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One thing that really struck me about Doug, more so than many other guides, was how excited he got about everything he saw. He seemed to be so much in awe of the place, he gushed so much about "mundane" things like the herds of impala, little groups of warthog (that to be honest we just drove past in Kruger) and so on. This enthusiasm was infectious. Also whilst we weren't on a birdwatching trip, Doug clearly has a very good bird knowledge which I found sorely lacking in many of the guides in Kruger and he really did try to spot as many birds as he could when the mammal viewing was slow. Finally I found that the guides in Kruger almost stick to a script of bush signs, unless you go on one of the longer wilderness trails, and it all gets a bit samey. But with Doug, the experience was totally different. He was just really attuned to our own personal needs and interests.


I wish again that I could have had that last couple of days in Ilala though, looks like I missed a very good day!! :/

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Some very good points Sangeeta and I am sure Doug will be delighted to hear all your positive comments (when he gets back to Harare and has time to get on ST!). I am personally pleased that my enthusiasm for Mana/ and Doug's guiding skills proved valid for you. There is no doubt that Zim guide training has always been regarded as the best available and the guides you mention are well known for their abilities.


Enthusiasm in a guide is, as KK says 'infectious', and can carry you along in the lean times when the iconic species are not playing the game. I think this enthusiasm in Zim guides comes from their love of the bush since childhood, when access to the wilderness and wildlife in Zimbabwe (or Rhodesia as it was then) was a basic part of growing up) and love for their country - they have all had to struggle to remain living in their place of birth through some difficult times. In addition it must be such a pleasure to finally see their National Parks being visited by more safari enthusiasts. My first ever trip to Zimbabwe, including Mana, was in 2006 and there was hardly anyone in the park. so times - they are achanging.


I will be back there next month, can hardly wait. :)


By the way, I liked your pictures Sangeeta, they really capture the essence of the place.

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I really like the tree pictures, and eles, eland, baboon and dogs is a wonderful picture (you missed something behind the elephant- looks like it might be a kudu?).


Very thoughtful stuff, Sangeeta. I like it!


I think the enthusiasm and the sensitivity of a guide are probably the most important elements in a guide. Most of us are not students of ecology or biology and so the mini-lectures can get old quick unless they are delivered at the right time and with the right level of enthusiasm. We all know from experience that we can listen to the same old story again and again when the environment and the delivery are right - in fac the same goes for a lot of new stories. From what I have read it seems these particular Zimbabwe guides deliver on that too. The knowledge to tell those stories is important but alone it does not make a good guide.

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Thanks for all the great information and the lovely images, Sangeeta........... Hope to get to Mana one day!

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This is a delightful thread. It has everything--humor, alliteration, the answer to my question on the origins of Dirty Doug, driver's ed, mewing rhinos, even a cheetah sighting!!, an eloquent and accurate description of Mana Pools compliments of Dick Pitman, the obligatory reference to booze, a symphony, beautiful photos nicely framed, Luangwablondes & self-drive wilderness camping, a couple of group hugs, and a captivating account by Sangeeta.


Oh, what a safari!

Edited by wilddog
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Just catching up with this. Thanks for a fabulous, lively report. I felt like I was right there.

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Thank you all for your very kind words of encouragement. Paul, Hari and Linda - those photo compliments have gone completely to my head and I am busy cropping photos like a fiend (the cropping tool being the only tool I've learnt how to use in Picasa) so that I can post a few more here. Amazing what a couple of nice comments will do to a photo novice :D You are soon going to wish that I had not believed you...


@ Jo - You are so right about the 'mundane stuff like impalas and warthogs' - that comment had me immediately thinking about Wilbur and Warren and how two regular little warthogs became two quite extraordinary little warthogs.


@ Linda - not only were you spot on about Mana and Doug, you were so spot on that I am seriously considering a Transfrontier Park trip in your footsteps... honestly, between you and Nature Traveler I am destined to be broke forever :)


@ Lynn - your comments are always so thoughtful that they put my reading and powers of observation to shame! Thank you for saying all those nice things. I have one more photo and 1 more writing installment and then will be eager to read about Macchu Picchu.


Thanks, Safaridude. Have been reading your TR too and also felt I was right there. All these vicarious trips are fun.

Edited by wilddog
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Thank you all for your very kind words of encouragement. Paul, Hari and Linda - those photo compliments have gone completely to my head and I am busy cropping photos like a fiend (the cropping tool being the only tool I've learnt how to use in Picasa) so that I can post a few more here. Amazing what a couple of nice comments will do to a photo novice :D You are soon going to wish that I had not believed you...


No we won't! We'll enjoy them.


I have a theory that regular readers of Safaritalk trip reports will get better and better at photography simply by seeing so many other photographs and conciously or subconciously learning how to compose shots (both from good and bad examples)..... it's only a theory though - time will tell. :)

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Let's just say an interview with Doug is on the cards...

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I love the scenic photos, especially the impala ram staring at the wild dogs - impalas don't usually hang around long enough to take such photos, but he does look confident.

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Sangeeta, I have visions of you cropping photos with the zeal of a mad scientist. Pault, I agree with your theory. Sometimes the images of others are not just subconscious, but very visible in my mind so that I know exactly what I hope to see and shoot.

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Thanks, AP and Lynn! Here are some results of the mad scientist chop-chop... hope it paints a fuller picture of Mana.




Eland grove





Shy eland cows





Eland vistas 1





Eland vistas 2





Ele and dogs





Chitake river bed





Elijah and the dogs at Chikwenya





This doesn't look good.





Flat dogs coming alive





All things great and small





Waterbuck lookout





Peaceful Mana scene





My inadvertant pan shot!





My 'learnt at the feet of the ST masters' ele shot :D

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The Lady of the Lake


On our second morning at Rhino Camp, we started out bright and early with the stated mission of tracking rhinos on foot. Just as we were driving away, our guide Peter Tetlow (yet another on that list of amazing Zim guides), saw a 'blob' on the beach. A blob you say? Yup, a blob, or rather two blobs, a big blob and a small blob, sleeping blissfully on the beach, where they continued to sleep until they became peripherally aware of our presence and woke up somewhat groggily to greet the day.


And I couldn't stop laughing because had Sir Walter Scott been sitting in that vehicle beside us, he would have doubtless dedicated the verse from his famous poem below to Mvura, the Lady of Lake Kariba, instead of to some imaginary lady in King Arthur's court:


O wake once more! how rude soe'er the hand

That ventures o'er thy magic maze to stray;

O wake once more! though scarce my skill command

Some feeble echoing of thine earlier lay:

Though harsh and faint, and soon to die away,

And all unworthy of thy nobler stain,

Yet if one heart throb higher at its sway,

The wizard note has not been touch'd in vain.

Then silent be no more! Enchantress, wake again!





The Lady of the Lake



The speed at which rhinos (and perhaps other animals too?) go from sleeping mode to eating mode in 0 to 3 seconds would give Ferrari a run for its money... As soon as she stood up, Mvura immediately began browzing on the bushy vegetation above her head. Her daughter got up, nursed for a couple of minutes, and began eating leaves too. They then proceeded, with little or no variation, to stick to that precise plan (nibble, chomp, swallow; nibble chomp, swallow...) for the next 10 hours, utterly indifferent to the groupies who insisted on following them from bush to bush with star-struck expressions on their faces. And so it was that all the guests who had been waved off by Jenny a scant hour earlier reappeared in camp and got in everyone's way as they tracked Mvura and Zuva through the morning hours.


While we were busy with Mvura, Jenny & gang had been busy with Spot, the camp elephant. Spot (probably annoyed by all the attention being showered on Mvura) had apparently been sauntering by on his late morning constitutional when he had smelt some very good smells wafting towards him from the table. Like any self-respecting elephant, he had extended his trunk into the boma, deftly and very neatly removed the napkin that had been covering those delicious smells, and had then proceeded to eat all the bread rolls that had been baked fresh for the guests that day. So Jenny & the chef were stuck with a campful of rhino-smitten guests who had to be fed an unexpected lunch whilst trying to handle Spot, the ele, who had no doubt retreated with a chuckle after demolishing every last piece of fresh bread on the island! But this is a camp with a big heart and loads of personality. And the chef outdid himself by serving crayfish with cocktail sauce, a safari camp first for me :)







Spot on the prowl



As most of you know from Nappa's and former members tales, Mvura is very trusting because she was hand reared, but I was glad to see that her calf has retained all her wild instincts and is naturally wary of people. Each time she was separated from her mother, she would 'mew' softly, just like a kitten, to call her mom but she would hesitate to cross over if Mvura happened to be near people. Apparently, Mvura's first calf (Murume, now grown up and alas, no longer willing to don a Santa hat for Nappa's Christmas card) is also mistrustful and stays away from people. Good for both calves and hope they remain that way. Mvura is dehorned and the entire Rhino Camp team keeps a very vigilant eye out for her safety. However, news on rhino counts in Matusadona NP is as depressing as all rhino news elsewhere on the continent, and there is a big discrepency between official and unofficial numbers. I would urge all of you who are planning a future trip to Zim to schedule a stop at Matusadona. Not only is it spectacularly beautiful on the shores of Lake Kariba and a heaven for birders, but the park needs visitors to keep an eye on its remaining rhinos.


Mom and baby zigzagged all the way through camp, delicately using their trunk-like prehensile lips to tear off leaves and boughs from the bushes right below us. After a couple of hours of browzing, Mvura and the calf headed off to the back of the camp to a waterhole where a mother ele and her calf had come to drink water. Feisty little Zuva, who had been so timid around people, promptly charged the eles until they retreated into the bush. It was a funny sight to see this little rhino calf think that she was a force for an elephant to reckon with! The eles, who had been taken by surprise at the charge, eventually returned to the waterhole and Zuva behaved quite nicely after that...





We followed them out and about and eventually back to the very beach where we had started that day with them. The light at sunset was just as beautiful as the light at dawn. And it felt fitting that we should say goodbye to them as they finally walked away from the sunset into the bushes behind us.


The colors of Matusadona



Peach waters




Pink rhinos




Copper eles




Scarlet sunsets


Some random images:




A room with a view





My most precious sighting of the trip - a baby sand grouse hiding in the twigs


THE END - leg 2 of the relay is complete.

Edited by Tdgraves
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I had forgotten about Nappa's Christmas card!


Tracking rhino on foot doesn't look very difficult.


Your stories seem to assume I remember earlier installments (which I probably should but don't as it's relatively new territory for me to pay attention to) and of course Nappa's card, but they work well on their own.too.


Beautiful sunset shot and the ele is particularly good too.


That Walter Scott had pretty serious dyslexia, didn't he?






Is that really it? You seem to have cut us off a bit short, but if that is all we get, that is all we get.

Edited by pault
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When I wrote, "it's all here," that was even before Sir Walter Scott showed up. Now it is ALL here!



The speed at which rhinos (and perhaps other animals too?) go from sleeping mode to eating mode in 0 to 3 seconds

Include me in that group.


The long angle on your shots makes me feel like I'm sitting on the ground next to you looking out.


Your most precious sighting rounds out a fantastic collection of photos. Don't I recall it was just a trip or two ago that you let your daughter do the photography and in fact you lost a bunch of photos by pushing the wrong buttons? You've come a long way and I don't just mean along the shores of Mana Pools.

Edited by Atravelynn
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Lovely Sangeeta! Now we just wait for "She who shall not be named" to finish off the tale.. :)

Edited by kittykat23uk
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On 9/21/2012 at 6:17 PM, kittykat23uk said:

Lovely Sangeeta! Now we just wait for former member to finish off the tale.. :)


We do.


On 9/20/2012 at 7:46 PM, Atravelynn said:

Don't I recall it was just a trip or two ago that you let your daughter do the photography and in fact you lost a bunch of photos by pushing the wrong buttons? You've come a long way and I don't just mean along the shores of Mana Pools.

I'd forgotten about that. Sangeeta, you really have come such a long way and it's good news for everyone (but especially you I think) that you are now much more than competent to document your own trips.

Edited by Tdgraves
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Sorry for the delayed response, Paul, Lynn & Jo - lot happening on the home front.


You're right, Paul, just because I've been so fixated on Mana this past year and remember every last word that's been written about it on the threads, I should not automatically assume that the fixation is widespread! And yup, rhino tracking is easy at Rhino Camp... not so easy in the very thick jesse further away from the shore, where we were headed that morning. I think a 3-4 night stay is needed here for the 'in-camp tracking'.


About Walter Scott's dyslexia... when I was in college, I had this lit prof who was mad about this poem, and insisted that we read a canto of the poem every week and summarize it in 'plain English'. That long convoluted stanza I quoted above was reduced to 7 words by one smartie as "Wake, wake, you lady of the lake". I could literally hear that student's voice in my ear when I saw Mvura sleeping on the beach, but decided to let you guys grapple with the dyslexia instead of supplying the easier decoded version... :P


And talking about faulty memories and the like, we really need to ask Lynn what she's been taking to build that prodigious memory of hers! Amazed you remembered that bit about me losing photos on my last trip and having my daughter as my official photographer on all previous safaris. Will try and finish Thelma now that I know how to crop stuff and hit 'auto contrast' :lol:


Glad you enjoyed the read, Jo. I enjoyed yours very much too and look forward to seeing former member's photos and stories as well.

Edited by Tdgraves
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Wonderful photos, excellent trip report. Thanks Sangeeta.

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Hi Sangeeta,


I always put togeher a phto journal of my trips and you might like to know that one of your pictures will grace the front cover (the one of me and Doug at Chitake looking around- thought that was very apt for the whole "do you actually have any wild dogs on your wild dog tour Doug?" feeling of the first few days. And your "genesis of Dirty Doug" is on the back cover.. :)

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What a wonderful trip report! I am just back from a self drive in Chitake and Mana Pools - and they are indeed very special places. Your wonderful pictures brought back many memories already :) After reading this I am convinced that not only do I need to do this again, but also budget for a guide next time as it is so interesting to know about the individual animals' histories and current dynamics. Again, really well done on those pictures, especially those capturing the raw beauty of Chitake springs.

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Thanks, Twaffle. You were my inspiration for the 'write it as the thought strikes' aspect of this...


Very flattered, Jo :D Front cover AND back cover is high praise indeed! Thanks so much and I hope you'll send me an e-version of your journal to read.


cheetah80 - thank you so very much for your kind words. I'm surprised GW hasn't caught up with your "I am just back..." comments and chased you with his virtual stick yet :P Hope you plan to post your TR for us too. And a big thumbs up on the guide decision. You won't regret it.


Here's another image - it was completely out of focus and blurry to start, but the Picasa auto-contrast button did some magic and added some sparkly stuff to it so that it now looks like a blurry, out of focus painting! My favorite photo of my own little collection...:



Edited by Sangeeta
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It does look like a painting. I love it when I find photos which many people would delete, but they turn out to be images I love.

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