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BRACQUENE

I . INTRODUCTION  : 

 

After an intense and almost private safari in July 2021 to Mana Pools , visit that other mythical Zimbabwe Park , part of the Greater Limpopo Transfrontier Conservation Area together with Kruger National Park in South Africa and Limpopo National Park in Mozambique was always a priority for me sooner than later and so in January this year when I received a message from @Tony Busangathat he would organise two trips to Gonarezhou in October privately guided by @Doug Macdonald I had no hesitation at all even if going on two safaris in a year with only three months seperating them was not exactly what I had planned but if you are addicted....:rolleyes:

 

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For those who visited the Park before ( I found some TR's from @wilddog, @optigand @Kitsafaribut know that other members have visited it ) and might doubt if the reputation of remoteness  is still intact , be reassured: with only little more than a thousand visitors a year the wilderness factor and the feeling of driving and walking through pristine bush (only five cars in seven days seen )  is still there and even surpassed my high expectations !

But of course it was the perfect organization of @Doug Macdonald and @Tony Busanga, who shared their knowledge with our small group, meaning  Anne , myself and two lovely British ladies Linda and Mabella that made the safari so successful; a special mention for Stacy and Matt , a couple from Harare and part of Doug's team who were the perfect hosts !!

 

Here are some teaser photos to give you an idea what to expect 

 

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And finally ... the lonely lion in front of the Chilojo Cliffs !

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michael-ibk

Awesome! The start of your report is very well timed for me. Please do write at least 10 more chapters while I'm waiting here in Doha for my connecting flight to Zim. 

 

5 minutes ago, BRACQUENE said:

all even if going on two safaris in a year with only three months seperating them was not exactly what I had planned

 

Why would you not plan that, it sounds totally sensible to me. 🙂

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michael-ibk

I see Doug is doing the old barefoot trick again. 

 

Love love love the last photo! 

 

All the others are great as well of course. 

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BRACQUENE

Thanks a lot  @michael-ibk ; I hope your stay at Doha is not too long because our initial flight to Dubai was cancelled and we had to wait 9 hours in the airport at night and arrived in Harare 26 hours after leaving Brussels ( more about that later ) ; Have a lovely trip in Mana and Gonarezhou ! 

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A great "appetite whetter" @BRACQUENE, I feel a call/message to Tony/Doug coming on :)

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Seniortraveller

I have been looking forward to this, as we have a similar trip booked for next September, with Doug. Based on your initial photos, you have had a very successful trip.

Eagerly awaiting the rest of the trip report!

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Looking forward to reading more!

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Tony Busanga

Great photos Peter, I feel like  was there🤦‍♂️😂. truly a great park for that real safari feel, and my word what a lot you saw.

 

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madaboutcheetah

Look forward to this report @BRACQUENE- Thanks for writing this up ....... 

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Really looking forward to the rest of this report thanks @BRACQUENE. That last photo of the Male lion is stunning.

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BRACQUENE

II . The arrival at Masasanya Camp  : 

The days before leaving Brussels were not ideal I have to admit : on Sunday the 9th of October I wasn't feeling well (despite a negative covid selftest) and on Monday stayed almost the whole day in bed and was starting to think that going on this safari would be a last minute decision ! The next two days things started to get a little bit better but a general feeling of tiredness and lack of appetite remained until departure day Wednesday the 12th .

Our flight with Emirates scheduled for 21 45 h was cancelled a few weeks earlier and we had to leave at 15 25h in the afternoon meaning at the same time that we had to wait more than eight hours during the night in Dubai for the connecting flight to Lusaka and Harare ; 

Twenty seven hours after departure with some delay and a long waiting time to get the visa but already in the excellent company of Linda and Mabella we were finally in Zimbabwe and were driven to Honey Bear Lodge were we arrived long after dark ; we had a quick dinner and fell asleep ; wake up was very early because the plain to Gonarezhou was leaving at 8 o'clock.

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The arrival at the Airstrip and replacing the first group !

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Tony welcomes us in his usual wa:D

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The Park entrance at Chipinda Pools : 

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The first small and big wildlife 

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And my birder instinct on alert !

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Black-crowned Tchagra 

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The magnificent Chapman's zebra a subspecies of the plains zebra. 

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Our Room at Masasanya Camp with the toilet to the right 

 

Gonarezhou's Masasanya Mananga Camp is semi-permanent and made from simple materials ( recycled ) found in the area with no cement ; there are three Malanga Camps in the Park ; our camp at the Masasanya Dam near Chipinda Pools in the NW and both Mathuli and Makonde set on the Mwenezi River in the south of Gonarezhou National Park 

Mananga is a name that comes from the local Shangaan language which means in the bush ; they are made and serviced by women from the local community and so designed to have minimal carbon footprints and to blend into their surroundings .

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The view from our tent to the waterhole : Fantastic 

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A male Waterbuck 

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Male Kudu

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Common Greenshank 

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An African Pied Wagtail

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Barefoot enjoying the late sunshine

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I have been looking forward to your TR @BRACQUENE, no doubt it will be as entertaining and informative as always. Seems great to me to have such a good view on a waterhole from your cabin.

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On 11/4/2022 at 4:07 PM, BRACQUENE said:

The days before leaving Brussels were not ideal I have to admit : on Sunday the 9th of October I wasn't feeling well (despite a negative covid selftest) and on Monday stayed almost the whole day in bed and was starting to think that going on this safari would be a last minute decision ! The next two days things started to get a little bit better but a general feeling of tiredness and lack of appetite remained until departure day Wednesday the 12th .

 

Just the thought of going on safari has remarkable recuperative effects :)

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BRACQUENE

III. Around Masasanya Camp :

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Elsewhere on Safaritalk you can read more about the the reintroduction of Rhinos to Gonarezhou ; Since 2017 Gonarezhou is managed by the trust, a new model for protected area management drawn up between the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority and the Frankfurt Zoological Society ; In May 2021, after a delay due to Covid three private parks Malilangwe Trust, Bubye Valley Conservancy, and Save Conservancy together translocated 29 rhinos to Gonarezhou. 

So it is still early stages and in respect for the conservation program and to reduce even more the risk of poaching , I will of course follow the advice of @Doug Macdonald not to publish pictures of the Black Rhino : I can tell you that we saw and approached three Rhino's during our stay , a very exciting moment even more so because our two companions never saw them in the wild before and we saw White Rhino in 2019 in Mosi-oa-Tunya NP close to Livingstone ( not really in the wild but more in captivity ) at the end of our Kafue Safari .

 

I can't praise enough the quality of the food on this safari ; every day a different African country was on the menu at lunch and in the evening starting with Ethiopia and ending with Zimbabwe and at the same time the team , Matt and Stacey for Bush Bound Africa Safaris and the local staff fulfilled all our wishes .

For birders Gonarezhou is a place not to be missed with the biggest variety of birds in the country meaning over 400 species with a further 90 listed as '' likely to occur " : I missed out on some local specials , including bat hawk , racket-tailed roller and thick-billed cuckoo but though my pictures might seem to show mostly clear skies and plenty of sunshine , the weather wasn't ideal : always cloudy in the mornings with even a few spots of rain on the second day and generally very windy .

In fact apart from the first and the last day it was never too hot as we feared it might be ; Generally we started with a drive in the morning and then at a certain moment we went further on foot :

the terrain wasn't always easy and taking pictures neither but I managed ;)

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Morning sunrise over Camp

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Buffalo in the distance 

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A Rattling Cisticola

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A lonely Wildebeest 

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A Black-collared Barbet

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A Kori Bustard

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Elephant drinking in front of us at camp 

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Yellow-billed Storks 

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Wire-tailed Swallow

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A Sharpe's Grysbok 

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Tawny Eagle with prey 

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Nyala 

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Close encounter with Elephant 

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CBC45FDB-800D-413B-95CB-5B6414872D93_1_201_a.jpeg.b1e2cb2a6ae780a58fb9a48a05a1f35d.jpegThe Striated Heron twice : first posing nicely then struggling to eat a frog ! 

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White-breasted Cormorant at Masasanya Dam 

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And then resting a few moments on my bed in Camp I suddenly heard birds making a lot of noise , took my camera opened my door and there for the first time I saw a Secretary Bird ...

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BRACQUENE

IV. On our way to the amazing Chilojo Cliffs:

 

On the fourth day , the 17th of October we left early and would be staying at night in a fly camp set up by Doug's team on the  Runde River 

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Saying goodbye to Masasanya Camp with some African Skimmers arriving at 5 30 in the morning 

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Anne preparing herself after breakfast and ready to go 

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A last panorama view of the Camp 

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The first birds after leaving camp : Red-billed Buffalo Weaver and Green-winged Pytilia and then ... one of the most incredible moments in the whole safari : 

the building of a Red-headed Weaver nest :rolleyes:

To take the pictures I had to lie down on Anne sitting beside me as everything was happening high up in the tree ! 

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The lady appreciating the work and when her partner leaves a minute deciding to participate ....

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And showing the result of her effort 

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But giving her husband the final word ... 

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After seeing a Senegal Lapwing and a Purple Roller the first big game 

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A Lonely Nyala Male 

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And Sable on their way to the Runde River  

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First view of the Chilojo Cliffs 

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A rest and swim in the River 

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And some nice sightings in the afternoon ending with Arnott's Chat , African Cuckoo-Hawk and the Red-crested Korhaan ! 

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And it was already after sunset when we arrived at our fly camp close to the Runde River  : 3m x 3m canvas dome tents with two stretcher style cot beds, an extra mattress on top, and proper linen for a comfortable night sleep, a solar light inside and outside a hand basin ; the toilet was a shared facility and not attached to our tent and after an excellent dinner we fell quickly asleep ...

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Doug certainly knows how to make dome tents luxurious.

 

So glad you enjoyef Goners. And those cliffs just leave one speechless they are so awesome 

 

 

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BRACQUENE

He certainly does @wilddogand as for the Chilojo Cliffs and the area around the best has yet to come …

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michael-ibk

Lovely photos from Masasanya, we really enjoyed that place as well. Very cool you saw Sable. You got some really good birds, especially the Cuckoo-Hawk. Looking forward to the Cliffs. 🙂

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BRACQUENE

Hope you had a great trip in Zimbabwe and looking forward to hear all about it @michael-ibk; the Cliffs were my favorite area and coming soon😉

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BRACQUENE

V. The Cliffs at last

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The 18th of October early morning we went for a walk around the fly camp , Tony as always ready to leave immediately 

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Crested Barbet to show us the way !

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Even if the Weaver showed us the opposite side 

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But no success apart from a jackal and an African green pigeon and in the meantime the camp had disappeared and we were on our way moreover with beautiful morning sunshine !

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A Common Duiker 

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A Wood Sandpiper 

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And some paddling 

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And then arriving late morning in Chilojo Cliffs Tented Camp or also called Gonarezhou Bush Camp when it was operated on an exclusive booking basis by Ant Kaschula

Loved the place and the views over the Cliffs : judge for yourselves !!

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And then there was that incredible birdbath like @michael-ibkcalls it in another topic that I used from the very start !! 

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Black-headed Oriole

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Terrestrial Brownbull 

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Yellow-bellied Greenbull 

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Speckled Mousebird 

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Laughing Dove 

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Meves's Starling

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Dark-capped ( Black-eyed) Bulbul

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Scarlet-chested Sunbird 

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Crested Barbet 

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Spectacled Weaver 

 

And then in the late afternoon sunshine the first drive to discover paradise ....

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thanks for a great report so far. Brings back memory’s of our last trip before covid!

The view across river to the cliffs is amazing.

 

 

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madaboutcheetah

Simply Stunning!! 

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BRACQUENE

Thanks everybody to follow and especially @NSYand @madaboutcheetahfor your kind words ; Continuing very soon ! 

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Your pictures are great @BRACQUENE, did you take them all with the RX10? 

This area is really beautifull. Your bird bath pictures are a joy to look at.

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BRACQUENE

Thanks a lot @Biko : All taken with the RX10 ( this year I didn't use my old Fuji as a second camera anymore ) , which Doug is also using by the way : in good light (which strangely perhaps wasn't always the case in Gonarezhou) it is an awesome camera not in the least for birds with that 600 mm reach 

Most bird bath pictures were taken the first day when we arrived in Gonarezhou Bush Camp from the dinner table ; for birders the NP is a must in my opinion but not only for them mind you and the landscape is unforgettable :rolleyes:

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