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Maki
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After our safari in Zambia we were not sure where to go next, so many places to choose from. We had heard great things about Mana Pools, but were not sure about the logistics part and the safety as elections were coming up. The other options we were considering were South Tanzania (Selous/Ruaha) and North Tanzania (Serengeti/Ngorongoro Crater). During a presentation session organized by our TO there were three companies that provided more information regarding the countries we were interested in, Asilia, Selous Safari Company and Wilderness Safaris. The presentation of Asilia was mainly focused on the properties, and a little bit about their guiding. Selous Safari Company focused on combining the two parks and the luxury levels of their properties (the late start of game drives was also mentioned after questions from more seasoned travelers in the audience – I was not impressed). Wilderness Safaris focused on Botswana and a bit on Namibia, but we were interested in Zimbabwe, the representative was well prepared and shared information regarding Hwange, Mana Pools and the Mana Canoe trail.

 

We had heard about Mana Pools during our previous trip in Lower Zambezi NP, and loved the idea of canoeing from camp to camp for a couple of days – the Mana Canoe Trail. In addition, we were told that guides in Zimbabwe were among the best. There were direct flights available from Amsterdam to Harare and a charter flight to Mana Pools, so logistics were sorted. The only thing that worried us was the elections, and if it would not end up in violence as the previous time. I hoped all would go smooth for the people of Zimbabwe, but also for selfish reasons – I wanted to go Mana Pools! For me personally the Mugabe reign is not a reason not to visit Zimbabwe, but I understand people might feel differently.

 

We decided to spend the whole time in Mana Pools albeit in different areas to make the most of the experience. So we set on the following itinerary and hoped for the best regarding the situation in Zimbabwe.

 

Mana Pools - September 2013

 

Itinerary:

August 31 – Flight Amsterdam – Harare (KLM) – overnight stay at Amanzi Lodge

Sep 1 – Flight to Mana Pools (Altair) – Mana West airstrip

Sep 1 – 4 – Vundu Camp – Bushlife Safaris (owner run)

Sep 4 – 7 – Kanga Camp – African Bush Camps

Sep 7 – 9 – Ruckomechi Camp – Wilderness Safaris

Sep 9 – 12 – Mana Canoe Trail – Wilderness Safaris

Sep 12 – return home, evening flight from Harare to Amsterdam

 

We booked a private vehicle for the whole trip.

 

This itinerary changed slightly before our trip as Wilderness Safaris had decided to outsource their Mana Canoe trail to Bushlife Safaris for the 2013/2014 season. This was not an issue for us, as Bushlife safaris is known for their focus on guiding, and we would stay at one of their camps, namely Vundu.

 

The flight with KLM was fine and on time, which matters the most to me. Just before landing at Harare I saw bushfires, and I am not too keen on those due to the haze and the smell. Customs was terribly slow, we were second in line, but still waited for over 30 minutes, when we approached the officer informed us we needed to get our visa separately because we were not married.. For heaven’s sake… Eventually we got our visa, collected our luggage, and tried to find our names on one of the signs of the transfer companies. Someone was waiting to collect us, and when got outside I could smell the bushfires…

The transfer to the Amanzi lodge for our overnight stay took about 30 minutes, as it was dark I couldn’t see much of the area, but I was surprised to see so many cars.

The Amanzi lodge is lovely, check-in was a breeze and in no time we were sitting in the garden with an amarula for me and a zambezi for him… it was good to be back in Africa!

 

The next morning we had a flight to Mana West which took an hour and a half. Due to the haze we could barely see anything – such a shame because I like to have a look! I made a note to myself to get noise cancelling headphones (these small planes are noisy!) and motion sickness pills for the next trip.

 

We arrived in Mana Pools around 1 in the afternoon, our guide was waiting for us at the airstrip to take us to our first camp – Vundu. I immediately liked the down to earth feeling at Vundu, the tent was comfortable, and you had everything you needed. There was in room charging which was great and something that we did not have at the other camps.

 

In the afternoon we left for a drive and a short walk, but it was rather uneventful, the aim was to find lions which were in the area the day before, but we could not locate them. We were about to leave and then we heard a rooooaar close by… but we had to go, no night drives in Mana Pools.

Edited by Maki
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Another Mana report, looking forward to this particularly as I enjoyed your last report so much.

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@@Big Andy - Thanks!

 

@@Dam2810 - I'll try to post some videos of the canoe trail later on

 

Edited by Maki
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The poor fellow must have said ‘’knock knock’’ twenty times before we woke up. This only happens to me on the first day. I am not a morning person, but surprisingly enough I have no problem waking up early when on safari. It only takes me about 15 minutes to get ready, as I have prepared everything the night before. So I am usually the first to arrive for breakfast. Not because I am hungry, but ready to go!

 

It wasn’t as warm as I expected it to be, especially in the mornings. It was very windy, which I had not expected either.

 

Dutch people are obsessed with the weather...

 

We drove towards the floodplain, close to Mucheni, it was dry and dusty.

 

But as a contrast the wild mango was pretty and so were the sausage trees with the beautiful flowers.

 

 

We stopped for a walk, to see what was going on, we saw impala, kudu, warthog, eland, elephants, the usual suspects.

 

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Our guide heard an alarm call from a baboon but could not pinpoint the reason for the call… the other animals weren’t alarmed at all. We walked around a bit, heard the alarm call once more, but saw nothing. So we decided to go back to the vehicle.

 

 

 

 

This is what I loved about Mana Pools, you just get out of the vehicle whenever and wherever you like, and walk …

 

We were just about to get in the vehicle, when I saw a nice looking elephant bull.

 

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The guide said we should follow him for a while, I had no idea why, but we were soon to find out.

We had hoped to see this… A Mana Pools special … It was Handstand!

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Another great thing about Mana Pools, you get so close to the animals, it such an amazing feeling that I can hardly describe it. It is wild, it’s scary, exciting, wonderful, relaxing, interesting, magical, all of it at the same time and more. We had done walks before, but they seemed tame compared to this!

I was a bit more into birding this time, even brought a book with me – Sasol birds of Southern Africa - so I could identify them.

The below one was easy to identify, even for me, plenty of them around in Mana Pools, red billed hornbill:

 

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We went for another walk, you better like walking in Mana Pools, there are not that many road tracks. We walked for a bit and found a dazzle of zebra. I learned some collective nouns during this trip, I hardly knew them in Dutch let alone in English, but more about collective nouns later.

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Surprising how their black and white stripes work as camouflage.

The below picture was taken on our way back to camp, I enjoyed seeing elephants, impala, and zebra in the same area, there must have been baboons around as well, but just not in this picture:

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Edited by Maki
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@@Maki loving this report and your pictures; and you managed to see Handstand (also known as Boswell) doing what he does best. A special elephant. I am really looking forward to reading more when you have time.

 

Welcome to the Manatics club. :)

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@@wilddog - Thanks! Handstand/Boswell is very special, it was a great experience. You and @@Whyone? - one of the real Manatics - inspired me to post some videos...

(Just need to check the instructions on how to post them)

Edited by Maki
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Well that seems to work very nicely @@Maki

 

Enjoying your report very much.

 

I particularly empathise with your observation of how well Zebra's stripes work - it is not until you see them in the African buch that they make any kind of sense!

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The siestas at Vundu camp are short, just the way I like them. There was no rigid system in which you had to be back by a certain time for lunch, I liked this flexibility a lot, lunch was served when you got back.

 

On our afternoon drive we went back to the floodplain, our guide was determined to find why the baboon was making the alarm calls earlier in the morning. I say afternoon drive, but we drove to the floodplain and then walked the rest of the time.

 

We saw Handstand again in the distance…

 

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And then the guide said, ‘’look lion cubs’’, we were too far away for me to spot them, but with some additional instructions and binos I managed to see them. It must be frustrating sometimes for guides to explain where the sighting exactly is.

 

The cubs were being naughty as there mum had left them in the adrenaline grass, and they had left to explore a bit…

We thought there were 3 cubs, but knew there had to be four in this pride. We couldn’t see one at first, as he looked like a log (just between the termite mound and tree).

 

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The lions were not there, so we walked around in the area to try and find them, because they had to be around somewhere.

 

First we saw some more elephants, impala, and waterbuck, but still no lions. We also saw a large grey mongoose, which I had never seen before (never heard of before either).

 

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Than we saw Nick Murray, owner of Vundu camp, with other guests sitting under a tree, they had found the lions. We joined them briefly as the lions were not active.

 

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Later on we saw the usual suspects, and also some eland. I enjoyed seeing eland, as this was the first time to see them so close, beautiful animals.

 

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Nice lion sighting @@Maki - I know exactly the spot!

 

We really struggled to see lions this year - we heard them every night, but speaking to other people (including guides) it was clear they were ranging further inland than is usual at this time of year and proving somewhat elusive.

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@@Maki

Loving this report. Handstand is amazing - stretching so hig

You give a great flavour of the attraction of Mana Pools - words and photos

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@@Whyone? - I'll post some more pictures of that area in a bit. It's very pretty and nice for walking.

We did see lions, and we heard them a lot too. But no walking with hyenas for me though!

 

@@TonyQ - Thanks! Handstand is indeed amazing, very special sighting.

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Close to Vundu Camp

 

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Car park view

 

Below the area were we were walking in when we saw the lion cubs

 

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This is were the lion cubs were...

Edited by Maki
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What a good itinerary, getting all around Mana Pools plus canoeing. You witnessed a signature Mana Pools sight very early on, the standing elephant! Looking forward to yet another Mana Immersion!

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I think ST should have a camp just for us in Mana. Loving the report @@Maki :)

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@@Maki Nice that you captured the elephant rumbling in your video. Looking forward to seeing more.

 

Lovely landscape shots too.

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Life has interrupted my writing but hopefully another section next week. However this does help with keeping the Mana TRs' in chronological order. ;)

 

Apoligies for intrusion on your TR @@Maki.

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@@wilddog - no worries. We are all eager to find out if you have seen the dogs....

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The weather was very different than I expected it to be. I thought it would be very warm, but it wasn’t, maybe due to the wind. It was dusty as expected though. Today it was overcast, also a bit colder, but that turned out to be better for us as we would be spending our whole day in the bush. Anyway, enough about the weather.

 

We were very eager to see wild dogs, one of my favourites, but had not seen any yet, plenty of tracks, people who had seen them, just not us. Hopefully we would have more luck today.

 

When we left camp early in the morning, again fresh tracks were seen, but no sign of the wild dogs.

We stopped briefly at the car park, I really like that view – despite the haze caused by the bushfires in Zambia.

 

We saw another vehicle a bit further down, and I was always a bit curious when I saw another vehicle – if they had stopped for a walk or had spotted something. This vehicle belonged to a self-driver, we approached them very slowly and then we saw what they had stopped for. Dogs!! But they were on the move, the self-driver was running after them, trying to keep up with the dogs with a camera in his hand…

We decided to make a turn, drive back and then walk to see if we could see the dogs passing. We tried and failed, we only saw two dogs from a 100 meter distance… the last ones of that pack running back to their den. Two dogs was still better than nothing…

 

When we got back to the vehicle, Nick called in a sighting of lions with a kill. They do not normally use the radio, but when the fresh wild dog tracks were spotted it was decided to turn it on in case someone spotted the dogs, we just forgot to turn it off again.

The sighting of the lion kill (young elephant) was the only one were there were a couple of vehicles, we decided have a quick look and come back later in the afternoon as the lions would not be going anywhere and hopefully most vehicles would have left by then.

 

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The pride with their kill

 

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The cubs were the only ''active'' ones

 

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''Maneless'' lion

 

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Time for a walk! We hadn’t seen anything in particular, but just wanted to have a look around. We developed a bit of an interest for birds, and we heard a woodpecker but couldn’t find it, we were so focused on finding the woodpecker that we didn’t notice a young elephant, but he was hiding a bit…

 

http://youtu.be/7tkyUr3K9Ec

 

Apologies for the zooming, I bought the video camera just before we left, so could not practise.

Change the video quality to HD when watching.

 

Amazing how elephants can sneak up behind you like that

 

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Close to an elephant, but safe behind a big log

 

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Elephant ''hiding''

 

We also saw this beautiful kudu

 

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@@Maki

Good video - it is amazing how elephants can hide! And the Kudu is beautiful

(I see you have gone seasonal as well!)

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That first bit of the video with just the trunk showing is a reminder how the freedom of walking in Mana can put you in a tricky situation. He looks very chiled tho'; obviously well mannered.

Lovely experience.

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