Mana Pools Overview

Mana Pools National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is a remarkable natural reserve located in the northern part of Zimbabwe, along the lower stretch of the Zambezi River. The park covers an area of approximately 2,196 square kilometers (848 square miles), characterized by its riverine forests, vast floodplains, and the four main pools from which it derives its name, “Mana” meaning ‘four’ in the local Shona language. These pools are remnants of channels of the Zambezi River, which have carved out a unique landscape over thousands of years.

Established in 1975, Mana Pools is celebrated for its natural beauty and the wide variety of wildlife that congregates around the water sources, especially during the dry season. The park’s landscape offers a dramatic backdrop of the Zambezi River against the rugged escarpment of the Rift Valley’s northern boundary, creating an unparalleled wilderness experience.

Mana Pools is renowned for its large populations of elephants, hippos, crocodiles, lions, and African wild dogs, among other species. The park’s accessibility to the Zambezi River allows for unique safari experiences, including canoeing and fishing, alongside traditional game drives and walking safaris. This hands-on approach to experiencing the African bush makes Mana Pools a favorite destination for adventurous travelers seeking an authentic connection with nature.

The park’s floodplains are also a bird watcher’s paradise, with over 350 bird species recorded, making it an important area for avian biodiversity. The combination of water-based and land activities in such a pristine environment offers visitors a multifaceted perspective on Zimbabwe’s natural heritage.

Mana Pools National Park stands out for its commitment to conservation and the preservation of its unique ecosystems. Its status as a UNESCO World Heritage site underscores its global importance as a natural reserve, contributing significantly to the understanding and appreciation of Africa’s wildlife and natural landscapes. The park’s untouched wilderness and the variety of wildlife encounters it offers make it one of Africa’s most remarkable conservation areas.

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Park Map
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Mana Pools National Park Highlights


Mana Pools National Park boasts a diverse array of predator species, crucial for maintaining the delicate balance of its ecosystem. These predators play a vital role in regulating herbivore populations and ensuring ecosystem health.

African Lion: Iconic and majestic, African lions are the apex predators of the savanna. They hunt cooperatively in prides, preying on large herbivores such as buffalo, zebra, and antelope.

African Leopard: Stealthy and elusive, African leopards are solitary hunters known for their agility and strength. They stalk their prey with precision, relying on camouflage and ambush tactics for successful kills.

African Wild Dog: Highly social and efficient hunters, African wild dogs are endangered predators with unique coat patterns. They hunt in packs, cooperating to bring down prey and care for their young.

Spotted Hyena: Adaptable scavengers and skilled hunters, spotted hyenas play a crucial role in the ecosystem. With powerful jaws and a keen sense of smell, they scavenge or hunt a variety of prey.

Cheetah: Known for their incredible speed, cheetahs are specialized hunters, capable of reaching speeds of up to 60 miles per hour in short bursts. They prey on small to medium-sized ungulates.


Mana Pools National Park is renowned for its diverse wildlife, offering unforgettable encounters with some of Africa’s most iconic species.

African Elephant: Towering over the landscape, African elephants are the largest land mammals. They roam freely, browsing on vegetation and using their tusks for various tasks.

Cape Buffalo: Formidable and gregarious, Cape buffaloes form large herds, providing safety in numbers. Their formidable horns and group defense strategies make them challenging prey for predators.

Giraffe: Graceful and iconic, giraffes are the tallest land animals, known for their long necks and unique spotted coats. They browse on treetops, using their height to reach leaves.

Hippo: Semi-aquatic behemoths, hippos spend their days submerged in water to keep cool. Despite their docile appearance, they are fiercely territorial and can be aggressive when provoked.

Zebra: With their distinctive black and white stripes, zebras are a classic sight in Mana Pools. They form herds, relying on strength in numbers to deter predators.

Impala: Agile and graceful, impalas are abundant in Mana Pools. They are prolific breeders and a vital food source for predators, often found in mixed herds with other ungulates.

Kudu: Elegant and elusive, kudus are antelope species with impressive spiral horns. They are adapted to browsing on leaves and are often seen near wooded areas.

Waterbuck: Easily recognized by the white ring on their rumps, waterbucks are commonly found near water sources. They are strong swimmers and can flee predators by diving into water.

Warthog: Despite their comical appearance, warthogs are wary and agile. They possess formidable tusks and use burrows for shelter, emerging to graze on grasses and roots.

Baboon: Highly social and intelligent, baboons are a common sight in Mana Pools. They live in troops, foraging for food and grooming each other to strengthen social bonds.


Mana Pools National Park boasts a rich avian diversity, attracting birdwatchers from around the globe with its abundance of feathered inhabitants.

African Fish Eagle: With its distinctive call and striking appearance, the African fish eagle is an iconic sight along the waterways of Mana Pools. It hunts fish and other aquatic prey.

Lilac-breasted Roller: Vibrantly colored and agile in flight, the lilac-breasted roller is a common sight in Mana Pools. It perches prominently, scanning for insects and small vertebrates.

Southern Ground Hornbill: With its deep booming call and distinctive casque, the southern ground hornbill is a charismatic bird of the savanna. It forages on the ground for insects and small animals.

Yellow-billed Stork: Graceful and elegant, the yellow-billed stork is often seen wading in shallow waters, using its long bill to catch fish, frogs, and crustaceans.

Malachite Kingfisher: Small but stunning, the malachite kingfisher flashes brilliant green and blue hues as it darts over water, diving for fish and aquatic invertebrates.

Marabou Stork: Towering and ungainly, the marabou stork is a scavenger often found near waterholes and carcasses. Its bald head and huge bill make it a distinctive sight.

White-backed Vulture: A vital component of the park’s ecosystem, the white-backed vulture scavenges on carcasses, helping to clean up the environment and prevent the spread of disease.

African Skimmer: Uniquely adapted for feeding on the wing, the African skimmer glides low over water, its lower mandible skimming the surface to catch small fish.

Pied Kingfisher: With its black and white plumage and distinctive hovering flight, the pied kingfisher is a common sight along rivers and lakeshores, hunting for fish from a perch or mid-air.

Yellow-throated Longclaw: Found in grassy areas, the yellow-throated longclaw is known for its melodious song and distinctive yellow throat. It feeds on insects and seeds in the grasslands.

Engaging Mana Pools

Embark on a classic game drive adventure through Mana Pools, traversing its diverse landscapes in search of iconic African wildlife. Hop aboard a safari vehicle accompanied by knowledgeable guides who will navigate the park’s terrain, offering insights into its ecosystems and inhabitants.

Encounter large herds of elephants, graceful giraffes, prowling lions, and other majestic creatures against the backdrop of scenic vistas. With the flexibility to explore different areas of the park, including riverine forests, open plains, and mopane woodlands, each game drive promises thrilling wildlife sightings and unforgettable moments in one of Africa’s premier safari destinations.

Glide along the Zambezi River in a canoe safari, immersing yourself in the tranquility of Mana Pools. Witness hippos wallowing in the water, elephants bathing on the banks, and an array of birdlife fluttering overhead.

Paddle close to the shoreline for intimate encounters with wildlife while expert guides share insights into the ecosystem.

Embark on a thrilling walking safari through Mana Pools’ diverse landscapes, accompanied by knowledgeable guides. Traverse open plains, dense forests, and winding riverbanks as you track wildlife on foot.

Encounter elephants, buffalo, lions, and more up close, experiencing the wilderness in a deeply immersive way while learning about the park’s unique ecosystem and conservation efforts.

Embark on an exhilarating night game drive to witness the nocturnal wonders of Mana Pools. Traverse the park under the cover of darkness, equipped with powerful spotlights to illuminate elusive creatures such as leopards, hyenas, and servals as they emerge to hunt and explore.

Experience the thrill of encountering wildlife in a whole new light amidst the enchanting African night.  New wildlife comes to life after the sun sets creating a whole new experience with nature.

Mana Pools National Park Trails

No Traditional Trails

Mana Pools National Park, located in Zimbabwe, offers enchanting landscapes and abundant wildlife, making it a paradise for nature lovers.

While there are no formal hiking trails, visitors can explore the park on foot with experienced guides, offering a unique and immersive experience in the African bush.

Guides lead visitors on bush walks tailored to their interests and fitness levels, allowing for encounters with wildlife such as elephants, lions, and hippos while providing insights into the park’s ecology and conservation efforts.

These walks typically range from gentle strolls to more challenging treks, providing unforgettable experiences in one of Africa’s premier wilderness areas.

  • Britannica, Mana Pools,, retrieved March 2023.
  • Discover Africa, Mana Pools National Park,, retrieved March 2023.
  • Safari Bookings, Mana Pools Wildlife,, retrieved March 2023.
  • UNESCO, Mana Pools National park, Sapi and Chewore Safari Areas,, retrieved March 2023.
  • Zambezi, Mana Pools,, retrieved March 2023.