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Mana Pools National Park | Discover the Untamed Wilderness and Wildlife

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Unveiling the Wonders of Mana Pools | An Unforgettable Journey

Exploring the Wilderness and Wildlife of Mana Pools National Park

Born and addicted to Africa’s beauty and wildness, Andrew Danckwerts is an insatiable explorer who spent a decade working as a guide and expedition leader for renowned outfitters. From remote camps to luxurious lodges, he immersed himself in the diverse landscapes of Africa. Motivated by his desire to share these unforgettable adventures with others, Andrew ventured into private guiding. His mission was not just to lead travellers between destinations but to connect them deeply with Africa’s boundless space and open their minds and souls to its internal mysteries and untamed allure.

Andrew is not only an experienced guide and explorer but also a talented storyteller. Through his captivating narratives, he effortlessly transports readers on virtual escapes to the untamed landscapes of Africa. Andrew’s profound connection to the bush is so palpable that even those who have never visited find themselves yearning for the wilds of Africa. Join him on a remarkable journey to the majestic Mana Pools National Park , where his words and experiences will ignite your imagination and leave you craving the untamed beauty of this remarkable destination.

Immersion in the Majestic Wilderness of Mana Pools National Park

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The sound at night.

I would hear a sound at night. It was footsteps. They had no direction, nor did they seem to be approaching or leaving. They’d gently walk through the space of my mind. Coming and going as easily as a breeze. Pushing away needless thoughts of the demands of society. I knew its stride, an unmistakable rhythm that only one can make. It’s no man that walks this way, I knew. It is an elephant. I heard the silence of his feet before lifting off the ground. I heard the gentle scrape of his soles touching the sand as they travelled through the air, and then I could hear the soft crackle of leaves as his feet spread across the ground on landing. I could not see him, but I could feel his presence. I have heard this hypnotic sound many times and have come to miss it on nights I cannot hear it. Now, I squint my eyes closed and push my head towards the edge of the city’s loud and confused noise. Trying to let the footsteps in again, but the synthetics of this place halt them—this unreal place. Surrounded by the walls of concrete and the screams of motorbikes, the city allows no peace anymore. I long for the sound, yet like a memory, it starts to abandon me. The memories of sitting in the company of wild elephants and their gentle consideration of me begin to fade. I am restless now. Yet there is a journey ahead that may evoke this feeling, this memory…

Rediscovering the Pristine Beauty of Mana Pools: A Wildlife Haven

My aching for this interaction is stronger than ever as I anticipate its imminence. It is so close now, yet not close enough, so I distract myself. I consider the freckles on her hand as she toggles aircraft adjustments. Her sun-brown skin and her natural blonde hair unspoiled by product. Her features a beautiful and textured landscape like the one we pass over. Her eyes bright and full of life, yet a sadness hides behind them. Her country brought to its knees by the greed of a few, leaving shards of a life and fragmented memories of when things were once good. A vivacious Zimbabwean, Michelle Hunt wears the sturdy cast of old integrities and distinguished bearing. I wonder about her life as she commands our aircraft through thermals, falling and rising and falling once more into the Zambezi Valley. I can see details along this dry land now. Rocks in riverbeds and elephant paths through the “Jesse Bush” (a mixture of Combretum and Grewia that make up a terrifyingly dense and grey habitat, renowned for hiding even an entire herd of elephants until you are amongst them). I lift my eyes from warthogs running from the noisy birds above them to notice the grey-green haze to our north. An immense river cuts through the scorched terrain.

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“Zambezi River,” I say in my head, as I always do when I see it once again, as if the valley belonged to it, and so needs acknowledgement before we touch down in its land. A land that inundates you in its heat and its life on arrival. The rattle of cicadas fills your ears and shakes the air around you. You gasp at the air while stepping out of the plane as if you have been holding your breath for years. Clean and scented by dust and the forest around the airstrip, that now beats its drum.

I will not wrangle with you about nature’s ability to conduce not only happiness within man but also goodness. It is a fact. How its absence, in time, perpetuates a negative and pointless life. I have seen it many times. I have felt it. I have led countless trips like this into the wilderness. My primary grail is to connect people to nature. I have placed many men and women in these places. Some born of the wild, immediately and seamlessly fitting back into their place of being. Some deprived of it, yet their self-awareness and consciousness leave them yearning for this realness and purity. It means they soon understand what’s around them. They connect and deeply appreciate their situation. I see some, pale behind their eyes and empty like the duty-free shops of the now corroded-by-corruption Harare airport. Their ego and pride are too much for nature’s grasp anymore. They are alive yet cannot comprehend what’s worth living for. They look yet seem blind to the marvel in front of them. They listen yet are deaf to the dance of the wild. They are present, yet they do not care to feel the pulse of the writhing life that surrounds them. Like the rock in the river, they are unmoved and have no purpose other than to disrupt the energy that flows past them. I pity them. I resent them. I must move on.

Connecting with Nature

Alf Ngwarai, an eminent of the valley, and a composer, his theatre the old albidia forest, where the elephants roam to the river quietly winding its way past, and everything between there and here. You are defenceless to his ardour for the wild, and you only follow his gaze and gestures as they point out phenomena here and there as if he was, too, seeing it for the first time. The plethora of knowledge he possesses is only believable when he starts to interpret the happenings around us. His relationship with the inhabitants of Mana Pools is only understood when he walks us under the canopy of the blue forest. As if we had been there all along, Eland and Zebra only lift their heads briefly to acknowledge us before returning to feeding. Baboons, forever suspicious of their not-so-distant cousin, give us a curious examination on our way past, occasionally barking a profanity or two in our direction. Remote Hippo calls and, in the distance, too, figures take shape. Alf smiles back at us while pointing. Massive animals, only a little darker than the shade they stand in and a little less blue than the haze of the forest. The shapes have life and sway to and fro. Move slowly in your direction. Some with pale tusks, megalithic like their carriers. Swaying to the gait and cutting through the dark shades as if trees themselves. “Elephants,” he says while leading us in their direction.

A Safari Adventure Like No Other

We are with them now. I hear it again. The sound that I had longed for, for too long. If I had no sight, I would have been able to see everything. The sounds of footsteps all around us as elephants, aware of us but not concerned, move from one tree to the next.

So close we can hear the sound of breath as their trunks comb the forest floor in search of nutritious pods or the canopy for low-lying branches. Your heart rate slows to normal again. You breathe again. Realising that no harm from these animals is intended. Your quads release from pushing your back into the tree trunk you sit against as you know you are present with some of the most wise and gentle animals of the earth. Time stands still as one of them stands upon his back legs. You brace as he descends back towards the ground with a branch clasped in his trunk, yet only a minor plume of dust escapes his feet as he delicately lands into his usual posture. Youngsters flock to his side in the hope of feeding on his bounty. He chews his share, leaves the rest to the young, and then continues to the next tree and the next. The shade and haze start to retake them, and soon you are alone, content yet trying to comprehend what you have seen.

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That night I hear sounds. There is a lion roaring in the distance, hyenas howling nearer, and buffalo inhaling sausage tree flowers just outside my tent. I close my eyes, there it is. My old friend is back, walking his way through my dreams.

Africa is truly unparalleled in its beauty. Experiencing its numerous breathtaking destinations with someone like Andrew Danckwerts, who shares an immeasurable love for the land, enhances your journey in unimaginable ways. Andrew’s deep connection to this land and its wildlife goes beyond guiding; it is an invitation to witness the raw authenticity of Africa and embrace its transformative power. Let Andrew be your guide as he unveils the secrets and splendours of this remarkable continent, leaving an indelible mark on your travel experience. Discover the magnificence of Africa through his eyes and let your spirit soar amidst its untamed wonders.

Stories From Andrew Danckwerts