This is one of my favourite trips to host. I know I have said it recently in blog posts, but it truly is one of the most magical safari destinations to visit.
This safari had us spending 5 nights on the flood plains of Mana Pools, which started with a bang! As we arrived on our first day at camp, a whole pack of Wild Dogs came running right through, so it was cameras out, off the vehicle and into the flood plains we went after the dogs. Our safari only got better from there…
The main focus of the trip is to try and see, photograph and spend time with high profile animals on foot. The whole beauty of Mana is that you can spend the time on foot. This is always done in a very professional and safe manor, with a Wild Eye guide and a local guide, we will always assess every situation before we make an approach, from watching the animals behaviour, to wind direction, to best ways to approach and what cover we have along the way.
The local guides are also very good at knowing individual animals and their natural temperament. This comes in really handy with the walking side of things. Looking for the big elephants that stand on their hind legs, approaching the wild dogs on foot as well as which lions have been walked to before and which ones have not.
There has been a huge shift in the lion dynamics over the past year and a half, this has caused some chaos on the flood plain with the old males being pushed out and hanging on the edge of the flood plains and other younger males trying to create new coalitions with the older males to give them the best possibility of survival. Currently in the heart of the flood plains, there are 4 dominant males controlling the area.
With such high lions numbers, the wild dogs have taken a knock and from a pack that was 25 dogs strong in 2016, that pack is now down to 9 individuals.
This isn’t the only pack of dogs seen in Mana Pools, but it is the main pack we see on the flood plains. Up the Mopani woodland area there is a pack of 10 dogs and a pack of 2 dogs. So, with a bit of luck and the lion dynamics starting to settle down, hopefully in the not too distant future we can start seeing the Wild Dog population start to flourish once again,
We were very fortunate to see the dogs, lions and some of the standing elephant bulls multiple times during our stay on the flood plains.
We also had a great leopard sighting, this is very uncommon for Mana Pools. I have had a few fleeting glimpses of leopards in the past, but this particular sighting, we were actually on our way to look for the dogs when we came across a female leopard and her sub adult cub. It wasn’t the easiest in terms of photographic opportunity, but we spent a good 20 minutes with them and decided to leave them be.
Over all, the Flood plains and Zambezi Expeditions did not fail, we had an absolute blast, and our guests have the images to show for it!
From the flood plains of Mana Pools and Zambezi Expeditions, we headed 21 kilometres (14 miles) inland to our next stop and another firm favourite of mine. During the dry season (July through to November) this is the only water available to the animals. The next closest point is the four pools on the flood plains and the Zambezi River.
We spent 3 nights here and didn't do a single game drive. It's one of the few places, because there isn't much water available anywhere else, that the animals congregate throughout the day and well into the evening.
There is a constant flow of general game including plenty of bird life and elephants. The evenings we were treated to seeing spotted hyenas, civets, lions twice and leopards every single night.
Our daily routine went like this:
05:00 wake up
05:30 on the deck for coffee and continental breakfast
06:00 onwards we had our laptops out doing lightroom and cameras ready for any animals that may come down to drink. The camp also has an eye level hide, which really puts you in the thick of the action.
Lunch would be served at around 11:30am and then most would head off for a siesta before coming through at 15:30 for high tea and to prepare for the afternoon rush at the pan.
Once again, Kanga Camp provided us with some great game viewing and some great photographic opportunities.
Our last and final stop of this safari is Somalisa Expeditions camp in Hwange. This lodge is absolutely beautiful and is situated in a great area of Hwange, with most of the action in our time all happening fairly close to camp.
We were actually very fortunate, each camp we stayed at we were always the only guests in camp, this is unusual for this time of year as it is the peak season, but somehow we ended up having exclusive use of each lodge and I have to say that the staff at each destination were incredible.
This safari has a great flow and momentum to it, starting on the flood plains and doing a bit of walking, too relaxing on the deck of Kanga camp, then back to being on the vehicle and heading out to see what we could find.
We had some great sightings in Hwange, mainly of lions, but we did see such a wide range of animals form the general game, to Roan, Sable and Giraffe. Being the dry season we hung around most of the waterholes during drive and wow were we spoilt!
Having said all the above, all good things must come to an end and I feel very fortunate and privileged to have shared these moments with my guests and create memories that will last a life time.
What to Pack:
- Long Sleeve shirt - Light weight (purely for protection from the sun)
- Long Pants
- Short Pants
- Electrolytes or Rehydrate sachets
- All clothes to be neutral colour(this is for when you walking to blend in with our surroundings)
- Good walking shoes
- Bug spray
- Camera gear(straps are also good to have to carry the cameras while walking)
- Binoculars (not essential)
- Light weight jumper (the mornings are a little fresh when leaving camp)
- Adapters for charging gear etc
Mana Pools allows you the chance to create a wide diverse portfolio of images.
I would recommend the following(or similar):
- 24mm - 70mm F2.8
- 70mm - 200mm F2.8
- Fixed 400mm F2.8
My reasons for the above suggestions is, because Mana has so many different opportunities to capture. The wide angle lens is great for landscape shots, like sunsets, sunrises and also the magic light that fills up the flood plains.
The 70mm - 200mm F2.8 is great for taking images of animals in their environment and is also easy to carry when approaching elephants on foot and looking to capture their sheer size and is the ideal lens to use when hoping for one of the bull elephants to stand on their hind legs. The F2.8 helps hugely when light is a bit tough, especially early morning and late afternoon, although the light is beautiful it is often soft and having 2.8 allows you to maintain a nice face shutter speed and keep your ISO settings low.
The fixed 400mm F2.8 is just a pure beast in Mana Pools. It allows you to get nice close up detailed shots(even on walks) having the aperture of 2.8 and shooting at eye level creates for some pretty spectacular images. Its also a nice lens to have for bird photography. Their is a wide range of bird life in Mana and during the periods we visit, its the nesting time for the colonies of Carmine Bee-eaters and is a great opportunity to photograph them flying in and out of their nest sights in the banks of the Zambezi River.
Until next time,
Best of Mana Pools
This experience is set apart from any other and will showcase all of Mana Pools to you across 11 days. Nestled within the Zambezi Valley lies a creation of nature still pure, splendid, untouched and wild. With the mighty Zambezi flowing to the North, the wooded floodplain to the South plays host to one of the most astonishing wildlife experiences in Africa. This is a unique safari experience to Mana Pools in that it offers the opportunity to explore both the wildlife-rich floodplain as well as "the last waterhole" further inland known as Kanga Pan, as well as a 3 night stay at the wildest place in Africa - Chitake Springs.
Best of Mana Pools Trip Report 2022
What an adventure this was! This incredible eleven-day adventure took our small group of only five guests into three different areas within Mana Pools. This safari is a unique experience as it offers the opportunity to explore both the wildlife-rich floodplain as well as "the last waterhole" further inland known as Kanga Pan, as well as a 3 night stay at the wildest place in Africa - Chitake Springs.
This is an experience that everyone will enjoy. Photographer or not. Apart from the very close up, on-foot encounters with elephant, lion, leopard, wild dog and so much more, this safari as been designed to offer great wildlife, landscape and safari activity diversity.