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Hwange, Mana Pools, Kafue and Liuwa - A real adventure!


Raelond
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My husband and I returned from our adventure just over a week ago.  I won't do a full report as the Mana part would be so similar to a recent report here, minus the dogs and extreme heat.  This trip was 21 nights, with 16 guided by Doug Macdonald.  I will attempt to add a few photos as I go along.  

 

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The locations you mention ARE synonymous with adventure.  Welcome home!  Looking forward to your adventure, that I believe incorporated a coup.

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After a nine year wait I was able to return to Africa.  After reading so much about Doug and Mana Pools on this site, I knew this is what I wanted.  The Zambia part was suggested by Doug as he had already had a trip planned to Kafue and Liuwa Plains with a client who wanted other people to join in order to keep the costs down.  I was originally concerned about going in November but the price was right and I didn't want to wait until next year.  We arrived in Victoria Falls on November 9, stayed at Bayete Lodge and took a flight to Hwange the next day.  Doug was not joining us until we got to Mana.  We had a great guide at Davison's Camp saw elephant, buffalo, hippo, wildebeest and eland on our game drive from the air field to camp.  Upon arriving at camp about 6:00pm we heard a lion close to camp and jumped back into the vehicle and found a beautiful male.  After dinner that evening when we were escorted to our tent we saw the lion walking through camp not far from our tent.  It was wonderful to hear his calls during the night and I was thrilled to be back in Africa!  

 

The next day we came upon two lionesses with their kill and the rest of the day produced zebra, buffalo, impala, sable, eland, giraffe and lots and lots of elephants.  Sundowners were at a water hole where dozens and dozens of elephants keep coming to drink.  It was great to see how calm they were even with their young.  I found Davison camp much less regumented then the Wilderness camps we were at in Botswana eleven years ago.

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I am looking forward to your report, I am curious to see how different everything looks after the rains. Please don´t go short on Mana, as far as I remember we haven´t had any reports from November so I´m sure this could be of interest to many of us.

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Sounds a fabulous trip and looking forward to hearing more. I agree with Michael .......'Mana-tics' can never have enough of Mana so please include it in your report. :)

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We enjoyed seeing lions, baboons, wildebeest and hyena at the water hole by Davison's, but we were hoping to see cheetah or leopard and went looking in our evening game drive. As we were driving a thunder storm developed and we had to abandoned our search, but did see two giraffe courting and hyena.  The next morning we had a game drive on our way to the airstrip for our flight to Mana.  We spent some time watching elephants having a mud bath and then our guide got a call that our plane wouldn't be leaving as the airstrip was too wet in Mana. An additional night at Davison's was fine with us as we were treated very well and were moved into one of their remodelled tents.  On the way to the airstrip the next morning we saw six hyena playing in a large pool of water and about eight giraffe. A wonderful farewell from Hwange.  We arrived at Mana to find a dry runway, sunshine and Doug.

 

 

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@Raelond I just love the photos of the elephants and hyenas at the water hole. I can't wait until next year when I'll be spending a full eight days in Hwange. 

I'll be there in June and staying half the time at Makalolo Camp and the other half at Camp Hwange. I'll be taking the second longest safari of my life. 

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I thought if I tagged this post Zambia and Zimbabwe it would show up in both countries, but apparently not.  How can I post it in the Zimbabwe section?

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  • 3 weeks later...

I have posted the Mana Pools section of this report under Zimbabwe and will now continue my report of Kafue and Liuwa Plains here.  We took a two hour boat ride from our camp in Mana Pools and met up with Doug at the border for the drive to Lusaka.  We met our travelling companion for the next leg of our trip at Pioneer Inn and enjoyed drinks and a steak dinner together.  A greater bushbaby greeted us as we walked back to our room.  We were up early the next morning for our long drive to Musekese Camp.  We encountered the only tsetse flies of our entire trip on the way to the camp. We had to stop for a loo break and few got into the vehicle and we were kept busy trying to kill them before we got bitten.  I was amazed at how much blood they hold.  As there is a recent report about this camp and my experiences were similiar,  I will limit what I write.  We arrived at camp just as a thunder storm started which fortunately didn't last long.  The highlight was seeing a large herd of sable which apparently is unusual.  We took two boats rides on the river and spent some time watching crocodiles eating a partly submerged dead hippo.  The weather during our three days was lovely and warm.  Along with Doug, we had a guide who was filling in while the owners of the camp were away at Liuwa Plains.  Kevin proved to be delightful and very knowledgeable, with a Vancouver (my hometown) connection. 

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A few pictures from Kafue.

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@Raelond  Very nice pictures. I particularly like the standoff between the elephant and the jeep. I know if I was in that jeep my heart rate would have kicked up a notch :)

 

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Liuwa Plains - November 23 we left Kafue at 6:00am for the drive to Mongu, Zambia to overnight and get provisions for our four nights of camping in Liuwa Plains.  Up until now we had driven from the Zimbabwe/Zambia border to Lusaka and then to Kafue.  Both drivers were fairly long, but interesting.  Doug was familiar with the territory we had covered up to now, but once we were outside Kafue and heading west it was as new to him as it was to us.  Doug seemed on a mission and would stop reluctantly when we needed a break.  Fortunately the weather wasn’t too hot, but we still seemed to consume a lot of water and Doug drank only the occasional sip.  Seven hours later we arrived in Mongu, a town much bigger than I expected.  After checking into Mongu Country Lodge (love the name), Doug went to get gas and groceries.  The three of us went to a huge local market which was very interesting and then watched a soccer match played in the sand by men in bare feet. We then visited the grocery store which was surprisingly modern with a deli and everything you could want.  To our amazement there was an electronic store in town that had a Black Friday sale going on.  Doug joined us for beers and a great steak dinner at the lodge which was very inexpensive.  

 

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Looks like that elephant is not about to let a jeep get in its way.  Great report!

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Thank you @Alexander33 and @Imonmm. 

 

The morning brought a downpour as we were leaving Mongu.  We drove through many small villages for about two hours when we reached a village with the park head quarters.  Doug registered and got directions to our camp.  We had to cross the river on a barge and was pulled across by rope.  Weather was cool and cloudy as we continued towards our campsite using the gps as there was very little signage.  It was a beautiful drive reminding me of the Serengeti but without the vehicles or people.  The vast feeling of remoteness of this park is overwhelming.  We saw a grove of trees ahead with nothing else around and Doug said our camp had to be in the trees.  We arrived and was met by John who looked after the camp and helped Doug for the next four days.  Originally Doug was to bring tents, cots and everything needed for camping in Liuwa and we were to help set up camp, but the Zambian parks opened up a fully equipped campsite for November and December as an experiment to see how popular it would be.  Doug booked the entire site which consisted of four tents, dining area, enclosed kitchen area with hot plate, flushing loo and shower area with hot and cold water.  All that Doug had to bring was the food and food he brought. We ate very well and Doug is a great cook, especially his steak and mashed potatoes. We didn’t have to do anything but enjoy the beautiful camp looking out onto the Liuwa Plains.  The tents were new with double beds and wonderful bedding and a battery powered overhead light. Quite a surprise for camping.

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I remember Doug talking about camping in Liuwa with you, and Iike you, I certainly would have expected this. Looks more like a mobile camp, what a nice surprise that must have been. Looking forward to seeing more of Liuwa, an area rarely featured here on ST.

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@Raelond The river crossing looks interesting, a contrast between all the vehicles and local people, livestock etc.

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18 hours ago, Game Warden said:

@Raelond The river crossing looks interesting, a contrast between all the vehicles and local people, livestock etc.

I remember as a child that all these pontoon crossings of rivers throughout Zambia was always a special highlight. I always enjoyed them - and enjoyed the vibrancy and life around such crossing points.

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In my opinion Liuwa Plains is not a park for first time visitors, nor is it a place to visit if you want to see a large variety of animals.  But if you are a bird lover and want to see large herds of wildebeest, zebra, hyhena and enjoy remote locations Liuwa is worth a visit.  Liuwa did not disappoint, even though we didn’t see any lions or cheetah.  On arrival at the camp we got settled in, had lunch and enjoyed watching a thunder storm from our tent.  As we had driven a long distance that day we spend the rest of the day in camp.  Each day we went out in the vehicle we saw wildebeest, zebra, oribi and too many different species of birds to count.  A highlight was finding a hyhena den with lots of babies.  As it was a good distance from the road we watched the interactions between the young and their parents through binoculars.  The sunsets here were breathtaking because of the cloud formations and sundowners were often spent watching thunder storms in the distance.

 

 

 

 

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   We spent the morning looking unsuccessfully for the pride of 5 lions which were seen the day before.  We came across hyhenas at a water hole and Doug had us crawl towards them for a better photo op.  Doug also encouraged me that day to sit on the ground while wildebeest ran by (see photo above).  Doing things like this and tracking lions in Mana Pools by foot, along with being able to spend as much time as you want watching the wildlife, are some of the many reasons having a private guide was worth the extra money.

  After dinner the evening was spent drinking wine by the fire with Doug and our travel mate from the UK.  Our days at Liuwa were very similar, seeing lots of wildebeest with babies, side striped jackals and beautiful flowers blooming on the Plains. We only saw three other vehicles during our stay.  I knew when I booked this trip that I wouldn’t see a wide variety of animals here, but I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this park.  

 

 

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Loving your trip report.

 

You cannot beat being allowed out of the vehicle and walking or sitting on the ground with the wildlife..................as long as you have a really experienced guide with you. Doug weaves his magic again! So please you enjoyed your trip :)

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@Raelond Very nice TR.

 

Nice you enjoyed your stay at Liuwa. Really a very special place. Sundowners are one of a kind there aren't they? Beautiful pictures.

 

It looks like, that you had luck with the weather there (looks like all the cars were leaving the park @ the pontoon, when you entered:)).

 

Remembering 2 days earlier before you left Musekese, when we left Liuwa....gosh...it was pouring...we were socked into water. Luckily our plane was able to land in Kalabo (there is no instrument approach possible for the planes there)....

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@Grasshopper_Club we did get lucky with the weather, but no luck with the lions.  Did you see them when you were there.  I think you had a week at Musekese.  How was it?

 

@wilddog thank you.  I wish Doug’s magic would have worked in Mana Pools as the dogs eluded us.

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@Raelond. Good to hear that you had luck with the weather. Yes, we saw the dominant male Lion of Liuwa when we were there. But this was quite luck, as there are no more than 5-8 Lions in the whole park as far as I remember. So I wasn't expecting to see them there anyway.

 

I spent 5 days in Musekese only, very nice and good sightings especially Leopard. It was nice to see the whole habitat in a lush green scenery for once. But we had much more rains afterwards then we had before in Liuwa, but it was fine and mostly in the mornings.

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9 years it has been?  Does not seem that long ago that you were recounting your African tales.  Laughed at the Black Friday sale.  I feel like I saw those same hyenas at the same waterhole as your photos show.  From the top of the vehicle to the lawn chairs to sitting in the grass, you experienced such a special place from all levels.  Gorgeous herd of sable too!

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November 28 we left our campsite in Liuwa Plains at 7:00am for our two day drive to Livingston.  It took us 21/2 hours to drive through the park and cross the river.  Once we got to Mongu and headed south the road got progressively worse.  Doug was forced to drive on the side in the grass in order to avoid the potholes. We have driven on bad roads in the Yukon and Alaska, but those roads were good compared to this road.  Apparently this area of Zambia doesn’t support the government and as a result the road is left in disrepair.  After about seventy kilometres we were on a new highway.  The scenery along the way was beautiful with lots of small villages, cattle grazing and ponds dotted along the highway.  We turned off the highway and arrived at Kabul’s Lodge where we stayed the night.  This is a fishing lodge on the Zambezi River with very comfortable huts but no food provided.  Doug cooked us our last dinner and we spent the evening sitting by the fire overlooking the river.  Doug surprised us in the morning with a huge breakfast and then off we went for the 250km drive to Livingston.  After saying our goodbyes to Doug we spent our last night in Africa at David Livingston hotel.  A excellent place to end a wonderful trip.

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