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


hubertj

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Day 5
In the morning the hippo was still there, grazing around our camp, but he moved away a bit, so we could move around our camp comfortably. Before breakfast we decided to go for a walk. We had to make small detour around our hippo, and continued along the Zambezi bank towards Mucheni #4 and the sun, with intention of catching some animals in the magic Mana backlight. There were several elands and lots of impalas around. Impalas generally seem to be more nervous in the morning, as we constantly heard their alarm calls and saw them running and jumping in panic from time to time, but we could not see any predators around.

 

Hippo at the campsite

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Impala at sunrise

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Enchanted forest

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Eland, at Mucheni 4

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Densely populated Zambezi River

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Pair of fish eagles in the river

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As we were coming back from our walk, our hippo-visitor was returning to the river:

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After we were back to the camp we started to prepare breakfast. One moment of inattention, and we lost our bread. We left it unattended, and the baboon appeared from nowhere, grabbed it and ran away. We could only sit and look as he chews our bread several meters from us. Lesson learned - you have to take care of your food in Mana, because there are no shops around to re-supply.

 

Proffessional thief

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Lilac-breasted Roller

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Later I made some rounds to Zambezi and back, to bring some water for camp shower and for cleaning our braai equipment. I had to be careful as there are lots of crocs in the river, but they were somewhere else at that time, so no problems. The camp shower unfortunately turned out to be a crap - the handle broke as soon as I tried to pull it up. So for the rest of our stay we used showers in Nyamepi.

 

Animals blocking way to the river

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Trying to prepare shower

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As we were spending time in the camp, there were elephants processions coming and going back and forth, almost all the time. There were moments that we had to hide inside the car as some elies were coming straight to us, and passing the car within centimeters. To give you impression of this experience, below is a compilation of some movie clips I recorded during our stay (it's probably too long, but the background music is really good) ;)

 

In the afternoon we went for a game drive to Long Pool, Chine Pool and Nkupe. No spectacular sightings this time, but we enjoyed watching the scenery and birds at the pools. The highlight of a trip was a big group of mongooses (15 or 20) crossing the road shortly after sunset on our way back to the camp.

 

Yellow-billed stork

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Little bee-eater

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Black-winged Stilt

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Nkupe area landscape

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Mucheni sunset

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For dinner we had vegetables and spaghetti, and for the first time the hyena did not come. By ignoring us, she clearly showed us that she disregards this king of food...

Edited by 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

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

Second photo in post 51 is beautiful.

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Impala at sunrise and Nkupe landscape are more wonderful shots. Bad news about the shower - not as advertised!

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@hubertj

 

More adventures and more great photos. About the food issue, I have to agree with the hyena; vegetables and spaghetti are not even close to be named "the king of food" ;) ! Specially not when there is a braai and a steak :P .

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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.

 

@@xelas

Ok, feedback taken. I already posted bigger versions in the last post.

 

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

 

 

@@pault

Indeed it was comical, at least for us as we already had one great dog sighting that morning, but not so much for the other group. We had some laughs together at the end, but they must have been disappointed, that their effort wasn't rewarded.

 

 

 

About the food issue, I have to agree with the hyena; vegetables and spaghetti are not even close to be named "the king of food" ;) ! Specially not when there is a braai and a steak :P .

 

I'm personally a big fan Italian kitchen and pasta, but I do agree - on safari nothing is better than a good fresh steak straight from a grill :)

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Morkel Erasmus

Loved catching up again...lovely photos and so glad you got the dogs on a kill! This time of year is hit-and-miss because of them denning in the thick jesse.

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martywilddog

Oh I see I'm late to this party, but I hope there is only a small delay and the Mana Magic will continue!

 

I am also really curious where you stayed in Zambia @@hubertj and how you liked the self drive! We did a safari there in September and really loved it, though were not adventurous enough to go all self drive :)

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Atravelynn

Looking through again the hint of golden light on your ele shots in #17 makes a beautiful effect. The light in so many of your photos is exquisite. I agree your neighbors cooling off in the croc infested river are nuts. You really had eles in camp.

 

Good warnings on securing the food from the monkeys.

Edited by Atravelynn
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I do have to say that looking at your photos I'm feeling nostalgic about Mana Pools. I can't decide in terms of physical beauty what's a more beautiful National Park Mana Pools or Gonorezhou, however,they are both simply exquisite. I'm delighted that Great Plains is opening a lodge there,and have already communicated with Shelley Cox who informed me that they will not only have a camp operating in Mana Pools which as I mentioned before will be in an ex hunting concession,but also one in Victoria Falls. What could be a better step to improve Zimbabwe as a tourist destintion. She informed me that by January of next year that they'll have a better idea of just when they'll be opening in both locations.

 

What I hope is that Great Plains will connect with Gonorezhou Bush Camp or perhaps Chilo Lodge to send more people to Gonorezhou National Park. I also wild that it would connect with African Parks to eventually send more safari goers to Matobos, and Matsudona,. In the long term I genuinely hope that Great Plains lodges will send people to a revived,and restocked Chizarira National Park. I also think that the hunting lodges in SAVE such as Sango and others would defiantly benefit from a business connection with Great Plains. We all love Zimbabwe already as a safari destination;one has to think just think just how much better it could be with increased investment,improved infrastucture,and more tourists. Improved technology is,and will continue to make a huge difference in narrowing the gap.

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Hello, it's been a while since my last post. If anyone was worried by my sudden disappearance and was wondering if I'm still alive - yes I'm alive and ok :) Some real world issues completely took over my time and my mind recently, so there was nothing left for the virtual world and for my photography. But I'm finally getting back to my normal pace, so I started to prepare the last batches of photos for this trip report, to complete what I started. I did not give it up (actually now I miss my time spent in Mana twice as much as usual), so there will be new photos soon. I hope you will be still interested.

 

 

@@martywilddog - in Zambia first we went to South Luangwa (stayed at Zikomo and Croc Valley). Then we proceeded to Kasanka (Pontoon Campsite), and later to Kafue National Park (Kasabushi and Nanzhilla). We fisnished our trip in Livingstone. We enjoyed Zambia a lot, no problem with self-driving at all. Main roads are good, and there is not a lot of traffic. When you take shortcuts, you have to be prepared for some bumpy ride, though (but this is what you can expect in most African countries). There was only one road I would not ever take again - dreadful climb on a '05' road from SLNP to the Great North Road (thank's god somehow our tyres and suspension did not fell apart)

 

@@optig - I fully agree Zimbabwe deserves more recognition as safari destination, I'm sure there are lots of places worth visiting (I'd love to go to Gonarezhou or Matusadona one day). Investments in infrastructure willsurely help bring more people there. But for Mana I must say I love it as it is. Not too many tourists, and minimal infrastructure make for a great bush experience for me.

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@hubertji I'm glad that you love both Zimbabwe,and Zambia as safari destinations. You'd love Gonorezhou,and it's a good place for self camping. I'm eager to see your photos from Mana Pools. I had to fly into Mana Pools on the occasions which I visited it. I was the sole passenger on the plane,and it wasn't cheap. However,we'll all agree that it's an exceptionally beautiful park,and still has outstanding wildlife. I sincerely believe that better days are ahead for Zimbabwe's battered tourist industry for a variety of reasons.

 

I'm planning to visit Kafue in 2018. Kasanka is needless to say on my list of dream locations along with Bangweulu, and Liuwa Plains on the right time of year. I've done a lot of research on Polish history,but that's another subject. I love both Wajda's and Kieslowski's films.

Edited by optig
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@@optig - I'm sure you will love Kafue, this park is so pristine and so diverse, and it's so huge and little visited that most of the time you have a feeling that you have it all for yourself. Depending on where you go you can have so much different experiences. Kasanka of course is best known because of the bat migration in November, but we were there in off-season - it's a beautiful park - so much different than other parks in this part of Africa in terms of scenic landscapes (much more green). And it's a great place to see sitatungas. We skipped Bangweulu (shoebills!) and Liuwa this time, but I'd love to go there one day.

 

I'm glad to hear you're interested in Polish history and culture. Wajda is our most famous film director, but my favourite is Kieslowski - for me he's among the best European directors like Fellini or Bergman.

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Ok, I hope this report was not entirely forgotten. Despite some huge delays I'm still determined to finish it. So, let's continue :-)

As a short reminder - my report stopped on the day 5, when we were self-camping at floodplains, Mucheni 3.
In our first days we already had lots of exciting moments and great sightings i.e.:
- several herds of buffalos (although not as huge as @@Atravelynn and @@SafariChick saw at Chitake, but still impressive),
-

passing every day through the camp within meters (sometimes centimeters) from us,
- we had to fight with monkeys to defend our food supplies,
- hyenas coming each night trying to join us at the braai
- we were preparing camp shower, using water from croc filled Zambezi waters

- and so much more...

But the icing on the cake so far was a bushwalk with Lovemore, our great local guide, with whom we saw wild dogs hunting and killing impala - really a thrilling experience. And there was still more excitement to follow.

 

Day 6

After that incredible day with Lovemore, we instantly wanted to go for a bushwalk again (I must confirm what many others said before - walking is indeed the best way of experiencing Mana Pools). So, we arranged another morning walk, and Day 6 was the day we met Lovemore again. Our plan for this day was to find big cats, and Lovemore's idea was to look for them at Chine Pool area.

But the gods of the bush had other plans for us for this day. The day started like a deja vu, from 2 days ago. Shortly after dawn, Lovemore joined us, and we started our drive up from Mucheni 3, and just after intersection to Mucheni 1&2 we met the wild dogs again. And again - there were only 4 of them, and yes - they were clearly in search for a meal. This time we were not the only people at the sighting, though (there were already two other cars at the sighting, and later another vehicle joined us).

 

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For some time the dogs were moving along the road (toward Nyamepi direction), so we followed them by car, but later we stopped and tried to follow them on foot. We manged to keep very close and we had lots of good photo opportunities, I'm satisfied with some close-up shot in a good light, but at times I was too excited to control my settings properly, so I missed some good shots, too. I did not have a chance to catch all four of them together, as they kept somewhat dispersed formation, but I caught some frames with three dogs, but unfortunately none is sharp.

 

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Some panning attempts:

 

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At one point, when the distance between us and the dogs were short, Lovemore started to make some whistling sounds. At first I didn't realize what he is doing, but shortly after we saw that one of the dogs became interested and came really close to check the sound. He approached within several meters from us, until he finally realized he was fooled by Lovemore mimicking a dogs call, and turned back to join his party.

 

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Later, as we were following the dogs, suddenly a group of elephants came from nowhere (there was a baby among them). One of the ellies decided to charge the dogs - there was lots of trumpeting and dust in the air. It all happened too quickly and unfortunatelly I was adjusting the bloody settings in my camera at that moment, so I was late and failed to catch the best part.

 

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Later we could not keep up with the dogs, and they started to move away from us. We went back to the car, and tried to keep up with them on wheels, but there was a car in front of us, and it was too slow, so ultimately we lost the dogs from our sight. We then tried to track them on foot again, Lovemore guess was that they could go to the plains near Trichilia (sorry if I misspelled the name of the place, correct me if I'm wrong), but no success this time. After a long walk we finally gave up. The dogs must have gone the other way (later that day someone told us that there was a dog kill somewhere around Long Pools so we presumed it might be our dogs). But still we saw lots of mammals (impalas, elands, waterbucks, baboons,...) and birds (ibises, eagles, spoonbills, and so much more...) in such great numbers, that now it really seems abstract. Our European wilderness areas are sadly so devoid of wildlife, that you can walk all day and you can barely see one big mammal... In Mana sometimes you can see three, four or more species at the same time.

 

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Oxpeckers

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Two-headed impala

 

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After we got back to our car we decided to drive to Chine Pool, as we initially planned, still not giving up in our attempts of finding lions. On our way we stopped several times to allow Lovemore to ask other guides about any sightings, but nobody saw them lately. We then walked for some time in the area where the lions were supposedly heard, we had a nice walk, but no lions were found (although we found their tracks).

 

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Saddle-billed stork

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Cattle egrets quarrel

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Hadeda Ibis

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African Fish Eagle

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2x Hadeda Ibis +1x Sponbill

 

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It finally started to get really hot, so it was time to say good bye to Lovemore, and make the last photo together.

 

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I recommend Lovemore a lot, when you go to Mana on your own, and would like to arrange a bushwalk. He's been working in the Park for many years - he started as a ranger, but now he is working as a regular guide for African Bushcamps. He is also available for private walks when he has off days. He has lots of knowledge about Mana, animals and vegatation, and he is a very nice guy to talk to. We enjoyed time with him a lot, and based on our 2-day experience with him - he seems to work like magnet for the wild dogs (this clip is another proof of that, as you can see Lovemore talking about another dramatic dog sighting from last September: http://africageographic.com/blog/video-lion-kills-off-wild-dog-pup/ )

Edited by hubertj
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Atravelynn

Beautiful birds, both in fight and squabbling. You've done the cattle egrets proud. Fantastic dog action and dog vs. ele action! You caught the drama with the ele "attack!"

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@@hubertj I also love Kieslowski's films. Personally,I feel that Wajda's film Kanal is a highly underrated war epic because it truly captures the madness of war. It's tremendously realistic especially when the remnants of that company of the AK are forced into the sewers,and they all gradually become insane. I also never forget when one of the partisans cuts off the cord of a goliath(miniature tank operated by radio or remote control) only to hit by machine gun fire.

 

I love all your photos,but my favorites are those of the elands and the wild dogs. Wild dogs are simply my favorite animal and I've been very lucky with my sighting of them. I've seen them at Lagoon Camp,Lebala Camp, Mana Pools, Selous National Game Preserve, Laikipia Wilderness Camp, Laikipia Bush Camp, Sarara Camp, and on my last safari at Pamashuna Camp. I have to say that nothing excites me more than seeing them again. However,that said I never get tired of seeing something as common as an impala. They truly are the ballet dancers of the bush. They are just so graceful,and I love watching them leap.

 

I wish that I were capable of going on a self drive safari,and camping alone. I'm delighted that you and your half really appreciate what safari is really about. It's about being out in the bush. I'm glad that you loved Kafue,and I'm quite excited to be spending no less than 11 nights there in 2018. There can be no doubt that yes I've had outstanding Zambian,Botswanan, and Kenyan guides but the best guides in the industry are Zimbabwean.

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Waiting patiently, @@hubertj , and for a reason! Another post filled with exceptional photography and writting.

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SafariChick

@@hubertj really enjoyed the last installment - you may have been sad about missing some dog photos but the ones you got are great! And I loved the one with the three different species of antelope together - very cool!

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@@optig - Yes, Kanal was also one of my favorite films by Wajda, with tragedy and drama of Warsaw Uprising in the background (one of the most heroic and tragic events in World War II, which ultimately turned Warsaw into post nuke Hiroshima-like landscape). I've just realized that I have not seen this film for years, and I need to watch it again.

Ashes and Diamonds is also one of my Wajda's favorites. Generally I prefer his early films much more than the latest productions.

 

Comparing to you I have very little safari experience, but I also consider myself very lucky with the dogs. I think I can also say they became my favorite animal to watch. I'd love to meet them again. Their social behaviors are extremely interesting. I hope to see larger packs and puppies one day.

 

@@SafariChick - no, not sad at all. Photography is important, but I was happy to see this action in the first place. Missed opportunity is something that will happen if you're amateur like me :) Actually it was a good lesson - on safari you have to be prepared with your gear 100% of the time.

 

 

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@@hubertj I know about the 1944 Warsaw uprising. I also enjoyed watching Ashes and Diamonds In the film resistance knew that any resistance was futile,but they still fought on despite all odds being against them. The Allies fought about the considerable contribution to victory that the Polish forces in exile had made in France,Italy,Holland, and in the Western desert.

 

I also have to say that almost everyone who sees the wild dogs on safari falls in love with them.I think that they're simply beguiling. Nevertheless,I have to say that the last time that I was in Botswana one of my co-passengers in my vehicle an Englishwoman was just appalled by the fact that she witnessed a pack of wild dogs tear a warthog to pieces. I'll agree that it wasn't pretty to watch,but that's nature. It was an unforgettable experience. I just loved seeing the puppies.

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After our morning walk we had to come back to Mucheni 3, to pack ourselves, clean the site and move to other camp site. When we arrived to the camp, we had short delay though, because the family of elephants took over Mucheni 3, so we had to wait a bit until they moved away.

 

Eles and Lovemore's car

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The family together

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From Mucheni 3 we were moving to the nearby Mucheni 2, to spend only one night there (later we still had scheduled the last 2 nights in Mana, at BBC Campsite). If anyone is wondering why so many changing places - explanation is easy: we made our bookings quite late (yes, December'15 is late when it comes to booking exclusive campsites for August'16), so we were filling last holes in the booking calendar, and we just took what was available.

So, we moved to Mucheni 2 and had another idyllic lunch on the bank of Zambezi - in the company of birds singing (and woodpecker tapping), antelopes grazing behind our backs and hippos resting in front of us (in front of Mucheni 2 there is a big sand island very close to the camp, so you can see the hippos and hear their grumblings even better than in Mucheni 3).

 

Jameson's firefinch (?)

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This bird looked like a starling with extremely long beak. Can anyone help with id?

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Oxpeckers, trying to eat hippos alive :)

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Egret, having a free ride

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After the lunch we went to Nyamepi park office to restock on firewood, and arrange a canoe trip for the next day. We also used the opportunity to take a shower and wash some dirty kitchenware. We did a short game drive on our way back, and managed to come back just before sunset. The family of baboons also decided to spend a night at one of the nearby trees so the evening was a bit noisy, but the felt asleep shortly after darkness.

 

Resident vervet monkeys, at Nyamepi Park Office

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Baboon mama

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Mucheni #2 sunset

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Bush dog

@@hubertj

 

It might be a green wood hoepoe (the one with the long beak).

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I have to say that I love watching baboons in any situation,but I especially love seeing the mothers with their babies on their backs. It's also amazing how well they can climb the sheer face of a cliff or scamper up a tree. I love your photos of elephants. I can see that you've been to Namibia would you like to post photos and perhaps a trip report?

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@@Bush dog

I did my own research in the meantime, and I think it may also be a Common Scimitarbill.

 

@@optig

Yes, I was in Namibia in 2013. Not sure about the proper trip report, but when I finish with my photos from the last trip, maybe I will prepare a summary with some photo selection from Namibia, too.

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All of us will appreciate whatever you decide to do. It's safe to say that Namibia has the most stunning desert scenery in the world. I'm glad that you've decided to join Safaritalk

because this site has literally changed my life. I've learned so much from this site,made so many friends,and gotten so many ideas for just where to go on safari.

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This bird looked like a starling with extremely long beak. Can anyone help with id? - I think is a Common (Greater) Scimitarbill; the bill is more curved than the one of juvenile Green Wood-Hoopoe (while the adult one has an orange bill).

Woodpecker might be Cardinal Woodpecker. Long tailled Starling should be Meves's Starling.

Edited by xelas
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