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Mana Adventure No 3

Zim Girl

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Introduction and History to this trip


This is our third trip to Zimbabwe and Mana Pools in as many years.

In 2011 Mana was the last stop in our itinerary for a 3 night canoe trail. We met Mark who has been our amazing guide for the last three years and we were fortunate to be his only guests. After much discussion we decided to only canoe in the afternoons and go game viewing in the mornings. Over the next 3 nights it became very clear to me that we were not here for long enough and with Mark telling us how Mana was such a good park for walking in, we were well and truly hooked, but had run out of time!


As soon as we arrived back home I was on the phone booking for 2012 – 11 nights mobile camping in Mana including Chitake. It was a fantastic holiday. We left Mark last year saying we would be back in 2 years. However, after spending some time trying to decide what else we wanted to do in Africa – we were particularly looking at Southern Tanzania – we just couldn’t find what we wanted. (Although I hadn’t discovered Safaritalk back then).

So we were soon booked for Mana once more, this time adding Matusadona, to try our luck with the rhinos again. We had just glimpsed a rhino there in 2011.


Before we went away this year we found out about Kichaka Expeditions operated by Moli who had been recommended as a guide when I was looking at Ruaha previously.

As he was running a mobile operation we thought this was probably just what we were looking for and I was keen to book because if we didn’t have something in place we would be going back to Mana in 2014!

As it is I am already discussing with Mark about what we can do in Mana for 2015.

Mana is a really hard habit to break!


I also have the problem now that after spending so many nights privately mobile camping I know I do not really want to stay in a permanent camp or lodge again, and I want to spend most of my time walking.


Most of our time in Mana was spent walking and virtually all of the photos that I will post have been taken on foot.

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2 nts Ilala

2 nts Croton

3 nts Mucheni 4

3 nts Chitake

3 nts Rhino Camp in Matusadona


We booked through Expert Africa as usual and used Natureways’ mobile camp.

Mark was our guide throughout including Matusadona as he had guided there in the past.


We flew on the now discontinued BA flight from Heathrow to Lusaka and transferred by road to the Chirundu border post. This took a lot longer than normal as the majority of the road is being re-laid – almost 4 hours. We didn’t have any delays at the border and then drove into Mana.


I am not going to do a day by day account but I will post photos and describe some of the encounters we had as well as pictures of the various camps and locations.


Ilala Camp





Our tent




Some Eland and Waterbuck from the first couple of days












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@@Zim Girl great start and lovely photos! The first photo of the eland covered in oxpeckers is brilliant, but it looks very bloated - almost like a cow!

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Oh, I have been waiting for this!! Thanks @Zimgirl - love seeing the tent of course - always interested in where I would sleep and wake; and yes, lovely Eland..haven't seen one in while.


Looking forward to more!

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Those eland are fantastic!!!!

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I'm homesick :)


Same tent, same camp site, same riverbank, not to mention the eland and the water buck and that lovely dappled Mana light...


Looking forward to more.

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Those eland are fantastic!!!!


And if you think that @ZimGirl was on foot.....Elands in Mana are really approachable, and quite abundant in the dry season.

That won't happen on foot in Ruaha...I am AMAZED how you can get those shots on foot...wow.

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That shot of the eland with the oxpeckers reminds me how powerful they are. You only have to look at that image to understand how they can jump as high as they reportedly can.


Looking forward to the next installment.

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Looking forward to reading more about your Mana mobile as Zim is on my longlist. The eland looks like an ox-pecker taxi and the curious waterbuck look very relaxed in your photo.


Can I ask why you booked with Expert Africa rather than directly with Natureways?

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Good start, and I think this is going to be really interesting. I agree no need to go day by day, but you are going to go camp by camp/ area by area right? Don't forget you have readers who are notfellow Mana Gang members!! ;-) We only have the vaguest clue and we are much too lazy to go back and look at the other reports again to fill in blanks.


Hmmm.... When I put it like that I am not sure why you should indulge us at all.

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Ok, I am back, I have got a couple of hours to get some more on.

Thank you all for your comments.


@graceland I am a little bit worried we will not see as much in Ruaha on foot, but I felt we needed to go somewhere different and Moli's operation seemed to fit the bill.

@Treepol I book with Expert Africa so they can bond our flights and I get a bit of discount for being a regular customer.


@pault I will go camp by camp and area by area and I am sorry, I will try to be a bit more specific about where we are.

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Great start - as with many others, I really like the Eland covered in ox-peckers.

Eland do look like a very powerful animal.

Please put details of camps for those of us who would like to go!

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Fantastic photos of both animals and scenery!!! And all this on foot... Looking forward to seeing the next installment...

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Our first two camps, Ilala and Croton are in the Nyamatusi wilderness area of Mana Pools. It is much quieter here than the main floodplain area as driving is by permit only so you tend not to find many self-drivers here. While we were walking from these two camps we didn't see another tourist at all.

The antelope tend to a little bit more skittish because there is an area here where Parks rangers are allowed to shoot for rations.

In a change from previous years this safari was all about the lions and not Wild Dogs, which we did not see at all.

Our first walk from Ilala was through the jesse at the back of camp. We had heard a lion roaring at breakfast and went off to investigate. We soon picked up tracks. We followed the tracks, which were very fresh, along the dry Sapi riverbed. The Sapi forms a border between the National Park and the Chikwenya concession. These lions were only around a km ahead of us but then the tracks went up the other side of the riverbank and into the private concession so we could not follow. Even though we didn't actually get a sighting there is nothing to beat the adrenalin rush of knowing you are so close!

Little did we know at that stage that we were going to get a whole lot closer later on in the holiday.

Next morning we started our walk to Croton Camp. We were walking close to the Nyamatusi channel, an impala was looking at us very nervously from the other side. His nerve finally broke and after a couple of runs up and down the bank made a crazy run to try to jump the channel - which is full of crocs, by the way. He landed slap bang in the middle of the water but managed to jump out just as quick, he was a very lucky impala. I didn't get a picture and the only reason I am mentioning it is that it literally happened right in front of us - just so amazing to watch.


We found a carmine bee-eater colony in the riverbank.



We covered a lot of ground and eventually came across a herd of buffalo. They stopped and watched us and then ran away in front of us.





On the way into camp found this little guy.




Croton Camp




Sundowners at Croton



While we sat watching the sunset, we saw, in the distance, elephants mating - a first for me!



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Croton camp is renowned for a lot of hyena activity and we were not disappointed.


That evening while we were having dinner, Mark shone his torch and we saw two hyena wandering around behind us. He switched off the torch. We carried on eating, the hyena carried on wandering!


Lions had been roaring for most of the night and in the morning Mark found tracks very close to camp. So off we went. After some fairly intense tracking we found a pride of fourteen inc four cubs near the Chiruwi river. Unfortunately on spotting us they ran off, it was a lovely sighting of such a big pride all the same.

The nature of a wilderness area that does not see the volumes of tourists as other areas of Mana is that the wildlife is not quite as approachable.

But to be honest I actually prefer this. It just makes the sightings you do get all the more special.


In the afternoon we found a female hyena with her juvenile cub near Chine Pool.







Then we saw what is one of my favourite sightings this trip.

A small family group of zebra, a male, female and juvenile. What was so lovely is that we were fairly close but they just stood and watched us. The young one was so relaxed it was still trying to suckle.






More hyena excitement that night. We saw hyena in camp at dinner as before but then a little while after we had gone to bed, all hell broke out. A pack of hyena invaded camp and honestly the noise was deafening. One was close to our tent and it had obviously got hold of something metal and was doing its best to beat it into submission. The noise hyena make when they are excited is like an extremely loud cackle.

Eventually Mark came out of his tent and shooed off the ‘noisy neighbours’.

We found out in the morning that the metal thing was the candelabra from the dinner table!

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The Nyamatusi pack were highly likely to have been in Chikwenya. We did not see any tracks whatsoever during our walks from Ilala and Croton.

Although we didn't actually see wild dog this time round Mark said all the usual packs were up and running, so to speak.


You must definitely do Croton camp if you go back. It was the most picturesque and tranquil site I have ever camped on.

Edited by Zim Girl
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What a great report, lovely pictures - I like the carmine bee eaters, and the squirrel!

I will make a note of croton camp too.

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Ok, next stop Mucheni 4.

We are now on the main floodplain area and for those that do not know, this is big ellie territory.


But first we had a couple of really good hippo encounters.

Both were in the Long Pool area.

The first one we watched haul himself out of a muddy pan and walked parallel with him as he made his way over to the pool.










The second we just met ambling towards us. We had to make a pretty quick direction change and then watched him walk by, although not before he made it quite clear he wasn’t that impressed with us disturbing his morning walk.







We also saw another hyena which we were very pleased with as we have not had many daylight sightings of hyena in the past.




Mucheni 4 campsite





That evening during sundowners, true to form, a young bull elephant came to say hello. I didn’t have my camera on me (I know, I know), but he walked right by our chairs, had a quick look at the drinks table and then went to bother the lads in the kitchen. Mark went to make sure he wasn’t causing too much trouble and found he had already pinched some of their sadza and was trying to sneak away with a bag of rubbish. We could hear Mark calling him a naughty boy, and we watched him disappear off into the half light.

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LOL Naughty ellie!! :D

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Great stuff, loving this TR and great photos to accompany it as well.

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Sounds so so exciting, but sadly the accommodation is not suitable for a 70 year old with arthritis!!!! Maybe in another life. :rolleyes:

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Love your camps, the look, location and the carmine bee eaters!!


I see you walk in shorts.. Is the terrain rather open and flat avoiding scrub, branches, rocks, etc?


Amazing how accommodating the game are for your shots. Very Envious!!

May need to look into this...oh Lordy what new addiction have I acquired! :)

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True, unless you are trying to find a dog den in thick scrub!! :)

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I am enjoying your report - the writing and the photos

It is good to see the detail of the camps + the walking looks really enjoyable

It looks so peaceful

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Even I can follow now. Thanks and I'm really enjoying it.

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