Zimbabwe - Best of Mana Pools Photo Safari 2018
Victoria Falls, beautiful Zambezi Valley scenery, Lion, African Wild Dog, Elephant, Cape Buffalo
Day 1: Arrival in Victoria Falls
After arrival at Victoria Falls International Airport in Zimbabwe, and having cleared passport control and collected baggage, you will be met by an ORYX representative who will transfer you to the spectacular Victoria Falls Hotel for your overnight accommodation.
With dramatic views of the gorges of Zimbabwe’s spectacular Victoria Falls, The Victoria Falls Hotel, built by the British in 1904, was originally conceived as accommodation for workers on the Cape-to-Cairo railway and today it is a famous luxury brand.
Serene lily ponds, arched loggias and broad verandas offering magnificent vistas seem custom-built for a spot of high tea or a relaxed gin and tonic, while a private path leads to the falls, which are an idyllic 10 minute walk away.
The history of The Victoria Falls Hotel is incomplete without the reference to the development of the railway system in Zimbabwe. Cecil Rhodes had tasked his friend and colleague Sir Charles Metcalfe with overseeing the development of the railway system and Metcalfe took heed of Rhodes’ dreams of the railway line stretching “from Cape to Cairo,” hence he started plans for the first bridge across the mighty Zambezi.
Rhodes was insistent that the bridge should be built in a place that the spray from the falls would fall on the passing trains, which is why the site was chosen just a little below the Boiling Pot, at almost right angles and in very close proximity to the falls.
We have a single evening at this beautiful site, and tonight will be able to discuss our upcoming Mana pools safari together over dinner..
Overnight Victoria Falls Hotel
Days 2: Flight from Victoria Falls to Mana Pools National Park
At a time to be advised and after breakfast we will transfer back to the airport to board our flight to Mana Pools National Park where we kick off our Mana pools photography tour. After arrival in the Zambezi Valley, we will drive to Zambezi Life Styles Camp, which is nestled on the banks of the meandering Zambezi River. This camp specializes in walks in the area, and tracking game on foot is one of their specialties! There are no set routines in camp and each day of our Mana pools safari will be planned according to our specific photographic needs.
Mana Pools National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site, lies at the heart of the Zambezi Valley, where the Zambezi River meanders widens in its journey en route to Mozambican border. It is a remote, beautiful place with spectacular views of the broad flowing river, floodplains, the tall riverine forest and the mountains of the Rift Valley escarpment over the border in Zambia.
Overnight Zambezi Life Styles Camp
Days 3 and 4: Mana Pools (Zambezi Floodplain)
This stretch of the Zambezi River is famous for its four main pools (after which the Park is named – ‘mana’ means ‘four’ in Shona) – Main, Chine, Long and Chisambuk – which are remnants of channels of the river, which stopped flowing years ago.
These pools hold water all year round, drawing all manner of wildlife and waterfowl during the dry season. Wildlife viewing is therefore excellent, with large concentrations of Cape Buffalo and Elephant to be found along the river’s edges, while predators such as Lion, African Wild Dog, Leopard and Cheetah are often sighted on Mana pools safaris. Greater Kudu, Plain’s Zebra, Common Warthog and Common Waterbuck can be seen on the surrounding plains and the grunting of Hippo is a frequent background accompaniment!
Mana Pools offers fantastic birding, with the river and seasonal pans attracting large numbers of water birds and excellent mix of species in the riverine vegetation and mopane woodlands. Specials include Three-banded Courser, Western Banded Snake-Eagle, Arnott’s Chat, Lilian’s Lovebird, Böhm’s Spinetail and Meve’s Starling. Waterbirds include Rufous-bellied Heron, Long-toed Lapwing, Greater Painted Snipe, African Finfoot and colourful clouds of Southern Carmine Bee-Eaters. Even the sought-after Pel’s Fishing-Owl is occasionally seen on Mana pools safaris!
Days begin with a light snack and a hot beverage, before departing for our mornings walk or drive. We may track Lion or African Wild Dog, sit with an Elephant bull, following a herd of Cape Buffalo… it all depends what is in the area!
Mana Pools is special in that big game animals can be tracked and photographed on foot, and on our Mana pools photography tour, we will endeavor to obtain eye-level photographs of resident big game if and when the circumstances dictate we can. Mana is also home to one (or sometimes two) Elephant bulls that have learnt to extract seed pods from the tree canopy (which are out of reach from all other browsers including the other Elephants!) by standing on their hind legs. This is a remarkable phenomenon, and one that not many safari goers have had the privilege of seeing, much less photographing!
Photographic opportunities for wildlife abound, and we will be sure to use the stunning golden early morning and late afternoon light that Mana is renowned for. The golden rays filter through the tall riverine trees, forming pools of soft light that are a delight to photograph with!
After a midday siesta to while away the heat of the intense midday sun, we will embark on our afternoons photographic activity, which may involve a game drive, a canoe trip or another walk; indeed all activities are flexible and will be decided upon depending on specific photographic targets and objectives. After an incredible day in the wild Zambezi Valley, we may enjoy a few sundowners on the banks of the Zambezi River, before retiring to camp for a delicious dinner and a chance to reminisce about another incredible day in Africa!
Nights Zambezi Life Styles Camp
Day 5: Mana Pools – Transfer from Zambezi Floodplain to Kanga Camp
This morning on our Mana pools safari, we will transfer from Zambezi Life Styles to Kanga Camp, which is inland of the Zambezi River and overlooking a waterhole. Our accommodations for the following three nights will be luxury Meru-style tents overlooking Kanga Pan, and tonight we will have the sounds of wild Africa to lull us to sleep!
Overnight Kanga Camp
Days 6 and 7: Kanga Camp – Mana Pools National Park
The beautiful Kanga Camp takes its name from the pan it overlooks, and is a located on a private concession deep within the National Park, around one hour’s drive from the mighty Zambezi River.
We have timed our safari to visit Mana Pools for October as this month is usually pre-rains, and in to the bargain, the searing October heat makes any water source a key place to watch and photograph game. Kanga is one such place, as it is the only permanent water source in the area and is thus a focal point for all local wildlife at this time of year! We will be photographing form a hide that is located at a low angle overlooking the pan, and hope to photograph Leopard, Lion, African Wild Dog, Spotted Hyaena, Cape Buffalo and Elephant which come to slake their thirst. The afore-mentioned predators often lie in ambush for drinking herbivores making Kanga enthralling photographic site.
The secluded nature of the concession in this unspoiled section of the Zambezi Valley make for a very exclusive safari experience, and one that will be an undoubted highlight of our trip to Zimbabwe.
Overnight Kanga Camp
Day 8: Flight from Mana Pools to Victoria Falls and depart
This morning after our last game drive, and at a time to be advised, we will depart by way of aeroplane back to Victoria Falls Airport where this incredible safari sadly comes to an end.