January 2014

BUSHLIFE SAFARIS NEWS

I thought I'd share with you who Bushlife's very own Nick Murray likes to invite to his birthday party.

This photo was taken on his birthday last October. I think this is how I would like to spend my birthday every year! Special times'¦

Bushlife Safaris

Vundu Tented Camp - Little Vundu - Ruwesi Canoe Trail

Mana Pools - Zimbabwe

 

Mana Pools Walking Trails :

is another 3 night venture, in which you are guided by foot along the mighty Zambezi River. A unique experience, each day is a 10km-20km trek past lions and wild dogs. This particular trip is exceptional as each day is conformed to our adventurers' abilities, the guide leading only at a convenient pace. During your walk a team is sent ahead, so that every night you are welcomed by a comfortable bed built in a mobile walk-in tent. Your walk concludes in the   Nyamatusi Wildnerness, a most spectacular section of this wild park, in which buffalo and elephant abound.

Location:
Vundu, Little Vundu and Ruwesi Canoe Trail are all located in Mana Pools National Park, which covers a section of the Middle Zambezi Valley. It extends from the Zambezi River in the north to the escarpment in the south. The Zambezi Valley is a western extension of the Great Rift Valley. Wildlife is excellent in the area. Kudu, zebra, impala and waterbuck can be seen on the surrounding plains, and elephant take advantage of the plentiful Albida (Ana) trees in the area. Predators including lion, wild dog, leopard, and cheetah are often sighted, and large concentrations of buffalo can also be found along the river’s edges. Bird watching tends to be very good, as the river atttracts large numbers of waterbirds.

Accommodations: The Bushlife Safaris portfolio includes three unique properties all based in beautiful Mana Pools.

Vundu Tented Camp features eight large tents (five doubles and three singles) with an en suite shower and toilet. The main lodge area is set in a canopy of riverine trees on the bank of the Zambezi River. Raised 10 feet off the ground, it is the ideal place to enjoy a cocktail and watch the elephants feed on the bushes below, or observe the monkeys climbing nearby trees. The thatched roof provides shade from the mid-day sun.

Little Vundu offers a personalized service for the discerning adventurer who wants a real bush experience. The five en suite tents are nestled in a grove of sausage and tall ebony trees overlooking an inlet of the Zambezi River. The bathrooms are open-air with flush toilets and bucket showers.
The dining room is across a picturesque channel accessed by a foot bridge; it is shaded by the acacia trees that Mana Pools is famous for.

Ruwesi Canoe Trail is a 3 night adventure that allows you to travel the length of this magnificent park. Voyaging by canoe, you begin your paddle at the western edge of Mana Pools National Park, following your guide eastward. Whilst canoeing past sand banks and islands you may spot pods of hippo and elephants. Your mobile tented camp is set up ahead of your arrival as you cruise your way down river.

 

            

                                          Vundu Tented           Camp Little Vundu             Ruwesi Canoe Trail

   

 

Activities:

A stay at one of the Vundu camps is an invitation for adventure! Enjoy game drives in open 4x4 vehicles, game viewing by boat, nature walks with your professional guide, catch and release fishing, and canoeing past plenty of wildlife, such as hippo and elephants.

Guiding:

The professional safari guides in Zimbabwe are the finest on the continent of Africa! Their education and experience is second to none, which makes a safari to Zimbabwe a unique and thrilling venture. It takes an average of 5-7 years to qualify as a fully licensed guide, which ensures that those leading you on your adventure are the utmost professionals. This particular camp in Mana Pools National Park prides themselves on specialized and privately guided trips, allowing a rare freedom to adapt and enhance the enjoyment of each group.

Bushlife Conservancy:

The Bushlife Conservancy is directly funded by your contribution when staying at Vundu, Vundu Tented Camp and Ruwesi. This donation goes toward the animals and national park employees for the betterment of the park. Recently, there have been several examples of said contributions going to good use: A national park member’s sick child was transported to the nearest hospital, which was several hundreds of miles away; the national park’s anti-poaching team received new tents and backpacks, and several trees were planted to improve the national park’s self-catering lodges, with the intent to help regenerate the forest.

 


 

December 2012

BUSHLIFE SAFARI- Newswletter

The 2012 season is now at an end, thanks to all of you who came to stay with us, I hope your memories are good ones. Mana Pools never lets us down, once again she has revealed to us so many amazing sights, sounds and experiences, it keeps me in anticipation for the next season to begin.

I can't wait to get back, I have been in town for 2 weeks, the kids school holidays start in December and I am planning on a fishing trip for a week, cant wait. It will b e hot and humid, but the tiger will be biting and also the bream will be in the shallows feeding on the fresh grown grass of the rainy season. It is still dry in Mana at the moment but the rains normally start about the 20th of November. On the highveld in Harare we have already had several showers and the promise of a good rainy season is eminent. The game really needs it, for those of you who were in Mana in October can testify to the dryness. There was rain else where in the Valley in October, and many o f the animals, particularly the elephant, moved off in that direction, in the hope of finding some pools of water which they can drink providing access to feeding areas otherwise too far from the river to reach.

We made a few additions to camp as the ye ar progressed. We added a rebuilt Land Rover to the fleet for game drives and an old Land Cruiser specifically for the back up of the mobile canoe trips, they both did us very well this year and we certainly needed them. We also added a few extras to the r unning of the camp itself. We have a larger generator to run a new 40cubic foot freezer and a standard 18 cubic foot freezer, 3 ice machines, an inverter system with a bank of batteries to supply power 24hrs, for lighting in the rooms, fans and also chargi ng stations. Which has really helped on the management side of the camp. Desiree has been busy decorating the rooms, firstly by adding head boards and skirting to all of the beds and by adding new linens and duvets.

Our new camp manageress / hostess, Na talie, settled in well this season and we are hoping for an amazingly well run camp next season. Nats is also a beauty therapist, and she has treated many, if not most of our clients this year to a variety of pamperings, from massages, facials, pedicures, reflexology and raiki. We will be building Nats a Spa room where guests can be pampered.

Last but not least the game viewing sightings: it really makes my job worth while when I get told by guests they have just had the trip of a life time .As the dry s eason progresses the wildlife densities along the river increases to one of the highest wildlife densities in the world today .The flood plain area teams with game of all species. The elephant bulls of Mana Pools are still one of the highlights of the Park .We spend a lot of time on foot with these animals and they do get used to us being around, this is one of my favorite things to do.

The wild dogs, or painted dogs, as I am having drilled into my head by Dr.Rasmussen, is the new accepted name, are doing exceptionally well. The Vundu pack is 27 strong with 9 pups, the Kanga pack has 27 also with 15 pups, the Chikwenya pack also has 15 pups totaling 23 dogs, the Chitake pack is 16 strong with 8 pups, and the Nyakasanga pack about 25 dogs with 8 pups, the Long Pool pack is the smallest with on ly 10 dogs, 2 of which are pups. The dog population is doing great. We have collars on 4 dogs now and we are hoping to start getting an idea of where the dogs are dispersing to. When the dogs den down again in May/June next year there will be a splintering of the larger packs to make way for the new puppies. We need to find out where all these dogs are going to. The Vundu pack has had 10 dogs disperse in the last 2 seasons and we do not know where they have gone to.

The lions have also done very well. The Mucheni Pride of 11 has 2 cubs and the females should be pregnant from all the breeding that we have been observing, so by next season we should be seeing new litters in the prides.

Along the Zambezi River in Mana be tween the tributaries of Rukomechi and Sapi Rivers we frequently see lions from one or more of the 7 prides which come down to the river, especially on the mobile canoe trips. The pride sizes vary from 3 to 12.

Camp is closed and we are starting to stri p the land rovers and repair the damages of a season on rough roads. We will probably head back to the valley in March to set things up so you can come visit again.
Best regards,

Nick

   

 


Zimbabwe Camp News – September 2012

BUSHLIFE SAFARI'S

VUNDU CAMP

1st May-14 August 2012 - NEWSLETTER

It has been a wonderful and exciting start to the season at Vundu this year. Please enjoy reading updates on wildlife updates and camp updates


Elephants

We were very happy to see Impi, Mudz i, Tusker, Hand Stand, Stompi, Harry and so many more of the amazingly friendly bull elephants from last year safe and sound! We are also happy to report they have got a few new young bulls with them. Hand stand obviously helping with the pulling down of t he yummy pods for everyone to eat!

Wild Dogs

The Vundu Pack of Wild Dogs have denned this year about 6km from camp the pack consists of 18 adults and 10 puppies including 7 of last years puppies meaning only 4 of a 11 pups did not make it from last years litter and 6 adults have dispersed. The pups should be leaving the den by September. In May working together with Peter Blinston from painted Dog Conserva tion we darted and collard the alpha male in addition to their study on this pack.


The Long Pool Pack this year started off with 7 adults 1 yearling and 7 puppies of which only 3 survived. These dogs have left the den and h ave been free ranging since the end of July making it a daily task to find them.
The Chikwenya Pack consists of 14 adults and 15 pups last seen Mid July at their den just a few kms from our ilala mobile tented camp.
The Chitake Pack consist of 12 adults. T heir den is still a mystery so we are unsure of the amount of pups in their litter.
The Nyakasanga pack has been seen by Ruckomechi river just upstream of our camp

Leopards

The Leopard sightings have been really amazing so far this year. We saw a beautiful female in a tree with her baboon kill, and while we watched with the Marshall's from the WCN, ANOTHER female came into sight about
400m away stalking and hunting some Impala close to the river!
Weve also been privelaged enough to see a young mal e get chased by 2 hyena. The same young male was spotted mid July passing through camp by the staff.
The Vundu pair of mating leopards have been very active in camp but sightings of them have been hard to come by.

Lions

We have been spoilt this year with the amount of lion activity we have encountered there seems to be a number of prides within Mana a pride of 8 known as the Rukomechi/ Vundu Pride. Another pride of 14 well known by the Mucheni Pride they have had 2 cubs this year and the Nyamepi Pride of 10, The Nyamatusi Pride of +/ - 15 and the Chikwenya Pride of 8.
Futher inland of Mana pools the Chitake Pride killed a buffalo in camp and +/ -12 lions shredded, crunched and endulged in the feast keeping the minds of the campers in their tents running wildly.
We've also been lucky enough to have 2 big female lions that had had two cubs this year. Un fortunately one has died, but the other is growing big and healthy. The other day they passed through camp yet again and we found them early the next morning a few kms on an eland kill at which they stayed on for 2 days.

Birds

Earlier this year we spotted the rare Secretary bird on our first drive into camp for the season start. And the illusive
Pels Fishing Owl has been heard in the canopy of trees surrounding the camp.

Pangolins

These endangered mammals are very hard to find but surprisingly we have had a total of 4 sigtings this year SO FAR tracks of one have been seen zig sagging along the outskirts of the camp.

Upgrades to camp

We have made a few additions to camp, namely all rooms now have a fan and a charging station for cameras etc, next will be a few free standing reading lights. We have new linens in the form of pillows and pillow cases, duvets, sheets, head boards and bases. We have added another large 3 seater comfy couch to the lounge area.
2 months ago we broug ht in a new addition to our fleet of vehicles, another land rover which has been rebuilt and is as good as new.
We have installed a new 12kva generator which will charge a bank of 10 huge batteries and a 5kva inverter system so that the fans, charging sta tions and lights will run 24 hrs a day . We have installed a 40 cubic feet deep freezer which will really help out in the heat of Ssep and Oct together with 3 x 30lb ice making machines. We have enlarged the kitchen and renovated the bar area.

Spa

Natalies' Spa has taken off really well. Most guests have taken up the opportunity for a treatment of some kind or
another. Really helps people to relax and work out any travel knots.

Staff

We have some new staff, starting with management. Nadine is runni ng the camp, and hostessing is by Nats the Spa lady. We have a new cook, waiter and bedroom hands, and a new mechanic .

First clients

We had our first clients Todd Densmore and Rebecca Dote who went on a 3 night Ruwezi Mobile trip after a 2 day stay at Vundu Camp, we stayed at Chessa the 1 st night, the stars were AMAZING! We then went onto Ilala and managed to do the Chikwenya channel on the last day which is living true to its nick name of Mana's 'Garden Trail to Eden'.

   

 


NEWSLETTER - DECEMBER 2011

2011 has been an amazing year for the wild dogs in Mana , spiked by the start of the wild dog research which started in nov 2010 , the last safari for that year , so it was all new this year .I am hoping to put the work on the dogs towards a Masters degree . I am signed up to do the refresher course for the Wildlife game capture course, so I can dart dogs for the research . I did the course last about 8 years ago, and I need to do the course again.

We have identified 75 dogs fr om 4 packs along he river .

Vundu pack started off with 26 dogs, which splintered when the pack denned 18 dogs stayed with Tait

and Jed the alpha pair and raised 11 pups, so the Vundu pack went up to 29 , 2 adults and a pup have been killed by lions, leaving 26 dogs, with one dog coming back into the pack from the splintered off group bringing them to 27, and there is an unconfirmed 3 more killed in the last week.

The long pool pack of 9 had 3 pups, still all alive to date =12

The Nyakasanga pack of 17 split at denning again, 11 of which stayed around little vundu for most of the season, the rest stayed with the alpha pair and raised 8 pups, plus the 7 adults, so 15 in that pack 26 in the nyakasanga pack but they are separated now.

The Ilala pack of 8 a dults had 12 pups, 20 dogs.

The pack at Chitake has a total of 16 dogs, Chitake is 40km inland from the river.

2011 has been an extremely dry year, with the rains ending effectively in February we have had quite a few animals dying off and the rains arrivi ng now in late Nov are none too soon. Let's hope we have a good long rainy season.


WILDLIFE RESEARCH PROJECT -UPDATE (May-June 2011)

Mana Pools, our new study region in the north of Zimbabwe, is providing equal excitement and with the help of Professional Guide, Nick Murray, we have the location of two dens. One belongs to alpha fe male Tait, of the Vundu Pack. Happily her GPS collar, which was fitted in November 2010, is still providing excellent information about her movements and made locating her den quite straightforward. Nick confirmed this on the ground. The secon d pack, now named the Long Pool Pack, are also denned. This is a smaller pack of nine dogs and yet to be collared. I will however be traveling up to Mana Pools at the beginning of July with the intention of collaring this pack as well.

Above: The alpha female of th e Long Pool Pack (yet to be named)

Above: Alpha female Tait, of the Vundu pack, very pregnant.


Recent Update:

1st April 2011

The latest update on the Wild Dog Project is exciting. I met with Greg Rasmussen, who is the man behind the start of the project 20 years ago and we have been officially inducted into the Painted Dog Conservation Team. So the ball is rolling for the first ever wild dog research in the Lower Zambezi Valley and we will be using Little Vundu as its base of operations. If you are interested in this side of a safari with a difference contact the African Adventure Company for details.

For those of you who are coming, we will see you in Mana. Here are a few photos from this last season

Nick Murray.

Newsletter - March 2011

As we get ready for the 2011 season the waters of the Zambezi are high, with exceptional rains in the region the headwaters of the river are high and Lake Kariba is filling at a rapid rate. The flood gates have been open for over a month, and at one stage there were 4 of the 6 gates opened, letting out a huge amount of water into the Lower Zambezi Valley. Ma ny camps along the Zambezi have been submerged, especially those closer to the Mozambique border where the water is backed up by the Cahbora Bassa Dam. Vundu is on relatively high ground and also far from the downstream dams and gorges in the rivers path. We did loose a couple of trees and a bit of bank, but so far that is all, so we are lucky. The gates are due to open again in late February. For us in Mana, when the water is high the inland channels are flooded which opens up a new world of canoeing, thro ugh the albida and croton forests, sometimes a kilometer or 2 inland from the river. With all this rain the bush is really thick and the elephants are in camp daily feeding on the lush vegetation, which helps us by thinning the bush out a bit so we can see where we are going. The pan behind camp is full and growing a thick stand of 8" tall grass which the hippos come out to feed on at night and will have it flattened by May.

 

Thanks to every one who make 2010 such a success for us at Bushlife, including Vu ndu, Little Vundu, Ruwesi Canoe Trails and Chitake Mobile Tented camp. We had great people and experienced fantastic wildlife encounters. Our old favorites have not let us down yet, the big elephant bulls which allow you to approach them catiously on foot , the wild dogs and their pups at the den site, the lions have exploded in numbers with new cubs in the prides and several sub - adults venturing out on their own. One of the great highlights was the darting of a wild dog for thee start of the first wild do g research project in the lower Zambezi Valley. I had the privilege of darting the alpha female and naming her, Tait after my 3 year old daughter. We fitted her with a gps collar so we can get an all year record of her movements. Peter Blinston was with me, he is the Managing Director of the Painted Dog Conservation project for the last 12 years, and the project is now 20 years on going, based out on Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe. I am hoping to be working closely with Painted Dog in the future and be t heir representative on the ground in Mana Pools, contributing to their project. I would also like to further my degree in the process and hopefully get my Masters sometime, through work on this project. With this in mind we are working with Africa Adventur e Company at including this kind of work into a safari experience, with extended stays at Little Vundu. This would include, finding dogs, gps recordings of sighting, age, sex, photograph and identify each dog. Still doing the activities we offer such as, c anoeing and walking etc.

We had the privilege of hosting Mark and Alison Nolting of the Africa Adventure Company, together with their sons Miles and Nicholas in July of the last season. We were together for a whole week, so were able to spend time in V undu Camp, Little Vundu and also Ruwesi Canoe Trail, mobile camping down the river.

 

We had a great time walking and sitting with the elephants, doing extended walks looking for the wild dog den where the pups were hidden, they were hiding about

2 hour walk from the nearest road, so we got our exercise. On another occasion we crept up to wild dogs on our bums, this pack had been in a fight with

somebody as there were many injured dogs, so it took a bit of time and patience,

but after what seemed like a long time we were rewarded as the dogs relaxed to our presence and we got to spend time with them. I think this was tough on Miles who is about 7' tall and more used to sprinting down the basket ball court and slam dunking rather than 'stealth moding' for hours up to dogs - but he survived. We also had a great time on the river canoeing between the camps, this is one of the highlights of Mana Pools and a truly unique wilderness experience.

   

Despite having such a great year, we ended sadly by saying goodbye to Mark McAdam, who has been working with Bushlife for the past 12 years. He is now in Canada setting up a new life with his family in Calgary. His 2 daughters will have great opportunities for education and for sport as they are world quality bmx riders. Maybe one day we will see him back in Mana, canoeing the Zambezi.

This year our professional guides shall be myself, Doug MacDonald, Andrew Dalzel and Rich Taylor, Steve Chinoyi and Tichaona will be helping with the canoeing.