The summer has been and gone. The Mana winter is here with its mild temperatures and overcast days.The amount of predator activity at Mucheni still phenomenal. Guests arrived from Chobe for a first time Mana Experience. Can you remember the first time you came to Mana Pools, what you had heard about it and the feeling of being on those ancient floodplains for the first time?
The first afternoon was spent setting up camera equipment, a new mount on the game drive vehicle, go pro on the bulbar and checking on 5 camera bodies and lenses on a short familiarization drive. Next morning off in the direction of Rukomechi river bed in search of the dogs. The part that we went is characterized by cathedral and scrub mopane with great potential for creating contrast for images. Overcast and quiet. Back in camp and then out for a short afternoon game drive. At sunset went to “play” with a local pod of hippos. Still overcast.
The next morning was to be the game changer. Started off with a middle-aged elephant bull that was reaching almost Mana style into the acacias. The cloud came over again probably slowing down wildlife movements but removing the heat curfew that usually limits cat movement. In that we spotted in some adrenalin grass and saw a lioness moving through, muddy and scarred behind her head. We thought she was coming from a carcass and on her way to collect cubs and bring them back for the feast so we followed her. Always great to see the reaction of discovery and hear the snorts and barks amongst antelope and baboons as lioness seemingly carelessly walks through their midst. Eventually left her in the thick vegetation behind Chisasiko to go back and investigate where she was coming from. Alarm calls indicated the presence of other predators in the area and the stealth appearance of a full pride of 8 lions followed. They did not just arrive in casual walk but in military style stealth with the noses to the wind. They too knew something was amiss. Three of them were however very skinny. The wind then picked up and the lions sat and rested short of where the lioness had emerged from. While they were resting a mother warthog with three piglets almost fell prey as the hungry lions tried their luck.
For us this meant “meals on wheels” so we ordered our lunch to be delivered to us as we were not about to leave this incomplete investigation and the hungry cats.
A herd of elephants joined us for lunch and then took to the water crossing over to lower Trichilia Channel Island. Even though it was 14:00 under the cover of the cloud the pride repositioned and again the same family of warthog almost ran into the jaws of death this time surviving by a whisker as they were almost surrounded. While the lions were resting (again) we took a little drive only to come across a pack of dogs sleeping and minding their business. A classical decision was made by our fearless leader and guide, to leave the dogs for a bit while waiting for the light and photograph zebras on the Nkupe floodplain. This almost saw dismissal by mutiny as on our return the wild dogs had vanished. Classic decision indeed. “Early hunt” they decided. It was under that kind of pressure that the most rushed search for the dogs was conducted only to discover them single file around Lungfish pan. They were on a mission which i thought was associated with locating a suitable spot for a den. They had the very pregnant Aha female on their tails and so pregnant was she………