A Memorable Trip to Mana Pools Safari Lodge

Zimbabwe
Mana Pools is located in the lower Zambezi and it gets very hot. For this journey and destination, a high clearance vehicle is best. The greater part of this journey is on fairly good tarmac but the last fifth breaks into the rugged terrain which is Park territory till you arrive at Mana.  

It was a good trip marked by surprisingly cool weather for the most part and reasonable traffic. The first turn into safari country off the Chirundu highway is at Marongora National Park, from this juncture we started to spot one or two animals foraging in the afternoon heat, however this part was very dry. We passed 3 dry river beds on the way. There were fewer animals sighted as the animals tend to move further inland in search of water. We noticed signage pointing to other camp sites dotted in the park, several of these such as Nyamepi are run by the National Parks Authority. As we entered Mana Pools National Park the concentration of animals increased and our drive in became very interesting as we spotted elephants, Eland, Impala, among other animals grazing or heading towards the nearest water hole.

After almost 8 hours out of Harare and great many kilometres(610 km to be precise!)  we arrived at the lodge. Our welcoming party was waiting for us, Lodge Management, Stephen, Andrea and team. To our great pleasure with warm smiles, chilled face towels to refresh the weary travellers and refreshing rock shandies.  The Lodge entrance and reception is impressive, the artistry displayed in the lounge area is so detailed. The entire lodge is made of splendid teak woodwork. There is eye catching décor, from artwork on canvas, to figurines and interesting wall mounts. It is clear the architecture of the place was made while trying to preserve the natural setting, for example the deck is built around an ancient wild Mango tree.   

After lunch and freshening up our first activity was a boat cruise, I loved the fact that we were an intimate group and could easily ask our guide questions about the flora and fauna around us. The weather was perfect and we saw several elephants feeding on an island, a couple of hippos and a large crocodile sunning itself on the verges of the island. The highlight of the cruise is of course the amazing sunset as its reflection dances on the Zambezi. There is abundant birdlife near the river, we spotted a Spurwing goose the Hadeda Ibis and in the distance heard the cry of a fish eagle. To cap the evening, we enjoyed sundowners by the river. Dinner was served on the deck, the meal and the service were excellent and the setting takes on a romantic feel with aromatic candles.

On Day 2 we started the day with a tour of the lodge, we were shown all the Eco-friendly initiatives being employed at the lodge. The heating and lighting are solar powered and they have a low energy water purification system which helps to reduce the carbon footprint in the area.  Mana Pools is a world heritage site thus conservation of its environment and animal life is very important. The lodge also strongly participates in anti-poaching drives in the area.

By lunch time it does get sweltering and a dip in the pool is recommended, guests are constantly encouraged to keep rehydrated. Our afternoon activity for the day was a game drive, which took us deep into the park where we spotted warthog, zebra, waterbuck and the endangered wild dog.  Afterwards we had sundowners further down river as we watched the sun set. Our experienced guide, Craig Coid gave us an informative history about how the flood plain has evolved over time, it was a very eye-opening afternoon.  During the evening we relaxed and socialised by the fire pit and gazed at the stars. Dinner was another delicious meal followed by a night drive. This gave us a rare opportunity to see nocturnal animals like a genet and hyenas.

Sunday morning, we woke up bright early for a game drive/safari walk. We set out later than planned and unfortunately it tends to get warm pretty quickly in these parts. However, it was a worthwhile adventure, the highlight was coming across a pride of lions relaxing after a kill the previous night. We also got to see a herd of buffalo, vervet monkeys, Lilian’s lovebirds, impala and more elephants ambling around. Upon returning to the lodge we had a full breakfast we concluded our trip and began the trip back to Harare.