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Found 25 results

  1. I have an amazing backpacking safari to explore Gona re Zhou NP that has space for one or two people that starts in Harare on the 6th May - We will drive to Gona re Zhou and spend the night there at the Chipinda Pools Campsite. We will then go to our start point for the walk we will then be out walking for 3 nights with the aim to end up on the Eastern Boundary of the park following the Runde River. We then return to an established tented camp on the banks of the Runde River where we will spend a further two nights doing more usual game viewing activities and have all the camp amenities and staff. We finish by driving back through to Harare or you could choose to continue on with another destination in Gona re Zhou or Zimbabwe. Guests must be able to supply their own backpacking equipment - All Inclusive Cost - US$3300.00 Per Person Please contact me if you would like further details - or
  2. After two great weeks in Zambia´s Kafue National Park (see report in progress here) @AndMic, our guide @Doug Macdonald and me moved on from Lusaka to Zimbabwe. We had five nights on the flood plains and two more at Kanga Camp to look forward to, and our anticipation was high indeed. Our 2015 trip had been our most exciting safari ever. Walking into close distance of animals like Elephants and Lions had really changed our perceptions of what a safari can be. But it was not only anticipation we felt, also concern. They say you cannot home again, and could a second trip really live up to what we had experienced two years ago? Or would we always compare and think, yes, very nice, but last time ...? Well, come with us, and I let you be the judge of that. We left Lusaka (which is actually closer to the park than Harare) late morning. The border post at Chirundu has a bit of a bad reputation but for us it was a pleasant enough experience. The room is climatized, all officers were friendly and professional (like everywhere in Zimbabwe so for for us), and the whole procedure didn´t last much longer than half an hour. Granted, we didn´t have to check through a car (of course Doug took care of that) but we were pleasantly surprised. Zambia had already been very, very hot but nothing like here. As we approached the park the airstream from the car felt more like a hairdryer, and we knew we were in for some hot times in Mana Pools. The temperature was somewhere between 45° and 50 ° Celsius (as it would be in the coming days). It was actually a relief to drive up the mountain a bit to get our permits. It was almost 15:00 when we finally entered the park, and still had the long gravel road ahead of us. I wanted to use the facilites at the second gate, but quickly retreated when my planned entrance provoked a lot of shrieking and unfriendly hissing - a troop of baboons had made the toilet their home. And shockingly, they did not even adhere to the most basic rules in there - Lady, can´t you read? We arrived at the Flood Plains at about 16:45 and were happy to leave the dusty bonedry hinterland behind us. Here in the vicinity of the mighty Zambezi life abunded, lots of Impalas, Baboons, Elephants everywhere. We did not take pictures since we would have plenty of opportunities for the regulars later but just had to stop for this majestic Kudu: Doug took care of the paperworks at headquarters, while we were happy enough watching our favourites, the Carmines dashing across the sky. A staff member also pointed out a Hyena hiding in a distant bush to us. We moved on to get to camp, it had been a long day, we were hungry, sweaty and tired. Still, we had to do a quick stop at Chisasiko, one of the "mana" permanent pools of the park. Surely some nice birds are there. But - wait, what is that over there? No, not you, grumpy old daggy boy, nicely decorated as you are by Egrets. A big fine male Leopard was playing welcome present for us! We were thrilled! Leopard sightings are not exactly a Mana Pools staple, and this guy was even pretty relaxed. Doug felt that the number of Baboons has been decreasing a bit (maybe because they are on the Dogs´ menu now) and speculated that might prompt the Spotted Cats to become a bit bolder. Did not matter to us why, he was here, all ours (an unshared sighting) and we were grins all over! Big Boy gave us a good ten minutes until he retreated. We celebrated at the river banks. I had so looked forward to stand by the Zambezi again, I think it´s one of the most beautiful places in the world. Everything there is good and peaceful and as it should be. At least it felt that way. It dawned, and the sinking sun was becoming less and less visible through the strong haze. Well, we were overdue in camp anyway, and just took a last look at the Elephants congregating. But never a quiet moment in Mana Pools. "Quick, quick, spill down your beers, Gentlemen, get in, get in, no time to lose!" Why the rush? Yeah, Doug had spotted the Dogs, Mana´s main stars. We were thrilled again to see them! While pretty likely to find them in dry season (Doug says six out of eight visits) they are not a given, and last time we only found them at noon, doing the Lion thing - nothing. This time, even if the light was gone, they were active, probably on their way to hunt. And they had their pups with them. We could not watch them for long, they soon left the road, and it was already way too late to try to follow them, so we finally, finally proceeded to camp. They had actually already started to worry about us there, being so late, but we had no complaints - First 90 minutes of Flood Plains Excitement had not been half-bad. And we thought "Wow, cool, last time we did not even see a Leopard! And only saw the Dogs lying around." Of course, it was a day to be celebrated with Gin Tonic(s).
  3. I had not intended to post this trip on ST, but now that it has been referenced here, I thought I may as well put it up here for any of you who may be interested in joining. We are running 2 back-to-back trips in March 2018, led by Doug MacDonald. There are 6 spots in each group. Group 1 is fully booked and group 2 has 4 slots remaining, so feel free to PM me if interested. The details of the trip can be found here: With all the new rules and restrictions being envisaged for 2019 onwards, this looks more and more like a pretty good deal Doug and I started putting this trip together a long time ago, and it makes us very happy to think of it as a solid model for the future.
  4. As @@twaffle stated in her superb trip report , there are many trip reports on Mana Pools, and it's hard to imagine I have anything new to offer. But, I for one, love reading EVERYTHING I can get my hands on while trip planning, and so there may be something I write that inspires someone else, so I will push on. I also like preparing these trip reports, as they become like a diary to me, to read on those dreary work days when Africa seems just too far away, and I need to remind myself why I continue to work! And so it was, after reading many of these said reports on Mana Pools, and of the reportedly outstanding Doug MacDonald, that I found myself, on the 2nd of December 2014, sending these words to Doug: "Hi Doug, I feel really silly asking, but I hear you book up really quickly, so I was wondering how far ahead I should book you if I wanted a September 2016 private safari in Zimbabwe?" Doug, to his credit, did not make fun of me, and did in fact answer my email (which the other guide I contacted at the same time did not, and still hasn't), and we started planning our adventure. Initially I had another couple coming with hubby and I, but unfortunately they had to pull out only a few months out from the trip. Fortunately we were able to go on our trip regardless, although with some changes and extra expenses for us. Our itinerary was: Depart Brisbane 16th September 2016, then 2 nights Victoria Falls, 4 nights Davison's camp in Hwange, 3 nights Chitake Springs, and 6 nights Mucheni 2 on the floodplains. We were supposed to have 2 nights in the Chikwenya Lodge as well, with 4 in Mucheni 2, but they changed hands and shut, so we ended up remaining on the floodplains. Our original itinerary had Doug guiding us in Hwange, but unfortunately when our friends pulled out it just added to the cost too much, and so we didn't meet Doug until Mana Pools. I wish we had had Doug guiding in Hwange From Mana Pools we flew to Harare, then on to Johannesburg to stay overnight, before heading up to Rwanda and Uganda to see the gorillas (trip report here ) Australia to Africa is a long way! This time we flew South African Airlines from Brisbane to Perth and then Perth to Johannesburg, where we had a 6 hour stopover at 5am. I had slept quite well on the Perth to Jo'burg flight, but we elected to get a room at the airport hotel (cost around US$70) to get another few hours sleep. It was a good decision. When we landed in Victoria Falls, we felt refreshed and ready to go. We stayed at the Victoria Falls Safari Lodge, overlooking the lovely waterhole and the vast Zimbabwe plains. Our first activity (all planned and booked by Doug), was the sunset cruise on the Signature Deck of the Zambezi Explorer. It was a lovely relaxing introduction to our safari. Hubby anxiously awaiting his first Zimbabwe beer of the trip! Having slept well overnight, we were up very early as Doug had arranged for us to be picked up at 5.30am, to get to the gates of Victoria Falls in time for opening, and sunrise at 6am. I had found a small ebook about how to photograph Victoria Falls, so I knew I wanted to head straight for Viewpoint 8, to get a shot of the falls with the sun rising.... this one.... Unfortunately we weren't the first photographers lining up at the gate, so the other two, who also know where to head, ended up getting a slightly better position to my left. Never mind - they were very kind and let me sidle up as close to their tripod as I could! I took many shots of the falls: We had thought about crossing to Zambia for a dip in Devil's Pool, but then we thought - ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR MIND!!! - and elected not to!! This was the only spot there was a rainbow at the time we were there. It was the correct time of the month to photograph moon bows when we were there, but we didn't do it. It is quite a different view from the Zambian side! Being dry season the water was low, which made it quite interesting I thought, with the variation in the water flow along the falls, and we also didn't get wet! I was there in January 1999, and I got absolutely soaked! It was much easier photographing the falls without constantly worrying about a wet lens. Back on the Zimbabwean end, there was an astonishing amount of water here! I could stand and watch water like that all day. Of course we had to say hello to Dr Livingstone too: We were on a tight schedule, though, as we were being picked up at the gates at 8am for our helicopter ride. We had wanted to go early, before the really harsh light, but it did mean we only spent 2hours at the Falls that morning. We had planned to possibly go back (which would have meant paying another entrance fee) but we ended up elsewhere....(it involves cocktails and lawns!).
  5. Hello all, We have a very exciting offer available! Doug has secured dates for a private safari in Zakouma for February next year. The price is based on three people in single rooms including all regional flights, accommodation, transfers, private vehicle in the park and will be guided by Doug. See all information and quote on the itinerary: Zakouma National Park with Doug Macdonald 6-14 Feb 2018 If you are interested please contact me Chloe as Doug is currently away on safari. Looking forward to hearing from you and hopefully sending you on your way to the hottest place for safari right now!
  6. I have a safari that has space for either one person or a couple in November 2017. The safari starts in Lusaka with one night at Pioneer Camp, we then travel by Land Rover through to Kafue National Park - Musekese Camp for 3 nights. From here we go to Mongu where we will have one night and do the resupply for our time in Liuwa. I have Katayona Campsite booked for 4 nights. We leave there and head down the Zambezi River to Kabula Camp and then finish off in Livingstone. Approximate cost depending on whether we are an extra one or two people is around the $4000 mark. I will confirm that as soon as I know who is coming. Please note that the Liuwa Plains part will require some participation from you in terms of camp set up, cleaning and cooking. Please email me direct on so I can discuss the safari in detail with you. Liuwa Plains and Kafue NP with Doug Macdonald 19 – 29 Nov 2017
  7. We were guided by Doug of Doug Macdonald’s Safaris to Africa. I booked direct, shortly after my 2015 safari with him (is there any better endorsement for Doug than that??) and was awaiting--fingers crossed--for others to sign up. SafariChick booked through Chalo Africa. There were also two other Chalo clients so we were a group of 4. Doug Collage Regarding the pith rescues above: The pith never went sailing off of Doug’s head, only when it was placed on the ground and the wind kicked up. @@JulieM will be glad to know the koala that sat atop the pith survived the sailings and then was safely stowed to protect it from future unexpected gusts. How hot was it in early Oct? Since October is known as “suicide month” in this part of the world, I brought along a small thermometer to check temps at random points in the trip. It’s the second half of Oct and into Nov that becomes more suicidal from what I experienced. Can’t say that I suffered severely during our trip (SafariChick can give her take) that reached as high as 104°F, 40°C. But it was a dry heat, for what it's worth. SafariChick can fill in any pertinent details from her end in the itinerary before Oct 2, when we all became safarimates and headed out with Doug. On my end prior to Oct 2, I had some glimpses of @@JulieM (who was traveling with Doug) and we even waved to each other and called out, “hi,” in the floodplains when I was with Natureways for a day at the start of my trip. Also, after canoeing and on my way to Kanga I saw @@Shreyas at the Nyakasikana Gate. He mentioned he had never finished his Namibia report. And here he was in Zim! Hmmm. For that I should have looked disapprovingly at him, but I was too surprised to see him and even more surprised that he recognized me. We had a pleasant and very brief exchange. Thank you Shreyas for coming over to check if it was me! It was. Specifically, pre-Oct 2 for me was Sept 26 Arrive Harare, 15 minute transfer to Guinea Fowl B&B. Sept 27 Transfer back to Harare and Fly Altair to Mana Pools Main Airstrip, O/nt Natureways (Mucheni #4). Sept 28-30 3-night shoreline camping canoe trip w/Natureways Oct 01 Off the river by 8:00 am at Chikwenya and arrive Kanga about 3:00 pm Typical Mana Pools floodplains scenes. Waterbuck were a SafariChick favorite. Our Mana Pools itinerary with Doug was 3nts Chitake, 4 nts Floodplain, 2 nts Ilala Oct 2 Doug picked up 3 of our team at the airstrip near Kanga, Dandawa Airstrip, then they all collected me at Kanga Bush Camp. Drove 2:00-3:35 pm to Chitake. O/nt Chitake private operator campsite, staffed by Natureways Oct 3 Chitake private operator campsite, staffed by Natureways Oct 4 Chitake private operator campsite, staffed by Natureways Oct 5 Depart Chitake for floodplains, 11:00 am–3:00 pm, stopping at newly accessible pan (but it was dry) for lunch. O/nt Mucheni #4, staffed by Natureways Oct 6 Muncheni #4, staffed by Natureways Oct 7 Muncheni #4, staffed by Natureways Oct 8 Muncheni #4, staffed by Natureways Oct 9 Morning in Floodplains. Bid farewell to 2 Chalo Clients at the airstrip and picked up a new couple. Drove to Ilala 12:00 noon-1:40 pm. O/nt Ilala, staffed by Tailormade. Oct 10 O/nt Ilala, staffed by Tailormade. Oct 11 Morning in Chikwenya, then morning flight out of Chikwenya Airstrip. Classic Chitake Scenes --------------------------------- After months of planning and emailing and waiting, there was Doug and my 3 safarimates in the vehicle outside of Kanga. In the front was SafariChick. We could finally do an in-person hug. The adventure began!
  8. Doug Macdonald worked with Natureways to create a unique itinerary, per my request, that I believe has not been undertaken before by Natureways. Their 3-night Shoreline canoe trip was combined with island camping. The result: maximum wildlife at camping costs, plus the beauty and privacy of island camping. It was a spectacular river trip packed with wildlife and shoreline scenic beauty. “spectacular river” and the hippos agree some of the “maximum wildlife,” which included 150-ish elephants and 3 colonies of carmine bee eaters during the 3 night canoe safari “shoreline scenic beauty” near Ruckomechi, the launching point “island camping” that kept costs in check -- Ilala Isand, the 3rd and final night Sept 26 Arrive Harare, 15 minute transfer to Guinea Fowl B&B. Sept 27 Transfer back to Harare and Fly Altair to Mana Pools Main Airstrip, 1 hour & 20 minutes. Aerial view on flight to Mana Pools Afternoon guided outing in Mana Pools and o/nt Natureways Mobile Camp (Mucheni #4). Sept 28 Morning guided Mana Pools outing and begin 3-night shoreline camping canoe trip. O/nt Vundu Island. Sept 29 Canoe trip. O/nt Buffalo Island Sept 30 Canoe trip. O/nt Ilala Island. Oct 01 Off the river by 8:00 am at Chikwenya. The Natureways staff was there to greet us and load up the canoes and half an hour later we were ready to drive off. After this canoe safari I did an additional 10 nights in Mana Pools, all but 1 with Doug Macdonald. Acacia Point Daily details and temps during the canoe safari follow below. No adrenaline producing or heart stopping incidents, nothing scary, no close calls, etc are contained in the details. Just how I like it. Acacia Point In Sept 2015, I did the Natureways Mopane trip with Norman and Takesure. I had such a nice time that I thought I’d do it again while these guys are still river guides. (Not that they are planning to leave or anything.) I made what I think were a couple of improvements from the first trip. Most of those improvements also increased the cost from the Mopane trip. - This was a private trip. In 2015 I was lucky that no one else signed up and that Natureways kept their end of the bargain for just one person. This time it was private by design. I had tried to get one other person to join me, but no luck. One other person would mean each of us could sit in the front of a canoe and have a pro in the back, where the heavy paddling and steering is done. Two canoes and two staff are used for either a one-person or two-person trip. Even Guide Norman is taking a short, momentary break in this photo. I sat up front. Supply canoe with Manu. Another guest could have sat up front in this canoe. - The 2015 Mopane itinerary was great, but I wanted more time in the heart of Mana Pools. This trip went from Ruckomechi to Chikwenya, which is the Natureways Shoreline canoe itinerary that normally stays in established camps supported by a complete staff. Instead I stayed on the sand islands in (very nice) pup tents. - August is known as the windy month. Sometimes high winds creep into September, as they did on my Sept 4-7 2015 trip. The problem with wind is (1) it is harder to canoe because it always blows upriver in your face (2) wind whipped whitecaps can reduce stability and make tipping easier meaning we get off the river and (3) the hippos head to shore to avoid the waves, so canoes cannot hug the more interesting shoreline and must travel mid-river. To help avoid a windy trip, I pushed the trip dates much later to Sept 28-Oct 1. [unusually late and heavy winds in 2016 still plagued us at times, though less than 2015.] Lunch stop at Acacia Point - The Kariba dam controls water flow on the Zambezi. Weekends are low flow; weekdays have more water. I planned this trip for the weekdays of Wed, Thurs, Fri, and off the river on Sat so I’d have higher water levels and the ability to canoe into the channels. [Work/repairs on the dam or some other unusual water flow procedures resulted in water flow similar to the weekend and not the weekdays.] Acacia Point - I brought my own more comfortable life jacket this time. Much better than the chunky orange ones provided. Most people don’t even wear a life jacket, so fit is a moot point for the majority. But I promised my husband I would always wear it on the water. And I always did. modeling my own life jacket – usually I was in the front of the canoe. - I requested less bologna and in fact there was none. We had a big ring of it that lasted for days in 2015. But overall food on the 2015 and the 2016 trip was great and plentiful and the guides are also talented chefs. - The Natureways prep list suggests a kikoi or sarong to drape over your legs/feet in the canoe. I did not bring one last time but I certainly did bring and use one this time. My red kikoi is visible – I wore shorts every day in the canoe and it covered my legs and feet when the sun was hot. - I also brought a book this time, especially for the midday stops and rests. I left my shoes/boots behind this time and wore just Keens. Instead of bringing only my small Canon Powershot SX280 with no viewfinder, I also brought the larger Canon Powershot SX50 with a viewfinder. The SX50 often worked better because I held it up, pressed against my face to see through the viewfinder, and that offered more stability. SX50 pressed against my face at Acacia Point But the smaller SX280 did a decent job. Sacred Ibis and African Skimmer - taken with compact SX280 from canoe Speaking of cameras, there is no charging of batteries on the river. I went into the second battery for both the SX280 and the SX50. Despite more wind and lower water levels than anticipated, the trip was superb. Those couple of negatives only reinforce what a tremendous job Guides Norman and Manu (short for Emanual) did and what a fantastic environment we had for canoeing. In addition to be skilled canoeists, excellent spotters, knowledgeable guides, talented chefs, and fun guys, Norman and Manu stopped to pick up litter along the way! Next is the day at Natureways Camp before departing on the canoe safari and the 3 days canoeing the Zambezi in Mana Pools
  9. Having read through the vast array of Mana Pool’s trip reports I feel that I have little to add that’s new, so my first visit to Zimbabwe will consist of reflections, anecdotes and quotes from A A Milne and his animals who reside in the hundred acre wood. Animals who are far wiser than I will ever be. Why Winnie the Pooh? Prior to leaving home for this new destination, the thought came to mind that in reality I was heading to a wilderness dominated by forests and elephants. The dead mopane trees of Matusadona, raising their old limbs above the waters of Lake Kariba and the living forests of Mana Pools, resplendent with mahogany, albida, baobabs, mopane amongst others would provide cover for much of the wildlife we hoped to see. The wildlife dominated overwhelmingly in these two parks by elephants. Of course, both Matusadona and Mana Pools have forests that cover a great deal more acreage than Christopher Robin’s legendary woods and Winnie the Pooh, nor any bear, would be found during our stay. Both though, are known for the mythical nature of the adventures to be found within their boundaries. Many years of procrastination and failed attempts later and I finally would be exploring this place, with its light, scenery and dancing elephants. Beloved of so many Safaritalkers, I wondered if it could possibly live up to the hype. It probably wouldn’t matter in the end. We all look for our own truths in the destinations we choose and no doubt mine would be different to others. I just hoped that I wouldn’t need to climb leadwood trees or termite mounds, especially as I’d stupidly twisted my knee a few days before leaving. Our trip consisted of 2 nights at Ilala Lodge, Victoria Falls; 4 nights at Rhino Camp, Matusadona; 3 nights at Chitake 3, Mana Pools and 6 nights at Mucheni 4, Mana Pools. Apart from the first 2 nights we were guided by Doug Macdonald and the mobile camps outfitted by Tailormade Safaris. The mobile camps were managed by George with an excellent support staff. Sangeeta and her company Chalo Africa helped me sort out logistics and handled all the bookings. “Don’t underestimate the value of Doing Nothing, of just going along, listening to all the things you can’t hear, and not bothering.“ A A Milne, Winnie the Pooh Zimbabwe was a lesson in being patient, having no expectations and not worrying about what we might see or what we might miss out on. “The long wait in Jo’burg airport drags on. Our first sunrise back in Africa is a good omen of times to come, at least we hope so. Piles of zebra and gazelle hides are as good an indicator as anything that illustrates the difference between wildlife utilisation between South Africa and Kenya. Handbags made of wildlife skins abound and I wonder what my friends will say if I turn up carrying one. They might not understand the realities that is conservation in this modern world. I’m sitting here with all of our gear, between a rather mundane shop ‘Taste of Africa’ and a Haagen-Daz ice cream shop that’s depressingly closed. There’s a desultory stream of weary passengers passing by me. An equally desultory stream of workers plod past, either at the end or the beginning of a shift, they all look bored. I guess there’s no reason to rush, one day rolls into another inside an airline terminal.” VICTORIA FALLS: I’m pretty impressed by Victoria Fall’s airport, not realising just how new it is. There is a handsome waterfall inside the customs and immigration hall that looks very refreshing. In arrivals, as we wait for the other people transferring to Ilala, we have time to look around. A small group of local men are giving a welcome dance outside and inside I’m amused by the ATM that looks like it has already been speedily accessed! A common theme across our travels in Zim is the lack of USD available in ATMs or banks, fortunately Sangeeta had let us know that this was the case and we were well prepared. It’s pointless thinking about all the thousands of visitors to the Falls every year and every possible type of photograph they’d be taking, let alone trying to take something new and different. I think the best thing is to approach an iconic landscape such as this with an open mind. Focus on the magnificence of the natural world and tune out the helicopters and mass tourism, knowing that it’s needed to support these wonders. I really do feel like the last person to visit the famous falls and there’s not much I can tell anyone about them that they don’t already know. Despite reading lots of reports and seeing many photos over the years, I still didn’t have much idea about what to expect and it turned out to be so much more than I imagined. The afternoon we arrived we walked to the café that overlooks the railway bridge and watched intrepid tourists swing from ropes, slide along ropes, look terrified hanging from ropes. All pretty entertaining. The gorge itself looked like a spider web of metal. The next day we spent at the falls themselves. Sunrise view of the Falls from our bedroom verandah. Walking from the gate towards the falls was like walking through a forest wonderland. The trees had lost most of their leaves that lay in a carpet of russet and gold across the ground with a host of butterflies flying across them. Nearing the falls themselves the vegetation suddenly changed to an almost mystical, enchanted rain forest where imaginations could run wild with possibilities. Staying focussed on the natural wonder in front of me gave me the chance to zone out the constant sounds of helicopters and chatter from the stream of tourists. Thank goodness I’d been meditating a lot! Moving on the left path along the falls we paid our respects to David Livingstone as he permanently looked down and across the falls that so entranced him all those years ago. Walking further on we came along side the Zambezi river as it moved towards the precipice. Water birds waded through the shallows and hippos briefly surfaced for air. In the distance a lone fisherman cast his net on a long stick, occasionally catching a fish. Moving back past the old Dr. we went down the steps to the 2nd lookout. In fact, we did these lookouts several times over the course of the day and the photos aren’t in time order. The mist falling at the first few lookouts was delicate and fell like snow. On our morning walk to No 2, it was very quiet and you could almost imagine yourself in another time and place. Amazingly, as we continued our morning walk there was a movement on the edge of the gorge and nibbling at a small shrub was a very relaxed bushbuck. Perhaps because of the spectacle of the falls behind the animal, people just walked past it. I suppose we see what we expect to see. We spent about 8 hours in total at the falls, just ambling. It was so relaxing stretching our legs and not concerning ourselves with anything else, just being. “Mid morning and we’ve taken a break at the Rainforest Café. A freshly squeezed carrot, ginger and apple juice and a cool breeze is very welcome. A young man dressed in traditional tribal dress (for the tourists benefit no doubt) walks past us as if on springs. Tourists walk towards the souvenir shop with a look of purpose in their eyes. I answer some work emails and then find that I can’t send emails for some reason. The young man with his imitation zebra skin dress has returned and is filling water bottles.”
  10. Due to circumstances beyond their control, our travelling companions are no longer able to come with us on our epic adventure to Mana Pools, so we're looking for a couple of fun-loving adventurers to join us. We've booked @@Doug Macdonald to guide us, a legend here on Safaritalk and an absolutely top class guide. It should be a great trip. The Mana Pools section of the trip starts on 23rd September 2016, with 3 nights in Chitake Springs, followed by 4 nights on the floodplain and then 2 nights in the Chikwenya section of Mana Pools. It is a mobile tented safari, but I hear the tents have ensuites. Our whole itinerary includes Victoria Falls and Hwange National Park to start with and I'm sure Doug could organise something for you either before or after Mana Pools as well. About us: we live in Australia. I'm a kiwi and hubby is an Aussie. This will be our third trip to Africa, having done Botswana, Namibia and Kenya on other trips. We absolutely love being in Africa and relish every sighting. I'm into photography, but not in any professional way. I'd like to think we are fun travelling companions. If you are interested please let me or Doug know.
  11. This is a great mobile tented safari to Mana Pools, guided by Doug Macdonald which has 4 spaces left. The safari is 4 nights on the Mana Pools Flood Plain and then 3 Nights at Chitake Springs. You also have the option of adding in Kanga Pan at the start and then Chikwenya for the last part to give you the complete Mana Pools experience. This is a great time of year to see the Wild Dog Packs operating on the flood plain and hopefully they will have all their puppies with them at this time of year learning to be Wild dogs. Please have a look at the link below for the full details and contact me to book your space for this top safari. Mana Pools 7 Nights – Chitake and Flood Plain – Guided by Doug Macdonald
  12. Loved it! Overview Photo of the canoe safari - including the “kitchen ” and meal preparation. Food was fine to great. Evening meals were prepared by staff over a burner. The freezer box they toted along was good for 5-6 days. My favorite meal was freshly caught fried fish. Outstanding! Lunch was usually sandwich and lettuce salad. There was a good deal of ring bologna. Breakfast was usually some packaged biscuits/cookies and coffee/tea upon waking. Then when we stopped for our first break, there was bacon and eggs. At times they altered the dining schedule to coincide with canoeing in the least amount of wind, which made perfect sense. I had not requested any food, vegetarian or otherwise. Guide Norman and Assistant Takesure worked together well to produce really good meals under Spartan conditions. Notice the nice, soft seat in the canoe; very comfy. That’s me in the life jacket. The rule is that the life jacket must only be within reach; it is not necessary to wear it while canoeing. But I promised my husband I would wear one (and I did the whole time, not just for the photos.) Not so comfortable for paddling. Since most people probably don’t wear the jackets, it usually wouldn’t matter. But I’d recommend bringing your own if you plan on wearing the life jacket while paddling, which is not required. Chikwenya in Sapi – A photographic goal of mine for this trip was dripping water from a mouth. Mission accomplished. In 1995 I did a Mana Pools walking safari with Natureways, led by owner James Varden. It was a memorable trip that even James could recall when I met him again in Sept 2015. After that introduction to Mana Pools I always knew I’d like to return and next time include canoeing. Next time turned out to be 20 years later, again with Natureways. General scenery from the canoe Doug MacDonald booked this canoe trip along with the walking trip I did with him (and Wilddog & Blue Bird.) I wanted a scheduled group canoe camping trip and the one that fit with Doug’s walking safari was Natureways Mopane Canoe Safari. Doug was able to obtain a better rate than I would have on my own. Thanks again Doug. To prepare for canoeing in Sept I went canoeing (or kayaking even though the two focus on a little different muscle groups) for 1-3 hours at least once a week all summer. A friend of mine gave me some granulated bee pollen for energy that I thought I might need if I happened to join a group of canoeists who were youthful rock climbers or body builders or something. The canoe safari turned out to be my own private trip because no one else signed up. What a privilege and what a deal! I did not need the bee pollen. In general, Natureways requires no canoe experience. But I certainly wanted to be in shape, and I think it is important to have done some canoeing in case you end up in back and therefore must steer. Unlike kayaking, which is easy to learn very quickly, getting the canoe to go where you want takes a little practice. The pace was relaxed with plenty of time between destinations, so no bee pollen should be needed by anyone. My muscles never got sore and I even have an SI-joint (sacroiliac) issue, which canoeing did not affect. Chikwenya in Sapi Camera/photography: I left my bigger bridge camera behind in my luggage stowed with Natureways and took just a pocket-sized Canon SX280, 20x zoom. I think that was a good decision. There can be splashing into the canoe and it’s hard to stabilize a big camera or lens with the movement of the current. No battery charging is possible so I took 4 fully charged batteries, which was sufficient for the 716 photos I took. Park fees: The Natureways info stated $100 USD. I think it was $103, so close enough, but the fees were paid in increments of $43 and $60 (if I remember right) meaning one dollar bills are needed. Park staff have very limited change. Gear: I took one backpack with me and left my duffel, containing my money (except park fees) and passport, with the Natureways staff. Natureways is adamant that you not bring money or passport with you on the river and instead leave it safely and securely with them. I had access to my bags and money again before any tipping needs at the end of the trip. My backpack was waterproof, not just resistant. Resistant would be sufficient because they put a waterproof tarp over the canoes. You need only a change or two of shirts & underwear and for the feet sandals/Keens, no boots/shoes. Even at the campsites and rest stops it is sandy and you don’t hike so sandal-type-footwear is all you should bring. I never wore the boots I brought. You can wear the same bottoms throughout; zip-offs would work well. I brought two hats in case one blew off into the river and sank. The cap I wore most of the time had a built-in elastic band around the head and a neck flap. I had the elastic cinched tightly due to the wind. There are some photos of the hat below. The packing list suggests a kikoi (fabric rectangle that can be used as a skirt or wrap or sun protection) to put over your legs for sun protection. I figured I’d just wear long pants. And I did, which worked well but I would have used the kikoi over my feet if I had brought one. Doug reminded me to be sure to put lotion on the insoles of the feet because the way you sit in the canoe, this rarely exposed part of the foot is exposed. Natureways provided a sleeping bag and a liner, plus a mat. And a towel. I brought my own liner and just slept in that and covered up with Natureway’s liner. The sleeping bag was too hot in Sept. even for me who is always cold. A headlight torch/flashlight was particularly helpful. The tent shown is the Chewore High Sand Bank location, the last island stop. Natureways provides the spade and toilet paper throughout the trip. The spade and tp accompanied us on all of our rest stops. A bucket shower is available. Since I did a “sponge-bath” which was actually a towel-bath with the towel provided, I don’t remember if the water was warm because it did not run down on me. I think it is just taken from the river at river temp. Drink, drink drink: Guide Norman kept tabs on my liquid intake and would remind me to drink as I canoed. They carried big containers of bottled water to fill your own bottles. Island tents: The tent camping on the remote islands was a highlight of the trip. Such beautiful, peaceful secluded locations, with no one else around! The tents are easy to put up and take down and the staff will help you. You can see the stars through the top at night. These island locations also served a practical purpose: Securing food on canoes is harder than in land-based tent operations, so being surrounded by water protects from honey badgers and hyenas, the biggest thieves of camp provisions. ------------------------------------------- The timing and schedule can change depending on weather and other factors but here is how my 4 day/3 night Mopane canoe safari went: DAY 1 SEPT 4 11:30 - (Participants should be ready to canoe on 10:30 am of Day 1) As the Tailormade staff broke camp at the end of the walking safari with Doug, I waited to be picked up by Natureways. To keep me amused while waiting, an elephant ate seedpods nearby and I watched the wind-whipped whitecaps flow upriver on the Zambezi. Yikes! How will I canoe in this stuff? Ele bidding me farewell at Mucheni #4 Rough waters on the Zambezi, photo taken from the canoe once the weather/wind/water had calmed down a lot, but it was still choppy. I was picked up at Mucheni #4 by Guide Norman and Assistant Takesure and driven about 30 minutes to the canoe launch site at Nyamepia. Noonish – lunch along the river Nyamepai. James Varden happened to join us. James and I had a brief but enjoyable “20 year reunion” at lunch. We waited out the unrelenting high winds that had kicked up in the wee dark hours that morning and had never waned as the day wore on. Normal departure time is just after lunch. The way the itinerary is structured fortunately allows for flexibility, which we needed. 3 pm – As is often the case, when the sun moves toward the horizon, the winds taper a little, just a little. But it was enough to launch. I was in one canoe with Guide Norman and Takesure was in the other canoe. So our flotilla numbered two. Normally, this initial paddle would be offer scenic highlights of the trip, leisurely hugging the shoreline and perhaps finding a channel. But the high winds caused choppiness mid-river which the hippos don’t like, so the pods were all located along the calmer shores. That meant we had to avoid the shore, strewn with hippos, and canoe the less interesting and rougher middle river. Norman and Takesure were surprised at the ferocity of the winds in Sept. They said that sometimes they get that level in August but not to this extent in Sept. However August had been completely still without wind, so maybe the gales of August started blowing in September, mere hours before my canoe trip. This elephant was seen on an island shortly after our departure. The whipping wind is evident. I was glad when I saw at least one elephant in case we could never get near shore to see any others due to the wind. When asked about ele sightings, Norman and Takesure said it is possible to see no elephants on the Mopane trip outside of the dry season. 4:40 pm –Arrive Buffalo Island, the first island camp. Views from Buffalo Island (where there are no buffalo). My Keens are in the bow of the boat. No other footwear besides a sandal-type is needed and often I was barefoot in the canoe. Top right tent is on Buffalo Island. Bean shucking was optional for clients but it was one task where I could contribute. Tent erecting was simple. The two tents pictured are on Ilala Island, the second night’s stop. You can see Guide Norman is prepared to protect his clients. He has never used his firearm. Neither Norman nor Takesure has ever had a canoe capsize/tip with guests who did not do intentionally stupid and crazy stuff. Some hilarious stories from various canoe guides are at the end in green. DAY 2 SEPT 5 7:05 am –Leave Buffalo Island and canoe Nyamatusi Channel 1 and Nyamatusi Channel 2. Norman and Takesure did an excellent job of pulling the canoe through shallow water and over sandbars of these productive channels, making this diversion possible. The winds had died down for the morning so venturing into channels was safe. But low water almost made it impossible. Water levels along the Zambezi canoe routes are more a function of the dam operation than of the season/rainfall. More water is allowed through the dam Mon-Fri, and the flow is restricted on weekends. Sept 5, 2015 was a Saturday. Bird collage of Nyamatusi Channels Common Waterbuck - Nyamatusi Channel - focusing on us Impala & Egyptian Geese - Nyamatusi Channel - also focusing on us 10:40 am—Arrive Ilala Island, the last camp in Mana Pools, before Sapi Safari Area. Lunch and rest. Mana Pools, Chikwenya, Sapi, Chewore: First, some maps to put it all in perspective. All of the above areas constitute a UNESCO World Heritage Site. No hunting in Mana Pools, which has the richest wildlife of the three spots. My wildlife viewing for the Mana Pools proper part of the trip was diminished due to high winds that kept us away from the shoreline for safety reasons to avoid hippo pods. There is hunting allowed in Sapi and Chewore, but not along the shore. The buffer area of no hunting extends a kilometer or two from the river into the safari area for both Sapi and Chewore. So no hunting along the Zambezi River and the animals, especially the eles, knew it. No hunting at night, and they knew that too. In fact, I was told that the elephants had figured out where they were safe in which areas on both sides of the river at particular times of the day and planned their days accordingly to the frustration of the hunters. Chikwenya is a protected 5500 acre section on the western riverfront of Sapi Safari Area that used to be owned by Wilderness Safaris, but is not now. My best elephant and hippo activity of the canoe trip was in Chikwenya. Even a hyena too elusive for pictures. Chewore does allow hunting, but where we camped for our last night across from Chewore Campsite, there is no hunting. And what an oasis that was. Elephants, antelope, even wild dogs all amassed in this area. The owner of Chewore Campsite has been very adamant and proactive in securing the area around his campsite from hunting rights, winning some recent court cases. The Mopane Natureways canoe trip includes Mana Pools, Sapi with the protected section of Chikwenya, and Chewore. There are other Natureways canoe itineraries with different routes. to be continued
  13. Curse you, Safaritalk! Without you I would never even have heard of these funny places down there South of the equator. Would have had no idea that these places would be a total gamechanger for me. That I would never be able to look at Safari the same way again. That walking with a Zim pro guide is the best! thing! ever! That nothing is as wonderful, as satisfying, and as awesome as getting close to wildlife, small and big, peaceful and trusting, or menacing and dangerous, on foot. That Zimbabwe is just wonderful beyond words. And the place where all safari dreams come true. Artistic Elephants Life begins gently here: Only to come to a harsh and brutal end. Well, little predators need food, too - but sometimes they go a bit over the top: Others just wanna have fun: Others have less fun - this cat´s bath was very involuntary indeed. No Safari would be complete without the ghost in the darkness: This was the Safari of gettin´ down and dirty - rewarded withsome more unusual angles: Birds come in radiating red here: A dry country: But every trickle of water means life: And every drop of water arrives here - in the mighty Zambezi: And nourish the Mana Pools flood plains: And yes - finally! My two "wishlist" antelopes: A new kind of Safari bug has got me now - the ZimManawalkingDoug-bug. How to get this out of my system now?
  14. Back to Mana: I recently came back from spending 3 weeks in Zimbabwe, my 6th safari overall and 2nd visit to Zimbabwe in as many years. Like many others, this “spiritual home of Safari Talkers” has had me completely in its spell and this makes planning for future safaris very difficult if every year I also want to get back to Mana. I have been incredibly lucky that across 27 nights spent in this park, the only sighting to date that I have really shared is last year when Granny and her daughter were at the car park one sundown. Lucky and with a wonderful guide @@Doug Macdonald who seems to know exactly how to keep me away from the crowd whether it’s at a camp or on drives and walks and still have those uniquely wonderful Mana moments. Something new: This trip also had a wild card entry. 5 nights in Gonarezhou - just the second largest park ( at 5000 sq km, roughly half of Hwange and about the size of Katavi ) of Zimbabwe tucked in the south eastern lowveld sharing an 100km border with Mozambique and now part of the massive leap towards conserving this area through the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Area. It’s also the youngest park in Zimbabwe, having been gazetted only in 1975 though had protected status in bits and pieces for years before 1975. Even though this wild card was the last 5 nights of the trip, I will start my trip report with this - partly because there are a few people waiting to see and read more on what this park looks like, the walking, sightings etc and partly because so little is done to talk up this absolute gem of a place (or for that matter so little chatter of the few good men and women who are trying their best to restore this place to its former glory and more.) The Final itinerary was: 28th September to 20th October 2013 3 Nights Kanga Camp 3 nights Chitake Springs mobile camping 5 nights Mucheni 4 mobile camping 4 nights Chikwenya 1 night Harare, Jacana Gardens 5 nights Gonarezhou 1 night Harare, Jacana Gardens
  15. This is a set date safari guided by Doug Macdonald for a maximum of 6 guests that will give you 5 nights on the flood plain area in a mobile camp and then 2 nights at the new Kavinga Safaris Camp,this is a permanent camp built at the back of Mana Pools NP in a private area on the Rukomeshi River - not far from Chitake Springs. The safari is costed to start and end in Harare but this can be adjusted if you would like to add in other safari areas of Zimbabwe or other countries. Please have a look at the safari using the following link Please contact me for details on
  16. Wilddog made a plan Celebrate in Mana Pools Her special birthday On Safaritalk A question: “Who is planning for 2015?" Wilddog was posting An invitation to all. I accept! Thank you! Late August we’ll leave Wilddog, Blue Bird, and me….plus Guide Doug MacDonald. Arrive Harare To Guinea Fowl B&B We will launch from here. Guinea Fowl B&B in Harare I wait for my friends. It’s now dark. Where could they be? Lost luggage delay. Bags finally found. Here’s Wilddog, Blue Bird and Doug. To the bar for drinks. We get acquainted. Compatible group we are. Doug heads home next door. We’re three for dinner In Guinea Fowl’s dining room Fine food, company. Early departure On Altair from Charles Prince Watch farms morph to bush. Aerial view flying to Mana Pools Haiku Hiatus Sometimes flights leave from Charles Prince Airport instead of Harare International Airport. This less busy option was a nice surprise. Our Guinea Fowl B&B breakfast box was so ample that the airport staff were the recipients of bananas and yogurt. Land at Main Airstrip Nearby wild dog tracks are seen The sole trace of dogs. Drive to Chitake Rocking the party mobile Festooned with balloons. Doug is the driver and Birthday Girl Wilddog rides shot gun in the party mobile Tents near the river Activity comes to you If you wait and watch. Tents, staffed by Tailormade Safaris, and riverside view at Chitake. The outstretched legs belong to Blue Bird. The elephants walked down the riverbed in front of our dining table with only a few trees separating us. Across the river In front of our tents it lies And decomposes An elephant carcass Decayed after several months Odor wafts toward me. View of elephant carcass from my tent (top) and from up close (bottom) When they can sense death Elephants seek out water A final thirst quenched Or perhaps heeding A primal call to return To aquatic roots. Whatever compelled This once sentient gray beast To die on the bank I wish that old age Even mortal battle wounds Felled this great creature. Please, no poacher’s gun. Civets and jackals scavenge Bones without wishes. Haiku Hiatus Sirenia (manatees) and Proboscidea (elephants) are both known as tethytheres. They share an ancestor that lived more than 55 million years ago in Africa or South Asia called Moeritherium. Manatees and elephants have an uncommonly -shaped heart that is spherical rather than the well-known heartshape like other mammals. The West Indian and West African manatee have three or four fingernail-like structures on the tip of their flippers, just like the toenails on the feet of elephant. Manatees and elephants have molars which move toward the front of the mouth, eventually break off, and are restored by those at the rear. Elephants have a limited number while manatees are never-ending. Manatees have two incisors in the location of elephant tusks. Manatees’ large, flexible muscular lips break apart vegetation in the water and skillfully bring food to their mouths, similar to the manner in which an elephant uses its trunk. Cautious but thirsty Guinea Fowl pushing closer Forgetting their fear. The flock drinks it fill Step, look, head down, drink, head up. Scurry back to brush. The normally shy Crested Guinea Fowl approached us along the Chitake Riverbed in front of our camp. Having these goofy looking birds come so close was actually a trip highlight for me because they are usually so hard to see. Silent shapes in sand A small elephant parade Calf tucked in middle. Chitake. Viewed from our dining table. Calf in the middle Elephants dig down Searching for moisture below Below sand...water The river deceives No current flows or ripples Water runs beneath. Viewed from our campsite at Chitake. Much of the riverbed appears dry. The elephant found water to drink below the surface. Kudu, impala, A family of baboons Daily hydration. The water forms puddles along the sides and is not flowing like a typical river. The baboon encounters along the Chitake riverbed are as intimate as much of what I did on baboon walks with habituated troops near Simons Town. Both are Chacma Baboons.
  17. I have space for anyone interested in coming to Mana Pools for an amazing safari in this top destination, game drives, night drives, cruises on the zambezi river and of course walking being a key component of this wonderful safari. A really good time to see this park. Please use this link or visit my website to see the details of the safari. Please contact me on for any questions - I look forward to hearing from you.
  18. To anyone interested in doing a safari in Mana Pools - Zimbabwe for 2016 - We have a safari booked that will be guided by Doug Macdonald and we are looking to fill 5 spaces on. This private safari takes you to many parts of Mana Pools that not many get to experience, which includes Kanga Pan for 2 Nights - The Mana Pools Flood Plain in a mobile camp for 4 Nights - Chitake springs for 3 Nights ( We have timed this for the full moon period ) - Chikwenya for 2 Nights. A full range of activities will be available including lots of walking, game drives, night drives and river cruises. If you would like further details on this amazing safari please don't hesitate to contact us.
  19. Congo Brazzaville has some of the most pristine forested areas left in Central Africa and the Nouabale Ndoki national park is prime example of this. I have space for 4 guests looking to join me and two other people to go and explore this extraordinary park and country starting on the 5th November 2016 in Brazzaville and returning there on the 17th November. Its also important to know that the accommodation and food while in the park is very basic with very few comforts, but it is an amazing experience being there. The basic itenerary is: 1 night Brazzaville Road transfer to Owando ( 1 Night ) Road Transfer to Ouesso to meet pirogue for boat transfer to Bomassa Park HQ (1 Night) Travel by vehicle and then 4hr walk through forest on elephant trails to Mondika Camp (3 nights) 2 gorilla tracking permits we shall use at Mondika and we can explore the forest from here. ( extra permits are available if reqd ) Return walk to road vehicle transfer and then pirogue transfer to Mbeli Camp ( 3 nights ) Here you will be able to observe and photograph the Mbeli Bai which attracts a range of forest animals including forest elephant, wild gorillas, swamp otters, forest buffalo, red river hogs, sitatunga etc. Bird life is also excellent here. Return to Bomassa - ( 1 night ) from here you can just relax or visit the Wali Bai - we have also arranged a fishing trip onto the river if you are interested. Return to Ouesso - 1 Night before catching a scheduled commercial flight back to Brazzaville. At this time we have costed this trip to be Euro 7850 per person but will likely change as costs change closer to the departure date but this gives you an idea and that does include the 2 gorilla permits. Please contact me or Tricia for further details if youwould like to experience a real wilderness safari
  20. I have a safari that I am guiding that starts from Arusha on the 23rd February 2015 and ends back in Arusha on the 3rd March 2015. The basic itenerary of this adventure safari that will take you to places little seen in Northern Tanzania by your usual safaris. We have 4 spaces left on this safari so if it is of interest please let me know as soon as possible to secure your place. 23rd February - Overnite Moivaro Lodge Arusha 24th February - Road Transfer to Empakai Crater - Walking starts down into the crater and then camping in small tents near the rim of the crater. 25th February - The Day walking through Masaai lands and pastures to Acacia campsite in view of Oldonyo Lengayi. 26th February - The Day walking to Lake Natron - overnite Lake Natron camp. 27th February - Early Morning Start to climb Oldonyo Lengayi and then back to camp for rest and see more of Lake Natron. 28th February - Vehicle transfer to Ronjo Camp on the Serengeti. We spend three nights here with pvt vehicle exploring this very busy part of the Serengeti which at this time of the year should have all the animals in residence and calving. 3rd February - Flight from Serengeti back to Arusha. Cost per person - US$5350.00 No single supplement includes all parks fees, transfers, accommodation and meals. If you would like the full details please contact me on
  21. A Road Trip Through Northern Zambia and Southern Tanzania: Bangweulu Wetlands, Lake Tanganyika and Katavi National Park I thought I would make my trip to Northern Zambia and Southern Tanzania in May 2014 the subject of my first trip report and virgin Safari Talk contribution. Having read the many excellent posts already on the forum I’m hesitant that my writing and photographic skills have a lot to live up to, but this exciting and adventurous trip taking in Bangweulu Wetlands and Lake Tanganyika and Katavi National Park seemed worthy of reporting, so here goes ………. This epic road trip began in Lusaka where I met up with my guide Doug Macdonald. The first night was spent at Pioneer Camp, just east of Lusaka and easily accessible from the airport. We packed the Land Rover ready for an early start the following day. Our first port of call was to be the Bangweulu Wetlands a drive of around 620km. A 4am start meant we could clear Lusaka unimpeded by the notorious commuter traffic jams which plague the city. At this time in the morning we were soon ‘speeding’ up the Great North Road. The Great North Road is actually in fantastic condition, well tarmacked with barely a pot hole in sight. Long straight sections meant that the occasional lorry, bus or local vehicle could be passed without too much trauma. The easiest way into the Wetlands was to take the turnoff through the Lavushi Manda National Park a distance of around 500km from Lusaka. Progress was good and we reached this point after a drive of around 8 hours with short stops for snacks and fuel. The Lavushi Manda National Park is composed of a very extensive and impressive forest, but from an animal and bird perspective seemed pretty sterile. The unpaved road was in reasonable shape and there was evidence that some sort of tourist infrastructure was being developed with signs for several campsites and trails along the way. On leaving the park the road conditions for the final 60km to the Wetlands were somewhat more challenging. Progress was slow with numerous large potholes, but the drive was interesting through an almost continuous string of tiny villages. This is very much traditional Africa with mud-brick walls and straw roofs and hordes of curious kids running after our vehicle. Finally you leave the forest and the view opens up across a huge grassy plain and what a sight, black Lechwe all the way to the horizon. There must have been at least 100,000 just in the relatively small area we could see. The water had receded sufficiently so we could drive across the plain to reach a small airstrip and ranger hut where we would leave our vehicle. The final journey across to Shoebill Island was to be by boat. We arrived at around 4pm, 12 hours after leaving Lusaka and the contrast between the bustling African city and this remote backwater could not have been more dramatic. The plan had been to camp on Shoebill Island but we discovered the camp site was not open and instead we had been allocated a large fixed tent with en-suite facilities which was an unexpected treat. There were only two other visitors on the island and so we had a real feeling of remoteness. After cooking dinner we sat with a few beers listening to the sounds of the African night, the usual chorus of insects and frogs was punctuated by the sounds of herds of Lechwe splashing through the swamp. The following day we set out to explore. The water levels were still quite high and we went initially by boat in our quest to find a shoebill. It was a magical experience drifting silently past the banks of papyrus and through carpets of water lilies. Birdlife was plentiful from the myriad of small waders to a large number of wattled cranes and raptors. We passed fishermen’s huts and tiny villages. Some fishermen still used traditional methods creating small dams in the wetlands punctuated by channels containing homemade fish traps. Sadly unsustainable fishing practices were also in evidence with donated mosquito nets stitched together to make huge nets which were then pegged out amongst the vegetation. Our quest was successful and a shoebill was sighted initially from the boat. We were able to ‘land’, walking and bouncing on the springy mass of floating weed and papyrus to get a better view. Unfortunately my ‘point and press’ camera was only able to record our sighting as a few grey blurry blobs, not worthy of publication – the view through the binoculars was rather better! In the afternoon it was shoes off and mud between the toes as we paddled and waded through the swamp back to the grassy plains to have another look at the spectacular herds of lechwe. Our two nights on Shoebill Island were over all too quickly and after a morning game drive through the herds of Lechwe (and a few zebra) we continued our journey north, retracing our steps through the Lavushi Manda National Park re-joining the Great North Road. At Mpika the road forks, we were taking the quieter left hand branch, towards our next destination Lake Tanganyika. We broke our journey with a night at the Kapishya Hot Springs where we camped on the edge of the river which gently steams from the hot water bubbling up a short walk away from our tents. The restorative powers of soaking in the warm water after a hard day’s drive were much appreciated! From Mpika the road starts to climb and you pass through some of Zambia’s highest villages and towns before turning off at Mbale for a 1000m descent to Mpulungu, the lowest town in the country on the shores of Lake Tanganyika. Here we left our Land Rover and took a boat to Isanga Bay Lodge. Ever since I was a child I had always dreamed of visiting Lake Tanganyika, the stories of David Livingstone and childhood stamp collecting have made the name familiar to me and in my mind it had become a mythical and mysterious oasis in the heart of darkest Africa! It did not disappoint. Isanga Bay is stunning with golden sand and palm trees, everything a tropical beach should be and the bonus is warm, fresh water and not a crocodile in sight, so the first thing to do was plunge straight in for a swim. Our accommodation was fantastic, consisting of a couple of beach huts on stilts a few yards from the sea, perfect for our 3 night stay. Tempting as it was, this was not just to be a beach holiday and we had plenty of activities planned. Our first day’s expedition was to the Kalambo Falls, said to be Africa’s second highest with a 221m vertical drop off the rift valley escarpment. A boat dropped us off at a local village where a path led steeply upwards for just over an hour to reach the falls. We peered over the edge mesmerised by the Kalambo River plunging off the escarpment into a deep, green forested valley before winding its way to the lake. We got back to the lodge for a late lunch and the afternoon was spent viewing some of the underwater inhabitants of the lake. The snorkelling here is amazing, there are numerous colourful cichlids. It was like swimming through an aquarium. During our stay we spent many hours snorkelling along the rocky shore line. This section of the lake is largely crocodile free and so the swimming is considered safe. The lake crocodiles apparently stay around the river mouths that feed the lake rarely entering the open waters, although there were reports of a pale coloured croc ‘affectionately’ known as Mr Mustard who is occasionally sighted swimming past the lodge! There was also chill out time too and it was very relaxing to sit on the terrace or under a shady palm tree with a beer watching the otters fishing and playing in the bay. There was the opportunity to go sailing and it was great fun zipping across the lake in a small catamaran. Off shore breezes tend to die down late afternoon and so this was the perfect time to take kayaks out onto the lake for a beautiful sunset. At this time of day the local fishermen come out. Small boats are used to spot shoals of fish before large boats are called in to cast the nets. We felt very privileged kayaking amongst the fishing boats watching this centuries old daily fishing ritual. All too soon it was time to leave Lake Tanganyika and cross the border into Tanzania for the final leg of the trip to Katavi National Park. We stocked up with food in the market before leaving Mpulungu. From here it is a 3 hour drive to the border. From Mbala the dirt road to the border is rough in parts and finally leads to a remote border crossing. This must be one of the least used border crossings out of Zambia consisting of little more than a locked gate on the dirt road. We had to find the local official with the key to let us across. Things were a little more developed on the Tanzanian side, but with only minimal delay we were on our way to Katavi.
  22. This is one of my favourite safaris and is designed to show you the many different facets of Mana Pools National Park. The safari starts at the very comfortable Kanga Pan Camp, a great way to start where you can relax and watch the show as the animals and birds constantly filter into the waterhole right in front of you, we then move to the Mana Pools Flood plain to a tented camp set up on the banks of the Zambezi River, from here we shall explore this beautiful wilderness primarily on foot and by vehicle and you will quickly see why this park is often rated as one of the best in Africa. The next destination is to the unique chitake springs where our mobile camp will be set up next to the river bed and here the action goes right through the day and night with constant comings and going of animals to the water and a constant presence of predators hunting them, a very wild experience. We leave here and head back down to the main Zambezi River to stay at the very comfortable Chikwenya Safari Lodge and while here you will be able to get out onto the main river to enjoy the truly beautiful scenery and maybe even have a go at a bit of fishing or just watch one of the many pods of hippo or elephant swimming in the river, return to camp and enjoy a night drive seeing some of the many nocturnal species that enjoy this private area of the park. The safari needs a minimum of 4 guests and a maximum of 6, low and high season rates do apply, privately guided by Doug Macdonald - Please contact me for full details and costs -
  23. We have negotiated a great rate for a pure walking safari right across Mana Pools guided by Doug Macdonald - The safari takes four nights and will start at the Western end of the park and finish on the Eastern border. Each day you will walk approximately 15kms and you will be required to carry no more than day pack as we will have a team setting up a basic mobile camp for us each night. The costs are based on a minimum group size of four and you have the option of adding Chikwenya Safari Lodge on to the end of the safari, or move to another park that we can arrange for you. 4 nights Safari including parks fees - US$1200.00 per person. 4 Nights safari Including Road Transfers to and from Harare - US$1450.00 per person 6 Nights Safari including two nights at Chikwenya and road transfers to and from Harare - US$2250.00 per person For all the details of the safari please go to my website and download the pdf. or contact me direct
  24. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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.A little later we came across these Kudu wnadering along a gully 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. After 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. 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.I 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. and one or two other visttors........ Our next stop would be five nights at Vundu Camp.
  25. Can only echo what Jo & Anita have said already. This was indeed a safari that exceeded all my safari expectations (my very high expectations, I might add, since they were based on Linda's and Paolo's recommendations...) Still in the process of lingering over and savoring the memories in my mind. Jo and Anita have made great starts to their TRs already, so will enjoy the read and their fantastic photography along with the rest of ST, adding little bits and pieces here to this thread for yet another perspective. Suffice it to say that a slice of Mana, with a large pinch of dogs and a dollop of Doug makes for a very excellent safari!

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