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Mana Pools,Kariba & Matusadona 1

12 to 23 September 2023


Classic Mana Scene

There’s tranquility in the African Bush that creeps up unexpectedly and nestles in your soul. Maybe it is because nature is so close – the wildlife and the birds, the wind in the trees- or maybe it’s just Africa and its rhythms”-Anon

Easily the largest river in our part of the continent, the Zambezi flows 2,524 km across Central Africa before meeting the sea just above Beira in Mozambique. In the process, it passes through, or borders, Zambia, Namibia, Zimbabwe and Mozambique.

The Zambezi is a life force supporting great numbers of hippos and huge crocodiles that resemble floating logs. Many people come here to fish for tiger fish, perch, bream and catfish.


Lower Zambezi valley (Mana Pools and Chirundu)

The lower Zambezi Valley is one of the last great wildernesses in Africa. The area stretches from the Kariba Gorge in the north to Cahora Bassa in the south. The Zimbabwean side of the valley is, at places 70km wide, and is almost entirely uninhabitated, as much of the area is in the national parks.

The best-known national park is Mana Pools, a World Heritage Site and wilderness that is unique, priceless and irreplaceable. Mana Pools National Park covers an area of 2196 sq. km extending from the Zambezi River in the north to the escarpment in the south. It needs little introduction to the avid wildlife enthusiast and is probably most famous for its spectacular golden light, albida forests and elephants that stand on their hind legs to get to the life-sustaining alibida pods in the dry season. 

No words can adequately describe the sheer magic of Mana Pools. Glorious sunrises and sunsets, breathtaking scenery, amazing mammals and birds and an unparalled serenity. Mana Pools is a truly awe-inspiring place. As a game reserve it is unrivalled in the region, and dare we say, the world. The density of wildlife is very impressive and the scenery and true majesty of the natural habitat is astonishing. This Park offers something that some of the others lack, an authentic wilderness experience. The serene beauty and majesty of the park humbles your heart and your soul and upon leaving, you have a yearning to return.

The meanders of the Zambezi in years gone by have left behind the remains of old oxbows, shaping small seasonal pools scattered over an area of 2,000 square kilometres. The Park is named after the four main pools on the old riverbed, with Mana meaning “four” in the Shona language. The pools support a variety of game and numerous species of birds, along with the unique vegetation of the Zambezi valley, dominated by Nyala Berry and Natal Mahogany.

This portion of the Zambezi Valley is a true wilderness area with one of the highest dry-season concentrations of game in Africa. The big Five mammals all call this region home, as does the endangered African Wild Dog. In the drier months (May- October) the wildlife is drawn to the river as most inland sources dry up. At this time, great herds of elephant, buffalo and antelope can be seen on the riverbanks. The open Albida woodland provides good visibility and allows visitors the unique privilege of walking escorted by a guide or unaccompanied in an area with carnivores and larger mammals.

Mana Pools abounds with over 300 species of birds. During August to December the banks of the Zambezi are burrowed by nesting Carmine, White-fronted and Little Bee-eaters. Colourful kingfishers include Malachite, Brown-hooded, Grey-headed, Woodland, Pied and Giant. African Skimmer, Goliath Heron and Black Egret are also found along the river.

Mana Pools overnight destinations

We spend a total of five glorious nights in Mana Pools National Park, two in the south below the escarpment and three in the north on the floodplain of the mighty Zambezi River.

Kavinga Safari Camp

Our first overnight destination is Kavinga Safari Camp, a private concession within the southern boundary of Mana Pools National Park, approximately one kilometre upstream of the confluence of the Ruckomechi and Chiwuye Rivers. The camp is set on a cliff overlooking the magnificent Ruckomechi riverbed set against the extraordinary backdrop of the Zambezi Escarpment mountains. Most first-time visitors will want to see the classic Zambezi River landscapes with the floodplain “albida” trees.  But Kavinga offers something very special of its own, which is entirely different.

This exclusive camp has seven safari tents, each built on a platform a couple of metres high on the edge of a cliff, looking down on the ephemeral Ruckomechi river below. This unusual construction gives a particularly good easterly vantage point towards the camp’s waterhole and across the riverbed with a view of the rising sun above the magnificent Zambezi Valley floor. As a result, guests can often spot wildlife from the chairs on their veranda.

Each tent has been designed with an emphasis on privacy and is surrounded by insect repellent gauze, allowing the air to circulate, contributing to maximum coolness. Inside each tent are 2 comfortable beds in flexible arrangements, to cater for everyone’s needs, as well as an ensuite bathroom. 

A cleverly designed photographic hide built to look like a termite mound has been constructed at the water’s edge, with safe access from the camp above.  From here, the most incredible daytime or night-time close-up photographic opportunities can be enjoyed.  There isn’t anything quite like this elsewhere in the park.

Kavinga’s extensive private concession which comprises the beautiful, rugged foothills of the Zambezi escarpment, the thick riverine woodlands and sandbeds of the Ruckomechi and Chiwuye Rivers, and the mopane and baobab scrubland in between, offers an exclusive and extraordinary wildlife experience.  

Kavinga is primarily a place for wildlife lovers.  Daytime activities are focused on exploring the very varied habitats of the camp’s concession area either by vehicle or on foot with the attention of a knowledgeable professional guide.

During the dry season (April to November) water in the Mana Pools area becomes scarce, drawing much of the wildlife towards the permanent Zambezi River. Most camps in the park are set up along the river to take advantage of this, but the owners of Kavinga Safari Camp and a few others have taken a bold alternative approach. Water might be limited in Kavinga’s remote southern section of the park, but the camp pumps a waterhole here and this, along with a scattering of natural springs on the concession, draws wildlife from miles around.

Camp Mana

Our second home in Mana Pools for three nights is an exclusive owner-run  safari camp, one of the best ways to experience the magic of this special place. The camp is situated on the southern bank of the Zambezi River, within the National Park and World Heritage Site, and looking out across the natural river boundary towards Zambia. The camp offers stunning views across the river to the Zambian escarpment beyond, with an almost endless parade of birds and animals on offer on the surrounding floodplain and islands in front of camp. We enjoy blissful privacy and our only neighbours are the inquisitive, confiding animals and birds which regularly pay us a visit.

Accommodation for a maximum of twelve guests is in spacious, comfortable twin-bedded tents with en-suite facilities. For our safety, we have a professional armed guide in camp at all times.

From the camp, we can walk unaccompanied in the open Albida woodland because visibility is good and there is little danger of being surprised by dangerous animals. The chance of walking or driving alongside some of Africa’s magnificent big game like elephant, lion, buffalo and a variety of bird species will leave you with lasting memories.















Kariba & Matusadona

The construction of Lake Kariba in the late 1950s finally tamed the Zambezi, and this was followed by the completion of another great dam midway between Kariba and the ocean, being Cahora Bassa in Mozambique.

Kariba Recreational Park contains one of the largest man-made lakes in the world, created by a hydroelectric dam built to provide power to both Zimbabwe and Zambia. The lake has a surface area of 5,000 square kilometres and a maximum depth of 116 metres. It extends to a length of 282 kilometres with an average width of about 32 kilometres. Kariba supports a successful fishing industry and the annual Tiger International Tournament is held here, drawing fishermen from all over the world to pit their wits against the cunning and fighting tiger fish. The main fish in the lake is kapenta, or the Lake Tanganyika sardine, which was introduced in the early 1960s from Zambia.

Stunning sunsets are a distinctive feature of Kariba, as are the bleached skeletal trunks and bare branches of dead trees that were drowned by the flooding of the lake all those years ago. They make excellent perches for fish eagles, cormorants and other water birds.

There is considerable wildlife on the banks of the lake including elephant, buffalo, crocodile, impala and common waterbuck.

Matusadona National Park

Matusadona National Park lies along the southern shores of Lake Kariba and is bounded in the west by the Umi River and in the east by the dramatic Sanyati Gorge.The Park takes its name from the local Matuzviadonha Hills and is a stunning combination of flat plains and rugged mountain country. The area is a photographer’s dream with “drowned forests” containing fossilised trees still standing from when the dam was flooded. Sunsets are irresistible

Inquisitive yellow-billed kites swoop down to have a look at you and other raptors and vultures circle high in the thermals. Carmine bee-eaters flit about in a purple blur as they emerge from the sandbank pitted with their nesting holes.

African Fish eagle is common along the lake shore, and there are good populations of Grey and Goliath Herons, Augur Buzzard, Verreaux’s Eagle, Bronze-winged, Double-banded and Three-banded Coursers, Trumpeter and Crowned Hornbills, Great Egrets and Saddle-billed Storks. Waders are generally plentiful and there are notable populations of Osprey, Woolly-necked Stork and African Openbill, White-crowned Lapwing and Collared Pratincole. Several large colonies of Darters and Reed Cormorants can be found within the many fossilised trees on the lake.

Spurwing Island

Two nights are spent at Spurwing Island Lodge, a one of a kind retreat, in the heart of nature, merging seamlessly with the great African outdoors. The lodge is situated on an island, some 30km across the lake from Kariba town and is overlooked by the majestic Matusadona Mountains. The lodge offers a range of activities including scenic boat trips and game viewing on foot, by boat or open safari vehicle.

Birding Attractions

Lower Zambezi Valley (Mana Pools & Chirundu)

White-headed Vulture, Ayres’s Hawk-Eagle, Western Banded Snake-Eagle, Martial Eagle, Dickinson’s Kestrel, Verreaux’s Eagle-Owl, African Wood-Owl, African Barred Owlet, African Scops-Owl, Southern Ground Hornbill, Crested Guineafowl, Meyer’s Parrot, Rufous-bellied Heron, White-crowned Lapwing, Long-toed Lapwing, African Skimmer, Collared Pratincole, Three-banded Courser, Double-banded Sandgrouse, Wood Pipit, Southern Carmine Bee-eater, Swallow-tailed Bee-eater, White-browed Coucal, Retz’s Helmet-Shrike, Orange-winged Pytilia, Bohm’s Spinetail, Mottled Spinetail, Racket-tailed Roller, Broad-billed Roller,  Arnot’s Chat, Lilian’s Lovebird, African Golden Oriole, Eastern Nicator, Livingstone’s Flycatcher, Red-throated Twinspot.

Kariba and Matusadona

Osprey, Western Banded Snake-Eagle, Ayres’s Hawk-Eagle, Peregrine Falcon, African Cuckoo Hawk, Black-bellied Bustard, Black Crowned Night-Heron, Saddle-billed Stork, African Skimmer, Collared Pratincole, White-crowned Lapwing, Greater Painted-snipe, Senegal Coucal, White-browed Coucal, African Golden Oriole, Tropical Boubou, African Mourning Dove, Collared Palm-Thrush, Eastern Saw-wing, Grey-rumped Swallow, Mosque Swallow, Icterine Warbler, African Yellow White-eye.

Christon Bank

Boulder Chat, Whyte’s Barbet, Black-eared Seedeater, Southern Hyliota, Miombo Rock-Thrush, Green-capped Eremomela, White-breasted Cuckooshrike, Miombo Tit.

This 12-day tour leaves from Johannesburg. We fly to Harare and travel in an air-conditioned VW Caravelle, 4-wheel drive Microbus or similar vehicle.


Day 1

Date : September 12, 2023

Johannesburg to Harare-Charara

Depart on a morning flight from OR Tambo to Harare, arriving before midday.
Travel via Banket and Karoi to Charara, Lake Kariba.
Late-afternoon arrival and overnight at Wild Heritage Lodge.

Day 2

Date : September 13, 2023


Day spent birding around Charara.
Overnight at Wild Heritage, Charara.

Day 3

Date : September 14, 2023

Charara-Spurwing Island

Early morning birding along lake shore.
Depart after breakfast on ferry to Spurwing Island.
Arrive at Spurwing Island around lunchtime.
Afternoon birding around camp
Overnight at Spurwing Island Lodge.

Day 4

Date : September 15, 2023

Spurwing Island

Early morning boat trip to Sanyati gorge.
Rest of morning and early afternoon spent birding/relaxing on Spurwing Island.
Afternoon game drive in Matusadona National Park.
Overnight at Spurwing Island Lodge.

Day 5

Date : September 16, 2023

Spurwing Island-Chirundu

Early morning birding around lodge.
Depart after breakfast for mainland.
After visiting Kariba Dam Wall, head for Chirundu.
Arrive early afternoon and overnight at camp on Zambezi River, Chirundu.

Day 6

Date : September 17, 2023

Chirundu-Mana Pools

Early morning boat transfer to Mana Pools.
Birding and game viewing on route, arrive at Mana before lunch.
Afternoon game drive and overnight in mobile safari camp in Mana Pools.

Day 7

Date : September 18, 2023

Mana Pools

Days spent birding and game viewing in Mana Pools.
Overnight at mobile safari camp.

Day 8

Date : September 19, 2023

Mana Pools

Days spent birding and game viewing in Mana Pools.
Overnight at mobile safari camp.

Day 9

Date : September 20, 2023

Mana Pools-Chirundu-Mana Pools

Early morning boat transfer to Chirundu.
Collect vehicle and head for southern entrance to Mana Pools NP.
Arrive at Kavinga Safari Camp at around lunchtime.
Afternoon game drive and overnight at Kavinga.

Day 10

Date : September 21, 2023

Mana Pools

Day spent birding and game viewing around Kavinga Concession.
Overnight at Kavinga Safari Camp.

Day 11

Date : September 22, 2023

Mana Pools-Christon Bank

Early morning birding around camp.
Depart after breakfast for Christon Bank, via Karoi and Banket.
Overnight at guest house in Christon Bank.

Day 12

Date : September 23, 2023

Christon Bank-Johannesburg

Early morning birding around Christon Bank.
Depart after brunch for early afternoon flight to Johannesburg.


Services of dedicated guide throughout

Return flights, Johannesburg/ Harare/ Johannesburg

All transport, border charges, tolls

All accommodation and meals

Park entrance fees – Mana Pools and Kariba

Daily conservation fees – Mana Pools and Kariba

Boat transfers to and from Spurwing Island

Game drive in open safari vehicle in Matusadona National Park

Boat trip to Sanyati Gorge, Kariba

Return boat transfers between Chirundu and Mana Pools

Game drives in open safari vehicle in Mana Pools National Park

Dedicated Game Ranger in Mana Pools for walks (on demand)


Alcoholic beverages, gratuities and items of a personal nature

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