A year of sensational safaris and painted wolves

Murray Family Dynasties Bushlife Safaris Mana Pools

The 2018 safari season was a great success for Bushlife Safaris – a landmark year of sensational safaris, awesome wildlife sightings and of course, having Sir David Attenborough in camp to film The Dynasties Painted Wolf episode. The launch of the series in November was the highlight not only of our year but indeed, one of the high points of our lives at Bushlife Safaris! Read more here or download our newsletter.

In general, it has been another interesting year for Zimbabwe, and you never know what to expect, but we know that a little bit of positivity goes a long way. This is why we are sure that with each year that passes, we have seen an increase in tourism across the board.  If the word keeps spreading of Zimbabwe, her people, her wildlife and her beauty; we can share Zimbabwe with the rest of the world.

Dynasties Painted Wolf filmed at Vundu Camp

In 2014 Mana Pools was chosen as the location to film the African Wild Dogs, now more commonly known as Painted Wolves.  This is also the name of the episode that is dedicated to these incredible animals.  Bushlife Safaris owner, Nick Murray has been working in Mana Pools since 1997 and has built a strong relationship with these dogs.  He has also been researching the Painted Wolves for the last 10 years, and is extremely knowledgeable of the packs and specifically their Alpha dogs, who are typically female.  Nick was chosen as the head guide to lead this BBC crew over the next couple of years filming.  The entire team was thrilled to be part of this experience.  Henry Bandure, a long time guide from Bushlife Safaris was also a key individual during the filming days, his tracking skills are unlike any you have seen before!

This year, before the new season got too busy, we had the greatest honour of hosting a new group from BBC Earth.  Amongst them was the famous Sir David Attenborough!  Along with Sir David, we were privileged to meet Mike Gunton, who is the Executive Producer of Dynasties, and Rupert Barrington, the Series Producer.  The team worked for about 10 days to find suitable backdrops for Sir David to film the introductions to each episode, as well as to the whole series.  It was with great excitement that we found the Painted Wolves, and Sir David had the opportunity to meet some of the members who had been filmed for this series that he would be narrating.  While filming with the dog, as Sir David have his final line, the painted wolves casually stood up and walked off screen. It could not have been more spectacular!

BBC Production Team Dynasties Bushlife Safaris Mana Pools
Sir David Attenborough Team Dynasties Bushlife Safaris Mana Pools

The Vundu Camp team had a first class ticket into seeing exactly how it works behind the scenes of these phenomenal productions! We were up hours before the break of dawn, our kitchen working hard to make the much-loved egg & bacon sandwiches which would fill the bellies of the crew and guides until they returned at lunch. Our workshops working hard keeping the vehicles in tip-top shape and making any custom designs needed for camera equipment. Working throughout the rains from November to March, our guides were given an opportunity to watch Mana Pools during her Emerald Season, as well as being involved in the night shoots.  Behaviour that has never been seen before in Mana Pools was witnessed during the night when the park is closed and everyone is cosy in their beds ready for their safari the next morning.  With over 700 filming days, 22 punctures during 1 leg of the shoot, 10 specialist camera operators, 17 different cameras, 9 professional guides and over 82 000km driven, we are proud to have been a part of this great production.

Leopard Sightings Bushlife Safaris Mana Pools

The year of the leopard

This year we saw more leopards than we have any other year in Mana Pools!  Being such powerful and beautiful animals, it is always an awe-inspiring moment when you are able to sit with a leopard long enough to capture a few beautiful shots of it on camera!

During our dry season (Aug – November) we saw an increase in lions hunting young elephants.  We would often come across the carcass of a small elephant that has been fed on, or found lions still with it.  Although sad, we find this to be an extremely interesting habit that the lions have caught on to.

Camp news

This year Vundu Camp closed its borders and became an exclusive private concession.  This has allowed us to build a road bordering our concession, opening up 3 new never before seen pans to the public, and making the road shorter to those travelling to Mana West Airstrip.  We have built a platform over a pan within the Vundu Concession and we look forward to making use of it during the green season as a new attraction and perspective to view the game.

Vundu Camp now also has a Gift Shop.  All the items within the shop have been sourced from non-profit organisations that help their community.  A percentage of every item we sell then goes toward supporting our anti-poaching efforts by Bushlife Support Unit and National Parks.  Monies from the shop also go toward funding our elephant collaring project with Bushlife Conservancy.  Each item sold helps more people than you know. Products range US$5 to US$100.

Wild Dogs Luxury Safaris Mana Pools
Vundu Camp Private Concession Safaris Mana Pools
Danish Trio Bushlife Safaris Mana Pools
Rasmus Bushlife Safaris Mana Pools
Laura Bushlife Safaris Mana Pools

Our Danish Trio

Rasmus has spent 2 seasons with Bushlife Safaris.  He is from Fredericia, Denmark.  After he finished high school in June 2016, he decided to spend his gap year volunteering at Vundu Camp!  After the 2017 season, Rasmus went to Australia for 5 months where he worked on a cattle station. He is a jack of all trades and was extremely helpful around camp!  Rasmus has returned to Denmark to do his Military Service.

Ida is originally from Streib, Denmark, but had lived in Zimbabwe for a few years.  She finished high school in June of 2017 and also did a gap year before returning to Denmark to start University in September.  She is currently studying business, administration, service management, tourism & hospitality at Copenhagen Business School.  She hopes to return to Africa one day to pursue more work.

Laura is from Copenhagen, Denmark, but has lived in Zimbabwe and Zambia throughout her childhood.  She finished high school in June of this year and has been spending the start of her gap year in Vundu Camp.  Laura returned home to spend the festive season with her family, but in the new year, she is hoping to come back to Harare, Zimbabwe to volunteer at an orphanage for deaf children.

Ida and Laura each volunteered for half a season this year! Their main task was to set up and run our newly added Giftshop where all proceeds go toward the anti-poaching efforts of Bushlife Support Unit.

Nick Murray’s nephew, Ethan has spent a few months at Vundu Camp to gain valuable knowledge and experience in the African bush.  He completed his diploma in Engineering in July of this year. Now that the season is over he has returned back home to Cambridge, England.