I was leading Wildlife Worldwide’s inaugural photography tour to Mana Pools in November 2018, a trip that will stick with me for many years to come. Our primary focus was on the park’s population of wild dog and elephant. You might have recently watched the African wild dogs (painted wolves) Tait and Blacktip on the BBC’s Dynasties series? Well, we followed Blacktip and her pack every day and were treated to the ultimate photographic safari.
A photography tour to Mana Pools is a little different from elsewhere in Africa. You aren’t restricted to the vehicles, so if a suitable moment arises you get out and approach the wildlife on foot. I have been to Africa many times, in fact I used to work in the walking safari industry, but nothing compares to Mana.
Every day seemed to offer something different. Our first hour in the park and we were off on foot, striding across the flood plain to where the dogs were resting. Within moments of finding them, we were right in the middle of a hunt. 17 dogs were running all around us and times were within only ten metres of us, chasing after their favoured prey, impala. The next evening was equally special …
We were on foot once more as we slowly approached Blacktip’s pack. All 17 dogs were resting in the shade of a tree, only metres from where we had left them in the morning. The sun was beginning to set. Now let me just say that Mana Pools has the most intense light as the sun goes down, it really is remarkable. Tonight was one of those nights and as the dogs arose from their slumber, shafts of orange light pierced the open woodland canopy. As they played and renewed their bonds they kicked up a lot of dust, the particles became saturated with the most gorgeous colours and tones. Not only were the photographic opportunities second to none, the whole scene was just a mesmerising spectacle.
As our time in the Zambezi Valley came to an end, we could look back on the most wonderful wildlife encounters. It wasn’t always about the wild dogs (or painted wolves as the BBC referred to them), we had incredible moments with bull elephants standing on their hind legs, colonies of carmine bee-eaters, a pride of lions and a surreal canoe safari down the River Zambezi.
If you are looking for your next African adventure, then be sure to join me in Zimbabwe in 2019 to photograph wild dogs and elephants in Mana Pools.