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My Annual Migration To Mana Pools, Zimbabwe. October 2012


wilddog

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wilddog

Chapter 1-Kanga CampOn reaching Harare, the rain was bucketing down; not quite the welcome I had expected. Apparently there had been a massive storm that morning which was tailing off as I arrived. Was this the beginning of the rains, I thought? This was certainly not in my planning but only time would tell.After an overnight stop in Harare and a leisurely morning, we headed back to the airport to meet up with my travelling companion and catch the short flight up to Mana. Fortunately the weather had improved but we did need to make a bit of a detour around a stormy area on the flight in our little 4 seater Cessna. On arrival at the airstrip Doug Macdonald our guide was there to meet us in his recently refurbished Land Cruiser and we headed off to Kanga Camp where were to spend the first two nights.

 

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I had heard something about Kanga and knew the camp was away from the river but recent reports indicated that there was plenty of wildlife around. The camp is built on the edge of a water pan which would normally dry up in the winter months, but water is now pumped from a bore hole to provide a valuable water source for the wildlife. And it works.

 

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We had arrived at camp as the daylight was beginning to fade and after a quick welcoming drink we want to our tents to settle in quickly. As I stood on my terrace overlooking the water hole I watched a large bull elephant only meters away, having a drink. - I was really back in the bush.

 

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As soon as the cameras were unpacked (everything else stayed in the bag) I headed up to the main boma area to watch the evening entertainment and enjoy the first of many wonderful meals. And what an evening it was.There was a constant parade of animals which seemed to change every few minutes. Elephants came and went throughout the evening. A red spot light used intermittently by the camp staff picked out three individual spotted hyena, numerous baboons, a porcupine, several buffalo and zebra, three civet (including one huge one and two smaller ones, one of whom looked as though he had been bashed about a bit by the big one), honey badger, white tailed mongoose and banded mongoose.

 

As time went by a single animal crept up to the edge of the pan in a furtive fashion. It was a female leopard who drank cautiously and nervously, frequently looking over her shoulder into the darkened bush. Once she had had sufficient to drink she slunk away.

 

A few minutes later a male lion appeared from the bush, this must be what had distressed the leopard. This male retreated into the bush and a second male appeared. The lions had been in the area for a few days and there was some concern that they may have been responsible for the loss of two of the three cubs living in the area, whose parentage was uncertain.Photography was not possible but I have made a couple of screen grab shots from some poor quality video.

 

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Kanga seemed the ideal first stop in the Mana pools area; some of the iconic species had already made an appearance and I had only been at the camp for 5 hours. We were to be there for another night so I was hopeful of great things.The camp offers a wakeup call each day but the following morning's call was a little different - ‘Lion at the Waterhole’ and true, one of the male lions had returned. Looking out from my tent I could see the lion drinking furtively and, after a few minutes of increased camp activity, he moved away. After a cup of coffee and a muffin we set off on a drive. Our first find was a flock of Crested Guinea Fowl. This is not a first for me but what was different was that they seemed quite ‘chilled’ and pottered around close to the vehicle pecking at the ground in their search for food. Not being a camera expert, I struggled a bit with the lighting/camera settings but nevertheless managed to get a couple of reasonable pictures.gallery_6103_737_2071815.jpggallery_6103_737_964012.jpgA little later we came across these Kudu wnadering along a gully

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Having seen one of the male lions already at first light we had hopes of finding him again. Initially we saw two females and the one remaining cub lying in an open area. After a few minutes watching them, we moved the vehicle a little and spotted two more lions further back which had been obscured in our previous position. These were the two males we had seen at the waterhole the night before. Eventually the cub wandered over to the males and played with stick within a metre of them, confirming that one of these males the father. gallery_6103_737_418560.jpggallery_6103_737_1451504.jpggallery_6103_737_293804.jpggallery_6103_737_735635.jpggallery_6103_737_2108993.jpgAfter a little movement to find a cooler spot, the lions settled down for the day, and as the weather was very hot and humid, we headed for camp to watch the world go by at the waterhole where there was a constant stream of elephants coming in together with baboons, warthog, impala, kudu and zebra.gallery_6103_737_1582688.jpg

 

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Baboons are always entertaining and at one point the local bully decided to give some of the youngsters a bashing. Apologies for quality of the images.gallery_6103_737_1351184.jpggallery_6103_737_861951.jpgI spent siesta time on my terrace reading a book and watching the waterhole, in particular a bull elephant at the hose pipe. Not satisfied with the water in the pan in which he and others had bathed, he used the hose pipe for his personal use.

That evening we went out for drive in hope of finding the dogs but firstly came across the lions still sitting in the same area, having moved little in the intervening hours. We sat and watched them for a while (with a sundowner) but as the lions showed no sign of intended activity we continued to search for the pack of dogs. We had no luck so returned to camp return to camp to be advised that the dogs had just been there! We decided to turn round to see if we could find them during the brief permitted window just after sunset. We had been advised of the dogs direction and after about 10 min Doug spotted ears poking out from behind one of the bushes and there was the pack - 27 -strong - with 12 adults and 17 puppies. By this time it was getting quite dark but with a spotlight we did manage to check the numbers, but photography was not possible. How they have managed to raise this large number of pups successfully to this age is a testament to the hard work of the pack.The pups were pretty active although the parents seem to be a little reluctant to move but eventually some of adults got up and the greeting ceremony ensued. The pups decided it was time to head out for the evening however the adults seemed to think otherwise and sat down again. The puppies were having none of it and headed off down the path. This concerned us slightly as we were now between the pups and adults. Having no desire to split the pack we managed to get past the over-eager pups and get back to camp. Just prior to dinner I was sitting in the boma, drink in hand, doing a little evening game spotting with the red light when suddenly to the right I saw six wilddog pups which had come back for another drink. The adults were probably still trailing behind them and the pups did not stay long but turned back as presumably the evenings hunting would soon be underway.

 

The following morning before heading off to the Mana flood plain I sent some time on my terrace watching an elephant cow, with her youngster, and an older daughter, enjoying a mad bath.

 

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and one or two other visttors........

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Our next stop would be five nights at Vundu Camp.

Edited by wilddog
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Chapter 1-Kanga CampOn reaching Harare, the rain was bucketing down; not quite the welcome I had expected. Apparently there had been a massive storm that morning which was tailing off as I arrived. Wa

Vundu 4     The water buck were out on the plains as we left camp and headed west along the Zambezi. On the way we found a large male baboon resting on top of a tall termite mound - in class

wilddog

Agreed the presence of water at this time of the year is not natural, but I guess it does help in supporting numbers of wildlife in the area, thus spreading the load in Mana.

 

I would guess it also helps in avoiding conflict with other pride/pack territories. The flood plains are under great pressure at this time of year and 'chock a block' with predators. (More of that later).

 

@GW you keep mentioning my striking (NON safari) outfit; if this joke is to be shared we will have to upload!!!

Edited by wilddog
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Game Warden

WD, I'll leave that photographic report to you ;)

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Wait a minute. Aren't we wildlife lovers here, who would rather prefer to see "pure nature"?

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wilddog

WD, I'll leave that photographic report to you ;)

 

It would frighten the wildlife and the members.

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wilddog

Wait a minute. Aren't we wildlife lovers here, who would rather prefer to see "pure nature"?

Not getting into that debate Jochen. :unsure: I am sure there are many members with greater knowledge than I who would not like it/ would dissaprove of it, but I enjoyed it.

 

Glad you are enjoying report so far.

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Atravelynn

Great activity around the waterhole. 17 pups is tremendous.

I didn't realize you went to Mana Pools yearly. That's tremendous too.

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wilddog

 

Atravelynn -Well not every year but it is nice to return somewhere that becomes familiar. I was there twice last year but may not make it in 2013.

 

Just realised mistyped the number it should read 15 pups not 17, my mistake, still a huge number

 

@ Jochen - I am not sure when they start to pump water to the pan but i think it may only be towards the end of the season. I was there at the end of October and understand that the rains we were very poor last summer.

 

Perhaps someone could start another thread if they want to have a full debate on the pumped water pan/hole issue.

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Treepol

Great start to the TR and looking forward to Vundu.

 

The first night at Kanga sounds amazing and I liked the photos of the lion cub peeking over the female's shoulder and the one of the impala, banded mongoose and baboon at the water.

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Uh_oh busted

Super start. I want to go back to Zimbabwe and check our the Mana Pools area next time. Maybe 2014 or '15.

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twaffle

Very enjoyable start. On the lion cubs, I think I'm confused. If the males were responsible for 2 of the 3 cubs death, then the 3rd one remaining wouldn't be one of theirs would it? Or we're they different male lions?

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That's a really good start to a safari. Welcome back to Mana Pools indeed. Whatever the ethical issues (yes, another thread) the water is working in terms of providing stellar game viewing.

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wilddog

Very enjoyable start. On the lion cubs, I think I'm confused. If the males were responsible for 2 of the 3 cubs death, then the 3rd one remaining wouldn't be one of theirs would it? Or we're they different male lions?

 

Thanks evryone

@Twaffle - There is a small paragraph just above the lion images which explains that the cub's proximity to the males actually proves that one of these males is the father and therefore not responsible for the death of the other cubs. The presumption is now that the cubs must have been taken by hyena.

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Not getting into that debate Jochen. :unsure: I am sure there are many members with greater knowledge than I who would not like it/ would dissaprove of it, but I enjoyed it.

 

My remark was actually about that colorful outfit, Wilddog.

Unsuccessful attempt at being funny...

 

;)

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wilddog

Not getting into that debate Jochen. :unsure: I am sure there are many members with greater knowledge than I who would not like it/ would dissaprove of it, but I enjoyed it.

 

My remark was actually about that colorful outfit, Wilddog.

Unsuccessful attempt at being funny...

 

;)

Not getting into that debate Jochen. :unsure: I am sure there are many members with greater knowledge than I who would not like it/ would dissaprove of it, but I enjoyed it.

 

My remark was actually about that colorful outfit, Wilddog.

Unsuccessful attempt at being funny...

 

;)

 

Thanks Jochen! I obviously had a sense of humour failure. :unsure: Re outfit totally agree - shocking pink is not conducive to relaxed wildlife - or people.

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Holy vuvuzela you had great sightings in one day and many right at camp. I hope that you got to see dogs again on this trip.

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wilddog

Vundu 1

 

Despite my concerns about the early arrival of the rains it had remained dry. However, there were storm clouds accumulating over Zambia. This meant that the weather continued to be very hot and humid.

 

The drive from Kanga to Vundu on the floodplains was interesting as we passed through the varying environments. We had expected to stay at Little Vundu Camp this time but as the camp was quiet, we stayed at Vundu Main Camp. I have stayed here previously and it was a good feeling to be back on familiar territory. Since last year solar panels have been installed to provide electricity to each chalet; a recognition of the growing requirement to charge our electronic devices. Last year there was one socket in the bar area and of course there was always a queue for charging. This year, for the first time, I took my laptop as well as cameras and found the electricity source invaluable for checking out images and videos to date.

 

 

 

 

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While having coffee and cake with the camp staff, we asked about the dogs, in particularly the Vundu pack and were advised that they had not been seen for a couple of weeks. Nor had the smaller Long Pool pack been seen recently. Doug was going to have his work cut out to deliver on my expectations if that was the case. But there is always much to see and enjoy on the flood plain at this time of year as most of the animals do not go very far from the water.

We drove around the area near Vundu for our first evening drive and came across a decent herd of buffalo who were a little alarmed at our arrival and kicked up a lot of dust as they headed off.

 

 

 

 

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After a while we decided to have our first walk and found four elephant bulls walking in the river bed. One of these is a very well-known elephant called Handstand (or Boswell) and is one of the older bulls (40 to 50 years) who go onto their back legs to stretch up and reach the branches. We went and sat on a small promontory just below the river bank and watched him and his three smaller companions heading up stream towards us.

 

This is the video of this elephant sighting which I hope you will enjoy. Please note it is about 9 minutes long and but well worth watching right through to the end. I hope you will agree. For me it was incredible, and unforgettable, experience.

 

 

Following this as Handstand and his mates headed off we walked back to the cruiser and followed them. His mates follow him around as he pulls down branches that they cannot reach. Sadly, although he performed a handstand while I was there, a photograph was not possible. The light was fading and he was half behind a tree. Perhaps next time……….. After watching them for some time we headed back to camp thinking what a wonderful start this was to our five nights on the plains.

 

 

 

 

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More to follow...............

Edited by wilddog
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Whoa that was close, Linda. Must have been quite a kick!

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wilddog

Yes, Jochen - the heart WAS going a little faster than normal, partcularly in the last minute or so.

 

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wilddog

 

Don't think I have made Curly's acquintance yet but have met Tusker with one rather long straight tooth on the right. Will put Curly on my to do list for next time!

Yes, if you have not got camera in hand forget it! Fortunately I was filming when it started and just left camera running and looked directly at him over, rather than through the camera. Tusk to eyeball!

These Zim guides know these old bulls so well!

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Not so many sightings today but a special experience. It must be nice to know the elephants so well.

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Sangeeta

Annual migration... love that title and so wish I could do this as often as you :)

 

How hot and humid does it really get at that time of the year? Does it get hot enough to get rid of the tsetses?

 

Were you there for the first rains? At MP, I mean. Doug mentioned that this was his favorite time of the year when everything transformed from brown to green and the wildlife was finally free from the stresses of the dry season. Read a beautifully written newsletter about this transformation by Flo at Goliath as well. Would love to do this myself if you tell me that the heat renders the tsetses inactive!

 

Kanga Pan looks like a hotbed of activity. So many puppies. And lion, leopard, eles, crested guinea fowl and dogs all on the first day!!

 

I think we met Tusker too. He was just as curious about us as we were about him.

 

Just love that whole ele acolyte thing. The video was phenomenal!

Edited by Sangeeta
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wilddog

@ all - Sorry for delay in Vundu 2 and Chikwenya sections. These are in prep. but a bit busy just at the moment. Will try to get next bit up next weekend.

 

@ Sangeeta - Fingers crossed I can return next year at some point....... Re your other questions -Temp is high at end of October but the humidity was the bigger problem. Exhausting attempting to walk mid-morning. On the move in a vehicle or resting under a huge tree riverside, after an al fresco lunch -fine. We even took a dip in the Zambezi shallows to cool off.

 

Tsetses did not disappear entirely but tended to be out and about earlier than I have experienced previously. I think they too found midday challenging. Nights were quite hot/humid too....

We saw a smattering of rain one morning but it remained in Zambia until I had left

 

@Pault - the Ellie experience was quite enough for one evening, believe me. Despite convincing myself I was not intimidated- I did ask Doug if he had any brandy on hand. More on other species will follow...................

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kittykat23uk

Kanga Pan sounds great for all those small mammals, civets, mongooses, honey badger, as well as dogs and Leopard, Wow! I'll have to allocate some time there if I go back. Typical of the Vundu pack to give you the runaround!

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