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Only a few years ago a photo safari to Africa was a unique experience but now there are many companies offering safaris and especially photo tours. That doesn’t change the magic of the continent or the amazing opportunities for the wildlife photographer but does mean you have to look a little harder for something different.
With over 50 years’ experience photographing in Africa I am always on the lookout for new, exciting and locations. I particularly look for areas where the wildlife is unique and special, where the guides are simply brilliant and where the camps are small and private. All these together create the very best photo opportunities but sadly they are seldom on offer in the many safaris available.
In Mana pools in Zimbabwe the wildlife is unique and the conservancy model keeps the visitor numbers manageable. To get the best from this as in any area in Africa you also need the very best guides. With the best wildlife, without an excellent guide you won’t get the best from the photo opportunities, teaming up with an excellent guide takes the safari experience to a completely different level. The guides in Zimbabwe are legendary, they are without doubt amongst the best in Africa.
Over the years I have had the great good fortune to work with and call friends some of the very best Zimbabwe guides. These include famous individuals like Spike Williamson, Dave Carson, Paul Hubbard and Nick Murray. These are the crème de la crème of safari guides and working with them always leads to an excellent safari experience. With these expert guides we will be able to approach some amazing wildlife on foot something I wouldn’t do with any other guides in Africa.
For this safari I am working with Nick Murray who owns and runs Vundu Camp in the heart of the Mana pools National Park. Quite apart from being one of the limited number of Zimbabwe professional guides Nick has a passion for wild dogs or painted wolves. He has years of experience working with theses amazing carnivores and has been following and tracking them for over a decade. His unique experience lead to him advising and working with the BBC Earth crew for the 2018 BBC Dynasties episode on the painted wolf.
Quite apart from the wild dogs this area boasts elephant that have learnt to stand on their back legs to reach succulent parts of the area’s trees. In 4WD vehicles and on foot with the expert local guides we can approach these and other wildlife to achieve amazing photographs.
We will have our own 4WD vehicles and guides and will spend some of our time in true off-road vehicles and some on foot. The game drives and walks can range throughout the national park, although for most we will remain in in the camp’s own private concession to ensure limited numbers of other vehicles and private access to the wildlife. This private conservancy is in the heart of the park, covering an area within about 3–4km from the camp. It has plenty of the classic Mana Pools scenery – with forested areas, and some of the pools for which the park is noted. With our skilled guides we will probably combine walks and drives with everyone hopping out of the vehicle when an interesting track or animal has been discovered.
There are very few guides in Africa who I would trust with this level of access but this way we can carry all our camera gear with relative ease. Nothing can be guaranteed but we should be lucky enough to approach both wild dog and lion on foot to within a few tens of metres – a truly unique and amazing experience only made possible by the experience and skill of Vundu’s guiding team.
The camp has eight large clean, spacious and comfortable tented chalets. Outside the front of each is a private seating area with canvas chairs; inside, large wooden beams support a high thatched roof with canvas walls and shade-mesh windows. Each chalet has an en-suite bathroom with spacious indoor and open-air hot showers, a flush toilet, and decorative pottery washbasins made by Nick’s wife, Desiree, who is also a fully qualified guide of note. At the centre of the camp, with excellent views of the Zambezi, is a raised communal area whose bar, dining and lounge areas are furnished with comfortable cushioned chairs, a tea and coffee station, and a small library. To the front of this wooden building is a sandy area overlooking the river, shaded by an old ebony tree. A fire is lit here every night, providing a focus for drinks before and after dinner. Behind the camp is a shallow grassy depression with a waterhole in the centre. This attracts game during the day and is a great spot to sit beneath the thatch-covered platform and photograph animals and birds that come here to drink.
The trip will be limited to no more than 6 guests and the full details including pricing is in the following details itinerary.
In putting this trip together I have worked closely with the UK based and experts in the region, Safari Consultants. Choosing the right company to arrange your African safari is vitally important and the complexity and remoteness of Africa means you need a company who have detailed knowledge and first-hand experience of Africa. Safari Consultants are just such a company having specialised in safaris to East and Southern Africa since 1983. Their holidays are fully bonded for your financial protection under the CAA ATOL scheme or through the AITO Trust.
Cost for 2023
Due to the current volatility in the US Dollar and UK Pound exchange rates we have taken the decision to price the holiday in US Dollars and to the airfare separately in UK pounds.
Monies you pay as a deposit will be converted on the day of transfer at that day’s exchange rate. If you require this rate can then be “pegged” as the rate to be used when the balance is paid thus ensuring you know the total price of your holiday in sterling in advance. Alternatively you can take a risk on the exchange rates prevailing at the time your balance is due.
African element US$9,850 approximately. £7,923 (exchange rate as at 7th April 2023)
Plus international economy flights if required from £1,100
N.B. We very strongly believe that if you book a safari with us everything possible should be included in the price with no nasty hidden last minute surprises. Unlike most other providers our prices are therefore all-inclusive. This safari includes all local internal air transfers, full board accommodation with all meals, local drinks (alcoholic and soda), laundry, all park fees, all guiding fees, all photographic tuition etc.
We also believe that in booking a safari like this your money should be guaranteed, and thus we use a specialist company who provide 100% financial guarantees through their ATOL licence (No. 3783) and membership of ABTOT (No. 5246).
If required we also quote and book air fares from London Heathrow getting lower prices than most and guaranteeing your places.
See detailed itinerary for more information