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


hubertj

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......... 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..........

 

 

Now you're talking @@Big Andy!!!

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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

@@hubertj Thanks for all the info, it'll give me something of a start if I can convince Shirley to go for self driving next year. I can't see me being able to afford a full on private guided safari three years on the trot so something will have to change, or miss a year :o which is my least favorite option. Big Vic visited us at the Mucheni 1 camp where we spent four nights last October.

 

@@Whyone? That's all it is at the moment Ian, just talking but you have to start somewhere.

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Morkel Erasmus

@@hubertj looking forward to the rest of your report! great start!!

 

@@Big Andy@@wilddog it's not Big Vic, note the notch of the elephant Hubert posted sits higher up on the ear, and it's wider. There is also another one looking similar to Vic called "Little Vee". Vic is also the biggest bull in Mana by bulk.

:)

Edited by Morkel Erasmus
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@@Morkel Erasmus Having taken a second closer look it seems you are right, similar but different. :)

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Ok, finally we arrived to Nyampei, so now I can start the proper Mana trip report :)

 

Day 3.
We wake up early, just in time to witness the Zambezi sunrise. Spectacular!

 

We do not have any ambitious plans for this day. After the long journey we want to start our stay in Mana slowly: relax, enjoy the views, wait for the animals to come. Instead of rushing on a game drive, we have a lazy breakfast and later we go for a walk along the river bank. Yesterday, we arrived already after sunset, so we didn't have a good chance to look around before it got dark. Now, we finally see where we are. Zambezi is so wide and mighty here, and the mountains on the Zambian side perfectly complement the scenery. And of course - there are plenty of animals around - in the river, on the ground, and in the air.

 

Nyamepi camp is really nice (especially the sites on the river bank), with lots of shade. When we were there, maybe around 50-60% of the sites were occupied, so it was not very busy. Elephants are walking across the camp regularly, and there are lots of birds too, you can hear them all the time.

 

Zambezi sunrise

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One of several hippo families seen from the campsite

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Nyamepi camp site #9

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Scrambled eggs for breakfast today

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Nyamepi Campsite

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Our camp neighbors decided to enter Zambezi for refreshement, which seemed crazy for us...

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... with such inhabitants in the river

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At the same time our neighbour's site was taken over by baboons, not botherd by the electric fence they left

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I tried to scare the monkyes off from their site, but they were back the moment after I returned to my site

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We also quickly learned that it's really important not to leave the food unattended :) We left the rice bag on the table for just for a minute and moment later we found a monkey is stuffing its mouth with handfulls of our rice. We luckily manged to scare him off before he destroyed the bag entirely. Fortunatelly it was a vervet monkey. If it was a baboon it would surely ran away taking the whole bag with him.

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The Thief himself

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Going for a walk, to test my new Sigma 150-600mm lens

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Hania, with Nyamepi elephant

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Pumba, looking adorable especially with the tail up

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Id please (?)

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Group of African Openbills

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White-fronted Bee-eater & Little Bee-eater sitting together

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White-fronted Bee-eater

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Brown Hooded Kingfisher

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Later in the day, we take advantage of the last opportunity for easy access to shower at Nyampei, and then pack our stuff and move to Mucheni. When we get there we fall in love with this place on first sight. The site is located on the elevated river bank, it is far from the main road, very private, no other people nearby, no facilities (except for long-drop-toilet) and lots of impalas, waterbucks and elephants walking freely around us, and even more hippos in Zambezi. Fantastic feeling of being completely immersed in the nature. That's the kind of experience we were longing for!

 

Shortly after our arrival, another car comes to Mucheni #3. It turns out that this is Lovemore Chiwara - our guide, with whom we arranged a bushwalk for the next day. He dropped by, with his wife, to say hello, meet us, and talk about plans for tomorrow. We have a nice chat for a while, and arrange a meeting at sunrise. Our goal for tomorrow is to try to find wild dogs. We can't wait.

 

Later, from our site we saw that there is some activity in Mucheni #4. As we already determined it must have been @@twaffle, on her last day in Mana. @@twaffle - I have a photo where I think your camp is visible, am I right?

 

Welcome committee at Mucheni #3

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Hello, we come in peace !

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Hania watching the hippos

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Hippos on the island, in front of our camp site

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Elephant walking at Mucheni #4. @@twaffle - is this your camp ?

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Big croc resting below our camp

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Canoes landing between Mucheni #2 and #3 before sunset

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Elephant family on the plains, between Mucheni #2 and #3.

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Edited by hubertj
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@@Big Andy@@wilddog it's not Big Vic, note the notch of the elephant Hubert posted sits higher up on the ear, and it's wider. There is also another one looking similar to Vic called "Little Vee". Vic is also the biggest bull in Mana by bulk.

:)

 

@@Morkel Erasmus

Oh, it's a pity it was not Big Vic. Indeed I noticed even before that the shape of the notch seems slightly different, but I thought this is maybe because of the different angle the photo was made. So, I assume this is Little Vee, then :)

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@@hubertj you've brought back lots of happy memories, thank you. That's our camp indeed, I hope we weren't too noisy. :rolleyes: Fortunately we were leaving so you would have missed our midnight parties ....... :P

 

I love your croc photo, I assume that you used your super long lens to get that?

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@@hubertj your Mana sunrises are super as all your photo's.

Great shot of the hooded kingfisher.

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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 breakfast. Our guide, Lovemore Chiwara arrives after 6am. We collapse the tent, finish our coffee and get in our vehicle to look for the dogs. Lovemore says that recently dogs are being often seen around Old Ndungu, so our plan is to go there, and start our walk from that area.

As we drive along the main road, suddenly by the roadside I see a dog. Moment later we see another one. They are moving toward the river. "Look they are hunting!" Lovemore says. We park the car by the road, Lovemore grabs his gun, we grab our cameras and we start to chase them. It's getting exciting!

We see only 2 dogs. At first we manage to keep close to them. They move rather slowly looking for a prey - very focused, with their big ears raised. They stop from time to time to look around. Finally they spot a group of impalas, and from now on the pace of the action increases. The dogs accelerate, leaving us behind, but we can still see them on an open plains. Two other dogs suddenly appear, coming from the other direction, as they chase the frightened impalas. We are trying to keep pace, and understand what is happening, but the dogs are sprinting full speed now, already far ahead of us and there is lots of turmoil, with animals running in all directions. Finally we lose them from our sight, but somehow Lovemore seems sure where we should go. "Come on, they have a kill!" he says, so we just follow him. And indeed, after maybe 7 or 8 minutes of quick walk we see them again. They caught their impala, and are already feeding on it. Again, there are only 2 dogs, we don't know what happened with the other two (we assume that they dispersed during a hunt).

We are sneaking quite close to them. Our hearts beat quickly - we had some hopes for good sightings but this is like being in the middle of National Geographic footage. What we see is equally as exciting as scary. Watching the intensity of the dogs, while they are ripping off the body of impala is unbelievable. We feel sorry for the poor impala, but we also feel priviledged to witness how the circle of life works in the bush. The dogs feed very quickly, and less than 10 minutes from the moment we found them with the kill, they move away.

We wait some time, but after we make sure the dogs are not coming back, we come closer to have a look at the remains of the impala and we can't believe that just 2 dogs could make so much mess in such a short time. Impala's guts are lying all over the place, the area is sprayed with her blood, and from the tracks on the ground we can clearly see where the kill was and how the body was dragged.

Sorry for this probably overly long description, but for us it was the first sighting of this kind, and the emotions are back when I bring back those memories. Below are some photos from this sighting:

 

Hunting:

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On a kill:

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with impala's fur in his mouth

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Short video clip:

Edited by hubertj
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@@hubertj you've brought back lots of happy memories, thank you. That's our camp indeed, I hope we weren't too noisy. :rolleyes: Fortunately we were leaving so you would have missed our midnight parties ....... :P

 

I love your croc photo, I assume that you used your super long lens to get that?

 

@@twaffle, no I really regret that you left before we could meet and talk to each other.

 

Yes, the croc picture was made with a telephoto lens, but it was not a full zoom. The croc was quite close, but he was more scared than we, and he jumped into the water when he saw us :)

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Atravelynn

These are great images and stories from Mana Pools. That croc might have been more scared of you, but it doesn't look very timid. Fantastic wild dog action!

Edited by Atravelynn
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SafariChick

@@hubertj what great timing you and your guide had to be heading in that direction and then seeing the dogs! And sounds like he (and you) did a great job following and keeping up with them - super photos!

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Excellent stuff. Fantastic dog encounter. No wonder you could not keep up on foot. Following dogs on a hunt in a vehicle we were reaching speeds of 60 kph to stay with them.

 

Also the 'Elephants on the plain' image from post #30 is lovely.

Edited by Geoff
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Nothing wrong with a long full description of the hunt, I could feel my heart rate and read rate speed up as I followed your story.

We need an ST flag we can put on our tents :D so we know when a meet is in the offing, it's a shame to miss the chance of meeting another safari talker when out in the bush.

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AfricanQueen

Enjoying your TR a lot- the more as I've just returned from Mana @@hubertj

Love your pics and looking forward to reading and seeing more!

Btw:The bird you asked the ID for is a Glossy Ibis, I think.

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Good to see you enjoying Mucheni 3 where I have spent some of the happiest days of my life @@hubertj.

 

Your description (and pictures) of the wild dog hunt are fantastic - they really capture the excitement and at times, sensory overload, you experience whilst being on foot with a hunt going on in front - and at times around(!) - you.

 

Whilst the Old Ndungu area is a common haunt for dogs at this time of year, it is unusual, in my experience, to see just two / four dogs hunting - anyone know what is going on with the Mana packs at the moment?

 

Bird ID - my best guess is a Hadeda Ibis (Bostrychia hagedash) aka the 'hadida bird' on account of its distinctive call.

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michael-ibk

Awesome stuff - a Dog kill. You really struck gold in Mana. Loving your report!

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Beth_Blogger

The first time I saw wild dogs was at Mana, and I loved reading about your encounter with them. It brought back all the memories. Thanks for sharing both the practical and atmospheric aspects of your trip! Sounds blissful.

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Thanks everyone for the kind words. Sorry for the delays in the report continuation, but I had some busy days lately. I'll try to catch up in the coming days.

 

@@Big Andy - Safaritalk flag - that's a good idea ! We could recognize ourselves easier, and have a starting point for conversation :)

 

@@AfricanQueen

I hope you had a great trip to Mana. Would love to hear something about it (and I'm sure there are more people who would) :)

 

@@Whyone?

Yes, Mucheni 3 was our favourite camp site in Mana. All of them were great but we both give Mucheni 3 the edge over the rest.

When it comes to dogs, two days later we saw them again (this time closer to Mucheni / Trechilia), and again there were only 4 of them. No idea if they were from the same pack, but looking at the photos they were rather different dogs from the ones we saw with the impala kill.

 

@@AfricanQueen @@Whyone?

Thanks for help with the bird ID. Hmm. So, Glossy or Hadeda Ibis? For me hard to tell. I would say he looks more like Glossy Ibis, but do they live in Mana? For me it seemed too brownish for Hadeda, but they may look very different depending on light reflections, so maybe you're right.

 

@@Beth_Blogger

I noticed that you are responsible for www.GreatZimbabweGuide.com. I used your webpage as a source of information while preparing for the trip, so I'm glad I'm having a chance to say thank you !

Edited by hubertj
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Beth_Blogger

@@hubertj, I'm so glad that you found my blog useful! I have so much to add to the website but not enough time, so it is good to get the encouragement. If you'd ever like to write a guest post, feel free to get in touch. All the best and looking forward to hearing more about your trip.

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My first words goes to @wilddog and @SafariChick to thank them for convincing @@hubertj to start this trip report. Hubert, you have some great skills, both for writing and for photographing. BTW that Sigma surely needs that long stick to be carried around :) ! Reading about self-driving trips is my favourite past time :D .

Edited by xelas
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@@Beth_Blogger - yes it was very helpful, I still have it in my bookmarks. Good luck to you and your blog!

 

Thank you @@xelas - I'm just an amateur both for writing and photography, but I'm trying my best, so I'm glad you like it. Yes, the Sigma is quite heavy, but it's normal for this kind of telephoto. Carrying it is not so much of a problem, but keeping it steady while making a shot - that's when the stick becomes very helpful.

PS. Aren't you the guy from Slovenia, who gave me some hints about Costa Rica last year, on Trip Advisor?

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Later on the same morning we saw impala kill, we had another "wild dogs action".
After we left the body of a poor impala, we decided to continue walking in the area between Mucheni and Old Ndungu. Our emotions, calmed down slowly, as we were walking, talking and watching the relaxed antelopes (i.e. elands - which we saw for the first time), elephants and monkeys. At one point suddenly we saw a group of people with a guide running in our direction. They stopped to say hello, and to catch a breath (they looked really tired). We had a quick chat, and it turned out they are chasing the dogs which they saw several minutes before. They invited us to join them, and we gladly did, hoping for another chance to see the dogs, but this time - no luck . After about 10 minutes of jogging we still coud not spot the dogs and had no idea where they were gone, so we gave up (especially as some faces in our group turned red and were dripping with sweat)

We spent the rest of the day with Lovemore He told us lots of interesting things about different animal behaviors, habits and give us some hints on recognizing animal tracks (most interesting tracks we found were probably the ones of croc, very far from the river, which was very surpirising as they usually seem to never go more than a meter away from water). Before lunch-break we walked into Mana Pools Safari Lodge to have a look at the property. It's nicely located with views on Zambezi, and good looking, nicely incorporated into the surrounding scenery, with a pool and nice lounge area. The rooms are spacious with some fancy furniture. The luxuries were tempting for sure, but later we agreed that we still prefer our tent and the experience of being self-reliant in the bush, as close to the nature as possible, with animals all around.

We came back to Mucheni for a lunch break, and in the afternoon Lovemore joined us back, and we went for a game drive, this time inland along the corrugated 4x4 road. We reached Long Pool, and later Chine Pool . Around Long Pool we also did some more walking (i.e. we approached a buffalo on foot, which was great). We were also hoping to maybe see a big cats before sunset, but we could not meet any (it would be probably too much luck for one day). We enjoyed this day a lot - so much that we arranged another morning walk with Lovemore, 2 days later. Walking in the bush is a highlight - very different experience from driving and seeing only what you can see from your car.

In the evening, at campfire we had usual hyena visit, checking what we have for braai, but later also the hippo came grazing 10-15 meters from us. Spending a night in the bush is one of a kind, unique feeling. You almost can't see nothing in the darkness, but you constantly hear animals on the move close around you. Sometimes you can see only the eyes in the darkness when you direct the torch light towards the sounds (after several days we became quite good in recognizing animals by the spacing of the eyes glowing in the darkness, and by how much above the ground they are :) ). Experience not to be forgotten.

 

Some more photos:

 

With elephant tusk. We probably look like poachers here, but really we found it on the ground:

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A bee hive on a tree:

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Fish Eagle scouting the area

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Baboon skull (on the right)

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Lots of skulls and bones in this area. This time hippo:

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Me and Lovemore with our guns, at Mana Pools Safari Lodge

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Lunch break at Mucheni, chill-out time for us (and for the hippos too, but they seem to have a chillout time through the whole day)

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Bee-eaters (one of my favourite birds). We could watch them hunting for insects above Zambezi, while sitting in hour chairs

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Same branch, different bird (brown hooded kingfisher)

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Male waterbuck

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Elephants drinking from Zambezi, at Mucheni

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Ele-mama comforting her baby

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Grey heron, near Long Pool

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Watching the buffalos

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Buffalo, and oxpecker applying some cosmetic treatment

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Hippo, sunset at Chine Pool

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One more elephant in a classic Mana scenery

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More great photos, @@hubertj ! I have only one complaint: you should post them bigger! If uploading directly to the Safaritalk then you can use 1000 pix wide without any added compression.

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Great way to start your time in Mana, with a dog hunt in beautiful light! Some spectacular photos of the hunt. To say you were lucky would be an understatement. You should buy lottery tickets!

 

The idea of oeoole jogging across the plains is a bit comical. I would have lasted about 400 meters carrying my gear.

 

This is still great.

Edited by pault
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