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Melanie’s Magical Mana Pools, Hwange, Victoria Falls & Botswana Safari

Melanie’s Magical Mana Pools, Hwange, Victoria Falls & Botswana Safari

14 Days

6 nights Mana Pools ∣ 3 nights Hwange National Park ∣ 1 night Victoria Falls ∣ 3 nights Linyanti Concession


I thoroughly enjoyed putting together this tour for Maura. She was open to different ideas and we were able to combine some unique destinations and stunning camps in this itinerary. Mana Pools is spectacular in terms of game viewing and the camps lend themselves to “armchair”, walking and vehicle safaris. Between Zimbabwe and Linyanti in Botswana, we included a night at Victoria Falls which was a real bonus for my clients. I look forward to planning more trips for them in the future!

Trip Highlights

  • Mana Pools Magic
  • Victoria Falls
  • Hwange National Park
  • Abundant Birdlife
  • Guided Bush Walks
  • Linyanti Concession Wildlife
  • Big Five Game Viewing
  • Mokoro Safaris


On arrival in Harare you are assisted to your scheduled flight to Mana Pools airstrip. Here you are met and transferred to your first lodge where you check in for a three night stay.

Flight time – Harare to Mana Pools: approx. 1¾ hours

Day 1-7 :
Mana Pools

In the Shona language, “mana” means “four”, and in this instance signifies the four large pools set inland from the Zambezi and offering year round water to a wide range of wildlife and aquatic birds.

The pools are the remnant ox-box lakes carved out by the Zambezi River thousands of years ago. The Mana Pools National Park is a remote wilderness in the Zambezi Valley with stunning views of the Rift Valley Mountains. The park is a World Heritage Site where herds of elephant, buffalo, plains game and hippo as well as lion, the wild dog and superb bird life.

This morning you are transferred to Dandawa airstrip in Mana Pools for your scheduled flight to Manga Airstrip in Hwange where you are transferred to your camp in the Hwange National Park for a three night stay.

Flight time – Mana Pools to Hwange: approx. 1¾ hours

Hwange National Park is a dedicated nature “nirvana” consisting of 14,651 unfenced square kilometres in the west of Zimbabwe. The Park extends westward to link with the Kasane Forest and Chobe region of neighbouring Botswana. This glorious National Park rightfully boasts the highest concentration of wildlife species (mammals, birds, reptiles & insects) of any safari region in Africa. Hwange National Park has earned a world-wide reputation for its large herds of resident buffalo, its predators & more especially so, huge numbers of African elephant. Not only it is estimated that some 30,000 elephants reside within Hwange & make it their home range, but there is a millenniums old elephant migratory trail that runs from the Caprivi Strip through the Chobe region of Botswana, to the far south-eastern corner of Hwange National Park.

These sub-tropical thorn and sand flats on the edge of the Kalahari Desert, were once home to the nomadic San (Bushmen) who lived off the land and feasted on great herds of migrating game. Dry season game-viewing is assisted by the shallow pans threaded throughout the park. The natural salt-licks provide elephants with favorite mud holes for wallowing and sixty man-made waterholes give much needed water during the hot parched winter months when everything else dries up. Several waterholes have raised wooden hides in which you can spend many hours observing animals and the interactions between them. 400 species of birds are found here making it a bird watchers paradise, particularly in the wet season.

Hwange National Park is bordered by the privately owned Hwange Estate, which is home to the Presidential Elephants of Zimbabwe. This semi-habituated herd (a clan of over 450 elephants) received a presidential decree in 1990. This stated that elephants that roamed the Hwange estate should never be culled or hunted. Instead, they should symbolize Zimbabwe’s commitment to responsible wildlife management. Hwange’s presidential elephants are now known throughout the world, thanks largely to the work and writings of conservationist Sharon Pincott.

This morning you are transferred to the Manga Airstrip for your return scheduled flight to Victoria Falls. On arrival in Victoria Falls you are met and transferred to your lodge for the evening.

Besides being one of the seven natural wonders of the world and a World Heritage Site; Victoria Falls is the unchallenged adventure capital of Africa with more than 50 activities available.

At 1708 metres wide, Victoria Falls is the most expansive curtain of water in the world and drops more than 100 metres into the sheer Zambezi Gorge. Straddling the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe, these Falls and the Zambezi River are the central points in an area of spectacular scenic beauty: from the Falls themselves to the broad, picturesque course of the Zambezi River upstream, the rainforest adjacent and the stark jagged gorge downstream, the power and timelessness of nature’s forces are evident throughout.

The Falls’ local name, Mosi-Oa-Tunya – “the Smoke that Thunders” – more accurately defines the essence of the place: the rising, shining spray that can be seen 30km away. This vapour has the effect of adding moisture in the form of humidity to the air in the “splash zone”, so that a unique, small rainforest ecosystem clings to the edge of the Falls, providing a toehold for no less than 70 shrub and 150 herbaceous species, as well as trees such as pod and Natal mahogany, ebony, Cape and strangler fig and Transvaal red milkwood. There are two National Parks in the vicinity: the Zambezi National Park in Zimbabwe and the Mosi-oa-Tunya Zoological Park in Zambia, which means that herds of big game such as elephant and buffalo, as well as smaller species and even predators such as lion persist in the area.

Flight time – Hwange to Victoria Falls: approx. 35 minutes
Transfer time – Victoria Falls airport to your lodge: approx. 40 minutes

This morning you are transferred by road from your lodge to Kasane. On arrival in Kasane you are assisted to your light aircraft flight to the Linyanti region of Botswana. Here you are met and transferred to you camp for a three night stay.

Transfer time – Lodge near Victoria Falls to Kasane: approx. 2½ hours
Flight time – Kasane to Linyanti: approx. 1 hour

The 125 000-hectare (308 000-acre) private Linyanti Concession bordering Chobe National Park’s western boundary is an enormous, wildlife-rich area, which creates an unrivalled atmosphere of remoteness and space. There are three main features of the Linyanti Concession: the Linyanti River, the woodlands of the interior and the well-known Savute Channel, famous as a sporadic and unusual watercourse. The Channel stopped flowing between 1980 and 2008; during this time it was an open grassland, home to a wide variety of animals. In 2008, the Savute Channel once more flowed, creating a water source that rapidly filled with aquatic life, wide varieties of water birds, and hippo, amongst other changes. With two-thirds of the Channel located in the concession, Wilderness Safaris guests have private and exclusive access to its abundant game.

These three features together with the floodplains, woodlands, grasslands, palm islands and scrub vegetation of the area harbour one of the densest dry season concentrations of elephant in Botswana – at times the Linyanti must have several thousand elephants roaming through the landscape. This phenomenon is one of the main attractions for travelers to northern Botswana, but the area is also important in holding good numbers of predators, providing an integral stronghold for species like the critically endangered wild dog, as well as lion, cheetah and spotted hyena.

The rare roan antelope found in the area can provide an equal thrill however, as can the high concentration of birds of prey, seasonal zebra congregations and the cathedral-like woodland of mature mopane trees.

Aside from roan, other plains game includes red lechwe, Burchell’s zebra, blue wildebeest, impala, common waterbuck, sable, eland, southern giraffe, chacma baboon, vervet monkey, warthog, hippo and Cape buffalo. Nocturnal species often seen are lesser bushbaby, spring hare, aardwolf, serval, large spotted genet and, if you are extremely lucky, the elusive pangolin!

Day 14 :

This morning you are transferred to the local airstrip for your flight to Maun. On arrival in Maun, you check in for your flight to Johannesburg where you connect with your international flight home.

Flight time – Linyanti to Maun: approx. 40 minutes
Flight time – Maun to Johannesburg: approx. 1 ¾ hours

Mana Pools: Zambezi Expeditions Camp

The legendary Mana Pools is known for its wildlife rich flood plains and magnificent views of the Zambezi River, with the Zambezi Escarpment in Zambia as a dramatic backdrop to the scenery. The river boasts some of Africa’s most amazing tiger fishing and adventure canoeing safaris, creating the perfect combination of beauty and fun and making this World Heritage site a must-visit national park.

Zambezi Expeditions offers one of the best ways to experience Mana Pools on the banks of the mighty Zambezi River. The 12-bed luxury mobile camp comprises of 6 twin bedded mini-meru style tents with en-suite bathroom facilities including flush toilets and al fresco bucket showers, the camp gives luxury camping a new definition by virtue of its simple yet elegant and comfortable furnishings – taking guests back to that bygone era of the original expedition camps

The camp has a minimum stay of two nights for a minimum of two people and is the perfect combination to include with Kanga Camp for an overall riverside and inland experience. Activities include game drives, walking safaris, canoeing safaris, fishing and bird watching.

Mana Pools: Kanga Camp

Set in the most remote part of the World Heritage Site in Mana Pools is the Kanga Pan. The twelve bedded tented camp has en-suite bathroom facilities with outdoor showers and basins overlooking the water hole. Two of the tents are family/honeymoon tents with their own private dining and seating area. The main area has a comfortable lounge and dining area offering you uninterrupted views of a very active water hole. Relax in the upper deck lounge under the shade of a mahogany or sit on the deck below near the splash pool and enjoy Kanga − the old Africa in a new era.

The diverse area has multiple vlei lines, river systems of the Ruckomechi River, and mixed woodland types from Mopane woodland to Jesse bush and riverine forests. Kanga Pan itself is the only known water source in the area available throughout the year, making it a hub for wildlife and a delight to explore on foot. Pristine and undeveloped, this area gives you a pure, unspoilt, private African safari experience.

Besides game drives, bird watching and walking excursions, an hour’s drive brings you to the Zambezi flood plains in Mana Pools. Kanga works well in collaboration with Zambezi Expeditions to provide guests with an overall view of the inland and riverside experiences available in Mana Pools, one of the last remaining “untouched” wilderness paradises.

There are Six luxury meru-style tents all furnished simply yet elegantly, with en-suite bathroom facilities which include flush toilets and running hot and cold water.. The Tented Honeymoon suite is a luxury Meru-style tent furnished simply yet elegantly, with en-suite bathroom facilities which include flush toilets and running hot and cold water. All rooms have a view of Kanga Pan.

Hwange National Park: Somalisa Expeditions Camp

Somalisa Expeditions is set in the heart of Hwange National Park , and is known as the land of the giants for its big elephant herds. As an exact replica of the original Somalisa Camp, Somalisa Expeditions offers one of the most authentic ways to experience this exceptional wildlife haven. Nestled under an incredible grove of Acacias, along the edge of a seasonal flood plain.

Somalisa Expeditions’ main area includes a lounge and dining area on raised decking which overlooks a small pool, which elephants have become habituated to drinking out of. Add to this, the water hole is frequently used as a ‘mud-bath’ and a popular rendezvous for the elephants. The up-close encounters and photographic opportunities with these majestic animals is endless.

Consisting of six elegantly furnished Meru Style Tents, each tent has en suite bathroom with an outdoor feel. Activities include guided walks lead by qualified and passionate guides who will share their knowledge and love of the bush with you, game drives and night drives. Wildlife sighting include elephant, kudu, sable antelope, zebra, wildebeest, gemsbok, the rare and endangered roan antelope, buffalo, giraffe, lion, leopard, hyena and many other wildlife species.

Victoria Falls: Thorntree River Lodge

Thorntree River Lodge is set in Zambia’s Mosi-Oa-Tunya National Park, just a short distance from the famous Victoria Falls. Thorntree River Lodge has been completely rebuilt with an environmentally-conscious design. Drawing inspiration from local customs and culture, it is a modern contemporary design with tented roof structures to maintain the feel of authentic Africa.

The lodge boasts twelve twin rooms with two sets of interleading units. Each unit has its own indoor and outdoor bathrooms, as well as a luxurious private plunge pool. The main lodge consists of a lounge with an open dining area, where the fine dining experience of African cuisine will come to life. A gym and spa overlook the mighty Zambezi River, and there is a small library with WIFI for our guests’ convenience. The communal deck is set on the edge of the stunning riverside, and is home to a sunken boma area and an infinity pool. Wooden decking floats on the edge of the river, and moves with the water level to create the illusion of sailing a boat, and help to achieve a seamless feel between river and land.

Linyanti: Linyati Bush Camps

Linyanti Bush Camp is situated on the banks of Linyanti Marsh in a private reserve which borders the western boundary of Chobe in the Chobe Enclave. The marshes are the only water source for miles around and attract water-adapted and desert-adapted wildlife, plus large numbers of birds.

Linyanti Bush Camp is an intimate twelve bed luxury tented camp on the banks of the Linyanti Marsh, within a Private Concession bordering the western boundary of Chobe in the Chobe Enclave. You will enjoy some of the most spacious and comfortable tented accommodation and beds available today. The bathrooms are private and en-suite, consisting of fixed showers which are housed under the tent and gas-heated, as well as a flush toilet for your convenience.

The camp is perfect for those who seek a personalized experience in a private concession away from the main tourist’s routes. Activities from the camp consist of game drives, walking, night drives, mokoro safaris, boating and fishing as well as seasonal helicopter tours. Water activities are available only when water levels permit.

Linyanti is best known for its large populations of Elephant and buffalo that congregate in vast numbers especially during the dry season. Other wildlife encounters include Lion, sable, roan, leopard, wild dog, the rare and elusive sitatunga antelope, red lechwe, hippo and crocodile, as well as other species of plains game. The area also offers spectacular birding all year round. The area’s relative remoteness makes it a favored wild safari destination and one of the best sought after areas in Northern Botswana.

INCLUDED IN PRICE Mana Pools: Daily Safari Programme at Zambezi Expeditions

Walking Safaris:
Awaken your senses and discover all that the bush has to offer on a walking safari. Accompanied by one of our experienced walking guides, explore the wild for one to two hours. For a full day walking safari, a private walking guide will need to be pre-booked with us.

Game Drives:
Lead by one of our experienced guides, you’ll see magnificent wildlife indigenous to the area. Your guide will show you the hidden spots best for game viewing and give you an insider’s knowledge. With years of experience, our African Bush Camps guides are some of the best in the business.

Canoeing on Zambezi River:
The Lower Zambezi River is the perfect setting for an adventurous canoeing safari. Paddle along the tranquil waters of the Zambezi River and take in the pristine scenery of Mana Pools National Park from a unique angle. On your canoeing safari you’ll get the chance to see wildlife such as hippos, crocodiles, elephants, and incredible birdlife.

Try your hand at fishing from the banks of the Zambezi River. Fish for tiger, bream (tilapia), vundu, and many other species on a catch and release basis.

INCLUDED IN PRICE Mana Pools: Daily Safari Programme at Kanga Camp

Situated within a private concession in Mana Pools National Park, Kanga Camp is an utterly untouched wilderness paradise. Adjacent to the remote Kanga Pan, our seasonal Kanga safari lodge offers an unspoiled, authentic Mana Pools safari experience. Aside from the Zambezi River many miles away, Kanga Pan is the sole source of water in the dry season, making this an absolute haven for wildlife. This diverse area has multiple vlei lines and mixed woodland types from Mopane woodland to Jesse bush and riverine forests. Kanga Camp works well in collaboration with Zambezi Expeditions where you can enjoy the excitement of canoeing as well as catch and release fishing on the Zambezi River.

Armchair Safari:
A unique experience possible from Kanga’s main deck, right at the edge of the watering hole is a drawcard on your Mana Pools safari. Mealtimes, punctuated by wildlife dropping in to slake their thirst, are unforgettable. Spot searching nocturnal animals from the viewing deck as they drift in after dark, mere meters from your dinner table, offers a thrilling encounter with nature.

The Kanga Hide:
This one-of-a-kind feature within our host of camps attracts an array of wildlife such as elephant, leopard, wild dogs, antelope and bird species. A highlight for photographers, Kanga’s unique hide offers a beautiful way to experience nature from a safe, immersive vantage. Capturing a copper sunset bathed in the soft, amber light of ‘magic hour’ is an experience not to be missed.

Victoria Falls: Activities at Thorntree River Lodge

Game Drives:
Highly trained safari guides take guests on game drives through Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park in 4×4 safari vehicles to experience the land as it was when Livingstone first made his way across the ridge and beheld the smoke that thunders. The park has elephant, impala, giraffe, buffalo, hippo, crocodile, zebra in large numbers and an exciting array of birds, including some Southern African specials like Peters Finfoot. It even has white rhino – the only place in Zambia where they can be seen. Guests may also be lucky enough to see a rare sighting of the wild dog that on occasion pass through the park.

Rhino Tracking on Foot in the Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park:
Experience a once-in-a-lifetime adventure and encounter rhinos on foot. Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park is home to the endangered white rhino. The animals are under 24-hour protection by the rangers. Still, you will be able to get up and close to them on a rhino tracking safari that is operated sustainably, with the utmost respect for one of Africa’s most iconic species.

Experience the mighty Victoria Falls:
The magnitude of this Natural Wonder of the World cannot be underestimated. First discovered by Dr David Livingstone in November 1855, this legendary explorer said of Victoria Falls, ‘Mosi-Oa-Tunya’, “Scenes so lovely must have been gazed upon by angels in their flight.”There are many ways to encounter the world’s largest waterfall. Take a gentle walk along the rainforest boardwalk to enjoy up-close views of this impressive cataract. Plunge headlong into an adrenaline-surged encounter by ziplining, gorge-swinging or bungee jumping the cataract ravine. Enjoy a thrilling scenic helicopter flight offering unrivalled picture opportunities of the Zambezi River, Livingstone Island and the curtain of water that is The Falls. Whichever way you choose to experience ‘The Smoke that Thunders’, this is an experience not to be missed.

Linyanti: Daily Safari Programme at Linyanti Bush Camp

Safari activities at Linyanti Bush Camp are diverse and allow guests time on the water, on land and occasionally on foot. There are day and night game drives conducted in open 4×4 Landrovers with a professional game ranger along the Savute Channel and the banks of the Linyanti River or on the water (levels permitting). Short nature walks can be taken along the Linyanti River and Savute Channel, while the camp’s barge takes visitors along the waters of the Linyanti to view hippo and waterfowl. There are also a number of platforms and hides from which to view and photograph animals and birds. One of the best hides is right at the source of the Savute and many species of game and birdlife can be seen from this hide. Fishing (on a catch-and-release basis) is also offered.

The area is famous for its Elephant concentrations in the winter months and for the great game viewing all year. Huge herds of Elephant congregate in winter along the waterways and lagoons – and at the waterholes that are located along the Savute Channel. During these dry months Sable and Roan traverse the flood plains. All the predators – Lion, Leopard, Cheetah and Wild Dog – feast on the prey species in the area, including Impala, Zebra, Giraffe, Wildebeest, red Lechwe, Tsessebe and all the other plains game. Nocturnal species often seen are lesser bushbaby, spring hare, aardwolf, serval, large spotted genet and if you are extremely lucky the elusive pangolin! Birding is outstanding in the Linyanti Concession, ranging from the Okavango specials, such as Slaty Egret, Hartlaub’s Babbler and African Skimmer, to the drier mopane woodland species like Racket-tailed Roller, Bradfield’s Hornbill and White-breasted Cuckoo-shrike. The Savute Channel is famous as an area with a high concentration of eagles and raptors and this area is internationally recognised as an IBA (Important Bird Area).

Maura F, USA, 1st June 2019

Thank you so much to Melanie for planning a wonderful holiday for us! We had not considered travelling to Zimbabwe before but the six nights we spent in Mana Pools was incredible! We were able to do so much in the area and our two camps were different in many ways but equally luxurious. We were so happy to see Victoria Falls even though it was only for one night on our way to Botswana. We loved our time in the Linyanti and the safaris were wonderful! We cannot wait to see more of Africa when we can travel again!

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Cost Per Person Sharing

When this tour took place, the cost per person sharing was: $8050


This is an actual itinerary, 100% tailor-made to meet this client’s expectations. We can use this itinerary as a starting point for you.


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Susan Pattison-Wait
Susan Pattison-Wait
Managing Director & Tour Consultant
+27 87 353 7873 EMAIL ME
Melanie Macphail
Melanie Macphail
Tour Consultant
+27 87 353 7868 EMAIL ME
Heidi Bedford
Heidi Bedford
Tour Consultant
+27 87 353 7872 EMAIL ME
Anya Jarvis
Anya Jarvis
Tour Consultant
+27 87 353 7875 EMAIL ME
Gail Davis
Gail Davis
Tour Consultant
+27 87 353 7869 EMAIL ME
Tammy Harding
Tammy Harding
Tour Consultant
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Kerry Ririe
Kerry Ririe
Tour Consultant
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