Canoe Safaris at Mana Pools National Park

  • Unique way to experience the river and get up close to wildlife
  • True sense of adventure, but not for the feint-hearted
  • Away from the crowds
  • Operated by some of Africa's best guides
  • Often done in conjunction with walking safaris

Mana Pools National Park boasts a reputation as the finest national park in Africa!

It has 2,500 square kilometres of lakes, river banks, and islets, as well as forests thick with baobab, fig trees, mahogany, and more. This is an area of spectacular scenery, home to a wonderful wealth of wildlife. And one way to explore the watery parts of the park is via an exciting canoe safari!

Canoeing in Mana Pools is possible all year round, but we recommend May to September. The heat really sets in around October, with temperatures reaching over 38 °C. Of the seven camps we feature in our property pages, all include canoe trips in their activities menu, in addition to other river pursuits such as fishing, birding, and cruises!

It is thrilling to spend a morning, an afternoon, or a full day out on the water. You can check out not only the features of the four main pools and their surrounds but also the mighty Zambezi River, rushing along the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe. But the most exhilarating activity of all has to be the multi-day canoe trail, an opportunity to explore vast stretches of the Zambezi and enormous areas of the national park!

Unfortunately, this activity is unsuitable for children. Paddling a fibreglass canoe is not difficult, but it is occasionally tiring even for an adult with a reasonable level of fitness. And a canoe trail frequently involves close encounters with wild animals, some of whom are unpredictable to the extent that there is an element of risk. Any youngsters who like the sound of the experience are encouraged to put it on their wish list for when they are a bit older, then be sure to contact YZ!

All trails are undertaken in the company of an experienced and knowledgeable guide, armed to ensure your safety at all times. Ideally this guide has both a licence for canoe safari and a licence for professional guiding, but sometimes two guides will be with you to cover the skillset.

Unless the river breeze is blowing directly towards your canoe, the going is generally not too tricky. There may be strong currents, but the guides will do their utmost to guarantee no one runs into difficulties. With two persons per canoe, you can join forces during the rougher stretches and take turns with the more leisurely paddling. When you are drifting downstream, you can both relax, enjoying a drink and looking out for wildlife!

There really is a lot to see here, such as hippos wallowing in the shallows or grazing on the grassy banks – or one might emerge suddenly beside your boat, opening her mouth in a very wide yawn. You might spot several crocodiles crawling down the river side and entering the water. And elephants are frequently seen here, quenching their thirst, bathing, and crossing in an orderly line. As for the birding, this is first rate! Among the highlights are rufous-bellied heron, spur-winged goose, long-toed plover, southern carmine bee-eater, and the majestic Pel’s fishing owl.

The advantage of being accompanied by a guide who holds a licence for professional guiding is that you can stop off during your journey and enjoy a walking safari! This adds a lot of value to the trip, as many land animals in Mana Pools become accessible – lion, leopard, cheetah, hyena, wild dog, buffalo, zebra, eland, impala, monkey, baboon. There are elephant in the forests too, including some big bulls that are very much at peace with the guides in the park! If you have time for a stroll, it comes highly recommended.

Accommodation along the way consists of simple yet comfortable fly camps, erected close to the water. Evening meals are enjoyed around the campfire and the morning begins when the sun starts to rise over the river.

If this experience appeals, just get in touch with a member of the team here – we will be happy to help arrange a very exciting excursion for you!

Mana Pools canoe safaris