Mana Pools – one of Africas’ most beautiful National Parks

October 2020

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Some of the tour highlights:

  • One of the few areas where we mostly photograph on foot, walking amongst African Bush Elephants, Lions, Leopards, African Wild Dogs, Hippopotamus, Yellow Baboons and African Buffalos. We can thus lie on the ground to obtain good backgrounds and a sense of profit that is difficultly to get from a jeep.
  • During the dry season, Elephants and Buffalos gather here.
  • Four of the largest Elephants are known to stand on their rear legs in order to reach the foliage on larger trees.
  • There are several flocks of the rare and threatened African Wild Dogs in the area, giving us a great opportunity to photograph them up close. At this time of year the young will be around.
  • Hippos wallowing in the mud, amongst lush vegetation, or spraying water into the dusk.
  • We even photograph Lions from ground-level. We are always accompanied by an armed guide, in case the worst should happen. (So far the guides we work with have not had to use weapons at Mana Pools).
  • Rich birdlife at the water-holes, and several species of Bee-Eater along the banks of the Zambezi River.
  • Our accommodation is in the middle of the National Park, just a few meters from the Zambezi River, with Hippos, Hyenas and Elephants as regular guests around camp during the evenings.
  • Eight nights at Dave and Tess’ wonderful tent camp, nine safari days counting the half days, sixteen safari trips, and additional photography around the camp.
  • Beyond the Zambian border river there are high mountains, providing fantastic backgrounds to set an Elephant or other animal against
  • We use jeeps to travel longer distances, with four photographers per jeep, and plenty of space.

We park our jeep by the free tent site by the Zambezi River. We have seen some Lions in the morning, and as the day has been hot we presume the Lions have been doing just what cats prefer to do in the heat – sleep. So they should still be in the area. We spot them after walking a few hundred meters. One male, together with a female. They are still resting. We walk in a line, and come to a stop about a hundred meters from the pair. We wait for their reaction. The male looks up, but neither of the Lions seem to care about our presence. We continue forward, at first crouching. Then we lie down and crawl. We keep stopping to check if the Lions are anxious about our presence. After a while the photo distance is perfect, and the background is wonderful woodlands with glades. We lie still, pointing our telephoto lenses at the Lions. After a while the female stands up, walking round the male to get his attention. It is clearly mating season and the male, who has probably done his work many times in the past day, is hard to wake up and only marginally interested. After a while he gets up when the female starts to walk off. She has got him where she intended to, and returns, stroking her head against the male, enticing him. He doesn’t seem difficult to convince any more …

Four lakes, that’s a rough translation of the name Mana Pools. The area is named after the four permanent water-holes, forged by riverbeds, and isolated by thousands of years of sedimentation.

The Mana Pools National Park in Zimbabwe was created in 1984 and is listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. The area is a real gem for safari travelers and photographers alike. The National Park covers about two thousand five hundred square kilometers, and was saved from government plans to create a large reservoir and hydroelectric power facility, which would have placed most of the area under water.

Mana Pools is one of the few areas in southern and eastern Africa that offers a classical safari. Here, we can walk freely, but use jeeps for longer distances.

In other words, we meet Elephants, Wild Dogs, Lions and other animals on foot. This provides a photographical freedom that is quite rare today.

Furthermore, Mana Pools is an extraordinarily beautiful place, with mostly open land easily covered on foot, and also large Baobab trees, Fig trees, Ebony and Mahogny woodland. The National Park is renowned for its special blue light, that takes shape far away in the forested background. Mana Pools is certainly an area where you can be fascinated by the landscape, open areas and large trees – and wildlife in excess.

Most of the year you can encounter Wild Dogs, Lions and other animals, but the large Elephants and African Buffalos appear in herds during the dry season, from the beginning of August to the end of November. Unfortunately, Rhinos have been absent from the area for a long time, but a photographer can find some compensation in the abundance of wildlife.

We are accompanied on foot by two of the areas best guides. For safety reasons guides are armed, but the guides we work with have so far not had to use their guns at Mana Pools.

The Zambezi River is only a few meters from our tent camp. It is teeming with Crocodiles and Hippos. During recent years one of the young Hippos has taken to sleeping between the tents, in order to stay away from Lions. As a regular guest, he has been named George!

The tent camp is a very hospitable place, with excellent food. The lodge is run by the wonderful couple Dave and Tess, and we will be the only guests during our stay. Dave is a great storyteller, so take some time to listen to his stories. He prefers to camp out all year, even if the couple has a flat in Harare. Many of the camp visitors are regulars. Elephants wallow in the mud right by the camp, so breaks between safaris mean photography at the camp if you have the energy.

Traveling in a small group provides excellent photo opportunities. This is not a place for crowds. With eight nights at the tent camp and nine days photography including the first afternoon and last morning, all in all sixteen separate safari trips and photography in between, you are bound to get a great experience and great images.

Travel facts

October 2020

Tour leaders
Brutus Östling

Number of participants
Max 8

Price includes
Share in double room/tent. All meals and drinks included. Flights from Harare to Mana Pools and back. Transport from and to the runway in Mana Pools and other local transports in Mana Pools. Safari trips with local guides, entrance fees and other fees concerning the national park, photo guidance by Brutus and Hendri, they are always available for questions or advice. Brutus will show photos and lecture about the threatened African wild dog, which he has followed for some time for an upcoming book, but also about other vulnerable animals and environments.

Price does not include
Flights in and out of Harare, Zimbabwe, tips, insurance and other of personal character.

The tour starts and ends here at Harare airport, exact time when the flight leaves from Harare to Mana Pools will be announced later.

Photo equipment
As we will photograph many different types of subjects, ranging from landscape with and without animals to portraits of mammals and birds it is advisable to bring everything from wide angle lenses to telephoto lenses. On safari with jeep and on foot, lenses from 70-200 mm, 100-400 mm to 500 mm are excellent. To increase focal length, you can use teleconverter. If you have access to two body houses it’s good to have these with a few different focal lengths. This in order to avoid having to change the lens if it is lot of dust. Tripods are difficult to use in the jeeps, and almost all shooting is done on foot. The alternative is a monopod.

Mornings can be a bit cool when traveling in the jeep so it’s good to wear some long-sleeved sweater or thinner jacket. Cap or hat may be a good protection from the sun. A pair of coarse sneakers are the best choice for your feet.

*Terms of payment
Registration fee to be paid on registration. Remaining fees to be paid latest 90 days before the tour starts.

Additional information
Contact your insurance company about insurance, including cancellation insurance. For most nationalities you need a visa for entry to Zimbabwe.  Contact your doctor about vaccination requirements.

Terms and conditions
Special terms and conditions for this trip, which differ from our general terms and conditions: 1100 EUR to be paid upon notification, within 14 days. Final payment is due 90 days prior to departure.

Preliminary itinerary

The tour starts and ends at Harare airport.

Day 1  (Afternoon tea – Dinner)
Flight from Harare airport to Mana Pools. You will be met by Brutus/Hendri at Harare airport. The pilot will pick us up and take our baggage through security to the small airplane. On arriving at Mana Pools there will be time for a afternoon safari following a short introduction by Brutus/Hendri and Dave or other local guide.

Day 2-8  (Coffee/tea and light breakfast – Large brunch following safari – Dinner)
During these days we will be on safari trips both morning and afternoon. We use jeeps for longer distances, but then continue on foot. The group will alternate between to jeeps; if you go with Brutus in the morning, you will go with Hendri in the afternoon. We keep in touch on the radio, in order to help each other. If one group find something interesting, the other group will be informed. Local armed guides will always accompany us as we approach the animals. It is very important to listen to orders from Brutus/Hendri and local guides. We can often spread out, but the guides decide when and how. In the middle of the day, after brunch, we spend the time photographing round the lodge. Often Elephants will come for a mud bath or drink at the water holes. In the evenings we are often accompanied by a Hippo or Elephant close to our dinner table. A generator provides power for charging computers, batteries etc, and is turned on during the day and evening.

Day 9 (Brunch)
A morning safari is followed by brunch. Then we are driven to the air-strip and picked up by an airplane that takes us to Harare in an hour. On leaving the plane we each make our way to our waiting flights, or continue on our own.


Interest list

Mana Pools - one of Africas’ most beautiful National Parks October 2020

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