This year I went bush camping, away from the floodplain in Mana Pools. The reason behind this was mainly to try something new. The floodplain will always be a great attraction, but I have always felt there must be more to Mana Pools than just the floodplain.
I have known about one or two bush camp previously, but I understood more where on the way as Zim Parks looked for investors. They held an auction with the hope of attracting investors to new concessions in many different places in Zimbabwe. Some of these concessions where in Mana Pools where they mainly wanted to develop exclusive photographic camps.
It was of course easy to say yes when I was invited to one of the new private concessions in Mana Pools.
The concession I visited is called Mashuma Pan and lies a couple of kilometers inland from the floodplain. It has two accessible pans with water and at the one furthest from main road they had a bush camp. Around the pan you found huge Jackelberry trees as well as a big fig tree that was frequented by many different animals due to it bearing fruit. Mashuma actually means Jackelberry in Shona giving the pan its name.
The rest of the concession was mostly thick Jesse-bush, a type of Combretum-Commiphora scrub. It is near impenetrable, but still have room for many different species.
The biggest difference to when I compare the floodplain to the bush is the diversity of life around the pan.
At midday you could sit and watch many different types of birds and mammals that all came to the pan to eat or drink. Everything from the shy Nyala to the resident Elephant herd. The Broad-billed Roller coming for a drink or the juvenile African Fish-Eagle looking for a catch.
I always treasure the nights along the floodplain, but I must admit that I do like the bush nights more.
The nights in the bush outclass the one along the floodplain if you ask me. The only thing I did miss was the honking from the Hippos at night. Still the pan had a resident Hippo when they started to erect the camp, but it moved before any guests arrived.
A night in the bush holds so much more than the regular suspects from the floodplain. The first night was magical as we could spot leopard, elephants and hyena with pups from the camp fire. And I forgot to mention the male lion coming to drinking a few meters from my tent when I went to bed. I can’t say I have ever experienced something similar along the floodplain. Still I have had a few nice nightly encounters along the floodplain, but not like this bush experience.
Another huge benefit for me was the lack of other sources of sound. It is just you and nature. It gives you a more raw experience in my opinion.
One of the highlights for me were the Nightjar, think it was a Fiery-necked. Just follow the link to listen to the lovely sound.
There is of course a drawback living in the bush. That is that you lack easy access to the floodplain. At least with how the infrastructure were in the concession at the time of my visit. I do know that they want to get permission to get better access to the floodplain and I hope they can sort it out together with Zim Parks.
I spent 10 days in Mana Pools this year. It did bring me new species that I hadn’t taken pictures of previously like the Bush Pigs. Many new birds species as well, but the most memorable sighting will be the Leopardess with cub. Such a short and wonderful time we had with that small family.
I see a huge potential in this new concession if it is properly managed. I had some issues with the plans I heard, but hopefully they will be convinced to take the place in another direction.
Please enjoy the Photo Album from Mana Pools National Park.