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Doing two Trip Reports simultaneously might be a bit too much, but hey, need to churn this out before the next trip. :D


The main event last autum was definitely Gonarezhou (and the Vumba). Trip Report about that going on here right now. New locations are always exciting. But we just could not bear the thought of returning to Zimbabwe without at least a bit of quality time in Mana Pools, this magical walking safari haven. The recent safari cost explosion almost made us bear the thought of not "stopping by". But in the end the desire to sit at the banks of the Zambezi was just too big, and cancelled out these pedestrian thoughts about budget and stuff. So we booked four additional days in the park before we´d meet up with @Atravelynnin Harare. "Four" is "Mana" in Shona, hence this incredibly original report title. B)


As with the main trip, Doug MacDonald arranged everything and guided us in Mana.




Since we´d head off to Mana early morning we first spent a night in Harare after arrival. The flight had been long (10 hour layover in Doha) but quite enjoable actually. And immigration was super fast and smooth. To the point nobody was waiting for us in the hall - our driver did not expect us out that early. But he soon showed up.


We enjoyed some pleasant down time at Malcolm Lodge. Nice owners, good dinner, and lovely garden to hang out. So similar to Guineafowl Lodge where we last stayed in Harare that I first wondered if it was the same place.




This is  very nice area of Harare. The driver who picked us up at the airport insisted I should buy a house here, and kindly offered his help.




First bird of the trip - quite a few would follow.






Unfortunately this Turaco really did not like to play. It started to pour down soon - a reminder that the rains were imminent.




But not next day fortunately! Doug picked us up at 05:30. Early enough to avoid traffic. We departed from Charles Prince Airport at 07:00 and after a very smooth flight of only 50 minutes we touched down in Mana.




And even though the locals were of course hoping and longing for the rains we were quite happy they had not yet arrived. Mana was bone dry. We saw our first Lion about 15 minutes after arrival, right next door to Park HQs where Doug had to clear formalities. The first of many sleeping Lions in shrubbery, did not bother taking photos.




So cool to see some of the familiar landmarks again - Chisasiku Pools here (one of the four eponymous "Mana" pools - although it´s always a topic of discussion which one is the fourth). BTW, I´m not gonna bore you with long descriptions about the park and its different locations. We´ve had so many reports here anyway. So this will probably not be a very wordy report.




Yes, Hubert Hippo, it´s good to see you again too, thanks for the welcome!






Many Elands around this time - a park staple in the dry season.




We used Natureways Safaris for our camp. They had done a perfect job on our first visit, and were just as good this time.






A basic but comfy tent with everything you need. Food was excellent, and all the staff guys very friendly (as Zimbabweans generally are) and accommodating.




And of course there are few more enjoyable places to stay than right on the Zambezi. I always love this, and it felt wonderful being back. And very practical to cool off a bit - it was of course very hot!




The first evening we shared camp with three more people (who were also heading to Gonarezhou after that). But for the remaining three nights camp was all ours. Not too bad having an exclusive private camp. :D






Good old bucket shower - essential part of safari fun. I think I took several showers a day with cold water just because of the heat. But it was not unbearable - I think it had been hotter when we last visited end of October a couple of years ago.




The en-suite "emergency loo".  Staff are quite happy when one rather uses the long-drop-sand-bucket one.




During our siesta Elephant celebrity Mr. Handstand Boswell stopped by. We made a classic rookie mistake - assumed we would see him again later in nice light and did not even bother to approach him more closely. (As I mentioned it was hot!). Of course we never saw him again. But still very kind of him to stop by at least. He is such a gentleman!




Even in the heat I could not sit completely still (or lie down), some birds always provoked me.




Meve´s Starling, absolutely abundant in the park.




Grey-Headed Bushshrike, a bit more special.

Edited by michael-ibk
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~ @michael-ibk:


That's a very nice touch at the Charles Prince Airport to have another plane landing in the background.


Right over the wingtip, no less. 


Tom K.

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In the afternoon we went for a walk. Of course! This is the thing I love most about Mana Pools, moving freely between Zebras, Impala, Waterbuck and other beasts. Safari does not get more "Garden Eden" than this. We just had to bypass one camp site (Camp Mana I think) before we could head right to the river flood plains.




A pretty dark Harrier-Hawk - or Gymnogene, the name I prefer just because it´s different.






A dead Hippo was a very welcome food source for many scavengers.




We were not appreciating this just as much when we got "wind of it". Smelly stuff - Pflagh!:wacko:




A distant shot of a White-Headed Vulture. The rarest species, so I always appreciating seeing them.




I was delighted when we found out we were walking right to a Carmine colony. Not in full swing anymore (already a bit late in the season) but still marvellous enough. I´ve said this before - few things I enjoy more than sitting with these dazzling Scarlet birds and trying to "get" them.










See the Hippo in the background? This guy was responsible we could not get closer to where the main action is. Doug is always very careful with them - they can be very dangerous.










I was happy now. :)


Already on the way to the river we had seen some Lions. Now I could be convinced to separate from my Carmines we decided to check them out.




But for some reason they were nervous about us and kept moving back and back as we were approaching (which we were not doing in a straight line of course.) Lions in Mana Pools are pretty used to people walking in on them but for some reason this pride here did not appreciate that. Doug told us all the pride dynamics are in a turmoil right now. So many Lions around that they are constantly fighting each other. Which is probably the reason they were so much on edge.






We decided to try to wait here for them. They would have to drink sooner or later.




A good reminder that Crocs - and in Mana often monsters of Crocs - are around anywhere where´s water.




Our Lions really did not like us - they just continued hanging out in the distance. And everytime they got up and started to move it was just for two meters before the lazy bastards dozed off again.






It really was time to get back to the car now. More fun to be around Lions on foot when you can actually see something. And Gin Tonic and beer was waiting anyway. Time to call it a day then!





Edited by michael-ibk
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6 minutes ago, Tom Kellie said:

That's a very nice touch at the Charles Prince Airport to have another plane landing in the background.


Thank you Tom. To be quite honest I never noticed!:D

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Rise and Shine Sunshine? I wish! We almost got up in the very middle of the night - 04:15 at the latest. Because of the heat animal activity was quickly going down, and it was important to get out early. We always left camp around 5.






Lilian´s Lovebirds are super-common in Mana but not particularly easy to approach. But I promise I will better this! We were tracking lions going West. Successfully, eventually we found an impressive pride of 10 or so. Good work Doug? Well, yes, but he admitted this was actually not the one he had been tracking. :D








They soon started moving, and we were hopeful - they did look hungry.




Poor "Stumpy" as we called him - the lost tail definitiley cost this youngster some sex appeal.




Whenever there are Lions around Doug will inevitably try to kill me. He always, always commands me to get out "to get a better angle." A very transpicuous move. But being as dumb as I am I always comply. 




And let me tell you, the gaze of a Lioness packs quite a different punch when she´s passing you 20 metres or so while you are sitting on the ground. Of course I was cool as ice. Pure happenstance that I decided to wash my trousers during lunch break.






A herd of Eles showed up out of nowhere, but they all politely ignored each other.









Edited by michael-ibk
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This had been a very liony morning. Forgot to mention - we had not needed a wake-up call today. Two males were roaring and rrrooaarrrrrring so close to us that the tent was shaking. And then they passed by between our tent and the river, less than 10 metres from where we were standing. We switched off the lights because we just felt too vulnerable being so visible. A pretty superfluous thing to do, of course they could see us just as well anyway.




Of course we followed the lions on foot. Not a thing normally considered common sense but a totally logical thing to do in Mana Pools.






All animals were very much on edge. The lions spread out, and everything was nervous.




We watched them stalk and even attack some Zebra. But a failed hunt. And since it was happening inside some very thick stuff no photos. Eventually the lions settled down, and we were continuing our walk. Lots of general game around but no more special sightings this morning.






Doug and I did not always entirely agree on where to go next.




Finally it was time for a (late again) coffee break at the Zambezi. This Brown-Hooded Kingfisher checked us out.






We stopped by Trichillia Island but everything was fairly quiet. The river banks are eroding very quickly these days. The tree in the background was in the middle of a campsite a few years ago. It will soon be gone.




We were back in camp around 11:30. It was a bit cooler today because of the oncoming clouds, and a nice breeze was also helping. Still enjoyed a siesta - I´m getting lazy.




Saddle-Billed Stork passed by.




A distant shot of a Rufous-Bellied Heron - a pretty scarce bird, have only ever seen it in Botswana before once or twice.




Spur-Winged Goose





Edited by michael-ibk
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~ @michael-ibk:


Before I turn off the computer for the day I must tell you that your partially submerged crocodile may be the most thought-provoking croc image I've seen.


The head in the floating greenery and the massive tail like a castle battlement...such contrasts.


Superb photography.


      Tom K.

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In the afternoon we checked out a bush where a Leopard had stashed away an Impala he had killed in the morning. Probably a young, inexperienced Cat, Doug mused, the bush was right next to the road. Leopards are pretty shy in Mana Pools, and so it was unlikely he would show up before cars had left. We decided to go for another walk. Not quite sure where this was, somewhere between Old Ndungu and Chisasiku.




Trumpeter Hornbill. They were not uncommon but quite wary. And hiding away well in their favoured Fig Tree.




Red-Billed Hornbill, abundant in Mana.




Two Dagga Boys checking us out. They always look so, so grumpy.




Cheer up a bit big guy, will you?




Banded Snake-Eagle - we saw it in this area a couple of times.




Baboons having an very important-looking business meeting.


Nothing of particular interest happend on our walk. But for some reason @AndMicand me totally agree it was one of our favourites. Totally peaceful. Not a human soul in sight. Just beautiful.




Getting close to animals on foot like this in Mana is just magical.














Our two Zebra buddies were always watching us watching them. Whoever blinks first loses.
















Edited by michael-ibk
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@michael-ibkThanks for doing this while in the middle of another TR- wonderful pictures and your usual humorous commentary. I would have needed a change of pants as well if I had experienced that lioness giving me the evil eye at 20m on the ground🥹.  Agree with Tom on the croc image. Tremendous. Good to see Boswell is well given the number of super tuskers that have passed away the last couple of years. Liked your landscapes as well. Look forward to more. 
Editing as you posted another batch. I can see why it was your favorite walk. Sometimes the totality of what you are experiencing far outweighs even individual exceptional sightings. 

Edited by AKR1
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Thanks @AKR1, all my pleasure. It feels a bit like being back doing this. :)



Liked your landscapers as well.


As always most of these are the work of @AndMic.

Edited by michael-ibk
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In “ your” reports I always am complimenting both of you😀

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2 hours ago, Tom Kellie said:

~ @michael-ibk:


That's a very nice touch at the Charles Prince Airport to have another plane landing in the background.


Right over the wingtip, no less. 


Tom K.  Remember that taunt as a kid?  Made you look, made you look?  Well, you made me look.  I would not have noticed.  Even Michael the photographer had not noticed.


1 hour ago, Tom Kellie said:

~ @michael-ibk:


 I must tell you that your partially submerged crocodile may be the most thought-provoking croc image I've seen.


The head in the floating greenery and the massive tail like a castle battlement...such contrasts.


Superb photography.  My thoughts exactly.


      Tom K.

It took some squinting but I found the hippo way behind the termite mound that redirected your walking route.  The Carmines are delightful.  It's nice to see what went on before we met up.  Hearing the tales, now I have the visuals!  Looking forward to the rest.  Don't get too stressed completing two reports.  We don't want this to become work!

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3 hours ago, michael-ibk said:

But for some reason they were nervous about us and kept moving back and back as we were approaching

Your trip was in October 2022 as I can see. End of September a lion from hunting area (Sapi-Area?) joined three Mana mails and totally spoiled them! In the beginning of our trip in September 2022 I photographed three beautiful relaxed males. Days later we found them again, but they were with that new big boy. He just stood up and others followed him. They liked to stay on the other side of a green pool and we often saw them there. We then decided to walk and every time as we approached them they run away. I don't know if other way around would have been better .. :lol:  (so, they approach and we run away ..) But anyway, the new lion was very shy and influenced the others. We saw him also mating with one female but he disappeared immediately. The female instead came to us and posed (like females must do ;-)

So, I assume, that that lion was with other lions you mentioned -  who didn't feel comfortable. 

However, there was the other pride of 5 near Ingwe Pan (or lodge) who were quite shy as well. 

The pride of 8 which could be found in Mana and Nyamatusi area was very cooperative and didn't care about vehicles and people. That was probably the pride you saw later.

Great. I enjoy your report :-)


Te bird-pics as always excellent!! 

Thank you!

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5 hours ago, michael-ibk said:

Doing two Trip Reports simultaneously might be a bit too much, but hey, need to churn this out before the next trip.


This has got to be a record of some kind!


Excellent trip report @michael-ibk - thank you so much for taking the time to do your simultaneous jealousy-inducing trip reports.



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Gotta love that lioness!  I've seen that stare close up but never on foot, and I'm not sure I would have wanted to :rolleyes:

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beautiful ambiant shots of both fauna and flora @michael-ibk and @AndMic


The park looks empty of humans - was mana pools not crowded yet?  


Hmm you're a brave (or foolish?) man - the lioness is giving you the evil eye, at least she wasn't trying to charge you like the male in Musekesee! 

Edited by Kitsafari
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Hi @michael-ibkand @AndMic


What a beautiful-looking few days this is. Jealousy is only managed slightly by thinking about how uncomfortably hot it must have been*

Well done with the bee-eaters! Great stuff. And looks like you are going to have a nice dog sighting too.



*No, not really managed at all. I waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaant!

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21 hours ago, ElenaH said:

So, I assume, that that lion was with other lions you mentioned -  who didn't feel comfortable. 


Interesting information Elena, thanks!

19 hours ago, offshorebirder said:

This has got to be a record of some kind!


I´ve actually did it before - Mana and Kafue.;)


16 hours ago, Kitsafari said:

The park looks empty of humans - was mana pools not crowded yet?  


Mana generally IS pretty busy Kit but this was late in the season, so definitely fewer tourists than normal. That said, there were still plenty of cars around. Doug is very good, however, at giving you the illusion that you are alone in the park. And I guess not that many people do the longer walks we did, most just try to find Cats while driving around and then walk in on them from there. Which definitely is the better strategy for having more "major" sightings, but that was not our focus.


15 hours ago, pault said:

Jealousy is only managed slightly by thinking about how uncomfortably hot it must have been*


It was actually not that bad Paul, way hotter last time. The oncoming rains and the accompanying breeze made it quite bearable. Last time I took dehydration sachets all the time, this time I did not feel the need. Just on the first day as I recall.


15 hours ago, pault said:

And looks like you are going to have a nice dog sighting too.

Kinda gave that away with the first picture, yes!


And thank you for the kind comments everybody!

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I am enjoying this, the park looks beautiful, and some great sightings.

The lions did look hungry!

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Another early start next morning. We first checked up on our Leopard but he was gone - some dragmarks was all we could find.




We armed up with lots of water then - the plan was to do a longer walk to Long pool away from the roads.






Puffback, very common but a bit of a skulker.




White-Crested Helmetshrike - love the "spectacles".






We passed several Elephant families but always stayed well clear of them. Cows with calves are pretty unpredictable, and Doug is always careful with them on foot.




It´s really not often in Mana that you look around and would not see at least some Impala or Baboons.




Woodpecker time! First a very nice sighting of a Golden-Tailed.






With a Bearded duo to follow.






Eland are generally a bit more wary about people on foot. I guess since are only here in numbers when it´s getting very dry they are not as used to it.




Buffalo Herds are always impressive but caution is also necessary with them. It still puzzles me to no end that on my very first day on my very first safari, in Arusha, a park ranger there walked right through a herd with us.




We retreated to the relative safety of a termite mount and waited until they had passed.




Edited by michael-ibk
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8 minutes ago, TonyQ said:

I am enjoying this, the park looks beautiful, and some great sightings.

The lions did look hungry!


Thanks Tony. Don´t worry about them, there were so many weak and exhausted grazers around that they basically just had to wait for one to die.

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We eventually reached Long Pool. Not sure if or when it was ever completely dry historically but it certainly was in a much reduced state now. It´s six kilometres long when it´s full - now I guess its length was only half of that.










A young Kudu was unsure what to make of us.




Yellow-Billed Stork




I´m more of a "Fun with Waders" than a "Fun with Flags" guy. Plenty of the little guys around. But just a little bit too distant for satisfying photos.




At last we were reaching the part of Long Pool where it actually did resemble a Pool and not a puddle.






Bushbuck, lousy distant photo but a bit special almost on the flood plains. The Elephants have cleared out this area to the extent that there´s little suitable habitat left for them.




Classic Long Pool setting.








We even witnessed a kill! ;)




While we were waitng for our car to pick us up I entertained myself with waders. Marsh Sandpiper in this case. Common here but very rarely seen at home in Austria. So a good one for me to get.






Doug found some fresh Cheetah tracks. Which is not unheard of in Mana but rare. The Cat had been seen two days ago not far from our camp. Would have been cool to find it but was not be. Sorry @madaboutcheetah!


We were tired after the walk but decided to do a quick circle around the Mana Mouth backlands. Found a few sleeping Lions but then something more exciting. Doug spotted a pack of Dogs. They were mostly sleeping, and the light was already awful now.






But so cool to find them, I love them. And we had a plan for the afternoon - they would not go anywhere before nightfall.




Crowned Hornbill.






The Eles were having a good time at Chisasiku Pool.




A real tank of an Eland!




"Ok, ok, I may have put on a few kilos but no reason to be insulting!"


We returned to camp pretty late, around 12:30, and agreed to leave earlier to get to the Dogs in time, so we really needed a nap.




Easier said than done when this is your company.







Edited by michael-ibk
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We hoped to catch the Dogs coming down to the water and doing some fun stuff, so we agreed not to stop too much on the way. It was almost an hour´s drive after all. But this is Mana - you just have to stop for stuff!




We also saw a deserted Buffalo calf. The poor thing was too weak to stand. Clearly it would not last the night. It was looking so miserable and frightened that we did not want to stress it, and left it immediately without taking photos.




Ok, I accept not everybody would stop for a Guinefowl when trying to get to the Dogs. But this was an interesting one, I swear! Crested Guineas are not around on the flood plains normally, they are at home in the backlands far away from the river. This one was hanging out with its cousins, I guess it just picked the wrong crew somewhere and now is kinda stuck with them.




Strangely enough we never saw Guineas in the morning but they were plentiful afternoons.








We almost were too late - when we got there the Dogs were already at the water!




We got out in a hurry and approached them. Miraculously we were the only people here (yet) - this was very close to the roads.




Needless to say we were very happy- they are firm favourites of mine.












After a while they left the water and retreated to where we had found them this noon, quite close to the roads. What to do, what to do? Doug suggested just wait and hope for them to come back eventually.




They drifted away from us more and more, eventually almost lying right next to the road. Where more and more cars were gathering. Should we abandon our plan? We decided to stick to our guns and hope for the best. And just waited, at least without others, enjoying the sounds of Mana. And some flybys.




Crowned Hornbill




Hooded Vulture




Lilian´s Lovebird. Told you I could improve on that previous photo.

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