Guest Experiences from a Wild Eye Mana Pools Safari, July 2016

Marlon duToit All Authors, Guest, Marlon Leave a Comment

As a leading safari company we pride ourselves in not only guiding guests through some of the most beautiful environments on this planet, but also in ensuring that THEY get the images & experiences that will change their lives.

Each and every guests that travel with us are on a unique journey. As the core of this exploration you’ll undoubtedly find a profound love for nature and wildlife, the passion to witness earth’s miracles is what drives all of us.

In the blog below, my guests from a Mana Pools Safari that I hosted in July 2016, share their experiences & images with all of you. The stories & beauty captured here is the reason why all of us at Wild Eye do what we do.

Bethany Ogdon

Constantly shifting moods dictated by soft, filtered light that takes on luminous and varying colors according to time of day and atmospheric conditions. Blues, pinks, and golds illuminating the riverine forests that lie along the Zambezi and, of course, the animals that move through them. People who have been there often describe Mana Pools as heaven on earth and, well, … I agree! It also really is a photographer’s dream.

I had never returned to the same destination on a wildlife photographic safari before traveling with Wild Eye to Mana Pools for the second time this past July. It most definitely is a place that invites a return (again and again). Whether it’s photographing wild animals in that incredible Mana light, walking through the gorgeous forests dotted with towering fig trees, sitting around a campfire overlooking the Zambezi with a star-choked sky overhead, or lying in a dark tent listening to the distant roar of a lion, Mana Pools is an otherworldly experience.

Each new day of our five day sojourn brought different variations of light and atmosphere, fantastic sightings, and a palpable sense of adventure, whether on foot or in a vehicle. One afternoon we walked into a clearing that to find a pan that was covered in bright yellow vegetation. There were elephants, waterbuck and baboons under the trees on the far shore – a beautiful backdrop for the hungry elephant that waded into the pan and gave us an extended opportunity to photograph while, surrounded by egrets, he sloshed about, selecting choice bits of “salad.” A beautiful scene! Then there was the memorable morning we found ourselves driving first one way and then another, following the roars of a lion on the move. Marlon’s and Kevin’s tracking paid off fantastically when he finally emerged, striding across open ground with the blue-lit forest behind.  (I have to admit that following those roars up one track and down another was also a significant part of the fun!)

On another morning we hiked through the forest towards the river to find the talented “Fred Astaire” in the midst of helping himself to the plentiful pods of the Albida trees. We were pretty excited by the favorable circumstances for watching him stand up straight on his two back legs to reach those pods and weren’t disappointed.   After “Fred” finished his repast, we were treated to the sight of him making his way down a steep embankment and across the Zambezi.   Walking in Mana Pools is a spirit lifting experience. There’s nothing like being amongst the sounds, smells, and touch of nature and photographing nature’s inhabitants from the ground they too stand on.

On our last evening we experienced what was for me, perhaps, one of the most memorable photographic episodes of the trip.  We arrived at Long Pond to find a group of elephants, standing in the shallows, later foregrounded by the orange-red light of the setting sun sparkling on the calm waters. Marlon told us he’d never seen elephants at Long Pond and Dave back at the camp said he’d never seen such a thing in 30 years.  Watching the elephants, along with hippos snuffling in the water and flocks of birds flying above as the sun disappeared behind the escarpment and dusk fell, was a truly magical experience.

Everything about this trip was fantastic – from Marlon’s awesome hosting, guiding, and photographic tutoring talents, to the absolutely wonderful camp (I’d go to Mana Pools just for the opportunity to stay in that camp!) to the unique beauty of the environment.   And last, but not least, my wildlife photography markedly improved yet once again thanks to Marlon.   Thanks for everything, Wild Eye!

Bethany on Instagram

Bethany on 500px

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David Verbossche

The anticipation of the trip to Mana Pools started already long before making the booking with Wild-Eye. Each year my brother and I choose a destination from a list that we have been building since we were young. We are nowhere near through the list and even if we were, we would start from the beginning again and simply repeat.

Mana pools is one of those places that has long been a dream because it is well known for its on-foot encounters with wildlife, the fact that it is on the banks of the mighty Zambezi river and also has the enchanted forest.

The remoteness of the area is confirmed during the flight from Harare airport to Mana Pools and out of the window of you see only wild terrain with surprisingly what seems to be a lot of water. Upon landing the adventure begins as everything is loaded onto vehicles and off you go to the camp which is located on the river – wow!

The trip itself was nothing short of extraordinary with every day bringing new sightings and experiences. Approaches to animals are made initially by vehicle. A sighting is assessed and then often we would get out and walk to fully immerse in the experience. Photographic opportunities are plentiful, while trying new techniques, moving a little bit closer or to the left to get the composition you want, or simply putting the camera down and enjoying the fact that you’re so close to the animals in such a magical place.

Every day the camp is woken up by traditional African drums early in the morning and you’re welcomed at the communal area with smiles, coffee and a light and delicious breakfast. This is followed by a drive of several hours depending on what is encountered. Once returned to camp a spectacular brunch is waiting, prepared by the amazing kitchen and staff. The food is delicious and you would not think that you’re in the middle of the bush with the type of cuisine that is served – I just couldn’t get enough. A typical few hours of relaxation are possible before the next game drive which I would spend sitting under a tree with my binocs, camera and a book. During this time the amount of elephants and other wildlife passing through camp is incredible and the encounters continue but then they come to you rather than the other way around.

The next game drive starts at about 3pm and there is either somewhat of a plan based on what was seen in the morning or it is simply played by ear. It is also possible that while driving suddenly the vehicle is stopped because tracks are spotted which may change the plan again. In short, you never know what you’re going to get and it continues to amaze!

By the time the day ends, after another fantastic meal with great wine and time spent by the campfire exchanging stories it is time to return to the tents. The tents are really comfortable and while sleeping you’re often woken up by the munching sound of an Eland eating some leaves, the snapping of a branch that an elephant has just broken off or the defecating of baboons on the roof of the tent.

Whatever is happening you ease back into sleep and continue to dream of an Africa that exists only in places like Mana Pools.

David on 500px

David on Instagram 

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Mark Verbossche

‘Mana Pools is a place I will likely (no, definitely) never forget and will always long to go back to when thinking about the bush. For me, as someone who loves to be out in nature amongst the birds and wildlife, it was a sort of pilgrimage. To be able to experience on foot, what may very well be one of the most stunning places I have ever seen, with wildlife always close by, from the small to the large, was simply epic. Always in the company of an experienced guide, and sometimes standing within 50 metres of the big Elephant bulls reaching high into the air with their trunks, sometimes standing on their hind legs for the tastiest bits of the sought after and ecologically important Albida trees was like being in wildlife heaven. Not to mention encountering Wild Dogs, Lions and many other species on foot.

This is a must do trip for wildlife photographers, and who better than to do it with Wild-Eye (partnered with the excellent MwinilungaSafaris), and specifically with Marlon Du Toit, whose experience of the bush, and knowledge of photography is unmatched. I guarantee you will return withfond memories filled with laughter and memory cards filled with amazing shots! Camp life with Mwinilunga was exceptional, the staff were friendly, and thefood was ridiculously good considering where we were. Plus the location, yousimply can’t beat a decked out tent right on the banks of the Zambezi, with a perfect view over the river. With constant wild visitors to the camp, especially Elephant, you feel totally immersed in the experience. I have never had such close encounters with Elephants before but always felt completely safe in the presence of Kevin Louw, our experienced and friendly guide, who treats the animals and environment with the respect they deserve. Mana Pools is simply put a very special place, a natural treasure (that should be protected at all costs) and a photographers dream!’

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Subi Sridharan

Subi on 500px

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Doug Bolt

Doug’s Website 

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Each one of these guests captured Mana Pools a little differently.

Each had their own experience on the banks of the Zambezi River, and it shows beautifully in their images & accounts of the Wild Eye Mana Pools Safari experiences.

Thanks so much for taking the time to follow along, and please do visit the links above to see more images from our world-class guests.

Till next time,

About the Author

Marlon duToit

Passion, enthusiasm and an unquenchable thirst to explore and introduce you to our natural world’s wildlife perfectly sums up my ambitions. I can’t imagine myself doing anything else. Through my African adventures I kept my photographic passion alive. Behind a camera aimed at a lion or a leopard is where I am most at home, my heart skipping a beat at the mere thought of it. My intention has never been solely for recognition but for the plight of what’s left of our natural recourses. Using my love and understanding of wildlife I am able to convey to the viewer more than an image or a fleeting moment. I aim to tell a story, to bring that moment alive to you and to capture your heart through it.

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