,” a nod to the four perennial pools that grace the meandering Lower Zambezi Valley. These vital water sources serve as oases for a plethora of wildlife, drawing herds of elephants, prides of lions, and an array of bird species year-round. Spanning an impressive 2,230 square kilometers, Mana Pools was officially designated as a National Park in 1963. Its diverse landscape encompasses expansive floodplains, dense forests, secluded islands, sandy riverbanks, tranquil pools, and shimmering pans. With altitudes ranging from 329 meters to 1,180 meters, the park offers a rich tapestry of habitats to explore.


The heart of Mana Pools lies in its iconic floodplain, covering approximately 80 square kilometers. Here, guests are immersed in a wildlife-rich environment teeming with diverse flora and fauna. Whether embarking on a walking safari or gliding along the Zambezi River in a canoe, guests are treated to unforgettable encounters with nature at its most unspoiled.


For over two decades, Bushlife Safaris has been privileged to call Mana Pools home. Our team of experienced guides possesses an intimate knowledge of the park’s landscapes and inhabitants, offering guests unrivaled opportunities to witness its wonders up close. Whether capturing the perfect photograph, tracking elusive wildlife, or simply reveling in the serenity of nature, a visit to Mana Pools promises an unforgettable adventure in one of Africa’s most remarkable wilderness sanctuaries.

Weather & What to Wear

Life in Mana Pools National Park follows the rhythm of the seasons, each bringing its own unique charm and challenges. From hot, wet summers to mild, dry winters, the park’s landscape undergoes a remarkable transformation throughout the year. 


During the rainy season, which typically spans from December to March, the floodplain of Mana Pools becomes a verdant paradise, adorned with lush vegetation including mahogany, wild figs, ebonies, baobabs, and acacias. The landscape transforms into a network of pools and pans, attracting an abundance of wildlife. However, accessing the park during this time can be challenging due to muddy conditions, and our camp is closed.

As the cooler months approach from May to August, daytime temperatures hover around a pleasant 28°C, with clear blue skies and low humidity. Lightweight, breathable clothing is recommended, along with sturdy walking shoes or boots for exploring the terrain. However, evenings and early mornings can be chilly, with temperatures ranging from 10 to 15°C. Packing layers for cooler mornings and evenings is advisable, such as jackets or sweaters and trousers.

September marks the transition to summer, with October bringing intense heat, often reaching temperatures in the mid-30s Celsius. The onset of the rainy season is typically signaled by late November, accompanied by increasing humidity and dramatic afternoon thunderstorms that provide much-needed relief.  Please pack waterproof gear to prepare for sudden downpours during the rainy season.




Mana Pools National Park boasts a remarkable concentration of mammals, despite a relatively limited number of species compared to other regions of Zimbabwe. Interestingly, some iconic African animals such as giraffes and wildebeests are notably absent from the park, not due to any deliberate exclusion or lack of habitat suitability, but simply because these species have not naturally migrated into the area nor been introduced.


Mana Pools compensates for its species diversity with an abundance of charismatic megafauna, making it a prime destination for wildlife enthusiasts. Four of the renowned Big Five can be encountered here: leopards, lions, buffaloes, and elephants. Among these, Mana Pools is particularly renowned for its awe-inspiring elephant population. These majestic creatures, including the legendary Boswell, display remarkable behaviors such as standing on their hind legs to reach the uppermost branches of their favored trees, such as the Acacia ablida, creating unforgettable sights for visitors.


Additionally, Mana Pools is home to a thriving population of painted wolves, also known as African wild dogs. These highly social and intelligent predators roam the park in tight-knit packs, contributing to its rich ecological tapestry. Notably, Mana Pools gained international acclaim when it served as the filming location for the epic BBC Earth series “Dynasties,” narrated by the esteemed Sir David Attenborough. The series showcased the captivating lives of these wild dogs, offering viewers a glimpse into their complex social dynamics and relentless struggle for survival in the African wilderness.


Nick Murray, the owner and lead guide at Vundu Camp, shares a special bond with the painted wolves. With a deep understanding of their behavior and individual personalities, Nick has dedicated decades to studying and protecting these remarkable animals, personally naming many of them and following their journeys over the years. His commitment to their conservation underscores Mana Pools’ status as a sanctuary for both iconic and lesser-known species, embodying the park’s enduring legacy as a haven for Africa’s magnificent wildlife.


The avian paradise of Mana Pools National Park offers a sensory feast of sights, colors, and sounds, showcasing an extraordinary range and diversity of birdlife. With an estimated 350 species calling the park home, of which around 280 can be spotted during the dry season alone, Mana Pools is a haven for birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts alike.


One of the highlights of birdwatching in Mana Pools is the vibrant presence of Lillian Lovebirds, their bright plumage adding splashes of color as they flit about feeding on the ground. Alongside them, the migratory Southern Carmine Bee-eaters create a spectacle along the riverbanks as they construct their nests, their striking red plumage contrasting against the lush greenery.


The Zambezi River and its surrounding pools teem with a plethora of waterbirds, offering a mesmerizing display of avian activity. Here, one can witness the graceful African Skimmer skillfully skimming the water’s surface in search of prey, while other waterfowl such as herons, egrets, and storks wade along the shorelines in search of sustenance.


Mana Pools is also a paradise for raptor enthusiasts, with impressive sightings of birds of prey soaring overhead. Among them, the formidable Martial Eagle commands attention as it swoops down to attack unsuspecting prey such as guineafowl and monitor lizards, showcasing its prowess as one of Africa’s apex predators.

Whether it’s the dazzling colors of songbirds, the elegant grace of waterbirds, or the awe-inspiring displays of raptors, Mana Pools offers an unparalleled birdwatching experience. With each flutter of wings and melodious chirp, visitors are treated to a symphony of nature’s finest, making every moment spent amidst the park’s avian residents a truly unforgettable encounter.