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Mana Magic 2.0. - A Return to the Best Place in the World


michael-ibk

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michael-ibk
4 hours ago, madaboutcheetah said:

Lucky with the Nyala?  I don't think we saw any last year - 

 

@madaboutcheetah They are not very commonly seen, Hari. While it can happen that they go to the flood plains you best chances are at one of the inland pans, and also there some patience and being very quiet is required - they are shy.

 

7 hours ago, SafariChick said:

But then most young creatures are!

 

True for mammals, certainly not for snakes. I still shudder thinking of that Planet Earth episode showing the Python giving birth to about 100 young ones - not cute at all. :ph34r:

 

On 1.12.2017 at 10:22 AM, Kitsafari said:

and it makes me wonder why the heck i'm not in mana pools yet. maybe i shouldn't wait for the OH.

 

You definitely should not, Kit - just take the plunge, contact Doug and book it already!

 

4 hours ago, Peter Connan said:

A visit to Mana remains item no.1 on my bucket list!

 

I´m sure you would enjoy it, @Peter Connan - it seems to be one of the most popular self-driving places anywhere, and the photographic opportunities are infinite.

 

3 hours ago, elefromoz said:

#37 1st  Dog photo is stunning, staring you down, that would be on my wall for sure.

 

Thank you, @elefromoz, I´m very fond of that one myself. One of the very few moments when one of the Dogs seemed to take notice of us at all.

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After two great weeks in Zambia´s Kafue National Park (see report in progress here) @AndMic, our guide @Doug Macdonald and me moved on from Lusaka to Zimbabwe. We had five nights on the flood plains a

A short while later we thought we had found an old friend - Boswell, the iconic handstanding tusker of Mana Pools. Of course we had to walk over to say Hello, just to be polite.    

The Dogs came back, content to have shown their enemies who´s boss.         But the Hyenas apparently were unwilling to learn and came closer again! These Zebra

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Alexander33

Great stuff, Michael. It was most hospitable for that male leopard to welcome your arrival. 

 

I love the perspective of the wildlife from the ground. Those shots of ASBO are incredible. And, of course, the wild dogs are wonderful. Even the hazy light seems to have added to the atmosphere. 

 

Looks like we've got to add Mana to our list -- although I'll have to think about the time of year. That heat..... :o

 

Looking forward to more from your report. 

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screentraveller

The kudu in p1 is majestic, the leopard‘s elegance impressive and the landscape heavenly. I loved  your description of the dogs doing the lion thing: nothing. Loved the the psychological analysis of ASPO who is so unlike the headstander Boswell.

The beauty of the two lion brothers in p17 is simply adorable. 

 

Dear Lynn, I have stopped worrying. Michael must have his safaris. When I read his TRs I cannot but smile with joy and I forget all the risks. Looking at the fotos I feel I am there, too, without any risk and troublesome journey and 50 C.

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michael-ibk

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A little camp interlude - we stayed at the Old Ndungu 2 campsite (upriver from Mucheni 1) where Sunpath Safaris ran a semi-permanent camp this season. Doug used this for most of his guests this year, and it worked very well for us. As I understand it will not be in operation next year. It could host up to 12 people (6 tents) but the fact that we were as lucky as being the only guests might offer an explanation as to why.

 

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A fact which should not reflect on the quality of our experience there. The tents were perfect for us, good beds, clean, flush toilet, bucket shower, really all you need. And of course sleeping (or rather not sleeping) in these, and looking through the flynet, watching antelopes, Elephants, Hippos and more ambling around your tent makes you feel so much more immersed in the bush than being in a "proper" lodge. Of course a matter of personal taste.

 

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And like in Kafue, we had our personal tent frog again. :)

 

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With the Zambezi so close and its fertile riverbanks just right by camp there was never a moment where we would not see animals. Elephants, Zebra, Impala, Waterbuck, even Eland - always there.

 

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The car we used here. Doug had the door removed which helped him follow tracks more easily. I mostly sat his front and used his gunbag as a beanbag - worked very well.

 

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It was so hot in the afternoons nothing liked to move - including us mostly. This Red-Billed Hornbill (abundant in Mana Pools) was desperate to cool down and used the elephant dung for this purpose.

 

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The mess tent. Staff was friendly and accommodating, and food was excellent. I especially enjoyed their lighter lunches (only sensible in the heat) and the very tasty breakfast packs.

 

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It was way too hot for me to relax inside the tent in the afternoon so I had the bed brought out. Much more pleasant to have a siesta under the trees. On the second afternoon I woke up, just sensing somehow I was not alone. I looked up. And up. And a huge Elephant was standing right next to me. We looked at each other for a moment, he somewhat bemused, I very excited but also quite tense I confess, and feeling pretty vulnerable. But he did not get worked up about me and just walked on.

 

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No, this is not the guy - I lay very quiet, very still, and did not take pictures. I definitely did not want to startle him. After I told Doug about this exciting little episode he decided it would be more sensible to put the bed inside the mess tent - it was just a bit too exposed out there.

 

The Elephants were a constant presence in camp - just part of the unique Mana experience:

 

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(Mobile pic, like the following two - note the very juicy Hamburger!)

 

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michael-ibk

Part of the reason why camp was so popular with Elephants was a small natural waterhole next to the mess tent - the big guys loved to spray themselves there with mud.

 

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Camp had dug out a hide there which, I have to say, was a bit frustrating. Standing in the hide you could not see to the water, there was a kind of bump im front of it. Only when standing on your toes could you actually take photos of Baboons and stuff like that, but birds did not work at all. It was actually better standing outside, but of course that way the distance was just too big to get really good stuff.

 

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Greater Honeyguide

 

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Chacma Baboon

 

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Three little rascals up to no good.

 

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Sausage trees were very ripe now, and a lot of animals loved to snack on the fruit.

 

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michael-ibk

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Next morning was a bit slower than the action-packed day before.

 

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Double-Banded Sandgrouse

 

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We went on a longer walk in the Green Pool area, trying to track the lions and/or the Dogs.

 

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White-Crested Helmet Shrike

 

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To cut a long story short, we failed to find either of them, and "just" came across all the usual suspects.

 

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We´d later find out that we had missed the Dogs by just a few hundred meteres, but we certainly did not complain with the quality sightings we´d had the day before.

 

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Green Pool, completely dried out by now. It is mostly considered to be one of the four (=mana) main pools along Long Pool, Chine Pool and Chisasiko but there´s no clear consensus on that. After all, there are others which hold water for longer. So there does not seem to be a definite answer on which one is actually the fourth pool.

 

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Chestnut-Backed Sparrowlark

 

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michael-ibk

By 08:30 it already was quite hot, and we walked back to the car. We decided it was a good morning to do a "Mana tour", seeing some of the more iconic spots.

 

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Long Pool, the biggest of the permanent pools - by far. It is several kms long.

 

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Wood Sandpiper

 

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Important to keep a good distance to the waterline - many, many big and hungry Crocs in there!

 

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Four Waders in one go - Wood and Marsh Sandpiper, Black-Winged Stilt and Three-Banded Plover. Doug said the decrease in waders has been very noticable in the last ten years - the banks of the pools used to be full of them, now there´s only a handful on their formerly popular spots.

 

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Always fun to see - a Heron abusing Hippo as its personal surfboard.

 

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michael-ibk

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And the next stop - Chine Pool, with its interestingly coloured algae carpet.

 

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Black-Headed Heron

 

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I´ve actually forgotten the name of this beautiful area, it´s somewhere downriver of Mana Mouth.

 

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Openbill Stork - not as uniformly black and unattractive as we normally see them.

 

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Mana Mouth, our last stop. This is one of the most popular sundowner spots all over the park. And it almost, almost was lost to the public recently - African Bush Camps wanted to build a big lodge here and make this their private playground. There was quite an outcry, and thankfully they abandoned the idea - at least for now. It seems a pretty sure thing they will come through with their lodge plans somewhere - let´s just hope they´ll find a place which will not rob the rest of us of one of the most beloved places in Mana.

 

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Big Eland Bulls in top condition were around in good numbers this year - this one at the Mucheni 1 pool:

 

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michael-ibk

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But wait, I am moving too fast! I have skipped an entire aftenoon! A pretty awesome afternoon, I might add.

 

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Don´t worry, I won´t tell you much about super exciting Swainson´s Spurfowl.

 

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Or Zebras standing around looking pretty.

 

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No, the day before of course we had returned to Shumba Pan, and we were lucky - the Dogs were still there!

 

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And our timing was impeccable - we were there for ten minutes, had just gotten out of the car, when the whole pack jumped up and got restless!

 

 

I was a bit worried they would be going off hunting in the woodlands, and of course with their speed we would have no chance at all keeping up with them.

 

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But no, luckily they stuck around, and we were able to approach reasonably closely again. We were not completely alone - one car from Vundu Camp had joined us on foot, but that was - and would remain - all.

 

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Things were becoming very interesting when a huge herd of Buffalo showed up, obviously wanting to drink at Shumba Pan.

 

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What would happen now? Obviously the Buffalos are way out of the league of the Dogs - or are they? We were told that just one week ago the pack had managed to kill a calf. A fluke? Or were they really including them in their menu now?

 

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I had a soft spot for this young guy - "Limpy", as we called him, could not use one of his feet. Doug was hopeful that he would heal, it didn´t look too bad to him. Hey Limpy, I really would like to think you are still doing ok down there!

 

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The Buffalos came down to the water but the Dogs were not intimidated in the slightest - they rather had fun playing tag among them.

 

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The Buffalo, however, were obviously not really ok with the Dogs around, eyeing them suspiciously.

 

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And rightly so! It was difficult to tell what was actually happening but all of a sudden the herd fled in terror, the Dogs in hot pursuit, and it was all dust!

 

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I have no idea if the Dogs were actually hunting there or just having fun at the Buffs expense - either way, it was amazing to see.

 

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michael-ibk

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All of this excitement did not go unnoticed - the local Hyenas were showing up to check if the Doggies would have prepared some tasty dinner for them.

 

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Sniffing, sniffing, Doggies, where are you? Boy, they would so regret coming here!

 

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Soon the Dogs returned from their Buffalo hunt, and they did not care about their guests one bit and immediately went after them.

 

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This Hyena was in a pitiful battle - he would always turn around and around to avoid being bitten but it looked like the Dogs tore come good chunks of meat out of his backside.

 

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The Hyena ultimately saved himself into Shumba Pan and stood his ground in the water. Classic Mexican standoff! (Which we unfortunately could not really see behind the shrubbery.) After a while the Dogs seemed to lose interest, and a very bedraggled Hyena finally dared to leave the water again.

 

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Poor guy was really miserable and looked to us as if to say "Look what these mean mean mean Dogs have done to me! They are such bullies!"

 

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But the world of hurt was not over for the Hyena - the Dogs were still adamant that this was their pan, and they would not tolerate one single Hyena here.

 

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Run for your lives, Hyena - the Dogs are coming!

 

 

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One of the Vundu guests had decided not to walk out here with the others but rather stayed by the car - he later told us the Dogs were running right there, and all of a sudden he found himself standing  in the middle of a fierce battle of teeth and claws! A bit more excitement than he had asked for. (But neither Dogs nor Hyena took notice of him, and he was fine.)

 

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michael-ibk

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The Dogs came back, content to have shown their enemies who´s boss.

 

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But the Hyenas apparently were unwilling to learn and came closer again! These Zebras, interestingly enough, who had shown up at some point, were behaving like Switzerland! They were standing around, enjoying the show, seeimingly unfazed by 25 predators with big sharp teeth and seemed to think "We´re non-combatants, people."

 

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And of course, new challenge, new fight - in a matter of minutes the Dogs were going after the Hyenas again.

 

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The only time the Zebras showed some nerve, but the Dogs did not even seem to notice them.

 

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The Hyena were running in terror - I found it interesting that they did not put up any resistance and the Dogs had such a clear and definite upper hand. Doug said that all of this could have gone quite differently if the matriarch had been with the clan. "She would not put up with this nonsense."

 

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This was the last straw, after the Dogs maltreated two Hyenas again, they finally had learnt their lesson and retreated. The Dogs had spent a lot of energy, and needed to drink now - but they were not the only ones to return to the pool

 

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By this point, we had returned to the car, and had decided to have a sundowner, just enjoy the setting. And again it was like watching a nature documentary, only much better - live, for real, on the spot and with a G&T in hands. B)

 

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The Buffaloes really wanted to drink and came down, looking quite menacing. But the Dogs again did not seem to mind them, some of the were just lying there, not caring at all about the deadly hornes and hooves around them, and in fact none of the Buffs did as much as touch them. And after a short time the Dogs decided to have fun again!

 

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The hippo was not amused. "Please people - ENOUGH! Can you just leave me and my pan in peace? PLEASE!" We did him the favour and took our leave from one of the most action-packed afternoons I´ve ever had the privilege to experience.

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Peter Connan

Wow, what an afternoon!

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Kitsafari

That burger looks more satisfying than what we were fed in Konkamayo!

 

 

about the decline in the number of waders - did Doug say why? was the decline across the lagoon? 

that's a beautiful spot at Mana mouth so I'm glad it's not been made "exclusive".

 

what an incredible afternoon! poor poor hyena but they are such tough animals, i've no doubt it will heal. but such amazing cross-species interactions. it's moments like this that makes the entire trip so memorable.

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Fabulous report @michael-ibk we stayed at Old Ndungu in Sept and I loved the spot. Quite different from Mucheni 4 and like yourself the camp was alive with game day and night. What a shame Sunpath won’t be back. We were sad to learn Tailormade also weren’t active these days either. Humphrey and his team were great and I hope these operators can get back on their feet again soon. 

 

As for the Dogs, wow. What a very special  moment, one to remember and savour over a glass of your favourite tipple year after year! 

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wilddog

Wonderful report and images @michael-ibk and @AndMic. Thank you so much for sharing with us.

 

You certainly hit the jackpot with your sightings.................................not that I am jealous at all ;)

 

Love the story of you sleeping outside and your visitor. Bit of a shock I guess. :o 

 

Really sorry to hear about Natureways and Tailormade. . Are they no longer trading? Have enjoyed many happy times with both outfitters over the years. Did @Doug Macdonald explain why? e.g less operator exclusive sites,. More permanent camps? one piece of good news the Mana Mouth development has been blocked but as you say maybe this is only a delay. 

 

Thanks again Very enjoyable

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Jaycees2012

@michael-ibk  Really enjoying your TR. I thought the start with the Leopard and the Dogs was 'great' - but the close encounters with the Ellies (particularly the one catching you sleeping) were fantastic although I would agree that being that close would be nerve-racking to say the least!

 

As for the sequences with the Dogs and Buffalo and then the Dogs with the Hyena - what can I say but 'Wow!!' incredible sightings (and photos).

 

We've not been to Mana Pools - but your TR has definitely added this area to our list - although I'm not sure I could cope with 50C temperatures and would need to go at a slightly cooler time of year.

 

Looking forward to your next update.  :)

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Zim Girl

@michael-ibk

 

What a fabulous afternoon with the dogs, enjoying this report a lot.

I have many,many great memories from Mana Pools and I am so pleased to see it is delivering again for you and @AndMic

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michael-ibk

Thanks everybody!

 

12 hours ago, Kitsafari said:

That burger looks more satisfying than what we were fed in Konkamayo!

about the decline in the number of waders - did Doug say why? was the decline across the lagoon? 

what an incredible afternoon! poor poor hyena but they are such tough animals, i've no doubt it will heal. but such amazing cross-species interactions. it's moments like this that makes the entire trip so memorable.

 

Absolutely, @Kitsafari, we were very lucky to witness this. And oh my, that burger was super-juicy - one of the best I´ve ever had. About the waders, the decline Doug mentioned is all over the country. He put it this way: "We have our good friends in Europe to thank for that." The waders found in Mana mostly breed in Europe, and habitat loss is the major problem they are facing. Just google "declining waders", and you will find lots on articles covering that topic.

 

8 hours ago, wilddog said:

Wonderful report and images @michael-ibk and @AndMic. Thank you so much for sharing with us.

You certainly hit the jackpot with your sightings.................................not that I am jealous at all ;)

Love the story of you sleeping outside and your visitor. Bit of a shock I guess. :o 

 

Really sorry to hear about Natureways and Tailormade. . Are they no longer trading? Have enjoyed many happy times with both outfitters over the years. Did @Doug Macdonald explain why? e.g less operator exclusive sites,. More permanent camps? one piece of good news the Mana Mouth development has been blocked but as you say maybe this is only a delay.

 

@wilddog Linda, AFAIR it´s Tailormade who stopped working, Natureways still is around. It was just mentioned the economics simply did no longer work out for them. I guess the season to make business is pretty short, and it can´t be too easy. I don´t know about Sunpath (who I was not aware about previously) in general, just that their camp won´t be back next season. The fact we were there alone in high season tells you why, I suppose.

 

8 hours ago, Jaycees2012 said:

@michael-ibk  Really enjoying your TR. I thought the start with the Leopard and the Dogs was 'great' - but the close encounters with the Ellies (particularly the one catching you sleeping) were fantastic although I would agree that being that close would be nerve-racking to say the least!

As for the sequences with the Dogs and Buffalo and then the Dogs with the Hyena - what can I say but 'Wow!!' incredible sightings (and photos).

We've not been to Mana Pools - but your TR has definitely added this area to our list - although I'm not sure I could cope with 50C temperatures and would need to go at a slightly cooler time of year.

 

Thank you, @Jaycees2012, no need to go through those temperatures - just read through the Mana reports here and you will see people have had top experiences there from July onwards. I am following your report too with great pleasure and really admire your photography!

 

4 hours ago, Zim Girl said:

@michael-ibk

 

What a fabulous afternoon with the dogs, enjoying this report a lot.

I have many,many great memories from Mana Pools and I am so pleased to see it is delivering again for you and @AndMic

 

I´m sure it won´t be too long for the two of you to make your return there, @Zim Girl?

 

9 hours ago, ld1 said:

Fabulous report @michael-ibk we stayed at Old Ndungu in Sept and I loved the spot. Quite different from Mucheni 4 and like yourself the camp was alive with game day and night. What a shame Sunpath won’t be back. We were sad to learn Tailormade also weren’t active these days either. Humphrey and his team were great and I hope these operators can get back on their feet again soon. As for the Dogs, wow. What a very special  moment, one to remember and savour over a glass of your favourite tipple year after year! 

 

@ld1 Yes, Old Ndungu is a very good site. I´d say there were even more animals around than at Mucheni. Still, given the choice Mucheni 1 (where we were last time) probably has the (minimal) edge, just because you are a bit closer to the Zambezi.

 

13 hours ago, Peter Connan said:

Wow, what an afternoon!

 

It certainly was Peter - one we will remember for a very long time.

 

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wilddog
20 minutes ago, michael-ibk said:

Natureways still is around.

 

Thanks Michael. My mistake.

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michael-ibk

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We decided to spend the next afternoon in a completely different fashion.

 

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We walked along the banks of the Zambezi, from the Mucheni camps to Trichellia island. Again it was pretty gloomy - the blue skies we had enjoyed during our last stay were closed away behind thick haze and clouds.

 

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The classic Mana Lapwing - White-Crowned.

 

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We were not looking for predators today but animals much smaller and faster:

 

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A Carmine Bee-Eater colony!

 

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Well, I do love my birds, and @AndMic is also very fond of Bee-Eaters, so we spent an entire afternoon just with them. And had fun trying to get pictures of the dashing red streaks.

 

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In its own way we enjoyed this just as much as the Dogs. Sitting by the Zambezi, no other human soul in sight, Hippos snorting, Bee-Eaters buzzing around us, getting more and more relaxed in time - it was beautiful. When I close my eyes and think of places where I´d love to be it´s here. Right here.

 

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Zubbie15

I think that hyena and wild dog interaction alone would be enough to make a successful Safari, what a great thing to see.  I need to get to Mana sometime!

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Peter Connan

Post #70: My idea of heaven

 

Well done on some great results!

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Atravelynn

What a fabulous dog encounter!  I love those miniature pointy baby teeth, which I am certain could do loads of damage. 

 

My note taking, which you mention, was not put to much use this last trip.

 

" One of my photographic missions - find a Buffalo whose face says "Oh, I´m so happy and this is such a great day." It´s a difficult quest but I haven´t given up hope yet. "  Perhaps that's what they are thinking most of the time, but we just can't interpret buffalo body language and facial expressions.

 

After being toughened up by the tse tses, the mopane bees are kid stuff.  Your endurance and wait paid off at Nyala Pan!

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Some great Carmine Bee-eater shots! I can definitely relate, we too spent a long time with them in South Luangwa, and it was one of the highlights of our trip as well...just getting into that zone....everything else is forgotten...even the tse-tse flies! :)

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Part 2 of your trip reads even more exciting then Part 1, and that alone says a lot. I wonder if that last photo in post above will adorn your wall (or ceiling)?!

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