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This safari follows the Zambezi River through the Mana Pools National Park. Canoeing offers guests a unique way of game viewing. You can glide up to elephants crossing the Zambezi and watch the game coming down to the river to drink. Canoeing begins near the confluence of the Ruckomechi River and Zambezi River and continues along the Mana Pools shoreline to Ilala camp across from Chikwenga Island in the Mana Pools 'wilderness area'.
Natureways Safaris' Odyssey Safaris are true bush camps but offering a little rustic luxury. There is no electricity or plumbing and there are no permanent structures. It is a taste of the way a safari used to be, a truly authentic, African bush experience. Camps are eco-friendly, designed to be erected and dismantled within hours, leaving no trace on the environment.
Natureways Safaris has custom-built tents to guarantee guest comfort. They are spacious walk-in-style tents supplied with en-suite toilet facilities for night-use and comfortable beds with fresh linen. Stationary camp tents are mosquito-proof with mosquito-gauzed rooves so guests can lie in bed and enjoy the night sky.
All the tents have fly sheets to ensure no one gets wet if it does rain. They also provide shade should one want an afternoon sleep.
Odyssey camps are fully-equipped with a mobile kitchen run by an experienced bush cook, bar facilities, and a dining area with full waiter service.
Natureways Safaris' Mana Shoreline canoe safaris commence each week on Mondays, Tuesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, and are 3-night safaris with half a day on either side. To ensure guests have time to canoe on the first afternoon, you are advised to arrive in Mana Pools National Park no later than 11:30, whether flying into the park or driving. You are recommended to combine your safari with a one-night Camp Zambezi, allowing you to arrive in your own time and ensuring everyone is well-rested before canoeing begins the next day.
After you are gathered by the guide, you are driven 30 kilometers, a leisurely game drive through the spectacular Mana Pools floodplain, to the first night’s campsite. The area has one of the highest concentrations of wildlife in Zimbabwe and the drive is usually very rewarding, enabling your guide to give an overview of the various animals, birds, and plants that make up this unique habitat.
Vehicles are open Toyota Land Cruisers with good all-round visibility. On arrival at “Vundu”, the first camp, met by the welcome smiles of Natureways Safaris’ support staff, lunch will be served. Usually, it is consisting of cold meats, a variety of salads, and freshly baked breads.
After a refreshing lunch break, you will take a short drive to the canoe launch-spot near the confluence of the Ruckomechi and Zambezi rivers. Here, the guide will give a full safety briefing, pointing out where all equipment, such as the first aid kit, is kept, as well as explaining what to do in an emergency. The briefing also covers the basic techniques of steering and controlling the Canadian-style 5.5-meter (18-feet) canoes. The group then departs downstream, by canoe, returning to Vundu Camp.
This first afternoon of paddling is taken at a slow pace, allowing you time to become acquainted with the canoes and methods of steering. You should now begin to see some of the multitude of animals and birds attracted to the water’s edge. Hippo, buffalo, elephant, and crocodile, as well as a variety of antelope species, may be seen.
Arrival at the camp is around sunset. The camp will be fully-prepared and you will be able to sit back and relax with sundowners and snacks. Tea, coffee, and hot showers are also available. A campfire is already burning and this is invariably where guests will gather to discuss the day’s events and plan for the morning. In the background, your support staff and resident bush cook are busy preparing a three-course dinner for you.
There will be an early wake-up as the dawn breaks. Hot water for freshening up will be placed in raised basins outside each tent, while tea, freshly brewed coffee, muffins, or home-made biscuits are already waiting by the campfire. While you pack up your personal kit, the support staff load the canoes with all required for the day ahead. You need only worry about a small daypack carrying essentials such as sun block, camera, spare film, hat, and binoculars.
The aim is to be in the canoes and on the water in time to watch the sunrise. As one of the most magical times of day, you will be enchanted as you drift along quietly, listening to the sounds of the African wild wakening to a new day. Following paddling for couple of hours, breakfast takes place under a grove of acacia trees.
After breakfast, you have the opportunity to set off on a walk on the floodplain and surrounding woodlands. This is a great time to try and view predators before they hide up for the day. You may even be lucky enough to spot one or more of the diurnal animals making their way down to the river. This walk offers an opportunity, not only for game viewing, but also for exploring some of the more interesting aspects of the environment.
You will spot a variety of animal spoor and may even find themselves engrossed in tracking down a particular species. The guide will share fascinating facts about strange insects and spiders as well as a wealth of knowledge about this miniature world that forms such an integral part of the bush. Sounds of many brightly colored birds can be heard while marveling at the beauty and tranquility of this unique area.
Returning to the canoes, you head downstream to an area renowned for its huge, old elephant bulls. The guide tries to time the trip to catch them swimming or wading out to the grass islands where the canoes will be able to glide quietly alongside these awesome giants. Their age makes them placid enough that they tend to ignore the canoes.
Lunch break coincides with the heat of the day. The canoes are pulled up below a grove of mahogany trees whose dense shade provides a welcome relief. The meal generally consists of cold meats, freshly prepared salads, pizza or quiche, and cheese and biscuits. After eating and drinking your ice-cold drinks, you have a choice to either take another short walk through the mahogany forest or just relax and enjoy an afternoon siesta.
The late afternoon and evening are spent drifting down to the camp and enjoying the game and birding along the river’s edge. Natureways Safaris’ welcoming support staff are waiting at the camp which is reached by sunset. This night’s camp, Chessa, overlooks a small channel, with a large grass plain separating it from the main Zambezi, 500 meters away. Frequently, the plain hosts buffalo, waterbuck, elephant, and hippo in the evenings.
This follows the same basic itinerary as day two, with a predawn wake-up and sunrise while drifting down the Zambezi. However, this is the day that you will enter the “wilderness area” of Mana Pools National Park where there is a limited access to people and vehicles. In fact, the only road is 3 to 5 kilometers in-land, the same one that Natureways Safaris’ support team will use. From here on, you are entering a much more remote environment.
Breakfast may be taken on the Mbera river floodplain which comprises stunning acacia woodland with large patches of thick “adrenaline” grass, a habitat much favored by all the predators. Towards the end of the dry season, it also hosts large groups of female elephants with their babies. The day is spent paddling through a maze of small channels before once again joining the main Zambezi. For a change, lunch is on one of the shallow sandbanks in the middle of the river where a table and chairs are set up in ankle deep water with the whole width of the river stretching out on either side.
This afternoon is the last chance for canoeing. Depending on water levels and time allowed, there may be an opportunity to explore Chikwenga Island on foot. This unique island is the largest on this section of the river and is host to prolific bird life as well as a number of interesting mammal species. In the afternoon, you will paddle into Ilala Lodge Hotel to spend the last night in the rustic luxury of the Odyssey Camp.
Depending on your departure time or if you are moving on to an alternative camp, an early morning walk before breakfast is possible or a well-deserved lie in. After which, there will be a short game drive to the airstrip or Nyamepi main camp where you will be bid farewell. As you depart with your memories, Natureways Safaris knows that this experience will have enriched your life and touched your soul!
This itinerary is just a guideline and may change due to unforeseen circumstances such as weather conditions.
Walks are dependant on animal and weather conditions at the time and there will be a backup vehicle available if required or if clients do not want to walk the entire distance between camps.
All participants are expected to sign an indemnity form upon arrival in Mana Pools. Failure to do so will result in cancellation of the safari.
Elijah or E.G. as he likes to be called as has been with Natureways Safaris for 5 years and has embarked on his career as a canoe guide with the company. Recognizing his enthusiasm for the bush and wildlife Natureways Safaris is nurturing his passion and assisting him to achieve his goal of one day becoming a professional guide. Until then, E.G. works as the team leader in Mana Pools while trying to achieve his 1,000 hours of canoeing necessary to become a qualified canoe guide.
James is Zimbabwean born and raised. From a very young age, he showed a keen interest in the outdoors, preferring to play with skeletons and birds nests rather than toys. This love of nature was developed at school and upon leaving, he started his safari career in Hwange National Park with Touch the Wild safaris. James joined Natureways in 1991 under the tutelage of Garth Thompson. He attained his canoe license in 1992 and his full professional guide status in early 1993. James has been in Mana Pools for 13 years and countless guests have benefited from his knowledge and passion for the bush.
This safari will take place in Zimbabwe, following the Zambezi River through the Mana Pools National Park.
All produce is brought in fresh and meals are prepared in camp by one of Natureways Safaris' famed bush cooks. All pieces of bread and pastries are freshly baked on the open campfire. Vegetarian or other dietary preferences can be catered to providing Natureways Safaris is advised 14 days prior to the safari.
Breakfast may consist of cereals, yogurt, muffins, biscuits, pancakes, toast, and jams. On the last day of safari, a full English breakfast will be laid on for clients to enjoy. Lunch is usually fresh quiche, lasagne, or similar with a varied selection freshly baked bread, salads, and cheeses. Dinners are full 3-course meals with various starters, delicious main courses, and sumptuous deserts all eaten by candlelight under the stars, accompanied by an imported bottle of wine.
All Odyssey Safaris include a supply of local beers, spirits, imported wines, minerals, cordials, mineral water, tea, and coffee. Drinks are served by your friendly camp staff while you relax. You are recommended to contact Natureways Safaris with any drink preferences i.e. if a particular brand of local beer is preferred. You are also free to bring your own beverages. Cooler boxes can be set aside for this purpose. There is no limit to the number of beverages you may bring.
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