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Mana Pools National Park, situated in the Middle Zambezi Valley, is certainly one of the most popular Parks in Zimbabwe. One reason is the unique opportunity to be able to walk freely in the Park. It is also a spectacular wildlife area particularly during the winter months when the Park is open for camping, i.e. 1 May to 31 October. At this time animals congregate around the floodplain and the river and large numbers of Elephant and Buffalo can be seen on a daily basis. Visitors walking in the area obviously do this at their own risk and must bear in mind that predators such as Lion are also prevalent in the Park. Nearly 400 species of birds have been recorded here, with the Zambezi River offering some of the best birding opportunities.

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Specials

Lilian's Lovebird, Shelley's Sunbird, Pel's Fishing-Owl, White-backed Night-Heron, Thick-billed Cuckoo, Racket-tailed Roller, Arnot's Chat, Mottled Spinetail, Båhm's Spinetail, White-browed Coucal, Western Banded Snake-Eagle, Rufous-bellied Heron, White-crowned Lapwing, Long-toed Lapwing, Collared Pratincole, Purple-banded Sunbird, Variable Sunbird, Red-throatedTwinspot, Eastern Nicator, Orange-winged Pytilia, Livingstone's Flycatcher, Black-throated Wattle-eye. Barred Long-tailed Cuckoo and African Pitta (rare) are summer visitors.

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Habitats

The Park has several varied and quite distinct habitats. The river itself meanders through a sandy floodplain with areas of tall spiky clumps of Vetivaria grass. Adjacent to the river the open woodland is dominated by Accacia albida (Faidherbia albida) and Natal Mahogany (Trichilia emetica). Beyond this occur magnificent Mopane (Colophspermum mopane) forests and also areas of degraded mopane which have been severely denegrated by the elephant herds. Vast areas are covered with ‘Jesse bush’ which is a very thick mixed woodland dominated by various combretum species. There are also some quite extensive grasslands such as Zebra Vlei and directly to the south of Long Pool. The escarpment holds varied qualities of Miombo (Brachysegia sp) woodland while the river lines also support good riparian forest.

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Birding

1. In Camp. The flowering epiphytes in the huge Faydherbia albida trees in the main camp attract large numbers of sunbirds including Purple-banded Sunbird, Variable Sunbird and White-bellied Sunbird and, if you're very lucky, Shelley's Sunbird. The best time for Shelley's Sunbird is unfortunately mid summer, when most of the Park is closed. In the evenings you will probably hear White-faced Scops Owl, Giant Eagle-Owl and Spotted Eagle-Owl, Wood Owl and occasionally Pel’s Fishing Owl.

2. Along the River. Most camps are along the river. One can arrange to walk along the river or take a day canoe trip or longer canoe safari. From April to December African Skimmer breed on the exposed sand banks. In September huge flocks of Southern Carmine Bee-eater excavate their nest holes in the river banks, joined by smaller flocks of White-fronted Bee-eater. Other species to look for along the river include Mottled Spinetail, Bohm's Spinetail, Horus Swift, White-browed Coucal, Blue-cheeked ee-eater (summer only), Western Banded Snake-Eagle, Rufous-bellied Heron, White-crowned Lapwing, Long-toed Lapwing and Collared Pratincole. The river attracts a variety of waders and some of the more exciting which have been recorded include Spur-winged Plover, Green Sandpiper, Common Ringed Plover, Grey Plover, Caspian Plover, Common Redshank and Bar-tailed Godwit. Along the banks, the Vetivaria grass is good for Bishops and Cisticolas, and Cardinal Quelea has been seen among the abundant Red-billed Quelea. Search the thick vegetation overhanging the river, particularly the Natal Mahogany Trichelia emetica for Pel's Fishing-Owl and White-backed Night-Heron.

3. Drive the Woodland. In the thickets look for Red-throated Twinspot, Eastern Nicator, Bearded Scrub-Robin and Orange-winged Pytilia. Livingstone's Flycatcher and Black-throated Wattle-eye feed higher up in the trees. Lilian's Lovebird is a common resident throughout the area. Barred Long-tailed Cuckoo and Thick-billed Cuckoo have been recorded in summer. Racket-tailed Roller and Arnot's Chat prefer the mopane woodland.

4. Nyamatusi Wilderness Area. A drive through the Nyamatusi Wilderness Area to the Sapi River, although fairly challenging, is worthwhile. Stopping at the Nyamatusi Channel should reward you with some great wetland birding and it was here that the Spur-winged lapwing was found a few years ago. As you enter the area there is some thick riparian growth which quite quickly degrades into jesse. It is worthwhile stopping to look for Livingstone’s Flycatcher, Collared Sunbirds and Barred Owlet. In the tall Mopane forest areas look out for Ayre’s Hawk-Eagle and Arnot’s Chat. When you eventually get to the Sapi River (the park boundary) look for Mottled Spinetail, Bearded Robin, Black-throated Wattle-eye and listen out for the Sombre Greenbul. Note that a free entry permit is required for this area, available from the main office.

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General

The main camp site at Nyamepi has ablution blocks but visitors must bring all of their requirements including fuel. There are also several remote camp sites with no facilities other than a basic toilet and braai/barbeque stand. There are also several large fully equipped National Park lodges along the river which are open for most of the year. All lodges are clean but guests will need to bring their own gas etc due to shortages. Please phone Parks in advance to ask what needs to brought with. Because of the popularity of the Park advance bookings are essential and must be made through the National Parks Booking Office in Harare.

National Parks Central Reservations
Telephone: 263 - 4 - 706077/8
Email:
Website: http://www.zimparks.com/html/manapools.html

There are two luxury safari lodges adjacent to the park, Ruckomechi and Chikwenya, which offer superb birding and game viewing opportunities. Goliath Safaris operates a Luxury Tented Camp in the centre of the park, on the rivers edge, about 4kms from the main campsite. They offer personalized safaris for up to a maximum of 10 guests with expert guides . They also offer canoe trails and day trips. One of the most spectacular ways to bird in Mana Pools is by canoe, and operators offer 3-7 day canoe trips down the Zambezi River. It is a distinct advantage to use those companies that provide an armed professional guide which allows you to walk away from the edge of the river and find the many woodland species as well.

Goliath Safaris
Telephone; +263-4-739836/7
email:
website: www.goliathsafaris.com

Directions
From Harare take the Lomagundi Road towards Kariba. Go past the Kariba turnoff at Makuti (296km from Harare) and continue to the National Parks office at Marongora (16km) to obtain an entry permit into Mana Pools National Park. Stop for fuel at Makuti - this will be your last opportunity. At the bottom of the escarpment (6km from Marongora) turn right onto the gravel road and pass through the boom (the scout will ask for your entry permit). A further 30km brings you to the next gate (again you will have to present your permit), turn left and continue to the Parks office at Nyamepi (42km). The road can be rough but is passable by saloon cars. There is a registered airstrip at Mana Pools and charter flights can be arranged from Kariba for guests visiting the safari lodges or going on organised walking safaris.



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