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Two Poles in the Pools (Mana Pools, August 2016)


hubertj

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Hello Safaritalkers,
I started this thread because I'd like to share some photos and memories from the Mana Pools self-drive safari we (me and my wife Hania) made last August (actually Mana Pools was the first leg of our 3 week long Zimbabwe-Zambia itinerary). I was a bit shy about my making own trip report, with so many magnificent Mana TRs already published here on Safaritalk, but @@wilddog and @@SafariChick convinced me that I should try anyway. :)

 

This year's trip was our 2nd time in Africa. Our previous safari (Botswana & Namibia, 3 years ago) left us yearning for a return to Africa. We were full of memories of the indescribable bush vibe which we experienced when we stayed on our own in unfenced campsites, sharing space with animals roaming freely all around us, hearing their sounds at night, at the campfires under starry skies... Finally we couldn't stand this longing feeling anymore, and we started to plan another trip.

After reading trip reports on Safaritalk we quickly decided that Mana Pools is the place we simply must go to. Or actually, I rather should say that already after reading the first trip report from Mana I felt fully convinced that this is the place which offers exactly what we are looking for (it was the report written by @@Whyone?). The other trip reports was reinforcing us in our decision, providing more information and making us look forward to our trip more and more impatiently.

Our entire trip turned out to be fantastic, and Mana was the highlight, so I would like to thank everyone here on Safaritalk for all the helpful information,
great photos and entertaining stories I have found here. Now, I may confirm what many others already said : Mana do not disappoint!

Here is our brief Zimbabwe/Mana Pools itinerary:
Jun 30.: landing in Harare (rental pick-up from Bushlore and shopping, night spent in Harare).
Jun 31.: Harare-Nyamepi, 1 night at Main Camp, site #9
Aug 1-3.: 3 nights at Mucheni #3 (we went on guided bush walks twice and were very lucky to meet wild dogs on a hunt on both occasions!).
Aug 4: 1 night at Mucheni #2
Aug 5-6.: 2 nights at BBC (for the first 5 days we were hoping for lion sightings with no luck, until... we found whole family at the campsite - literally. And they stayed with us for the rest of our stay in Mana!
Aug 7: Farewell Mana Pools! - we are heading for Zambia and South Luangwa.
..

 

For the beginning - iconic Mana sighting - elephant reaching for leaves, with his entire weight resting on just two of his legs. Ok, maybe it isn't the classic Boswell-type two legged pose, but I hope the fact that he used only his right legs instead of the rear ones, makes this photo equally interesting ;)

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Stay tuned, more photos will follow.

 

 

 

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Hello Safaritalkers, I started this thread because I'd like to share some photos and memories from the Mana Pools self-drive safari we (me and my wife Hania) made last August (actually Mana Pools was

Day4: Ok, no more chilling and laziness. Time for some action. We go on a bushwalk today. We wake up at after 5am, it's still dark outside. We quickly prepare some porridge and a coffee for breakfas

Day 2. It's time to go to Mana! After breakfast, we made some additional shopping at Spar (funny thing was that at cash register they gave us change in candys, as they do not use cents), we filled up

SafariChick

@@hubertj so glad I had a hand in convincing you to do a trip report and wow, sounds like Mana really delivered for you - fantastic! And you said to give you a little time but then almost immediately, you started it! I do think that elephant's pose is a bit different than the usual Mana suspects - putting his own twist on the Mana-elephant-stretch - great! Looking forward to seeing more photos - when you have time, of course :)

Edited by SafariChick
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@@hubertj great start and I think the elephant pose is excellent. Looking forward to more.

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Atravelynn

Terrific title followed up by that pose of strength and stretch.

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@hubertj I confirm it is "equally interesting". Great photo.

 

Look forward to the rest of this.

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@@hubertj Yeah! another Mana report. Great start, thanks.

Edited by ld1
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@@hubertj, I am delighted to hear that one of my trip reports in some small way helped you choose to visit Mana, especially as it sounds like you had a great trip.

 

I look forward to reading more!

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Thanks everyone for encouraging words. Since I started this report, now I have no other choice, but to continue :)

 

We began our trip from Warsaw in the evening, with a flight to Vienna. From there continued with Ethiopian Airlines to Addis-Ababa, where we caught another plane
which brought us to our final destination - Harare. This last flight was very promising - we were flying at daylight above Kenya, Tanzania and Zambia so we hoped for some scenic views. I just love to watch the world from above (really, I never get bored), so I booked a good seat for this flight in advance. Unfortunatelly it was cloudy or hazy most of the time, but over Tanzania I managed to make some photos of Mount Kilimanjaro, and some other nice places.

 

Tanzania, Mount Kilimanjaro:

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Tanzania, Mount Meru & Mount Kilimanjaro:

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Tanzania, Lake Sulunga

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Southern Tanzania, Ngozi Crater Lake:

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After traveling for 19 hours, we finally arrived to Harare, where we picked up our rental safari-camper (Toyota Hilux Bushcamper from Bushlore), which was going to be our home for the next three weeks. It took about two hours to complete paperwork and introduction to the vehicle and equipment.

 

Harare airport, picking up our home on wheels

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It was getting late, so we rushed to Westgate Shopping Mall in northern Harare, where we made probably the biggest shopping of our lifetime. I never before had to buy so much food, water and beer to keep me alive, well-fed and hydrated for 8 days!

 

When we finished shopping it was already completely dark, so the last challenge of the day was to find the cottage we booked at airbnb.com for our first night in Zimbabwe. Although we found the address without bigger problems, the real challenge was to get inside. The gate was closed, the bell at the gate was not working, nobody was answering the phone, we tried honking, but also with no luck. We stood at the gate, scratching our heads and thinking about plan B, but fortunately after 15 minutes, the friendly and apologizing host arrived, so we could breathe a sigh of relief and finally go to sleep. Next morning we set off to Mana Pools !

Edited by hubertj
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Excellent shots you captured from the plane.

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That is not cloudy! How did you know where you were? I get the mountains but the other locations?

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michael-ibk

Fantastic start to this report, very glad you were talked into it. Very impressed with the shots from the plane, wow.

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That is not cloudy! How did you know where you were? I get the mountains but the other locations?

 

@@pault - Yeah, over Tanzania there were some moments of decent visibility. When it comes to locations - when I travel I usually have a pocket GPS logger with me (it still works even inside the plane, if you keep it close to the window). So, later you only have to match the timestamp of the photo with the GPS log timestamps (there is software for it, which makes it quick & easy).

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This sounds like it's going to be a great one, looking forward to the rest of it, thanks for posting it for us.

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Day 2.

It's time to go to Mana! After breakfast, we made some additional shopping at Spar (funny thing was that at cash register they gave us change in candys, as they do not use cents), we filled up the tank in our Hilux, and left Harare at 9:20. The road was good, there wasn't much traffic, and there were only 2 or 3 police controls on our way, which waved us through. There were many worm vendors along the road, I guess they supply people going to Kariba for fishing. Lot's of people are riding bicycles or just walking on the side of the road. We are full of respect for the women who are carrying most improbable objects on their heads (often with a baby on their back at the same time). We fill up again at gas stations in Karoi and Makuti, and comfortably arrive to Marongora Park Office around 2pm. After completing paper work, with entry-permits in our hands we proceeded further, toward dreadful (as others reported) Zambezi escarpment descent, but this time there was no accidents, and traffic wasn't big, so we quickly found ourselves on Mana Pools entrance road.

 

Worm sellers

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Bush fire

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Women of Zimbabwe:

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First wildlife :)

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Marongora Park Office:

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Beginning descent after Marongora:

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Last chance to make a photo on tarmac for a week:

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The gravel entrance road is not bad, but there is still 80km drive to Nyamepi, so it takes some time to get there. There were some impressive baobabs along the way, but the game was non-existent for most of the time. After passing two gates, 2 hours after leaving tar road, we arrived to Nyamepi office, where we registered ourselves, and bought firewood (cost of a bundle is 5$). On our way to the camp we meet our first elephants grabbing leaves from the branches, in the beautiful warm sunlight - the first glimpse of Mana Magic, so we stop for some photos.

 

At the Park entrance gate:

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Welcome to Mana Pools, but still 80 km to Zmabezi River

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Baobab in the middle of the road

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And finally - some animals !

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Shortly after the sunset we arrive to our Nyamepi camp site (#9) to spend our only night there before moving to Mucheni. The light is fading quickly, so we only manage to have a quick first look at beautiful Zambezi river and the mountains on the Zambian side. Already in the full darkness, we start the braai, accompanied by the sounds of crickets and hippos grunting and snorting in the background (it was the first time we experienced those hippos sounds, and we never expected how loud they can be). We sit at the fire, grab a beer and relax, but not for long. Shortly after we put our meat on the grill we have hyena coming very close to us to check if there is something she can steal. We are hungry though, and not in the mood for sharing, so she leaves us with empty hands (or empty jaws I should rather say) :)

 

Our 48-hour long journey is finally over. We reached our destination, and we are very excited about the days ahead of us, and things to come.

Edited by hubertj
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SafariChick

This is great! It's fun to see the detail of your journey to get to Mana Pools ... I like seeing the scenes of the women carrying things on their heads and a baby at the same time - I have seen this kind of thing in other parts of Africa as well, and I agree, utmost respect to these women. Glad you finally arrived and I admire your self-driving and doing it all yourselves! One thing: one of your photos is not visible - it's the one that is after the one with the 3 green signs that you said were at the park entrance gate. Then I see a title "Welcome to Mana Pools but still 80 km to Zambezi River" but the photo is not there - just a white square saying "This photo is no longer available."

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Treepol

@@hubertj I'm really enjoying your photos of the journey, which for me is always part of the trip. The road signs, people and scenery add so much to your travel story.

 

Mana looks to be a very scenic place.

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One thing: one of your photos is not visible - it's the one that is after the one with the 3 green signs that you said were at the park entrance gate. Then I see a title "Welcome to Mana Pools but still 80 km to Zambezi River" but the photo is not there - just a white square saying "This photo is no longer available."

 

Hmm... Somewhow it is working ok on my computer.

Unfortunately I can no longer edit my post to correct the link if it is invalid. I'll try once again - I guess you probably mean this photo:

29604522851_8c800e0259_c.jpg

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Enjoying the detail you are giving about the whole trip not just pictures of animals, it paints a much broader picture for us. Do you mind telling us the costings for this trip, I could be interested in doing the same if I can persuade Shirley to go self catering.

 

@@SafariChick @@hubertj All the images are showing for me.

 

The first elephant looks to be an old bull called Vic by Doug Macdonald when we were there, he a least seems to have the same large V knotch in his left ear. According to Doug he's around fifty years old and a real gent, he was when he paid us a visit at least.

 

22831740755_af6b604209_c.jpg

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Great Report. Reminds me how much more you learn about Zimbabwe when driving to Mana.

 

I think @@Big Andy is right that is Big Vic. How nice that you met one of the great Mana Elephant Bulls.

 

Thanks for it all so far.

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Great start with the journey there - almost as interesting as the rest will be.

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SafariChick

@@hubertj strange, I do see the one you posted the second time in post 20 - but it still doesn't show for me in the original post. well never mind, I see it now - thanks!

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Enjoying the detail you are giving about the whole trip not just pictures of animals, it paints a much broader picture for us. Do you mind telling us the costings for this trip, I could be interested in doing the same if I can persuade Shirley to go self catering.

 

 

The first elephant looks to be an old bull called Vic by Doug Macdonald when we were there, he a least seems to have the same large V knotch in his left ear. According to Doug he's around fifty years old and a real gent, he was when he paid us a visit at least.

 

@@Big Andy - I don't know the exact costs (and I think I prefer not to know :) ), our expenses were spread over time (i.e we paid for Mana campsites already in December).

The biggest part of the budget was the vehicle - you can check the pricing on the Bushlore webpage, but we also had to pay extra 12k ZAR for pick-up and drop-off at remote locations (Harare and Livingstone). Bushlore have depots in Jo-burg and Kasane, but I think they can deliver vehicles pretty much everywhere in southern Africa, but you have to pay extra in such case. Then you have to add flights, gas, camping fees, park fees, cross-border fees, guiding fees etc. but all these may differ greatly depending on where you go. I.e. camping fees at Mana were the highest I ever paid: Mucheni and BBC costed 150$/night, Nyamepi 100$/night +15% vat (and from what I heard there was another price increase recently). Campings in Zambia for a couple costed around 40-50$ per night (but at the other hand the Zambian park fees are higher than Zimbabwean).

Preparing your own self-driving trip needs some time and effort for planning and arrangements, but for me those preparations was a great fun. If you'd like to know any more details you can always send me a message.

 

I'm really happy that I was lucky to meet Big Vic, but I didn't know it's him at that time though. Thanks for letting me know (and thanks @@wilddog for confirming) ! Where was your photo of Big Vic made? Looks like he wanted to join you for a lunch :)

Edited by hubertj
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