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Up to Kanga Camp so far.

Enjoyed the pictures of the road trip from Harare to Mana - amazing luck to see the dogs on the way in. You are right, it definitely isn't a given. We didn't see them at all over 10 nights last time we were there.


Lovely waterhole pictures. 7 civets and 4 leopards - fantastic stuff.

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Welcome to Chitake!! @@michael-ibk


and what a welcome it was......


Watching a lion kill on your first day - absolutely memorable! Excellent pictures.


You struck lucky getting Isaiah as your chef, Natureway's best in my opinion.

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Wow, wow, wow, wow, WOW!


A lion kill. On foot. With an elephant intrusion. And a buffalo standoff. Are you kidding me???? I have a good mind to just set my trip report aside and wallow in the adventures of yours, as I can offer nothing even remotely as riveting.


And I love this part:


I was excited, I was overjoyed, I was a bit afraid, I was tense, I was happy, I was alert, I was looking everywhere and listening to everthing, I heard my heart race - were we really going after a lion? On foot? In sandals?

Yes, we were, and it felt absolutely awesome, like something only other (much more adventurous) people would do, not chicken little Michael me. "Walk in a single line behind me". "Keep low, don´t move too fast!"


Your words really bring the reader into the picture with you. I've never experienced anything quite like this, but if I were to, I'm betting I'd run through the same set of emotions as you did. Congratulations on an unforgettable sighting. Looking forward to more -- much more!

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Thanks a lot, @@Big_Dog , @@Africalover , @@SafariChick , @@Atravelynn , @@FlyTraveler , @@twaffle , @@JulieM , @@TonyQ , @@Zim Girl and @@Alexander33 .


We really were incredibly lucky to see this and I certainly will never forget those scenes.


JulieM, charging is no problem, you can do it whenver you wish in camp.


Zim Girl, ah, you have enjoyed Isaiah´s kitchen magic as well - he´s just fabulous!

Edited by michael-ibk
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The nights in Chitake are very special. We spent a lot of time in the dry riverbed, which was illuminated with an ivory-like white light by the almost full moon, and we were spellbound by seeing the place coming really alive. Big herds of elephants were showing up now, some Buffaloes here and there - and the lions were watching them closely. I forget how many, but at least three or four lions were lurking on the ridge, patiently and menacingly watching what was going on there, probably probing very thoroughly which animal seemed to have a weakness, and would therefore be suitable prey. At times, the lions would even come down to drink, right into the middle of the elephants, and the tension in the air was palbable.

Also, lots of smaller great stuff showed up, Hyenas, Civets and a Jackal. I was particularly delighted to see two Porcupines ambling down the riverbed - a first for me!

It was hard to find sleep this night, because after we had gone into our tents the spectacle really began. The lions were roaring, roaring, rrrrrroarrrring, the elephants were nervously trumpeting and the buffaloes bristling with anger - or fear! We could only imagine what kind of battles for life and death were going on there - maybe 100 m away from our tents. A couple of times I dosed off, only to be suddenly awakend by a squeal or a trumpeting scream, and I asked myself if an animal had just lost the fight there. I had to think of a famous line in "A Song of Ice and Fire" often, "The Night is dark and full of terrors."

But every night comes to its end and after very little sleep we rose early (about 04:40), had the first of our standard breakfasts (Coffee, Orange Juice, Cereals, some Toast, Porridge for the British part of our team :)) and soon were on our way with Doug.


In the morning the water almost reached our campsite. It would evaporate again every day and retreat further and further back. We checked what had become of the unlucky young Kudu - and saw that the clean-up teams had been busy:


Later in the afternoon the skeleton would be almost polished clean:


"What´s the plan, Doug?" - "The plan is to find a pride of lions, two Leopards, cheetahs with cubs and an Aardvark. No Pangolin, we shouldn´t be greedy. Of course the bush never seems to approve of my plans."- Fair enough. :)

We left the riverbed and explored the dry areas around it. It was a beautiful morning, and walking through the thornbushes everything felt exciting. After all, who could know what would be hiding to the right or to the left of us?


We saw Impala of course, Baboons, lots of Guineafowl, a Jackal, some Kudu running off, nice birds including a Hoopoe and a Crested Barbet, a few Dwarf Mongoose scurrying off so quickly I could barely see them. Doug would explain all the small stuff one would normally not notice on a drive.


We went up a hill to the "Cathedral", where a cluster of mighty Baobabs has seen centuries, maybe millenia pass. There is no certain way to estimate their age. @@AndMic loves Baobabs, so he was in tree heaven. :)


While I was trying to get some pics of Meyer´s Parrots flying around up there (and failed miserably), Doug explained that this site had in earlier times been the residency of a Chieftain of the indigenous people, and it was quite obvious why a leader would choose a place like this.






Edited by michael-ibk
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We went down to explore the riverbed. Up here no water has flown for a very long time.




This is a magical place, it feels absolutely archaic, primeval - I always had the feeling that if there was one place in the world where Dinosaurs had survived this would be it. And they would be waiting for us behind the next bend. :)








We didn´t see mammals here (except a few Baboons), but I got a new Hornbill for me - the Crowned Hornbill:






Elefants like to scratch an itch, and obviously have favourite spots to do it - and so over time they have polished some roots and branches completely smooth, like ebony.




Doug was hoping to get to one of his favourite spots to wait for the Buffaloes. He assured us that watching them thundering down in the dust to get their drink was a must in Chitake, one of the very best experiences to have had here. But they beat us to it, and we had to wait upstream for them to clear the springs.




Look carefully - there´s a Safaritalker in that picture! (Not telling who. ;))


This is the actual springs of Chitake Springs where the water bubbles to the surface from below and therefore creates the basis of life in this area.




Doug has a favourite place to sit here, a bit shielded from view, and just watch what is going on at the water, who´s coming down to drink. Here we would wait for the Buffaloes. It is such a cosy place I actually fell asleep under the shady trees while lying on my back and looking at the green leaves rustling in the light breeze we were getting here. :)






After I was rudely waken up I was told that we would admit defeat today and try again for the Buffaloes this afternoon, and maybe tomorrow if need be. I did not worry. Of course, it couldn´t be too hard with a bit of patience to have one single herd come down, couldn´t be too complicated, right? Right?

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We began to walk back to camp, and followed the riverbed downstream.


And we did it in style - barefoot! :)



I loved this! In the brutal heat of the sun nothing could fell better than to cool one´s toes in the water of Chitake Springs, our feet deep in the soothing mud. Somehow I was tempted to do it like the elephants and wallow in there - but of course that would have taken the "Get Down and Dirty" theme to an extreme. ;)


So very surreal, walking barefoot in one of the wildest surroundings imaginable - one of my favourite experiences of this trip!


I was delighted about finding one of my wishlist birds - Lilian´s Lovebirds, splendiferous colourwonders!



Unfortunately they are also quite small, and it´s not easy to approach them, so I took it step by step, and one photo every two metres when they flew down to drink.



In German they are called "Die Unzertrennlichen", the Inseparables, and that´s quite fitting for them. Not only are they monogamous (like many birds), they nest-breed in a very special way: Many pairs are using the smalles holes together, a bit like bats.





Grey-Headed Bush-Shrike



Every Chitake Springs trip report has to feature at least one dead elephant, so here´s mine.




We did our best to always keep our feet in the water - because the white sand next to it was blistering hot!



Hooded Vulture



Southern Ground Hornbill


We had already reached camp when some Buffaloes came down close to "home", and we went on the ridge where he had watched Sapi yesterday.








A majestic male Kudu was approaching the river bend. He didn´t see us at first but obviously noticed something was wrong. He lingered, cautiously walked a few steps, tried to get wind of what was there but was not sure what disturbed him.



Then he made us, and off he was.



As you can see we all thought this safari was quite a letdown:



@@AndMic, Doug, Shirley and @@Big Andy


Our afternoon was very much like the morning: Beautiful, enjoyable, exciting. We walked around finally settled for the Buffalo waiting spot, watched Impala, Baboons, Kudu and birds, a Slender Mongoose - and again lost against the Bovines who would not show up. Well, no problem, we would certainly fare better tomorrow. Right?





Three-Banded Plover


At night the Lions and the Elephants were going at it again at full force, and we also saw a huge male Leopard drinking in the riverbed. (At first we thought it was a lion.)



Just to give an impression of what our nights were like a little video I took sometime aroudn 03:00 a.m. My camera´s microphone is not very good for sound sources not immediately nearby and it doesn´t do it justice but you get an idea.


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Beautiful lovebirds, very cool tree roots, and a fantastic job capturing the lion kill. The "after" photos are even better.

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I like Doug's plan and I can hear him saying, "No pangolin, you shouldn't be greedy." I know that spot where you took a little rest. I think I may have dozed there too. The Lilian´s Lovebirds were everywhere! Nice job on the crowned hornbill flying. That does indeed look like a lion. My feet are burning just reading about your walk in the sand.

Edited by Atravelynn
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Thanks, @@Marks, @@Atravelynn (I thought you would have sat there as well), @@ZaminOz and @@Zim Girl!

Another beautiful morning the next day. There was a bit more water, it was almost reaching our campsite now.


Doug, who had realized by now that I was one of these people slowly turning into one of these people (as @@Alexander33 has succinctly put it in his report) suggested that we should just sit down and wait a bit, because he was sure some very nice birds would soon show up. And still we sat, and he was right - Red-Billed Firefinches soon gathered, delightful little birds.



Male and Female


We then went up the ridge again, discussing our plans for today (this time: Wild Dogs on the hunt, mating Leopards, no Cheetah but Pangolin. ;)) I mentioned how much I liked the Crested Guineafowl and would like to get a picture of them in the morning light. Well, this was a very easy wish for a change - Doug had us come down to the riverbed again, we quietly sat in a small pit and soon they came cackling along.


Very, very cool birds, I really like them, and they are beautiful in the light. Maybe not totally as striking as their cousins, the Vulturines, but very special nonetheless - and here in Chitake it´s really easy to get close to them.







We were stubborn again: Lion tracks were found but we decided to go for the Buffaloes again. Andy and Shirley had seen, what, three herds by now, and surely today would be our day, right?

The walk to "our spot" was beautiful in the morning light.


No apologies for it, this is a very bird-centric post. We saw an African Goshawk and an African Hawk Eagle, both new for me. Just to throw some mammality in here, a random shot of the Impalas coming down to drink:



These are not leaves, these are Red-Billed Queleas (with some Sparrows). Their numbers were impressive, and watching the flocks coming down to drink and leaving again was great fun.




Look, there´s a Broad-Billed Roller in there! :)




But again, the Buffaloes decided that we did not deserve to get our Chitake Bovine Spectacle, so back to camp with mission failed. Well, does not matter, with all our patience so far it was a sure thing that we would suceed in the afternoon, right? Sometime they just had to come, right?

It was brutally hot on the walk back, the first time the heat got to me a bit, and I couldn´t understand for the life of me how animals could still have the energy to run and jump around like this:


Doug explained that they have some special organ in the nose or something which cools down the blood or somehting, so that the brain does not realize hot it actually is. So basically, they are just too stupid to notice how hot it is. But I guess it was way too hot for me to really understand what Doug was saying. :)

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@@michael-ibk love the lovebirds and the Crowned Hornbill in flight - beautiful! I did not see the Safaritalker in that photo though. Also - I did not know mammality was a word - I love it!

Edited by SafariChick
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After another fabulous lunch we spent our siesta time in the riverbed again. By now I had fully embraced the "Get down and dirty" concept, and, as Doug suggested, just lay down in the sand. It is by far the coolest thing to do - very literally, because the water flows underneath. :)


Chitake Springs has the bestest Baboons in the world! It´s a real treat watching them here, they totally ignore humans, come within metres, and go on with their social lives, always fascinating and fun to watch. And unlike in other places, they are absolutely not obnoxious, show no interest whatsoever in food and couldn´t bother less if they are being watched or not.









You know the routine by now - we left camp at about 15:30, found lion tracks, saw Impala, Baboons, some Kudu, some cool birds and slowly made our way to the springs.


And waited.


And surprise - the Buffaloes did not come!


Go away, Kudu, it´s not you we want! ;)

The night was special as always. The moonlight was so strong that even late at night the Elephants could be watched very well, and more than once they passed us by, only metres away. Which had also happened yesterday, when Big Andy and me had had to suffer through some nerve-wrecking moments: We both had left our tripod with cameras in the riverbed (for the Caracal that would surely show up) and went to dinner table, five metres away. Suddenly five Elephants walked exactly where our cameras where! But they just went around it, did not even touch it, and all was well. Phew!




One of my best memoires of this this evening, this day and actually the entire trip was when a herd of about 20 elephants was walking down the riverbed on the opposite side, calmly and peacefully, their ivory tusks shimmering in the moonlight. One of the most beautiful things I have ever seen.
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Good thing the elephants were so calm and peaceful that they avoided your tripods. While the herd of eles in the night may have been one of the most beautiful things you have seen, that intact tripod and camera had to be the second most beautiful thing. The quelea shots define prolific. Nice to know the baboons are still doing their thing at Chitake. Crested Guinea Fowl paraded for you!

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@@michael-ibk love the lovebirds and the Crowned Hornbill in flight - beautiful! I did not see the Safaritalker in that photo though. Also - I did not know mammality was a word - I love it!




Neither did I. :) Big Andy is sitting somewhere in there, seriously.


Good thing the elephants were so calm and peaceful that they avoided your tripods. While the herd of eles in the night may have been one of the most beautiful things you have seen, that intact tripod and camera had to be the second most beautiful thing.


Absolutely, Lynn! I went quite pale when they walked towards it, and very "Pheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeew" after they had passed. And immediately went to get the camera:)

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Our last morning in Chitake Springs dawned.


The Baboons slowly came down from their sleeping places.


We had already packed last evening, because camp would be put down while we were on our last walk. What were we up to? Well, some people are just too stupid to admit defeat, so to the springs, wait for the herd to come down of course!

On the way we passed a site with many minerals and some old shards. Doug explained that long time ago a village had been here, long abandoned and with little traces left.


We found lion tracks again but decided to stick with the plan. A word about predators in Chitake: Apparently lion sightings which used to be quite common around the riverbed have somewhat become a bit less. Doug and Andy (the guide) were not quite unanimous as to why. There is a road now leading from the campsite to the springs, and Andy was quite sure that that road was a huge disturbance. Doug didn´t quite agree, and postulated that it was more because the the lions are no longs as used to being walked upon by humans as previously. One guy had been doing quite a lot of research on them, tracked them every day, and since he had finished his studies that habituation effect has faded a bit. And with only a few months of the year Chitake Springs is visited at all the lions would have become more wary. Or, as Doug put it - "Who knows, really."

There is a not totally off-chance for Cheetah in Chitake. Andy, who has spent many months here, told me he once had seen 7 cheetahs in one hour! (2 mothers with cubs each.) Still, they definitely should not be expected, lot of luck needed.

About the Wild Dogs - they are here, and we actually missed them for about 10 minutes on our last day! We were told by Chitake 1 guests on the way out that they crossed the riverbed just as we had left for our walk!


The flies were really bad today, and Doug provided us with natural fly swats. (Luckily we both did not really react much to Tsetse bites, and I had some wonderthingy with me, a small device that heats up the spots where you have been bitten, and poof - bitemark gone.)

And so, our last try at the springs!



"The Buffaloes WILL BE OURS!"

And so we waited. Again.


Watched this Slender Mongoose.


Enjoyed an elephant coming down, a very cool vista.




And relaxed in the shade, watched the birds, and all the small things going on. Almost dosed off again. But suddenly I was wide awake. Doug had reacted to something, stood up and said - SNAKE!


This Spotted Bush Snake had crawled right over his leg! A good thing it was him and not me, I´m afraid I would not have kept my cool Doug´s way and one or two very wimpish sounds would have been heard in Chitake Springs.


I´m not overly fond of snakes but this little fellow - which is quite harmless - was beautiful. We watched him go after a Gecko but the hunt failed.




But what about the Buffaloes? Well, three of them arrived to drink, but again - no herd. :( It was getting late by now, and we had slowly but surely to leave to get back to the car, the Flood Plains were waiting for us.


Well, safari is not pure wish fulfillment - you can´t win them all. B)

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@@Big Andy AH - with the help of your arrow and my reading glasses I can kind of make out your human form there! Very good camoflage!


@@michael-ibk that is a beautiful snake!

Edited by SafariChick
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One guy had been doing quite a lot of research on them, tracked them every day, and since he had finished his studies that habituation effect has faded a bit.



Steve Pope used to spend a lot of time with the lions. Often got clients quite close.

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I would certainly be thinking that those beautiful snake photos were fair trade for great big smelly buffaloes! :P


Some of the landscapes you took whilst waiting for the missing bovines really show the area off to advantage, lovely. I can feel the heat pulsing from the baboon video. Wonderful retelling of your trip.

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I don't usually read trip reports about walking safaris because my wife has said she has no interest in them, and so I don't want to be tempted, but I'm glad I opened this one up. Like everyone has said, really great photos, and a really fun and informative read as well.

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Loved the bird and baboon photos! Baboons (in wild areas) can be such fun to watch - although can be quite a menace in semi urban areas.

Bad luck on the buffalo stampede, but you got to see and experience a lot of other things in the waiting :)

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You'll just have to go back, won't you, and the buffaloes are all in on the conspiracy.


I love the night shots of the elephants and your description of their tusks shimmering in the moonlight. Once again, you admirably succeed in making us feel like we are right there with you, standing by your side and witnessing the whole thing.


I'm cool with the bush snake; watching it slither across my leg, not so much. Very commendable of Doug to just sit there and help make it feel at home so you could capture such great photos of it.


And I suppose that now I would be remiss if I did not make mention of the birds. Wonderful shots of the Crested Guinea Fowls, and I, too, like the Crowned Hornbill in flight. I've never seen Lillian's Lovebirds, but I've already established a goal to get a really good closeup shot of one someday. They definitely looked like they were a challenge -- and then some.

Edited by Alexander33
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