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Atravelynn

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Atravelynn

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We were guided by Doug of Doug Macdonald’s Safaris to Africa. I booked direct, shortly after my 2015 safari with him (is there any better endorsement for Doug than that??)

and was awaiting--fingers crossed--for others to sign up. SafariChick booked through Chalo Africa. There were also two other Chalo clients so we were a group of 4.

Doug Collage

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Regarding the pith rescues above: The pith never went sailing off of Doug’s head, only when it was placed on the ground and the wind kicked up.

@@JulieM will be glad to know the koala that sat atop the pith survived the sailings and then was safely stowed to protect it from future unexpected gusts.

How hot was it in early Oct? Since October is known as “suicide month” in this part of the world, I brought along a small thermometer to check temps at random points in the trip. It’s the second half of Oct and into Nov that becomes more suicidal from what I experienced. Can’t say that I suffered severely during our trip (SafariChick can give her take) that reached as high as 104°F, 40°C. But it was a dry heat, for what it's worth.

 

SafariChick can fill in any pertinent details from her end in the itinerary before Oct 2, when we all became safarimates and headed out with Doug.

 

On my end prior to Oct 2, I had some glimpses of @@JulieM (who was traveling with Doug) and we even waved to each other and called out, “hi,” in the floodplains when I was with Natureways for a day at the start of my trip.

 

Also, after canoeing and on my way to Kanga I saw @@Shreyas at the Nyakasikana Gate. He mentioned he had never finished his Namibia report. And here he was in Zim! Hmmm. For that I should have looked disapprovingly at him, but I was too surprised to see him and even more surprised that he recognized me. We had a pleasant and very brief exchange. Thank you Shreyas for coming over to check if it was me! It was.

 

Specifically, pre-Oct 2 for me was

 

Sept 26 Arrive Harare, 15 minute transfer to Guinea Fowl B&B.

Sept 27 Transfer back to Harare and Fly Altair to Mana Pools Main Airstrip, O/nt Natureways (Mucheni #4).

Sept 28-30 3-night shoreline camping canoe trip w/Natureways

Oct 01 Off the river by 8:00 am at Chikwenya and arrive Kanga about 3:00 pm

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Typical Mana Pools floodplains scenes. Waterbuck were a SafariChick favorite.

 

 

 

Our Mana Pools itinerary with Doug was 3nts Chitake, 4 nts Floodplain, 2 nts Ilala

 

Oct 2 Doug picked up 3 of our team at the airstrip near Kanga, Dandawa Airstrip, then they all collected me at Kanga Bush Camp. Drove 2:00-3:35 pm to Chitake. O/nt Chitake private operator campsite, staffed by Natureways

Oct 3 Chitake private operator campsite, staffed by Natureways

Oct 4 Chitake private operator campsite, staffed by Natureways

 

Oct 5 Depart Chitake for floodplains, 11:00 am–3:00 pm, stopping at newly accessible pan (but it was dry) for lunch. O/nt Mucheni #4, staffed by Natureways

Oct 6 Muncheni #4, staffed by Natureways

Oct 7 Muncheni #4, staffed by Natureways

Oct 8 Muncheni #4, staffed by Natureways

 

Oct 9 Morning in Floodplains. Bid farewell to 2 Chalo Clients at the airstrip and picked up a new couple. Drove to Ilala 12:00 noon-1:40 pm. O/nt Ilala, staffed by Tailormade.

Oct 10 O/nt Ilala, staffed by Tailormade.

 

Oct 11 Morning in Chikwenya, then morning flight out of Chikwenya Airstrip.

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Classic Chitake Scenes

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After months of planning and emailing and waiting, there was Doug and my 3 safarimates in the vehicle outside of Kanga. In the front was SafariChick. We could finally do an in-person hug. The adventure began!

Edited by Atravelynn
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And quite a fun adventure it was! For me, the heat was not as bad as I feared the first few days in Chitake for sure. Even as we moved into the Floodplains, where it seemed there was less of a breeze

We were guided by Doug of Doug Macdonald’s Safaris to Africa. I booked direct, shortly after my 2015 safari with him (is there any better endorsement for Doug than that??) and was awaiting--fingers

Before our arrival at the Floodplains, we encountered this guy or gal which I THINK was a Grysbok? @@Atravelynn or someone correct me if I'm wrong! They are very similar in size to a Duiker.    

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SafariChick

And quite a fun adventure it was! For me, the heat was not as bad as I feared the first few days in Chitake for sure. Even as we moved into the Floodplains, where it seemed there was less of a breeze and maybe it did get a few degrees hotter (Lynn's meticulous note-taking came in handy to keep track of those temps and I rather enjoyed checking with her throughout the day to see just how hot it was!) most of the time it was bearable. A wet Frogg Toggs Chilly Pad (you can find them on Amazon) did wonders for me around my neck and so long as we weren't in the sun during the hottest parts of the day, it really was tolerable. The superb sightings made it all worthwhile for sure.

 

The rest of us had spent a night in Harare and flew in the morning of Oct. 2 to Mana Pools with a lovely pilot named Giles who I believe @@JulieM mentioned in her report as well. I told him I'm a bit of a nervous flier in small planes, and he graciously suggested I sit up front and put on the headphones and we could chat. He proceeded to tell me all about his life, how he used to be a farmer but when his farm was taken away, he got a second career as a pilot. (He'd always flown as a hobby even before that, though when I asked how long he'd been doing it professionally, he joked to me that he'd just gotten licensed last week :rolleyes: ) In any case, our conversation made the trip very pleasant.

 

When Doug picked us up, it was fun to get to meet JulieM and her husband briefly as they were departing on the same plane on which we'd arrived. We set off with Doug then to go pick up Lynn at Kanga. On our way in to Kanga, we happened upon a group of three lions resting in the shade. They were pretty sleepy and didn't seem like they planned to get up to greet us.

 

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This one appeared to be just a disembodied head, but don't worry, there was a body to go along with the head:

 

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This was not the body that went with that head, but it made for an amusing photo, I thought:

 

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As I began to take these photos, the first photos of wildlife in Zimbabwe that I had seen, something occurred that would become a theme throughout the trip. I had brought with me an inexpensive pair of sunglasses that I liked as they were comfortable and also if something happened to them, it would not be the end of the world. About a month before the trip, the plastic frame around one of the lenses had broken at the bottom. Mr. Safarichick managed to glue it together with some SuperGlue and get the lens to stay in, and I wore them several times before the trip and they seemed to be just fine. Of course, the moment I pushed them up on my head so I could put the camera to my eye, the frame again broke and the lens fell out -- onto the ground outside the car! We were very close to these lions and Doug looked out as though he meant to try to get the lens. I told him please not to worry about it, it did not seem safe to try to retrieve it and I had a second pair with me, also an inexpensive old pair. But he insisted it would be fine and opened the door to take a step out so he could reach the lens. As he did, two of the lions jumped up and at least one seemed to take a step or two towards him. My heart went into my throat. Mana Pools already delivering the excitement but I really wasn't sure this was a good idea!! Luckily, a couple of seconds later, the two decided to run off a ways rather than coming towards us - phew! But I felt terrible for having disturbed them. Doug picked up the lens, and as we drove off, they were already walking back to their shady spot. With that, we arrived into Kanga where I was so happy to greet @@Atravelynn in person at last! More about me and my sunglasses later!

Edited by SafariChick
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Atravelynn

That second lion photo is very humorous. I remember being amused by the tale of the sunglasses and all the excitement that took place before I came on the scene. I never saw the lions at Kanga!

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Kitsafari

Drama at the word go! The lions would have a go at the shades but doug took the fun away from them.

 

Hope you managed to get the lens fitted back in the frame?

 

What a great GTG with you guys meeting JulieM. STers really get around.

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104 degrees in early October! This is exactly why I decided against Doug's special SafariTalk November trip...tempting as it was I can't even imagine walking in such heat, dry or not :o But eager to read the rest of the report as Mana is at the tip of my wish list...

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@@Atravelynn

@@SafariChick

A great start to your adventure together. It is always fun to hear about Safaritalkers taking a trip together - I look forward to reading the rest of the report.

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This trip report sounds a bit racy for me - especially since I see Doug is getting his gear off in the first post!! :o Is it safe to read on?

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SafariChick

@@pault I'm gonna have to say read at your own risk - after all, it IS called "HOT TIMES in Mana Pools ..."

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I too thought it was very cool to meet some Safaritalkers! I even have a photo, for the end of my report...

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Atravelynn

Drama at the word go! The lions would have a go at the shades but doug took the fun away from them. Doug is always spoiling the fun! <_<

 

Hope you managed to get the lens fitted back in the frame? The sunglasses looked just fine when I saw them. Of course I was unaware of the adventure they had just taken!

 

What a great GTG with you guys meeting JulieM. STers really get around. Very brief with JulieM, but it's always exciting to see a safaritalker.

 

 

@@Atravelynn

@@SafariChick

A great start to your adventure together. It is always fun to hear about Safaritalkers taking a trip together And we had fun doing it! - I look forward to reading the rest of the report.

 

 

This trip report sounds a bit racy for me Proceed with caution, as we all know you are so sensitive and prudish. :rolleyes: - especially since I see Doug is getting his gear off in the first post!! :o Is it safe to read on? Only if you squint.

Speaking of racy and the first post...

 

That is my boot with the Doug Macdonald signature (literally) gaiter covering it. I wanted a close up of the gaiter, so I hoisted my leg, clad in shorts, up on a tree for a better angle and asked Doug to take a picture "of this." Doug mentioned that I request some unusual photos and stated something about capturing the inner thigh in the shot. It was then that I realized he thought I wanted him to take a leg shot of me. Oh no! In fact leg shots are something I do my best to avoid. It was the gaiter closeup that I wanted.

 

 

I too thought it was very cool to meet some Safaritalkers! I even have a photo, for the end of my report... Really? I'll look forward to that!

 

Day 1 Chitake arrival day recollections

 

My thermometer was packed for the hour and a half, mid-day, drive to Chitake. But we all agreed on the non-numeric description of the experience as a hair dryer set on hot. Did you get that @@janzin?

 

While seated overlooking the spring on our first afternoon at Chitake, we saw a bird that Doug did not expect to see: The red-necked falcon.

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100x digital zoom did capture a reddish neck and head and even the reflection.

 

Both SafariChick and I had intermittent zipper issues with our tents throughout the Natureways part of the trip, where the zippers would come off the track or not zip at all. A special tool and candle wax were employed at times as fixes. I believe we were told this was the last stand for these tents and new ones were arriving after our trip. Anyway, I initiated the zipper problems when I could not get the main vertical zipper to open so that I could leave my tent. The floor level zipper was ok, so to exit, I rolled out the bottom—after checking left and right for animals.

 

Checking left and right are not sufficient once outside of the tent. Elijah, the camp manager, explained the surveillance procedure after exiting a tent and before walking off by stating, "You should look 270°." That included looking behind you on each side of the tent.

 

Elijah was big on explaining things with #s. We all shared a primary toilet (we being our party of 4 and another couple who were also at the campsite with their own guide). The primary toilet is what we were supposed to use whenever possible. But each tent had an ensuite chemical toilet for nighttime. Initially there was some confusion as to what the chemical toilet could accommodate. Elijah clarified by telling us we could do #1, #2, or #7 in our chemical toilets.

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Inside the primary use, group toilet Ingenious method of showing “occupied.”

No orange wash cloth means come on in.

Both the Chitake and the Floodplains camps had this setup for the primary, group toilet.

I believe it was this first night that one member of our party (not SafariChick or me) heard lions roaring a little too close for comfort while in the shower tent, maybe 8 meters from the end tent (mine.) There were some shouts for help which I heard and relayed to Doug and the other guide in camp, Andy. I’m not sure if the disturbance led to a streaking incident through camp or if a towel was handy. But I recall hearing the guides calling out, “Don’t run! You can’t run.”

 

In the aftermath we determined that (1) the lions were not in camp, (2) their roars made them sound closer than they were, (3) we would all take our showers during the mid-day break when the sun was shining. That’s my preference anyway.

 

Doug had emailed about a week prior to departure that the forecast showed possible (early) rain during our visit, so I added a rain jacket. When we turned in for our first night in the bush, clear skies gave us no inkling of rain.

 

Around 1:00 am, the rain jacket came in handy. Our tents had mesh screening above our head for airflow, which also allowed the raindrops in. I draped the windbreaker over the bed to keep it dry. Silly me had laid all my gear on the floor of the tent for easier access. I grabbed everything and quickly crammed it back into my luggage to keep it from getting wet. So much for organization or access. Fortunately the rain was light and did not last long. It was 85°F, 29°C inside the tent.

 

The second round of rain about 4:00 am was a little more substantial and I slithered underneath my rain jacket, too tired to check the thermometer.

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At night the side panel was zipped in Chitake for safety. In the floodplains zipping the side panel was optional.

I preferred it open in the floodplains to see what was happening at night.

Edited by Atravelynn
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Seniortraveller

@@Atravelynn and @@SafariChick, I feel spoilt for choice at the moment between yourselves and @@JulieM. I will be on Doug's Safaritalk Special in November 2017, just couldn't resist the opportunity to see somewhere that has been on my wish list for some time.

It is so wonderful to read such detailed trip reports and reassuring to see the accommodation and ablution facilities. I could have done without the daily recorded temperatures!!!!! We will have three nights at Kanga to recover, after our time with Doug. It looks as though we will need it.

Looking forward to the rest of the report and more excellent photos. Thank you.

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@@Atravelynn I am spoilt with all this Zim action. We head back there with Doug next August and your's and @@JulieM reports are reminding me that not only will it be a stupendous Safari but we will also have so much fun with Doug!

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Atravelynn

@@Atravelynn I am spoilt with all this Zim action. We head back there with Doug next August and your's and @@JulieM reports are reminding me that not only will it be a stupendous Safari but we will also have so much fun with Doug! Aug will be here before you know it.

 

 

@@Atravelynn and @@SafariChick, I feel spoilt for choice at the moment between yourselves and @@JulieM. I will be on Doug's Safaritalk Special in November 2017, just couldn't resist the opportunity to see somewhere that has been on my wish list for some time.

It is so wonderful to read such detailed trip reports and reassuring to see the accommodation and ablution facilities. Depending on what level of ablution you have arranged, it is possible to have a flush toilet too, which is what we had our last 2 nights at Tailormade. There are options. I could have done without the daily recorded temperatures!!!!! Those temps are a heads up to get yourself a Frogg Toggs Chilly Pad like SafariChick had or pack some bandanas you can wet for around your neck when out & about and a kikoi/sarong to wear wet for lounging in the tent during the heat of the day. We will have three nights at Kanga Lots of good stuff to read here about Kanga too and eventually I'll do a 24-hour Kanga report. A lot happened at the waterhole in that short time. to recover, after our time with Doug. It looks as though we will need it.

Looking forward to the rest of the report and more excellent photos. Thank you.

 

We are doing our best to help you to keep tabs on that character, Doug!

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SafariChick

The sunglasses were not really functional after the breaking incident as I would try to put the lens back in but it would fall out frequently. So I put them away thinking well, I'll just use my second pair and once I'm home maybe Mr. SafariChick can fix them again. (Stay tuned for news on what happened to the second pair ... various issues with my various sunglasses was to become a running gag on this trip!)

 

I didn't think I'd be able to stand the temperatures either, really - I am not one who tolerates heat well - but really, in the shade and often with a breeze, and with your wet Chilly Pad or bandana, it's not as bad as you'd think!

 

Here's a photo of Doug on our ride from Kanga to Chitake - he decided the best place for him was to sprawl out atop the luggage, setting the tone for our trip - he's a man who is serious about guiding and animals, but doesn't take himself too seriously!

 

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@Atravelynn :lol: Your thigh story makes me wonder just what kind of things people ask Doug to do. Hilarious.

 

And differnt levels of ablutions "to order"? Who would have thought?

 

Excellent so far, both of you.

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elefromoz

@@Atravelynn, "rolling out the bottom of the tent", good to hear your agile again after the Namibia trip. There can never be too many toilet rules.

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twaffle

I'm thoroughly enjoying these tales of Mana, I can hear all the laughter from here!

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I'm just happy that on my recent trip to Gonorezhou with Kitsafari we were lucky enough that there were light breezes at times at to cool things off. I particularly enjoy your photos of the herd of buffalo,and the lions.

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Atravelynn

 

And differnt levels of ablutions "to order"? Who would have thought? Get your order in early!

 

Excellent so far, both of you. I hope we have not peaked too early. Although I know Safarichick has some more funny stuff to relate.

 

 

@@Atravelynn, "rolling out the bottom of the tent", good to hear your agile again after the Namibia trip. Thanks. It is better to be rolling out of a tent than rolling in pain! There can never be too many toilet rules. Now that you mention it, I don't think everyone (and it was probably the other groups in camp) did their fair share of dirt dumping to cover up what they deposited in the drop toilet. I recall often scooping and pouring several pails of dirt prior to doing my duty, along with the scoop and pour routine afterward. Maybe a toilet tent rule enforcer could be a new position for mobile safari providers.

 

 

I'm thoroughly enjoying these tales of Mana, I can hear all the laughter from here! It was not only the hyenas laughing in Mana Pools.

 

 

I'm just happy that on my recent trip to Gonorezhou with Kitsafari we were lucky enough that there were light breezes at times at to cool things off. I particularly enjoy your photos of the herd of buffalo,and the lions. A light breeze makes such a difference, especially when your Frogg Toggs Chilly pad is damp.

 

That photo of Doug captures the essence of a safari with him, @@SafariChick!

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SafariChick

I remember our first afternoon taking a walk and seeing the red-necked falcon that @@Atravelynn was able to capture with her better zoom than I - I tried but it was too blurry to post - and though not too many other animals, just enjoyed taking in the stark beauty of the place. Well we did find a decaying hyena carcass and we all took photos - I'm not sure though if it may be too gruesome to post - what do folks think, do you want to see it?

 

We did hear lions roaring every night though, usually not long after dark - and they sounded close! (as mentioned in the shower story!) We started playing a game after the first night, taking bets on what time we'd hear the first lion roar. The first night it happened at exactly the time predicted by one in our party - I think the time was 6:32 p.m. - and we were all in our tents getting ready for the evening but immediately after that first roar we all heard a loud "I win!!" coming from that person's tent! We also had elephants walking past camp every evening in the dry riverbed. They were totally silent to me but Doug or the other guide Andy would invariably hear or see a shadow of them and a light would reveal one or more slowly padding by - amazing.

 

It was either the first or the second night that I had called Elijah into my tent to inspect a spider - I'm not one to ever want to kill spiders but I just wanted to make sure if it was a dangerous kind and, if so, ask if Elijah could possibly get it out of my tent, alive. He came and took a look and said no, that spider is not dangerous so I said fine, let's leave it alone. Suddenly I noticed there was also a tse tse fly flying around inside the tent. I said now THAT I would rather get rid of as I'd prefer not to be bitten during the night! Elijah said also not to worry since at night and in the dark they settle down and won't bite. I was mulling that over when suddenly, we see the tsetse zoom past us an land on the side of the tent - literally on top of the spider! The spider did not even have a web but it instantly grabbed the fly and disabled it and I believe began eating it! Wow! My first kill in Mana!

 

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Atravelynn

Well we did find a decaying hyena carcass and we all took photos - I'm not sure though if it may be too gruesome to post - what do folks think, do you want to see it?

How thoughtful of you to seek a consensus on whether a decaying hyena should grace the pages of our report. In contrast, about the time you were posing that sensitive question, I was creating a necro-collage of not only the hyena but the elephant carcass. What the heck, I’ll post it, as this is part of the bush experience as well, and sometimes even part of the safari experience.

 

I think the time was 6:32 p.m Right, on the nose!. - and we were all in our tents getting ready for the evening but immediately after that first roar we all heard a loud "I win!!" coming from that person's tent! Of all the bush noises in the dark, "I win" is not usually the most memorable. We also had elephants walking past camp every evening in the dry riverbed. They were totally silent to me but Doug or the other guide Andy would invariably hear or see a shadow of them and a light would reveal one or more slowly padding by - amazing. And a very distant pair of mating lions way, way down the riverbed, I think the last night. Their forms could barely be made out.

 

I remember your spider kill, but I never saw the photo of the predator! That spider-in-the-tent would have really freaked out one member of our group who had an insect phobia, especially an insect-in-the-tent phobia. Seeing that in their tent could have caused another streaking incident!

 

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Edited by Atravelynn
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Atravelynn

Recollections of 1st full day Chitake, 2nd night

We took advantage of the cooler temps (80°F, 27°C at 6:00 am departure) and did a walk along the river. The dusty haze of yesterday was gone, due to last night’s rain.

 

Our first attempt to see buffalo drinking about 8:15 am at 85°F, 29°C yielded no buffalo. We had thought we heard some buffalo drinking the previous night at a distance, which was exciting, but actually not a good sign for daytime viewing. Buffalo tend to drink every 24 hours. If watering time for the herd falls at night during the 24-hour cycle, then viewing this spectacle is not possible. Fortunately there are about three herds in Chitake, so odds are at least one herd is drinking during the day. Also if not all of the buffalo are able to get to their turn when the herd is at the springs, then those missing out return later. Reasons for not quenching their thirst can include the intrusion of a predator or something less lethal that sparks a sudden mass exodus before all have drank their fill.

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Chitake scenery

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The high, scenic banks of Chitake provided good vantage points for the residents to view us intruders as we walked by.

Walking through the mud of the Chitake Springs was mentioned in @JulieM’s report. We were also offered that opportunity by Doug, but one of our group members (not Safarichick or me) immediately and emphatically declined. Since I had done Chitake mudwalking last year, that was ok with me, but it is a cool (literally) experience. You do have to be careful, as I recall, not to lose your balance in the mud, which could pose a problem for cameras.

 

WARNING, WARNING, WARNING. THE NEXT PHOTO CONTAINS UNSIGHTLY AND DECAYING CARCASSES

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Atravelynn

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After some forensics, it was thought the elephant carcass had been discovered by the rangers and the tusks removed. That’s better than poaching. Elijah* is with the elephant.

 

Daily deterioration and the influx of insects on the hyena carcass was dramatic day by day.

 

The hyena dung, which Doug termed “Bush Meringue,” completes the unsightly collage.

 

@@SafariChick, I hope I have not upset our readers. It would be worse if we conveyed scent and not just images. Maybe you have some more decayed hyena shots to add.

 

Our morning ended at 11:20 am when it was 90°F, 32°C and our afternoon outing at the Baobab Cathedral hit 88°F, 31°C at 5:30 pm.

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Doug suggested a different approach to baobab photography, shooting straight up.

 

I don’t remember who won the “first lion calling” that night, but I think it was earlier than last night’s winner at 6:32 pm.

 

At bedtime, 9:15 pm, it was a comfortable 82°F, 28°C and no precipitation.

 

*Elijah joined us at both Chitake and the floodplains as a camera porter for one of the really big cameras. (Not Safarichick's or my camera. That would be pretty funny if we shared "P&S Porter" for the 2 of us who carried our bridge Panasonic and Canon cameras.) But this is a common practice when photographers have heavy equipment. Elijah is also a guide, so we really benefited from having two pairs of professional eyes accompany us. Also, sometimes Elijah could follow one set of tracks, and Doug the other. Elijah really enhanced our trip, I thought.

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SafariChick

Ha ha yes, that would have been amusing if we requested a porter for our Point and Shoot cameras! I agree, Elijah really did enhance our trip. I think the readers may have seen enough carcass photos with your lovely collage so I will refrain from posting more unless the crowd clamors for more, bigger and close-up carcass shots, cause I have 'em! I WILL post a few photos of my own of the sights from the first afternoon and first full day at Chitake:

 

Mom and baby baboon:

 

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Midday the Natureways staff was kind enough to offer to move our beds out from our tents to the edge of the dry riverbed in the shade where we could relax, enjoy the breeze and read, chat or nap. @@Atravelynn and I were happy to take advantage of this offer.

 

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Me hugging a Baobab - shows just how huge they really are:

 

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Atravelynn

I think the readers may have seen enough carcass photos with your lovely collage so I will refrain from posting more unless the crowd clamors for more, bigger and close-up carcass shots, cause I have 'em! I WILL post a few photos of my own of the sights from the first afternoon and first full day at Chitake:

 

I was not awakened this morning by any clamoring. Nor am I reading demands for carcass closeups. But should those demands materialize, you can just whip your necro-shots into the report any point.

 

That baboon family looks familiar from your viewfinder. You had to be quick to catch them.

 

We enjoyed the “beds on the riverbank” for two afternoons, I believe, lined up side by side. It was a good way to beat the midday heat, lounging in the shade. The first day we tried this I remember Doug saying he thought we were going to nap but figured we did not get much rest because heard giggling the whole afternoon.

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Edited by Atravelynn
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