The roadtrip that roared: #10 Reassuringly wild

Mana Pools worm roadWe left Harare at about 7am and were on the road to Mana Pools, making a few stops on the road to get some necessities: We bought live worms in soil from one of the creative vendors who are dotted along the road to the north. Our so-called ‘anaconda’ worms would hopefully help us catch lots of fish. A quick stop at the infamous Lion’s Den butchery in Chinhoyi was essential (to get some biltong), as was a loo-stop at Twin Rivers Inn, Karoi.

As we pulled up at the entrance of the national park, I inhaled an excited breath. We were in Mana Pools, one of the wildest places on earth! Home to lion, elephant, hyenas and more – and yet humans are allowed to camp, walk around and experience the wilderness without supervision. This experience is very much at your own risk, and many people visit with professional guides who, with their keen knowledge of animal behaviour, know how to see the wildlife in (relative) safety.

Mana Pools entranceThe Park official logged our details and lifted the boom to let us in – all while holding a wide-eyed toddler in his arms. We drove along the dirt road into the bush, only slowing down to choose which side of the road to take when a huge baobab tree loomed in the middle of it.  After about an hour, we stopped at Main Camp office to buy some firewood, and then drove onwards to our self-catering lodge.

Our base for the next few days was Mubvee Lodge (Hippo Lodge), a National Parks-owned, no-frills rondavel on the banks of the Zambezi river. This rather gaudiy green-painted lodge is basic at best – staying here is just a few notches up from camping. Apart from two double bedrooms, there’s just a kitchenette and simple bathroom. I’d advise visitors to bring all their camping equipment with them minus the tents, if they can. We didn’t bring any accommodation equipment with us and we found there wasn’t always enough cutlery or glasses when we needed them. That’s just the point of it, though – people don’t come to Mana Pools for the bells and whistles of modern life, but to get away from them. Who needs a microwave when the Zambezi is on your doorstep?

Mana roadThe ‘living area’ of the lodge is outside under an enormous tree that offers plenty of shade. There’s a braaiplace as well as wrought-iron table and chairs on the grass, so all dining is al fresco … the best way to eat.

As we unpacked the 4×4, monkeys watched us from the trees, looking knowingly at the cooler boxes of food. Hippos grazed on the bank of the island directly in front of our lodge, and crocs basked at a safe distance.

We had a short afternoon siesta to refresh ourselves after the drive, and awoke see that a cunning monkey had snuck in the front door and taken some of our bread from the kitchen! After that, we knew to close the door properly instead of leaving it ajar!

That evening, as we were sitting outside, a hyena ran behind the chalet. We shone our torch at him and his eyes glinted back at us, and behind him, so did the eye-reflections of scores of the impala, like fireflies. It was exhilarating, but I for one was happy to be sleeping under the safety of the thatched roof of the lodge that night.

Read the next post, where we continue our Mana Pools safari: #11: Look, there’s a lion!

Mana pools lodge

Follow Beth (Travel Editor/Writer):

Beth is the founder of Great Zimbabwe Guide Travel Blog: Zimbabwe’s first and longest-running independent online travel guide, created in 2010.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *