WALKING IN MANA POOLS – VAYENI’S TAKE
Mana Pools is so beautiful that it unearths your feet from the ground and leaves you floating. When you float in this space of fruiting baobabs, roaming herds, great beasts and mountain tops looming above the river… your soul is at peace… so much so that what exists outside this space becomes negligible. It is as the world once was.
Seasoned bush dwellers have come to covet this National Park that sits on Zimbabwe’s northern border to Zambia along the bank of the Zambezi River. Prolific wildlife greets you and you’re among only a privileged few that have had the chance to live amongst it here. From the endangered Wild Dogs hunting their prey, to fish eagles above, to lion prides that dominate the land, we are in their domain.
A recent decision by Zimbabwe Parks & Wildlife Management Authority (ZPWMA) has changed the visitor’s landscape – you can no longer walk freely and unguided through Mana Pools. Many will say that this is what made Mana Pools unique. A free pass for any visitor to walk unguided through a completely wild area like Mana, with no instruction or guidance, was without a question – hazardous.
Exactly how close can you walk up to a den of painted dog, without disturbing their behavior? What do you do when you stumble into an elephant cow and calf who may not be too pleased to see you? And without a car, or without an armed guide, how exactly do you handle the strong possibility of a pride of lions crossing your path?
Zimbabwean guides are among the most trained and competent guides on the continent. In addition to offering protection in the event that it is needed, they make every walk fascinating. Who doesn’t know the answer to these questions? – That would be the novice bush visitor who lacks the understanding that walking in bush like this takes years of nuanced intuition, and even so there is still a risk.
In my experience, lifetime lovers of Mana Pools are happy to cruise around in their land rover and they might get out to put down a camp chair and have a cold beverage at sunset and so they should, at designated spots for doing so. International travelers who enjoy the legendary tented camps along the Zambezi will experience the park as they always have, in the able hands of Africa’s best guides leading the way. Self-drive visitors to the park will now have to utilize the National Park’s guides at a fee of $25 if they want to walk around, which is a reasonable, safe and worthwhile expense.
In addition to the visitors themselves, Mana Pools is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and it must be, along with its permanent inhabitants, protected.