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Mana Pools October 2021 : Wild dogs, Lions,.....................Gymnogene

Bush dog

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Believe it or not, this was my first time at Mana Pools.  Twenty years ago, I had met Garth Thompson in Makalolo (Hwange).  He told me that he considered Mana Pools to be the most beautiful park in Africa.  Being a Zimbabwean, perhaps he could be suspected of chauvinism?  He was considered, 25 years ago, to be one of the best guides in Africa.  Still, it took 20 years for me to go and verify his statements.  Frankly, it was not what I expected and it is not a question of being or not being disappointed.  Indeed, when one has the privilege of being in any wilderness, one has no right to be disappointed.  I felt stronger emotions in other places such as the region of Selinda / Kwando or the Busanga plains in the Kafue.

During the 10 days of our stay at Tembo Plains, we visited Mana Pools twice for a whole day and didn't see much more than on the Sapi concession and no predators at all in the park.  The only current weakness of Sapi, a former hunting concession, is that it is extremely difficult to spot a leopard.  We saw, daily, tracks of 4 or 5 individuals.  They are still quite skittish.  What is breathtaking, however, is the view we have on the Zambian side of the Zambezi.  However, I savored every moment of this return to Africa after more than 18 months of absence.


Tembo Plains was opened less than 2 months ago and is very much in the style of other Great Plains camps: rugs and pictures of Beverly Joubert everywhere.  The camp is run by a Zim pro guide, Lloyd Mushure and his partner.  Everything has been perfect.  Every day the staff and guides expressed their gratitude to us for coming to Africa.  When we left, I had never experienced this before, the entire staff was lined up to sing us a leaving song. It was very moving.  Our guide was Zim pro Richard Yohane assisted by Zera.  The other guides in camp are Zim pros Elliot Nobula and Stephen Chinhoyi and two apprentices including Brad Siyawareva, son and younger brother of Benson and Honest.  


As usual, I booked my trip less than six weeks before I left.  This usually allows for excellent prices to be negotiated. I have therefore never paid a single supplement when traveling alone in high season.

I chose Tembo Plains over a Ruckomeshi / Chikwenya combo because for a similar cost Great Plains offered some additional benefits such as a private vehicle and also the availability of optical and photographic equipment:

-         Canon EOS 5D Mark IV

-         Canon 100/400 f4,5/5,6 L IS II USM

-         Leica Trinovid 8x42 HD

It was good because I had decided to sell all my equipment that had become too heavy for me and to replace it with:

-         Canon EOS R6

-         Canon RF 24/105 f4

-         Canon RF 100/500 f4,5/7,1

Unfortunately, the 100/500 could not be delivered to me on time.







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~ @Bush dog:


What a terrific surprise to awaken to your trip report.


It's great news to know that you had a productive visit to Zimbabwe.


Thank you for supplying the information about your photographic gear.


As ever, your safari images are the gold standard.


     With appreciation,


                  Tom K.

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On 10/28/2021 at 12:57 PM, Tom Kellie said:

your safari images are the gold standard

I can say the same! I am impatient to know more about your travel. Interesting booking strategy, I think, I need to take some courses from you ;-)

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whereabouts in the Sapi area is the camp, east, west or central?

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Tembo Plains is about 13 kilometers east of Chikwenya and west of Sapi Explorer's, so between west and central.

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We landed in Harare with Ethiopian Airlines.  In order to avoid Johannesburg, for a few years I have favored ET which also serves Vic Falls and Lusaka.  David, the pilot who was going to bring us to Mana Pools, was waiting for us at the exit of the arrivals’ hall.  After a smooth flight of just over an hour, we landed on the Chikwenya airstrip where Richard and Zera were waiting for us. On the way to the camp, we saw a carmine bee-eater, a sign that the first of them had just arrived, a striped jackal and two lions (a male and a female) at the foot of a baobab tree.  Being color blind, I had a hard time spotting them because the place was very dense.  Arrived at the camp after 4 pm, we took our quarters.


The following day, which I consider to be the first day, was a fairly quiet day spent in the morning exploring the surroundings and in the afternoon boating on the Zambezi.  Like every morning that will follow, the alarm clock will be at 5 a.m. and 4.30 a.m. for the days we visited the park.  The first bird to be heard was the white-browed robin-chat and the second the tropical boubou (when it takes itself for a frog).  All breakfasts will be taken in the bush.


Slender mongoose






Red-billed queleas










A local chief, Chikwenya, was buried inside this 1,200-year-old baobab tree located on the right bank of the Sapi river.




At the crossing of the dry bed of the Sapi river :  brown hooded kingfisher












African fish eagle



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You´re right Mike, hard to believe you´ve never been to Mana Pools - there I thought you´ve been literally everywhere! A great start, looking forward to your report very much.

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Thanks Michael!


There are still some places I would love to go like Gonarezhou, lake Kariba or Malawi.

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I was very glad to see this trip report @Bush dog - what an unexpected pleasure.


I am so happy for you Mike, to have been "back in the saddle again" on an African safari.


Making me itch to get back, though.



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14 hours ago, Bush dog said:



Thanks Michael!


There are still some places I would love to go like Gonarezhou, lake Kariba or Malawi.


they are all well worth visiting Mike

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@Bush dog

How is it possible Mike I missed the start of your TR when I was looking out for it every day ? Except for the last two days when the sunshine has made me go out more than usual and my activity on this forum has been very limited ; but with the rain that’s all changed and now you have all my attention as you can imagine :)

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i always loved the over Zambezi approach to Chikwenya airstrip. usually a beautiful range of colours.


Loving the report, and images  so far. Thank you

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The second day was our first visit to Mana Pools.  We left the camp at daybreak around 5 a.m.  As soon as we left the camp, we came across a small herd of buffaloes.  They had come to drink at the few pools still present nearby. 






Until the boabab-tomb and crossing the dry bed of the Sapi river, nothing worth noting.  We immediately entered Mana Pools as a sign pointed out to us.  Apart from a few crested guineafowls the road was very quiet.  Arrived near the Nyamatusi area, a few vultures were arguing over an eland skull on which there was hardly anything to eat.  On the other hand, there were many more perched on the surrounding trees but we saw no apparent sign of a fresh kill.


The only thing to report was the presence of this small vehicle which looks like those sent to a planet to gather information on it.  In this regard, explanations will be given later.




Nyamatusi floodplains




On Nyamatusi, we spotted a herd of buffaloes.  Richard then proposed to try to approach them on foot.  After the usual recommendations in such circumstances, we set off, in an undergrowth, in single file as silently as possible.  Nevertheless, they were alerted either by a noise or by a movement and fled a little further.  This is a normal attitude for many species.  Indeed, as soon as they are aware of a potential danger that they cannot specify, they flee.  Richard then decided to try frankly through an open space and it worked.






We reached the pools to then explore theirs surroundings where we saw zebras, waterbucks, impalas, elands, kudus, warthogs, …..and even a nyala in the distance, and elephants of course.












That last one is Fred.

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1 hour ago, Bush dog said:

The only thing to report was the presence of this small vehicle which looks like those sent to a planet to gather information on it.


:lol::lol: Love this! You have such a great way with words.


That tiny elephant in the 4th from bottom photo is adorable! 

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@Bush dog


Great start Mike with some lovely elephants pictures and a pity you couldn’t follow that heard of Buffalo a bit further ; as to that little vehicle I am curious to hear your explanation after having seen an UFO looking cloud formation at Chitake Springs in July :lol:

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It's the first time that I'm told that I have a great way with words.  Usually, I express myself better through images.  Anyway, I take that as a compliment @Toxic


Thank you!

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All of the following images relate to Fred and speak for themselves.
























On the way back to camp, nothing to declare.  We were quite tired after a 12 hours day mostly sitting on a vehicle.


At dinner, Richard told us that Elliot and his guests, who were canoeing down the river, had seen, between the camp and Sapi Explorer's, not only lions but also wild dogs.  The presence of lions was confirmed to us by their roars.  The next day promised to be exciting.

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34 minutes ago, Bush dog said:

At dinner, Richard told us that Elliot and his guests, who were canoeing down the river, had seen, between the camp and Sapi Explorer's, not only lions but also wild dogs.  The presence of lions was confirmed to us by their roars.  The next day promised to be exciting.


I agree with @Toxic Mike @Bush dog ; it is a fine example of tension building in a TR ;)

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And indeed, this third day was the most exciting of the whole stay. Early morning as usual, we headed east towards Explorer's Camp.  We found tracks of wild dogs nearby.  Zera was absent that day, he had been replaced by Matt.  As the tracks were heading off-road to our camp, along the river, Richard decided to follow them on foot and asked Matt to leave with the car in the same direction just in case they decided to get back on the road or were visible from it further.  It turned out to be wise.  Indeed, shortly afterwards, he called us, he had just spotted them.  He came back for us.  They were near the temporary camp which had been erected to store the equipment and materials necessary for the construction of Tembo Plains and to accommodate the workers.  They had just killed an impala 15-20 minutes before we arrived.  The pack numbered 10 adults and 5 pups.
























Mor pictures to come in a next post.

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@Bush dog- Lovely report and images as always, Mike !!!  Thanks for writing this up and Sapi looks AMAZING ........ Wild dogs and more !!! I'd love to visit Sapi one day for sure, especially if you say that the viewing is comparable to the park itself.  

Edited by madaboutcheetah
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Hi Hari, 


First of all, thank you for your comments. 


I don't know if the viewing is better than in the park (2 days out of 9 during my stay) but it certainly was for me.  You, better than anyone, know that, in the bush, what is true today is not necessarily true tomorrow.   Your post gives me the opportunity to already say what I was going to mention later in this report.  As for the wild dogs, I was very lucky that they were in Sapi when I was there.  Indeed, a little later in this third day, we met a guy doing research on wild dogs.  Two weeks previously, he had witnessed, in the western part of the park, the encirclement of this pack by a group of about thirty hyenas.  The pack had fared pretty well with only the loss of a puppy.  Following this attack, the pack had undoubtedly wanted to move away from this region by moving towards the east.  The next day, they left for the west following the presence in Sapi of 4 young male lions.


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The same researcher also told us that it was the Nyakasanga pack,the same, I think, that Peter, @BRACQUENE,  saw during his stay in July.  It seems that this one was at this time, the only one present in the northern part of the park.  3 days later, Richard had learned, while talking with colleagues during our second visit to the park, that two packs, one of 7 and the other of 3 individuals, had been seen in the vicinity of Camp Ingwe (Machaba).


After this parenthesis, return to the images.





















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