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As last year, I left Selinda in the middle of the morning and landed at Kasane at noon. A driver was waiting for me. The formalities at the two border posts were carried out, as usual, without problems. Two hours later, we reached Hwange Town where we turned right and quickly arrived at Mbala Gate where my guide of last year, Washington Sibandi, was waiting for me. He was again my guide but only for the three first days. For the two last days, I joined Adam Jones, who was guiding a keen photographer who was in camp for fifty-five days. For information, the journey to the camp is about 2 hours and a half if you do not see anything spectacular on the way. In this year of heavy rains, the situation was similar to that of Selinda ; water everywhere, on the roads and on the plains. Hwange had, moreover, given itself some airs of Okavango. So apart from hippos, shy elands, solitary elephants and some plains game, we did not see a lot of mammals. No matter what, we were again able to focus on birds and smaller creatures. There were nevertheless some good and interesting sightings of lions, leopard, martial eagle, spotted eagle owls and…… bullfrogs. Concerning the camp itself, nothing more to add to what I wrote in the report on my stay last November : still a great place with great people. The day of my arrival, between Masuma and Shumba, we found the Masuma pride making its way on the road. Unfortunately, it did not stay there and disappeared very quickly on the left side in the mopanes and the kopjes. When we arrived at the camp, we were told that four lions, two females and two sub adults, called the Super Models, had been spotted nearby. Photo taken in the space between the hood of the vehicle and the windscreen, turned down on it. One of the two dominant males of the Masuma pride, Liam or Mandla, seen near Masuma. Another lion, this one nomadic, was heard roaring every night and even seen by other guests feeding on a dead elephant.
We left Selinda in the middle of the morning and landed at Kasane at noon after a stop at Savute to board a few extra passengers. A driver was waiting for us. The formalities at the two border posts were carried out, as usual, without problems. Two hours later, we reached Hwange Town where we turned right and quickly arrived at Mbala Gate where our guide, for the next five days, was waiting for us. Along the gravel road that leads to Sinamatella, we saw some kudus and warthogs and a breeding herd of elephants. During the five days that followed, we only saw a few solitary males but no more herds. Why? Simply because of the weather. Indeed, all along this route, the weather gradually deteriorated and when, late in the afternoon, we arrived at Camp Hwange, the sky was dark. It’s the only cheetah seen throughout the trip. It’s a male who was on arrival near the camp. The following days, we found its tracks without seeing it again. As you can see, the sky was already threatening. The following day (and night), it rained, in a regular way, of a light rain, the sky remaining overcast, with the consequence that a lot of mammals, in dispersing, had left the proximity of the artificial water holes. The following days, the sun was back with however, which did not help things of course, the passage, at the beginning of the evening of the second day, of a violent thunder storm which lasted less than an hour bringing nearly twice as much water than the twenty-four hours of rain from the previous day. We were on a game drive, close to the camp, more precisely at Shumba Pan, when we saw, in the distance, the black clouds approaching. We got back immediately. We had hardly arrived until the elements suddenly broke out in the form of torrential rains limiting visibility to barely twenty meters. The amount of rain was so high that the Kalahari sands could not absorb it fast enough so that a water depth of a few centimeters remained on the ground during the storm. Another result of these first rains was the appearance of scorpions and snakes, mainly non-venomous. It’s also the time for the nuptial flight of termites to occur. Those termites make the happiness of all, mammals, birds, reptiles, batrachians, adding to their daily menu. So we did not see a lot of animals (I think that my quota of mammals for this trip had been reached during the previous ten days in Botswana ). I had a similar experience, in the same weather conditions, in 2004 in Selinda, also in November. The first two nights and early mornings, we heard the roaring lions but then could not find them; we saw leopard spoors and even found the remains of a prey (duiker) in the teak forest but there also without seeing it or them. No matter what, we were able to focus almost only on birds; around 125 species were seen and identified. I had never even seen some species before, such as eurasian hobby, indian myna and the melanistic form of the gabar goshawk, but also steppe buzzard and african cuckoo. Some might tell me it was a hit and miss. I do not see it that way. Indeed, I really enjoyed those five days at Camp Hwange, one of the best camps I have been given to visit in Africa during the last twenty years. Unlike a lot of camps, Camp Hwange is not part of a group ; it’s the property of professional guide Dave Carson. It’s a great camp because emphasis is placed on high level guiding and safari experience. There are eight rooms, all facing the water hole. They are constructed so that you can observe what happens there whether you are in the shower, in front of the sink or even in bed. The camp is managed, with a great sense of hospitality, by Zimpro guide Julian Brockstein and his wife Ashleigh. The other guides are the veteran Spike Williamson, Adam Jones, who recently obtained his pro licence, and two learners. One of them, Washington, was our guide during the five days. I was surprised by the level of competence of this one that already exceeded that of quite a lot of guides of other African countries. Julian taught me a lot of things, which I did not know, about less prestigious creatures like the common egg-eater (it's a non-venomous snake without fangs) because he found, after the storm, three of them in front of my room. It also taught me that the scorpions are luminescent, when exposed to the light, all particularly the starry nights of full moon and a fortiori when one points at them a flashlight. And, less important certainly but nevertheless good to take, the food is gorgeous. To find out more about Camp Hwange and the tests that a Zimpro guide has to go through to obtain his license, I urge you, if you have not already done so, to read the interview that Julian Brockstein gave two years ago to @@Game Warden. http://safaritalk.net/articles.html/_/articles/julian-brookstein-zimbabwe-pro-guide-camp-hwa-r45 By the large number of bones and skulls (at one time I thought I had discovered the elephant cemetery ), as well as dried elephant dung, found on the concession and especially around the water hole, I told myself that the animal activity had to be great in the dry season. This was confirmed to me by the guides, increasingly as we move forward in the dry season. What makes October the best month to get there. It seems that then and especially around Masuma dam, the lions regularly kill elephants. Masuma Dam November 2016. Masuma Dam, May 1998. Dead elephant at Shumba Pan.
westcoastexport posted a topic in ZimbabweAnother sensational trip to Africa. This one to Zimbabwe. We stayed at three camps: Goliath in Mana Pools (Stretch Ferreira), Little Makalolo and Camp Hwange, the last two both in Hwange National Park. We tracked lions, wild (painted) dogs, elephants and were fortunate to arrange meetings with scientists, Long Shields Lion Guardians, Painted Dog Conservation and the Scorpions Anti-Poaching unit. It was an amazing learning experience and was hugely beneficial to understand the complexities of conservation in Zimbabwe. In addition to Stretch Ferreira in Goliath, we also had the pleasure of being guided by Themba in Little Mak and Julian Brookstein in Camp Hwange. Three fantastic guides with diverse and different skills. We had heard that Zim had great guides and we saw it first- hand. We learned first-hand about Cecil, his ancestry, and met with Brent Stapelkamp from Lion Guardians who monitored Cecil's collar and the scientists, Jane Hunt and Justin Seymour-Smith, that collared Cecil. They were fascinating and provided incredible insight into the consequences of the different constituencies (conservationists, locals, hunters, camps, animals, politicians). Zim is a country with 90% unemployment and people do what they need to survive. We also saw thousands of elephants and their babies. There are tons of them in Zim, likely too many. Dry season is cruel and some won't make it through. We got to walk with Stretch and I can't say enough about how exhilarating that can be; literally a few feet from bull elephants, within 75' of lions feeding on a Cape Buffalo. He creates experiences like no other guide in Africa. Africa is the most beautiful place; it exhausts all of your senses. From waking up in the middle of the night to the sounds of a hyena or hippo, or the soft elephant purrs that we heard a million times. The smells, sights and emotion of watching babies nurse to seeing a lion feed on a buffalo, the entire cycle of life presents itself every day. Goliath Camp Needless to say, Goliath is largely about Stretch. This is a small camp that sits right on the Zambesi directly opposite Zambia. There are only a small number of employees, and generally you are exposed to four or so. They have eight tents in total. The tents are comfortable at night but a bit warm during the day. Because power shuts off at 9 PM, you have to navigate in low light after that. There are also only power strips in the common area and none in the tents. They have a nice bathroom area that requires you to unzip from the common area to enter. The outdoor shower is great and actually has hot water despite the power limitations. At night, the sounds are over the top. Hippo, elys, lion, hyena, frogs, etc… If you love the sounds of Africa, this is a must. The food is very good even for us vegetarians. Caitlin made a point of accommodating us and did a really nice job. For most nights, Stretch joins the guests, which makes for a ton of fun. The stories, most funny, some sad, really endear you to Stretch and his affable personality. It was a great place to meet people and we made some new friends – Inge & Thomas, Jane & Bernie, Pat & Margot, Arnie & Leila, Peter & Alison. Days started with a wake-up at 5:15 AM and you head out around 6. We were fortunate to generally be in Stretch’s vehicle. The other guide is Ruben who has been with Stretch for 14 years. Stretch has been in the bush since 1981. With all of those years of experience, and as a former Zim special forces officer, he has great tracking skills. Due to the proximity of the Zambesi, there is ample water and all of the animals take advantage. Although, the release of water from the Kariba Dam regulates the depth around camp. There are thousands of hippo in the water. They honk, screech and play constantly. We also witnessed the elys walking across smaller parts of the river that abut the camp. These included baby elys that completely submerged themselves to keep up with mama. To see the older siblings help the little ones was great to witness.. We would generally drive and track in hope of finding something interesting to pursue on foot. Stretch also likes to take you to areas that he knows are frequented regularly, some are wet or dry pans. On one day, we hoofed a long while in the heat and at his 6’4’’ gait, it was sometimes too much for people. I loved the hiking and enjoyed tracking, even though you sometimes end up empty handed. However, we were able to get close to elys, lions at least twice and dogs on foot. We also drove to the “wilderness area” where the rations are shot by locals. The difference between the behavior of the animals is noticeable. They don’t stick around in the wilderness area, but there are animals in droves: Sable, elys, buffalo, eland, zebra, impala, hippo, crocs. A beautiful are that I suggest visiting. As the sun sets over Zambia, it is breathtaking. The BBC happened to be filming wild dogs in conjunction with Painted Dog Conservation while we were there. One morning we passed the photographer with his massive set-up waiting for the dogs to approach. We had seen him a few times and he seemed friendly. We drove away about five minutes and saw the dogs! The BBC had picked the wrong area….We all had a quick chuckle. Eleven of them with one collared (also limping) in total. They treated us well and mostly stayed on the road. They allowed a few photo ops, but they are difficult to follow, especially through a lens. As we followed them, we came upon a dead ely that must have been 20 or so years old. We had found it the day before and it appeared to have died from natural causes. The park rangers had removed the tusks and sliced its side open to attract predators, but in the 48 hours following our first sighting of it, no animals had touched it. Now came the dogs. Stretch said that dogs don’t eat carcasses. Their curiosity was hilarious although none took a nibble. Then one of them approached the trunk and playfully attacked, retreated, attacked, retreated. It finally pulled on the trunk and extended it until it was sticking straight out. It was a really adorable shot. Then; as dogs do, they were gone. However, we picked them up about 10 minutes later approaching the Zambesi. They didn’t appear to be hunting, but I think they are ALWAYS hunting. As we neared, Stretch saw an impala out on a peninsula of the river. To its left was the river (full of crocs) and directly in front of it were the dogs. Stretch said “uh-oh, he’s in trouble”. Sure enough, the dogs began their approach flanking the impala. It was keenly aware of its predicament and eagerly trying to find an escape route. All of the sudden it turned toward the river and sprinted toward it. As it neared, it jumped as far as it could to make its way across. Immediately a massive croc was in pursuit. It was closing in and we were all waiting for the deadly outcome when all of the sudden, the impala popped out of the water and had made it across. At least 30 meters across. The croc and the dogs were left without a meal. For us, it was only 7:30 AM and already an extraordinary day. We also met with Jane and Justin at the camp. We had scheduled time with Jane but she had something come up. We did get to go out with Justin to check on some of the 180 camera traps that he monitors. Justin is a fascinating man that has unbelievable knowledge. He helped us understand the ecosystem why the land looks like it does (barren) in many areas. He also explained about the diverse amount of animals, particularly, hippo, elephants and impala. The numbers in Mana for these three species is over the top. His knowledge of the history is also deep. Stretch is really about the experience. While he is likely a professional guide, his approach is more about getting you close to animals. He has tremendous knowledge, but it’s really the personality and demeanor of Stretch that makes this such a special experience. He isn’t going to be guiding forever so we’d like to visit again soon. Little Mak and Camp Hwange reviews to come.... . Mana Mana Mana Little Mak Mana Mana Mana Mana Little Mak Little Mak Little Mak Little Mak Mana Mana
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