SCROLL DOWN FOR EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW TO SELF-DRIVE MANA POOLS:

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Why visit Mana Pools?

Mana Pools is said to host Africa’s largest concentration of wildlife during the dry season. It also boasts abundant birdlife and great fishing.

The unique combination of beautiful trees, wildlife and unspoiled river is set against the backdrop of distant mountains making it a dream for wildlife-lovers, birders, fishermen and photographers. Uniquely, visitors are allowed to walk unaccompanied in this spectacular environment at their own risk. Canoes are also available for hire from reception. It is a UNESCO world Heritage site and a true bucket-list destination.

When should I go?

As soon as possible! The most popular months for game-viewing and photography are June- October. With August and September being prime, June and July can get chilly at night whilst October tends to get very hot. The rainy season starts in November through to March and the game disperses inland and roads deteriorate but the vegetation proliferates. The birding is best November-April and fishing tends to pick up October-March.Whatever the season, however, Mana always has something to offer.

Accommodation options?

Zimparks accommodation options range from remote exclusive campsites, a large main communal campsite to fully equipped lodges. All are unfenced and wildlife can and do move freely through them.There is no electricity and generators are banned. Most facilities have braai places and firewood is sold at reception. There is no fuel and no shop although limited green veggies can be bought from the rangers’ veggie garden. Zimparks offer wireless internet access at reception and the rangers will try help you locate a rumored cellphone signal, don’t rely on finding it.

Exclusive Campsites

There are a number of exclusive campsites that are isolated and exclusive to the party that has booked them. A maximum of 2 vehicles are allowed per campsite. Ndungu1&2, Mucheni1-4, BBC, Gwaya and Nkupe are located along the riverbanksand have longdrop toilets and braaiplaces. Chitake #1 and #2 (Nzou and Shumba) are located 50km inland at Chitake Springs and have no facilities at all, these camps are very ecologically sensitive and it is important to read up on the Chitake code of conduct before you go.

Communal Campsite

The main campsite of Nyamepi has 30 campsites with braai-places but is seldom full. These are serviced by 4 ablution blocks with flush toilets, showers and various washing –up areas.

Permanent Tented Camps

There are 4 new permanent tended camps located upstream of the lodges between Gwayi campsite and Goliath Safaris each comprising 2 tents with 2 queen beds in each with individual kitchenettes (gas freezer and stove) plus ablution facilities.

Self-catering Lodges

There are two 8-sleeper (Muchichiri,Musango) and three 4-sleeper lodges (Muvee, Hippo, Nyati) situated on the river. These self-catering lodges are old and basic but comfortable and clean and well maintained with hot and cold running water, flush toilets, gas fridges and stoves.

Location Map of Zimparks Accommodation


Zimparks Site Facilities
SITE DESCRIPTION
SITE NAME
TOILET
SHOWER
KITCHEN
BRAAI
GAS
Exclusive Riverside CampNdungu 1,2, Mucheni 1-4LongdropXXYesX
Exclusive Riverside CampGwayaFlush ToiletColdYesYesX
Exclusive Riverside CampBBCLongdropXXXX
Exclusive Riverside CampNkupeLongdropXXYesX
Communal Riverside CampNyamepi 1-30Ablution blockXTapstandYesX
8-Sleeper Riverside lodgeMuchichiri, MusanguFlush toiletsYesYesYesYes
4-Sleeper Riverside lodgeMuvee, Hippo, NyatiFlush toiletsYesYesYesYes
Permanent Tented Camp1-4Flush toiletsYesYesYesYes
Chitake Inland CampNzou, ShumbaLongdropXXXX

Zimparks Bookings?

Zimparks lodges and certain campsites book up over one year in advance for certain times of the year, so it is best to book as early as possible. The main Nyamepi campsite is seldom full though.

Herewith a summary of current Zimparks tarifs relevant to Mana Pools.

Zimparks central bookings office contact details are:
Tel: + 263 4 706077/8
Email: bookings@zimparks.co.zw

Booking clerks direct emails:

Christine Mhuriro: cmhuriro@zimparks.co.zw
Audrey Maponga:  amaponga@zimparks.co.zw
Sekai Gonyora:  sgonyora@zimparks.co.zw

Permits and receipts should be collected from the Zimparks offices prior to leaving Harare.
Manapools.com can assist our clients facilitate their bookings direct with Zimparks and collect/courier permits for you if you are battling. We are your feet on the ground in Harare. If you need help with booking, please contact us.

Currency & Fuel Situation

In theory Zimbabwe is currently operating on a multi-currency system whereby USD, Rand, Euro, Pound, Pula and Renminbi are all accepted as legal tender along side locally issued bond-notes that are supposedly par with the USD. In practice, prices are quoted in USD and all other currencies are traded at very unfavorable rates to the USD. Non-USD cash payments using local bond notes, electronic transfers, debit & credit card payments are generally discounted by merchants to USD cash. For this reason, non-USD cash payments are used mainly for local transactions whilst scarce hard cash USD is rationed to pay for imports, fuel being one of them. As cash USD gets more scarce, so does imported fuel. Fuel availability is starting to become erratic again and this looks set to worsen. The last time this happened, fuel was still available to those who had cash USD.

For this reason, we suggest is best to bring your money in cash USD. Smaller denominations are best as change can often be a problem.. Remember, there is a USD1000 limit on how much cash you can leave the country with so budget wisely.

Zimparks payments are in USD it is relatively easy to make a direct foreign payment to the Zimparks bank account, enquire at your bank about the process.

How to get there?

Many regional visitors opt to self-drive as they can choose their own pace and get to see the countryside on the way. There are basically two self-drive options, Fly & Self-Drive and Full Self-Drive:

1. Fly & Self-drive

Fastjet now offers 4 daily low-cost flights from Joburg to Harare, allowing you to miss Beitbridge and the dangerous road to Harare. Let us collect you at Harare Airport, host you overnight at Sunbird Guest House in Harare and hand you the keys to your own rented 4×4 fully loaded with all the fuel, food, drinks, camping equipment and permits you need to leave the next morning for Mana Pools. Contact Us to enquire about fly and drive options.

2. Full Self-drive

Drive to Harare in your own vehicle, stay overnight at Sunbird Guest House. We collect your permits, buy and pack your food and drinks ahead of time ready for you to depart the next morning for Mana Pools.

Many South African visitors choose to cross into Zimbabwe via Botswana at Plumtree to avoid the congested Beitbridge border post and the dangerous Masvingo- Harare Road which is notorious for road accidents and unpleasant to drive after dark. The Plumtree-Harare road has been recently upgraded and is in good condition.

Approx. distances and travelling times are as follows (NB these are guidelines!)

Via Beitbridge

  • JHB-Beitbridge 535km (6h45 mins)
  • Beitbridge border crossing 1km (2-4hrs)
  • Beitbridge-Harare 577km (7h30min)
  • Overnight in Harare
  • Harare-Mana Pools (last fuel at Karoi) 388km (7-8hrs)

Via Botswana(220km longer)

  • JHB-Martins Drift 454km (5h30mins)
  • Martins Drift border crossing 1km (1hr max)
  • Martins Drift-Plumtree 343km (4h45mins)
  • Plumtree border crossing 1km (1-2hr)
  • Plumtree-Harare via Bulawayo 537km (8:45hrs)
  • Overnight in Harare
  • Harare-Mana Pools (last fuel at Karoi) 388km (7-8hrs)

What about Beitbridge and driving in Zim?

Beitbridge can be manageable if you cross at the right time and utilize the Beitbridge Border Crossing Assistance Service listed below.


Saturdays are extremely busy at Beitbridge, as are early mornings when the busses pass through.The best times to cross are weekdays between 08:00-12:00 generally. Christmas and Easter are also very congested times of the year.

In order to drive your foreign-registered vehicle into Zimbabwe, you need to obtain a Temporary import Permit (TIP) free of charge at the border. Keep this document as you may need to present it at Police roadblocks.

Documentation requirements (E&OE):

Before you leave, make sure you have the following documents:

  • Valid Passport (SA Citizens do not need a Visa, Many European countries do)
  • Valid driver’s licence
  • Paid-off Vehicles – Certified copy of vehicle registration (ownership)papers in the name of the driver
  • Bank-financed vehicles -, carry a letter of authority from the bank (must include dates of travel) together with the vehicle license papers.
  • Third-Party Insurance: Compulsory – obtained at border post OR alternatively obtains at an AA Accredited Sales Agent store. Best to get this beforehand to save time standing in queues at the border.
  • ZA Sticker: Available at any AA Accredited Sales Agent store.
Beitbridge Fees (E&OE):
  • Road Access Fee: Based on the vehicle’s size paid on entry only. (approx. USD 10–USD 24)
  • Exit Pass: Approx. usd7 at each exit
  • Carbon Tax: Based on engine size (approx. USD5 to USD24)
  • Toll Fees: Major roads are tolled, it is wise to bring a supply of 1usd bills in order to pay tolls
Vehicle Requirements:

Police roadblocks are common but generally easy to deal with if you are prepared and have the right approach. Each vehicle must be equipped as follows by law:

  • 1kg serviceable Fire Extinguisher certified by the Standards Association of Zimbabwe carried in the cab
  • 2* Breakdown triangles, plus an additional two for each caravan, boat or trailer.
  • Reflectors as follows, must be of “honeycomb” or “diamond” grade:- 2 by White (60mm*50mm at either side on front bumper (or 60mm diameter if circular) for non-commercial vehicles.
    – 2 * Red (60mm*50mm at either side on rear bumper (or 60mm diameter if circular) for non-commercial vehicles.
    – Continuous red reflector strip (50mm wide) to within not less than 400mm of the outer edges at rear for pickups / twincabs and light trailers.
    – Continuous yellow reflector strip down both sides of vehicle and trailer if combined total length is more than 8 metres (this will apply to must vehicle/trailer combinations when towing!)
  • Trailers to have a reflective white “T” and a reflective red “T” (honeycomb type) on a black background facing to the front and rear of the trailer respectively
  • Serviceable spare wheel, jack and wheel spanner.
  • Plastic rubbish bag to be carried inside vehicle for purposes of disposing of litter
Beitbridge Border Crossing Assistance

The Zimbabwe Tourism Authority has staff stationed at the Beitbridge border specifically to assist any visitors or tourists coming into Zimbabwe during weekdays working hours only. They will meet you as you cross into Zim, and will assist you right through the border, sorting out all the formalities, road toll, customs, road tax, immigration, visas, Interpol, etc. and then see you right through to the exit gate, they will handle everything for you at absolutely no charge whatsoever. That is their job and they are very proud of it, and it is to show the tourist that you can enter Zim without any problems and at no unforeseen costs. All you have to do is drop them a mail the day before you expect to cross and then phone them before you cross over and they will meet you at the bridge to sort you out.

General office contact number: +263 28623640/1
Marketing Executive: Lindarose Ntuli +263772 409373 (lindarosentuli@gmail.com)
Area Manager: Bertha Mutowembwa +263 772 344317 (berthamuto@gmail.com)

Saturdays are extremely busy at Beitbridge, as are early mornings when the busses pass through, the best times to cross are weekdays between 08:00-12:00 generally.

Catering Service (Harare based)

Manapools.com can purchase your food and drinks to your requirements for you in Harare, pack them appropriately, ready for you to load and go. Frozen goods are packed in a gas/12v/mains camping freezer, other food items in cooler boxes and scavenger-resistant trunks ready to go. Drinks can be purchased to your requirements packed and ready for you in Harare. We know Mana and can help take the hassle out of your catering:

Food

We can simply purchase items according to your shopping list and have them ready for you in Harare, alternatively, we offer a deluxe meal plan (menu available on request). This basic template can be tailored according to your requirements.A service charge of USD100- USD150 per group (max 8 persons) is levied for these services along with rental of any required equipment depending on the degree of catering involved.

Drinks

We will source and pack drinks for you in Harare ready to go.Choose from a variety of local beers, cool drinks and spirits. Canned drinks are preferable as they are lighter and easier to compact and carry out. They are also less likely to break in transit. A service charge of USD50 per group (max 8 persons) is levied for this service along with rental of any required equipment.

Free responsible trash disposal in Harare

Manapools has a strict carry-out trash policy. We will gladly dispose of your carry-out trash responsibly for you in Harare after your trip.

Camping Equipment Hire

Manapools.com rent out items such as camping freezers, coolerboxes, gas cylinders and tents that are bulky to bring up to Zim with you.


All items available for rent for collection and return to Harare. Damages to be levied at up to stated replacement cost:

ITEM RENTAL RATE REPLACEMENT
$/day Cost $
Camping Freezer 20l Gas/12v/Mains 10.00 700
Cooler Box 25l 1.00 25
Cooler Box 45l 1.00 60
4 Man Tent (dome – Campmaster explore) 1.00 60
4 Man Tent (dome -Campmaster 400) 2.00 100
4 Man Tent (Campmaster safaridome 310 canvas) 5.00 400
Shade Gazebo 2.00 200
Folding Camping Table 1.00 45
Folding Camping Chair 0.50 25
Skottel Braai 1.00 60
Gas Cylinder (5kg) with regulator and gas 1.50 50
Gas Cylinder (3kg) with regulator and gas 1.00 40
Cutlery  Set (per set of 4) 0.50 30
Enamel Crockery Set (per set of 4) 1.00 40
Metal Pot set – 2 pots, frying pan, kettle, pojkie pot 1.00 80
Jerry Can – Diesel included on use or return basis 1.00 20
Water Container (20l) 0.50 10
Camping Shower >1.00 40
Tyre Compressor 12v 1.00 50

Need to rent something not on this list? Contact us and we’ll make a plan.

4x4 Hire

4×4 hire services are available through our third party supplier based in Harare. The following vehicles are available for hire (subject to availability):

landcruiser-01 navara-01
1990’s Toyota land cruiser GX (or similar) –
USD 125/day
Nissan Hardbody double-cab 2×4, diff lock, no canopies (or similar) –
USD 115/day
  • 160km/day free mileage, thereafter excess charged at us0.60c/km
  • 50% deposit required to secure booking
  • Valid drivers’ license required upon collection of vehicle

Contact us Re 4×4 rental

Zimparks rules stipulate that you are not allowed to drive off road.
Please familiarize yourself with the Codes of Conduct for Mana Pools and the Special Code of Conduct for Chitake in the “How can I help conserve this place” section below.

Download Checklists

Zimparks facilities per site PDF –Zimparks Facilites per site
Recommended equipment per site PDF – What Should I Bring?
Zimparks tarrifs PDF – Zimparks tarifs
Zimparks check-in procedure – Zimparks Check-in procedure

Harare Accommodation

Let us host you at the Sunbird Guest House in Harare on your way into and out of the Zambezi valley at special rates. Sunbird Guest House is rated #3 on Tripdavisor in Harare and offers secure, comfortable and affordable accommodation. All bedrooms have en suite bathrooms, free Wi-Fi and dstv. We have lockup garages and are located within a secure road enclosure. Our staff are well acquainted with self-drive tours and can help iron out any hiccups and source forgotten equipment you might need. We are a fully ZTA registered facility.


Sunbird-Guesthouse-Harare

Sunbird Guest House (breakfast included in rate)
  • Twin/Double Rooms
  • Entire unit 1 (3 bedrooms, sleeps 6)
  • Entire unit 2 (3 bedrooms, sleeps 6)  (Swimming pool)
Airport Transfers
  • By prior arrangement

Fly & drive Mana Pools itinerary

Zimbabwe Mana Pools 6 day self-drive tour

DAY 1 – Fly in to Harare International airport

Be met at the airport and transferred directly to the comfortable  Sunbird Guest House, Harare (www.sunbirdguesthouse.net).

NIGHT 1 – Sunbird Guest House Harare

DAY 2 – Drive to Mana Pools National Park in rented 4×4 pre-loaded with tents, food, permits and all requisites.

Wake up, eat a hearty breakfast and then receive the keys to a rented 4×4 preloaded with all the required camping equipment, food and drinks. Your Zimparks permits, directions and itinerary are waiting for you on the dashboard along with a pack lunch and off you go on the 6-7 hour journey to the beautiful Mana Pools National Park. Check in at Zimparks Mana Pools reception and set up camp in the shade of ancient albida trees on the banks of the magnificent Zambezi River. Spend the evening drinking in the scenery and acclimatizing to living in unfenced nature as the sun sets over distant Zambian mountains.

NIGHT 2 – Nyamepi Campsite, Mana Pools – camping in the wild

Fall asleep to the sounds of lions roaring, hyenas laughing and hippopotamus grunting, you have arrived in paradise.

DAY 3 – Mana Pools National Park (suggested itinerary: game drives, hidden spots, must do’s)

Wake up to a cacophony of birdsong and animal life. Brew a cup of coffee on the campfire, and eat breakfast surrounded by nature. Take a game drive down the river road to get to know this paradise, see herds of magnificent elephant, buffalo, eland, kudu, nyala, zebra and impala, perhaps you will locate one of the resident wild-dog packs or large lion prides. If you are lucky, perhaps you will spot leopard or cheetah. Return home for an afternoon sleep in the shade and see more wildlife in the camp than you did on your drive,  appreciate the irony….!

NIGHT 3 – Nyamepi Campsite, Mana Pools

After dinner round the campfire, retire early exhausted from another day in paradise.

DAY 4Mana Pools, National Park (suggested itinerary -canoeing, fishing, guided walk).

Wake up early and hire an armed Zimparks guide for a guided walk on foot in the bush. Walk in nature and appreciate the profusion of different species. All types of birds, colourful parrots, lovebirds, hornbills,  appreciate the stately beauty of ancient albida and fig trees and walk inside hollow baobab trees. In the afternoon, rent Zimparks canoes and a guide to take you fishing on the river. Don’t forget to book at reception for free entry permit into Nyamatusi wilderness area tomorrow on your return.

NIGHT 4 – Nyamepi Campsite, Mana Pools

The usual… feels like a routine now.

DAY 5 Mana Pools, National Park (suggested itinerary -trip into Nayamatusi wilderness area).

Wake up early (you’re used to it now and can’t sleep with all those animal noises anyway!). Drive into the Nyamatusi Wilderness area (entry limited by permit to 4 cars per pay). This is a huge piece of wilderness with very limited human access where the wildlife is left alone almost free of human interaction. The fishing is great in this area. Have lunch in the Mopani woodlands and return back in the afternoon via the roadside waterholes.

NIGHT 5 – Nyamepi Campsite, Mana Pools

DAY 6 – Drive back to Harare

Breakfast, then break camp for the 6 hour trip back to Harare. Carry-out all your litter in accordance with Zimparks policies in the black bags provided. Drive straight to Harare International airport and hand over the vehicle and kit, then fly home to share your photos and start planning your next Mana trip!

How can I help conserve this place?

The easiest way to help is to abide by the below codes of conduct developed to help preserve this place and limit humans impact upon the environment and each other. Please read these carefully prior to your trip and ensure all members of your group are familiar with the regulations and guidelines. The overriding principal is RESPECT for the wild and other visitors. Consider what impact your actions will have on the environment, the wildlife and other visitors, when in doubt, ask at reception.

 Code of conduct for Mana Pools National Park
  • NO DRIVING OFF ROAD vehicle tracks can last for years and compacted surfaces damage the ecology
  • NO DRIVING AFTER DARK
  • BURN ALL TOILET PAPER – do not just bury it as animals will dig it up
  • CARRY OUT all trash
  • BURY ALL ASH leave the campsite as you would like to find it. Most Mana campsites have braai places it is unlawful to lightfires away from these points.
  • CAMPSITES use only the official campsites. Camping elsewhere is illegal and will incur a fine and possible banning from the park
  • WALKING visitors are allowed to walk unguided at Mana and Chitake at their own risk, however, you will require a permit for this. Permits are available from reception. You can also hire an armed gamescout to  guide you. Please be careful not to disturb animals or unduly spoil the wilderness experience of others
Code of Conduct for Chitake Springs

Please remember the following basic Zimparks regulations for Chitake Springs. PLEASE do your best to follow them, this is a sensitive area, lets protect it.

  • DO NOT BATHE IN THE SPRING or add any detergents to the water, it is the lifeblood of animals and should not be tainted by private ablutions.
  • SPRING FLOW do not alter the natural flow of the spring by creating baths/pools etc.
  • NO DRIVING OFF ROAD and it is STRICTLY FORBIDDEN to drive in the river bed!
  • CAMPSITES use only the official campsites. Camping elsewhere is illegal and will incur a fine and possible banning from the park
  • NUMBER OF PEOPLE Do not exceed the maximum of 12 campers allowed by Zimparks
  • NO CAMPING IS ALLOWED UNDER THE FIG TREE above the source of the spring
  • CARRY OUT all trash
  • BURY ALL ASH leave the campsite as you would like to find it
  • BURN ALL TOILET PAPER do not just bury it as animals will dig it up
  • RESPECT the right of game to drink peacefully. Be discreet. RESPECT other peoples’ right to enjoy Chitake without undue disturbance

There are a number of organisations and initiatives that work to conserve this area and support the people on the ground who maintain it on a daily basis:

Mana Reforestation Project
Books for African schools
Zambezi Society
Rifa Conservation Education Camp
Join the Mana Pools Community

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"Manapools.com sorted everything out for us. Which meant that rather than spending days on end doing admin. and shopping, we spent 6 perfect days in the bush!"

− Sarah Flemmer, Johanesburg

"We successfully used manapools.com to organise our last mana trip. The catering service was very useful and the 4x4 and equipment rental meant we could avoid Beitbridge!"

− Paul Robinson, Johanesburg