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An Adventure through Botswana and Zimbabwe, September 2014 - by Safaridude and Game Warden - Part 2, Zimbabwe


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@@Game Warden



Excellent writing and photographs - the combination is working really well. I can imagine I am there as I sit looking at the cold rain outside my window. (Maybe a Gin and Tonic would help?)

The stretching dog photo is beautiful - but so is the whole place.

As you say in the description of the camp - what more do you want?

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@@Game Warden and @Safaridude: Just catching-up with the report about this fabulous journey, need some time to digest... Love the Hwange and especially the Mana Pools photos! What an adventure, what a beauty!

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From one extreme to the other, the eastern boundary of Mana Pools, a wilderness area where few tourists venture as the wildlife density is lower and harder to see. A cobbled together pontoon comprised of tree trunks straggles across a dry river bed. Benson edges our vehicle gingerly across. From here on in we see no other vehicles. Maybe the dogs have made is this far? It's our intention to see. The flora is much different here, thick scrub, bushes, visibility from the road won't be easy. An elephant stands guard to our right: it's not Boswell nor Big Vic but still fine enough to warrant us pausing momentarily to admire him.


Up in front, dust clouds swirl over the road. We've disturbed a huge herd of buffalo which stretches from right to left over the track, heading towards the river. The bushes open up, they've been well browsed little more than stripped sticks protruding from the dusty soil. We nudge forward. The herd bolts quickly then stops on a sixpence. Turns to look at us enveloped in a dusty haze. We do this a couple of times - their reaction is always the same. Closer to us a large family of banded mongoose scatter and regroup. I've been too busy looking up, foward: sometimes one needs to look down to see the action. Benson points out dog tracks in the sand. They are heading back the way we've just come - we aren't going to see them here. So he takes the decision to swing round: we are in an area devestated by elephants, everything trampled down, heavily browsed, trees leaning to the side or pushed over. It's a post apocalyptic scene and is reminiscent of old photos from Tunguska.


As we cross the bridge we pass @@Gregg Robinson coming the other way. We'd met the day earlier, walking in on a pride of lions. He'd called across to me, "Matthew?" coming up and giving me a bearhug. I'd not been wearing the pith at that moment having left it in the car but perhaps the beard is unmistakable, even in an area where soup catchers might be considered de rigueur. He wasn't the first to recognise me thus: Benson couldn't believe it, how many people knew me having never met me before. Gregg is a big jovial chap: it's a shame we didn't have more time, I know that we'd have got on very well. We'd bump into him a number of times in Mana Pools, driving or at sightings - we shared a particularly excellent buffalo sighting one morning, just us, him and a huge herd beneath the trees filtered sunrise illuminating them, kicking up dust which appeared as an orange haze. "The best buff sighting you'll ever have." he said and it was. It was a shame we never got to have that mug of tea. Next time Gregg...

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Two things stand out for me from Mana Pools even now I'm back home and compiling this report from snatched sentences scribbled in a note pad at the time - the first is that wonderful light both in the morning and evening filtering through the tree canopies, sun beams creating the Magic of Mana - the sense that one could be driving/walking through an English country park in the autumn with its chesnut trees and oaks and silver birch. Wildlife filled vistas framed between glowing tree trunks. The other, perhaps more strongly so, the strong fragrance of something like Jasmine - it was stronger mornings and evenings. Perfumed game drives is how I can describe my time in Mana Pools. I could list the wildlife, every encounter, the conversations, the lions, the dogs but it was the lighting, it was the smell from the forest which transports me back.


The 'dudes mission: antelope, to record some of the great steroid eland on his memory card - I didn't want to limit his opportunities and thus chose an afternoon to be alone in camp and reflect upon the trip so far. Zimbabwe is the most spectacular destination to go on safari and with what I had seen so far, everything is on track for a tourism recovery. Already visitor numbers are growing exponentially: Zim was once the hot ticket, it's on track to becoming so again. At least I hope. I waved the 'dude off with one proviso: I didn't want to hear about his sightings. My afternoon was spent in the warm glow of gin and tonics: wildlife came to me - I watched it all from the dining table where my note pad was open but a constant interuption resulted in a distinct lack of words flowing. Mucheni 4 had its resident kudu bulls and eland which stayed in sight across the four days we were there. This afternoon was no different. Sometimes I watched them through the binos, sometimes I had no need so close they approached. Zebra, baboons - elephants approached so close: I stood watching them all. I scuffed the dust with my foot and observed in which direction it blew. I was concious at all time of my own safety. A leopard had been heard with its sawing cough in the morning, lions: none were seen in camp during the day and thus I felt secure to move around within its boundaries. I took a chair out to the promontory, a big glass of sundowner juice, despite sundown still being a while off. Camp staff came out to the dining table, looked across, waved. I waved back, I'm fine I said, always conscious, always visually checking in a circle around me: it was a minute's walk from my tent. To my right side, the Zambezi, islands, water, Zambia and the mountains, the great river winding its way past me. Hippos ever present. Ahead, flood plains, I saw a walking group upon them, another team setting out in canoes. The current a constant movement. The sun, slowly setting up above the mountains ahead. The most amazing colours becoming more vivid as the afternoon drifted by. It was another day in Africa, but for me it was one of the best and most calming moments of my life. Fish eagles cried out - I only lacked my wife to share this time with to make it super special. I thought of her and my children, finished the drink and through my binos saw the fiery ball of sun slip behind the horizon: I could make out each individual tree backlit on the mountain top. It wouldn't be long till the 'dude would be back...

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The 'dude's description of a walk in experience is dead on. We could have set out on foot from camp everyday and walked a great circuit through the park but I doubt whether this would have suited our photographic intentions. And, carrying a lot of kit would have made this a tiring way of enjoying our stay. Thus, whenever we saw something of interest, it was time to grab a hat, gear, rifle and go. By this stage I was able to call a Kudu at 100 metres: and I spotted a real Mana Pools giant, a powerful eland shimmering blue with rippling muscles, the Arnie we'd been seeking out. Click click click went his knees as he walked slowly along. We knocked fists - this was the best eland we'd seen, close by two ground hornbills strode about and started their booming calls, it echoed through the forest like something out of pre history: I was transported to a place in which fairy tales blended with folk stories, where one must not stray from the path on the way to grandma's house. This enchanted forest which glowed.


Perhaps the sighting of the trip were the lion brothers, (of course, then there were the dogs, the buffalo charge which I'll come to later...): I know the 'dude has shared his photos in a prior post but I'll try and describe it to the best of my ability. It was the morning when we'd explored the eastern end of the park - we were returning back to base at Mucheni 4, a slow drive in. We'd seen vultures in a tree, on the ground, there was something there and we got out to investigate. An impala carcass, fresh - if it had been lying here any longer there any longer than a couple of hours surely there would have been scavengers other than the dark shadow of vultures spectating from the trees and creeping up nervously. At our approach they flapped back, annoyed by our presence. Eye sockets devoid of eyes were dark hollows - that is how far the vultures had fed. There was nothing to say this was a kill, no bite marks. We'd have expected a leopard to have tree'd this due to the lions. And nothing would have scared lions from their prize. Should we have waited? Maybe. But it was hot, we were exposed. Nothing was happening. As we left the vultures flaped back down as if wrapping the scene in a black cape. Approaching the car we heard something: a hyena loped out from the bushes and ran across the road. Dogs? It was our invitation to stay longer.


Snorting impala, noises from the bushes, we crossed a dry pool the mud beneath our boots cracked. The remains of a fish eagle, a spread tattered wing and feathers. Movement. A lion, there. We sank down immediately to our knees - he was moving in the direction in which we had driven. Benson said to be quiet and we moved off: keeping the male in sight, he's far enough ahead so we have to trott to keep up with him. He's ragged, ribby, a tan sack covering a jumble of bones looks to be starved: he really is in poor condition which doesn't make sense; we are in a prey species parardise. He turns right - he's making for the impala Benson says. Suddenly movement behind us, there's another male, they are converging in an arrow head formation upon the carcass, we are in the middle of them, the dead impala ahead. The movement of all the vultures has clued them in: they know something's there. We maintain our distance. Momentarily we were hemmed in on both sides and it was a nervous second or two but they weren't interested in us, perhaps had not yet seen us so focused were they. It was in fact the second lion behind which snatched up the carcass, we'd tracked the first too far and now he doubled back upon the other: he was running off with legs dangling from his jaws, kicking up dust with a stance saying It's mine... The first lion took up pursuit and we dropped back to a safer distance but followed their progress: there was to be a noisy stand off...

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The two lions in a determined tug of war dragged the carcass up to a ridge: it allowed us to approach close, our vantage point from a termite mound perhaps 20 metres from them - we'd nudged closer over a period of minutes, with Benson assessing the situation every time we stopped and crouched: this was as far as we'd go. And it was perfect. Benson gave me his camera, there was @@Safaridude and I firing off simultaneously from a slightly different angle. The younger of the two lions, the one in much better condition had the carcass in a death grip round its neck. Ensuring it really was dead... He shuffled up and on top of its chest, it was HIS, he wasn't going to share. It may well have been his prize, yet the scraggy old bagobones lion settled at the rear of the impala and began eating his way forward. All the time, the other was not letting go, giving it up, sitting tight: was he even aware that his prize was diminishing behind him as the other fed. There's a video on Youtube, "Dog Bites Own Leg" - I won't embed it here so as not to disrupt the narrative flow, but in the video, the dog thinks that his leg is trying to steal his bone and snaps at it. Well, this is exactly what the scenario is like here, the male protecting his kill every now and then snapping back at the other which is stealing by stealth, eating his way forward. Growls, snarls, tense bodies, teeth barred, clickclickclickclick go our shutters. Eventually it becomes too much and both stand and fight over what is left. A ferocious fight kicking up dust all canine teeth and drool, snaps and growls roars, paws lashing out. Manic. Mayhem - they each pull on the carcass, it splits in half and both fall back as if in a comic strip. Each now with a portion, they scuffle a bit more then drag bloodied remains into the bushes. The 'dude and I wipe sweat from brows and stand finally brushing off dirt and leaves and termites etc. In Mana Pools, this was a lion sighting and it had been ours alone. Letting out long loud sighs, it was like we hadn't taken breaths, I think even Benson was impressed. It was time to walk back to the vehicle and drive back to camp for lunch...

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@@Game Warden - what brilliant narration! .......... Enjoyed every bit of it!!!

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We'd barely finished lunch when one of the other guides came to our table and told us about the dogs: some of Humphrey's other guests were already with them, Could we go, take the others with us? It was our last full day, tomorrow we'd fly out, it might be our only chance to see them. Let's go and we hurriedly clambered into the car, met the others who hopped aboard and off we went to find the dogs. We found them past the Park HQ out towards Mana Mouth - part of the other group were already hunkered down in front of the pack which was very relaxed. The 'dude and I split from the others to get our own perspective on them but the sighting wasn't that great. Together we were now in three groups, but Benson and I noticed a dagga boy approaching from the right: we whistled, signalled, he was getting closer to those sitting. But the dogs had seen him too - the alpha stood barked and the pack were up and off, trotting towards him. The old dagga turned and ambled into the bushes, the dogs followed: it would be something to see them take him on but it was unlikely - it was one hell of a dagga boy. Dogs, with their patterns soon blend and disappear and so they did bar for the fading sounds of crashing through the undergrowth. The other group had not yet started lunch and it was already three, so off they went leaving the 'dude, Benson and I to search the dogs out again. It didn't take long.


I consider myself to have been very lucky with wild dog sightings previous to Mana Pools: in Laikipia, Limpopo Lipadi with @@Bugs, even a few days prior to this in Hwange, and here now another great few hours spent with this pack. As @@Safaridude explains in an earlier post, over time, we'd scuffed closer to them. Edging foward on bellies in an army style crawl, or rubbing the chalfonts as we scooted nearer on butts; we gained their trust and every approximation like the Weeping Angels from Dr. Who, every time they looked back to us so we were a couple of metres closer. Just us. Just Benson. Just the dogs. Every now and then Benson would draw my attention to an elephant on the periphery but he was no threat, just crunching away on low hanging leaves. And so we continued to photograph the pack, I was clinging to Benson's camera: firing off some great captures even the 'dude would be proud off. I can picture me doing this all the time to be honest. Just need the kit now. And to be living on Safari nine tenths of the year...


Suddenly, Benson's pulling us back with harsh whispered warning. Dagga Boy behind us, the same chap from earlier which had spooked the dogs before. And he was grumpy. It was clear there was an issue with us, Benson gripped his rifle differently, you could see from his demeanour this was no drill. Get up the termite mound, NOW - he wasn't joking, drop the cameras he ordered and there was some urgency in his voice and his actions. I did as I was told, and whilst the 'dude extracted himself from his pack and kit, I took the advantage and shinned up this thing, like those fellows who climb palm trees to cut down coconuts. I was making love to the termite mound and I reached its peak in short time, great chunks of it crumbling away in my hands: the thing was at least twice my height, maybe 3 times - I was at the pinnacle and ever protective of the pith perched it atop the summit. The 'dude was pulling himself up to my level but there were precious few handholds remaining: he was left with his face at the level of my crotch. Lucky for him I wasn't wearing the mankini...


The old dagga was snorting about, scuffing the ground, literally checking each place in which we'd crouched and sat: I think he was sniffing round where my butt crack had been and it was really pissing him off... he could smell something, but not see us, we were just part of the termite mound, even though it was crumbling away under my grip. Scuffing in the dust like a bull ready to fight in a Spanish ring, he was going to charge us. Benson was telling us to just hold on tight. Termites were leaving home quickly, out in stream from holes in the dirt onto my hands and nipping on my skin. My feet trying to gain traction in the powdery soil, demolishing more of the mound. And with drooling nose slavering chops so the dagga came closer still and I'd be standing on the 'dude's shoulders soon if he got any closer...


Then, quickly as the threat had started, so it was finished. With one last snuff and grunt he scuffed the floor and lumbered off into the bushes defeated. Thanks to the smell my butt had left: he'd been not more than 30 metres from us perhaps. It was exciting stuff. Safari dreaming. I took a deep breath just as the termite mound gave way in my hands and I slid down the damn thing to collapse in a jellied state at the bottom... my pith was still safe at the top.


I've no idea what the dogs had thought, they were still there lying down so we resumed our positions and snuck up even closer upon them. I'm using another termite mound which has been built up and over a stunted tree so it becomes a makeshift tripod. As the light starts fading, (and another couple of photographers join sat on the other side of the pack), so we get the best photos. And it's then the bees start stinging me. Ow fu*k, fu*k, fu*k off and I'm starting to flap around and smack myself and really am disturbing the peace. The 'dude looks over with a less than friendly expression on his face, the other photographers are looking at me like I'm a dick - it's time to go Benson signals... Now, we'd rushed out so quickly I just had on a pair of old flip flops: the soles had started to split, thorns had penetrated the rubber and were digging into my feet pin pricks of blood spotting my skin - it would be a long, painful and certainly interesting trip back to camp eh @@Safaridude?

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I've missed out one of the better sightings from the whole trip - how remiss of me and it happened in camp at Mucheni 4 just after lunch one day.



Thanks to @@Safaridude for capturing the moment. @@Soukous, his wife and group dropped in to see us and it was great to hook up with him again following prior encounters in London and Milan. He of course got to meet the 'dude who offered much more inspired conservation conversation than I ever could... Soukous wasn't a bad in-camp sighting but I have to say he was trumped by the resident leopard who we later saw between the tents that evening...

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This Malarone drives me crazy. There was a time I actually thought I was going mental until I read on the internet that side effects of Malarone include vivid dreams and sleeplessness. I am a lucky recipient of both afflictions. My dreams go bizarre and haywire in the African bush, and I suffer from a strange sleeplessness thing in which I wake up in the middle of the night unsure if I just woke up from a bizarre dream or… if it was real. Then, I am unable to fall back asleep, but hours later when the wake-up coffee is being delivered, I wonder if I did fall back asleep… or not.


The following, I think, really happened. Though I am not 100% positive. Maybe it was just a bizarre dream. But then again, I am pretty sure it happened. Heck, I don’t know. You decide.

With apologies to Melville and the Fab Four then, I present…





Trophy Nick




The Eland



Call me Safaridude. Some weeks ago, I thought I would travel around a little to Africa. What finer place to begin exploring the Dark Continent than the mighty Zambezi? Having little or no money in my purse, I joined the crew of Bigquad, which was to journey down the River to a place called Quad Pools. Thar on Bigquad I met a grand, ungodly, god-like man named Captain Rehab, resplendent with round, pale headgear and a flowing beard.



Captain Rehab


Rehab appeared on the deck one day with fire in his breath. He spoke not of Bigquad’s voyage and the exploration of Quad Pools, but of his planned revenge – against an eland that broke one of Rehab’s toes during Rehab’s ill-fated trophy hunt. Recruit capable and hungry men for a personal score-settling quest. What trickery! Though, I must admit I became entranced by Rehab’s single-minded pursuit of his quarry and the quarry itself, Trophy Nick.


Bigquad docked at Quad Pools at a place called Mucheni Four. I tell you, it was beautiful – wild country crawling with pachyderms and big cats, various fowl swooping about. But Rehab would have none of it. He would only gaze at the distant woodland, scowling and in bad temper. He told of his plan to take the best men of Bigquad into the woodland the next morning. The first one to spot Trophy Nick would be rewarded with a doubloon, but the decisive blow would be his only.


If he hadn’t lost his mind already, he certainly did on the eve of the fray. Rehab would put his head between the jaws of a dead hippo, screaming, “indestructible, I, Rehab!” Later, Rehab would be seen pacing the riverfront in his battledress, strange green cloth barely covering his loins. The bevy of quadrupeds and fowl fled in horror at the sight, and many of the crew bowed out of the mission.



"Indestructible, I, Rehab!"




Strange battledress




Deep in thought on the eve of revenge


On the morning of battle, Rehab adorned his beard with flowers of combretum Trophy Nick surely couldn’t resist. These flowers might attract many different elands, but Rehab recounted that during his skirmish with Trophy Nick, Rehab did damage to Trophy Nick’s knees. A loud clicking sound from the knees would betray Trophy Nick from that moment on. The unmistakably large dewlap aside, the “click, click, click” would announce his presence.



Rehab adorned his beard with flowers of combretum...


Hours into the hot, dusty trek, a flash of big tawny dewlap, spiraling horn and “click, click, click”… “The doubloon is mine”, Rehab declared. Mad with excitement now, Rehab charged Trophy Nick with his gun. “Click”. Oh, the horror! No, it wasn’t Trophy Nick’s knee. It was Rehab’s muzzleloader. Jammed, it wouldn’t fire at point blank. A robust pair of horns leading a swift and violent swinging of the head, and it was over. Rehab would be no more. There he lay motionless, with Trophy Nick relishing the combretum flowers off his beard, vultures circling aloft.



A flash of big tawny dewlap, spiraling horn and click, click, click...




A robust pair of horns leading a swift and violent swinging of the head...




Captain Rehab no more


What happens now to Safaritalk, I ask. Surely there would be panic. Fess up, only to have Safaritalk fade out of existence? Nay! Better deceitful. Twin brother, Mitt Wilkinson, is the answer. Mitt can be taught to play left-handed.


Here’s another clue for you all, the walrus was Matt.


No more live appearances then. No more GTGs. Mitt will operate only out of his kitchen with a laptop. His posts will seem less lucid and less intelligent than his twin brother’s, but blame it on long-term fever drug-induced damage. Nobody will suspect anything. Fiendish!


Cranberry sauce

Edited by Game Warden
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I come home to an Ebola scare in the U.S. Friends, colleagues and neighbors jokingly suggest my being in quarantine for three weeks. Some are truly curious as to why I do what I do. I explain that on this trip, among other things, I walked right up to a bull elephant to observe him close-up and spent three hours sitting with a pack of wild dogs. “What were they doing?” “Oh, they were mostly asleep for the three hours.” “Watched them sleeping for three hours?”


Most of them don’t get it… they think I am nuts to travel to the “Ebola continent” just to sit and watch some animals sleeping. A spiritual imbibement to one is a pointless trifle to another, I suppose. They wonder why I am so interested in the conservation issues of a continent so far away. I reply that it’s our obligation. I am not sure if any of that really registers. But it’s not that I am superior, you see… what I am is lucky… privileged, in fact, to be able to find something spiritual in every aspect of our ancestral continent. You the reader know exactly what I am talking about.


I began this missive (in the Botswana section: http://safaritalk.net/topic/13350-an-adventure-through-botswana-and-zimbabwe-september-2014-by-safaridude-and-game-warden-part-1-botswana/) with the words, misery, misery, misery. Misery, really? No way. Gratitude.

Edited by Safaridude
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Brilliant. Thank you for your generosity in sharing your reflections and photos once again.

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One of the best reads I've had anywhere for some time.


A robust pair of horns leading a swift and violent swinging of the head, and it was over.


reminds me of an incident which took place when I was on a game farm in Namibia. A game relocation team was was rounding up some elands and sending them through a narrow passage onto a truck. As each one went through tubes were slipped over their horns to prevent them from damaging each other during the road journey to another farm. One of the handlers was leaning across to place a tube when a "violent swinging of the head" pierced his chest and the horn came out the other side. Amazingly the horn missed all his major organs and he survived needing only a spell in hospital. Thereafter he was known to all as Kebab!

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Days have no meaning on safari; hours less so. I never wear a watch anyway but the rut of one’s life keeps time whether you wish it to or not. Alone, in the wilderness one can be disconnected: no contact home, no internet or 24 hour a day news channels, thus the weeks blend together seamlessly, there are no weekdays nor weekends. Just safari days. The bomb could drop and you wouldn’t find out till later… I don’t want to know how far into this trip I am, nor when it will end and have forgotten already when it started and yet here in Mana Pools, during quiet moments of reflection, I start to miss my wife, children. As much as @@Safaridude is a great and learned companion and Benson has become my friend, nothing feels more important to me than being wrapped in the comfort zone of my family’s embrace, as much as I joke about staying on safari for the rest of my life. But when I ask the ‘dude how many days left and he replies still a few it’s hard to fathom. It’s like I’ve been here forever. I’m part of Africa itself. But I know that soon will it all be over, I’ll be boarding a plane which takes me back to reality, back to an existence of routine: one where the walls close in around me and no matter how much I try to climb out, I never can. Breathe Matthew. Count each breath, in, out – absorb everything, live and love where you are right now. For soon all this will be but a dream, a malarone hangover. And thus during the time remaining I opened my eyes more and let Zimbabwe burn its own images upon my retinae.


I reclined in the camp chair with the fire warming my legs, shoes and socks kicked off - the ‘dude had not yet joined me before dinner and thus in the early night hours my vision was cloaked by the darkness, the flame curtain in front the extent of my view. Beyond the might Zambezi splashing its way past as it always had, would. A line from a Jim Morrison/Doors song comes to mind - Wandering, wandering in hopeless night, Out here in the perimeter there are no stars, Out here we is stoned. Immaculate. Being in Mana Pools at night one truly feels to be on the periphery of existence: the very edge where emotions are ragged and the history of humankind exists in this millisecond and one is hemmed in by the rawness of nature: here at night God does not exist as a person: as a great bearded being of light. Here at night Zimbabwe is God. The river is God. The hippos are God. The tree canopy above me is God. Smoke curling up from the flames is God. Nature surrounds me in a tight straitjacket embrace. Nature is God. The Goddess. And nature it is we must revere.


A bowl of warm popcorn had been served, my torch illuminating a circle on the ground. I dropped some by accident, things always get caught within my beard and don’t make it into mouth. I brushed them away and they bounced into the dust at my feet. Minutes later I looked down: there was another world in motion at a level far removed from this sensory overload explosion which forms a Mana Pools safari. Ants had formed an orderly queue to the crumbs – they were busy cutting the popcorn up into manageable chunks with their mandibles, carrying it away with army like precision. I dropped a couple more pieces and within moments so had a new team arrived to investigate. Millipedes weaved around the obstruction: the ants harried them, nipped at them but something was attracting them, it was the food – were they smelling it? Tasting it in the air? Seeing it? If so what did it look like to them? But they knew, as did the ants - it was something good. Spiders came out from under leaves, other nameless insects crawled and scurried in from under the fallen tree – there was a whole society functioning at a micro level in the night, one which we’d never see unless we took time to open our eyes and look down, really see. Until now, I’d not seen: there was so much more to safari. The ‘dude and Benson joined me: they ribbed me about interacting with the wildlife, to stop habituating them to a human presence. To stop feeding the animals. Perhaps they were right.


The last night was the most intense thus far, hippos fighting throughout on the bankside so close and every time I drifted off so I’d be snapped back into awareness, honking, screeching, growling, grunting: it did not stop. I wanted it to but in a few days time I knew I’d be missing the sound. At the time however it was really a drag and I flew on a malarone magic carpet ride through a night of kaleidoscopic dreams and snatched seconds of sleep. I’d never needed strong coffee more than I did that morning.


Every time for goodbyes I felt a real sense of regret of having to leave: at Camp Hwange, at Little Mak and now with Humphrey at Mucheni 4. A lot of big bearded hugs for him and his staff – I’d had the most fantastic time. I knew how difficult it would be bidding farewell to the ‘dude and Benson, but the time had come – I think perhaps they were fed up with me and mirroring my sentiments, perhaps their own feelings were drawn to families, the long flight home, returning to life. In fact Benson was already talking of his next safari in a few days time. Was it with another of our Safaritalk family? I can’t be sure.


I wouldn’t have changed a thing at Mucheni 4, nor asked for more. It was the perfect site, the perfect bush camp for me – it was my ideal of camping in the wild. Each place was different, each great in its own way, of course, the previous two properties were of a higher luxury, comfort, but as much as this bearded old fellow appreciates those luxuries, all he needs is just a cot in which to sleep, a bucket shower to refresh, a canvas hand basin to wash and soak tee shirts and a long drop toilet in which to do long drops… I’d return to each camp in a heartbeat, to Zimbabwe, it felt to me that Hwange and I had unfinished business and Mana Pools, well, Mana Pools? It felt like Safaritalk’s home. So many of us have been here, so many would follow in my footsteps – there was a little of each of us, our passion and love deposited here on the Zambezi floodplains.


The drive out to Mana West airstrip was not an anti-climax. Nothing in Mana is understated. Despite the feeling that everything was coming to an end and our trip was over. Bags packed, everything put away, camera’s tucked up only the bare essentials to hand. We witnessed another dog pack and a failed chase as they bolted off into the woods: we heard something but then they came lolling back out dejected. Not to worry, there was so much food for them here… If I come away with one disappointment it was to have not seen Boswell. I’d stayed in camp the afternoon the ‘dude had witnessed him from a distance but I think everyone expects to meet him up close, standing on two legs as if performing. He is part of Mana’s magic atmosphere, even with the clunky collar now round his neck. We didn’t see Boswell but Big Vic passed us by and stopped to feed, stretching out and up in an elephant’s yoga asana. Benson stopped the vehicle: switched off the ignition. Big Vic was so close he was almost leaning against us. One could hear his teeth grinding, the passage of food bolus as it swept down his oesophagus, hear his stomach rumbling, gurgling, one could hear him fart. Smell him fart. Feel the gust… Big Vic was seeing us off in his own way. We’d never get closer to any elephant than him. Even as we reached the airstrip so was Benson still tracking, the spoor of another wild dog pack was in evidence, they had passed this way this morning.




We waited at the airstrip. Drank tea. A ginger beer to settle my stomach, something to eat. Took my airsickness tablet. All would be okay. Was that the plane I heard circling, a faint indistinct buzz? I hoped not, I wanted to stay. I looked up and around but the sun was a harsh glare in my eyes. I scuff round in the dirt, there was not much to say and I didn’t feel like talking anyway. It was the end of the affair.




All I could do now was leave my mark in this wonderful place so I wandered off from the others, past the sign of stones upon the floor and looked for a suitable bush. My scent would be strong for a moment, a steaming stream but by the end of the day would be gone and you’d have never of known I’d been here at all…

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Morkel Erasmus

Still on board and loving the images and great reading, @@Game Warden and @@Safaridude!!

Eagerly awaiting the rest with fresh popcorn.

Hectic buffalo/dog encounter and also a proper lion sighting!


Those pics of the beared Rehab are the best shots (best for mirth and enjoyment) I've seen on ST yet! :D :D :D

Edited by Morkel Erasmus
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A VIVID look at life while on Safari with Safaidude and Game Warden. Exceptional, as we expected!


I did not want it to end; but alas all good things will.


Perhaps there will be a sequel :blink: ...


But I'd leave the malarone home alone.


Thank you gentlemen. :D A truly worthy read.

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I have begun part 2 before part 1. Two posts in, I am hooked. Your photos are some major victories. I can sympathize with those minor victories of the tummy.You really made use of the dust and the light. It seems as if the extra water from the heavy rains has drawn a crowd all for your benefit.


Plenty of excitement with the lions. The jackal pup is hugable.


Didn't that 17 years fly by? I'm planning a Zim return 18 years after the last visit. Seems like about half that time I was last there. Looking forward to the rest of part 2 and I may read part 1 concurrently.

Edited by Atravelynn
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The damp crotch upon arrival tradition! What a hilarious start, Matt!

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you must go again soon! The words are just wonderful and we can feel as if we are there with the two of you!

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The thing about your pith is everybody looks good in it. It seems to bring out everyone's best features.


"I have an interesting conversation with a chap who unlocks the padlocked chain and comes in to ask if I am a preacher. No I say, but he says I look like one. I'm not, I assure him but he says I should be: it's the beard he says. Don't preachers have beards? You should still be a preacher he tells me which makes me laugh."


In a way you preach the virtues of adventure and camaraderie, exploration and conservation through safaritalk. I think the padlock unlocker was on to something.

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Oh Matt, I know how you feel. The tug of war between wanting to stay forever amongst the dust, the scents of the bush, the warmth on your skin, the sun in your eyes and then the longing to be surrounded by the family back amongst the familiar which can easily become the prison from which we long to escape.


And then those of us less fortunate have to wait and wait, never knowing if luck will fall our way and favour us with the means to go again. That's right where I'm stuck right now.

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Please don't tell me the report is coming to an end .......... Enjoying every word and every image from the both of you!!!

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I'll have to take a break at the end of Hwange, but that was fabulous guys. Great photography and great tales, as well as lots of valuable information. Wish I had had time to keep up with the postings in this thread and comment reguarly, since there is so much to comment on. I am looking forward to reading Mana Pools.

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