Mana Pools, Zimbabwe

Slow travel in Mana Pools – Zimbabwe unplugged

Your Guide to Africa


Our Collective


Marina Barthez


What is special about Mana Pools?

Magical trees and safari at Wilderness Chikwenya

It is quiet at Wilderness Chikwenya in Mana Pools, Zimbabwe, which opened for the safari season in April. Unusually quiet for someone used to the noise of bustling cities. Unusually quiet for someone who is normally surrounded by voices of friends, family or colleagues. The only sound I am currently hearing is coming from the birds that I am observing from my private deck. They are taking turns to bathe in the little waterhole. Shaking their feathers to dry themselves. I smile, they are unexpectedly adorable. I am looking through my field guide to identify them. Something I would never do back home, as I would not consider birding as one of my interests – until now. 

I take a sip of my coffee that Charles prepared for me. He is from Bulawayo and one of the junior managers. I know that, because we had a lovely chat over a round of chess some days ago. Also something I would probably not do back home, in the city of Munich. My dopamine-seeking brain makes me look for my phone, that I purposely left turned upside down in my room. I am sure I heard a noise. Why is it so hard to simply ignore the urge to have a look at it? For a second I actually wish that the internet wasn’t so good here. I don‘t know when last I was actually unreachable. 





It’s been over an hour now that I have been watching the birds and I start to get a feeling of restlessness. I am annoyed at myself that I am at this magical place and thinking about my office, my computer, and all the tasks I have to do and errands I have to run. I remember being back there and wishing for a day, a week or even a month of not needing to be somewhere. Of having no responsibilities, no events planned, no appointments to attend. In Munich, I run from one place to the next one, never stopping, never looking left or right. Ignoring the birds, missing the sunrises and sundowners, drinking my coffee while walking, not taking the time to talk to the barista. I run through my days on a hamster-wheel. Faster and faster, with life rushing away from me. Now here, thousands of miles away from Munich in Mana Pools, life is not rushing away from me. Life is right here. Life is everywhere. 

So why does it feel so uncomfortable to slow down?

Why does it feel like I need to be doing something, to be productive, be active, be rushing? 


What I have discovered is that there is no better place to slow down than at the Wilderness camps in Mana Pools, Zimbabwe. These places give my restless brain a break. A space to reconnect with nature and to fully engage all my senses. Somewhere I can rewire my brain, reset it, and be one with nature. 


There is another side effect of slowing down: thinking. Slowing down leads to time available to think. It is easy to get distracted by day-to-day life, but when we have time, when no distraction is available, we begin to fantasise, daydream, make decisions, reflect about the past and sometimes worry about the future. In fact, after spending a long time in the bush, I’ve had phases in which I did not want to think anymore. I’ve longed for distractions. Instead of enjoying the moment; the quietness, the beauty of Zimbabwe, I was thinking about next week, next month, my next events and appointments. Why is it so hard to stay in the moment? 


Close up of elephants face at Wilderness Mana Pools

Embracing a slow safari


Mana Pools has taught me how to replace some of my usual activities with new ones. I’ve exchanged my phone and the constant thinking with other things. Watching the birds for instance.


The more I do this, the more I am able to see the differences in colours, sounds, sizes, and behaviour. The guides have been amazing in helping me with identifying animals and birds, or providing field guides. I’m taking the time to watch the wildlife passing by, naturally with my binoculars and my camera ready. I’ve enjoyed the natural cinema with a freshly made drink or a cold beer. I’ve read all the books I always wanted to read, but never had time for. I’ve had deep and meaningful chats with my guides and other Wilderness staff, building relationships that have given me the chance to get to know different cultures. I’ve played chess, cards and Jenga. I’ve identified wildlife tracks and know the differences between the footprints of cheetah, leopard, hyena and lion. I’ve discovered new insects, read about the praying mantis and learnt fascinating facts about insect characteristics and behaviour.





I’ve enjoyed long safaris with my guide, knowing that I will not be disturbed by other guests from other lodges, as Wilderness has entire concessions to themselves. I’ve enjoyed leisurely swims in the pool followed by a cold drink. I’ve indulged in long braais and communal dinners while getting to know fellow travellers. I’ve done yoga and meditated while being surrounded by wildlife. 


I’ve gained new energy, calmed my mind, reconnected with nature and myself. It’s been a privilege to do this on a solo safari, but I also wonder what it would be like to spend this quality time with loved ones or friends, connecting over the sightings we had. What I do know is that a safari like this will give you the chance to break free from a rushed life for a while. A chance to embrace a slow pace. It may just change your life. At least, that’s what it did for me.




Wilderness Zimbabwe

Relax, reflect, revitalise your soul

Discover Mana Pools
Marina Barthez on the deck at Wilderness Toka Leya

About the Author

Marina Barthez

Raised in France and Germany, studied digital media and photography in the US, Germany and Argentina. She was captivated by the beauty of the landscapes and the diversity of wildlife during her first trips to Africa. Today, she is a wildlife photographer, writer and creative mind who travels all over the world. She shares her experiences on Instagram @marinabarthez_.

Let’s plan your next journey


When we say we’re there every step of the way, we mean it, literally. From planning the perfect circuit, to private inter-camp transfers on Wilderness Air, and easing you through Customs. We’re with you on the ground, at your side, 24-7, from start to finish. Ready to take the road less travelled? Contact our Travel Designers to plan an unforgettable journey.