newseltter

Mid-August saw us setting off on a fabulous exclusive two week safari to Zimbabwe with our good friends Jacquie and Bob Paul - hardcore travelers from USA. The first port of call was the luxurious Victoria Falls Safari Lodge which is a few kilometers out of town and overlooks the Zambezi National Park.

vultures Our first afternoon was spent enjoying sundowners on a cruise on the Zambezi River - a very civilised way to start the safari and end the day!

The lodge's vulture feeding program (which has earned them a 'Bird & Birder Friendly Award') is a spectacle - just below the Buffalo Bar is an area where, at 13.00 every day, large scraps of meat and offal are scattered on the ground and hundreds of White-backed and Hooded vultures and several Marabou Storks gather in the sky and surrounding trees. The attendant feeder gives the signal (cameras at the ready) by dashing away and the birds pour in!

A scrum ensues, dust flies everywhere with birds jostling and scrapping for their share and a short 15 minutes later it is all over.

Vic Falls Safari Lodge overlooks a private waterhole with a strategically placed photographic hide which we visited several times during our stay - with professional guide Charles Brightman.

VFSL

With the setting sun behind us, chilled white wine in hand, the hide is ideal for photography often with various creatures filling the viewfinder! A regal Marabou Stork in its full breeding finery dominated the other storks, chasing some of them out of its patch around the waterhole; and a Great Egret provided plenty of photo-ops as it fished for dinner. We were well entertained by Warthog, Buffalo, Giraffe and a wide range of birds during the afternoon.

Marabou Stork Warthog Egret

An early (and still rather chilly) start on day three took us into the Zambezi National Park with Charles. A lovely morning in this lesser-known National Park gave us a stunning sunrise over the river, beautiful scenery and magnificent pink-hued baobabs. A group of Cape Buffalo, Baboon with impressive canines and a Giraffe with a youngster kicked off our mammal viewing with Dickinsonís Kestrel in a palm tree, an Osprey and a Black-chested Snake Eagle being some of the birding highlights.

sunrise

Baobab Dickinsons Kestrel Giraffe

Buffalo Baboon

On our final day in Victoria Falls we were joined by professional wildlife photographer Greg du Toit who was with us for the remainder of the safari - imparting valuable camera and photographic insights throughout the upcoming days. Our Boma dinner was an experience - a vibrant atmosphere, enthusiastic drumming by diners and many choices of great local fare with our friends bravely consuming mopane worms!

boma dinner

Next we headed to Hwange National Park, an easy 2-hour drive to the entrance at Main Camp where an old friend and excellent professional guide from Somalisa Camp, Albert Paradzai, was there to meet us. The park was looking particularly scenic with trees wearing their spring dress and the long grass turning a lovely shade of yellow and it didn't take long to come across the first large bull elephant of the safari. This was followed by several family groups relaxing in the shade in the teak woodland along the route together with a Racket-tailed Roller. A lunch stop at Kennedy 1 broke the journey and our cameras were soon in action with Violet-eared and Black-cheeked waxbills at the picnic site birdbath.

Racket-tailed Roller Waxbills

And so our amazing four days at Somalisa unfolded - aptly known as 'home of the elephants' our time here turned out to be the most incredible elephant adventure we have ever experienced! This delightful tented bush camp (with the new very luxurious camp almost complete) is set in an acacia grove with several waterholes along the Kennedy vlei line. A plunge pool turned elephant drinking trough had literally hundreds of the animals coming down day and night to drink. The elephants are totally focused on the water and ignore guests sitting quietly on the sun loungers right in front of them.

elephant elephant

elephant

elephant elephant

It wasn't all about the elephants... we had many hours around Ngweshla Pan with great sightings of Black-backed Jackal eating the fruit of a African Ebony (known in South Africa as a Jackalberry tree); 18 overwintering White Stork and several Baboon families going about their business of eating, grooming and sleeping; a herd of Sable Antelope, a single Roan, herds of Common Waterbuck and Blue Wildebeest - the latter appearing to full of spring energy galloping around the waterhole.

Sable Baboon

wildebeest

Black-backed Jackal Stork sunrise

Some of the other birding highlights were a delightful little Kalahari Scrub Robin, displaying Kori Bustard and numerous attempts at photographing flying birds (involving much waiting and many unobliging birds - either flying away from the camera or not budging!) with eventual success with the Lilac-breasted Roller!

Lilac-breasted Roller Kalahari Scrub Robin

Our guide Albert came across tracks of media sensation Cecil the Lionís family so we spent some time looking for the pride and after a display of superior tracking skills he found them! The three females and seven cubs were safe and well at that stage and relaxing in the shade.

lion lion

With our time in Hwange at an end we took an early morning charter flight to Mana Pools for time at another of African Bush Camps' excellent tented camps - Kanga Camp. The camp is set in a private concession some distance south of the Zambezi River and has an extremely productive waterhole directly off the main deck area, and this was the main focus of our activities as there were constant comings and goings of a wide range of mammals and birds.

Over our first dinner three lionesses came down to drink followed by a shy and elusive leopard - and the next morning we found many Civet tracks where he/she had been feasting on the catfish (barbel) which attempt to swim up the water inlet flow.
catfish

Mana Pools - just like Hwange - at this time of year - was especially scenically beautiful with many trees in full flower including the Knobthorns, Long-pod Cassias with their brilliant yellow flowers, several Wild Mangoís and the Shaving Bush Combretum with the bright orange tips to their white tufts. Our day trip down to the river gave us the distinctive Mana scene of the floodplains full of Faideheria albida with their seedpods scattered around - like elephant candy - and being consumed in quantity by impala and baboons as well as elephant.

Hyaena Mana flower

Mana pools

Much time was spent photographing at the Kanga waterhole - with many opportunities for fishing Saddle-billed Stork, Fish Eagle, Elephants bathing, Buffalo drinking, Spotted Hyaena and on the last morning Crested Guineafowl!

Crested Guineafowl Elephant

Saddle-billed Stork

After four days we reluctantly packed up and headed for Harare - just a short charter flight away - where we had a few days relaxing in the excellent and eclectic Armadale Lodge in Borrowdale, of course with a little shopping squeezed in! A fitting end to an amazing safari experience - Zimbabwe really does have so much to offer and is rightly considered a top southern Africa safari destination.

Elephant