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Recently, a partnership was concluded between Julian Brookstein and a private investor.  Two camps were born from this association,  Nyamoumba River Lodge, located in the Kariba Gorge, not far downstream of the Dam, and  Chitubu (more details in due time) in Hwange National Park, where I spent 8 nights in the second part of October.

 

I had booked my departure flights for a day when the fare was cheaper hoping that Chitubu could accommodate me the day after I arrived in Victoria Falls.  Unfortunately, this could only be done the day after.  Having already made several stays in Vic’ Falls, spending a whole day did not suit me too much.  So, I asked my agent to find me something to do.  He offered to spend the 2 nights at the Victoria Falls River Lodge located about fifteen kilometers from the center, in the Zambezi National Park along the river.  Considering that this solution could be a good start, I accepted especially since the cost, equivalent to that of the Victoria Falls Hotel (bed and breakfast), was full board, game drives and river cruises included.

 

Without reaching heights, it was ultimately a good surprise.  This establishment is in my opinion a bit of a compromise between a hotel and a bush camp.  The place is luxurious.  The rooms (tents) are spacious and vast.  The food is excellent with a special mention for the homemade muesli at breakfast.  The level of guiding (a few Zim Pro guides) is good to very good.  Working close to town allows staff to return home every evening.  A bus brings them back at the end of the evening and picks them up early in the morning.

The camp has 13 rooms located along the Zambezi at a good distance from each other on either side of the central unit. Those at the ends are therefore quite far away.  Golf-cars are used in broad daylight to pick up and bring back those who so wish.  In the evening, guests are required to take them.  This is an excellent initiative not only for safety but also for people with reduced mobility.

 

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Here are the different species seen in the Zambezi NP:

Elephants

Greater kudus

Giraffes

Warthogs

Impalas

Zebras

Elands

Black-backed jackal

Buffaloes

Some raptors

 

I did 3 game drives and very surprised to be alone twice on the vehicle and only accompanied by one person for the third.

The first one was pretty quiet.

 

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The second, which turned out to be more interesting, took us to the other side of the road to Kazungula, more precisely the Chamabonda Vlei.

 

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On the road to Chamabonda :  Two giraffes can hide a third whose ear tip can barely be seen.

 

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The third one already disappeared in the teaks.

 

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Black-breasted snake eagle

 

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Lizard buzzard

 

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Senegal coucal

 

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Long-tailed shrike

 

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Capped wheatear

 

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Lilac-breasted roller

 

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Kori bustard

 

The last one was also quiet but less than the first one.  We heard a male lion calling, probably a female with cubs whose footprints were seen in camp the next morning, but it didn’t show up.

 

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Chacma baboon

 

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White-browed sparrow-weaver

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Tom Kellie

~ @Bush dog:

 

What a nice surprise! Thank you for posting the superb images.

 

That photo of the disappearing giraffes on a lonely track is really something.

 

      Tom K.

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offshorebirder

Thank you for this trip report @Bush dog   Superb photos as usual.    The lion dragging the carcass of the elephant child is like a Kipling story gone sideways!

 

As @Tom Kellie said, what a nice surprise.

 

I imagine it was a thrill to be back in the saddle again.  

 

Looking forward to following along.

 

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BRACQUENE

@Bush dog

 

Welcome back Mike :)  For me your trip wasn't a surprise and the "splendid" start isn't either with apart from the big game some really impressive bird pictures : I was blessed with some great Coucal sightings this summer amongst them the Senegal in Gonarezhou and this Coppery-tailed one ;) in Bangweulu 

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@BRACQUENE

Hi Peter and thanks a lot for your nice words! 

I take this opportunity to say that in Masuma, I met Blade who works in the area.  At the end of last year, he brilliantly passed the last tests to access the license of professional guide.  He obtained it with the special mention "top guiding".

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BRACQUENE

@Bush dog

 

Well it doesn't surprise me at all ; we could see already in Kavinga last year that he was really passionate about his job ! 

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Day 1

 

The next morning, I left River Lodge at eight o’clock.  The car and it’s driver, from the company ATT were on time.  I was pleasantly surprised to find that he was not alone.  Indeed, Ashley and Julian Brookstein were also present.  Ashley had only come to greet me, which made me very happy, while Julian went to accompany me.  During transfer, Julian told me that I would be during these 8 days the only guest in camp.  What more could I wish for, private camp, private vehicle, private guide (and moreover one of the best) and in many cases, as I will discover later, private sightings.  The trip to Mbala gate, where a camp vehicle was waiting for us for ten o'clock, takes a little over an hour and a half.  At the end of the journey, after having crossed this spectacle of desolation that are the two open pit coal mining operations, we reached the gate.  One is still in business, the other is shut down due to bankruptcy.  All the material has been abandoned there.  If there were still equipment in good condition, it would be like facing the exploitation of a scrap dealer.

 

Chitubu is located in the Sinamatela area, west of the park, close to the main road Sinamatela/Main Camp, two kilometers before Mandavu, built on a ridge overlooking a natural waterhole.  The camp is still in construction but as far as the comfort of guests is concerned, everything has already been done.

 

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Here are the different species seen in the Hwange NP:

Elephants (hundreds)

Chacma baboons (a lot)

Vervet monkey (a few)

Black-backed jackals (a few)

Lions (51 including 8 adult and about 15 subadult males))

Spotted hyaenas (a few)

Slender mongooses (a few)

Banded mongooses

Dwarf mongooses

Zebras (more than a few)

Warthogs (a lot)

Hippopotamus (more than a few)

Giraffes (a lot)

Buffaloes (thousands)

Greater kudus (a lot)

Bushbuck

Common duikers (a few)

Steenbok

Reedbucks (a few)

Waterbucks (a few)

Impalas (a lot as usual)

Roan (1 herd of about 25 individuals)

Sables (2 herds of about 25 individuals + a few isolated)

Ostriches

Some raptors

 

We did our first game drive not far from the camp in the Kashawe sector and ended the afternoon at Mandavu.

 

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Juvenile bateleur

 

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Marabou stork

 

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The first lion

 

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We had our sundowners on the other side of Mandavu.  This hippo driven out of its pod had taken up residence in a small pond.  We will see it again several times the next days when we pass by.

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Finding this report interesting, especially so having spent five days in Hwange NP just a few weeks ago in September at Camp Hwange.

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@Julian

 

Yes, I've seen that.  You even said that it was good but a bit disappointing at all.  Can I ask you why?

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Day 2

 

Early in the morning near Mandavu.

 

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This is the first time I managed to get so close to a martial eagle without prey.  Completely relaxed, extraordinary! For Julian, it was also a first.

 

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White-backed vulture

 

The following 3 photos were taken from a viewpoint located a little before arriving at Masuma when coming from Mandavu.

 

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23 hours ago, Bush dog said:

@Julian

 

Yes, I've seen that.  You even said that it was good but a bit disappointing at all.  Can I ask you why?

 


@Bush dog

Everything about the camp was great- really nice helpful friendly staff, food good, evening meal was sociable .
We were the only guests for the first three of our five days there. The game drives were all good , guides and tracker were very good.
We never have a ‘list’ of what we want to see, as we like all the wildlife and birds. However we did expect/ hope we would have a chance to see, apart from many elephants and buffalos, 2 or 3 of the following species- lions, cheetah, leopards, wild dogs. 
We soon realised there was no chance of seeing cheetah, Wild dogs or leopards if we remained in their 50 sqkm  concession. There were 3 lions ( and 3 young cubs) which we watched close up a few times. We were told there were two other larger lion prides close in adjoining territories, but when I asked our guide about going to see them he said those were ‘other guys  territories’ .

There seemed to be a real reluctance to go and look for wildlife elsewhere in the Park.

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offshorebirder

51 lions - my word!

 

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@Julian

Thanks a lot for your answer.

Perhaps they are reluctant to go elsewhere in the park.  I do not really know, but from what I heard, it is not like it was.  Furthermore, one of their guides did not give us an information about lions that were 200 meters further which seems unfair to me.

For example, I understand that you did not make any full-day game drives?  If so, they should have proposed it to you.  At the same period you were there, Julian told me that he saw three times cheetahs in the Robins area.  During the four times I was there, 4 and 5 years ago, I saw cheetahs three times between Mandavu and Shumba pan as well as wild dogs.

As for the leopards, the chances of seeing them in good conditions are rare.  During the same period, I saw only four. In two cases, they were really skittish and even scared.  In the other two, I was lucky to see two, quite young, in excellent conditions.

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@offshorebirder

Yes indeed!  There is only one place where I saw as many lions in one week, Masai Mara.

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The next pictures were taken at Masuma.  Masuma is a big pan towards which hundreds of animals converge, mainly at the end of the dry season, as we will see throughout this report.  A large observation building overlooks the pan allowing for a 180 degree view of the waterhole and the surrounding open landscape. 

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Young elephants chasing kudus from the waterhole.

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3 hours ago, Bush dog said:

@Julian

Thanks a lot for your answer.

Perhaps they are reluctant to go elsewhere in the park.  I do not really know, but from what I heard, it is not like it was.  Furthermore, one of their guides did not give us an information about lions that were 200 meters further which seems unfair to me.

For example, I understand that you did not make any full-day game drives?  If so, they should have proposed it to you.  At the same period you were there, Julian told me that he saw three times cheetahs in the Robins area.  During the four times I was there, 4 and 5 years ago, I saw cheetahs three times between Mandavu and Shumba pan as well as wild dogs.

As for the leopards, the chances of seeing them in good conditions are rare.  During the same period, I saw only four. In two cases, they were really skittish and even scared.  In the other two, I was lucky to see two, quite young, in excellent conditions.

@Bush dog

We did actually end up going out for a whole day to another area  - rhino tracking- but they never told us about it , II had to ask about it, then there was a reluctance at first, and after the tracking we drove around for a long time in the afternoon on the main ‘roads’ without hardly stopping anywhere, and saw very little of any wildlife. I won’t go into further detail, aaI’ll leave that for when I get round to doing my full trip report, which I probably won’t get started until after Christmas.

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We then went to Shumba pan and Roan pan.  Roan was completely dried up.  Shumba was almost too, but in this case because the elephants had damaged the pipes between the pump and the pan.  The good surprise was to find some sable antelopes there.

 

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Kitsafari

such handsome and elegant sables, Mike. 

 

were the water pipes exposed, and was it because the elephants were looking for water and thus damaged the pipes? 

Did the drought in Kenya extend down to Zim? 

 

Looking forward to more adventures from you! 

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@Bush dog beautiful pictures as usual and an interesting report. We also visited the places you write about in the report but were staying at Camp Hwange for 3 nights.

At the time we were there, the grass was still quite high and sightings were more difficult than I had expected. We followed lions tracks and found

"Dube" , a beautiful male who is now the new alpha male in the area. We also saw 2 young males close to a natural waterhole, feeding on an elephant carcass. On a night drive we found a very shy male leopard, also feeding on the same carcass but running away when he saw us. No cheetahs.

Different from @Julianexperience, our guide Moses took us on a full day game drive to the Deteema Springs. Here we found the local pride. There were at least 6 lionesses, 1 male and 3 little cubs, very cute and a pleasure to watch.

We very much enjoyed our stay at Camp Hwange and Moses was an excellent guide.

 

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@Kitsafari

 

Thank, Kit!

Whether or not a waterhole is dry, elephants and some other species seek clean, clear water first.  This is why they are often found where it comes out of the pipes.  But as they have the ability to detect the place where it runs deep, they dig and damage the pipes.

The drought did not extend down to Zimbabwe.  In addition, Hwange experienced late rains in July.

 

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Right after Shumba, on our way to Roan, Julian spotted two lionesses, "The Super Models", and three cubs on a male warthog's kill.

 

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On the way back to camp, we stopped at Mandavu.

 

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African spoonbills

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offshorebirder

Perhaps it is a matter of angle/perspective, but that looks like a very large Warthog @Bush dog.       

 

Great sighting of the supermodels and their cubs feeding.

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@Bush dog
The two female lions in the Camp Hwange concession were called the Supermodels and they had three young cubs. Are the lions you refer to the same ones ???

 

 

Edited by Julian
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