FEATURE: Safari options in Mana Pools - April 2019

Wild Zambezi • 27 April 2019

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In this blog we feature the Safari Camps in Mana Pools National Park.  Check out the links provided below for more information about these wonderful destinations in one of the wildest places in Africa.


Mana Pools National Park lies within a vast World Heritage Site covering the Zimbabwean side of the Middle Zambezi Valley.  This wide, flat, low-lying valley is part of the great African Rift, and stretches approximately 55 kilometres between steep-sided escarpment mountain ranges to the south (in Zimbabwe) and to the north (in Zambia).  The current course of the Zambezi River runs right up against the northern escarpment mountains, forming the border between the two countries.  

As it passes through Mana Pools National Park  the Zambezi River is a wide, meandering stretch of water filled with wild animals (especially hippos and crocodiles) and abundant bird life.  The “floodplain” alluvial terraces and channels of Mana Pools are famous for their riverine woodlands dominated by dark mahogany trees and the pale green acacia-type “Winter-Thorns” which provide protein-rich “apple-ring” pods much favoured by wildlife.  Here the elephants, antelope, buffalo and zebra congregate for food and water during the dry, hot season months, with the predators not far behind them.

There are a number of wilderness-orientated safari camps along this stretch of the Zambezi River.  Most are seasonal (closed during the rainy season months of Dec - March because access into these remote areas is very limited).  Access during the safari season (April – October) is either by air charter, 4x4 road transfer or self-drive.

The interior of Mana Pools National Park, away from the Zambezi River, consists of large stretches of dry mopani woodland interspersed with dense "dry forest" bush growing on patches of Kalahari Sand, dotted with a number of seasonal pans, watercourses and springs.   There are several  safari camps located in the interior inland and several under construction. 


Kavinga Safari Camp 

This camp is located just off the main Mana Pools access road in the southern part of the National Park only 9 kms from the well-known Chitake Spring.   The camp has seven comfortable raised platform chalets and a central living/dining area which are set on the edge of a steep cliff overlooking the wide expanse of the Ruckomechi riverbed and facing the sunrise over the magnificent backdrop of the Zambezi escarpment mountains.

Below the camp is a wildlife-frequented pan with a carefully-disguised viewing "Hide" at its edge, allowing incredible close-up photographic opportunities.  Wilderness enthusiasts will love this place, with a professional guide on hand to help explore the surrounding hills and river systems.  

Kanga Camp (African Bush Camps)

This attractive, 12-bedded tented camp is delicately built on decking around the edge of the Kanga Pan in the interior of Mana Pools National Park. Two of the luxury tents are are Honeymoon suites or Family Units, with private dining and seating areas.  A relaxing lounge area raised on decking under the shade of large trees overlooks the splash pool and pan, creating a perfect setting for the “Armchair Safari” experience, for which this camp has become well-known - particularly in the dry season, when extraordinary concentrations and variety of wildife are drawn to the pan as the only source of water for many kilometres around.


ZAMBEZI RIVER CAMPS (west to east - see map)

Ruckomechi Camp & Little Ruckomechi (Wilderness Safaris)

This is a permanent camp set on a private concession in woodland near the confluence of the Zambezi and Ruckomechi Rivers at the western (upstream) edge of Mana Pools National Park .  It has 10 spacious, luxury, en-suite tented units and an expansive wooden-decked central living area, with dining-sitting-bar area, pool, star-gazing deck and a famous “open-air bathroom” overlooking the river floodplain. The camp also offers adventurous guests a “sleep-out” wooden deck “tree-house” option overlooking Parachute Pan behind the camp. Wildlife viewing opportunities from vehicles or boats are magnificent in this area as are birding and walking with a professional guide.   Also available nearby for exclusive use is "Little Ruckomechi tented camp" - which sleeps 6 people with an accompanying professional guide.

Vundu Camp (Bushlife Safaris)

This camp lies within the National Park and has 8 spacious tent-under thatch en-suite chalets and a large, double-story, wooden, central living area set under shady trees overlooking the river.   The main camp is complemented by “Little Vundu” - a smaller 5-tent basic bushcamp located 3kms upstream and designed for those who prefer a more traditional tented camp safari experience.  Wildlife viewing is exceptional in the area and the camp is renowned for its experienced professional guiding. Fishing and canoeing are additional activities on offer.

Mana Pools Safari Lodge

This lodge is part of the Zambezi Cruise & Safaris circuit and is located at the western end of the Mana Pools "floodplain" area.  Set into thick natural woodland of riverine figs, African mango and Apple-ring Albida trees, this luxury lodge consists of 12 thatched chalets and a vast main decked living area, with a covered swimming pool.  Views overlook the Zambezi River floodplain and elephant, kudu, buffalo, wild dogs and even lion can all pass through, as the area is unfenced.

Camp Mana (Sunpath Safaris)

This intimate, simple, 12-bed tented camp has a magnificent location overlooking the Zambezi River.  Each tent has its own en-suite bathroom area, with a flushing toilet and shower facilities. An expansive Bedoin-style tented area provides a shaded central living/dining area. The focus at Camp Mana is on a genuine immersive wilderness experience with a minimal impact on the environment.  On offer are guided game drives and walking, canoe safaris, fishing and wilderness walking trails.  Sunpath Safaris also offer a mobile tented camp at Chitake Springs in the south of  Mana Pools National Park.

Zambezi Expeditions (African Bush Camps)

This is an elegant 12-bedded tented camp on the shores of the Zambezi River with a central, tented living/dining area.  Open between April and November for a minimum 2-night stay, this camp offers a combination of adventure and elegance for private safaris, with superb walking, canoeing, fishing and game-driving activities.  A safari with Zambezi Expeditions can be combined with a stay at Kanga Camp for a more varied wilderness experience. 

Natureways Safaris

The core product of this 20-year-old safari company is mobile canoeing safaris along the Zambezi River, for small 6-8 people groups, suited to different tastes and budgets.  However, in Mana Pools, Natureways also offers static tented camps and guided walking safaris.  This is an authentic African experience, with the added touch of comfort and luxury, full waiter service, spacious walk-in tents, en suite facilities and hot open-air showers. All meals are freshly prepared in camp and all safaris are conducted by an experienced and knowledgeable professional guide.

James Varden Safaris.  

James Varden is recognised as one of Africa’s top Professional walking guides, with more than 25 years of experience.  In combination with Natureways Safaris and Ride Zimbabwehe offers a varied combination of world-class, privately-guided walking, canoeing and riding safaris all focused on wildlife and wilderness experiences. James is also a passionate birder and photographer, so experiencing the Zambezi River and the Mana Pools floodplain area in a canoe and on foot with Jamestruly makes for a memorable, once-in-a-lifetime, safari.  

Mwinilunga Safaris

This is a friendly and comfortable tented safari camp in Mana Pools, with a warm family atmosphere of home away from home.  The camp consists of 6 twin tents and a central living/dining area, nestled under some enormous Trichilia trees right on the banks of the Zambezi River.  All tents have flushing ensuite toilets, and their own unique view.   The camp offers delicious cuisine and activities include guided game walks, game drives, birding, fishing, canoeing, photography and star gazing.

Goliath Camp (Stretch Ferriera Safaris)

Stretch Ferriera is one of Africa’s most renowned and experienced professional guides.  He has recently rebranded as Stretch Ferriera Safaris, operating out of Goliath Camp in Mana Pools.  The camp's 7 luxury East-African style tents blending seamlessly into the bush along the bank of the Zambezi River There are comfortable beds,high-quality linen and mosquitos nets, hot outdoor showers, flush toilets and running water. The entire camp area has soft river sand to walk on and guests can enjoy a casual and barefoot stay!  There is a covered public lounge area and an al-fresco dining room, as well as a large campfire area to enjoy stories under brightly-starred nights and braai (barbeque) nights with chef Stretch himself. Exceptional wildlife experiences include guided walks, game drives, close encounters with wildlife, day canoe trips and fishing.


ZimParks Accommodation in Mana Pools

Lodges & cottages 

There are two self-catering 8-bed double-storey lodges , and three 4-bed cottages located just upstream from the ZimParks office at Nyamepi. These are equipped with furniture and all bedding, basic kitchen facilities, gas stove, fridge, and bathrooms with flush toilets, hot showers and/or baths. The lodges and cottages are serviced.  

Tented Camp

Also available are five new self-catering, en-suite tents located overlooking the Zambezi River at Gwaya Camp just upstream of the ZimParks Lodges.  These each accommodate two people and are fully-equipped, each with a braai/barbeque stand and a separate kitchenette adjacent to the tent.  The tented camp is serviced.

Nyamepi Public campsite

This consists of about 30 camping sites, with 4 ablution blocks which have flush toilets, showers and hot and cold running water.  Water is available from several taps in the campsite.  Firewood can be purchased at the Parks office.  The camp is not fenced, so it is necessary to exercise caution as wild animals (includuing elephants, buffalo and lion) can wander through.  

Exclusive Use campsites

These remote camping sites have no facilities at all except for a long-drop toilet each.  They are available to groups of 6 - 12 visitors and are located at various places along the Zambezi River (New Ndungu, Mucheni 2 & 3) and at Chitake Spring in the extreme south of the Park.    For some tips about camping in Mana Pools, please see our Travel Blog : Mana Pools Camping - some important things to note


John's Camp (Robin Pope Safaris Zimbabwe)

This camp is a traditional, colonial-style tented safari camp with a modern touch, set overlooking a vast area of open Zambezi River floodplain downstream from the confluence of the Mana and Zambezi Rivers in Mana Pools.  The safari guiding offered from this camp is of exceptionally high quality, lead by one of Africa’s most experienced professional guides, John Stevens, owner of the the luxury, bespoke safari company John Stevens Guided Safaris Africa. John, together with his family members and staff, prides himself on offering a top-class safari experience from this lovely camp.

Nyamatusi Camp & Nyamatusi Mahogany (African Bush Camps) 

Nyamatusi Camp is the latest in the African Bush Camps Collection, consisting of six luxury tented suites set in a remote part of Mana Pools, with uninterrupted views of the river and the Zambian escarpment beyond.  Its smaller family camp, Nyamatusi Mahogany, consists of 2 luxury tented suites and 2 family suites nested under ancient mahogany trees on the lush shores of the Zambezi River.  Activities at both camps include game drives and walking safaris, led by qualified and passionate guides. Tailor-made activities for children are a feature at Nyamatusi Mahogany.

Chikwenya Camp (Wilderness Safaris)

Chikwenya Camp is a photographer’s paradise situated on a private concession at the eastern boundary of Mana Pools overlooking the confluence of the Sapi and Zambezi Rivers, with a backdrop of the escarpment mountains.  The camp has seven luxury tents, including two family units.  All stand on low wooden decks with pine walkways linking them to the raised main area. There is a central lounge, dining and bar area with a pool and deck where guests can enjoy the scenery and passing wildlife.  All safari activities at Chikwenya are led by highly skilled guides, and include interpretive day and night game drives, guided nature walks, boating, catch-and-release fishing  and canoeing.

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