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Mana Pools Canoe Trail

Mana Pools Canoe Trail


15°42’26.2"S 29°24’31.6"E

Mana Pools Canoe Trail: Our full report

Canoeing is a superb way to see the Zambezi Valley, and particularly Mana Pools National Park.

Floating down the river, between Mana Pools and Zambia’s Lower Zambezi National Park, the wilderness surrounds you really is one of the ‘classic’ African safari experiences.

There are several different guides and set-ups with whom we can organize a Mana Pools Canoe Trail, and we will discuss these options with you.

However what they all have in common is that these canoe trails usually take several days, in contrast to many on the Zambian side of the river which tend to only be day-trips. These canoe safaris make real adventures for travellers who want to explore the Zambezi River and Mana Pools National Park in an exciting way, while enjoying the peace and tranquility of a long (up to 65km) stretch of the Zambezi River.

The paddling is generally leisurely, even if occasional stretches paddling into the wind can be tiring. There are usually two people in each Canadian-style fiberglass canoe, sharing the work. Heading downstream, on some stretches you may be able to just float along – with a drink in one hand, enjoying the sun, the scenery and the spectacle

These canoe safaris will usually get you very close to the wildlife. Highlights include paddling past elephants as they make the river crossing and silently gliding past the many species of resident and migrant birds which often perch on overhanging branches. Navigating safely around the 1200-or-so hippos that live along the route can be tricky, whilst any water activities in a river in which there are such fearsome crocodiles is bound to have fraught moments. Hence although these trails can be magical, they aren’t for the nervous or faint-hearted.

With an experienced guide, you can periodically pull up on the riverbank to take a guided walking safari, allowing you to get even closer to some of Mana Pool’s dry-land game – and sometimes it is possible to get exceedingly close to the elephants, wild dogs, and other game in this park.

At night, simple fly-camps are set up on the river’s edge and provide basic but surprisingly comfortable accommodation. Dinner is eaten around the campfire, and despite the noises of the bush – sleep normally comes swiftly after a day’s paddling. After a pre-dawn wake up, the canoes are usually launched again just in time to catch the sunrise from the water.

We only recommend multi-day canoe trips here which are accompanied by a guide who holds both a canoe guide’s license on the Lower Zambezi (i.e. qualified ‘Zimbabwean river guides’) and also a full Zimbabwean professional guide’s license. Sometimes these will be held by two separate guides who both accompany the trip, at other times one guide will hold both licenses – or there will be two canoe guides, one of whom holds a full ‘pro’ license.

In either event, these qualifications (and the high levels of experience needed to hold them) will mean that you have with you an armed and experienced guide who can lead you walking, as well as canoeing. So you’re not just confined to paddling on the river, but can also explore its banks and floodplains.

Having said this, canoeing here is not for the faint-hearted. This river has some strong currents; there are plenty of large crocodiles and hippos about. Most animals have fairly predictable behaviour, but not all – so these trips are not devoid of risk. Because of this, we are very careful; we only recommend canoe trails conducted by guides with high levels of experience and qualifications for this stretch of river.


Our view

A Mana Pools Canoe Trail is a really wild adventure on an amazing river, beside a breathtaking stretch of national park. The canoeing is mostly relaxed, and can often be utterly magical – although it’s not without its dangers as this is a very, very wild area with plenty of dangerous game around. Come on this for a serious adventure, and some up-close wildlife experiences.

Tom Morris

Tom Morris

Country manager: Zimbabwe

Geographics

Location
Mana Pools National Park, Zimbabwe
Ideal length of stay
Canoe trails are typically about 3-nights long, although are often combined with a similar length of time on a walking safari.
Accessible by
Fly-and-Transfer

Food & drink

Usual board basis
Full Board & Activities
Dining style
Group Meals
Dining locations
Outdoor Dining

Special interests

Birdwatching
The Zambezi River is the life blood of Mana Pools, attracting all manner of life. Floating down river in a canoe or exploring inland on foot with an expert guide on the Mana Canoe Trail is a spectacular way to enjoy some of Zimbabwe's best birding.
See ideas for Birdwatching

Children

Attitude towards children

Our travellers’ wildlife sightings from Mana Canoe Trail

Since mid-2018, many of our travellers who stayed at Mana Pools Canoe Trail have kindly recorded their wildlife sightings and shared them with us. The results are below. Click an animal to see more, and here to see more on our methodology.

Elephant

100% success

Hippo

100% success

Lion

100% success

Spotted Hyena

100% success

Zebra

100% success

Aardvark

0% success

Buffalo

0% success

Cheetah

0% success

Eland

0% success

Leopard

0% success

Pangolin

0% success

Roan antelope

0% success

Sable antelope

0% success

Wild dog

0% success

Wildebeest

0% success

Health & safety

Malarial protection recommended
Yes
Dangerous animals
High Risk
Fire safety

Activities

  • Birdwatching

    Birdwatching

  • Canoeing

    Canoeing

  • Fishing

    Fishing

  • Fly-camping

    Fly-camping

  • Guided walking safari

    Guided walking safari

  • Sleeping under the stars

    Sleeping under the stars

Extras

Disabled access
Not Possible
Laundry facilities
0

Other lodges in Mana Pools National Park

Alternative places to stay in this same area.


Vundu Camp

Vundu Camp

Overlooking the Zambezi River in Mana Pools National Park, Vundu Camp is a small, comfortable bushcamp offering top-notch guiding.


96% (43 reviews)
Kanga Bush Camp

Kanga Bush Camp

Unspoiled and peaceful, Kanga Bush Camp is located in a remote and exclusive part of Mana Pools National Park, overlooking the Kanga Pan.


93% (15 reviews)
Stretch Ferreira Safaris Camp

Stretch Ferreira Safaris

Stretch Ferreira Safaris Camp is a small, owner-run camp on the banks of the Zambezi River in Mana Pools National Park, with the emphasis on great guiding.


94% (14 reviews)
Ruckomechi Camp

Ruckomechi Camp

In a very scenic spot beside the Zambezi, Ruckomechi is a smart camp offering excellent walking, river safaris, night and day 4WD game drives.


93% (14 reviews)
Zambezi Expeditions

Zambezi Expeditions

Zambezi Expeditions is a simple, semi-permanent camp along the Zambezi River that offers excellent guiding and standards of service.


96% (11 reviews)
Little Vundu

Little Vundu

Closely associated with Vundu Camp, Little Vundu has the same great location and quality of guides, and is occasionally used for private group bookings.


90% (2 reviews)
Nyamatusi Camp

Nyamatusi Camp

Overlooking the Zambezi River, the luxury Nyamatusi Camp occupies a pristine wilderness environment.


90% (2 reviews)
John's Camp

John's Camp

John's Camp is a semi-mobile tented camp offering walking safaris, game drives, and fishing in Zimbabwe's Mana Pools National Park.


90% (2 reviews)
Nyamatusi Mahogany

Nyamatusi Mahogany

Nyamatusi Mahogany is a family-friendly, yet remote and luxurious safari camp in Mana Pools National Park.


100% (2 reviews)
Kavinga Safari Camp

Kavinga Safari Camp

Kavinga is a comfortable tented camp tucked away in a less-visited area of Mana Pools National Park with surprisingly good wildlife and an excellent hide.


100% (1 review)
Little Ruckomechi

Little Ruckomechi

In a shady spot beside the Zambezi, Little Ruckomechi is a small but luxurious camp offering a reange of activities including walking and canoe trips.


No reviews yet
Sapi Springs Camp

Sapi Springs Camp

Sapi Springs Camp offer the chance to feel closer to the bush than almost any other camp in the Mana Pools Area.


No reviews yet
Chikwenya Camp

Chikwenya Camp

One of the original properties in Mana Pools area we are excited to be featuring Chikwenya Camp again.


No reviews yet
Ingwe Pan Camp

Ingwe Pan Camp

Ingwe Pan Camp is due to open in May and will be located in a remote area in the north of the Mana Pools National Park


No reviews yet
Tembo Plains Camp

Tembo Plains Camp

Building commenced on Tembo Plains Camp in February 2021. Details are sparce at this stage but we'll update this page once we know more.


No reviews yet
Sapi Explorers Camp

Sapi Explorers Camp

Sapi Explorers Camp is an exciting new riverside camp in a true African wilderness.


No reviews yet
Mana River Camp

Mana River Camp

Mana River Camp sits on the banks of the Zambezi River, a site formerly occupied by Mwinilunga Camp.


No reviews yet

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