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


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9: Domestic Issues.


This will be a short section on a couple of the trials and tribulations of a self-supported camping trip in the African bush.


As mentioned in the introduction, for this years trip we spent 7 nights camping at Mucheni 3 - one of the four highly regarded Mucheni exclusive campsites. Provided facilities are a braai stand and a long drop toilet. Everything else has to be carried in.


Mucheni 3 - spot the problem?

_MG_9495 by Whyone, on Flickr
You can just see Mucheni 3 underneath the sausage trees above the bank in the lower left of the photo.
The problem? The continuous ~8' high river bank.
Whilst we carry in a few gallons of water, the vast majority of the water used over the course of the week (showering, washing, cooking, tea, coffee) comes from the river and has to be collected. In previous years there have been hippo run's either side of the camp providing relatively easy access to the river. Last years rains had significantly eroded the river bank all along the Mucheni section of the river, removing this option. So plan 'B' was needed.....
Rope and pulleys:
_MG_9398 by Whyone, on Flickr
_MG_9401 by Whyone, on Flickr
At least this option significantly reduced the threat of being taken by a croc whilst collecting water.
The other problem caused by the bank erosion was the loss of the braai stand into the river. The stand at Mucheni 3 was completely gone, this Mucheni 3 fared only a little better:
_MG_9522 by Whyone, on Flickr
The solution to this little problem was to scavenge rocks and bricks whilst on our travels and to build a mack-shift braai - fortunately we never go into the bush without a sturdy wire grill:
Cooking facilities:
2R4C3086 by Whyone, on Flickr
Whilst there is nothing Parks can do to make collecting water any easier, hopefully the braai stands will be replaced in time for next years visitors.
Edited by Whyone?
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10: Back to the wildlife

The more observant amongst you will have noticed a distinct lack of lions and dogs in this trip report.


We saw a lioness some way away whilst visiting Manzovo camp, and on our second day, saw a lone male in thick bush behind Long Pool. Each night, we heard lions calling, sometime quite close to camp, each morning plenty of tracks could be found, but good sightings were eluding us. Mana, like any wildlife area can be frustrating. We were spoilt last year with fantastic lion and dog sightings daily, this year was to be different., but I wouldn't have it any other way - much of the allure would fade if you knew you would find lion at point 'x' at time 'y', followed 45 minutes later by Wild Dogs just up the road.


We spoke to a number of guides and all reported that the dogs had gone walkabout and not been seen for a few weeks, and lions, whilst clearly round and about, were quite elusive, spending time inland away from the river.


However early one morning, with the sun only just up above the horizon for the day (hence the very yellow light in the photo's below...it really was this colour, rather than my white balance being horribly off!) we did stumble upon a pride of lions (3 males, 3 females, 3 youngsters) ambling inland.


Female and cub:

2R4C3217 by Whyone, on Flickr
I don't know what the lions get up to at Mana, but rarely a year goes by without finding one (always a female) with a bad eye.
2R4C3221 by Whyone, on Flickr
Male with, typically of Mana lions, a somewhat underwhelming mane:
2R4C3231 by Whyone, on Flickr
Odd behaviour:
2R4C3233 by Whyone, on Flickr
2R4C3234 by Whyone, on Flickr
2R4C3238 by Whyone, on Flickr
2R4C3243 by Whyone, on Flickr
Two of the males spent some time rubbing and sniffing at a few scrubby plants in a small depression. After a few seconds rubbing, they would grimace in quite a peculiar fashion. I imagine there was either something they liked (this went on for 10 minutes or so) or didn't like there. Once they had moved on I went and had a good sniff in the depression myself, but couldn't smell anything at all - even when crushing the leaves on the plants they seemed so attracted to. Does anyone know what was going on here?
Plenty of grass for the grazers - unusual for October:
2R4C3066 by Whyone, on Flickr
Quelia were attracted in countless thousands from their roosts in Zambia:
2R4C3001 by Whyone, on Flickr
Plenty of fruit (wild figs in this instance) as well:
2R4C3515 by Whyone, on Flickr
2R4C3519 by Whyone, on Flickr
2R4C3527 by Whyone, on Flickr
With so much food, 2013 should have been a good to have your birthday:
2R4C3505 by Whyone, on Flickr
2R4C3315 by Whyone, on Flickr
2R4C3209 by Whyone, on Flickr
Yellow Billed Stork:
2R4C3333 by Whyone, on Flickr
Quite a rarity - two-headed Zebra:
2R4C3039 by Whyone, on Flickr
Storks (Yellow Billed and Marabou) in a tree:
2R4C3008 by Whyone, on Flickr
2R4C3006 by Whyone, on Flickr
The opportunity to view and photograph animals on foot is what, for me, makes Mana so special, and finding alternate destinations so tricky!
IMG_6734 by Whyone, on Flickr
IMG_6624 by Whyone, on Flickr
2R4C3427 by Whyone, on Flickr
IMG_6702 by Whyone, on Flickr
2R4C3361 by Whyone, on Flickr
2R4C3352 by Whyone, on Flickr
Fast asleep!
2R4C3587 by Whyone, on Flickr
Ear flapping in the breeze:
2R4C3585 by Whyone, on Flickr
River near Tricelia Camp
_MG_9503 by Whyone, on Flickr
Local resident:
2R4C3438 by Whyone, on Flickr
Juvenile 'undertaker' bird:
2R4C3197 by Whyone, on Flickr
Plenty of very healthy Eland in evidence:
2R4C3146 by Whyone, on Flickr
2R4C3647 by Whyone, on Flickr
2R4C3561 by Whyone, on Flickr
Waterbuck and Impala grazing next to the river:
2R4C3117 by Whyone, on Flickr
Ele's doing likewise:
2R4C3106 by Whyone, on Flickr
Reaching ele:
2R4C3414 by Whyone, on Flickr
2R4C3418 by Whyone, on Flickr
Sunset time:
_MG_9538 by Whyone, on Flickr
2R4C3193 by Whyone, on Flickr
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@@Whyone? Lovely collection of images particularly the young elephants. The Mana ellies are a constant source of pleasure I always think. Perhaps being followed by that bull was not on your original agenda but a great safari tale.


The lioness you saw with the black smudge below the left eye is part of the Mucheni pride and it looks as though the young males are with her. How nice you found some in the end. It looks to me as if the males can smell an in season female, but I am no expert.


One or two of your images have not posted properly. Hope you can edit and re insert.

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Lovely photos, I have so many great trip reports to catch up on which makes for enjoyable reading. Love the close ups of the elephants eating figs.

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@@Whyone? I actually haven't caught up with the rest of the report yet, but I love today's updates. It's really nice to see behind the scenes and thanks for sharing all that. Love these adventures.


The queslas shot is great, but there's lots of African eye candy here - you take some great photographs.


The lions are likely smelling pee - the Flehmen response. Either another lion's - or even their own and each other's scent (I have seen two male lions doing that a couple of times). I would imagine the extraordinarily long time spent on the activity is a personal quirk or because it is a favorite drip and sniff site that they haven't visited in a while. But that analysis is partially based on knowledege of domestic cats - definitely not a lion expert and there could be another scent. But if it were something like lion catnip, there should be other reactions too. Maybe you couldn't smell it because you already had (the scent had filled your nose before you started consciously sniffing for it) or it was old enough to not have that strong a scent to you, compared to all the other urine and scat smells around.


Now I'll go back and see what else I missed.

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Great series of photos

I love the one of the quelia - it really creates the feeling of a flock in motion

Very cute baby elephant! - lots of good sightings even if you didn't get dogs.

The lion behaviour reminded me of domestic cats as @@pault - it looks like the Flehmen response - again I am no lion expert!

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Ear flapping baby ele is adorable! And those topiary-trimming eland browsing in straight lines :)


Very enjoyable TR. Thanks for sharing.

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@@pault - thank-you for the interesting and helpful information about the Flehmen response. My 'new thing learned' for today! I guess this highlights one of the downsides to self-driving - we just bumble about looking at things without too much knowledge.


@@wilddog  yes, it is difficult to tire of watching ele's at Mana - and after 12 visits I am trying hard, but I still find them endlessly fascinating!


@@twaffle - thank you for your kind comments, having admired your photographs at great length, your encouraging comments mean a great deal.


@@TonyQ - I am pleased you like the photo of the Quelia - they were a very notable feature of Mana this year - I took a few photo's and nearly 'binned' that one, but at second glance, I quite liked the motion blur.


@@Sangeeta - it was great to find that little ele curled up asleep, almost like a domestic dog. Does anyone know when ele's get to the point they are no longer able to lie down?

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Wonderful trip report. Especially the 'walking with hyaenas' segment. Epic photos of them, especially with the lighting.

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@@Whyone? - I like all the photos, but the quelea are great - lucky for us it didn't end up in the bin! I am also jealous of the sunset photos.

The report itself is great too, and I love reading it as it such a different experience than I had, I find you brave walking around without a guide!


The plan B (rope and pulleys) reminds me of ''we'll make a plan'' - a phrase I heard a couple of times when in Mana Pools.

When I asked '' but what if something goes wrong'', or something similar, the answer was always ''we'll make a plan''

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@@Maki - you're absolutely right, "we'll make a plan" is a great Zimbabwean catchphrase, and very much sums up the positive, never-say-die mentality of people I feel.

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I can well believe it though I suspect it is more widespread in southern Africa, where Zim is the only country I have visited for any length of time. It is not a phrase I have heard in North Africa (Algeria, Libya, Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, or Sudan)

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Typically underwhelming mane? I'm seeing pictures of two young males. Yes, sometimes the hair on the manes for males that young is a little longer, but those are just young males. They have pink nose are pretty white and still sharp teeth. Added to that they have the typical mohawk of a young male, caused by the fact that the mane on the top of the head has grown, but the mane-hair between top of the head and ears hasn't brown yet.

Also no black seen in the mane, indicating a young fresh mane. And overall they look to be pretty small (shoulders, neck, head). I hope those three boys were born in that pride and still need to disperse.


Looks like you had a fantastic time there on the banks of the Zambezi. I've never been to Mana, but have watched it often from across!

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@@egilio you are of course quite right - they are young males, and I should give them a chance, but Mana male lions are renowned for not having very large manes - they get a little more impressive than these chaps, but not an awful lot!

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@@Whyone? So are lions from Luangwa and Tsavo. I just did a quick search on Flickr on Mana Pools male lions and the majority of the lions have indeed a small mane, but they're ALL young. There are a few with quite an impressive mane, and most of those actually also look youngish or prime age, I can only find one which is obviously 6+ and he has a good mane. I've seen some pretty impressive males just across the river in Lower Zambezi NP, and they came from Mana Pools...


@@wilddog do you have link to that picture/topic?

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@@egilio My trip report, unfinished but includes the Chikwenya Male to which former member refers. More to follow form the flood plain and Kanga.

Edited by Tdgraves
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Nice lion! Dark mane, no mohawk, sagging lower lips, big broad face, fur has lost some shine which makes his whiskerspots a bit less apparent, lower canines still quite sharp but seems to have lost a lower incisor, nose still has quite a bit of pink. I'd say a prime age guy, about 6-8 years old.

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  • 2 months later...

Loving this trip report @Whyone! Awesome footage of the hyena thief. We'll be staying at Mucheni 3 in September, can't wait! We will also stay at the BBC camp nearby as I couldn't decide which one I wanted :-)

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Hi @@cheetah80. Pleased to hear that you are enjoying this report.....I really do need to get around to writing a concluding section!


Both Mucheni 3 and BBC are beautiful camps - I am sure that you will love them both.


You may have picked up on my comments earlier in the report regarding the braai stand having collapsed into the river at Mucheni 3? Whilst it is possible that Parks will have built a new one before you visit, I wouldn't count on this and would recommend that you take cooking equipment with you. I would also highly recommend taking a simple, strong wire grill - we left a number of bricks at Mucheni 3, they will almost certainly still be there, and it is quite easy to build an effective braai with these basic materials.

Edited by Whyone?
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@Whyone, thanks for the heads up. It's not the first time something similar happened to us ... we are adept to improvise provided we find some bricks or stones around ;-) Incidentally when we were in Mana Pools last time we realized we had forgotten our wire grill in Zambia. No problem, we went to the mechanic garage in Nyamepi & they made a new one for us :-) Awesome people!

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Yes, you are absolutely right @@cheetah80 and that is a tip I keep forgetting to pass on to people - the guys at Nyamepi will make useful things out of nothing, and repair tyres you wouldn't think could be fixed! All for a very few $'s.

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  • 3 months later...
Morkel Erasmus

@@Whyone? loving this report, makes me miss Mana so bad.

interesting to see the Vine development, I guess we all want to hold on to the past but these things will follow the "money trail" in Africa time and again!


I was in Mana in July 2013 and the lions smashed a buffalo at 3am, 15 meters from the guys who were camping in Mucheni 3 at the time...needless to say the guys didn't sleep much after that, what with 14 lions feasting on a buff, folllowed and surrounded by a clan of hyenas :D

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Hi @@Morkel Erasmus. I am pleased that you are enjoying the report. The Vine development is a shame on several levels, but as you rightly say, money talks in Africa, just as it does in many other parts of the world. I still haven't heard that the camp is open for business - it is now pretty much 3 years since building began.


It sounds like the people at Mucheni 3 had an exciting time - I certainly wouldn't mind loosing a nights sleep if it meant being joined by 14 lions. However, it is the following days and nights which get a little more challenging, living with the remains of the buffalo on your doorstep!

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  • 8 months later...

A big thank you to all who have contributed to this thread - whilst planning my next trip I blundered across this happy clan. Give me time to read, mark, learn and inwardly digest and I'll get back to you. Many thanks once again.


Edited by bundu
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