October in Mana

Hello readers I hope you are all well and have had a chance to go on a safari at some point this year, or at least have plans to.

These past two months have been extremely busy and we have met lots of very excited guests here at Kavinga, and we have had the most amazing wildlife encounters and magical moments. 

The heat in October has set in and the sightings lately have been unreal; absolutely fantastic actually!  This last week has been all about leopard. The first sighting was on our morning walk, the type of walk that you would describe as being the perfect morning.

We had started our walk from camp, talking about trees and tracks when suddenly we heard a troop of Vervet Monkeys chattering in a panic.  All bush fanatics know what that means—a predator!  I knew it wasn’t the lions, we had seen them on the other side of the concession. Our slow walk turned into a speed march to catch up to the commotion.  My guests kept up with me; cameras in hand and eyes wide open ready to spot what ever it was causing the panic.

The monkeys lost focus, hit the ground and scattered, one of my guests excitedly whispered, “There! There!”  We went across in the direction which he had seen movement, but it was just one of the monkeys running away.

We did find a large set of fresh leopard tracks that I tried to follow but lost them unfortunately.  I decided to take everyone up to one of my favorite look out points up on a cliff nearby overlooking the Rukomechi river bed with a big over hanging Strangler Fig.  We were admiring the beautiful views when I looked across at the fig tree and the leopard we were tracking was sunning himself on a huge branch.  We all got to see him as he woke up, noticed us and leapt off the branch and landed on the ground in a puff of dust then bolted off.  We were all bubbling with excitement over this treat we weren’t expecting when we noticed him trotting slowly across the river bed below us and then disappear into the thicket.  Seeing a leopard in a vehicle is great, but seeing it on foot makes you realize you are in the middle of the wild and you are experiencing true magic.

The leopard sightings didn’t stop there,  we have been so lucky and have seen several leopard in camp, at the pan, and on other walks too.

The elephant, buffalo and lion have also been regular sightings and we’ve seen a few lion kills in the last few days!  This is truly an amazing time of the year to visit the bush. 

Now we look forward to the rains which will bring a fresh green flourish ,many exciting migratory birds, including the illusive African Pitta!

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Buffalo Rescue

Steam rose from our coffee cups as we took our usual seats in front of camp to watch the bush light up and the guinea fowl chatter around the pan for their daily watering.  Like clockwork, our guests rooms lit up as they were slowly waking up too.  Liam, an enthusiastic apprentice, was excitedly telling us that the pride of lion came to the pan for a drink a few minutes before but didn’t know which direction they left.  As we were speaking about the lion, three dagga boys  (Buffalo Bulls) walked in from the thick Croton. One old bull was particularly thirsty and the fresh scent of lion didn’t dissuade him from his morning drink.  The two younger bulls weren’t so blasé.  They sniffed and snorted and looked around creeping forward very cautiously.  Their instincts proved correct and within a second the pride of lion erupted out from behind thin bushes, ant mounds and tree stumps. The lions had set up an ambush and we had front row seats to the whole show!  

The buffalo galloped in all directions and the lions focused on their target- the very thirsty old bull.  He made a good effort and got quite a distance but one lioness picked up her pace and grabbed hold of the end of his tail.  With one leap she expertly swung her body to the side and around and caused the bull to lose balance and topple over.  He had twelve lion piling on top of him within seconds.  We were all chattering mindlessly in the excitement and watched as one lioness held the buffalo’s muzzle in her mouth and another grabbed at his throat in order to suffocate him.  After some minutes the buffalo stopped kicking and it seemed as if he was dead.  We made another cup of coffee and settled ourselves in for an easy day watching lion from camp. 

 It took 10 minutes for the two younger dagga boys to pluck up enough courage to come to their companions aid. They had brought another buffalo who must have been lurking in the bush when the first attack happened.  Maybe it was the extra set of horns that made them feel a little braver.  The three bulls roared into the pride and took a few swipes at the surprised lioness.  The lion scattered in all different directions and the buffalo knew they now had the upper hand.  We all thought it was for nothing as their friend was long gone, and it broke our hearts to see the one bull walk to his fallen companion sniffing his face and using his horns like a forklift try and lift the buffalos head up.  

Astonishingly the “dead” buffalo responded to this and got up!  He gathered himself a while then was in an absolute rage and chased the lion in circles until he thought their failure was rubbed in sufficiently.  The lion didn’t win this battle and the four dagga boys made off in a cloud of dust and probably very pleased with themselves for their win. 

It was an amazing morning and one which we will remember for a lifetime and one which has changed all our opinions about the infamous buffalo bull.

Thats it for now. Keep well everyone!


P.S. we managed to film some of the action, and have made a video which I will be posting on my Youtube Channel (Hooked on Safari) when I get a chance.

Return to the Wild



Hello everyone, I hope you have all been well and are looking forward to some more bush stories and exciting moments from Mana Pools at Kavinga Safari Camp.

Caitlin and I had an awesome holiday packed with travel and fishing trips!  We spent Christmas relaxing with family and then went to Cape Town for New Years.  We both loved Cape Town and are very keen to go back there one day!  We came back home to relax and to catch up on a years worth of fishing in the two months break we had!

I managed to squeeze a fishing trip in almost every weekend that we were home and I loved every second of it.   

After a nice long break, we returned back to Mana to get the camp ready for the new season.  

It was a busy start, with a lot of work to be done in camp. We did some small renovations  on camp and bush clearing and road maintenance.

The Zambezi Valley did not have a very good amount of rain, and it looks like its going to be tough for the wildlife in the drier months, although it will provide excellent game viewing with a lot of action from the predators at the watering hole.

The first month of the season has already started off with a bang.  We have been lucky enough to track and follow herds of up to 300 buffalo on foot, we even managed to track and find a male lion on a buffalo kill which we could hear from camp while sitting around the camp fire the night before.

Unfortunately, no sign of the Kavinga pride of lions yet, except for one male and one of the lioness that had separated themselves from the pride to mate.  We have heard the pride all calling together so we know that the pride is still around, we just need to figure out where they are hanging out!  The wild dog have been seen on a few occasions and just the other day we missed a kill by some minutes!  All that was left was the tracks and impala remains.

The last two days we have had amazing sightings of leopard.  The first leopard was happened upon by accident (as most of them are!) While my apprentice, Luke, was trying to find the pride of lion he saw a male leopard just seconds after it had caught a Kudu calf.   Yesterday  while out on a drive, an female leopard had caught an impala ram, we got there just as she was suffocating it.  It was amazing to see the shear strength that the leopardess had as she dragged her kill, which was almost twice the size of her, into the thick bush. 

The night drives have been exciting too.  With sightings of Honey-Badgers, White tailed Mongoose and two sightings of a wild cat with its bird for dinner and another with a mouse!

Its all happening at Kavinga! 

Cheers for now,


A Pitta’s Rain Dance


Hello from a humid, windy, overcast Mana Pools!

With the rain looming over us in thick heavy clouds, we’re preparing to get drenched for the first time this season.  It will be a welcome cleanse for the dusty dry bush… and for us bush lovers who have grown accustomed to sweating more liquid than we drink in a day!

The high temperatures aren’t the only reason I’ve been sweating.  The lions disappeared for most of the month. Their tracks disappeared high up the Chewuya Gorge and they weren’t coming back down to impress my guests.  They really made me work hard for them, and with  a fleeting glimpse of a cub or lioness, they left me entertaining eager photographers with rocks and vegetation!

Thankfully, the Wild Dog weren’t going to let the 5 day long safari turn into a botany and geography photography project. They came right to camp and posed like the supermodels of the bush that they are. I was very relieved!

The Wild Dog have since moved out and the lions have moved back in-announcing their return with an elephant kill close to the spring in front of camp a few nights ago!

On an even more exciting note, I saw my first African Pitta!  We went out this morning in search of the illusive bird, ducking and diving and weaving through elephant in thick bush, following its call.  What a moment!  It is such a beautiful bird.  Unfortunately, I did not get a picture, but we will be back next week to try again.  One of our Shareholders and pirvate guides in camp had the privilege to see the Pitta performing its rain dance.  There is an awesome video on the Kavinga Facebook page if you would like to have a look.

I will be going out for a break tomorrow and will finally get to do lot’s of fishing including a competition!

I’ll let you know how it goes!

Have a good week!


Lion or Leopard?

The lions had left the gorge with all the cubs, they were on the move again, and I was under pressure for the new group of guests arriving that afternoon. They were all on a photographic training tour around Southern Africa, stopping over at Kavinga for one night with high expectations. It was time to get serious, a quote I had learned and heard many times as an apprentice.

Luckily Clyde had told me roughly where he saw the last set of lion tracks, heading towards the Tsetse Fly Research Station.
Our group of Photographers arrived fully kitted with all their equipment and gear. “I hope that we find something good!” I said to Luke anxiously.

With no time to waste we had a quick cup of coffee and we were off! The first question I asked everyone was “Would you like to see leopard or lion?” just as a joke to get them excited. They all requested ‘’Leopard please!” and giggled as they knew that it was not that easy!

Within 10 minutes of our drive, we had watched a herd of chocolate coated elephant wallowing in the mud, then a little further down the road we saw the leopard! She was lying in the open on the bank of the Rukomeche river bed.
It was our resident female leopard- the super model, Ushingi. Caitlin named her in our first year we started at Kavinga. She would never run away and actually started coming closer to see us in the vehicle, she knew we were not a threat and was happy to let us take pictures.
Ushingi means the brave one or the courageous warrior. We named her this because of her personality and also the characteristic double line of spots on her forehead, like the war paint of a warrior.

After leaving Ushingi, we made our way towards the tsetse Fly Research Station and ended up photographing baobab tree silhouettes.
I was listening carefully to the Photographic tutor and picking up valuable photography tips while everyone was learning how to take the best pic and what settings to use. We had just jumped out of the vehicle to get a better angle of the baobab, when I told everyone to stop what they were doing and stand still. From the corner of my eye I picked up movement. It was one of the male lions lying under a bush about 20 meters away. We quietly got back into the vehicle and drove up to take a closer look. The whole pride was there and the cameras started to work over time! Now I know what it sounds like when 10,000 pictures are taken in 5 minutes. The bush paparazzi had arrived!

The lions have since killed and been feeding on an elephant in the spring in front of camp. The last three days have been awesome for our guests who got to see the restless cubs play while the pride gorges themselves and sleeps off the food baby-belly up.
Our guests have also been very lucky to see leopard drinking at the pan every night this week!
Its constant action during this time of the season, seeing either lion or leopard OR both!fullsizeoutput_161

A Once in a Lifetime Experience

Hello readers, sorry it’s been so long since I last wrote to you, its been pretty hectic down here. Camp has been very busy lately with a lot of bookings from excited wildlife enthusiasts and photographers.

This week all started with a bit of sad news after I had found an elephant carcass. I was lead to it by following a circling flock of vultures. The elephant had died from natural causes, it was not a pretty sight after the hyena had been there, so we left the scene to try find something more exciting. “Lion” the guests asked!

By sunrise the next day we were out on foot, ready for the lions! The wind started to pick up which made tracking near impossible. So we made our way to the spring in the Rukomeche where we saw a very exciting bird. It was a lifer for me- A Wattled Starling! The first Wattled Starling that has been seen at Kavinga actually. After taking enough photos and awwing over the bird, we made our way back to camp for some bacon and eggs. We couldn’t sit back and relax after breakfast though, we had lions to find!

Later that day we went to the Chewuya Gorge where we had last seen the lion tracks heading. I suspected they would be drinking in the rock pools we used to swim in. When the water was still quite high in the beginning of the season, we used to take guests there and have a quick dip in the cool water of the pools. Our guests always asked if there were crocodiles in the water and would not be happy with my assurances of their safety until they saw that Luke, our eager Learner Guide, was in the water and not getting eaten! But this time it was not crocodiles that made our guests nervous: it was the lions! Unfortunately the lions got our wind and scrambled up the side of the Gorge. We waited for them to settle and then followed them up. What a view! From the mountains of the escarpment you can see the whole of Mana, the lions were just in the foreground, and a stunning baobab on a ridge was the center of stage. It was magical!
Around the dinner table that evening, we all shared our stories of our sightings and highlights of the day. When all of a sudden, Clyde got up very excited and with his flash light waving from left to right, he  chirped “Leopard! Leopard! Leopard!” We all left the dinner table and peered over the edge, and there he was. A magnificent big male leopard drinking at our pan, “wow” I thought, “what a way to put a cherry on the top and end such a wonderful day.”

After all the stories and excitement at dinner, I had more guests wanting to see the lions on foot, so off we went at sunrise back to the Gorge! There were tracks everywhere leading in all directions but we kept our original route that lead up further into the Gorge. We noticed there were some fresh tracks leading up the mountain, but there were no cub tracks following them. When movement amongst the rocks got our attention. There were the four tiny cubs! Trotting straight towards us! I told everyone to keep still and quiet while I looked for the adults with my binoculars.
Amazingly, one little curious cub stopped about 5 meters from us up on a rock. He lay gazing into each of our eyes and was probably thinking “what are these odd creatures?”
I felt my skin tingle and hairs stood up on the back of my neck .
The little cub began to call, I looked back to check for mum but instead I saw my guests smiling in aww.
I then realized why the hairs on my neck stood, it was not fear it was a feeling. I cannot explain exactly, but I knew that this was one of those moments that was a once in a lifetime experience that myself and my guests would always remember forever.


I am going to stop there for now and fill you in with my next blog! What happened the next day and yesterday, is a whole new story!
Keep an eye out on my Instagram page to see my pictures @hookedonsafari.

Thanks to Clyde Elgar for this fantastic photograph of the curious cub!

October is Here!

The August winds have blown us right through September and all of a sudden we’re half way through October. Now the famous Valley heat is starting to set in! The change in the season has resulted in an increase in thirsty animals. Eland drink at the spring everyday and there are countless numbers of impala, kudu and warthog at the pan during lunch time. Elephant cover the pan during the evening and keep our guests up with the splashes and trumpets.

The bird life at Kavinga has been fantastic. We have had regular sightings of the Yellow Billed Stork and Broad-billed Rollers. Carmine Bee-eaters decorate the bare trees like bright colored Christmas decorations. The Greater Painted Snipe is an exciting bird to tick off the Kavinga Bird List, and we have three of them at the pan as well as a flock of Southern Pochards in the pan! It won’t be long before we can start ticking off the African Pitta too. Eastern Nicators and Red-throated Twinspots sing in camp, while the White-Headed Vultures build their nest by the spring.

The lions have had us tracking them in circles and are now in the Chewuye Gorge with the cubs where they had killed a young elephant. The Wild Dog have not been seen for some time- since we noticed four of the pups were no longer with them.
The Baobabs have started flowering already along with a couple  of other trees that only normally flower much later in the season.

Some pretty strange and early changes this season, including some Leopard Tortoises walking about and Egyptian Geese passing through. We’re excited to see what the rest of the month has to offer!

Take Care of Yourselves,

The Cub Returns!

Picking up from where we left off with some good and happy news! The lion cub that got separated from the pride has been found and is back with his mother and siblings.

The evening the cub was found was quite an exciting night in fact. At about midnight our guests were awakened by the bellows of an impala coming from the pan. They shone their lights to find two impala had been chased towards the pan by the pack of Wild Dog. One impala was caught and killed and the other had run into the pan. The noise attracted the attention of our famous Kavinga Hyena clan who wasted no time in gathering their fellow scavengers and making the most of this easy meal. They chased the Wild Dog off their kill, but soon after were chased off themselves by the lion pride! The lions obviously heard the commotion too, and came to investigate. The pride spent the evening finishing off the two impala. They had a drink while we watched with our morning coffee, then moved off to sleep the day away in the shady riverbed.
The lion hunted again the next day, as two impala would have been just an appetizer to 16 hungry lions!

On our morning drive today we spotted vulture circling. This could only mean one thing- there was a carcass somewhere!   Myself and two brave guests (one of them coming to Africa for her very first time and excited for an adventure on foot), decided they would like to see if it was lions and what they might have killed.  We picked up on some tracks and followed them in towards a thicket while keeping an eye on the circling vultures above hoping we weren’t going to end up being their next meal!   Suddenly I saw movement!
It was one of the lioness trying to pull a buffalo carcass into the shade, it took her at least three minutes to notice we were there only about 20 meters down wind.  But when she did, she let out an almighty growl and snarled at us flicking her tail while we backed off slowly, but when we thought we were in the clear after getting some awsome pictures Steed pointed over my shoulder towards the thicket and said “There lion!”
Another three lions were watching us the whole time, as I looked back to check on my guests who were both full of adrenaline- shaking with excitement but still smiling (which was a good thing!), one of the lions got up.  The big male gave off an even louder piercing growl as he advanced forward!
That was enough warning for my first timer so we backed out slowly and left the pride alone to finish off their meal in peace.

It was a very exciting morning and I cannot wait to see what tomorrow has in store for us!

Cheers for now,


Tales of the Unexpected

We have had an eventful 16 hours at Kavinga! On the afternoon game drive, our first sighting was our pair of resident Side Striped Jackal lying in grass opposite camp in the shade.
The drive was rather quiet, a few impala and a couple herds of elephant, and some entertainment watching my guests swat the tsetse flies off each other. I got out my trusty tin of burning elephant dung, to deter the tsetse flies before anyone got hurt! Just around the corner in the riverbed was our pride of lion, where we spent the rest of our afternoon with a Gin and Tonic and a beautiful sunset on one side, and16 lions on the other side. All eight cubs were present, playing and swatting at the adults flicking tails.

After leaving the lions and on our way back to camp we saw more elephant, the small family of zebra and a hyena drinking at the camp pan. Caitlin came to welcome us back from our drive and whispered to me that we had just missed a leopard drinking. It was chased off by a hyena as she was about to radio us to come take a look, probably the hyena we saw, so we missed that by a matter of seconds!

At dinner, with the glowing light from the full moon and watching the silhouettes of elephant drinking and mudding themselves between courses, we planned our activity for the next mornings adventure. After seeing how excited my guests were, I suggested we do a walk the next morning and check out the hyena den.

At 5:15 we were all up. Having our cup of coffee and sharing stories about what sounds we heard during the night, we suddenly heard some growling opposite camp which were no doubt our lion pride squabbling over the remains of something they killed during the night. I decided the lions had food and wouldn’t be moving anywhere in a hurry, so we would be able to investigate that kill later: we had some hyena to see!

We snuck in close to the hyena den just minutes before the sunrise. Normally I would see a couple of the hyena cubs running around at the entrance to their burrows before we would even get there, but this time-nothing. Pressure started building up when I looked back and the guests were looking around wondering why I had stopped. Then as I was about to apologize and say it doesn’t look like they are here I heard someone say, “There there whats that?”
It was a Honey Badger only a couple of meters away scampering towards us, he stopped for a moment to look at us. He obviously didn’t think much of us and continued on his way into the hyena’s burrow. I thought this was very strange so we moved to the top of the ridge to see if maybe the hyena would chase the Honey Badger out of their den. Instead one of the hyena cubs came running down past us and slid into the same hole the Honey Badger was in!

Absolutely amazing! That was the highlight of my day, and it was only 06:07 a.m. We had plenty of time and good photographic light to go find out what the lions killed last night!
We drove across to where we thought we herd the growling and there they were. 16 lions lying in the river bed. The pride had killed a baby elephant and were just finishing it off. After they had eaten what they could of the kill, the lioness with the four youngest cubs began to make her way up the bank followed by some of the other lioness and older cubs. Two lioness and one of the smaller cubs stayed behind chewing on the left overs, the little cub looked up and realized he was about to be left behind but when he tried to catch up, he was too afraid to cross the water. He began to call for his mother. Eventually he walked across and up the ridge only about 50 meters from the pride. He called and called while the other two lioness were still at the bottom by the carcass. His mum walked half way back to the cub, but the little cub didn’t see her and ran off calling desperately…in the opposite direction!
The two lioness at the carcass finally got up had a drink and walked up the ridge towards the rest of the pride. They called and I thought ,”yes this is it!” the little guy is going to find his way back to the pride but he didn’t hear them and they walked off without even stopping and looking back.

Luke  found the pride in the riverbed- all except one. Who was still running around in a panic at the spring, we began to get worried, waiting patiently for the mother to come back while we heard the cubs call for his pride grow fainter as he went further towards the thicker bush in the opposite direction for cover.
According to the law, we were not allowed to intervene with the wildlife, as hard as it is, we must leave nature to do its thing. There was nothing we could do except wait and hope the cub would be found by its mother later this afternoon when it cools down and the wind stops.

So far today has been a mix of emotions for me, from having a successful morning and an early high light with the Honey Badger and hyena cub and lion kill- to leaving us all worried and waiting in suspense .
Okay readers, long story for today! I’ve got to go off and take an afternoon drive. My day isn’t done yet but I will get back to you soon about the lion cub- Hopefully with some good news!
Fingers crossed.
Cheers for now,

Who let the dogs out?

Last week, our game drive went from good to great, when we found our long lost pack of Wild Dog had returned… with 7 pups!  The dogs usually breed from April, so when we had not seen them for some months, we figured that they were probably denning in another riverbed.  We have been seeing more of them and the 6 adults are doing very well in keeping the pups fed and safe.  We are all very excited and can’t wait to see them again!


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