Self Drive Africa

Mana Pools 2015

Mana Pools 2015 Trip Report

9th August to 31st August

So it has been………….And Gone………

Time Flies when your having Fun.

After many months in the planning and a year since our booking we have arrived back after our Mana Pools Trip.

Once again it was fantastic and we have taken some magnificent memories home.

Friday 7th August

After all the packing and repacking was complete we left JHB at 07:00. Our original plan was to leave at 13:00 but due to the school notifying us that they would close on the Thursday we had an unexpected bonus.

Our Route for this day was to head up to Francistown and spend the night at Woodlands. This was accomplished and we arrived at Woodlands around 17:00 after a hard day on the road.

The Martins Drift border was very quiet and we were through with the formalities within 45 minutes on both sides. The usual painful search for fruit and veg did not occur so we filled up with some snacks at the Garage and continued our drive up to woodlands.

A slight hiccup with our bookings at woodlands saw us relegated to the chalets, though these were pleasant.

Saturday 8th August

After a quick check on the Caravan and ensuring all lights, T Signs & Reflective tape were in place we headed off to our next stop-over at Antelope Park in Zimbabwe. Crossing the border was easy, though we were informed by the Zimbabwe immigration that our sons passport was due to expire mid way through the trip so this was an inconvenience, however solvable.

We had a nice lunch with friends in Bulawayo and stocked up on some last minute fruit and veg and then headed off to Antelope.

Antelope was great as usual and we had a nice riverfront Chalet overlooking some Lion Cubs on the bank. The Chorus of roars in the evening was a highlight.

BBC Camp Sunday 9th August to 14th August (5 Nights)

After filling all our water tanks with borehole water at Antelope we then left at 06:00 with the intention of staying the night at the Marongora Offices. We have stayed here many times before and it is practical as we wanted to be in the park fairly early.

We got to Marongera at 12:30 and enquired whether there was any room ay Nyamepi and the helpful receptionist radioed and confirmed we could head in a day early as there was availability. After a split second of indecision we decided to head into the Park.

The road into Mana is awfull. The corrugations are really bad and our speed average was 20KMh meaning it took us 3.5 Hours to get to the main offices.

Once there though we had a pleasant surprise as the staff were expecting us and informed us that our chosen campsite (BBC) for the next 5 days was unoccupied, so we could move straight in, instead of setting up at Nyamepi.

After paying all the additional fees $1,180 in Total we headed straight to BBC to set up.

Adults $15 per Day
Children $8 per Day
Vehicle $10 per 5 Days
Caravan $5 per 5 Days
Additional Night at BBC $130

The BBC campsite is one of our Favorites and has moved 100m west from the original position. There is also a new bridge over the stream which makes getting in and out with a Caravan a lot easier.

The downside is that you are slightly further away from water, however I have a modified 12v pump from a Koi pond with 100m of 8mm Pipe which meant we could still keep our tanks full.

The campsite was messy with the previous guests leaving ash and plastic laying around. I do wish the parks staff would inspect the sites on departure date to ensure that this did not happen but I suppose the responsibility still lies with the campers.

The Game Numbers is Mana are especially low at the moment. This is in some part due to the High Rainfall experienced in May which has left a number of waterholes higher up in the hills and in some part due to Human Pressure, though how to qualify this would be a separate discussion.

With this in mind beforehand we were not expecting to see as much as previous years as the Buffalo in particular, which attract the Lion were not down on the plains yet. Around camp we had many elephants, including one old man who decided to sleep on the tree whilst we were having lunch. Unfortunately between us and the car so we could not get the camera. He was very placid and decided to move off after an hour or so.

We also had a Leopard very close to our campsite every night and he would wander past trying to compete with my Snoring. (According to SWAMBO, I won every time)

We had our first Lion sighting on day 2 at BBC and she caught us by surprise as she was hiding in the bushes at the original campsite (about 100m) from the new site. She failed in her hunt of an Impala and then walked past our caravan to try and hunt Waterbuck. However they had seen the failed Impala hunt and were now aware of her presence. Her condition was poor and looks as though she is a loner, so I would caution all travellers staying at BBC to be aware as if here condition worsens she could be a danger.

BBC provided some wonderful rest time and though the game was not prolific is special to just be able to “park Off” and watch the game flow through.

One disappointing thing to note is that “The Royal Zambezi Lodge” on the Zambian side of the river has turned into a Disco on weekends. We were 2Km away according to the GPS and could hear every word of the speeches and the BOOM BOOM music went on to 4 AM. This was saddening as we are Zambians and have been to Royal Zambezi on many occasions in our youth and it was always wonderful and peaceful. How they can play music that loud without disturbing the wildlife and guests at other camps is beyond me. But I suppose that making money comes at a cost to the wildlife.

Chitake 2 Friday 14th to 16th August

The drive up to Chitake was tough. Not only did we have to leave BBC, we had to endure the terrible corrugated roads.

Once we reached the turn off the road was better, though there was a very steep donga with a wash away on one side. This was quite a challenge with the Caravan.

We stayed at Chitake 2 which is the closest campsite to the springs and on top of the hill. On passing through the river between Chitake 1 and 3 there was a dead elephant which had a gunshot wound in the left rear hip. The pong was overwhelming and I had pity on the campers in 1 and 3.

Chitake 1 is the best campsite in my opinion as it is right on the river bed and has lots of Game passing through, however it was already booked when we did our booking.

Chitake 2 is a poor campsite with very little shade. There is also lots of Jesse bush around so you are always on edge as you cannot see what is moving around. The Tstetse flies were very bad and a constant irritant.
At night the Buffalo come down to drink and we left the spring at dusk when they started. Shortly after that the Lions start and although we have heard it many times before, the echo of the lions in the ravine still sends chills up your spine. The noise is amazing and certainly caused the buffalo some concern as they scattered in all directions.

I had a great view of the Male lion for about 5 seconds as he wandered by our caravan. He was huge. Unfortunately due to the bush we did not see him again.

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