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Vundu or Goliath (StretchFerreira Camp)


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Hello!

 

I am in the process of planning my second safari in Africa and have narrowed the destination down to Mana Pools. My first safari was at Ikuka Camp in Ruaha last year and we had a amazing time. One of the things that drew me to Ruaha, and is also drawing me to Mana, is the beauty of the park and the abundance of big game. However, Ruaha wasn't very focused on the walking safari and I love the idea of being able to do this in Mana. I do have some questions though as I finalize my plans that I'm hoping the community can help answer!

 

First off, one of the things that I loved about Ruaha was the fact that it wasn't very crowded, and animal sightings didn't always lead to a tremendous amount of vehicles congregating in one area. Granted that trip was taken in November which I know is the low season, but does anyone have an idea of what kind of crowds I should expect in Mana during August? I've read that its also a popular self driving park which leads me to think that perhaps it could get pretty crowded at sightings, especially during the high season. 

 

Secondly, I'm trying to decide between Vundu Camp or Goliath (Stretch Ferreira Camp). Would anyone be able to offer any insight or feedback into each? especially if anyone has stayed at both.  I've read many great things about Stretch, his guiding, and the fact that you can have close up encounters with many of the animals, but I also realize that I would not have Stretch as my guide on every outing. I have heard great things about the Vundu guide team as well, and it seems that you still have the ability to get up close and personal with the animals here too. From what I gather, it sounds like no matter who is guiding you at Vundu, you will be in great hands, but does anyone know what the standard of guiding is at Goliath if Stretch is not guiding on a particular day? Does he too have a great team around him from a guiding perspective? 

 

Thanks everyone!

 

 

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AfricanQueen

Hi!

I haven't been to Vundu, so cannot compare. But for the last 5 years I've been to Goliath and can highly recommend it. 

 

Stretch was always around and guiding, when I was there. 

If you are not in his vehicle... many times the cars go together and if not, he's always radioing the other car when s.th. special is to be seen. 

And we always met for doing the walks and the close-up encounters together!

(The other guides in camp work on a freelance basis.)

 

Goliath is a rustic camp, just what I like, but that depends on what you want. 

They've done a little refurbishment to camp this year, I was told, but can't tell about that so far. 

 

I hope you will like your stay- whatever camp you will choose!

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I  haven’t stayed at either camp, but have been on private mobile safaris with @Doug Macdonald twice to Mana during late Aug/Sept. Despite being high season I didn’t feel any sightings were over populated. I don’t think we ever shared a sighting with more that 2/3 vehicles and we

only shared  4 sightings on foot across the 15 nights we have spent in Mana. 1 of those was with Stretch and the other two Nick Murray from Vundu. The pro guides have very good etiquette and act in the best interest of the animals and guests in that order. They tend to hang back if another guide is there with guests and either wait until they leave or wait for the other guide to signal to join them. I wouldn’t worry about shared sightings, but if it’s mostly walking you want I would suggest asking about a private guide at either camp. You can the do as you please each day. 

 

As for self drivers it isn’t terrible easy to get to Mana and so it’s hardly overrun. We met some interesting and engaging people on our trips. I much prefer it to the sterile environment of a luxury concession where you can’t so much as shuffle off your tent porch without being accompanied and your days appear centered around you, but are really a tightly scheduled Programme. Mana somehow seems to shake off the shackles of luxury and just stun you with its beauty. Watching an 8 year old drive a pickup through the bush with the rest of the family on deck chairs in the back is really part of its charm and long May it stay that way. 

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optig

@Tbrad87Personally I have stayed twice at Vundu and once at Goliath Camp.I have also done a three day canoe safari down the Zambezi river.While I enjoyed both tremendously,I think you would enjoy going on safari with @Doug Macdonald .My point is it would offer  more of a wilderness vibe an you will undoubtedly see more.I have been guided by Dough and I think he is without question one of the best guides there is.My friends @Atravelynn and @SafariChick took a private safari with him.Please check their trip reports.

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Bush dog

A few words about the guiding level in Zimbabwe.  Doug Macdonald, who I've never met, is certainly an excellent professional guide but there are in Zimbabwe tens if not more excellent ones like him.  Indeed the guiding level is the highest in Africa due to a very difficult training period and also extremely arduous exams.  So, where ever you go, the guiding level will be good if not excellent.  Though I've made, so far, about ten trips to Zimbabwe, I've never been to Mana Pools but, about 20 years ago, Garth Thompson told me that for him it was the most beautiful park in Africa.  For me, Stretch Ferreira, and I do not question his skills, is a guide who creates a sensation.  I would never go walking with him.  He can do what he is doing in Mana because is there since many years and the animals he approaches know him very well and are habituated to him.  I think that if he would do the same things elsewhere, he might get into troubles. 

Anyway, I'm sure you will enjoy Zimbabwe.

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madaboutcheetah

Like Others, I too have been on a mobile safari with Doug Macdonald and I highly recommend after a wonderful trip! If a mobile safari is not your thing, there is the new experience from Great Plains Conservation in Mana Pools.  They are amongst the best safari operators in Africa and have taken the initiative to take up the Sapi Concession. 

 

Like Bush Dog mentions above, I don't think pushing an animal's limit is the sort of experience I personally would like to do to create a sensation............but, to each their own of course and you might love the experience!

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Atravelynn

3 safaris with Doug Macdonald, 2 in Mana Pools.  Can highly recommend him.  I personally do not want a sensation when in the bush and prefer to be a less intrusive.  I have never been guided by Stretch Ferreira, so no personal experience with his style, but I know Stretch has a devoted following.

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  • 2 weeks later...
patquirky

I've not been to Stetch's camp, but I was at Vundu the past two years, and I really really adored it.  I was never out with Nick, but had absolutely terrific times with our guides, and great discussions with Nick and the other guides at meals.  I found the camp's location on the Zambezi to be beautiful and very comfortable.  I am considering going back this year, that's how much I loved it!  The canoeing was great, and the easy approach to walking over to see what's going on with your Zim-pro guide is just great.

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  • 4 weeks later...
panamaleo

Again, I am posting a note re: Stretch Ferrería at Goliath Camp in Mana Pools, and I do not wish others to judge his operation solely by my experience.

In August of 2016 I spent a month in Zim, and had booked 5 nights at Goliath, after a couple nights at ABC’ s “Zambezi Expeditions “ mobile camp on the river. Upon arrival at Goliath, and during the following 2 days/nights, I was alone except for another solo female traveler, a stranger to me, but lovely companion . We were both surprised and disappointed with his attitude and operation. Sullen at dinner; non- communicative. I noticed that he sent a tracker out early in the morning with radio contact, before our drives. This tracker seemed to lay the route for the morning drive....so much for legendary tracking skills of Stretch. He had a wonderful young assistant on all drives and walks, John, a keen birder, who took off by himself, and again laid the groundwork for the day, with Stretch taking the credit for sightings. 

 

Stretch is a big guy; I am 5 foot 3 inches. Yes, he got me the “Kodak Moment” under the tusks of Old Vic, but I felt propelled there by his height and strength. A wonderful photo, but an uncomfortable moment.

 

On the morning of day three, I had seen through the rouse, and decided to exit Goliath Camp. I requested that I have transport back to Zambezi Expeditions; no problem, but an awkward moment. That change in itinerary (my decision) cost me close to $US 1K. From Zambezi Expeditions Camp,  I was efficiently brought to Kanga Camp by the ABC team for my last two nights on the safari. 

 

Agreed that Stretch has a  reputation as a tracker, but he is beyond his time. I was also offended by his denigration of other Mana Pools safari operations (not professional at all). Yes, he’s a “character,” but not to everyone’s taste; certainly not mine. This was the first time I have ever had to change plans due to a conflict with a safari camp owner/manager/operation. 

 

Again, this was my experience in August, 2016, and it reflects my views. Not sure that this forum is the right place to post? I 

 

 

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