“We just had the most amazing experience. It was one of the most relaxing vacations I’ve been on.” – Ann Snyder

Captivating Encounters: A Safari Experience in Mana Pools National Park

by | Destinations, Safari Life

A safari to Mana Pools guarantees a front-row seat to some of the most captivating moments in the natural world! Located in Zimbabwe, this iconic wilderness sanctuary is renowned for its breathtaking landscapes and abundant wildlife and one of the things that separates Mana Pools from many other national parks in Africa is the ability to safari on foot. The wildlife is accustomed to seeing humans walking in the park and this habituation allows visitors to experience nature here at a different level.
I was lucky to journey into this pristine wilderness with my father and it was nothing short of extraordinary, marked by many unforgettable encounters. One such highlight was the opportunity to photograph wild dogs with two professional photographers and the BBC crew as they captured footage for their acclaimed docuseries, “Dynasties,” featuring the painted wolves. Witnessing these elusive creatures—and their intricate social dynamics and unwavering dedication to the pack—in their natural habitat while we were on foot was a privilege beyond compare. While the camera lens immortalized their captivating presence, it was the raw emotion and untamed spirit of the painted wolves that left an indelible mark on my soul. These up-close-and-personal experiences led me to fall in love with painted dogs and serve as trustee on the Painted Wolf Foundation for three years. During this time, we established it as an umbrella organization to support wild dog conservation groups throughout Africa.
Nestled amidst the wilderness away from the flood plain of the Zambezi River, our next camp became my home away from home for six unforgettable nights, offering a front-row seat to the drama and spectacle of African wildlife. Each day, I sat in our makeshift hide next to the camp’s waterhole—the only water for miles—and watched nature’s theater unfold before my eyes. Over the course of my stay, I was treated to an astonishing 24 leopard sightings, each encounter more thrilling than the last. The elusive cats prowled silently through the shadows, their golden coats shimmering in the moonlight as they navigated their nocturnal domain with unparalleled grace and stealth.
The magic of Mana Pools didn’t end there. On one surreal evening, I bore witness to a scene straight out of a wildlife documentary—a pride of lions locked in a fierce confrontation with a pack of painted wolves. With seven vulnerable pups in their midst, the pack made the lethal mistake of coming to the waterhole just after the pride, who had not yet left. While the painted wolves tried to flee to protect their young, the odds were stacked against them. I watched one pup turn on a lioness and stop her in her tracks. In the heart-wrenching event, two of the pups fell victim to the lions, a stark reminder of the harsh realities of life in the wild.
As I reflect on my safari experience in Mana Pools National Park, I am filled with a profound sense of gratitude for the opportunity to immerse myself in the wonders of the natural world. From the awe-inspiring encounters with iconic wildlife to the moments of survival, each experience served as a reminder of the fragile balance that sustains life on this planet.