We met James Ramsey and his friends at Chirundu. It was such fun seeing them suffering in the heat like we did a few days prior. Especially because two of them had come all the way up from Cape Town which was wet and rainy and freezing and they too (just like I did) got punched in the head and stomach with a massive 40° C heat wall. These guys were here now to start their Mana Canoe Trail safari. I am not sure, but I think it was a “first” for all but one of them.
Their first night was spent at Ruchomechi and they arrived in time to be able to go out for a night drive to get the city out of their systems and get tuned into the bush. This is important because it does take at least one evening to get the city out of your system. The trail started around 14h30 the following day with a briefing in the lounge while swishing down iced tea and iced coffee. After that, they took their camera equipment and themselves off in the vehicle to the launch site. We went the other way because we wanted to photograph them from the boat.
We met them on the water. They had a brilliant start as they paddled up to three elephant that were playing and drinking in the river. Elephant are usually quite relaxed when approached from the water – unless you provoke them of course which could get a different response. From there they followed the river to their first night’s campsite which was about two hours of paddling away from the launch site. We leapt off the boat and onto the support vehicle and drove round to the first campsite.
It was all set up and is really very comfortable for camping. There is an en-suite bathroom that has a bucket shower. There are proper stretcher beds with proper mattresses and linen. There is a portable canvas washbasin that gets a welcome bucket of hot water brought in for the morning wash. There is no loo in the tent, but there is a chamber pot for emergency use during the night because it is not safe to dash out to the facility then. The facility is a communal long drop that is set up at each campsite during the trail.
The team that runs the Mana Canoe Trail campsites are fabulous. A campfire is lit in the evening for trailers to reminisce about the day’s paddling, the fantastic game viewing, the moments to remember and the laughs that were had. Dinner is beautifully set at a candle lit table and a delicious fare is dished.
We left James and his team to carry on the safari while we headed back to camp to do more photographic work. We caught up with them two nights later when they returned to Ruckomechi. They were so ecstatic about their safari. They had enjoyed special reflective and peaceful moments paddling down the river. For the heat of the day, the trail consists of a walk to a picnic spot where they ate lunch and rested up in the shade. James and crew saw amazing game on their daily walks including wild dog - which we were very jealous about.
The season has now come to an end. The next season opens in May. James and his mates were so pleased that they had taken the time and effort to get into the Zambezi Valley and take this safari. It was a journey that touched their lives in a special way. Sometimes you can’t explain it – you have to experience it. What fun!
Images by Mike Myers, Dana Allen and James Ramsey