I wasn’t anticipating writing a post so soon after we arrived. I figured I’d only write after a few days. Relaxing today however, I feel yesterday’s story needs to be shared.
The day started slowly with a relaxed wake-up call before we headed out on our first game drive. As we expected, it is too wet here and the game is scattered throughout the park so we weren’t seeing much besides impala, warthogs and mud. Lots and lots of mud.
We thought the drive into the park the day before was hectic with long pools of water and mud constantly spraying up and around our Hilux. At least it was driveable. (More on mud in another post.) Yesterday however we got stuck for the first time. Well, Michael and Lisa got stuck. And stuck again. They were in front so Cheryl and I just stayed back. Cheryl kept an eye out for leopards and lions while the rest of us got the vehicle unstuck. And unstuck again. After that stress we said it was enough fun for one day and we backtracked back to a calm place on the riverbank. We had the place all to ourselves so we set up our awning and cooked some delicious eggs and toast for a late breakfast. This is living.
We did see a few lions on our drive back to camp but they were quite a ways into the trees so the view was obstructed. The only way we noticed them in the first place is because two guides had stopped in another vehicle and pointed them out to us. We never would have seen them ourselves. That afternoon however, we went for a hike through the park for an hour specifically to track those lions with a ranger. We saw nothing. Just impala. And an elephant way in the distance completely unconcerned about us. Time to return to camp and start the fire for dinner. A fun day but a little disappointing on the game viewing front given our heightened expectations for this wild park we’d dreamed about for so long.
Back in camp the beers were opened and we toasted our first day of adventure. I had the fire going and we were sitting and relaxing when the campers next to us said to get the camera. Two elephants were approaching. The came right up and walked straight through the camp site. Incredible! This is why we came to Mana Pools! To see elephants in the camp. It doesn’t get any more wild then this. Until it does…
After 30 minutes of posing for photos and doing tricks like standing on their hind legs to eat leaves from the top of the tree, the elephants moved on. We got back to cooking and reveled in our good fortune. By chance Michael decided to go wash his hands at the spigot around 30 meters from our site. He stopped in his tracks and called to me. “What is that just there?” It was a lion. Stalking an impala. No way. Yes.
Wait. Not just one lion. There’s another. And another. Wait. There are 14 lions!!! Less then 50 meters from camp! By this time it was dark so we took out our new fancy spotlight that I got from Morris and Gill for my birthday and tracked them as they walked back and forth, laid down for a while and moved on again. 14 lions, < 50 meters from camp, for around 30 minutes. Unbelievable. We’d heard stories like this and hoped it would happen to us. But our second night on the trip? The bar has been set.
Just to add some flavor to the night we later saw two hippos come out of the water and walk right next to our camp and back into the woods. They are massive creatures. The amazing part is how quiet they were. If I hadn’t been looking out we never would have noticed them go past.
After only a few short sightings during the day we could not believe the incredible experience as the sun was going down in camp.
THIS IS WHY WE CAME TO MANA POOLS