Mana Pools National Park – taking a break

30 07 2019

We were fortunate recently to be invited to Stretch Ferreira Safaris by the owner himself. I know him from school and he’d extended the kind invitation a while ago and it turned out they had a slack 3 nights at the end of July and could fit us in. The camp is in a prime spot on the edge of the Zambezi River in Mana Pools National Park in the far north-west of Zimbabwe.

It’s certainly Zimbabwe’s glamour national park and not without good reason. The trees are massive, the game is plentiful (usually) and one can camp right on the banks of the big river. Hippos grunt and splash the night away and sunbathe in the day. In summer it’s oppressively hot but winter is cold at night and warm during the day and dry, which is discouraging for the tsetse flies and mosquitoes.

This last season the park had received very poor rains so there was no grass close to the river and a lot of animals had moved off to find better grazing (the browsers were less affected but a lot of tree leaves were out of reach so they’d also moved off). Still, it was a great break from the stresses of Zimbabwean life, absolutely no cellphone reception and we had a great time. Stretch (real name Andrew) promises to get his clients up close and personal with the elephants that he’s known for many years and he didn’t disappoint. Most of the bigger males have names; JB who’s very chilled, The Donald (Trump) who’s bad tempered and Boris (Johnson) who’s a bit of a clown.

And the calf will lie down with the lion

6 08 2012

I think there’s something in the bible about a calf lying down with a lion. Whoever wrote it can’t have known much about lions or it’s a metaphor for something else. Well today I found a statue of something that I think looks a bit like a calf CROSSED with a lion (maybe THAT’S what they were doing lying down?). Or maybe it is some sort of homage to something else I have not thought of. I give up. Make up your own mind what it is. There was one “guarding” the other side of the gate to the unfinished house and there were some vaguely leonine blobs on the balustrades visible behind the gate. Money obviously doesn’t buy taste…

Guarding something

Gorongosa National Park

20 07 2010

Gorongosa National Park in central Mozambique was one of the first national parks I ever saw as a child. I am not sure if I remember much about it as a 6 year-old or I remember the photos. It was famous for its lions that used a derelict camp on the edge of a flood plain as a vantage point, climbing onto the flat roof for a better view (presumably). Most of the game was shot out during Mozambique’s protracted civil war and last time I visited the main camp the bullet holes were still clearly visible on the buildings. They are still there if you look around but this last weekend we were more interested in getting into the park and anyway, the main camp is a bright, clean shadow of its former self!

We were not disappointed. A lion too pigged-out on warthog to move lay less than 5m from the road and a gaggle of hissing, squabbling vultures devoured the remains of the warthog not 20m further along the track. Bushbuck and warthog were in abundance (a lack of predators perhaps?) and lots of waterbuck and impala dotted the floodplain near the famous “lion camp” though the roof of the latter was no longer accessible to anyone except perhaps equipped with a ladder. We spotted some truly massive crocs in the rivers and pelicans and crowned cranes waded in the water holes and flood plain. We also spotted a rare (for this park) Cape buffalo and some massive leguaans (water monitor lizards). The weather was ideal for the park which can be oppressive in summer and nights were cold and refreshing. A long drive for a weekend but well worthwhile!

Driving back to Harare yesterday afternoon I had plenty of time to ponder the differences between Mozambique and Zimbabwe. Mozambique is populated, heavily populated at least along the road. The Zimbabwe countryside is by contrast visibly empty, the result of more than a decade of willful destruction of the farming sector. Mozambique is grubby – ┬áthis impression is not helped by the Portuguese architecture which was predominantly a love affair with concrete. And there is rubbish everywhere. Mozambique almost certainly has a bigger economy than Zimbabwe but it seems poorer – the people one sees in Zimbabwean towns appear more wealthy and are better dressed (which is odd).