In what has become an annual tradition my wife Carol and I joined Chris Collyer for a few days stay at Hippo Lodge, Mana Pools earlier this month (November 2018).
Mana Pools National Park never fails to produce.
Although not as hot as we expected November to be, we saw the thermometer in my vehicle go over 40 degrees centigrade several times.
We did leave feeling a little depressed by how hard it is for to survive these last few weeks in the bush before the rains - even the animals looked tired. Heavily pregnant impala females were reluctant to move in any other way than to waddle off to avoid our noisy approach.
One of the remaining food sources at this very dry time of year is the fruit of the Sausage Tree (Kigelia Africana) and it was almost comical seeing Dagga Boys chewing on the fibrous fruit, saliva spilling from their mouths in a milky torrent. I wondered if it was a bit like us eating food that was necessary but not very palatable.
We bumped into wild dogs as we returned to our lodge on our second evening. They lay in the road not far from the lodges, totally nonplussed by all the vehicles around them.
I see from my pictures that elephants played a huge part of our stay. They are amazing creatures. I am sure the big bulls such as Boswell move around in an almost mystical fashion with everything being affected by them.
Chris Collyer is always keen to position himself ahead of where he determines the best place to be as the majestic pachyderm passes by. By sitting very quietly and not making any sudden moves you can take the most amazing images without upsetting the animal or creating a dangerous point of contact.
I have a fascination with skies - our sunsets were nothing short of spectacular and my camera was hard pressed to catch every pixel of available light.
Being hard on myself I also tried my hand at astrophotography, trying to capture the Milky Way and the legendary Zambezi River in one shot. I’m fairly pleased with the result, but I do think I needed clearer skies…
On our penultimate night, Carol was running a bath as we prepared for bed, when I heard a strange see-sawing grunting noise.
"What on earth is she doing?” I wondered.
Out of the darkness came Chris Collyer’s excited shout: "Hey, guys, come quickly – it’s a lion kill!"
We rushed outside to join him, shining our torches which lit up three lions eating a freshly caught impala, with hyenas cackling in close voice attendance. I managed a few pictures using a flash.
It took us awhile to go back to sleep after that! Poor Chris didn't sleep much that evening; he was not in his lodge but in his tent. Outside, because he found it cooler… never mind the lions and the hyenas and their dinner!
Our last morning saw us turn right from the lodges to go upriver in the hopes of seeing something interesting. What happens? Almost 200 metres from the turnoff we found the wild dogs on a kill.
Well over two hours and several thousand frames later we retreated back to our lodge for breakfast. What a privilege to have been able to view a spectacle that many people will never actually see in real life.
For more of Chris’ fantastic pictures from his recent trip please visit his Facebook page.