Travelogue Hwange & Mana Pools
A travel diary of our photo tour to untouched Africa
We have been travelling in Southern Africa for many years. From the beginning it was clear to us that we would offer photo tours to the National Parks Hwange and Mana Pools. We have taken especially Zimbabwe into our heart. The people are incomparably friendly despite the difficult situation.
From our point of view, these National Parks are especially varied and even less visited than those of the neighbouring countries. The photo tour was a great success with many great experiences.
Amazing Views Photo & Adventure Tours
Arrival in Victoria Falls
Southern Africa is indeed far. But the advantage is that there is no time difference. After the night flight from Zurich to Johannesburg we reach Victoria Falls with a short connecting flight. We check in at the legendary Victoria Falls Hotel. The colonial history can be felt at every corner here. James Gifford, our photo guide, is already waiting for us. Born in England, he has lived in Southern Africa for more than 10 years and is a very renowned wildlife photographer.
As a gentle introduction to the photo tour we spend late afternoon with a small boat trip on the Zambezi River. We already see the first elephants and hippos – this is how a photo tour should start!
It is always a special experience to watch the sunrise at the Victoria Falls
We start early next morning by the famous Victoria Falls, which are close to the hotel. The waterfalls are very impressive and especially in the dry season incredibly good to photograph. We spend a good two hours taking pictures in the soft morning light.
After an extensive breakfast we are driven back to the airport. With a small bush plane our real adventure starts.
Hwange National Park or at the elephant’s home
We fly into Hwange National Park and land on a runway in the bush, where our guide/driver Calvet is already expecting us for the next days. We see many elephants already on the way to the lodge. A large herd is passing our lodge right when we arrive.
The luxurious and incredibly beautiful lodge is our home for the next three nights. In front of the main deck there is a waterhole, which is visited by more than 1’000 (!) elephants daily during the dry season. We spend the days with two game drives a day. Besides the countless elephants we see several times lions, hyenas, buffalos, zebras, different antelopes and a variety of birds. No drive is the same as the other and always offers something new to photograph and marvel at. We spend a lot of time observing and photographing the sights.
A pride of lions in Hwange National Park
We see a herd of elephants passing close to a herd of lions, take pictures of a herd of more than 1’000 buffalos whose dust cloud can be seen from a long distance, watch vultures taking off and landing at a waterhole, secretary birds building nests and much more. James constantly supports the group with many tips and tricks: overexposure, underexposure, spot metering, composition and other techniques.
A small elephant enjoys the bustle at the waterhole
Time goes by far too fast. Between drives we are spoiled in the lodge. The food is exceptionally good and the staff extremely friendly and helpful. It is also fun to sit on the main deck and watch the passing animals. The lodge offers so much space and is so beautifully situated that you don’t even have to go on every drive. It is also an ideal place to relax and to read a book and enjoy the time.
Mana Pools the jewel of the Zambezi
After three nights in the Hwange National Park we have to say goodbye. Early in the morning our bush plane takes off. We fly across the country along the impressive Kariba reservoir. Mana Pools is our destination. The park is beautifully situated at the Zambezi River. Apart from encounters and photographing the wildlife, we will also be taking pictures and enjoying the landscapes and light moods. One of the special features of Mana Pools is that you can also walk here with a guide. This makes exploring the park but also photography incredibly varied and exciting.
On a walking Safari in Mana Pools
The first days we stay in a tent camp directly by the Zambezi River. Tents are very spacious and equipped with a normal bed. The scenery is incredibly beautiful. We spend the days with game drives, bush walks and a short canoe trip to a bee-eater colony. We are spoiled again with great sightings. Amongst other things we see and observe lions trying to hunt and wild dogs at their welcome ceremony. Later we received a radio message that the wild dogs had torn an Impala right next to the camp. It was an exciting evening with observing the dogs and the soon appearing hyenas next to the camp.
Wild dogs in Mana Pools
We also spend a lot of time photographing elephants, elands, kudus, impalas and other animals in the fairy-tale forest landscape along the Zambezi River. As you can leave the vehicles here, the photography becomes extremely varied. You can, for example, look for the best perspectives standing or lying down.
Another highlight is the encounter with Boswell, a legendary elephant. Among other things, he is known for standing on his hind legs to reach delicious seeds and fruits high up in the trees. We were incredibly happy that he showed us his show! It gets extremely hot in the afternoons during the dry season. Together with the camp crew we enjoyed a daily refreshing swim at the edge of the Zambezi River (where it is not deep and at a safe distance from the river inhabitants … :-))
An elephant tries to get to the delicious fruits high up in the trees
7 leopards in one evening
We spend the second part of our stay in Mana Pools in a lodge a good hour’s drive from the Zambezi River. This is the only waterhole within a radius of many kilometres and is therefore visited by a lot of animals during the dry season. Right on the first evening after dusk seven (!) leopards visit the waterhole one after the other. What a spectacle.
One of the 7 leopards that quench their thirst in the darkness at the waterhole
We spend a lot of time here taking pictures and watching the animals directly by the waterhole. The second night after a bush dinner we spent under the open sky on wonderfully comfortable beds, which are laid out on platforms. What an experience to sleep under the starry sky of Africa. During the last days of the tour we are spoiled by more great sights, enjoy the amenities of the lodge, and take time for picture reviews. Time passes far too quick and we fly back to civilisation in Victoria Falls. Before we leave the next day with all the beautiful memories, we visit the impressive Victoria Falls once again and say goodbye to this beautiful country.
Do you also want to discover the untouched Africa?
In September 2017 our next photo trip to untouched Africa will take place. It will be accompanied by the renowned nature photographer James Gifford. This fly-in photo safari is luxurious and extremely varied. It is suitable for all nature enthusiasts, regardless of photographic level. The trip is also a great experience for non-photographers.