The gentle giants in Mana Pools
Giants, that is what Mana Pools National Park are all about and the star of the show are the elephants. To be able to walk with these gentle giants is really extraordinary and I don´t know many other place where the activity inside the park actually is built around game walks.
Game walks, for me, is the proper way to explore wild Africa. I discovered this during my first trip to South Africa in 2009 when we did three game walks in Krüger National Park. It was interesting seeing how differently the animals perceived me outside the vehicle. In a vehicle you could approach most animals, but as soon as you got out of the vehicle the game changed. Then, I became the top predator that has been hunting for thousands of years and all eyes turned in my direction as I became a potential threat to the animals. The giraffe acted as watchtowers keeping tab on our movement and if we approached they just ran off. All the different animals we came upon during the walks reacted in this way except one.
During the last game walks in Krüger National Park we stumbled upon an eating Elephant, that made our game rangers tremble as we were just a few meters from the animal, but luckily the wind was blowing against us and the grey giant was more than relaxed. I think it must have sensed us, but it didn´t seem to be bothered by us being too close. We escape the meeting without any incident and at that time I didn’t think I ever would be so close to an Elephant on foot as I was then.
How wrong I was.
Mana Pools National Park is built on the foundation of game walks and that coupled with the possibility to approach the gentle giant and the big cat was one of the reasons why I chose to go on this trip.
Now let’s face it. Game walks can be dangerous and it is not something I would do on my own, even if that is allowed in Mana Pools National Park. I think it is of utmost importance to have a professional guide that knows the area, the animals and their behavior. Luckily we had Fisher, a cool headed guide from Zim that kept our group under his watchful eyes most of the time.
When you are outside the vehicle you need to understand that you, probably, are out of your league and need to stick to a few basic rules, i.e. act as a group, keep your eyes on the surrounding and don´t push the animals. This is basic stuff, but sometimes photographers tend to just think about the picture which gets them in bad situations. If you break these simple rules you will endanger the group and not just yourself. Please bear this in mind and don´t act selfish if you ever do a game walk.
I hope you can find a couple of pictures inside this photo gallery that you like. Most pictures are from our walk with the giants, during the morning session, and the time we spent with sleepy Lions that were guarding a hole in the ground where a Warthog had taken shelter. We got back next day and discovered the remains of the Warthog and could clearly see marks from the claws as the Lions had dug out the poor soul.