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How Doug came to know what Australian for "lion" is....Zimbabwe 2016


JulieM

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So what to say about Doug that hasn't already been said? He is a consummate professional:

 

 

Full Definition of consummate

  1. 1: complete in every detail : perfect

  2. 2: extremely skilled and accomplished <a consummate professional>

  3. 3: of the highest degree <consummate skill>

 

 

He takes great pride in what he does, and he is good fun to boot. As clients, you have to have your utmost trust in him, as your life is literally in his hands and such is his skill that when the moment comes when a bull elephant is approaching your vulnerable position on the ground, when Doug says "remain calm", we were able to do just that. He has changed our way of "doing safari" in a way that is now our new normal and we will forever cherish the time we spent with him. He is helping us with our overlanding odyssey in 2018 which will hopefully involve some time spent with him as well. So, thanks @@Doug Macdonald!!

 

Driving from the airstrip to Mana Pools, it was hot and dusty, but it was great to be on land after our bumpy flight. We were headed for Chitake Springs first, for 3 nights.

 

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The dry old riverbed we camp beside. Confession #1 - looking at it I thought "how bleak is this place??", and wondered what on earth could possibly go on here that has everyone raving so much about it???!

 

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Confession #2 - I haven't really proper camped before, so I wasn't really sure how if I'd cope with it...

 

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James on the left was the camp manager, and Washington on the right was our main helper around camp. There were two other staff but we didn't see them much - just enjoyed the lovely food they prepared!

 

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The dome tents, with the ensuite at the back, complete with a "sand flush" toilet and bucket shower. Doug's tent is on the left.

 

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Tent interior. I have to say that those mattresses are among the most comfortable things I have ever slept on!!

 

We settled in to camp, trying to organise ourselves for the next three nights and had a bit of a meander up the riverbed, before our bucket showers and then dinner by the camp fire. As the light falls, the night sounds start up and you realise how truly immersed in the bush you are. When lions started calling, Doug shone his torch up the riverbed, and some 200m away was the pride. This was proper Africa - as promised and as hoped! Our safari had really begun.

Edited by JulieM
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The next day we were picked up at 8am for our transfer to Davison's Camp in Hwange National Park. Many seem to fly in, but we drove/were driven which I enjoyed. It's interesting to see the scenery a

It seems we weren't finished with buffaloes for the day. We were heading back towards camp, along the cliff line, when another herd decided to come in for a drink.     Notice the tree to the lef

So what to say about Doug that hasn't already been said? He is a consummate professional:     Full Definition of consummate 1: complete in every detail : perfect 2: extremely skilled and

Strine for lion? A llie-in? Loin? A form of line? Don't answer yet - just guessing.

 

Don't need anything new when everything is a beautifully photographed as this. Great stuff again Julie!

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Thanks @@pault!

 

And no, you haven't got it yet....

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Our first full day at Chitake Springs dawns. We have had the bush chorus all night, of lions calling across the land, leopards chuffing nearby and elephants trumpeting. I felt so safe cocooned in my tent, on my blissful mattress - I loved it! I got plenty of sleep - nature's calls must have been like a lullaby.

 

After a 5am wakeup call and a breakfast of cereal, toast and tea, we headed off into the wilds.

 

Confession # 3: this way of "doing safari" is so so different from hopping in a jeep, driving around seeing what you can see and then observing for a while from the comfort of the vehicle before heading off to see what else you can see, that it took me a wee while to get my head around it. The pace is slower, the number of sightings seemed lower, the photographic opportunities felt fewer, but once I gave myself fully over to the experience, I came to love it so much more. You become much more a participant in the safari than an observer. You hear all the birds, listen out for sounds that could mean danger, learn to read the tracks alongside Doug and eventually feel truly immersed in the bush. It becomes more about the quality of the experience, than the quantity of sightings. But it took me some time to "get it".

 

In the beautiful dawn light, we followed the sounds of these crested guinea fowl. They streaked across the riverbed in front of us, before hiding up on the cliff behind us. We waited and waited for them to come down, but they had seen us and weren't having a bar of it!

 

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Doug stopped to "read the newspaper" - to see what tracks he could see and follow. We followed lion tracks for some time but without success.

 

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We made our way to "the spot" where we wait for the buffalo - up on a bank only a metre or two above the riverbed where the water starts to flow, surrounded by trees. I had read so much about this, and was prepared for the possibility that the buffalo may not come, so we were very lucky when 15minutes later, and all of a sudden, the dust was flying, and the buffalo were here! It was dramatic for sure. Doug had already warned us to stay very still when they came - not to be moving around, or swatting flies - or they might spook. I felt like I held my breath for ages!

 

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We watched quietly as they made their way from our left, across in front of us and then headed away up the bank. It was about 20minutes from their arrival until they left again and it was back to us and the baboons.

 

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Confession #4: I don't like squishy things, especially not squishy things between my toes. And so I earned my nickname "Princess" by refusing to get down and dirty with a bare-footed stroll back down the waterway. (Sorry, not sorry! Yuck!! :rolleyes: )

 

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There were plenty of impala at Chitake Springs also, in great herds at times.

 

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We headed back to camp for lunch. Unbelievably (to me), we had been out for about 5 hours. The time had flown. Lunch was served on the riverbed and for our siesta, Washington and hubby brought our beds out of the tents and set them up under the trees on the riverbed. Unfortunately I didn't take a photo. We lay reading for a while, before a wee catnap. The photographers amongst you may wonder why I wasn't downloading images for backing up - well, confession #5: while I had brought my laptop, a MacAir, the two external hard-drives I had bought specially for the trip were PC formatted! Rookie mistake, which I couldn't believe I'd done. Fortunately, I had sufficient memory cards, and Doug would do backups for me over the course of the trip using his PC.

 

In the afternoon we made our way to the baobab trees. What a glorious spot. I had a little bit of photographer's stage fright, hoping I would take an image worthy of these magnificent trees, but my favourite is the one with James and Doug's truck, followed closely by the picture of Doug and I off shooting.

 

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A glorious spot for sundowners tonight!

Edited by JulieM
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Treepol

@@JulieM I'm really enjoying your TR and am marvelling at the close buffalo encounter in Mana - wow and wow!

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Thanks @@Treepol - it is incredible to think how close we were to the masses of buffalo! I felt safe up in our little enclave though.

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ZaminOz

Love the photo of you, Doug, the baobab... and of course the pith!

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Kitsafari

@@JulieM I've been away and so coming home to see this part of your report is great. I love your photos of the falls and it sounds like you had a lot of fun in Vic Falls. The touts are a pain but we took a tourist policewoman with us and it was really worthwhile. Looking forward to the rest.

 

@@twaffle a tourist policewoman escort? wow! never knew the tourist police could accompany guests. are the touts that awful?

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Kitsafari

@@JulieM finally catching up with your TR. the dome tent looks comfy! and yes, i'm not sure what I would do when it's time to take off the shoes and walk on squishy things. each minute you walk you think you'll be stepping on some weird squirmy creature. but i was given no choice in Gonarezhou and had to do - very gingerly and as fast as i could.

 

tremendous buffalo pictures - they came promptly for you. but i love the baobab pictures - beautiful. nothing for you to worry about! Doug looks like a giant!

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@@JulieM

What a fabulous trip, report and photos! I can totally understand the lure of a private and mobile ... yet for the undetermined time in the future we will have to stick to self-driving option. So keep those nice photos of camps etc coming!

And the sunsets ...I love sunset photos.

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Zim Girl

@@JulieM

 

Always a pleasure to look at pictures of Chitake, and yours are wonderful.

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Loving the report. No way I would walk in that mud either...not only is it squishy (yuck!) but a great way to get all sorts of disease...lol that is my phobia...schistosomaisis, hookwork, filariasis--no thanks! I will keep my shoes on!

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martywilddog

Your pictures are really gorgeous @@JulieM. The wide angle views, the colours, the compositions, stellar!

 

I feel almost silly now that I post my amateur shots. But ok, we all have to start somewhere :)

 

I am saving up for a new camera as we speak! Might I ask what your poison of choice is? What gear you use?

 

I'll be eagerly awaiting more of your trip report!

 

I have also wondered of myself whether I would enjoy this wild camping in the end, as I also have a "princess"-side to me, though it looks magical on pictures! I am happy to hear you seem to have enjoyed it tremendously!

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@@JulieM I've been away and so coming home to see this part of your report is great. I love your photos of the falls and it sounds like you had a lot of fun in Vic Falls. The touts are a pain but we took a tourist policewoman with us and it was really worthwhile. Looking forward to the rest.

 

@@twaffle a tourist policewoman escort? wow! never knew the tourist police could accompany guests. are the touts that awful?

 

 

 

The touts are pretty bad. We saw the tourist police but didn't have them walk with us.

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@@JulieM

What a fabulous trip, report and photos! I can totally understand the lure of a private and mobile ... yet for the undetermined time in the future we will have to stick to self-driving option. So keep those nice photos of camps etc coming!

And the sunsets ...I love sunset photos.

 

We are heading into the world of self-driving next - might have to direct some questions your way about it!

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Loving the report. No way I would walk in that mud either...not only is it squishy (yuck!) but a great way to get all sorts of disease...lol that is my phobia...schistosomaisis, hookwork, filariasis--no thanks! I will keep my shoes on!

 

Agree! I think the risk is actually low or zero but still not keen!

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Your pictures are really gorgeous @@JulieM. The wide angle views, the colours, the compositions, stellar!

 

I feel almost silly now that I post my amateur shots. But ok, we all have to start somewhere :)

 

I am saving up for a new camera as we speak! Might I ask what your poison of choice is? What gear you use?

 

I'll be eagerly awaiting more of your trip report!

 

I have also wondered of myself whether I would enjoy this wild camping in the end, as I also have a "princess"-side to me, though it looks magical on pictures! I am happy to hear you seem to have enjoyed it tremendously!

 

Thanks @@martywilddog - glad you like the photos, but never feel silly about posting your shots! We love all photos on this site!!

 

I use Canon gear - I took two Canon 5DMark3s (one borrowed from a friend), a 24-105mm and a 100-400 version 2 lens. It is a simple set up but it works well for me. I had a version 1 100-400 lens and I loved that one too, so don't feel you need to spend thousands on gear. I also know a professional wild-life photographer who is using the new Tamron 150-600 lens and loving it.

 

I did cope with the wild camping - so if I can, you can!

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After another night of lion, elephant and leopard calls, we headed off up the riverbed to see what we could find. Doug read the newspaper and we followed some lioness tracks up a bank and along. We could also see quite clearly the indentation on the ground where one of the male lions had called from the night before. The tracks continued but we took a break for me to photograph some baboons. The baboons at Chitake Springs are very placid. Doug explained that they have never been fed, so do not see humans as food-related, and have never had stones thrown at them so they generally don't pay us any attention. Sitting at the base of this tree, watching the troop eating and manoeuvring around the tree, in the beautiful dawn light was very special.

 

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They moved on and so did we. We were travelling along the top of the riverbank/cliff, following these lion tracks for some distance. I had begun to relax a little into the pace of Chitake Springs and so enjoyed this art of tracking. We spent a couple of hours following these tracks, heading up towards the baobab trees again, until we lost the lionesses. Further on, however, Doug says that there are some fresh male lion tracks and started to follow them. So far, having not found any lions over that first couple of days, I didn't really believe that we would ever find him and so I remained relaxed. However, (and my heart is actually racing as I type this, reliving the memory), as Doug headed away following the tracks, there's a noise from hubby behind me and it's at this moment that Doug learned what Australian is for lion! Hubby had spotting this male lion who had been lying under a tree in a slightly different direction from where Doug was headed, and on spotting us he leapt up and started running, thankfully away from us. It was at this point that I saw him - he was no more than about 10metres from us - a magnificent large male lion!! Words escaped both hubby and I as we tried in vain to let Doug know that there was a lion there!! "Um-ah-ga-gulp-D-D-um-DOUG-LION" is how Australians say lion! Doug of course had spotted him, and watched as he scampered away. "I knew those tracks were very fresh" he said!!

 

It took some minutes for the adrenaline to settle! It had seemed a bit of an academic exercise prior to this, but actually it turns out that you do find lions when you follow their tracks! Whoa!!

 

We followed along the path that he had taken but we never say him again. Doug did find fresh leopard tracks and dung though, so we headed off down the riverbed to see if we could spot this leopard. That would have taken the cake if we had, but as you know, leopards are elusive characters. It was still actually very cool to know that there was a leopard around (leopards are my favourite cats), even if we didn't seem him. Even hearing him at night, I felt like I was a part of his world in a way that viewing one from a vehicle will never be.

 

This is the gorge we were following:

 

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We headed to "the spot" again and settled in. This time it was a longer wait. We solved the world's problems and engaged in small talk for about 2 hours and we had packed up and were heading out when Doug said "Quick, get down - buffaloes!!" They were back!

 

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And, just like the day before, they raced in, drank their fill and then raced out again.

 

I hadn't previously paid buffaloes much attention and hadn't found them very interesting before. But being so close to so many of them I was fascinated. Their interactions were easier to see and the oxpecker's behaviour could be watched. You could tell when they had spotted us, or sensed us - they would all stop and stand still, staring in our direction. That's when we played statues, until they relaxed again and went back to drinking. Great stuff!!

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It seems we weren't finished with buffaloes for the day. We were heading back towards camp, along the cliff line, when another herd decided to come in for a drink.

 

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Notice the tree to the left on the hill - you can see it in the photo of Doug and Billy walking down the river without their shoes on. So you really do go in areas where the wildlife live.

 

An impala herd came in as well, the baboons were ever present and as I sat cross-legged in the dirt overlooking this scene, we estimated that there were around 1000 animals in the riverbed below us. I remember thinking to myself - "I will remember this moment as one of my 'happy place' moments"! Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on how you feel, I didn't actually take a photo of the mass gathering of wildlife - I was too busy enjoying the moment!

 

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As the herd were heading back up the bank, these two decided to have a bit of a scuffle. Watching their horns become entangled, I wondered how on earth this would end. But it did. They de-tangled and went back to their path up the bank.

 

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All the excitement over, we headed back to camp for lunch, our riverbed siesta, afternoon tea and then headed out again. This time we decided to sit on top of a cliff overlooking the riverbed and see what would come to us. Turns out nothing, but just sitting out in the bush with drinks in hand was lovely, and not even a little bit disappointing. A game drive without any sightings is disappointing, but this wasn't.

 

Our time at Chitake Springs had come to an end. I was sad to leave, but excited to be heading to the floodplains. What would they hold? Would we see Boswell? What about the dogs? Would they come to play?

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@@JulieM beautiful report and photos. Chitake is the place I picture in my mind when I think of Safari. The riverbed teeming with Buffalo is a wonderful experience. We had a similar experience to your Lion encounter with a Cheetah in Chitake. Your report is transporting me back there and I'm loving it!

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Game Warden

@@JulieM Some super, atmospheric, shots of the buffalo: I'd love to be sat atop that cliff overlooking the river bed right now.

 

Matt

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twaffle

@@JulieM you've really captured the Chitake experience by words and images. I especially love the baboons in the tree, it has a wonderful light and feel to it.

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The next morning we had time for a last walk up the riverbed before we headed to the floodplains. These elephants were making their way back from their drink.

 

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And then we were fortunate enough to see the buffaloes one last time.

 

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Edited by JulieM
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Kitsafari

beautiful rays of golden light filtering onto the buffaloes in the latest post. i agree - those pictures of the buffaloes, plus the joust, are tremendous.

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