This trip to Zimbabwe took place in October and it was very hot.
The daily temperature was around 40° in the shadow at noon and we generally left for safari around 4 pm.
KANGA CAMP – Mana Pools NP.
Kanga was a very nice place situated quite near the only pan of the area. The landscape was dry, burnt, and the green color was fading.
The all life was concentrated on the pan alimented in water by a pump.
We spent all our spare time sitting in the outside lounge to attend a nearly continuous show.
It was so dry that a fish Eagle caught the only Cattle Egret of the pan, probably because of the lack of fishes in a too low water. It was sad as the same morning someone had taken it in picture and we had discussed on the light brown color on its back indicating it was a « breeding Cattle Egret »
Plenty of animals were coming to drink, mixing with others according to their « affinities «. The impalas remained peaceful when a group of 13 Kudus males arrived with one female, they were all together among « hordes » of monkeys. The monkeys are very appreciated because they give alarm calls in in case of sudden dangers like lions coming; then the animals are staring at the bush, ready to run away.
Most people love to see Lions, but there is an inconvenience: when the lions are here, all the other animals are away, even the Leopard. When you see the lions lying down to sleep, you know your day is finished, the pan will remain empty!
The safaris around the camp at that time did not show much, the best place remaining the pan. The tents were very near the water and we just had to sit outside and look.
There, tribes of big Chacma Baboons were running, sitting near us at few meters, and playing as well on our terrace; they were impressive but cool. Well educated, they never took the cushions remaining outside in our absence; neither stole the toiletries from the open air shower.
They were true humans! so humans that one day Denis was “hidden” not far from the lounge, everybody had gone as well as the staff when the Baboons came and began to invade the place; first they played trampoline on the roof made of canvas, then they decided to spend a moment on the mattress facing the swimming pool, getting acquainted with other « Guests Baboons », at the end of their talks, they invited themselves to the lounge bar, sat comfortably in the armchairs waiting probably for the barman to bring them a cold beer!
Once I was walking on the path when a huge Baboon faced me, he went spontaneously aside to give me the path and I still listen to his thought saying “ Milady, Please go first“ That makes a great difference with Botswana Baboons! Once I was in the same situation, and a frightening Baboon stopped and faced me with bloody eyes ready to aggress me; I still listened to his thought « If you don’t move back, your life is gone, old Spinster! », I rushed back with all my body shivering!
One morning, the guide decided to drive to the part of Mana Pools near the Zambezi river, hoping we will see some more wildlife…We left early at 6 am, the time to go there last about 1h30. The river brought some fresh air that we appreciated, there were some more animals but not as many as we thought, anyway we saw Elands, few birds and 2 Lions sleeping under a tree.
At noon, we decided to have our lunch in the shadow when a tourist on foot came to ask us about Lions. The guide explained to him where he could find them at about 500m. I remained stuck by his question…we looked at him, he was on foot, alone with his backpack, no gun, just a small camera to « shoot » the Lions, may be he wanted to commit a suicide! The guide told us that in Mana Pools, people can walk everywhere in the park, it is permitted…you have just to sign a discharge. That may helps in dry season to nourish animals… We met him again later; he survived and was smiling as he had seen the Lions…
We were supposed to return around 4 or 5 pm, but the guide got a message to go back earlier because of some guests arriving… At this moment, I hated these tourists disrupting our day plan and spoiling our afternoon!
It was one pm when we turned back, in the meantime the heat had risen at its maximum, the Land Rover had just a roof and not side protection, it was the beginning of the HELL. We had to drive for 1h30 on a track without one meter of shadow; in some parts, it seems the car was moving across a fire bush! I thought I would die, I did not even sweat but my face was getting more and more red, and I began to panic. I realized quickly the situation and still more when I saw the guide who stops to empty a bottle of water on his head; at that moment I did wonder if I would see the end of the trip! The only solution I found was to take the remaining cubes of ice for the drinks and put them under my cap.
That helped me a lot, overall to rescue my last neurons. When we arrived at the lodge, it seemed the air was cool, I was told the temperature was 41°in the shadow, it means on the road it was at least 45°.
THE HIDE CAMP – Hwange NP.
Upon arrival, just leaving the local airport, we met the guide, his name was “Fortune” and we felt we should have some chance with him!!! We asked him for Wild Dogs; last time we saw them, it was in Botswana 12 years ago, and since we really missed them.
After enquiries with the « Painted Dogs Conservation » of the park, (Painted Dog is another name given to them because of the big brown patches they have on their body), we were told there was a small group sleeping not far from the main road! They were belonging to a group called Destiny pack composed of 7 dogs (6 males and one female).
What luck, we found some of them very quickly, they were sleeping under the trees. In spite they were not active, they were here and we were already pleased to see them.
This day was an enjoyable one! We crossed a part of Hwange NP park to go to « The Hide camp» located in a private reserve. It was sunset time when we reached a pond and felt a strong emotion to find ourselves in the middle of a huge herd of Elephants.
From the guide, they were between 250 and 300, big ones with many young ones. It was incredible! The reflection in the water was majestic, the light was not good but finally turned to be not bad. It was impressive, we were in the middle of the herd, looking at them while they ignored us; sometimes one curious came near the Land Rover, but they were peaceful. They played with the water and their wet skins made them stronger and more impressive… Suddenly after a while, it was very stunning, something happens, I don’t know what, a big Bull? Buffaloes? Lot of monkeys? They all began to run quickly away, passing near the car with some of them trumpeting. It ’s an image I will never forget!
In the evening we had supper outside facing a pan, we discussed with some guests that forced me to enter the very long tunnel of 25m ending with a Hide Room.
This tunnel is a must of the lodge but in spite of that I was frightened to go down this « tomb » being claustrophobic. I must say I was nearly push inside and nobody was listening to my complains.
Thanks to them, I saw my best view of a huge big bull Elephant from down profiling his shape on the dark sky. I can’t describe the view, it was so great! I felt suddenly in the true world of “Jurassic Park”. We stood there a moment wondering if we were on the same planet. I had forgotten my fear and I just wanted to come back the day after to take video, but most of the time, things happen just once and when I came back with my camera, some Elephants were further, smaller and it was so dark that I could not register anything! I was disappointed….
The following days of our stay seemed to be « promising ».
We left the camp as usual, at 6 a.m., looking for wildlife and birds; the sun began to rise when we arrived near a pan.
A pack Wild Dogs named the BaNyayi was resting or playing near the water, we were very happy to observe them thinking we had a great chance, but the best was not this day as they moved a bit further.
The best was the last safari of our stay before going to catch the plane to leave Africa.
That time at sunrise, we were lucky enough to find the same pack of 10 Wild Dogs but they were near us, the light was great and they were very active, moving in all directions. At their head were a male Alpha and a new female Alpha as unfortunately her sister had been killed by starving Hyenas. She had stayed to look at her 11 pups while the remaining of the pack went off to hunt and she was alone when hyenas choose that moment to attack and kill her; then they found the den and killed most of the pups that they devoured. It must have been terrible for the pack to discover that carnage upon their return to the den!
It needs 2 years before a new breeding occurs.
This pack has a majority of 2 years old pups with 3 adults; the adults and pups can run now together. At this moment, one dog is sick; if he is too bad another dog will stay to take care of him while the others will go for hunting. If they go too far they will eat as much as they can and will bring back the food by regurgitating it for the two remaining ones. They are very social, looking after each others. They are often traveling very far.
As they move on long distances, they go out of the park and then have no protection. That’s why the Research Center of the NP put a collar on the Male Alpha (the dominant) and if it disappears too long, they go to find him. In 80% of the cases, he can be hit by cars, or poisoned or he might be caught in a trap made by poachers.
Their Collars are not as expensive as for Lions, which have a direct satellite liaison; because of the cheaper price, they have just a VHF one for shorter distance. There are 2 kind of collars in this pack; the one for the Alpha Male is flat around his neck to protect him from wire traps.
In Hwange NP, only 150 Wild Dogs are still alive, their number are highly decreasing and I would be very affected if they came to disappear. In Africa, the population of Wild Dogs is now less than 5000…
The return to Paris was hard; our rehabilitation to civilization is each time more difficult, our world is getting every day more stupid, cruel and inhuman. As soon as we arrived, we had just one thought “to go back” and forget the oppressive whirl of the city life…