In June last year we embarked on a journey few before us have ever experienced.
After spending 4 days exploring Africa’s wildest region we embarked on a 3 day trail-walk from Chitake Springs to the floodplain in Mana Pools. What might seem on paper like a simple experience was in fact one of the greatest adventure’s any of us have ever been involved in. Jono Buffey, myself and a few friends spent 2 nights on this trail and the experience is something that will never be forgotten. One particular evening was spent sleeping in the middle of a large, sandy riverbed. The area was not pre-selected, adding to the wildness of the experience.
We collected our own firewood and everyone got the chance to keep en eye out during the night for any potential dangers such as lions, hyenas and elephants.
I still think back to that night, lying in my sleeping bag next to a warm fire, the starry skies above as beautiful as I have ever seen it. It was a pure experience and a side to Africa I personally have never seen before. Jono and I could not stop speaking about introducing this experience to a select few of our clients, and I am happy to announce that this has now become possible.
From the 8th to the 16th of June 2017, Jono and I will introduce 6 of our guests to Africa’s wildest experience – The Mana Pools Adventure Trail.
With this brand new safari experience offering from Wild Eye, we will showcase Mana Pools to you in a way very few people have experienced before.
For the elite few who’ve heard of Chitake Springs, let alone visited, it’s undoubtedly an experience that you can’t find anywhere else. The animals are wild, the camp remote with only one access road leading in to camp. All safaris here are conducted by foot as we explore the Chitake drainage system twice a day.
Apart from the small Chitake water source, there’s no other available water for many kilometers surrounding the area. This means every single animal in need of a drink will drink from Chitake Springs. The water runs along a small but deep sandy drainage for just over 1 kilometer before vanishing into the sand. Our camp will be located right next to the stream along the banks under some well-shaded trees. From here we will walk the area in search of lion, elephant, buffalo, wild dogs and much more.
What makes Chitake so exciting is the fact that you know resident wildlife have no choice but to drink from the water source. To reach the water they need to descend down into the riverbed, and this means they are surrounded by high embankments – at some points too high for them to get out again.
In other words – a death trap.
Predators have mastered the art of hunting within this riverbed, and not even the light-footed impala are safe from predatation. They simply have no choice though as they will surely starve if they do not drink from the spring.
The ultimate interaction is when lion pursue buffalo that come to drink from the spring daily. Lions always favour large prey – the amount of effort is rewarded with a large food source. We have been fortunate to listen to lions killing a buffalo under the cover of darkness, but have not yet seen this in daylight.
Notice the buffalo carcass in the bottom-left of the image, killed during the night by a pride of lions with very young cubs.
Buffalo tend to visit during the mornings and into the evening, choosing to rest during the hottest part of the day.
During the driest time of the year, their visits can even occur late at night or very early morning. They are extremely vocal when they know they are about to quench their thirst, and the thunder of their hooves echoing across the springs will wake you from the deepest of sleep.
During the warm parts of the day many birds will move down to the edge of the riverbed for a drink. If you lie down quietly in the river sand, the little birds will quickly get used to your presence and allow for images only typically scene from photo-hides.
Crested Guineafowl is anothe species regularly seen in Chitake. They constantly communicate with one another and this can give their presence away as they approach the spring.
Night time is when Chitake really comes to life, in the wildest possible way!
More often than not, elephants come in for a drink when it’s much cooler – the early evening being a favorite time.
They will keep pouring in, typically in small numbers as the night progresses. The fact that our camp is literaaly right next to the drainage means you can keep an eye on them as herd after herd moves in for a quiet drink under the African stars. It’s an experience that you’ll never forget. It changes your view on safaris like no other place!
Predators also use this time of night to come and drink, and to potentially hunt.
Very often African wild dog arrive during the early evening. They are far more nocturnal than what people understand, especially in regions such as Chitake where daytime temperatures are extremely hot!
Pictured above, a hyena keeps a close eye on the pack drinking not more than 30 meters from our camp. The pegs for the shower can be seen to the left of the frame. Hyena are a constant presence at night in Chitake, as with many other destinations in Africa.
The confidence these predators gain under the cover of darkness is big! If you keep an eye out on a regular basis, you’ll see leopard drinking from the spring every single night. They are quiet and don’t make a sound, and will at times walk through camp whilst you enjoy dinner, completely undetected.
The reflection behind the leopard is the eye of a buffalo bull.
One particular evening was incredibly special in camp.
Wild dogs ran an impala into the riverbed right next to our dinner table. 7 dogs wrestled the impala to the ground and allowed for spectacular photo opportunities, in fact likely the most memorable sighting of my entire life!
My guest and I moved to the back of the feeding dogs and were able to photograph into the light from camp. The scenes were so haunting, unlike any I have ever seen before!
This is what Chitake is about. Ask anyone who’s ever been – anything can happen at any time. It’s the most exciting, most thrilling place I have ever visited!
Chitake is not the kind of place where you burn out the shutter of your camera. It’s about the experience of seeing Africa in a way you’ve never thought possible – wild to the maximum & fully immersed in nature.
Chitake is a place that I have kept “secret” for many years now, purposefully choosing to NOT mention the name on social media.
That said, it is simply to good and wild not to share with you. It is not your typical photo safari. As previously mentioned, you should not come here expecting to fill your cards on a daily basis. In fact, I would be happy to visit Chitake with no camera equipment at all.
Many of the regular Chitake visitors choose to wait for game in the afternoon, pegging some chairs into the sand and enjoying a G&T or cold beer as they and wait. It’s just so special!
Our safari in Chitake forms part of a 8-night Mana Pools Safari experience! This is what makes it extra special. It’s not just an introduction into Chitake, but offers you something that up until now, have not been available to you.
Following up from 4 days in Chitake, we will walk through the park for 3 days exploring some beautiful areas, something only truly appreciated on foot & away from camps. We will carry basic supplies with us – a backpack equipped with snacks, water, bedding & a few other items – whilst the rest of the goods will be set up & waiting ahead of us.
If you so request, we will provide a fully-kitted backpack at an additional cost. This can be collected from us before the departure of your safari.
At night we will enjoy dinner around a fire, perhaps in a wide sandy riverbed or even under the canopy of an ancient Leadwood. There will be no tents as we will sleep in sleeping bags on padded groundsheets, with a blanket of stars to cover us. It’s the ultimate way to experience Mana Pools – completely immersed within the experience.
Supplies will be provided us by a ground crew, and this will be ready and waiting ahead of us. As much as we will be catering to your basic needs on this trail, we want you to have a small taste of what true wild Africa is like, the way it was enjoyed many years ago.
There’s no telling what we could encounter on foot, but it will always be in the company of an incredible experienced Zimbabwe Professional Guide, as well as Marlon du Toit & Jono Buffey. Your safety will always be our main mandate.
Previously on this trail we enjoyed incredible sightings of African wild dogs on the hunt, elephants feeding within 20 meters of us, buffalo herds and much more. Lions would call every night. The sounds of Africa’s big cats close by whilst you lie snuggled up in a warm sleeping bag next to a cosy fire, is something that every person should experience in their life.
After the second night we will meet up with our ground support crew, and be transported to the Mana Pools floodplain on the banks of the Zambezi River, in our well-loved Mana Pools Tented Camp.
Nestled within the Zambezi Valley lies a creation of Nature still pure, splendid, untouched and wild. With the mighty Zambezi flowing to the North, the wooded floodplain to the South plays host to one of the most astonishing wildlife experiences in Africa.
Far removed from any urban landscape, Mana Pools has the special ability to transport you away from taxing modern-day living. Large elephant bulls balancing precariously on their hind-legs as they reach seven or eight meters into the canopy of an Ana Tree, prides of lion stalking Cape buffalo on the open floodplain during the heat of the day, or African wild dog running freely in pursuit of impala within the riverine forests.
Wildlife encounters are endless and intimate.
Our idyllic tented safari camp on this Mana Pools Photo Safari is located only meters away from the edge of the mighty Zambezi. The camp is warm & charming and is hosted by a team that puts your comfort & experience first. Exquisite cuisine, campfire stories & the sounds of Africa permeating your canvas tents all form part of an unforgettable encounter with Africa. This is the same tented camp experience from which we host all of our annual 6-day Mana Pools Safaris, you you will get a chance to experience this for yourself over 4 days.
Photographic experiences in Mana Pools are near-limitless, and the fact that the entire experience – starting in Chitake and ending on the floodplains – takes place on foot, means you get an experience unlike any other.
The remoteness of the park, the walking experience, the sheer size and the breathtaking beauty all come together to create an African experience unrivaled in equality.
If you wish to experience the wildest place in Africa, in a truly authentic manner, then this is no doubt the safari experience you’ve been waiting for.
Chitake Springs will leave you speechless, the 3 day walking experience will leave you with a deeper appreciation for nature, and the incredibly scenic floodplain will leave you in awe of nature’s majesty.
To view more details on this incredible 9 day safari experience, simply CLICK HERE.
This will only be available for a small group of guests, a maximum of 6.
Till next time,