The Lower Zambezi River is a quite different creature to the broad, sluggish snake above Victoria Falls. As it flows through Mana Pools National Park, its meanders create a maze of islands, pools and sand bars. After the rains, much of this is inundated as the pools expand, while the reverse process in the dry season adds richness to the tapestry almost daily.
Located in northern Zimbabwe, Mana Pools has Unesco World Heritage Site status and is centred on the four pools from which its Shona name is taken. The largest of these, Long Pool, stretches for 6km and contains concentrations of hippo and crocodile.
Secluded spots such as Mana Mouth, and Parachute Pan on the edge of the floodplains, carry an authentic sense of remoteness. Mana Pools is one of Southern Africa’s least-developed parks (a commendation in my mind) and the feeling of being one of very few humans in this wild space is incredibly liberating.
A platform overlooking Parachute Pan permits the ultimate wilderness experience: a bush sleepout serenaded by the nocturnal gurglings of creatures drinking below.
Less passive pursuits include game drives and walking safaris through this joyous jigsaw of a landscape. If being on safari beside the Zambezi River, with excellent odds of seeing wild dog, is not enough, then you can pick up your paddle and push off on a canoe safari.
I love being able to silently approach elephant drinking on the banks, and then there’s the thrill of keeping an eye out for hippo popping up.