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@@Atravelynn and @@SafariChick - continuing to follow on but have been lagging behind (a bit like trying to follow the dogs? :D ). Continuing to really enjoy the journey, stories and images. Looking forward my visit next year. Earlier you mentioned that November is Doug's favourite time in Mana - can you explain why?

I believe Doug mentioned the newly green brush and freshness after the first rains, and prior to those rains everything is in the floodplains.

 

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All 9 pups visible with adult standing guard

 

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Where does one dog end and the next one start?

 

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Sharing a stick

Edited by Atravelynn
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@@Atravelynn I just love your photos of my favorite animal-wild dogs. They are almost always far more interesting to watch than lions or even cheetahs. As you know all too well there are only a handful of places where you stand a good chance of seeing them.

They are simply beguiling.

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@@Atravelynn I just love your photos of my favorite animal-wild dogs. They are almost always far more interesting to watch than lions or even cheetahs. As you know all too well there are only a handful of places where you stand a good chance of seeing them.

They are simply beguiling.

We might have to argue about the cheetah, but I know what you mean. Dogs are fascinating and such a thrill to see.

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The pups of the Nyakasanga enjoy a particularly picturesque playground. An adult serves as playground monitor.

 

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90°F, 32°C at 8:00 am after viewing the dogs for our third and final time.

 

It was a big ending for the floodplains! At the airstrip we said goodbye to the two gentlemen who had shared such fabulous experiences with us. It was mid-morning and 104°F, 40°C.

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Edited by Atravelynn
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The Chitake (3 nts) and Floodplains (4nts) portion of our trip was over. All that remained was 2 nights Ilala where SafariChick and I would team up with two more of Doug’s clients, Jason and Monica.

Off the plane hopped Jason and Monica. They claimed a definite lurker status on ST, and I think even a post or two. We’d love to find out what happened on the rest of the trip after sharing 2 days with us, JASON AND MONICA, if you are lurking/reading.

 

Main Airstrip departure at noon and 1:40 pm arrival at Ilala camp, operated by Tailormade safaris. 102°F, 39°C at 2:00 pm.

 

Based on my experience a year ago with Tailormade and these two nights at Ilala compared with 8 nights Natureways, I think Tailormade is a little higher end in both comfort and price. I’d travel again with either company in a heartbeat.

 

How we ended up at Ilala Camp operated by Tailormade: In Jan 2016, SafariChick and I booked Chikwenya for two people, through Doug with a deposit. At the end of April the owners notified Doug that the lodge had been sold. We weren’t sure if we’d be able to stay in the lodge, but the alternative of camping in Chikwenya with Doug and two additional guests was fine.

 

:angry: :angry: :( Then just a couple of weeks before our departure, the owners refused to allow us to camp anywhere on the Chikwenya property. It was this denial that I feel was completely unethical and dishonest by Chikwenya. While we were not out any money, this suddenly left us with 2 nights and no place to stay during high season. Doug scrambled and secured us Ilala at the edge of Mana Pools, next to Chikwenya—thank goodness there were no canoeing safaris that had already claimed the location. The end result is that the behavior of the new Chikwenya Lodge owners detracts from the other ethical operators in Zimbabwe and tarnishes the reputation of Mana Pools as place visitors can confidently book and have their reservation honored. (I’ve had this happen due to a fire and completely understood those circumstances, but this was very different.) Doug helped save the day (actually 2 days) when Chikwenya definitely let us down. :( :angry: :angry:

 

Our first afternoon we drove around to get the lay of the land at Ilala and finished at a Carmine Bee Eater Colony.

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It appears a species of striped elephant makes its home in this part of the park.

 

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The carmines were not in an accessible area until the light was low. This is a case of

needing to pay more attention to the background in the photo. An unobstructed ele and

a flock of carmines, even in low light, would be really interesting.

The obstructed ele makes the photo less interesting.

 

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Sun sets on Ilala.

 

At bedtime it was 88°F, 31°C and at 2:30 am it was 68°F, 20°C inside the tent. I was not about to check the 2:30 am temp outside the tent.

Edited by Atravelynn
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Just a great report guys I'm finally all caught up. So jealous of all those wild dogs and I love that Boswell mud bath sequence @@SafariChick. That is an impressive b-day cake @@Atravelynn which reminded me off the 4 cake stories from our recent trip. It seems we had matching snowstorms earlier this month as we got 10 inches and another 12 yesterday! I can't bear the thought of lifting that shovel again for a while.

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love those pics of the pups playing against the waters - as you say, so picturesque. who owns Chikwenya now? after such shoddy treatment, I don't blame you for not ever wanting to go back there, and i would hesitate to stay there too as one will wonder if they would really honour their obligations.

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Lovely photo of the Carmines! Sorry to hear about Chikwenya, we had also planned to do two nights there in October, let's see where we end up.

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Just a great report guys I'm finally all caught up. So jealous of all those wild dogs and I love that Boswell mud bath sequence @@SafariChick. That is an impressive b-day cake @@Atravelynn which reminded me off the 4 cake stories from our recent trip. It seems we had matching snowstorms earlier this month as we got 10 inches and another 12 yesterday! I can't bear the thought of lifting that shovel again for a while.

Remind me of the cake stories. I did not see them in "Back from Kenya."

 

love those pics of the pups playing against the waters - as you say, so picturesque. The dogs saved us the best of their antics for last, although all 4 of our encounters were unique and interesting, even the brief one of them running through the forest in the dark who owns Chikwenya now? Some hunting folks, who of course won't be hunting in Chikwenya, but I don't know the specifics. after such shoddy treatment, I don't blame you for not ever wanting to go back there, and i would hesitate to stay there too as one will wonder if they would really honour their obligations.

 

 

Lovely photo of the Carmines! Sorry to hear about Chikwenya, we had also planned to do two nights there in October, let's see where we end up. It may be inhabitable by Oct, at a much increased cost I believe. But it was in complete decay when we drove past the lodge part during our trip. We saw Land Cruisers that had been left to "rot" and fall apart on the premises.

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Here is an elephant we saw that first afternoon walking along and dusting himself

 

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the sun setting on Ilala was truly lovely

 

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Wake temps up for our final full day in Mana Pools was 76°F, 24°C and by 10:00 am it was 99°F, 37°C.

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The landscape in Ilala is the classic floodplains acacias with dappled light. We tried our hand again at running impala.

 

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We had some fun with Lilian’s Lovebirds.

 

We ventured across the dry riverbed into Chikwenya.

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Some sleuthing by Doug revealed a leopard kill where the prey had been dragged a long distance--from Chikwenya to Ilala.

Walking means you don’t miss these fascinating details, shown above.

 

We ended our morning near the carmine bee-eater colony. The previous night Doug had positioned a log along the top of the bank where the bee-eaters made their nests. He hoped they would enjoy sunning themselves on it, which would allow some nice photo ops. We appreciated Doug’s forethought, but the bee-eaters were not impressed and ignored the log, opting for the bank.

 

Not only did I appreciate Doug’s effort for bee-eater photos, though the birds were uncooperative, I appreciated his offer to leave teatime early to visit the carmines again. I had asked about visiting the carmines during our midday break, but Doug explained the light would be too harsh then, and he was right. I was trying to get another carmine visit in and I knew the other guests were not as thrilled to sit out in the sun with these birds as I was. So I was trying to work around our regular safari departure times. Teatime with the carmines worked beautifully.

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Sparring in the riverbed between Chikwenya and Ilala. Bottom left: the middle of the 3 kudus appears submissive.

 

We were back to playing the game of Clue again (originally mentioned in post #102) when we found two “weapons” -- a piece of rope and a hypodermic needle circa 1950 for darting rhino. The needle was a sad reminder of a time when rhino roamed Mana Pools.

 

The private carmine bee-eater encounters, just minutes from our camp, were worth the whole extension to Ilala for me. But our wildlife viewing in Ilala was sparser than just a couple kilometers away in Chikwenya, where we were not welcome (as explained in #181 with the :( :angry: ). Doug did manage to get us into the perimeter of Chikwenya during our full day outing. Also, on our last morning when we had to drive into Chikwenya to reach the airstrip there, we took a very roundabout and circuitous route, which had us going all over Chikwenya enroute to the airstrip and produced some very nice sightings...coming up shortly.

Edited by Atravelynn
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Very nice Bee-Eater photos! Doug tried the log with us also, and it did not really work back then neither.

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Hi, I'm back to catch up with your trip report. I'm really enjoying it. From what I see this safari must feel like a jackpot - it seems you saw everything Mana has to offer.

I'm most jealous about Boswell and wild dogs sightings. We too witnessed some spectacular dogs action, but never had opportunity to see them in such number, with pups playing etc.

Great photos of carmine bee-eaters, too. When we were there, in the first week of August, they have not yet arrived.

 

 

If I went to Mana as a self-driver, would the Rangers there be able to walk around with me?
Do you know anything about group size and fees?

 

Hi @@KaliCA. As self-drivers we did hire a local guide Lovemore Chiwara for day trips, last year. He works for African Bushcamps, but on his free days he might be available for private bushwalks. It's best to contact him before your trip. Check our our trip report: http://safaritalk.ne...ls-august-2016/ and contact me for more details if you are interested.

 

You may also hire armed ranger on-site, at Nyamepi to walk with you. We didn't try this, but from what I heard the rangers are mostly for keeping you safe, but when it comes to guiding it depends on luck (some of them might be good, but rather don't expect the same level as with professional guide)

Edited by hubertj
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@@hubertj we did indeed feel very lucky and that we were able to see everything that Mana had to offer. A very fortunate trip, though the last two days were, as @@Atravelynn said, quite quiet. However, I also agree that seeing the carmines was really special and made that last full day worthwhile, even though I only spent the morning session with them, not the second one that Atravelynn went back for. I felt satisfied with the morning time I'd spent with them and the photos I took. But Atravelynn really got some super close-up photos!

 

Also, tracking the leopard's kill was fascinating. I was impressed with how Doug figured out where the leopard had dragged it and where the kill took place. We went back later and sat in the vehicle near where we knew the kill was hidden, hoping the leopard would return for the kill, but unfortunately it was getting dark and we had to leave.

 

Here are some of my photos from this day.

 

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Peter Connan

Finally caught up!

 

What a magnificent trip! Mana remains my no.1 bucket-list trip.

 

While you had fabulous dog sightings, Boswell, the lovebirds and the Bee-eaters are my personal favorite encounters.

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@@Peter Connan thanks! We really had an amazing time. We still have a bit more to post about the trip and I think we'll be getting to that this weekend :)

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@@SafariChick I adore your photos of the lovebirds. The flocks are truly stunning.

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I like that bee eater comparison with the carmine and the white fronted, @@SafariChick. I recall that Doug stated he finds the white fronted bee eater to have a wider array of colors in its feathers, giving it an edge over the carmine, in his humble opinion.

 

Our last morning we made our way to the Chikwenya airstrip for a morning departure and enroute we found evidence of a pack of dogs that had left the area at dawn. So, besides the dogs we saw in the flesh, there was evidence of two other packs—one in Chitake and one in Ilala/Chikwenya. That was one reason I wanted to spend time in several areas of Mana Pools. You never know where the dogs might be.

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Always fun to have a camouflage shot, this one of a kudu

 

My fifth and final Mana Pools lion sighting evened the score between lion and leopard sightings. The five leopards added up as follows: 4 seen at the Kanga pan, spotlighted at night, and 1 seen during the day in the floodplains. Doug had mentioned that leopards were becoming more common in Mana Pools; and if this last lion had not materialized, my leopard #s would have exceeded my lion #s in Mana Pools—a sign of the times.

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From the vehicle—this lion looked a bit worn out and spent. He sought privacy; we obliged.

 

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Appealing Chikwenya terrain

 

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Female saddle bill stork has a yellow eye. The male has a dark eye.

 

The highlight of our first few days with Doug was buffalo. That was back in Chitake. Fitting then, that we would end with a buffalo herd in Chikwenya. Buffalo Bookends. While we did not observe this herd from a concealed hillside, as we did in Chitake, we did descend the vehicle, per Doug’s instructions, to watch from ground level.

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Chikwenya buffalo

 

The final sighting of the trip was spotted by @@SafariChick, a side striped jackal. We saw a pair, which would be appropriate for this mate-for-life species. The jackal must be the official sendoff species, as it was my final sighting on my previous Mana Pools trip.

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Chikwenya, side striped jackal, final sighting.....and goodbye

 

It had been some hot but rewarding times in Mana Pools. Not debilitatingly hot, though, and well worth the rewards. Next are SafariChick’s final thoughts.

Edited by Atravelynn
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And here are a final few photos from me of our last morning.

 

A hippo out of water at 6 a.m. is a fun sight

 

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Various antelope appeared to give us a final farewell, including a beautiful group of four kudu bulls together

 

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@@Atravelynn already posted lovely shots of the buffalo and stork so I won't add mine to those but I have one more of a group of eland:

 

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and I loved that we got to see a pair of jackals at the last minute - we almost drove right by them but I spotted them and I think we had to back up a little!

 

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a farewell shot with Doug:

 

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and last but not least, some final animals at the Harare airport to bid me adieu:

 

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Farewell, Zimbabwe - until we meet again - and I'm sure we will!

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Farewell, Zimbabwe - until we meet again - and I'm sure we will!

And farewell SafariChick - until we meet again - and I'm sure we will!

 

But the report is not finished yet....

 

 

 

And now, introducing one of our traveling companions on this trip who will finish off the report with a series of his fine photos...Here's Mr. "6:32 I win*," himself, MadAboutCheetah!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*It was MadAboutCheetah who predicted the exact time of the first lion call in Chitake and it was his voice we heard from the tent exclaiming. "I won!" as soon as the lion completed its roar.

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madaboutcheetah

Thanks a lot @@Atravelynn and @@SafariChick for the most detailed trip report yet ........ What a fun introduction to Zimbabwe it was! with Doug in charge!!!!

 

My part later in the week will be add some photos to the thread (I've only edited about half of my images) ........

 

My impressions of Zimbabwe ........ Brilliant!!! What lovely people, country and landscape .......... Right from the visa procedure till you leave their land - they are nothing but welcoming!!!!

 

Impressions of Mana Pools - although, a week wasn't even scratching the surface (3 N Chitake Springs; 4 N flood plains at Mucheni) .......... I loved the walking segment especially with Doug in Charge. I was blown away by the Wilderness aspect of Chitake. That long walk up the escarpment and down the spring all the way looping around is priceless!!! The flood plains were incredibly scenic and My those entertaining Elephants are something else ......... but, whilst the dogs are around; they attract humans from every nook and corner of the flood plains (no fault of theirs - the dogs are a huge attraction!). ;)

 

Very high up on my to-do list in Zimbabwe is Gonerezhou .......

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Very very enjoyable report @@SafariChick and Atravelynn. It looks like an enjoyable time was had by all and Mana really delivered for you. If it wasn't for that heat I would have had a matching trip report. Hopefully we see some more of these tag team reports!

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madaboutcheetah

Quick note about the EK flight Harare-Lusaka-DXB - I heard from the purser of the flight that the route wasn't that successful commercially - but, the cargo service is ultra profitable. So, let's hope they keep the route.

 

First batch of images ........ My sincere thanks to Elijah who was so incredibly helpful through the trip!!!

 

The Nyakasanga pack are immensely talented Baboon hunters ......... goes to say, how versatile the dogs truly are!

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Jane and Lynn, thanks so much for this report, you had fantastic sightings and it was so easy to imagine what it would be like thanks your vivid narration and the great photos. Felt like a return to Mana Pools, thoroughly enjoyed it. Really would have to be liked part of this gang, you must have had lots of fun!

 

And Hari, very glad you have joined the report now, looking forward very much to seeing more of your photos! Love the jumping Impala with the hunting dog in the background, a fabulous shot!

 

Sorry if I missed that - who is Elijah?

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