Hwange and Mana Pools

Untouched wilderness.

Zimbabwe is one of Africa's best safari destinations. With travel confidence restored, it remains untouched, unspoilt and has some of the most charming & friendly hosts on the continent.

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Combining a trip to Victoria Falls with time in Hwange and Mana Polls is the ultimate itinerary, but if time allows, Zambezi National Park and Lake Kariba are worthy additions.

Ben Nelson

Hwange National Park

Covering more than 14,600 square kilometers(5,863 square miles) or 1,460,000 hectares it has more animals and a greater variety of species any other park in the country.


There are two distinct geographic zones, neither are able to support viable agriculture. The flora of the well drained northern area, part of the Zambeziwatershed, is dominated by mopane and mixed terminalia, which is distinctly different from the rest.

Elsewhere the Kalahari scrublands, covered with stunted, scattered woodlands of teak and umtshibi trees, drain into Botswana's Makgadikgadi Depression. This habitat is characterised by marshy depressions, vleis and fragile open grasslands on shallow soils.

In the nineteen century this land was the royal hunting reserve of Mzilikazi and his successor Lobengula. But the arrival of the first white hunters and settlers signalled the slaughter of its wildlife by the thousands. As their blood soaked deep into the sparse soils, it left empty, useless wasteland, denuded of wildlife, unfit for farming.

It was declared a game reserve in 1928 and with neighbouring Robins Game sanctuary, became a national park under he National Park Act of 1949. Originally, Robins Game sanctuary belonged to H G Robins, a cattle rancher.

Best time to go

June to early November are the best months generally, with game viewing improving as the year goes on. This is because the water inland has becomes more scarce so the animals naturally migrate to the bountiful river and the natural pools of Mana. Towards the end of the year the terrain does look very dry and in need of rain.

See The Big Five

A term coined by big game hunters to the five most difficult animals in Africa to hunt on foot. The term is still used in most tourist and wildlife guides that discuss African wildlife safaris. The "Big Five" consists of the Lion, the African Elephant, the Cape buffalo, the Leopard and the Rhinoceros.

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Mana Pools

Mana Pools National Park in the Middle Zambezi Valley covers an area of 2196 square kilometres (848 square miles) extending from the Zambezi River in the north to the escarpment in the south.

An area of outstanding natural beauty and phenomenal wildlife - here the Zambezi River, flowing slowly eastwards for thousands of years, has left behind the remains of old river channels forming small seasonal ponds and pools spread over an area of several hundred square kilometres. These extend several kilometres back from the river where, on fertile terraces huge mahogany and acacia trees cast luxuriant shade.

Today Mana Pools, one of Zimbabwe's four World Heritage Sites, is the stage for one of Africa's greatest natural spectacles - a classic theatre of the wild, attracting hordes of animals during the long, hot African summer, drawn by the abundance of water and the lush grazing along its banks.

Mana Pools Wildlife

Here there are thousands of zebra, kudu, eland, impala, and other antelope species flourish among which the lion and the leopard, the hyena and wild dogs find easy pickings.

This sanctuary is also home to 16,000 buffalo and more than 12,000 elephant - Zimbabwe's largest concentration after Hwange. Many female elephants in the region do not have tusks and are much more aggressive than those with tusks.

More than 380 bird species are enough to draw the breath of any ornithologist. Its banks flutter with Goliath herons, Egyptian and Spurwing geese, cormorants, storks, brilliantly coloured bee-eaters, and kingfishers.

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Ben Nelson
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