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Elephants, Wild

Elephant passing by the camp

Since I first discovered Mana Pools National Park over 40 years ago, l have been a regular visitor to this large nature and wildlife reserve in Zimbabwe. With its untamed wilderness, its big trees and large variety of wild animals including the big five, it holds a particular fascination for me. One is free to walk unaccompanied in the whole reserve. I don't know of any other National Park in Africa where this is permitted and I make the most of it. Almost all my photographs are taken on foot. I camp on the shores of the Zambezi often alone in a small tent and walk through the bush only with my Hasselblad as my companion. Firearms are not permitted in the Park but I carry a big knife to have something to hold on to when I come across one of the many predators roaming the Park, particularly lion.


My neighbours


The campsite is very basic. There is a place to light a fire and a toilet consisting of a hole in the ground. A shady tree offers some relief from the intense midday heat. It is October, the hottest month of the year, temperatures exceeding 40°C are no exception. I have to fetch water from the Zambezi about a mile away and carry it back over soft sand.

Close by is a stagnant pool covered with water lilies. It is the home of a hippo family, water turtles, iguanas and a fairly large crocodile. They will be my neighbours for the next three weeks. I also get regular visits from elephants that stroll through the camp. Baboons, impala, waterbuck, eland, warthog and buffalo are often nearby by too. The call of the fish eagle is etched deep in my soul.

Hyena at the camp

Night sets in, the hippos emerge from the pool to graze and hyenas are attracted by the smell of the meat I grilled over the mopani wood fire. Time to go to sleep.

Here is a passage from Bill Bryson's book Walkabout; "Imagine, if you will, lying in the dark alone in a little tent, nothing but a few microns of trembling cotton between you and the chill night air, listening to a 400 pound bear moving around your campsite. Imagine its quiet grunts and mysterious snufflings, the clatter of upended cookware and sounds of moist gnawings, the pad of its feet and the heaviness of its breath, the singing brush of its haunch along your tent side. Imagine the hot flood of adrenalin …."
Substitute bear with lion.

It is a very different world from Gstaad and Bern in Switzerland where I grew up.

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