Who on this board has been to Mana Pools?

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Feb 3rd, 2005, 06:06 PM
  #1
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Who on this board has been to Mana Pools?

I am very interested in finding out the difference between Mana Pools and Lower Zambezi. I realize that they are only separated by a thousand feet (the Zambezi River), but I have heard that there are also some pronounced differences in landscapes and possibly wildlife.

The reason for my question is that Zimbabwe/Botswana, although on life support, is not completely dead yet. Should I visit Zimbabwe/Botswana, I would still like to spend some time on the Zambezi River in Mana Pools at Chikwenya.

On Wilderness Safaris website, the following is stated about Mana Pools wildlife:

The area is renowned for its large numbers of Elephant, Buffalo, Hippo, Lions, Crocodiles and Eland, which concentrate along the river when the waterholes inland dry up in our winter months. Buffalo graze along the river's edges and Elephant love the "albida" forests. The seeds from the "albida" are rich in protein and nutrients and they drop towards the end of the dry winter months when the animals need the nutrition the most. Leopard are common, although they are not seen as often as Lion.

My only concern is that while I was at Kulefu Tented Camp about a one hour speedboat ride past Sausage Tree Camp and Chiawa Camp, I could hear booming gunshots from a hunting reserve across the river on the Zimbabwe side of the river. It seems logical, then, that this hunting reserve would border the area where Chikwenya is located. If it was regulated hunting occurring that may not be such a bad thing, because at least it protects the area from poaching. However, if it were unregulated (illegal) hunting then I would be very skeptical about the gameviewing in Mana Pools.

Here are the guest comments for Chikwenya for September 2004, the same month as I would be visiting this year:

Guest Comments:

•‘The best place we have ever been!’ – Luke and Janine

•‘6 lion, 1 leopard, 1 civit,2 genet and 200 elephant in the first 30 minutes!! Do I need to say more? Wonderful environment, ambiance just right. Thank you for a happy happy stay!’ – Adrian and Artemis

•‘Great to be back again, just as good as usual!’ – Ian Scott

•After 6 days Africa is in our blood, I will have to return for my tiger (fish)!’ – Joe and Beth

•‘After 20 years, still our favourite place in the world!’ – Lyn and Norman

•‘Thanks for making your home ours.’ – Jim and Reneé

That first comment of 6 lion and 200 elephants in the first 30 minutes makes it seem like an amazing place. I just wish there were a Fodorite reading this who could tell me about their time at Mana Pools.

I had a little accident yesterday in which my spare vehicle may have suffered enough damage to be declared a "total loss" by the insurance company. Since this vehicle is paid off, if I did, in fact, receive a payout from the insurance, you can be sure that a portion of it would go into my Africa fund, and it may just help get me to Botswana this year, although for my own conscience (and for my own pocketbook), I would also include Chikwenya in Mana Pools and Makalolo Plains in Hwnage NP. It would go something like this:

Makalolo Plains (4)
Chikwenya (3)
Kwando Lebala or Savuti (3)
Kwando Kwara or Sandibe (4)
Westcliff Hotel (1)
Sabi Sand Game Reserve (4)

I would probably send my family to Cape Town for the final 5 nights, while I enjoyed the Sabi Sand.

After Kwara or Sandibe, I would need to return to VFA, but with a 4:30PM departure back to JNB, I would have time for a quick visit to view the Falls.

Unbelievably, and this is a good thing, there are certain dates for Makalolo Plains that are completely sold out, meaning that 9 tents, I believe, are fully occupied. Hopefully this means that people are returning to Zimbabwe and that the wildlife is not necessarily doomed just yet.
Roccco is offline  
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Feb 3rd, 2005, 07:01 PM
  #2
 
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My Mana Pools experience goes back to July 1998, before any problems in Zimbabwe. I did a mobile walking safari. I would be comparing it to one trip to Lower Zambezi in July 2003 where I was canoeing and in a vehicle without walking.

I found Zimbabwe to be slightly more scenic and picturesque as far as landscape goes. The number of elephants and approachability of the elephants was much greater in Zimbabwe. However elephants in camp was greater in Zambia. Of course there was no real camp in Zimbabwe since it was mobile. Other wildlife was about equal in my opinion.

This is a good itinerary too.

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Feb 3rd, 2005, 07:56 PM
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Thanks for the feedback.

Somehow, Makalolo Plains, Chikwenya, Kwando Lebala and Kwando Kwara just seems more INTENSE than the Zambian lodges, before I water it down at the end in the Sabi Sand where I may strangle a safari newbie (but otherwise enjoy the action with the leopards, lions and hopefully rhinos).

It is a challenge to consider Zimbabwe and Botswana when I know the lodges and routes so well in Zambia. Plus, the Zim lodges are proving to be not much difference in price than the Zambian lodges, while my 7 nights in Botswana would be roughly an extra $200 per person per night! OUCH!

I just wish that it was easier to communicate with the African lodges and African agents so that EVERY correspondence did not take 2 - 3 days. How annoying!

As soon as I firm this up (again) I can start sleeping again.
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Feb 4th, 2005, 02:45 AM
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Mana Pools - one of my favourite places on the planet. Two trips 1991 and 1996. Never seen a leopard there but lions for sure, and elephants - tembo mingi sana! Fantastic bird life, and you can always take a canoe out on the Zambezi.

But the only time I've been to Chikwenya was prone in the back of a ute. Out to the airstrip to be picked up by a plane summoned for an emergency.

The Mana Pools I know is the camp ground - braais provided, and wood. Hot water in the shower block - but don't leave your tent after dark cos the animals roam through. I had to once, and just after crawling back in and starting to zip up the fly, a hyena strolled by. And, hey - they are BIG at close quarters.

I think, Roccco, you will find ir's a lot more than a thousand feet, or even a thousand metres across to Zambia. The flood plain is massive.

I will close by saying that a fellow Africa nut used to visit Chikwenya in the 80s and just raved about it.
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Feb 4th, 2005, 05:04 AM
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Roccco,

Don't forget about Little Makalolo if Makalolo Plains is full. I had heard that it was closed but would open if there was overflow.
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Feb 4th, 2005, 05:20 AM
  #6
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Kathy,

Yes, that is the case for the original dates that I wanted. However, it would be a real highlight for me to stay at the main camp so that I could test my nerves by sitting in the pool while the elephants came to drink.

In any event, I will only have an opportunity to visit Makalolo if I go to Botswana instead of Zambia. Hwange is just too far from North Luangwa and too expensive to get to from North Luangwa. It is just too bad that the Zambian park that I most want to see this year, North Luangwa, is the furthest from Zimbabwe and Botswana.

Either way, however, it doesn't look like I can go wrong, whether it is two weeks in Zambia, or two weeks split between Botswana and Zimbabwe. Unless the pricing is somehow within about $1,000 pp for Bots/Zim, then I will probably stick to my original plan of Zambia only. I am still waiting on pricing from a couple agents, one of whom said he could get me Wilderness Safaris Zim camps (Makalolo & Chikwenya) for around $250 pppns in high season. I am skeptical of this after I received a quote of about $425 pppns including air transfers from another agent.
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Feb 4th, 2005, 06:04 AM
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Roccco,

I think $250 pp for the Wilderness Safari Zimbabwe camps is right. That is very hard to pass up.
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Feb 4th, 2005, 06:59 AM
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Kathy,

Yes, the only challenge is that once 7 nights at WS Zim camps and 7 nights at Kwando's Botswana camps are combined, that the average per night goes up to about $450 pppns, excluding air. It works out to about $100 more pppns...no big deal for a short safari, but $5,600 USD more for a two week safari for four persons.

I am hoping to somehow find a deal where I can get Kwando for about $500 pppns, and then if I could get WS Zim camps for even $300 pppns, that would get my average down to a more tolerable $400 pppns, a more manageable number.

Anyway, hope to have it worked out by next week as this is driving me nucking futs, as child star Dickie Roberts (a David Spade character in a movie) would say!
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