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Magical woods on Zambezi shores

Irene Amiet

Tuesday, 20 June 2023

After years of exploring Southern Africa’s wildlife havens, Irene Amiet finally had the chance to take her camera to Zimbabwe’s famed Mana Pools National Park. The resulting experience brought enrichment beyond compare. Irene’s gallery of images reflect the other-worldly wilderness of Mana Pools’ buzzing floodplains, nebulous forests and hidden gems.

“Capturing a sense of what we’ve lost in our world of connectivity isn’t always simple. But, every day, on a dusty airstrip somewhere in Africa, a traveller breathes a sigh of relief as they step out into the bush to escape the grind and experience Africa’s wilderness, taking the opportunity to try.

Mana Pools provides more than thriving ecosystems and lily-covered ponds. Its waters dispense nourishment to the tired minds seeking adventure in its mopane woods. The magic of Mana Pools lies in the secretive glimpse it provides into a world almost too manifold to capture visually (to start planning your African safari to Mana Pools, click here). But I was determined to soak up the experience and photograph the extraordinary moments I experienced while there.

While visiting the park, I learn of its trajectory of conservation success. No elephant has been poached in the park in the past three years. The reason? According to Nick Murray, a driving force behind local anti-poaching successes and founder of Bushlife Conservancy, it’s simple: ‘Boots on the ground and proper vehicles’. It comes down to money and means to equip rangers appropriately to do their jobs well.

It’s fitting then that we witness the famous bull ‘Tusker’ in action while visiting Mana Pools. We find Tusker browsing the soft grass on the islands in the floodplains one evening. We watch him from a boat as he towers above us, the last sunlight highlighting his silhouette against the Zambezi Escarpment, creating an unforgettable moment I am pleased to capture through my lens.

As Zimbabwe allows visitors to step out of their vehicles in national parks when accompanied by a guide, the area of Mana Pools along the floodplains, dotted by groves of towering ana trees, provides for artists and photographers in an unparalleled way. Sitting under a mopane tree as elephants approach from a woodland of dusty jade-green, heartbeats don’t accelerate but slow with our breathing. We witness elephants reaching up into the trees, finding seed pots, and breaking off branches. An impala snorts in the distance, and a flock of bright little lovebirds flutters past. Three baboons break the silhouette of trees further down, traced by the sun in gold. For a moment, the world is at balance.”

Mana Pools
A young male catches the photographer’s eye through the leaves
Mana Pools
A flock of Lilian’s lovebirds take flight
Mana Pools
Crocodiles dot the islands interspersed amidst the Zambezi’s floodplains
Africa Geographic Travel
Mana Pools
Two bulls are dwarfed by the towering Mana Pools woodlands
Mana Pools
A capture of a yellow-billed stork taking off from the Zambezi
Radio collars are a helpful tool for monitoring elephant migrations through the Zambezi Valley. Irene and her party spotted Tusker the elephant wearing one of these collars
Africa Geographic Travel
Mana Pools
A young male peers out from the mopane woods
Zebras highlighted by the day’s first rays
Blue hour on the Zambezi
Africa Geographic Travel


Mana Pools is Africa’s iconic park for bushwalking without a guide – renowned for encounters on foot with wild dogs & relaxed elephant bulls. Read everything there is to know about Mana Pools National Park here.

Want to see more of Mana Pools? This fantastic photo gallery capturing the magic of Mana Pools will have you grabbing your camera, packing your bag and booking your African safari with us. See how to book below this story.

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