In 2010 I was flying back home after my second visit to Botswana when I met a cameraman from the BBC. I remember asking him which, in his opinion, were the most magnificent places he had ever visited in Africa, and without hesitation he said: Moremi in Botswana, Selous in Tanzania, and Mana Pools in Zimbabwe.
Taking a long breath he then proceeded to describe his top pick, Mana Pools in Zimbabwe, and his description simply sounded like heaven. In fact his words caused such an impression on me that last October I found myself driving alone to Mana Pools in a rented Jeep loaded with camping gear and my camera. People stared at me as I drove past as if I was some kind of alien, a girl all alone in the bush? Is she crazy??? But I couldn’t care less, I was starring in my dream, and had finally made it to Mana Pools! I couldn’t wait to get a glimpse of that Mana Magic that the BBC cameraman and Marlon du Toit spoke about in his blog post.
That evening just before sunset I got my first taste. A lone elephant bull ambled towards me through the woodland, drenched in golden light as the sun surrendered into the arms of Nyami Nyami. I barely had time to regain my pulse after staring at such beauty, and just managed to take a few pictures before the light was gone… few moments in my life have made me feel so close to heaven. Mana’s Magic had already started to roll in… fast, readily and in abundant supply.
A few days later I set off well before sunrise, still sipping at my coffee. I had seen a nearby pack of wild dogs the day before and hoped to find them again. Not long into my search I caught sight of a fast moving blur dashing across the woodland. My heart skipped a few beats as I realized I had found the pack and, even better, they were chasing an impala!
I dropped my coffee (and I do apologize to the car rental company for that!), and started following them, along with 2 other cars that had noticed my sudden reaction. In a flash the impala went down, I lost visual, and despair got the better of me….I had no clue what to do. Could I approach on foot? On my own – is that safe? My common sense, survival instincts and photographic curiosity all started swirling out of control again.
Luckily, two veteran local photographers took the lead for me, and stepped out of their cars. I grabbed my gear, skidded on the coffee puddle and joined them in a flash. When we regained visual of the pack and frenzy, my heart was pounding – pure adrenaline rushing through my veins.
We sat at about 20 to 30 meters from the action. The dogs skipped, darted, hopped and giggled all over the place, tearing the impala to shreds, running, playing, bickering over a bone… what I was watching was so overwhelming , so real, so in their space….that I just couldn’t think straight. My hands were sweating and shaking, my camera felt too heavy, tse tse flies and horse flies had turned my back into a warzone. The clicking of my peers cameras snatched me out of my confusion. I took a deep breath and started repeating to myself: ENOUGH, keep it cool! What are the chances you see this again in your life, START shooting! I blocked everything out and let rip, capturing each moment as it unfolded, the drama as it waxed and waned.
Eventually as the dogs moved off, I sat for a while, cooling off, breathing consciously, realizing and taking in what I had just witnessed, bathed again in Mana’s Magic, feeling like the luckiest girl on earth…
So, when I recently read about Marlon du Toit’s Mana Pools trip I could not help jotting down and sharing this experience with others. Just as that BBC cameraman fired my curiosity to visit Mana Pools, I hope my tales prompt others to go there. Trust me you will not come back disappointed!
All photos © Carole Deschuymere