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Mana Pools

Dartford, United...
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128 posts
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Mana Pools

Just looking for any tips/advice really. Read loads in Getaway and GO! magazine, but wont be going (hopefully) until 2012 but trying to 'make a plan' it seems hard/impossible to book if you outside of Zim,Can I do it myself as in Kruger/Addo or should I go with a company? I,ve travelled in SA quite a bit but would like to cross the boarder, is it possible or should I fly in with SAA.

Whats the car hire and petrol situation like? Do the cops find 'faults' with your car no matter how fault free it may seem?

Looking forward to advice etc.

Mfuwe
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1. Re: Mana Pools

You should be able to book with Zimparks on your own. Hiring a fully equipped 4x4 is a different prospect though. Rates aren't cheap and you may have fun locating one in Zimbabwe. It would be a better idea to originate the 4x4 rental outside the country for better rates and availability. There are a few that will hire out to Zimbabwe. The petrol situation is usually good except that the big importer- Nox something or other- is not able to deliver currently for some reason in dependable fashion. Probably $$ issues. They have a perfectly good fuel pipeline but fuel is trucked in. You should hire a diesel for best fuel economy anyways.

If you decide to drive in, avoid Beitbridge at all costs. It is not the friendliest border crossing, and it can take hours with runners bugging you for $$ to assist for something you can do yourself. There are stops along the way for tolls, vehicle inspection, etc. Minor annoyances, but a bit too often.

Btw, Mana Pools is one of the best self drive destinations in Africa IMHO, so don't let any of the above deter you.

Sussex
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for Mana Pools National Park, Marco Island
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2. Re: Mana Pools

Hi Richard,

Great plan to head for Mana Pools (but then I would say that!)

I have seen in several places the view expressed that a 4x4 is not necessary to visit Mana. Indeed, I have on occasion seen standard saloon cars in the Park. This is something I would not recommend! My lat 2 visits to Mana (Oct. 2009 & 2010) the dirt road in (from the tarred Chirundu road was very rough indeed. With care, you could get a standard car into Mana, though it certainly wouldn't do the poor thing much good. Once into the park, lack of ground clearance (as much as lack of 4x4) would limit your excursion possibilities. Having said all that, renting a 4x4 in Zimbabwe will not be cheap.

You will need to book through Zim. National Parks and get a permit to enter Mana. (You will have to stop at the top of the escarpment, just beyond Makuti at the Parks office at Marongora to get this checked and approved....and again at the Mana gate....and again at the main office once you arrive!!!) This is their website, quite how easy it will be to contact them I am unsure (I am in UK, but have friends in Zim. who go to the Parks office in Harare personally to make bookings). They have thankfully, however, modified their booking system - up until recently you have to enter a lottery and it was pot-luch whether or not you got into the Park when you wanted to. They now run a far more normal (and sensible) ;diary' based booking system.

www.zimparks.org/index.php…

I would recommend you book one of the 'exclusive' camps if at all possible - one of the Mucheni camps (there are 4), Vundu or Nkupe are great (though all are very basic - a brai stand and a long-drop toilet...that's your lot - no water (and certainly no power!) you will have to be 100% self sufficient during your stay. There is absolutely nothing to stop animals wandering through your camp - and they will - most years we have had elephant, hippo, lion, hyena & honey badger within our camp area (in between tents etc).

Main camp (Nyamepi) has more facilities (showers) but has the capacity for 40-50 groups (I am guessing) to camp, so can be noisy / crowded.

With regard to police checks - last year we were stopped twice (once driving in, once driving out, on the Harare-Kariba road. Absolutely no problems a quick friendly chat and waved on. No problems, and typical of my experiences over the last 15 years or so.

Fuel has not been a problem for us over the the last 2 years.

Mana is most definately worth the effort - good luck and let us know how you get on. Any more qusetions, do not hesitate to shout.

Edited: 27 January 2011, 13:52
Dartford, United...
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128 posts
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3. Re: Mana Pools

Thanks for the advice at least its Do-able, may call in the Zim office in the Strand when I,m next in London, I,m in South Africa in a few weeks will try to get a map and guide book etc while I,m 'next door'.

I love the idea of no fences, doesnt seem a problem renting a 4x4 in South Africa as long as you tell the hire car company, and no doubt pay an admin fee. How is the drive to the park..both road condition and distance?

Sussex
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for Mana Pools National Park, Marco Island
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4. Re: Mana Pools

The drive from Harare takes you through Chinhoi & Karoi. Both towns serving farming areas, once thriving, now a bit run down, because of problems in these areas with the land-grab, it is best not to wander about with a large, professional looking SLR camera in-case you are mistaken for press. Never had any problem stopping and shopping in either however.

Then you will run on to Makuti, where the road forks for Kariba. This is that last point of reliable cell coverage before you drop down the Escarpment into the Zambezi Valley.

The drive from Harare - Makuti takes about 4 and a bit hours, decent tarred road all the way.

From Makuti, it is about 20km to the parks office at Marongora (on your left). You will need to stop here and show your booking forms / permit.

Shortly after Marangora, the (tarred) road snakes down the Escarpment. For a car / 4x4 this is absolutely no problem.

However this is the main road between Zambia and its copper mines and the coastal ports of S. Africa. So lots of heavy trucks taking mining kit (including high explosives!) in, and bringing copper out. They struggle with the incline and it is rare not to see the remains of a truck which has suffered brake failure. So when you head down, make sure there are no heavy trucks behind you....you really don't want to get involved with several out of control tons of explosives!

Once down at the foot of the escarpment, you will notice it is significantly hotter. 10km or so on and there is a small right hand turn onto a dirt road - this is the road to Mana! There is a tended gate where again you will have to show your papers.

There is then ~100km of dirt road into Mana pools. This varies between sandy and rocky - I am unsure which is worse - the sand feels better until the vehicle slews sideways!!!

All in all, about 7-8 hours drive from Harare into Mana Pools including a couple of stops.

Mfuwe
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5. Re: Mana Pools

You can also arrange(in advance) a Zimbabwe guide to take you on bush walks and track lions, wild dogs, and other game while in Mana Pools. It would definitely enhance your experience there. This would be a distinct advantage if you decided to camp at Chitake Springs. People pay $500+/day each elsewhere to get something that is not even close to this experience with a guide who knows this area, the resident pride of lions and wildlife.

Sussex
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for Mana Pools National Park, Marco Island
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6. Re: Mana Pools

A sobering tale from Chitake Springs from last October...we drove into Chitake and were due to stay at Chitake 1 the evening this happened. After a brief look around, we decided to leave and take our chances finding a vacant camp by the river:

www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-11695824

Steve Pope is a tremendous guide who runs a bush camp at Chitake - you'd be safe with him I'm sure.

Alternatively, as LB suggests, guides are available in Mana as well - Stretch is my favourite, but just post here nearer the time & I am sure you'll get some good recommendations.

Mfuwe
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7. Re: Mana Pools

That article lacks any kind of accuracy. However, it happens that Steve Pope "came to the rescue" within 3 minutes when the lion incident happened. Although Steve was not guiding that group, he tried to assist, but it was too late. The South African chose to take a bush shower away from camp when lions were known (actually seen in that direction) to be very close, at a time of day when lions normally start to get active and hunt.

This is basically how the story was relayed to me. Can't say I have ever heard of anyone being that negligent of their own safety while camping.

Btw, I asked Steve and Stretch to organise a special safari for me, and this is what they came up with: maunselfdrive4x4.com/predatorsofmanapools.htm They liked the concept so much, they added dates to the safari.

Sussex
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for Mana Pools National Park, Marco Island
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852 posts
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8. Re: Mana Pools

Interesting LB - I was unaware that Steve was either in the area nor involved in trying to rescue the unfortunate chap. I am pretty sure the guy who died ( (Peter Evershed) was a Zimbo - one of our party knew him.

Maybe I am about to reveal a degree of naivety, but we have in the past (15 years!) always had our shower set up on the periphery of our camp (to keep water away from well trodden areas), and it is invariably shortly after sunset when we shower having returned from the evening walk or drive. However, you are spot on that this is when predators, and lions in particular become active.

In the light of the unfortunate events at Chitake last October, we have agreed to revise our ablution routine!!

Edited: 28 January 2011, 09:37
Sussex
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for Mana Pools National Park, Marco Island
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9. Re: Mana Pools

Just looking at the Predators or Mana link you posted LB - this would be a tremendous trip, especially with Steve & Stretch guiding.

Maseru
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10. Re: Mana Pools

Driving in Zimbabwe is now very much possible (unlike several years ago where you could not find fuel). Now fuel is available, though you d better have reservees as some temporary shortages do occur in remote locations.

Potholes, cattle and old cars in bad shape are more of an issue than the police, that do stop you in different places, but no particular problem must be expected if you are in order. Avoid to drive at night, avoid speeding as low-traffic road induce, and be aware health facilities are not very good around: keep safe on the road.

Driving in Mana Pools may be another story, especially during the rainy season.

You can find some driving access infoirmation from Harare, Bulawayo or Kariba on this map:

maps.google.fr/maps…

You may also fly there...

I do recommend African Bush Camps or Tailormade Safaris for Mana Pools

http://www.africanbushcamps.com

http://www.humphreygumpo.com

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