A Day in Mana Pools

Morkel Erasmus All Authors, Morkel 9 Comments

Would you like to see how a day in Mana Pools could pan out?

Many of you will have seen that we are excited about our first Wild Eye Mana Pools Photographic Safari in July 2013…and with good reason. This pristine wilderness area was just plainly a revelation to myself and Marlon du Toit when we visited it in June 2012. We immediately knew we wanted to share this magnificent place with other like-minded photographers. Plans to put this safari in place were born around the campfire during that trip.

So, we thought it would be a good idea to show you how we would be spending a typical day in Mana Pools. These images were all taken in the space of 4 days which was the duration of our last trip. Bear in mind that it’s still a real safari involving free-roaming wild animals, and on our upcoming trip we have to still work hard to find good sightings, as the animals move about where they want when they want.



We will wake up before sunrise to ensure there is enough time to drink a delicious cup of coffee and dunk a traditional South African rusk while watching the dawn start to light up. If there are some nice high clouds around the horizon, we would head out with our tripods to the Mana Mouth close by to try and capture the breathtaking sunrise.

Zambezi sunrise - Wild Eye

Whether we photograph the sunrise or not, we will inevitably end up exploring the floodplains and forests around the eastern border of the Park in the hope of finding the elephant bulls foraging in their spectacular fashion. This would be a good opportunity to venture out on foot (if it is deemed safe).

Elephant tussle - Wild Eye

Elephant reach - Wild Eye

If we are lucky, we might even come across the king of the beasts! It seems like a very unusual setting for a lion (at least to our eyes which are inundated with lions on grasslands and in typical bushveld), but I can assure you that they are very much at home here.

Lion forest - Wild Eye

Lion in forest - Wild Eye

As the morning wears on we will continue exploring, while working the light and working the sightings to provide maximum photographic variety for every participant in the safari. The forest does filter the light very nicely, so that even the harsher light of late morning provides good light for photography. We might even get a chance to approach some other iconic species like buffalo…

Buffalo herd - Wild Eye

We will eventually return to camp for a hearty brunch around the campfire on the banks of the Zambezi River.


This is your own time. Some will choose to try and catch a bit of siesta in their tents, while others will opt to attempt some angling for tiger fish in the Zambezi. Some may opt to download their images from the morning and get some input from Marlon and I about shot selection, processing, and what could have been done differently in the field.

By the way – this will be a typical view from the campsite (iPhone photo):

Tree by Zambezi - Wild Eye


As the shadows grow longer again, it will be time to prepare for the afternoon’s game drive. Here there are plenty of options. One is to go looking for elephants again in the forest or in the riverbed. The Zambian escarpment rising up across the Zambezi provides for a lovely backdrop for photographing the animals in the riverbed.

Elephant river - Wild Eye

Elephant silhouette - Wild Eye

As we explore we will obviously stop for any potential photographic opportunities. Mana is also a birder’s paradise and we will include time to photograph good bird sightings as well.

Waterbuck - Wild Eye

A big focus for the trip will be on locating and spending time with the resident packs of African Wild Dogs. Mana Pools is a stronghold for this highly endangered species, and the 2 packs are quite used to having humans following them around in vehicles and on foot. We will work with our sources to get a good estimation of where to find these packs in the period that we will be there. If all goes well we should be able to spend quite a few sessions with the dogs.

In the morning you would find them on the move and hunting, and in the afternoon lazing about and starting to get active after the hot midday sun is dipping toward the Zambian escarpment. Hopefully we can get some engaging photos and get to know these animals better.

With fewer than 5000 left roaming the wilderness areas of Africa, this would be a huge privilege.

Wild dog profile - Wild Eye

Wild dog - Wild Eye

As the sun sets we will make our way back to camp. Who knows – we might even spot one of the elusive Mana leopards for a brief moment before it slips away into the night (we did last time!)

Leopard - Wild Eye

The leopards here are truly wild…and that’s just great. If we get to see one, you’ll know it was on the cat’s terms…and not on our terms like in so many game reserves in Southern Africa where leopard sightings are shared via radio and vehicles are lining up to spend 5 minutes at a time with the animal.


After getting back to camp everyone will have time to shower, freshen up and download images. The evenings will be spent in a laid-back mood, eating a wonderful African dinner under a boundless starry sky with the sound of the Zambezi flowing by – a constant reminder of where we find ourselves and how privileged we are to be there. This is also a time for exchanging safari tales and hounding the camp guides and photographic guides with questions about the area and about field-craft.

Those who feel up for a challenge can attempt some night sky photography (without straying far from the tents for obvious reasons). After a long day of very fulfilling wildlife photography, you will fall asleep to the roar of lions across the Zambezi.

And guess what? The next day, we get to try it all over again!

Night sky - Wild Eye


The ability to get out of your vehicle and approach big game on foot is undoubtedly a huge  attraction here – but be assured we will only do so within the animals’ comfort zones and if it is deemed safe by ourselves and the camp guides. Photographic opportunities abound in Mana Pools and you’ll hardly have time to put your camera down. The light is also quite special – something you might have gleaned from these images.

Space is running out for our Mana Pools safari. If you are still not keen on seeing this place at least once in your life after reading this post, then there may be no hope for you. If you want to join myself and Marlon du Toit in this pristine location, click HERE. I personally cannot wait to go back…

We’ll see you in Mana!

Morkel Erasmus


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Comments 9

  1. Pingback: Dogs of Mana - Wild Eye Photography

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  3. Phil Abraham

    A great blog Marlon, having read this and some other reports through Wild Eye and other sources, I will be working on joining you in 2015. To be able to walk the same ground as these magnificent animals large and small …. What a privilege! Just the, almost visceral, experience I am looking for, outstanding photographic oppertunities, without the ‘marketplace queues’ you see in photographs from other places

    1. Phil Abraham

      Hey Morkel, sorry, got the names mixed up, but both you guys seem to have a true love of this place in your writing, that brings extra to any vist..checking out the flights as I type

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