Manapools Sep 2016

This trip we did with photography friends Pieter and Gretha de Weerdt from Pretoria.  We met them in 2010 on a trip to Entim Mara Camp in the Masai Mara in Kenya and remained good friends since.

After spending the night on their farm, Bellevue in the Vaalwater district, we departed on 29 August 2016 and headed straight for Francistown via Martinsdrift border post to overnight in the chalets at Woodlands 4x4 stopover, a favourite stop for us for either the first or last night of a trip. The next day was a 10 hour drive to Harare, via Plumtree border post.  In Harare we stayed at Sunbird Guesthouse, a pleasant, homely place to overnight. An 8 hour drive the next day took us right up to Mana Pools where we had private camp sites at Chitake (3 nights), BBC (4 nights) and Mucheni (4 nights).  BBC and Mucheni private camp sites are on the Zambesi and you camp under massive Mahogany trees in deep shade.  Mana pools is synonymous with unrivalled diversity.  We had elephant, lion and wild dog visiting our camp site for the entire three days at BBC.

This unique park is a world heritage site, based on its wildness and beauty, together with the wide range of large mammals, over 350 bird species and aquatic wildlife. The name "Mana'' means "four" in the local Shona language. This applies to the four large pools inland from the Zambezi River. These pools are the remnant ox-bow lakes that the Zambezi River carved out thousands of years ago as it changed its course northwards.

On the old river terraces, tourists can walk unaccompanied by guides in the open Albida woodland (Ana trees) because visibility is good and there is little danger of unexpectantly coming across dangerous animals. The pods from these Ana trees supply a critical energy source during the long lasting winter season.  This privilege of walking alone in an area with dangerous wildlife is unique in Zimbabwe.

Mana Pools is 2,196 square kilometres in extent but is part of the 10,500 square kilometre Parks and Wildlife Estate that runs from the Kariba Dam in the west to the Mozambique border in the east. This large area is without physical boundaries and the wildlife is free to move throughout the area - even northwards across the Zambezi River into Zambia.

Traveling in Zimbabwe is not easy with all the toll gates and multiple police stops where fault finding and fining of tourists is the order of the day, but with good food, good wine and good company in such a beautiful setting with such an abundance of wildlife right on your campsite, these obstacles are forgotten quickly.  We returned home via Beit Bridge border post which, to our surprise, greatly improved since we passed through it the last time in 2011.  It took us less than 20 minutes on each side.  We made a stop over at the comfortable Matoppi Guest House in Musina and will definitely return there.  We departed after a scrumptous breakfast and arrived home on Monday 12 Sep 2016.  It was a lovely trip that we will definitely repeat.