Trip Report: Mana Pools Photo Safari 13-18 October 2017

Johan van Zyl All Authors, Johan Leave a Comment

Nestled in the Zambezi Valley, Mana Pools is one of the most attractive destinations for Wildlife Photographers trying to capture the shear essence of nature’s beauty.  Still one of the most untouched, undisturbed areas in Africa, this place leaves you in Awe and wanting more.

October is a very hot month in the valley, with temperatures rising above 40 degrees celsius.  The game viewing during this time however, is nothing short of phenomenal.  It is usually very dry over this period, so finding game is a little easier due to the lack of vegetation.  One of the big draw cards are the Wild Dogs who are usually out of their den site and moving around by this stage.

Arriving at Mwinilunga which is our base for all our Mana Pools Safaris, we sat down under the Tricheilia Trees, enjoying the breathtaking view of the Zambezi River whilst discussing plans and photographic goals that we had for the trip.  As I mentioned Wild Dogs are a massive attraction, being one of the most endangered Predators in Africa, and the opportunity to encounter them on foot is something that is hard to match anywhere else.

Mana Pools is also renowned for the beautiful Winter Thorn Forest, which during the early mornings and late afternoon has the glowing orange light passing through it.  You can photograph anything in this forest, literally anything it is that good.  Elephants are known to move through these forests, shaking trees to get the pods down, and some individuals even going on their hind legs to reach the pods.

A typical day at Mwinilunga consisted of an early morning start with a cup of coffee in hand, before leaving out on drive at sunrise.  The majority of the encounters on this Safari are on foot, but in no ways are they strenuous walks.  We will drive, until we find a subject that we feel we could photograph, and then walk from there.  I can’t recall any of our walks ever reaching a kilometre or two.  As I mentioned before the days are very hot and around 10:30-11:00 it was time to return to Camp.

One of the highlights is definitely Tes’s incredibly tasty meals!  How she does it in the middle of nowhere I have no idea!  It surpasses expectations and is better than many five star lodges cuisine.  During mid day there is time to charge batteries, download some images and enjoy the spectacular view from Camp.

The camp is run by Generator, so although there is no permanent power, we found there was more than enough time allocated for charging equipment.  As the sun starts moving closer to the horizon, it was time again to head out.  During the afternoons we would usually follow up on what we saw in the morning, see if there is any photographic potential and go from there.  The Winter Thorn forest is breathtaking in the afternoons, and much of our time was spent here photographing anything from Elephants to Baboons.

During our five nights at Mwinilunga, we had it all.   Walking parallel to two Big Male Lions first thing in the morning, witnessing Wild Dogs playing, watching them hunt and finish off kills, being in the forest with herds of Elephants and Buffalo.It is simply a place you have to experience first hand to know how special it is.

The main difference though, is with this Safari, most of your experiences are on foot.  This allows you to not only get low angles from a photographic point of view, but also just being on foot with these magnificent animals is unbelievable.

Mike Haworth who was one of my guests on the trip captured these beautiful images:

A special thank you to Dave, Tes, Andrew and Kevin for their warm hospitality, unbelievably good food and overall phenomenal experience.

Why not join me next year October and experience this bit of paradise for yourself?

Join me in 2018!

If you'd like to join me in Mana Pools in 2018 click on the button below or leave a comment on this blog if you have any questions I can assist with.

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About the Author

Johan van Zyl


The opportunity of visiting some of the wildest, undisturbed areas and sharing my passion for wildlife, conservation and photography with like minded people is a privilege that I am forever grateful.

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