Freedom’s Dry Season Experience in Chitake
From Nkululeko “Freedom” Hlongwane, Bushlife Support Unit Trust Manager, “Mana Pools – merely its name arouses the imagination of the adventurous spirit, haunting beauty of the Zambezi valley and its wild animals. To the conservationist, it is even more, it is the large diamond of biodiversity.
A visit to Mana Pools, for those who are lucky enough to live the dream, can be the experience of a lifetime. These photos were taken at Chitake Spring during the dry season, during part of our anti-poaching patrols.
The African sounds begin faltering, rising and falling like a symphony carried on an uncertain breeze. The sounds of the African Barred Owlet, hyenas howling, and baboons barking are the African lullaby that can also be described as nerve-racking when interrupted by the lions’ calls.
Sleep was tough to come by that first night, listening to the sounds of the African night. Lying down and getting comfortable for a long night’s wait, thoughts begin to race through the mind as the muscles in one’s stomach begin to tighten, a feeling of puzzlement overwhelm as one contemplates the last seconds of life.
We were welcomed by a mixed herd of buffalo drinking with beautiful background light. The herd suddenly exploded, who knows what triggered their sudden urge to flee. Suddenly we were in a dust storm with a runaway train in front of us. They bunched up, over one hundred strong, as they climbed the riverbank on the eastern side. The roar of the pounding hooves was deafening as the dust engulfed us. Trying to see through it was like peeking through the snow in a snowstorm.
Suddenly, a feline appears silhouetted by the cloud of dust, yes, he is looking hungry. With adrenaline filtering into our bloodstream now, knowing there are seventeen in total and only two are visible, we rose an inch at a time from our sitting position, coming erect in one slow but a fluid movement. We got to our land cruiser parked under the shade of fig tree. With the drama of the preceding few minutes behind us, our confidence had returned…”