The inconsiderate behaviour of tourists has led Zimbabwe’s Mana Pools National Park to lose its unique selling point – unescorted walking.
Until now, the game sanctuary has been one of a very few in Africa that has allowed visitors to wander about unguided in big game territory. The practice has been marketed as one of the park’s exceptional experiences. While the danger of encountering predators immediately springs to mind, defenders of unguided walking say there have been few incidents in relation to the number of tourists who participate in the activity.
However, concern about increasing unsanctioned and uncontrolled human behaviour has led the Zimbabwe Parks & Wildlife Management Authority (ZPWMA) to ban all unguided walking. Flouting of the rules runs the whole gamut from chasing and crowding animals, to unlicensed tour operating and commercial photographers, to off-road driving. The culprits appear to be a small minority, but incidents have grown along with the park’s popularity.