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Zim 2015 - Mana Pools, Little Makalolo (Mak) and Camp Hwange


westcoastexport
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Another sensational trip to Africa. This one to Zimbabwe. We stayed at three camps: Goliath in Mana Pools (Stretch Ferreira), Little Makalolo and Camp Hwange, the last two both in Hwange National Park. We tracked lions, wild (painted) dogs, elephants and were fortunate to arrange meetings with scientists, Long Shields Lion Guardians, Painted Dog Conservation and the Scorpions Anti-Poaching unit. It was an amazing learning experience and was hugely beneficial to understand the complexities of conservation in Zimbabwe.

 

In addition to Stretch Ferreira in Goliath, we also had the pleasure of being guided by Themba in Little Mak and Julian Brookstein in Camp Hwange. Three fantastic guides with diverse and different skills. We had heard that Zim had great guides and we saw it first- hand.

 

We learned first-hand about Cecil, his ancestry, and met with Brent Stapelkamp from Lion Guardians who monitored Cecil's collar and the scientists, Jane Hunt and Justin Seymour-Smith, that collared Cecil. They were fascinating and provided incredible insight into the consequences of the different constituencies (conservationists, locals, hunters, camps, animals, politicians). Zim is a country with 90% unemployment and people do what they need to survive.

 

We also saw thousands of elephants and their babies. There are tons of them in Zim, likely too many. Dry season is cruel and some won't make it through.

 

We got to walk with Stretch and I can't say enough about how exhilarating that can be; literally a few feet from bull elephants, within 75' of lions feeding on a Cape Buffalo. He creates experiences like no other guide in Africa.

Africa is the most beautiful place; it exhausts all of your senses. From waking up in the middle of the night to the sounds of a hyena or hippo, or the soft elephant purrs that we heard a million times. The smells, sights and emotion of watching babies nurse to seeing a lion feed on a buffalo, the entire cycle of life presents itself every day.

 

Goliath Camp

Needless to say, Goliath is largely about Stretch. This is a small camp that sits right on the Zambesi directly opposite Zambia. There are only a small number of employees, and generally you are exposed to four or so. They have eight tents in total.

 

The tents are comfortable at night but a bit warm during the day. Because power shuts off at 9 PM, you have to navigate in low light after that. There are also only power strips in the common area and none in the tents. They have a nice bathroom area that requires you to unzip from the common area to enter. The outdoor shower is great and actually has hot water despite the power limitations.

 

At night, the sounds are over the top. Hippo, elys, lion, hyena, frogs, etc… If you love the sounds of Africa, this is a must.

The food is very good even for us vegetarians. Caitlin made a point of accommodating us and did a really nice job. For most nights, Stretch joins the guests, which makes for a ton of fun. The stories, most funny, some sad, really endear you to Stretch and his affable personality. It was a great place to meet people and we made some new friends – Inge & Thomas, Jane & Bernie, Pat & Margot, Arnie & Leila, Peter & Alison.

 

Days started with a wake-up at 5:15 AM and you head out around 6. We were fortunate to generally be in Stretch’s vehicle. The other guide is Ruben who has been with Stretch for 14 years. Stretch has been in the bush since 1981. With all of those years of experience, and as a former Zim special forces officer, he has great tracking skills.

 

Due to the proximity of the Zambesi, there is ample water and all of the animals take advantage. Although, the release of water from the Kariba Dam regulates the depth around camp. There are thousands of hippo in the water. They honk, screech and play constantly. We also witnessed the elys walking across smaller parts of the river that abut the camp. These included baby elys that completely submerged themselves to keep up with mama. To see the older siblings help the little ones was great to witness..

 

We would generally drive and track in hope of finding something interesting to pursue on foot. Stretch also likes to take you to areas that he knows are frequented regularly, some are wet or dry pans. On one day, we hoofed a long while in the heat and at his 6’4’’ gait, it was sometimes too much for people. I loved the hiking and enjoyed tracking, even though you sometimes end up empty handed.

 

However, we were able to get close to elys, lions at least twice and dogs on foot. We also drove to the “wilderness area” where the rations are shot by locals. The difference between the behavior of the animals is noticeable. They don’t stick around in the wilderness area, but there are animals in droves: Sable, elys, buffalo, eland, zebra, impala, hippo, crocs. A beautiful are that I suggest visiting. As the sun sets over Zambia, it is breathtaking.

 

The BBC happened to be filming wild dogs in conjunction with Painted Dog Conservation while we were there. One morning we passed the photographer with his massive set-up waiting for the dogs to approach. We had seen him a few times and he seemed friendly. We drove away about five minutes and saw the dogs! The BBC had picked the wrong area….We all had a quick chuckle. Eleven of them with one collared (also limping) in total. They treated us well and mostly stayed on the road. They allowed a few photo ops, but they are difficult to follow, especially through a lens. As we followed them, we came upon a dead ely that must have been 20 or so years old. We had found it the day before and it appeared to have died from natural causes. The park rangers had removed the tusks and sliced its side open to attract predators, but in the 48 hours following our first sighting of it, no animals had touched it. Now came the dogs. Stretch said that dogs don’t eat carcasses. Their curiosity was hilarious although none took a nibble. Then one of them approached the trunk and playfully attacked, retreated, attacked, retreated. It finally pulled on the trunk and extended it until it was sticking straight out. It was a really adorable shot. Then; as dogs do, they were gone. However, we picked them up about 10 minutes later approaching the Zambesi. They didn’t appear to be hunting, but I think they are ALWAYS hunting. As we neared, Stretch saw an impala out on a peninsula of the river. To its left was the river (full of crocs) and directly in front of it were the dogs. Stretch said “uh-oh, he’s in trouble”. Sure enough, the dogs began their approach flanking the impala. It was keenly aware of its predicament and eagerly trying to find an escape route. All of the sudden it turned toward the river and sprinted toward it. As it neared, it jumped as far as it could to make its way across. Immediately a massive croc was in pursuit. It was closing in and we were all waiting for the deadly outcome when all of the sudden, the impala popped out of the water and had made it across. At least 30 meters across. The croc and the dogs were left without a meal. For us, it was only 7:30 AM and already an extraordinary day.

 

We also met with Jane and Justin at the camp. We had scheduled time with Jane but she had something come up. We did get to go out with Justin to check on some of the 180 camera traps that he monitors. Justin is a fascinating man that has unbelievable knowledge. He helped us understand the ecosystem why the land looks like it does (barren) in many areas. He also explained about the diverse amount of animals, particularly, hippo, elephants and impala. The numbers in Mana for these three species is over the top. His knowledge of the history is also deep.

 

Stretch is really about the experience. While he is likely a professional guide, his approach is more about getting you close to animals. He has tremendous knowledge, but it’s really the personality and demeanor of Stretch that makes this such a special experience. He isn’t going to be guiding forever so we’d like to visit again soon.

Little Mak and Camp Hwange reviews to come....

.post-46976-0-15632300-1444598318_thumb.jpg Mana

post-46976-0-08427700-1444598322_thumb.jpg Manapost-46976-0-23647300-1444598325_thumb.jpg Manapost-46976-0-06650100-1444598330_thumb.jpg Little Makpost-46976-0-11328700-1444598335_thumb.jpg Manapost-46976-0-33340100-1444598337_thumb.jpg Manapost-46976-0-33925200-1444598339_thumb.jpg Manapost-46976-0-65684300-1444598373_thumb.jpg Manapost-46976-0-07496900-1444598378_thumb.jpg Little Makpost-46976-0-66124000-1444598384_thumb.jpg Little Makpost-46976-0-90746200-1444598389_thumb.jpg Little Makpost-46976-0-49049200-1444598393_thumb.jpg Little Makpost-46976-0-08192900-1444598398_thumb.jpg Manapost-46976-0-20752700-1444598411_thumb.jpg Mana

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@@westcoastexport Some awesome sightings. Your trip was basically the reverse of that of @@Safaridude's and mine, here, though we didn't stay at Goliath. Looking forward to comparing your experiences at Little Mak and Camp Hwange with my own recollections.

 

Matt.

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Sounds like a wonderful safari. Look forward to more.

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Your elephant photos are superb (especially the first two). I enjoyed reading your impressions and look forward to more.

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Great shots including the human in the foreground!

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Awesome stuff, and interesting to hear the BBC are filming in Mana Pools...
The description of the dogs and the dead elephant was very interesting.
Also, is the picture of the feeding lion in Little Mak eating an aardvark?

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Great report, thank you . You had some excellent sightings and met Boswell (and of course Stretch). Both great characters.

 

That photo with Boswell is certainly one to treasure

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Very excited to read this report, great stuff! When were you in Mana?

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Very excited to read this report, great stuff! When were you in Mana?

Just there in early September 2015.

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Awesome stuff, and interesting to hear the BBC are filming in Mana Pools...

The description of the dogs and the dead elephant was very interesting.

Also, is the picture of the feeding lion in Little Mak eating an aardvark?

Yes, it was an Aardvark. The only one I've ever seen in the wild and it was already dead...

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We were there at the same time than you. The wild dogs were chasing an/the impala through our camp at Nkupe that morning. One car already followed them for 40 minutes from Mucheni, but we only saw only one other car after that, besides the BBC guy in his car and two dark olive green jeeps which must have been from Goliath Safaris then?

 

We were really lucky to spot the 11 dogs pack later again that day, resting and playing in the river for several hours. They are so social. I checked the photos again and you were right, it was the dog with the green collar that was limping and the rest of the pack looked after him while he was resting, touching him with their snouts. Very interesting to watch, so much like our domestic dogs if kept in a pack, but much more aware of their surroundings and very quick. We were just 20m away, but they didn`t care about us, the alpha got up many times to have a look at a certain direction though. Maybe Hyenas? They did stay close to their kill that day.

 

We haven`t seen them near the dead elephant, but on the 2cd or third day we saw lots of vultures and Malibus getting at it, then one day later absolutely nothing and also the following day, carcass looked the same. On Mana Pool`s FB page someone posted an old lion guarding the carcass the first day. Maybe that was the lion we heard in Nkupe camp at our first night. We decided to go to bed early that night, but kept hearing it roaring and roaring in the nearby bush. I`d like to know why no other animal would feed on that elephant carcass.. not even hyenas? It was a bit depressing to see only vulture`s droppings on it, but after that no other purpose for it after it passed away..

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You will need to upload them to a photo sharing site like flikr and then post the link. The instructions are on here somewhere I'll try to find them for you.

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@@Nic Please do start your own trip report. Thanks, Matt.

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Really enjoyed your report and photos, @@westcoastexport. Was particularly keen reading your impressions of Goliath in Mana, as it will be part of my first Zim safari next July/August. Keeping my fingers crossed that Stretch will be there during my stay.

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Thanks for everybody sending me tips on how to post photos on Safaritalk. Unfortunately I have no FB or Flickr-Account (or yahoo-email-account to become a member), so I`ll try that later with more time on my hands.. but if you you want to take a quick look, until then: https://cloud.gmx.net/ngcloud/external?locale=de&guestToken=dzXl989ESX-L3JtGXpSJlQ&loginName=nicole_ack@gmx.de. The limping dog with the green collar is on the third photo.

 

Hope we can find out how to post videos too as they are better and more informative than the photos.

 

Next trip for 2016 is booked for us and private campsites are US172$ now, plus conservations fees. We might try somewhere else after that, but not sure where that is yet..

 

Foodies: I can only recommend to bring as much food from overseas as you can. Even in Zambia simple food items are very expensive and/or simple stuff like wholemeal pasta, good broth, pesto, parmesan, italian tomato puree are impossible to get in the big supermarkets. Almost everything cooled is "fat free" as in yoghurts, milk, cream, butter etc.. so be prepared. We brought heaps of wholemeal penne, rice, pesto sauce in a glass, a big lump CryoVac Parmesan, chicken broth and some other stuff from Europe for camping. That was a great idea! Nothing is available in small quantities in Africa, as in Olive oil, pasta, rice, broth, Sherry, flour etc. Meat is good in Zambia and so are some veggies. Wine is unbelievablably expensive, even from SA.

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@@Nic This is @@westcoastexport's Zimbabwe trip report: please start a new topic for relating your Zambia experiences as you are effectively hijacking this one.

 

Thanks, Matt.

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Really enjoyed your report and photos, @@westcoastexport. Was particularly keen reading your impressions of Goliath in Mana, as it will be part of my first Zim safari next July/August. Keeping my fingers crossed that Stretch will be there during my stay.

Panamaleo - We have already booked our trip for 2016. Heading to Goliath with Dave Christensen joining us. If you stay at Goliath, Stretch will be there. He def has a few more years and I'm hoping Dave takes over after that. After Goliath we head to Ruaha.

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  • 1 month later...

I've been guided by Stretch in 2013, and there can be no doubt that he's one of the best. I sincerely hope that he and his partner Flo decide to write his autobiography covering o his experiences as a soldier in the Selous Scouts, farmer, hunting guide, and of course safari guide. It would be a fascinating read. I was amazed by the fact that he personally knows all the elephants in Mana Pools, and "talks' to all of them. He actually got a wild elephant to pose with seven of us.

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