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Living with Elephants, Walking with Hyenas. Mana Pools 2013.


Whyone?

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When it comes to images I would love to have on a large canvas on my wall your elephants in the sunset must go right up there with the best. Great composition and absolutely stunning colours. Try putting that up on TP to see the reaction if you haven't already done so.

Keep the report rolling, can't wait for the next instalment.

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Part 1: Getting There This years visit to the Mana Pools National Park, between 6th-13th October, was my 12th over the last 15 years. I am fortunate to have friends in-country so it is relatively st

Part 7: Walking With Hyena's   Enough of the local real estate situation...back to what Mana does best, surprising you!   Dawn Breaks:   Another day and another walk. Temperatures were still

Part 4: In Search of Bee-Eaters.   I always enjoy seeing Bee-Eaters at Mana, and in October they are still very much in residence. The eroded alluvial sand banks of the river are ideal for their ne

Whyone?

Part 3: CSI Mana (Ep. 1)

Crowd participation time!

 

Out walking one morning, we came across this unfortunate young female impala.

 

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The impala wasn't long dead (though we unfortunately didn't take internal temperature readings to ascertain time of death).

 

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No bones appeared to be broken.....

 

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....and the body was carefully examined for fingerprints (and claw puncture marks!) - none were apparent.

 

The Nyamepi forensic lab has been somewhat tawdry in coming back to us with results (!) , so I wonder if any one here can suggest a likely case of death?

Edited by Whyone?
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wilddog

Is it's neck broken after a fall? Head seems to be at a wierd angle in first picture.

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Whyone?

We did wonder about that as a possibility Lynda. In fact a fall was my best guess.

 

There was a abandoned river terrace rise very close to the body, but other than that the terrain was fairly benign.

 

I guess Impala (and other antelope) must occasionally mis-place a foot and fall?

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Atravelynn

I'm glad you can view that scary road accident as part of the adventure. For the impala, I am wondering about disease.

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Whyone?

Part 4: In Search of Bee-Eaters.

 

I always enjoy seeing Bee-Eaters at Mana, and in October they are still very much in residence. The eroded alluvial sand banks of the river are ideal for their nest burrows, and whilst they always seem to nest in colonies, they are a little nomadic in their choice of nesting site. They seem to stick with a location for 2 or 3 years and then move - I would be fascinated to know why?

 

Mana Mouth was a popular nesting site for several years, but this year, whilst as beautiful as ever, there there were just a few White Fronted Bee-Eaters to be seen.

 

Impala and Water Buck grazing at Mana Mouth:

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Meandering River at Mana Mouth (Bee-Eaters used to nest in bank in background):

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White Fronted Bee-Eater:

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Deadwood:

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Later in the day I took a stroll along the river upstream from the Mucheni's and found a wonderful, noisy colony of Southern Carmine Bee-Eaters - their call always reminds me of Mr Punch of Punch and Judy fame! As well as the Bee Eaters, there was the bonus of an elephant feeding on some grasses trapped in a fallen tree. I didn't want to get too close to the Bee-Eaters for fear of disturbing them, but these are a few of the pictures I took.

 

Southern Carmine Bee-Eaters:

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Kudu I startled whilst walking back to camp:

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Ele in perfect spot for a hot Mana afternoon:

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And, of course, a sunset!

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ooops...nearly forgot...

 

Nocturnal visitors:

Edited by Whyone?
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Atravelynn

Beautiful carmine bee eater flock! Some gorgeous sunset shots, along with the creatures.

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Game Warden

Wonderful shots puts you right in the scene...

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I love the carmine bee eater shots + it is great to see the nocturnal visitors!

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ZaminOz

The dead impala looks a bit malnourished to me, I wonder if illness, poisoning or even snake bite may not have been the cause of death?

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Sangeeta

The hide and seek ele my favorite shot so far!

 

Please forgive my ignorance, but with so much wildlife roaming the campgrounds at night, doesn't one have to be really careful about making sure that all food / cans etc are well secured before going to bed?

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Whyone?

Hi @@Sangeeta.

 

Thanks for your comments and interest.

 

All of the campsites at Mana are unfenced....the 'Exclusive' (or I think 'remote' is a better word) sites, are just designated points in the bush - mainly on the banks of the Zambezi, as is the case with Mucheni 3.

 

This means that the wildlife is completely free to come and go....and come and go it does.

 

This year was actually unusually quiet. In previous years we have had many more camp guests.....in 2011 I had a large male buffalo who settle next to my tent each evening - actually leaning on the tent and causing it to bulge inwards. I got used to this after a night or two, but later in the week we had lions visiting....close enough for em to be able to hear their foot-fall. This of course unsettled 'my' buffalo and I spent perhaps the most anxious 30 minutes of all my time in Mana contemplating just how little protection the canvas was going to afford if the lions decided they were hungry.

 

Elephants are regular visitors, especially if you are camping under a tree containing food! I actually look forward to being woken by the cascade of leaves and debris that means an ele is reaching above me to feed. This has happened so many times I have complete faith that the ele will not tread on the tent of me (I have had elephants feet less than 2' from my head on more than one occasion) or, most remarkable given the often abject darkness, get tangled in the guy-ropes.

 

As you have seen from this years little video clips, hyena are regular visitors and can be a menace - they will chew through aluminium to get at food, so yes, you do have to secure everything at night (everything is kept in the steel trailer you see in some of my pictures. During the day, baboons and vervet's present a similar nuisance but ele's are not completely immune from helping themselves.

 

Should you be interested, some of these guest-visits are recorded in this thread:

http://safaritalk.net/topic/10272-mana-pools-a-different-sort-of-trip-report/

Edited by Whyone?
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Sangeeta

Thanks, @@Whyone? (You really need to tell us the story behind that name!) I have seen those steel cage thingies that camp crews use to keep edibles etc away from animals when I have done mobile camping, but wondered what self drivers did. Now I know...you have a steel thing too :)

 

Waiting for more of these lovely installments.

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Whyone?

Part 5: Being Nosey!

 

I expect this 'chapter' to be only of any real interest to Mana fanatics as it contains a few pictures of two new camps in the area....one, Vine, which is controversial to say the very least.

 

First of all, a new semi-permanant camp which has been established at Ruchomechi Cliffs called Manzovo.

 

For those who know the geography of the park, to get to Manzovo you take the right turn off the road between the first and second gate signposted to the Ruchomechi Research station, and then the second right down this narrow trail....it is very difficult to work out what is road and what is not road....

 

....this, for example is not a road! (Getting a Landcruiser and trailer out of here is not easy!)

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The camp sits high on a cliff, with brilliant views over a small waterhole and the surrounding countryside. It is tucked up reasonably close to the escarpment and is set up primarily for walking. No one was in residence when we visited and the camp manager welcomed us in, showed us around and offered us drinks. The camp is about 8km from Chitake, so unsurprisingly lion are common visitors, as is a leopard many evenings - a treat in Mana where leopards are plentiful but elusive. WHilst sitting chatting and enjoying the view (in the heat of the day - ~2pm) we say ele's, impala, warthog and a solitary lion.

 

Waterhole pretty much in the centre of this photo:

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Dining area and view:

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Tent's / view:

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More tents (from memory, 4 in total):

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All in all, a nice camp in a remote part of the park with some great walking on its doorstep and a very low environmental impact.

 

Once settled into Mucheni 3, one afternoon we decided to see what was going on at the new Vine Camp (a short distance upstream from the 'Car Park') on the banks of the Zambezi). This is a private Chinese-Italian funded venture and there is great suspicion and many rumours surrounding how on earth anyone got permission to site such a huge, permanent camp in such a prime (and environmentally sensitive) part of the park. Some of these stories are quite lurid, and I am certainly not about the share them on a public forum!

 

Very few photographs are widely available of this development (which has been ongoing for ~18 months now) and we have heard first hand stories of visitors being, how shall I say, vigourously persuaded to leave the property. So it was with some trepidation that we drove passed the 'Strictly No Admission' 'Private' signs (and yes, you could quite reasonably argue that with such signs on display, we should expect to be told to leave). We were greeted by some of the workers who went and found the site manager who couldn't have been more friendly and welcoming. We said we had heard a lot about the development and we wondered if it would be ok for us to have a look around...no problem! The building is way behind schedule, but they are hoping to open next July / August.

 

Some of the 12 private lodges - they are huge and each accommodates just 2 guests. Eventually there will be 12...so 24 guest max. occupancy.

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Lodge for 2:

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Dining and bar area still under construction - great views down to the river:

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It will be a huge, spawling building when complete:

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Wild Mango tree built into structure:

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Ele's feed from the fruit of this tree and continue to visit - should make things 'interesting once fully occupied. I was especially disappointed to hear that a swimming pool is to be installed in the rear of this building.

 

More construction:

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My thoughts regarding the camp....well, on the positive side, it does sit reasonably well in the environment - the materials are well chosen, and it will not be seen by many Mana visitors staying elsewhere.

 

However, I believe the development of a permanent camp of this scale within the NP and on the banks of the river is wholly inappropriate. There will of course be electricity which will come from a generator - banned elsewhere in the park. Servicing a camp of this size will add significant daily traffic in and our of Mana on roads which are fragile at best. And as for the swimming pool....words frankly escape me :( I worry that this is the thin end of the wedge....another camp at Mana Mouth is rumoured.

Edited by Whyone?
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Whyone?

Part 6: CSI Mana (Ep. 2)

 

Not too much doubt about the guilty party here - bang to rights!

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wilddog

I heard something about one at Mana mouth too. Not good.

Manzovo looks great.

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Whyone?

I agree @@wilddog

 

If I had to stay in an organised camp, this is the sort of place I would choose.

 

Remote, small capacity, light environmental impact, very little chance of seeing anyone other than camp staff and other guests during your stay and walking very much the primary way of getting out and about.

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Zim Girl

@@Whyone?

 

I guess that is just wishful thinking but do you think there is anything in the pipeline that might stop it ever opening? I wonder why the works are so far behind schedule?

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Game Warden

@@Whyone? Thanks for the exclusive behind the scenes look. As Zim becomes a hot destination again and people begin to see the end of Mugabe's reign, surely new developments will begin springing up in such locations around the country?

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very sad, enjoy MP before it s too late. Soon I guess self driving will be very restricted. Hope travel agents and tourists will boycott this italian-chinese camp

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wilddog

There are a lot of stories around about why this development was allowed and similarly about the delay. Allegedly.................... the delay is to do with the size of the main boma area compared to the original plan.

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 last time I went to Mana was in 2010 and we did the canoeing along the zambezi. On the zam side, it s awful. I saw lots of those ugly developments (among those the dutch house with the wheel) Zambians don't seem to care. A few times, we even saw zambians fishing on the zimbabwean side in their motorboat whereas motorboats are strictly forbidden on the zim side. I was told a few weeks ago that Ruckomechi has a big issue now since big parties (dancing, very loud music) are organized on the other side of the zambezi. I hope it s not true

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Whyone?

@@Whyone? Thanks for the exclusive behind the scenes look. As Zim becomes a hot destination again and people begin to see the end of Mugabe's reign, surely new developments will begin springing up in such locations around the country?

@@Game Warden, no problem for the pictures.....pleased to add to the very small collection available on the web.

 

It is inevitable (and good) that as Zim's reputation recovers and tourists return in increasing numbers, new developments will spring up.

 

What is not so good is building something on this scale in the most fragile region - the shoreline - of a UNESCO world heritage site. This is in direct contradiction of the Mana Pools Management plan which recommends low impact develment away from the river, to avoid running what most people come to Mana to see - the wilderness and most especially, the fragile alluvial plains of the floodplain.

 

I would love Mana to stay exactly the way it was 5 years ago. But as a realist, reading about the pressures agriculture and mineral extraction are bringing to bear on the park, I recognise it has to pay its way.

 

Unfortunately in my view Vine Camp is absolutely not the way to achieve this.

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Whyone?

@@Dam2810  I absolutely agree with you that development on the Zambian side of the river facing Mana detracts from this area of outstanding natural beauty....most certainly when viewed from Zim. It is especially so at night when on occasion (thankfully rare in my experience) all of the properties are occupied and brightly lit. One of the great joys and wonders of visitting the African bush from a more developed part of the world is experiencing a night sky devoid of light pollution. The Zambian development (and potentially Vine Camp) seriously detract from this. Along with the light pollution inevitably comes the drone of generators - clearly audible on a still African night, the sound travelling for miles across water.

 

Thankfully bright, noisy nights still seem to be quite rare. On this visit a few buildings in Zambia were lit on a Saturday night, the rest of the time we could see nothing more than a few camp fires and what looked like the very gentle glow of oil lamps - just as it should be in my perfect Africa! :)

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