Day 1 – Natureways Safaris – Mana Pools Canoe Trip, Zimbabwe

Wakeup call at 5:45 a.m.

Coffee in front of the fire.  Cold buffet with fruit and hot porridge (oatmeal), toast, jam and cereal.

Craig, our guide, wanted to get on the river before the wind picks up, but just before we leave camp he spots wild dogs in the distance. I grab my camera and we hop in the vehicle and drive a short distance before walking towards the dogs for a better look. They have 9 puppies, all running around and playing.

They don’t stay in one spot. We follow them but soon they run off again. Amazing to watch such animated and social creatures. They don’t seem too bothered by our presence even on foot. Craig has us crouch down as to not intimidate them. Soon other vehicles show up. The dogs run off and we head back to camp to finish packing up for the canoe trip.

Canoe Trip

We take very little with us, leaving our valuables and big lens in our bags to be transported with the rest of the camp gear. I have just the older canon body with the 70-200 lens. Don has the Olympus instamatic for documentation photos.

Craig gives us a safety briefing. The canoe is very stable and packed for a coffee break and lunch.

Since it is only the two of us Don and I are put in different canoes, each with a guide in the back of the canoe steering. We just paddle.  At first it isn’t that interesting, a slow paddle down the big wide river with skies hazy from the fires across the river in Zambia.

Hippos in the distance but Craig and Elijah make sure we never get too close. We start to see some crocs on land. One bolts into the water just ahead of me before I even realize he was ever on shore.

About 8:15 we stop for a pee break then paddle some more – wide river, motor boats on the Zambia side. Craig explains that motorized boats are not allowed on the Zimbabwe side of the river.

Stop for a coffee break at 9:45. Nice setup with a table and stools. Coffee or tea with scones, butter and jam is served.

After the coffee break the wind picks up and the channel narrows, making it more difficult to get around the hippos. Craig bangs on the canoe to let them know we are coming, giving them time to head for deeper water. You never want to be between a hippo and deep water.

A few more crocs.

Two hippos plunge into the water ahead of us.

As we near camp the channel narrows even more and Craig has us stop to wait for the hippos to get on land and out of our way. 2 stubborn ones don’t cooperate and he gets out of the canoe and chases them off with his oar. Turns out we are camping just across this narrow channel from where the hippos are grazing.

They haven’t quite finished setting up camp but set lunch out for us – veg quiche, bread rolls, Greek Salad cheese platter and picked beets, onion and cucumber.

During lunch our bags finally arrive at 1:30PM. Our tent is finished after lunch and we rest before the afternoon activity.

Afternoon Activity

We drive to a place where we walk to a hippo pool. We are joined by a group of Spaniards that are doing a 9 day canoe trip.

Craig explains how elephants drink out of deep holes in the sand.

Examined skulls of a large croc and hippo.

On way to the hippo pool we pass eland as well as zebra and a hippo roaming about.

Hippo Pool

Craig points out how the sunset lit up the water around a heron fishing off the back of a hippo. Just as I set up my camera he catches a fish.

Sundowners, G&T by the pond and then back to camp by 6:30. You’re not supposed to be on the roads in the National Park after dark.

September 4, 2016

For links to all the posts in this series see the Botswana/Zimbabwe page.