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Back from Zim : up close, personal and very emotional!


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#1 Kavita

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Posted 04 September 2012 - 02:06 PM

Hi all,

We are back home for a couple of hours now and missing the bush already! This was our best trip ever (after 11+ safaris) in terms of quality and quantity of viewings. I will start a trip report in a day or two but here are just a few highlights (just as a starter) -
1. wild dogs, wild dogs, wild dogs everywhere!! (on foot, from the deck, hunting IN THE CAMP)
2. sneaking on a pride on 13 lions on foot
3. sitting on the ground at the feet of a bull elephant, inches away from his trunk!
4. two male lions waking us up at 5 am, roaring less than 15 feet away from the beds

I wish I had kept a detailed diary :(

#2 Game Warden

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Posted 04 September 2012 - 02:19 PM

I hope you kept a full memory card...

"Return to old watering holes for more than water; friends and dreams are there to meet you." - African proverb.

 

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#3 Anita

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Posted 04 September 2012 - 02:27 PM

Welcome back Kavita.. Look forward to hearing more!!!

#4 Bugs

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Posted 04 September 2012 - 02:56 PM

Welcome back. Lets see the photos.

There's none so blind as those who will not see.


#5 kittykat23uk

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Posted 04 September 2012 - 04:37 PM

Welcome back! Sounds amazing! :)
If an experience is amazing enough to be "once in a lifetime," I want to do it every year.
Alex: "Whoa! Hold up there a second, fuzzbucket. You mean like, uh, the live in a mud hut wipe yourself with a leaf type wild?"
King Julian: “Who wipes?”

#6 wilddog

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Posted 04 September 2012 - 05:18 PM

Welcome back. Zim weaves it's magic again. Glad you had such a good time

#7 Sangeeta

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Posted 04 September 2012 - 05:35 PM

All too exciting! So glad to hear your news and really looking forward to the updates...

Zindagi na milegi dobara... Chalo Africa
You only live once...Go To Africa

www.chaloafrica.com


#8 Uh_oh busted

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Posted 04 September 2012 - 08:04 PM

Oh boy! We leave in less than a month! I've been pulling together wardrobe (as such) and still have to dig out our duffles. Can't wait to see your report. :D

#9 twaffle

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Posted 04 September 2012 - 11:35 PM

Welcome back Kavita

… clarity in thought comes after challenge …


#10 africapurohit

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Posted 05 September 2012 - 11:40 AM

Welcome back Kavita - I look forward to hearing more about your "best trip ever", it must have been an amazing experience.

#11 Kavita

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Posted 06 September 2012 - 09:22 AM

Hi all,
Before I start with my report, just wanted to thank all of you for your advise during the planning, especially for advising to spend more time in Mana than in Hwange!
I am not much of a writer so will stick to the highlights, some photos and general impressions.

Itinerary
Our trip was organised by Bill at The Wild Source. All the transfers and flights worked on time and exactly as planned.
London-J’burg-Vic Falls
Road transfer from Vic Falls to The Hide
4 nights The Hide
Flight from Hwange airport to Kanga airstrip (Safari Logistics)
3 nights Kanga Bush Camp
Road transfer to Goliath
4 nights Goliath
Flight from Mana airstrip to Vic Falls (Safari Logistics)
1 night Illala Lodge
Vic Falls – J’burg - London

Hwange – Frankly, we were very disappointed with Hwange. I suspect a lot of this was due to our experience at The Hide (see below) but overall, we didn’t see much except for large herds of elephants who come to drink at the waterhole at The Hide. We saw large herds of roan and sable. On our last day we saw a pride of lions who had just feasted on a baby elephant near the Main Camp.
The Hide – I had read good reviews of this camp and hence decided to go here over Somalisa. That was the worst decision we made on this trip (another bad decision was the dinner at The Boma!!). The camp is more like a hotel, can host up to 32 guests. The waterhole is amazing and the tents are comfortable. On our first morning, we found out that the morning activity (walk or a drive) ends at 8 am when the guests are supposed to return to the camp for the breakfast. They head out again around 9-9.30 am and stay out until 1.30 pm. We requested to miss the breakfast and stay out and come back before 1.30 pm. This was flatly refused. Every morning from around 11.30 am, we heard the guides mentioning how we can’t see anything as all the animals ‘have gone under the shade’. The management still insists on wasting an hour and a half of prime viewing time for breakfast! The fellow guests we met here were mainly there just for a quick safari experience while visiting Vic Falls. As a result, most guests were happy to miss out on many activities and were not interested in anything that was not a lion or an elephant. Guiding at The Hide is mediocre at best and my advise to anyone planning a visit to this camp is to avoid it and look at other options in Hwange if you must visit the park.
A train line runs very close to the camp and you can hear them at least twice per night. On out last night, they were expecting a group of tourists arriving on the Rovos (sp?) Train and we heard a diesel engine going the whole night. Certainly not what one expects on safari. We had booked to spend one night in their tree house (Dove’s Nest). It is a beautifully built place. However, the atmosphere was spoilt when we noticed that we could actually hear people talking and laughing at the main camp! The train line runs even closer to the Dove’s Nest than the main camp.
I am so glad that I took your advice and booked more nights in Mana than in Hwange.

Kanga Camp –It is a lovely camp situated around the Kanga Pan. Very comfortable yet simple tents with open air showers and toilets, all overlooking the waterhole. Great to shower while keeping an eye on ellies! The camp has very informal atmosphere, we really liked it. The game drives were not very productive due to very thick bush but you really don’t need to go on game drives when all the animals come to see you J. Elephants could be seen on the pan any time of the day or night, small families with very young babies, bulls. That led to some very interesting interactions at the remaining water supply.
On our second morning, while having the morning coffee on the communal deck, a pack of wild dogs came running to the pan to drink. What a start to the day! As the dogs were leaving, a family of guests also left on their game drive and saw the dogs hunt and kill an impala barely 200 meters from the camp. We were still finishing our coffee when the dogs returned for another drink, all with bloody mouths!!

The final evening at the camp was extra special – We decided to miss the drive and spend the evening on the deck. Just after the sunset, there were four of us (2 guests from the US, my husband and I) and the camp manager, Tammy, enjoying sundowners, when suddenly 2 dogs chased a female kudu into camp. They chased her around the communal area. The kudu came rushing through the camp and fell into the plunge pool. Tammy, my husband and a couple of the kitchen staff rushed to get her out of the pool. She struggled out and ran towards the thick bush at the back of the camp, to be again followed by the dogs. They chased her a couple of times around the deck area, she ran in and fell into the pool for the second time. This time it took a lot more effort to get her out as she was exhausted by now. We managed to get her out. However, the dogs were on their guard and picked up the chase as soon as she was out of the pool. Finally, they caught her about 10 meters from our tent! All this happened so quickly and so unexpectedly, no photos L. My husband badly hurt his back while trying to pull the kudu out and suffered throughout the rest of the trip. Apparently, this has happened before with an impala. There was no one around to rescue the impala from the pool straight away and apparently the dogs didn’t leave until the impala was helped out, almost half an hour later.
While we were recovering from the adrenaline rush, a leopard came to drink! Half an hour later, our dinner was interrupted by another leopard!!!
We loved the camp, the people, the atmosphere and of course, the pan.

Goliath Camp – We had read and heard a lot about Stretch Ferreira and he was the reason we chose Goliath. The camp is a semi-permanent camp. It has got a permanent location but is taken apart at the end of the season and rebuilt in April. The camp itself is very simple, Meru tents on the ground in a Ebony grove by the river with lovely views towards Zambia.

Morning 1 – Followed 3 lions on foot (Granny, her daughter and a cub). This was followed by a walk amongst some bull elephants and resulted in watching Boswell (one of Stretch’s favourite bulls) standing up on his two feet and sitting down about 10 feet away from a couple of young bulls feeding on acacia pods. I thought this was way too close! Flo, Stretch’s partner did warn me that we couldn’t go any nearer as these ellies were not too relaxed and that I should wait until Stretch finds his ‘friends’! We then heard about 2 male lions found by another guide from the camp and rushed to meet them, spent 15-20 minutes with them from about 20 meters away on foot.

Morning 2 – Stretch found one of his old ‘friends’, a massive bull elephant, ‘Old Vic’. I must confess here that I am absolutely petrified of elephants, of any size and shape. We have had a few hair rising encounters on previous trips and as a result, my heart rate goes through the roof as soon as I see any elephant, even if it is 100 meters away. I had told Stretch about this. His response was to hold my hand and to lead me to Old Vic ahead of everyone else. It was very hard not to run away!! Old Vic was feeding along with a younger bull. We sat on a termite mound, completely motionless, me with fear and others in awe! Old Vic turned around as soon as he heard Stretch’s voice. Stretch kept talking to him in a very calm, soothing voice. He calmed down and went back to feeding on the pods. Over the next 10-15 minutes, as I sat completely unable to move even a muscle of my body, Old Vic came closer and closer until finally when his trunk was no more than 3-4 inches away from my husband’s feet who was sitting next to me. We were sitting literally at the feet of this giant. He soon ran out of pods and decided to move away. It took me a few more minutes to stand up and realise just what had happened. I was expecting this encounter it to be scary but what I wasn’t prepared for was how incredibly emotional it was! I think the fear was over when he chose to come to us. There was no escape plan, no plan B. I don’t know if we could have done anything if he had decided to take offence. I will never be able to describe this experience in words. It was extremely humbling to realise how much damage this giant was capable of and still chooses not to. I wish I had better command of words to express my feelings. I was shocked that my fear had turned into such an emotional experience over 10-15 minutes.

Evening 2 – Stretch had found a pride of lions after tracking the whole morning. We walked and then crawled to within 20 meters of 2 male lions and then to 8 lionesses and sub-adults. It was incredible how they completely ignored us. However, the mood started to change just before the sunset and it was time to retreat.

Morning 3 – I could hear the footsteps of someone coming towards our tent for the wake up call at 5 am. The next moment, there is a huge roar, from what seemed like just next to me! The guides later showed where it had come from – two male lions were lying about 15 feet from our beds! Although we have heard roars before from a close distance, this was two lions roaring together and you could feel the sound reverberating through the tent and your stomach!!
The morning only got better. Within the next 5 minutes, the guide came running back saying the lions had killed a warthog just behind the tents. Off we go in our pyjamas! There were those 2 males on the warthog kill feeding and others just waiting for their turn. The ‘others’ included 2 cute little cubs (which the guides were seeing for the first time), 3 sub-adult males and 6 lionesses. They spent the entire morning around the camp.

Morning 4 – we heard the lions roaring the entire night near the BBC campsite. I bet no one could sleep at that camp site! Stretch was on a mission to find the dogs for us. After over 2 hours of tracking, he found them in the dry river bed in Nyamatusi wilderness area. My husband was still suffering from the kudu rescue mission and hence had to stay back while we went crawling and then literally sliding on our tummies towards the dogs. It was amazing to watch them from such a close distance. We may have crossed their comfort zone at a certain point when we got a couple of growls and then they moved on. Amazing!

Goliath is a beautiful, simple rustic camp yet very comfortable. Along with Stretch, there are 3 junior guides, 2 qualified for walking and one for canoeing. The camp offers a variety of activities. We really liked to camp but Stretch’s guiding style is not everyone’s cup of tea.

General observations –
  • The country is just about finding its feet after the mess that Mugabe has created. Ordinary people have had their livelihoods and savings wiped out. People are warm and friendly and need tourists to go there and spend money. There is still fear of the future so one needs to
    keep an eye on political developments. However, the safari areas should remain largely unaffected. The logistics ops are still a bit rough round the edges but dependable
    and should remain that way as long as the US dollar is the working currency there.
  • Personally, we think LZNP is more beautiful. Mana seemed a lot busier with a large number of self-drive vehicles. We were there end August-early Sep. Not sure if this is the case earlier or later in the season.
  • Thanks for your advise re Tsetses. We were prepared this time with a ‘pen’, anti-histamine tablets and cream as well as sprays. We were bitten dozens of times, especially around Kanga but also in some areas near the river e.g. Nyamatusi Wilderness area. The reaction wasn’t too bad this time.
  • It was quite shocking to see self-drivers walking casually up to the lions or elephants. It looked dangerous. We were told about numerous incidents where tourists had been fatally injured, mostly by elephant cows. I appreciate that Mana is the only park where this is allowed. I would like to hear the views of the experienced people here who had been to Mana many times and who know the park far better. As evident from mine and so many other reports, there are a number of very experienced guides who led their guests very close to these animals. A number of these activities are visible to the self-drive tourists. I was wondering if that has an impact on the tourists, giving a false sense of confidence/security and encourages them to take on similar walks themselves. What do you experts think?
MATT - I am not sure how to move this topic under 'Trip Reports'.Could you please help?
Also, couldn't post photos from my laptop (without posting them first on a website).

#12 Jochen

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Posted 06 September 2012 - 10:47 AM

I hope you kept a full memory card...

I second that!

(certainly after having read the above)

#13 Anita

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Posted 06 September 2012 - 11:08 AM

Hi Kavita

Everything you wrote about Hide, I had heard from my guide on the day I was waiting at Main Camp for my Vic Fall pick up. Infact when I came back, I thought of PMing you but then decided against it as it was 2 days before you were leaving.That said, lucky you saw the Roan herd!

Also you are the 3rd person who has reported such awesome stuff on Kanga and I now believe its not only a gem early dry season but later on as well- I guess the reason for that is the pan is now never left to dry?

Wonderful fantastic sightings of dogs, eles and lions. Look forward to the pics.

Edited by Anita, 06 September 2012 - 11:11 AM.


#14 kittykat23uk

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Posted 06 September 2012 - 11:49 AM

Jealous! :D especially the sightings at Kanga.
If an experience is amazing enough to be "once in a lifetime," I want to do it every year.
Alex: "Whoa! Hold up there a second, fuzzbucket. You mean like, uh, the live in a mud hut wipe yourself with a leaf type wild?"
King Julian: “Who wipes?”

#15 russell

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Posted 06 September 2012 - 12:57 PM

Great report, just Bill's email this monring on your updates.

Hwange can be mixed. I prefer the Makalolo area, where the pans are a lot larger.

Au revior ST - its been a pleasure, see you in 2015!


#16 Sangeeta

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Posted 06 September 2012 - 05:46 PM

Kavita - hope your husband is better now and that his back is recovering. What an experience you've had, both of you! Stories and memories that will last you for a good long while until your next safari...

I confess to being a complete wuss about kills and would have found it extremely difficult to watch that kudu go down if I had had such a close encounter with her prior, so you have at least one reader who is quite happy at the absence of those pics :) But very much looking forward to seeing the rest, esp. after seeing the one that Bill put in his newsletter.

Your 10-15 minutes with the ele were indeed both special and emotional. We had one big bull approach our car for just a few moments at Little Vundu as we stopped to watch him. One minute we were watching him, and the next minute he was walking slowly but purposefully right up to us. Unlike you, I suppose we had the option of stepping on the gas and leaving, but Doug chose to stay and this huge ele came up to within a few inches of me on the passenger side and put his trunk out to smell my legs. Even a fleeting encounter like that was overwhelming and emotional, so I can only imagine what you must have felt. But just like you, there was no fear because there was absolutely nothing threatening about his behavior. I continue to be amazed at the tolerance these animals display towards humans who have, by and large, not been kind towards them.

Was also very interested in hearing that you were scared of eles before this encounter. My husband is just like you were pre-Mana, so perhaps all that is needed is a small dose of Stretch :D

We also saw granny, though our sighting was not that good. I was thrilled to see her in person (in lion?) after having read all those stories about her. She is one of the three grandes dames on my wishlist - the other two being Macchli in Ranthambhore (I missed seeing her) and Lady Liuwa (who I still hope to see).

You make a very good point about self-drivers perhaps taking on too much risk because they see people get very close to animals in the company of their experienced guides. I must say, I never once felt unsafe with Doug, but I think it would be very foolhardy for anyone to do the same activities without guides of that caliber. I never felt that Doug pushed the envelope - in fact, quite the reverse. He was very cautious and was very sensitive/attuned to the behavior of the animals we approached or tried to approach.

Glad you won the tsetse wars this time. Yay! Curious to know how you would compare the tsetse numbers in Mana to their numbers in SNLP? Were you in SNLP at approximately the same time of the year? There were no visible tsetses in Mana until the last couple of days of our trip (Aug 10-12). As soon as it became significantly warmer, they began to emerge in the jesse areas. Since wilddog says that she does not encounter them in Oct., they probably become inactive when the heat gets very intense.

Also interesting to hear that you thought LZNP was more beautiful. I have not been to LZNP so cannot compare, but if it is more beautiful than the Mana floodplains, then certainly worth a visit.

Zindagi na milegi dobara... Chalo Africa
You only live once...Go To Africa

www.chaloafrica.com


#17 AKR1

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Posted 07 September 2012 - 03:27 AM

Thanks for your wonderful report, Kavita. I was planning to include a short visit to Hwange as an add- on to a Green Season Okavango safari I am planning for the first quarter next year and have decided to drop this after reading your report (was looking at either Little Makalolo or Camp Hwange).

#18 pault

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Posted 07 September 2012 - 06:12 AM

Sounds like you had a great time. Look forward to more pictures and details when you have time (you know we can never get enough).

Waiting again... for the next time again


#19 Kavita

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Posted 07 September 2012 - 09:42 AM

Thanks all. I am working on the photos.

Anita - I think you did the right thing by not saying anything about The Hide before we left. It was too late to do anything. At least, we went with an open mind and still didn't like it :)

Russell - We didn't venture near Mokololo or Somalisa concessions, so can't comment on that.

AKR1 - We didn't enjoy Hwange mainly because of the camp we stayed at. However, even leaving that aside, the game density was very poor and we certainly didn't think the effort (and the cost) of including Hwange wasn't worth it. I know any park can be a hit or a miss but in hindsight, we should have considered Matusadona.

Sangeeta - My husband is still suffering badly but still thinks it was worth it :). Kanga is really a gem if you are happy to spend time around the waterhole. There was literally not an hour during the day when the pan was quiet. The kill happened so fast that there was just no time to think or even to be a wuss <_<

We did encounter a lot of Tsetses near Kanga, area between Kanga and the riverfront and also in the wilderness area. As wilddog had predicted, we just didn't react as badly. Last year in SLNP, tsestses almost ruined our trip, mainly in the south part of SLNP. It was during the same time last year. They were present in 100s around Billimungwe.

We loved the landscape of LZNP. Game density is probably higher in Mana. LZNP was nowhere near as busy as Mana was same time this year.

I think I am 'cured' of my elephant phobia after this trip. Have to make another trip just to confirm :) . We have had some interesting encounters before - in a narrow channel at Kwara, at Crooke's corner near Pafuri (a stand off between us and a group of about 10 bulls, blocking each other's way!). I can't even begin to decsribe my stress levels after seeing any elephant after that! So may be your husband just needs a trip to Mana, strictly for therapeutic purpose, of course!

We never felt unsafe with Stretch. After our encounter with Old Vic, I rememeber thinking that I have never trusted anyome more with my life like I trusted Stretch. However, we did see a group of about 10 self drivers, who just stopped their 2 vehicles, got out and started walking straight towards Granny and 2 others. They may have been experienced safari-goers, but it just didn't look that way.

On a game drive, Flo stopped to have a chat with Clyde from Kavinga Safaris. He was mentioning that they have had a 'moment' with a male lion at Chitake just a few days before. It seemed like they have finished filming for a documentary at Chitake.

#20 Kavita

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Posted 28 September 2012 - 07:15 PM

Help!
I am trying to add photos here. They are on snapfish. I am following Matt's instructions but get a message saying 'This image extension is not valid on this community'. Any suggestions?





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