The first glimpse of Mana Pools National Park, Zimbabwe
We started to travel by road towards Mana Pools National Park from Harare on the 13th of July with an overnight stop in the small town of Chinhoyi. Chinhoyi was a small sleepy community on Sunday when we arrived, but bustling with people on Monday morning when we left.
I was pleasantly surprised by the road standard and how clean it was along the roads for most parts of the trip. Sadly it was more trash around the human settlements and most in the small towns that we passed by.
I really liked the diverse landscape that the travelled through and it felt nice see that the standard of living seemed to be much better than most western perceive when we think about Zimbabawe. Either they lived in brick houses or the traditional rondavels, which was at least what we saw from the road.
We made three stops along the road, the first for breakfast, the second at Marangora National Parks office just outside Makuti where we picked up our permits for the stay in Mana Pools National Park and the third and last when we came over the ridge onto the Zambezi side and could see the grand landscape from above. We could also see the first boom gate, Chimutsi gate, just down the hill and the dirt road leading to Mana Pools National Park.
All in all it was a pleasant roadtrip and one I would gladly do myself, or with a couple of friends, just to get a better feeling for Zimbabwe and its landscape. The tarmac roads are of okay standard, but the road verge could be much better as there always seemed to be a big drop between the tarmac and the gravel. We could have made this trip much faster, but there were many police roadblocks that slowed down traffic and we had to overtake old Lorries from time to time as we travel up and down over the hilly terrain.
At Chimutsi gate the adventure started
Here we had to show our paper and get rid of the oranges we had because Elephants can go crazy if the smell citruses.
Once inside the boom gate the road turned into a washboard where you just skidded along the top trying to keep the momentum without losing control of the vehicle. Zane did a marvellous job, but sadly the other car more or less lacked suspension and had trouble keeping up with us.
We just saw one lone elephant, and of course lots of birds, during this first leg that brought us to the second boom gate, Nyakasikana, where we had to show our permits again. It was nice to be able to stretch the leg once more before we buckled up and continues the journey, now downwards towards the Zambezi floodplain, towards the Warden’s head office at Nyamepi. It was first in the area around Nyamepi that we actually began to see some proper wildlife.
At the head office we meet the guys from Tailormade Safaris, our host for the coming week. It felt great to arrive at the head office as you now really started to feel the vibe of the bush.
We parked our vehicles here and started to unload them as Zane and Tailormade sorted out the paperwork. When everything was set we could head out on a short game drive with lunch along the Zambezi River. We headed east from Nyamepi and ended up at a really nice spot where we got the first proper glimpse of the Zambezi and its famous floodplain.
After lunch, and our lunch encounter with a lone bull Elephant, we headed towards west. It was a fairly relaxed afternoon drive and the highlight was of course when we stopped, got out of the vehicle and approached a herd of Cape Buffalos on foot. They did of course run away when we came inside their comfort zone, but just to be able to actually work with photography from ground level and not just sitting in a vehicle is really great and something you will appreciate once you try it.
At the end of the afternoon drive we came to our wonderful camp site called Old Ndungu. This was to be our home for the week inside Mana Pools National Park. At camp we had four walk-in tents with en-suite and a staff of five, plus our guide Fisher, that was going to take care of our needs during the stay. We could now start to relax from all the travelling.
It was a good ending to a great birthday, one I will remember for many years.