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Back to Zim: Hwange, Matusadona & Mana Pools, September 2017


Tdgraves

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Excellent safari so far...

 

Love the first Kudu image in post #16.

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Day 2: Evening drive, Somalisa, 3/9/17   First of all, I missed a bird from the morning and as it was a new one and a local special, it needs to be added - Bradfield's hornbill  

Day 2: Morning drive, Somalisa, 3/9/17   Somalisa was virtually unrecognisable compared to our first visit back in 2011. African Bush Camps have obviously invested a lot of money to compete

Day 1: Evening drive, Somalisa, 2/9/17   First sighting of the drive, some cheetah....     Can you see them?? I had the 5D, but really, the 7D wasn't much better, they we

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Peter Connan

That boat trip looks marvelous!

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vikramghanekar

Loving this TR.

Hwange part was fantastic especially all the lions. Too good!

Waiting for more!
Vikram

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  • 2 weeks later...
Ritsgaai

I just love your report and photos. The bird photos especially are a real treat. Hwange treated you to an excellent show. 

Thank you for taking the time to share. 

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Tdgraves

Day 6, birds in camp

 

In the "garden" this included a new one for us, a terrestrial bulbul

 

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and at lunch

 

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and a non-bird

 

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tbc.

Edited by Tdgraves
missed photos
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A lovely collection of birds. And a very nice non-bird:)

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offshorebirder

I too am catching up on this excellent trip report.  Thanks for taking the time @Tdgraves.

 

Might the starlings' behavior have been a dust bath that devolved into a tussle?

 

 

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Tdgraves
2 minutes ago, offshorebirder said:

I too am catching up on this excellent trip report.  Thanks for taking the time @Tdgraves.

 

Might the starlings' behavior have been a dust bath that devolved into a tussle?

 

 

 

Thanks. Your guess is as good as mine @offshorebirder ....

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Tdgraves

Day 6, Evening drive, Changa, 7/9/17

 

We thought that we'd try an evening drive for a change, but it was very quiet.

 

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We rounded a bend and I saw two raptors on the ground, so we slowly approached. There was a tawny on a yellow-billed stork kill, being closely watched by a Steppe eagle, a new bird for us

 

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We stopped for sundowners overlooking the lakeshore

 

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And back for dinner

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Tdgraves

Day 7, Morning drive, Changa, 8/9/17

 

It looks like I have forgotten to mention that all of our activities in Changa were private. I think this was mainly due to the film crew taking up half the camp, but only using one vehicle and the fact that the camp was not full. Even as the camp filled up towards the end of our stay, a lot of the clientele were local and had come for the fishing and relaxation, not the game. I had the 7D today.

 

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The film crew had been frustrated in Hwange looking for lions (not us though!!) and had not seen any here either, so it was time for desperate measures - they called in the local lion researcher and her radio antennae.

 

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Young male giving the film maker a look (he was on the floor under their vehicle)

 

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We hoped we'd be on for a hunt (although not as much as the film crew were desperate for)

 

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this lion seemed to be perfectly positioned as the buffalo got nearer and nearer

 

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looking for the mother (who is collared)

 

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this one also appeared interested in the buff

 

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but they all bugged out

 

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One from the OH on the 5D

 

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Buffalo 1 lions 0

 

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The rest of the drive was uneventful.

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Tdgraves

Day 7 Evening drive, Changa, 8/9/17

 

We decided to go back to the boat this afternoon, as the PM game drive was not very successful on the prior evening. There is something very relaxing and much cooler (temperature wise) about floating around on a massive body of water, rather than bumping around in the back of a vehicle.

 

A few birds from our "garden" first

 

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And then onto the boat

 

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This guy didn't seem keen on moving,

 

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so we got closer

 

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and closer

 

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and closer!

 

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It wasn't long before sundowners' time

 

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I changed to the 5D to try and get some better silhouettes

 

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tbc

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Tdgraves

Day 8, Morning drive, Changa, 9/9/17

 

We were to have a different guide for this activity, as ours had to go across the lake on an errand for the film crew. It was this drive that really highlighted the inexperience of our usual guide. There is a track of approx 5 kms to get from the lodge to the lake shore. On all previous drives this had been driven at speed, in order to get to the lake ASAP. Our driver today, Greg, however treated this as an integral part of the drive and his care and thoroughness shone through for the rest of the morning. It made our other drives seem like a drive around the block on a set route, rather than following what was around. Our first sighting was on the aforementioned track - this huge guy! I had the 5D today.

 

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Even when we got to the lake, we explored lots of side roads, rather than just sticking to the lake shore

 

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we spotted a new bird - senegal coucal

 

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we crossed a grassy area that we had not been to before and Greg was looking at some tracks. He got out to investigate further. They were on the OH's side of the vehicle. Greg returned and said "Impala". The OH turned to me and said "they were cat tracks". Nonplussed, we drove on a little further when the OH asked Greg to stop, as he had spotted these guys looking at him from the undergrowth:

 

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Matusadona's only two cheetah! Greg had been keeping it quiet in case the tracks did not pay off!! 543 square miles to roam and we found them!

 

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They had been introduced to breed with a lone female, but she had since died, so these guys have been left alone

 

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And one from the OH with the 7D

 

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The film crew were not impressed when we got back to camp!! :ph34r:

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Tdgraves

Day 8, evening boat ride, Changa 9/9/17

 

Our usual guide was back and we again elected for a peaceful boat float. I had requested something to make a silhouette with at sundown and he did not disappoint. Close to the lodge....

 

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The advantage of being in a boat, means you can float up very close to these guys

 

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And then we crossed the lake in a different direction, towrads Spurwing lodge - where a wedding was taking place. Not quite what I had in mind for silhouettes!

 

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But he knew what he was doing....and we sat sipping sundowners and taking shots, whilst he would fire up the engine and move the boat when the tide moved us out of position. Perfect!

 

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We got exactly what we wanted and were very pleased!

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Tdgraves

Matusadona by iPhone

 

A few snaps on the phone (on a boat)

 

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You don't always need a fancy DSLR!!

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michael-ibk

Lovely silhouettes, and how incredibly lucky to find those Cheetah - fantastic!

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Well done spotting the cheetah - I love pics 23-25 in post 64.

Edited by Hads
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Zim Girl

Very nice silhouettes @Tdgraves

One of my favourite things about Matusadona are the views of the dead trees in Lake Kariba.

Enjoying your report.

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Well done with the cheetahs, and beautiful silhouettes - with the elephants, and those taken with your phone are amazing.

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Tdgraves
1 hour ago, TonyQ said:

Well done with the cheetahs, and beautiful silhouettes - with the elephants, and those taken with your phone are amazing.

 

thanks @TonyQ I got into the habit of taking the phone out with us, as it is very quick to grab a snap, rather than changing lenses, settings etc. these modern mobiles are amazing!

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Tdgraves

Day 9, morning game drive transfer, 10/9/17

 

As it was our last night the previous evening, they had set up a private table for our dinner overlooking the pool, which was a nice touch. What I haven't mentioned about the camp is that they have a family of lesser bush babies, who we saw every morning. They are much smaller than the greater bush babies we have seen before and move through the trees incredibly quickly. We were lucky that our tent seemed to be on their path back to bed, as we were getting up for morning coffee. One morning we were already out of the tent when they appeared and we went back in, to find three of them on the outdoor shower head, with a fourth watching from the wall above!! Unfortunately, the movement of the door scared them off before I could raise the camera. They seemed to spend half of their time in a nest behind the restaurant and so would appear at morning coffee and the other half of the time in the office roof, so we would not see them at coffee time. Definitely a place to come if you like bush babies, but very hard to photograph in the half-light - this is the best we managed (with manual focus)...

 

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We planned a normal start time for the game drive, but it would be a bit shorter than usual, to meet our incoming flight to Mana pools. We were back with our usual guide and pootled around the lakeshore. I had the 7D. There were lots of birds:

 

Zitting cisticola

 

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Black-bellied bustard

 

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African pipit

 

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Kitlitz's plover

 

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And a couple of non-birds

 

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Some very wary side-striped jackal

 

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And more birds..

 

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Time for an early coffee and then off to the airstrip

 

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The plane arrived on schedule and had the same American couple on board that we had flown up from Hwange with. Our luggage was packed and we were all on board ready to go. The pilot tried to start the engine and nothing happened. A flat battery! Cue lots of frantic phone calls to base to try and divert another plane to us and bring a spare battery. They were struggling to get mobile reception and we waited about an hour and an half before they found out that base were unable to contact that plane and we would have to wait until later for another to arrive. It was the middle of the day now and getting really hot, so a plan was made and we were all taken back to our camp for lunch and somewhere nicer (and cooler) to wait. The other guests were surprised to see us, having said goodbye over morning coffee hours earlier. We had not managed to try the infinity pool at the lodge, as the previous day when I wanted to a family with small children were there. I reallly, really wanted to now, but of course, all of our luggage was on the plane :(. So after lunch we relaxed by (not in) the pool and awaited news of our fate.....

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Tdgraves

Day 9, evening game drive, Changa. 10/9/17

 

The attempts by the camp staff to charge the battery had failed, as it is not the same as a car battery! As the time ticked on, we came to the conclusion that we would not be going to Mana Pools today. The pilot had kept us regularly updated, but at about 3pm, it was decided that although the second plane was now en route, we would not have enough daylight to land safely, so a plan was made for us to stay at Changa and leave at first light the following day. So the camp staff remade up our room and found space for the American couple as well. As we had already been here for four nights, we let them choose the activity and it was decided that a game drive was in order. First up, two large male eles....

 

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and, as had been our previous experience, not much else. However, as we were getting towards sundowners, our guide spotted a juvenile gymnogene land in a dead leadwood tree, so we cautiously approached. It turns out that it was too distracted by hunting to bother about us

 

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It was the American couples' first safari and although he was into photography, this wildlife business was very different to the landscape shots that he planned for months in advance back home. He did not understand why we were patiently waiting, with cameras raised and aching arms, as the light rapidly faded.

 

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This was why - some of the best shots of the whole trip and a once in a lifetime experience, watching its' persistence pay off with dinner

 

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we saw some more eles 

 

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We had sundowners and headed back to camp, where the pilots had still not arrived, so we had no clean clothes or toiletries as yet. Our luggage arrived shortly after we got back to our room so we set a new collection time, in order that we could shower and change for dinner, something that the Americans did not do and soon regretted. We had another wonderful meal which was bittersweet for the other couple, who felt the whole experience in Changa was better that the camp which they had stayed at (although who knows what the price difference was...). The reason for the pilots delay? They were charged by a hippo as they were driven back and had to remove the bumper from the vehicle in order to carry on :(

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Great pics of the juv gymnogene - what did it catch , looks like a small bat?

There is never a shortage of surprises in Africa - getting charged by a hippo would be an adrenaline rush for everyone. 

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Tdgraves

Thanks @Hads yes, it was a bat. You could hear them sqeaking in their nests in the dead trees at dusk and dawn.

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Marks

Fantastic birding throughout this report! I also really enjoyed the cheetahs.

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