Mana Pools National Park, Zimbabwe
At a Glance
Enjoy an afternoon sitting in the shade of the trees on the camp deck and watch as the game floods through the bush to drink from the pan in front of camp
Spend a night in the 'platforms', raised decks in the trees above a dry riverbed - an incredible experience under the African night sky
Track animals directly from camp with one of the expertly trained guides
Take a day trip into the national park itself and enjoy a picnic lunch on the banks of the Zambezi
Enjoy delicious freshly prepared meals on the camp deck and watch incredible birdlife on the pan next to you
Best time to Visit
Good time to visit
Average time to visit
Mana Pools has a moderate to sub-tropical climate with three distinct seasons: from November to March is the Emerald, or the rainy season, April to July is Zimbabwe's winter, when the weather is cool and dry, and August to October is summer, when the weather is hot and dry. In terms of game viewing, the dryer months, meaning a higher concentration of game at the permanent water sources, are a superb time to visit. Alternatively come for some superb birdwatching at the end of the rains. Kanga camp opens from mid April until the end of October.
To start planning your vacation to Kanga Camp
Kanga Camp is set in private concession on the edge of Mana Pools National Park. The camp is built around Kanga Pan, a permanent water hole, which as the only source of permanent water in the area, draws in incredible game during the dry season.
Kanga Camp is an African Bush Camps property set within a private concession linked to the Mana Pools National Park, which is easily accessed by a game drive of approximately 1-hour. This intimate, six tented camp, is set back from the Zambezi away from the more visited Zambezi riverbank and offers a fantastic, different safari experience to the national park itself.
African Bush Camps is owned by the celebrated Zimbabwean guide Beks Ndlovu, himself a veteran of many years spent guiding in the area. At Kanga, Beks has created a safari experience which focuses on a private safari experience where tracking animals on foot with the highly qualified guides is a special experience.
This area of Zimbabwe is very hard to access during the rainy season as the dry riverbeds fill with rain water flowing from the escarpments. As a result, Kanga Camp is only open in the shoulder and dry seasons from April through to the end of October.
Kanga Camp has six large tented rooms set round on the edge of a permanent water hole. Each tented room has an outside bathroom, where guests can shower under the stars.
Children under the age of 7 years are only accepted by prior agreement with the camp management. Walking safaris are only available to children that are aged 16 and over
Kanga Camp has a small swimming pool overlooking the waterhole and next to a large deck area where most meals are served under the shade of the trees.
Walking and game-drive activities in the area can be complimented with trips to the Zambezi flood plain experience. Water based activities such as fishing and canoeing can be arranged in advance and on special request. Later in the dry season guests often forego the afternoon game activity and opt to watch the activity unfold at the waterhole in front of camp. There is also a sleepout treehouse platform which guests can book in advance for a night sleeping out under the African night sky.
Sophie Levey (Staff)
The staff at Kanga immediately made us feel extremely welcome and our guides were both friendly and knowledgeable. Kanga Under the Stars was a real treat although I dont want to say to much as it will ruin the surprise!
A reborn Victoria Falls isnt necessarily a measure of the whole country, however. Ninety per cent of the guests at my lodge wont see anything else of Zimbabwe before departing for Botswana and South Africa. I leave them far behind, flying 230 miles east along the Zambezi to Mana Pools.
The last time I arrived at the famous national park I was in a canoe, on a 4 day paddle marked by an unnervingly close encounter with a crocodile gripping a freshly killed impala. I've never forgotten it. Nor the landscape. The wide Zambezi, braided with islands, and crawling with game beneath the hazy wall of Zambias Kayila Mountains, was the closest thing Id seen to the Garden of Eden. It still is.
Id hoped to wake up to the very same view this time. Not a chance. Mana, whose visitor numbers have doubled since 2008, doesnt have a single tented room available along its waterfront. Instead I stay 18 kilometers back into the bush at Kanga Camp. Im lucky to get in there its booked up for the next three months, part of a record season. Tourisms picking up every year, says manager Caisias Tembo, who recently returned to Zimbabwe after a decade managing lodges in Mozambique. A flood of experienced staff will soon follow me home. Some may well end up at a new camp, due to open in 2015, further from the river at the foot of the 2,000 ft escarpment.
Any disappointment at not being on the Zambezi quickly vanishes. Homely and intimate, Kangas 6 tents swaddle a pan that, as one of only two permanent water sources in the area, seethes with wildlife. From the multi-tiered deck surrounding a huge jackal berry tree, I enjoy an armchair safari watching elephant, buffalo and impala drinking in the shallow water. Later, over a scrumptious roast supper, the lodge spotlight picks out hyena, wild dog, civet cat and honey badger. Guests at the pan have seen leopards prowling, kudu fleeing predators and lions killing.
For a more active game-viewing we head down to the Zambezi, passing a 100-strong herd of buffalo, double that number of impala and five lions looking deceptively cuddly in the shade. The riverbank is still divine: a natural Mark Rothko abstract with perfectly stratified layers of sandy shore, shimmering water and green islands, beneath the Zambian tree line, ochre mountains and cyan sky.
The waterfront is dotted with magnificent leadwood, Natal mahogany and ana trees. I arrive just too late to see a bull elephant standing on its hind legs to snaffle the anas fruit: a sight unique to Mana. Instead, crocodiles dominate my day. Not just because they're prolific 2 giants for every 10 yards of Long Pool, the largest of the parks four lakes but because I meet Zera. The guide was commended for his bravery after diving into the river to fight a 17ft-long beast devouring a Dutch tourist. I acted on instinct, he says, as I listen open-mouthed. I twisted the crocs tail & it flipped over, releasing the guy. He was floating, curled up in shock and I dragged him to the bank. The croc was just behind us, but turned away when it saw other people. The tourist had eight punctures but lived. Meeting the crocodile wrestler makes my day. Actually it makes my trip.
Leaving Mana, I try my luck with a second pilot. Can we swing right and fly above the Zambezi? Why not? says Janade of Halsted air charters. Youve come a long way. We cut northeast to follow the sparkling thread of river as it enters a vertiginous valley of coffee-hued rock, before passing over the Kariba dam that restrains the planets largest man-made lake.
Its a theatrical approach to my final stop. Tucked into the mopani bush above the beach, on a fat peninsular of land overlooking the distant Matusadona Mountains, Changa is the most stylish camp of my trip. With eight large, open-plan tents, each with a gauze side open to refreshing breezes, light modern African interiors and striking stone-effect al fresco bathrooms, it introduces a dash of upmarket international chic to the Matusadona National Park. Fellow guests include the French ambassador and an American business titan.
Changa, which Wilderness Safaris uses for clients visiting the lake, has seen occupancy rise by more than 50 per cent since opening in 2012. Theres more good news on the day I arrive: Air Zimbabwe is re-launching its service linking Victoria Falls, Kariba and Harare, a route mothballed for seven years. Take out the eye-watering cost of charter flights and the countrys lodges are stunning value compared to those of surrounding countries. The new service could provide a major boost.
In the 1980s, I spent a boozy week cruising Kariba, catching tiger fish and bream. In the late afternoon I head back on to the glassy lake, weaving through ethereal forests of dead mopani trees that riddle its shallows. Osprey, African darter and reed cormorants decorate their branches, like precious jewelry spotlit by a setting sun.
We cut the engine 100 yards from shore, drifting towards a lone elephant on Fothergill Island. Theyre so used to boats, explains George van Wyk, one of Zimbabwes finest guides. You can get to within 5 yards. Its quite different to being in vehicles.
It certainly is. At water level the bull elephant is huge. Magnificent. Intimidating. We silently watch it flexing the 20,000 muscles in its trunk to pull up weeds, wash off the sand and scoop them into its mouth. For us its 30 minutes of awe-inspiring theater, for the elephant, its an 18-hour daily routine. Another day, another elephant. This time were on foot. A Matusadona specialty. Its a case of CSI Changa with George analysing dung and footprints to walk us within 60 yards of a mature bull. Mid-to-late 40s, he whispers. Great condition.
Departing the camp I request a final aerial detour. Surely I wont be lucky again? I am. This time our plane stays deliberately low, hugging the shoreline above the spot where 8 lion are eating a elephant: an instant airbo
Louisa Verney (Staff)
Kanga Camp is a lovely tented camp built round a lagoon and set back from the Zambezi River. The area is always quiet so it is a fantastic spot combine with one of the river front camps towards the mid end of the dry season. The lagoon is the only permanent water in the area so as the dry season continues guests often don't even leave the camp for the afternoon game drive and they relax on the deck watching what comes in to drink. There are stories of wild dog hunting kudu through camp and into the swimming pool.
The tented rooms were slightly raised up on decks and were very comfortable with an outside bathroom behind, so you can have a shower out under the stars. When I stayed there we ate all our meals on the deck over looking the lagoon, and watched a herd of elephant come down to drink while we ate breakfast...a lovely way to start the day.
Canoeing on the Zambezi
Join an experienced and qualified river-guide for a canoe safari on the Zambezi River, this is a fantastic way to experience the northern safari areas of Zimbabwe and get a feel for the power of the Zambezi.
Fishing in Zimbabwe
Visitors travel from across the globe to Northern Zimbabwe to try their hand at catching one of the most iconic of fresh water game fish: the Tiger Fish. Ten-pound plus tigers are a common catch on the waters of Kariba and the wider Zambezi.
Platforms at Kanga
Spend a night sleeping under the stars on Kanga's fantastic platforms. When you head out of camp after tea remember pack your tooth brush as you won't be coming back this evening.
Zimbabwe is one of the best places in Africa to experience walking in the bush. The guides are of the highest quality, the game is fantastic and the different environments, throughout the country, are well suited for exploring on foot.
Location & directions
Mana Pools National Park, Zimbabwe
Mana Pools sits within the lower Zambezi Valley, where the river marks the border with Zambia. Kanga Pan is set in the most remote part of the world Heritage site, an hour inland from the Lower Zambezi River, and not far from Chitake Springs.
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