Usually when you mention tourism and Zimbabwe in the same sentence the iconic Victoria Falls is probably the first thing that springs to mind. However, if you follow that 500 million litres of cascading water eastwards into Lake Kariba and onwards through the Kariba gorge the Zambezi eventually spreads out into a flattened, fertile floodplain ringed by the forested blue mountains of the Zambezi escarpment. This area of Zimbabwe’s southern bank is where you can find Mana Pools National Park and a camping experience like no other.
1. GET AWAY FROM THE HUSTLE AND BUSTLE
You will have no problems with getting away from the hustle and bustle of daily life in this part of Zimbabwe. Mana Pools is seriously remote being only accessible by 4×4. The campsite areas are 70km from the nearest tarmac road and even further from signs of civilisation. This means for any camping trip you will need to take everything with you and I mean everything. There are no convenience stores, no gift shops…it is just you, your possessions and nature. The only money you will part with is for park entry fees and firewood.
2. THE SCENERY
Mana Pools is part of a 300-million-year old rift valley and the park has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage site and it’s not difficult to see why. At the foot of the rugged Zambezi escarpment, the floodplains of the lower Zambezi valley are studded with islands and sandbanks where the river meanders along approximately 2000km2 of unspoilt riverfront vegetation. Stepping back from the riverfront the park encompasses large areas of unspoilt Acacia and Mahogany woodland combined with full canopy mopane forest and the occasional, instantly recognisable Baobab tree. This stunning backdrop creates a magical camping destination that is hard to beat.
3. THE WIDLIFE
If the spectacular scenery and getting away from it all wasn’t enough reason to go camping in Mana Pools, then throwing in a range of large mammals and over 400 bird species and aquatic wildlife should seal the deal. The park is home to elephants, zebra, gazelle, waterbuck, baboons, hippo pods, warthogs, crocodiles and lions; and that is just what we witnessed during my 2 days camping experience. Buffalo, cheetahs, leopards, hyenas and wild dogs among many others also roam across the park. You can explore the park by guided walking safaris or with your own vehicle at your leisure. Mana Pools, however, is a park without boundaries and the wildlife is free to roam anywhere and that includes your campsite. Coming back to your campsite to see a hippo happily grazing 20 metres from you tent or dodging an elephant going to the toilet will make a camping experience you won’t forget. See more pictures on my Instagram feed.
4. THE NIGHT SKIES
Being eons away from the bright lights of civilisation gives you a front row seat to one of the greatest night skies in the world. On a moonless night the sky teems with twinkling stars where you can view the splendour of our galaxy, the Milky Way, as it arches across the night sky. Looking up it is hard to imagine our tiny Earth, an island of life, within the architecture of something so grand. See below my first time-lapse video of the Milky Way taken at Mana Pools.
5. THE CAMPING EXPERIENCE
There are many aspects to a great camping experience such as cooking over the braai (bbq), watching the sunset while sipping on your sundowners with nature as your backdrop, sleeping under the stars or being surrounded by fresh air among others. Throw in the raw, unspoilt wilderness and wildlife of Mana Pools then you really will enter a world of beauty that is sure to leave you inspired.