Information for self-drivers visiting Mana Pools for the first time

Trevor Beckett (via Friends of Mana Pools Facebook Group) • 15 April 2016

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Some information for those of you who are first-timers to Mana Pools.  Those of you who have been before... please feel free to add comments and extra info if you want. Thank you.

When travelling from SA most will try to avoid the Beitbridge border and go through Botswana.  But the last two times I have been through there, it was a breeze.  Never get there early mornings.  That is when all the buses seem to pass through.  Try to make it there between about 11am and 2pm.

My advice is to take the Bulawayo road rather than the other route via Zvishvane, as that road is very pot- holed.  If I was driving to Mana from Johannesburg, I would try make it to Antelope Park in Gweru the first day.  Then it is a 7-hour drive from Gweru to Mana Pools the next day.  Alternatively, after a night at Antelope Park, pick up last minute groceries etc in Gweru, then drive to Makuti Travel Lodge and spend the night there after you have checked in at the National Parks Zambezi Valley Station at Marongora (see details below).  Antelope Park is a great stopover and there is a new Pick and Pay in Gweru with all your last minute shopping.  You can also get the highest quality vacuum-packed meat, biltong ice etc at a really good butchery in Gweru.  

Make sure you have plenty of fuel to cover your whole journey into Mana Pools, as there are no filling stations within the Park.   The nearest fuel is at Karoi, Makuti or Chirundum but note that Makuti fuel station currently ONLY sells diesel, so fill up in Karoi if your car takes petrol.    It's advisable to check on availability.  The cell number for the attendant at the Makuti fuel station is +263 778 248615.  His his name is BRUCE.  You may also contact EDMORE at Makuti Travel Lodge on+263 63 526 or +263 63 531.  If you need to stay over before you get to Mana, I highly recommend the Makuti Travel Lodge.

An early start into the Park is so worthwhile as you will be fresh for that not-so-good road and you will have a whole day extra in the Park.  

It's a 2 hour (minimum) drive from the turn-off gate on the Harare-Chirundu main road to the Park Office at Nyamepi on the Zambezi River.  You will need to drive past Makuti to Marongora (20km),at the top of the Zambezi Escarpment, to book in before 5pm.  Then go back to fill up at Makuti (diesel) and spend the night at the hotel which is up on the hill above the fuel station.  Note if you are travelling to Mana the same day you must stop in at Marongora before 15.30 hours to collect your entry permit.You will not be issued with a permit after that time to enter the park that day. The first (turn-off) gate opens at 6am.


Lodges:  National Parks accommodation is limited, so you will need to book well in advance for the lodges.  There are three 4-bedded and two 8-bedded lodges.  They are very basic.  All have a small deep freezer and 4-plate gas stove, but I suggest you also bring your own car fridge/freezer if you have one.The kitchen is equipped with the basics, but you may want to take some of your favourite items such as a non-stick pan, sharp knife etc.  You will need to take a braai grid.

All bedding is supplied and a Parks lady or man will be around every day to clean up for you.  Take extra camp tables and chairs. There are 12-volt lights in the lodges but you will have to connect to your car battery, so take some crocodile clips to attach to your battery.  Maybe take a few extra 12volt bayonet bulbs, low wattage.  Also take extra solar lamps and head torches as if you were going camping.

Nyamepi Campsite has about 30 sites and you will need to also book at Parks Head Office for one. There are 4 well maintained ablution blocks with hot showers and flush toilets.  Parks also have several Exclusive Campsites along the Zambezi River, but there is nothing but a long-drop toilet on site.

There are a number of private tour operators in the park as well.

You must keep it simple especially if you are camping.  NO fresh fruit is allowed into the park. Cook all your meals before you leave and ask your butcher to vacuum pack for you or pack in plastic tubs.  The only raw meat you need to take is for the braai. The only veg we take are potatoes, butternut & green tomatoes.  Canned veg is much easier. We even do our braai gravy at home and vacuum pack it. Stay away from glass bottles as you have to take out all your trash that cant be burnt.  Tin cans can be crushed under your car wheels to reduce space.

We just have a cereal to start the day.  Lunch might be boiled eggs done the night before,cheese, bread cold meats etc. The evening meal: well it will be a braai with baked spuds and butternut in tin foil (we always boil the spuds first) or your vacuum-packed pre-cooked meal placed in a pot of hot water to reheat in the sealed bag.  You can the use that same water to do your boiled eggs for the next day, thus no pots to clean!!!! As I said, keep it simple, as Mana is for game viewing and relaxing not cooking and washing dirty pots and pans!

Baboons, monkeys and hyenas will be your main problem there.  Baboons are a real menace as they will tear your tent apart to get to your food if you leave it inside.  There is one there that can open car doors (I speak from experience).  Lock the doors and make sure there is no food in your tent.You can hire a guard for the day at $10 per day.

The little vervet monkeys are really cute but very sneaky and will have your snacks etc before you know it.  You will be caught out at least a couple of times that is for sure!! Hyenas will come round every night and will take almost anything,shoes,cooler boxes, pots... they even chewed up our rubber gas pipe, so put everything away.

Elephants will wonder through your campsite or past the lodges,just stay out of their path and they will totally ignore you.

When you get back to camp late in the afternoon spray your ankles with repellent as the sand lice (or whatever they are) will bite soon after you sit down to relax.

(All pictures by Trevor Beckett)

Other useful info:-

Mana Pools camping:  some important things to note

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