A Remote and Enchanting Wilderness
Mana Pools in northern Zimbabwe is a UNESCO World Heritage Site -a pristine, unspoilt paradise with abundant game, spectacular scenery, and an incredible variety of birds. Here 2BWild’s Viv Thomé recounts the indelible experience of visiting this unique part of Africa.
Sitting in our camp chairs on the edge of a dry riverbed after setting up camp deep in the far northern Zimbabwean bush, the four of us had been chatting after enjoying a quiet lunch. A hush fell over us all and my mouth opened in amazement as I pointed through the trees, speechless. We stared in awe through the foliage, too stunned to even move, let alone whisper, as a column of huge grey shadows approached slowly, steadily and silently down the dry riverbed towards us.
We could barely contain ourselves at the privilege of seeing this majestic herd of some 20 elephant, a breeding herd comprising young and old – matriarch, cows, adolescents, and tiny calves – right in front of us, seemingly an arm’s length away.
Our camp was an ‘exclusive’ campsite (meaning no other visitors were permitted), situated beneath the generous and shady canopy of a massive Jackalberry tree in a clearing overlooking the riverbed which led from a spring. There are no facilities whatsoever, only our friendly trees. However, we travel fully-equipped and are completely self-sufficient. We had researched the area well in advance as this was a ‘recce’ trip to experience the route personally for recommendation to future guests.
The awesome pachyderms settled right in front of our campsite and, between gentle deep rumblings and slow shuffling among themselves, they began excavating small, but deep, holes in the beach-like sand for their regular evening drink. The process was slow and laborious, but they were in no hurry.
As the newly-dug holes filled slowly with freshly-filtered water, they slowly slurped up a little into the lower portion of their trunks, waiting a moment to let any sand settle before deftly flicking that away. They then raised their heads and drank deeply, repeating the process over and over for some four hours as we sat riveted to our camp chairs.
And then they gradually disappeared, as silently as they had come, into the dusk that had fallen upon us. This had been a very special experience and one never to be forgotten.
Another day in Africa!
Camping in an exclusive campsite in one of Africa’s last true wilderness areas was an unparalleled privilege
We had set off from Sandton in Gauteng two days earlier with our travel companions, Rob and Di, in our trusty Land Cruisers which have, over the years, been kitted out specifically for such journeys, making us fully self-sufficient for a week or more at a time including carrying all the water and food necessary as well as a bush shower and loo.
We had arrived at Mana Pools that morning, having made our booking a year in advance. Visiting Mana Pools had been on our bucket list for a long time and, for many, it is indeed a lifetime experience. One of my main missions was to find the Red-Throated Twinspot, a 20-year-long dream of mine as an avid birder.
We wanted to visit and understand not only the Mana Pools environment, but also the best route options and accommodation along the way, including a few nights spent on a houseboat on Lake Kariba.
The concept of camping in an exclusive and remote campsite in one of Africa’s last true wilderness areas was an unparalleled privilege. At our first camp, the intention was to relax without any game-driving. We had discovered that the game was attracted to the nearby spring, which delivers water all year round.
The elephant herds visited us daily at roughly the same time – a photographer’s dream. We also had lions roaring within metres of our camp on the first night, not to mention hyena giggling away a bit further off in the African night. A large herd of buffalo quietly appeared at the spring on our second morning, as well as the ever-graceful impala.
Birdlife in the area is unsurpassed and birders can look forward to adding a few ‘lifers’ to their lists.
After three nights in this paradise, it was time to strike camp and head 40km north to the banks of the mighty Zambezi. This section of Mana Pools is truly magnificent, with wildlife grazing along the riverbank and spread throughout the surrounding pristine bush. Again, these camps are exclusive with minimal facilities – just the way we true explorers prefer it. A guided walk is also highly recommended. Our guide, Tendai, was extremely knowledgeable.
These camps have no facilities – just the way we true explorers prefer it
… Just one thing: my little Red-Throated Twinspot eluded me, not to mention the famous elephant named Boswell, who stands on his hindlegs, lifting his five-ton body to get to the sweetest leaves of the massive Winterthorn trees! I will be back!
For those on a tight schedule, fly-in options to the luxury lodges in the area are available. There is also a large campsite with a number of ablution blocks for those with youngsters, or who prefer a hot shower.
HOW DO I GET THERE?
2BWild Safaris will work closely with you to plan your personalised itinerary, providing you with routing and undertaking all your reservations.
Options are fly-in or self-drive in your own vehicle, or a fully equipped 4×4 vehicle can be hired for you.
BEST TIME OF YEAR
Dry season – June to October
You will need to be completely self-sufficient, as there are no shops or petrol stations in the reserve. 2BWild provides a comprehensive Trail List with everything you will need, depending on where you choose to stay and the time of year.
We will book your flights, accommodation and arrange transfers as well as any activities you may be interested partaking in, eg canoeing.
ZAMBEZI CANOE TRIP
For the fitter travellers, a canoe trip down the Zambezi is highly recommended.
For something completely different after your wild safari, relax on a houseboat for a few days on Lake Kariba, taking a tender-boat along the shore in search of wildlife, casting a line for a Bream for dinner, or simply just relaxing and being pampered.
2BWild Safaris will arrange your transfers and a boat to suit.