Mana Pools in Emerald Season.
Mana Pools in the Green Season – A February safari diary from Tailormade Safaris Zimbabwe is one of Africa’s most diverse destinations with the combination of wildlife, beauty and scenery. Today I writeto share on one of the most outstanding parks in the country, declared aworld heritage site by UNESCO;Mana Pools National Park in the emerald season. This park offers the most incredible, close to nature experiences year round but very few have experienced it in the green and rainy season due to accessibility challenges as a result of the wet alluvial floodplain. Our drive into the park was different to all other drives as the baobab trees which usually resemble sleeping giants were alive, fully leafed and carrying large fruit that one day will make a great seasonal meal for primates and elephants and in distant baobabs for the local population. The character of the Zambezi river changes, the air filled with scents of fresh flowers and a clean atmosphere. The vegetation is lush and green with thick bushes providing hiding places for predators, birds and insects and plenty to eat for the herbivores. We were privileged to get into the park 2 days after some rains so one can imagine how beautiful and alive the vegetation was and how the ground was strewn with tracks. The Acacia trees that characterise the floodplain are in a contrasting phase to the rest of the plants, having shed their leaves for the rains. The just sprouting leaves created the most amazing backdrop for any sightings of the migrant birds, most of which were showing off their breeding plumage. Ideal as leopard siesta spots the branches of the Zambezi fig spread over this colourful undergrowth to characterize the skyline. The seasonal water pans allow for wildlife to be more spread out in the park compared to the drier months. At the end of the day the green season is not about the quantity of animals but about the quality and richness of the experience, the birdlife, insect life and vegetation. It is truly “Nature at Play”.Moving through these rich sceneries were healthy looking impala, zebra with all their newborn foals, waterbuck, hippo, elephant and buffalo. The sight of the African spoonbill, the wooly necked storks, flocks of cattle egrets, white fronted bee eaters, Egyptian geese (and their young), the Herons catching a ride on the backs of hippos to catch breakfast made our mornings on the stops at the famous Mana pools memorable. Crocodiles from the size of about 50cm to 4metres in length patrolled the water bodies enjoying a massive feast all on the plentiful fish found in these seasonal waters. Even though we were searching for the rare and elusive leopard, Humphrey who was guiding put a puzzle of unusual baboon and waterbuck behavior leading to the discovery of a thriving lion pride of 7 lionesses and one ginger maned male. They seemed to be involved in a vocal political interaction and tracking them through the tall grass following that low growl thrilled us wild. This is the adventure of “a walk in the park” in Africa. On the last of our 3 night stay we experienced a thunderstorm as if to remind us of the season. The evening characterized by starry nights skies, sounds of snorting hippos and roaring lions, were replaced by dark cloud, whistling wind, the roar of thunder and a lightning show that would compete with New Year celebrations in Paris followed by rain through the night. This however did not stop us from exploring the park the next morning. We were almost done and on our way out of the park when we spotted a pack of 9 wild dogs hunting through the Nkupe floodplain. This exercise was a lengthy array of leaps and bounds due to the height of the grass but this did not dissuade 2 hyena from following closely, looking forward to a meal. Alas, we didn’t get to see the kill but it was great to have seen the dogs in action! We look forward to going back to the bush again over Easter, to experience more of the tail end of the emerald season, sharing more secrets of Mana Pools with the guests we will be hosting this year and creating journeys of a lifetime.