A UNESCO Natural World Heritage Site, Mana Pools National Park is synonymous with the Zambezi River, elephants, lions, remoteness and wilderness. 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. Mana Pools is one of Zimbabwe’s most popular parks, and it is easy to see why it falls into this profile. 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. Hippopotamus, crocodiles and a wide variety of aquatic birds are associated with the pools. ”Long Pool”, is the largest of the four pools, extending some six kilometres in a west-east direction. This pool has a large population of hippo and crocodiles and is a favourite for the large herds of elephant that come out of the thickly vegetated areas in the south to drink.
As one moves northwards towards the Zambezi River from the forests on the Karoo sediments, the vegetation changes to open Faidherbia albida woodlands on the old river terraces. This vegetation gives an unique look to the area and a surreal light filters through the trees giving Mana Pools its distinctive cathedral-like atmosphere.
On the old river terraces, tourists can walk unaccompanied by guides in the open Albida woodland because visibility is good and there is little danger of unexpectantly coming across dangerous animals. This privilege of walking alone in an area with dangerous wildlife is unique in Zimbabwe. Elephant, eland, buffalo, impala, waterbuck, baboons, monkeys, zebra, warthog and hippo are some of the larger herbivores to be seen regularly on the river terraces as they come out to eat the fallen Albida fruit. Lions, leopards, spotted hyaena and cheetah are present in the area, but their secretive nature makes them more difficult to see. Despite this, it is not often that the visitor leaves Mana Pools without seeing at least one of these large carnivores.
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