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5 days at Camp Hwange


Bush dog

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Bush dog

We left Selinda in the middle of the morning and landed at Kasane at noon after a stop at Savute to board a few extra passengers. A driver was waiting for us. The formalities at the two border posts were carried out, as usual, without problems. Two hours later, we reached Hwange Town where we turned right and quickly arrived at Mbala Gate where our guide, for the next five days, was waiting for us.

 

Along the gravel road that leads to Sinamatella, we saw some kudus and warthogs and a breeding herd of elephants. During the five days that followed, we only saw a few solitary males but no more herds. Why? Simply because of the weather. Indeed, all along this route, the weather gradually deteriorated and when, late in the afternoon, we arrived at Camp Hwange, the sky was dark.

 

It’s the only cheetah seen throughout the trip. It’s a male who was on arrival near the camp. The following days, we found its tracks without seeing it again. As you can see, the sky was already threatening.

 

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The following day (and night), it rained, in a regular way, of a light rain, the sky remaining overcast, with the consequence that a lot of mammals, in dispersing, had left the proximity of the artificial water holes. The following days, the sun was back with however, which did not help things of course, the passage, at the beginning of the evening of the second day, of a violent thunder storm which lasted less than an hour bringing nearly twice as much water than the twenty-four hours of rain from the previous day. We were on a game drive, close to the camp, more precisely at Shumba Pan, when we saw, in the distance, the black clouds approaching. We got back immediately.

 

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We had hardly arrived until the elements suddenly broke out in the form of torrential rains limiting visibility to barely twenty meters. The amount of rain was so high that the Kalahari sands could not absorb it fast enough so that a water depth of a few centimeters remained on the ground during the storm. Another result of these first rains was the appearance of scorpions and snakes, mainly non-venomous. It’s also the time for the nuptial flight of termites to occur. Those termites make the happiness of all, mammals, birds, reptiles, batrachians, adding to their daily menu.

 

So we did not see a lot of animals (I think that my quota of mammals for this trip had been reached during the previous ten days in Botswana :)). I had a similar experience, in the same weather conditions, in 2004 in Selinda, also in November. The first two nights and early mornings, we heard the roaring lions but then could not find them; we saw leopard spoors and even found the remains of a prey (duiker) in the teak forest but there also without seeing it or them.

 

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No matter what, we were able to focus almost only on birds; around 125 species were seen and identified. I had never even seen some species before, such as eurasian hobby, indian myna and the melanistic form of the gabar goshawk, but also

 

steppe buzzard

 

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and african cuckoo.

 

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Some might tell me it was a hit and miss. I do not see it that way. Indeed, I really enjoyed those five days at Camp Hwange, one of the best camps I have been given to visit in Africa during the last twenty years. Unlike a lot of camps, Camp Hwange is not part of a group ; it’s the property of professional guide Dave Carson. It’s a great camp because emphasis is placed on high level guiding and safari experience. There are eight rooms, all facing the water hole. They are constructed so that you can observe what happens there whether you are in the shower, in front of the sink or even in bed. The camp is managed, with a great sense of hospitality, by Zimpro guide Julian Brockstein and his wife Ashleigh. The other guides are the veteran Spike Williamson, Adam Jones, who recently obtained his pro licence, and two learners. One of them, Washington, was our guide during the five days. I was surprised by the level of competence of this one that already exceeded that of quite a lot of guides of other African countries. Julian taught me a lot of things, which I did not know, about less prestigious creatures like the common egg-eater (it's a non-venomous snake without fangs) because he found, after the storm, three of them in front of my room. It also taught me that the scorpions are luminescent, when exposed to the light, all particularly the starry nights of full moon and a fortiori when one points at them a flashlight. And, less important certainly but nevertheless good to take, the food is gorgeous.

 

To find out more about Camp Hwange and the tests that a Zimpro guide has to go through to obtain his license, I urge you, if you have not already done so, to read the interview that Julian Brockstein gave two years ago to @@Game Warden.

 

http://safaritalk.net/articles.html/_/articles/julian-brookstein-zimbabwe-pro-guide-camp-hwa-r45

 

By the large number of bones and skulls (at one time I thought I had discovered the elephant cemetery <_<), as well as dried elephant dung, found on the concession and especially around the water hole, I told myself that the animal activity had to be great in the dry season. This was confirmed to me by the guides, increasingly as we move forward in the dry season. What makes October the best month to get there. It seems that then and especially around Masuma dam, the lions regularly kill elephants.

 

 

Masuma Dam November 2016.

 

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Masuma Dam, May 1998.

 

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Dead elephant at Shumba Pan.

 

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Great stuff Mike.

 

Camp Hwange looks like the real deal! look forward to more.

Edited by AKR1
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Bush dog

@@AKR1

 

Thanks, Camp Hwange was a real discovery. I'm not surprised that it's considered by some big TO (ATR, Expert Africa) as the best camp in Hwange.

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Bush dog

To begin with, images of the few mammals and reptiles seen during these five days. Thereafter, there will still be some but mostly bird pictures.

 

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We saw this black-backed jackal puppy near its den, near Masuma Dam. There were others, but like the parents, they did not show up. The next day we returned but did not see any. In the meantime, the storm had broken out. Perhaps as a result, their den was flooded and they had to abandon it?

 

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Giant platted lizard, sunbathing, also near Masuma Dam.

 

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One of the many leopard tortoises,

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And some steenboks, seen on the concession.

 

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This herd of shy elands was spotted in the teaks but was extremely difficult to follow because of the low branches and the short distances separating the trees from each other.

 

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Hyena sprawled in the mud along the narrow road leading to Bumbumatsua Pan.

 

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Bush dog

SHUMBA PAN (and around)

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Open-billed stork.

 

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Black-crowned night heron.

 

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@Bushdog I'm happy that I'll be staying at Camp Hwange in 2018 for 4 nights. i know that it offers a superb combination of walking safari.game drives,and night drives. It is only the only camp in the Simatella Concession and I'll be combining it with Little Makalolo because I know that they both offer a superb and very distinctive wildlife experiences. I'll be taking a 52 day safari to Botswana for the fourth time,Zimbabwe for the fifth time, Zambia for the fourth, and Malawi for the first time. As you can imagine I'm terribly excited about this safari. I booked it through @@Sangeeta of Chalo Africa. She has done an excellent job of getting me the maximum discounts possible. She truly knows her stuff; she is also quite honest.

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madaboutcheetah

@@Bush dog - Hi Mike, with the new VFA airport in Zim opening up for international flights ......... I guess there is a chance to combine Hwange with Bots. So, the transfer from Vic Falls to Kasane should be approx 45 mins to one hour you think?

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@@madaboutcheetah I can remember that it took a long haul to go from Botswana to Victoria Falls by road, then one would have to stay overnight in Victoria Falls before going on to Hwange National Park. It takes much longer to go to Livingstone.

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Bush dog

@@optig

 

Do you mean that you will be out on safari for almost two months?

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Bush dog

@@madaboutcheetah

 

Hi Hari!

 

VFA airport was already opened for international flights a long time ago, only the buildings are new. In 2000, I landed there coming from JoBurg. It was also easily possible to combine Bots with Zim, I did it in 1998.

The transfer from VFA to Kasane and vice versa is and was indeed 45' to one hour but can last much longer, especially in high season, if there is a lot of traffic at the border.

 

@@optig

 

It's possible to come from Hwange and go to Bots and vice versa on the same day. Last year, in March, I left Somalisa by road, early in the morning, took a plane in Kasane and arrived in Selinda in time for the afternoon game drive. In November, I did it in the opposite direction, in the same way, from Selinda to Camp Hwange; no need to spend a night in VFA. And if you have to go to Livingstone, you just have to cross the bridge.

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madaboutcheetah

@@madaboutcheetah

 

Hi Hari!

 

VFA airport was already opened for international flights a long time ago, only the buildings are new. In 2000, I landed there coming from JoBurg. It was also easily possible to combine Bots with Zim, I did it in 1998.

The transfer from VFA to Kasane and vice versa is and was indeed 45' to one hour but can last much longer, especially in high season, if there is a lot of traffic at the border.

 

@@optig

 

It's possible to come from Hwange and go to Bots and vice versa on the same day. Last year, in March, I left Somalisa by road, early in the morning, took a plane in Kasane and arrived in Selinda in time for the afternoon game drive. In November, I did it in the opposite direction, in the same way, from Selinda to Camp Hwange; no need to spend a night in VFA. And if you have to go to Livingstone, you just have to cross the bridge.

 

Yes, but now one can fly in without JNB .........

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Bush dog

SHUMBA PAN (and around)

 

Sacred Ibis.

 

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Flock of blacksmith plovers.

 

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Red-billed teals.

 

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Wooly-necked Stork.

 

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And dead elephants.

 

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madaboutcheetah

Mike, so besides the personality of the various operators ......... how would you differentiate the areas and terrain of the 3 locations - Camp Hwange; the WS concessions and the Somalisa one? Thanks in advance.

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Bush dog

Mike, so besides the personality of the various operators ......... how would you differentiate the areas and terrain of the 3 locations - Camp Hwange; the WS concessions and the Somalisa one? Thanks in advance.

 

The WS concession, with four camps, is by far the largest and goes from the south-eastern corner of the park to Ngweshla. So you do not need to go in the public parts of the park, except Ngweshla, to have a good safari experience. It’s an alternation of Kalahari savannas, teak forests and acacia woodlands with a few palm trees (it sometimes makes me think of Selinda) and open plains, like Ngamo plains, a real magnet for wildlife. In the green season, this concession is theoretically the place where chances are the best to see the most emblematic and searched species. Another advantage, as almost all game drives are done, except for Ngweshla, in a private zone, is that the fact of being over-crowded on a sighting, in the company of self-drivers, is almost nil.

 

The Camp Hwange concession is small and located in the north–western part of the park, at the edge of the flat Kalahari vegetation zone. As we continue west, towards Masuma (pictures at #1) and Mandavu (picture hereafter) dams, it becomes hilly and rocky (kopjes) and the vegetation, thicker.

 

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On the concession itself, there is a teak forest and mopanes and in between, large open spaces. Here, game drives steadily goes on the public road to the dams but chances, even in high season, to be in the company of a large number of self-drivers, are not enormous; given the state of the camping sites of Shumba and Masuma, compared to the one of Ngweshla, they should not be frequented often. Hereafter, some pictures taken on the concession.

 

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Somalisa is also a small concession, located not far from Ngweshla. The vegetation is similar to that of WS but with more teaks and no palm trees. There also, game drives are going to Ngweshla but also along the public road that leads to the Kennedy pans and Main Camp. At Ngweshla and on this road, from my experience, the traffic is higher, especially in high season.

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madaboutcheetah

Super info - Thanks, Mike!

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@Bushdog Yes,I will be. Thank you so much for your information.

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Bush dog

THE TEAK FOREST

 

That place is a real paradise for birders. We saw and identified a lot of different species, some of which I had never seen before, but I could not photograph them all.

 

Let's start with a species, the African scops owl, that I had often heard many times, in the evening, without ever seeing it. I still wonder how Washington was able to spot it, all the more because it remains permanently still.

 

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We came back in the afternoon. It had not moved a bit from the place it occupied in the morning. We got out of the vehicle this time. It did not bother it, but we could see its eyes following all our movements. It was so sure of its ability to camouflage that it thought we could not see it.

 

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It was really scops day. Washington spotted another one a little further.

 

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Racket-tailed roller.

 

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Broad-billed rollers.

 

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Steppe eagle.

 

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Gabar goshawk (juvenile).

 

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Christopher Moran

@Bushdog I'm happy that I'll be staying at Camp Hwange in 2018 for 4 nights.

@@optig - in which month do you plan on visiting Hwange next year?

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Bush dog

Thanks a lot, @@Zim Girl

 

THE TEAK FOREST

 

This couple of white-faced owls was also a “première” for me. These pictures were taken on the day when it rained incessantly.

 

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The next day, we saw another white-faced owl, solitary this time.

 

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The beautiful scarlet-chested sunbird.

 

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Yellow-billed hornbill.

 

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@@Bush dog impressive pictures and a lovely sojourn into Hwange which is putting me right in the mood for my first trip there later this year.

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Bush dog

@@ld1

 

Thanks, I'm glad you enjoy this report. I'm sure you will like your stay there.

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Bush dog

CROWNED CRANES

 

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WHITE STORKS

 

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Bush dog

Knob-billed ducks.

 

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Great white heron.

 

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Wood sandpiper.

 

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Dabchick.

 

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Bateleur (immature).

 

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Marabou stork.

 

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White-headed vulture (immature).

 

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