After being collected by the guide, guests are driven 30km - a leisurely game drive through the spectacular Mana Pools floodplain - to the first night’s campsite. The area has one of the highest concentrations of wildlife in Zimbabwe and the drive is usually very rewarding - enabling your guide to give an overview of the various animals, birds and plants that make up this unique habitat. Vehicles are open Toyota Land Cruisers with good all-round visibility.
On arrival at “Vundu”, the first camp, met by the welcome smiles of our support staff, lunch will be served. Usually consisting of cold meats, a variety of salads and freshly baked breads. After a refreshing lunch break, you will take a short drive to the canoe launch-spot near the confluence of the Ruckomechi and Zambezi Rivers. Here, the guide will give a full safety briefing, pointing out where all equipment - such as the first aid kit - is kept, as well as explaining what to do in an emergency. The briefing also covers the basic techniques of steering and controlling the Canadian-style 5.5m (18 ft) canoes. The group then departs downstream, by canoe, returning to Vundu camp. This first afternoon of paddling is taken at a slow pace, allowing you time to become acquainted with the canoes and methods of steering. You should now begin to see some of the multitudes of animals and birds attracted to the water’s edge. Hippo, buffalo, elephant and crocodile, as well as a variety of antelope species, may be seen.
Arrival at camp is around sunset. The camp will be fully prepared and you will be able to sit back and relax with sundowners and snacks – tea and coffee and hot showers are also available. A campfire is already burning and this is invariably where guests will gather to discuss the day’s events and plan for the morning. In the background your support staff and resident bush cook are busy preparing a three-course dinner for you.
An early wake-up - as dawn breaks. Hot water for freshening up will be placed in raised basins outside each tent, while tea, freshly brewed coffee, muffins or home-made biscuits are already waiting by the campfire. While you pack up your
personal kit, the support staff load the canoes with all required for the day ahead.
Guests need only worry about a small daypack carrying essentials such as sun block, camera, spare film, hat and binoculars.
The aim is to be in the canoes and on the water in time to watch the sunrise. As one of the most magical times of day, you will be enchanted as you drift along quietly, listening to the sounds of the African wild wakening to a new day.
Following paddling for a couple of hours, breakfast takes place under a grove of acacia trees. After breakfast, guests have the opportunity to set off on a walk on the floodplain and surrounding woodlands. This is a great time to try and view
predators before they hide-up for the day. You may even be lucky enough to spot one or more of the diurnal animals making their way down to the river. This walk offers an opportunity, not only for game viewing but also to explore some of the
more interesting aspects of the environment. Guests will spot a variety of animal spoor, and may even find themselves engrossed in tracking down a particular species. The guide will share fascinating facts about strange insects and spiders as well as a wealth of knowledge about this miniature world that forms such an integral part of the bush. Sounds of many brightly coloured birds can be heard while marvelling at the beauty and tranquillity of this unique area.
Returning to the canoes guests head downstream to an area renowned for its huge, old elephant bulls. The guide tries to time the trip to catch them swimming or wading out to the grass islands, where the canoes will be able to glide quietly
alongside these awesome giants. Their age makes them placid enough that they tend to ignore the canoes.
Lunch break coincides with the heat of the day. The canoes are pulled up below a grove of mahogany trees whose dense shade provides welcome relief. The meal generally consists of cold meats, freshly prepared salads, pizza or quiche and cheese
and biscuits. After eating and drinking their ice-cold drinks, guests have a choice to either take another short walk through the mahogany forest or to just relax and enjoy an afternoon siesta. The late afternoon and evening are spent drifting down to camp and enjoying the game and birding along the river’s edge. Our welcoming support staff are waiting at camp which is reached by sunset. This night’s camp,
Chessa, overlooks a small channel, with a large grass plain separating it from the main Zambezi, 500 metres away. Frequently the plain hosts buffalo, waterbuck, elephant and hippo in the evenings.
This follows the same basic itinerary as day two, with a pre-dawn wake-up and sunrise whilst drifting down the Zambezi. However, this is the day that guests will enter the “Wilderness Area” of Mana Pools National Park where there is limited
access to people and vehicles. In fact, the only road is 3 to 5 kilometres in-land - the same one our support team will use. From here on you are entering a much more remote environment.
Breakfast may be taken on the Mbera River floodplain, which comprises stunning acacia woodland with large patches of thick “Adrenaline” grass – a habitat much favoured by all the predators. Towards the end of the dry season, it also hosts large groups of female elephants with their babies.
The day is spent paddling through a maze of small channels before once again joining the main Zambezi. For a change, lunch is on one of the shallow sandbanks in the middle of the river, where a table and chairs are set up in ankle deep water with the whole width of the river stretching out on either side. This afternoon is the last chance for canoeing. Depending on water levels and time allowed, there may be an opportunity to explore Chikwenya Island on foot. This unique island is the
largest on this section of the river and is host to prolific birdlife as well as a number of interesting mammal species. In the afternoon you will paddle into Illala Camp to spend the last night in the rustic luxury of the Odyssey Camp.
Depending on guests departure time, or if guests are moving on to an alternative camp, an early morning walk before breakfast is possible or a well-deserved lie in! After which, there will be a short game drive to the airstrip or Nyamepi main camp
where we will bid you farewell! As you depart with your memories, we know that this experience will have enriched
your life and touched your soul!