We were lucky to briefly visit Chitake Springs in the prime time of mid-October, when the dry season reached its peak and game viewing was at its highest in the Mana Pools National Park in Zimbabwe.

Here is a post about the awesome Chitake Springs! This post is also packed with information about camping in Chitake Springs and the prices of Chitake Springs in Mana Pools.

Overall, it was a great experience, even though we were there very briefly, only for one night. But one night was all that was available to book as a walk-in guest, so we grabbed the chance.

Driving to Chitake Springs in Mana Pools National Park in Zimbabwe

Driving to Chitake Springs in Mana Pool’s National Park is pretty straightforward. From the 2nd gate, you turn right onto the transfer road, which is in the opposite direction if you were going to the Main Camp (Nyamepi).

Note that you’re not allowed to go to Chitake Springs for a day visit without paying the $35 day visit fee at the Main Camp! So if you don’t have a booking or a day visit fee paid, you cannot go there.

We do understand this policy, as the place is so small that having a lot of day visitors around would ruin the atmosphere.

You only need to drive on the transfer road for about 8 kilometers. Then, you turn off from that main road onto a small dirt track that leads straight into the bush.

At first, driving is slow but easy for a few kilometers. Still, after that, it’s better to engage your low gear and controllably maneuver yourself down the relatively steep sand slopes to the campsites.

Then, if you want to go to the other side of the river, where the Springs are located, you need to cross the riverbed, which has some sand (but not deep), and go up to the other side.

The Beautiful Chitake Springs

The Chitake Springs itself is gorgeous, and you can go and drive to the famous Fig Tree, from where you’ll have the best views and positions to watch the opposite slopes and the Spring at the bottom.

You can set up your chairs for a picnic and sit out your day, watching which animals come down to drink. If you are fortunate, you may even see the herd of buffaloes coming down for a drink amongst those famous dust clouds.

But – having a large herd of buffaloes is quite rare.

While we were there, we also met a film group. They had been there at the Fig Tree for three weeks(!) already, and only one day had they had the chance to film a big group of 400 buffaloes coming down the opposite hill.

They had camera traps set all over the place to watch out for them and to send an alert to avoid missing anything special if they were elsewhere at that time.

We spent only one night at Chitake Springs’ campsite 1, which is one of the best on the river shore, but it is on the other side of the river from the Springs themselves.

A view into the Chitake Springs at sunrise, mid-October 2023, Mana Pools, Zimbabwe. Photo taken with DJI Pocket 2.
A view into the Chitake Springs at sunrise, mid-October 2023, Mana Pools, Zimbabwe. Photo taken with DJI Pocket 2.

The Best Campsites in Chitake Springs

The best campsites at Chitake Springs are numbers 1 and 3B. Many people also prefer the Baobab campsite on the same side of the river as the Springs.

If you go to Chitake Springs, try booking either of these campsites. Campsite #2 is on the other side of the river, too. It’s closer to the Springs itself but it’s very bushy with no views to anywhere, and you still have to drive to the Fig Tree to see the Springs. This is why we don’t recommend that campsite.

It’s also not allowed to camp at the Fig Tree (for obvious reasons), but you can spend the whole day there, make your lunch, and just sit and wait. And it will be a day well spent.

We observed many animals come to drink during the day: impalas, kudus, a lot of baboons, vervet monkeys, etc. And four buffaloes.

Chitake Springs and the Fig Tree, Mana Pools National Park, Zimbabwe

The Price of Chitake Springs

Let’s face it: it is expensive to camp in Chitake Springs.

During our almost five years of travels around these areas, it is one of the most expensive campsites we’ve ever visited in Southern and Eastern Africa.

It costs US$300 per campsite per night if you book it in advance.

But, if you go to the main office in the Nyamepi camp as a walk-in customer, you can book it for US$70 per person per night (as a walk-in price). These prices were valid in October 2023, and they are subject to change in 2024. So, please double-check the current prices before you go to Mana Pools.

However, US$70 per person is still expensive, so you have to consider whether it is worth it.

We had heard so much praise for this place, so we wanted to see and experience it. That’s why we stayed one night, which happened to be free on campsite 1 when we visited Mana Pools.

Chitake Springs is usually fully booked in advance, so we were pretty lucky to find a spot even for that one night.

Download the original info booklet from Mana Pools

Mana Pools Original Info Sheet

Camping prices in Chitake Springs, Mana Pools National Park:


US$300 per campsite, if booked in advance

US$70 per person, per night, if booked as a walk-in customer from the Main Office in Nyamepi Camp


These prices were valid in October 2023. They are subject to change in 2024, so please double-check the current prices before you go to Chitake Springs.

Was Going to Chitake Springs Worth It?

So, in the famous hindsight, was it worth it? Well, yes, it was for us.

However, to get the most out of that place, you would ideally need to spend at least three nights over there and preferably have a guide who could take you to bushwalks into the surrounding areas.

Without the possibility of going on a walk in the bush, you don’t get so much out of your visit. You can drive only a few tracks around, and the area is pretty tiny.

There is also one big lion pride (33 members, we heard!) living in the Chitake Springs area, but you cannot go into the bush alone without an armed guide.

It could potentially be hazardous for you. So, you would need a Game Ranger to take you on the walks to get around.

But then again, if you stay at the Baobab campsite, you will have absolutely fabulous 360-degree views all over the Chitake Springs area, and you may see more animals from there, too.

The Baobab campsite is on top of a high hill, so it can be very windy, but you’ll be in total solitude amidst the hundreds of years-old baobabs standing all around you.

It is highly recommended. Even if you don’t stay overnight, go and have a look at the place. Stop, make some coffee, sit around, and admire the views!

Honey Badger the Defender standing at the campsite 1 in Chitake Springs, Mana Pools National Park, Zimbabwe. It had great views to the dry riverbed!
Honey Badger the Defender standing at the campsite 1 in Chitake Springs, Mana Pools National Park, Zimbabwe. It had great views to the dry riverbed!

Our Experiences at Campsite 1 in Chitake Springs

During the night, we heard many lions roaring nearby. We also saw some tracks in the morning, but when we looked for them later in the day, we couldn’t find them.

The lions were somewhere in the bushes, which you couldn’t see from the driving tracks. As said, we would have needed a guide to go into the bush on foot to find them, and we didn’t have one, so we couldn’t go.

It frustrated us quite a bit, but don’t ever be that stupid that you would wander into a thick bush where you know that lions are around without a professional, armed guide! That could cost you your life in the worst-case scenario.

There is a saying, “It’s not the lion you see that gets you.” – Always remember that! 

So, if you’d like to experience Chitake Springs at its best, go with a guide or hire a Ranger to take you on bush walks. And spend at least three nights there to experience the place fully.

And, if you are lucky, you may even witness the spectacle of a large herd of buffaloes coming down to the Springs to have a drink.

But be aware that that occasion rarely happens! You may have to wait for weeks, or if you are lucky, you may only have to wait a day or only hours. It’s down to luck.

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Would We Go Back to Chitake Springs Someday?

Well, honestly, we don’t know. Maybe if we’d have the chance to go there for three days with a guide. But otherwise, we don’t think so.

Generally, it’s better “bang for your buck” to stay in the main camp of Nyamepi (or in the surrounding areas) and drive around the Mana Pools National Park itself in its primary area and along the Zambezi River and experience all the animals over there.

In Chitake Springs, there were fewer animals to be seen compared to the area of Nyamepi and its surroundings. Besides the lions, which we only heard and didn’t see, there were the traditional impalas, kudus, warthogs, etc.

The Chitake Springs was beautiful, and you could get some of that isolated feeling of being in the bush in the middle of nowhere.

But – all the campsites are also pretty close to each other, and you can even hear other people talking if the other campsites are occupied.

It’s also a very popular campsite, so be prepared that it’s almost always fully booked. But if you are lucky like us, you may have a chance to book it as a walk-in customer for the US$70 per person per night price. It is worth it to experience this place once.

But is US$300 for a campsite per night too much? Yes, it is. Even though Chitake Springs was a unique place with fantastic scenery, we think it’s still too steep.

Especially when considering that it’s wild camping without any amenities besides a long-drop toilet, you pay for the experience.

And as it is camping in the middle of the wild, always keep your eyes open to your surroundings!

Wild animals roam freely, especially after dark, so please have a good flashlight with you! But you don’t need to be scared; it’s just part of the fun to be in the middle of the truly wild country.

This time, we didn’t get any iconic photos from Chitake Springs, but even that did not diminish all our positive experiences at this place.

Some Key Take-Aways About Chitake Springs in Mana Pools

Visiting Chitake Springs was an exciting and fun experience, but in general, you may be better off staying in the main area of the park along the Zambezi River, around the Nyamepi camp and doing Game drives there, especially if you want to see a lot of animals.

Mana Pools is a magnificent National Park and a fantastic place! We spent about a week there and fell in love with it. We are already looking forward to visiting again someday.

In conclusion, we’d say that Chitake Springs is a great place to visit at least once in your lifetime. And if you want to stay longer than one night, it’d be better to have a bigger party of people and book it in advance.

The US$300 per night for the campsite will not be so expensive per person when you divide it by 4-6 people. At least two cars could fit nicely at the campsites so that space wouldn’t be a problem.

Maybe next time we’ll have some friends with us?