Mesmerizing Mana Magic
Here 21st Century human noise has been obliterated and Natures’ silence is deafening. That’s really all I can say. Magical Mana. Spiritual and Supernatural. The mighty Zambezi snakes through the enchanting forest of indigenous trees. Earth and water. Such powerful energy sources. There’s nothing small about this World Heritage site. We were lucky to have been there.
From the Maori dictionary - " Mana
1. (Verb) to be legal, effectual, binding, authoritative, valid.
2. (Noun) prestige, authority, control, power, influence, status, spiritual power, charisma - mana is a supernatural force in a person, place or object. Mana goes hand in hand with tapu, one affecting the other. The more prestigious the event, person or object, the more it is surrounded by tapu and mana. Mana is the enduring, indestructible power of the atua and is inherited at birth, the more senior the descent, the greater the mana"
Mana means ‘four’ in Shona, in reference to the four large permanent pools formed by the meanderings of the middle Zambezi. These 2,500 square kilometres of river frontage, islands, sandbanks and pools, flanked by forests of mahogany, wild figs, ebonies and baobabs, is one of the least developed national parks in Southern Africa. It has the country’s biggest concentration of hippopotami and crocodiles and large dry season mammal populations of zebra, elephant and Cape buffalo. The area is also home to other threatened species including the lion, cheetah, African wild dog (affectionately know as Painted dog), and near-threatened species including leopard and the brown hyena.
Large herds of Elephant circle through the forest continuosly. Dwarfed by ancient trees they do something extraordinary. Unique to Mana, Elephant love grazing the leaves and pods of the Acacia trees and during very dry seasons August – September they would stand upright, on their hind legs, to reach into the trees to pick and pull at the branches. We had one occasion to photograph the perfect shot, in the right light, with the right Ellie but, missed the moment. Like a ghost it just stood there quietly picking away at a branch, almost invisible. We heard the snapping of a branch. Just as suddenly the large bull simply vanished into the undergrowth. In our excitement we might even have dreamt it.
It’s so quiet there, that’s the one powerful memory I experience as I recall our days and click through my photographs. These huge beasts tread lightly on our earth.
On one drive we were met by a lone buffalo standing stock still, he was the leader of the pack, waiting, waiting for the rest, until we had a buffer of buffalo crossing, grazing and gazing at us. We counted at least 90 beasts. They didn’t make a sound. As quietly as they appeared they vanished, steadfastly moving forward to a waterhole deep in the layers of trees.
My favourite predator, the Painted dog, or African Wild dog eluded us. We went in search of these highly social animals who hunt in packs. Every day we'd hear updates about their whereabouts from guides but didn't see them. The other ghost was the Leopard, he really frustrated us although he'd been spotted on a few occasions. We must return.
Walking is permitted in Mana, even encouraged. I know why. One has to experience being one with the veld, the animals and the trees. It’s impossible sitting in a vehicle, surrounded by petrol and diesel fumes to feel the mist of magic on one’s skin. You’ve got to walk away from the protection of steel. We did! Often alighting our vehicle and just walking, but, always mindful and respectful of the animals’ space.
Did you know? All animals great or small know all about us, their natural predator, we’re the animals that kill them. With bows and arrows, guns and knives. We are the natural born killers and they instinctively shy away from us long before we’re aware of them. Our fear is mutual. Respect has to be mutual when we move into their space. Nature has a way of drawing lines between us.
With our guide Amos we trekked through the forest for 5 hours, covering about 10km (Amos said it was 20, to some it felt like 30, but we agreed it couldn’t have been more than about 10). In a single file, keeping absolutely quiet we marched off. I felt so small and insignificant. It was an amazing experience and well worth the effort. It is recommended that one should be somewhat fit, to keep up with the rest of the pack, but, give it a go, your pace will determine the length of the trek. Our main aim was to get a closer look at the elephant, with the hope of seeing Boswell. I think he did a vanishing act, no clowning about for him, this was our circus and he was having none of it. We did see two buffalo soldiers, some ground hornbill, many impala, which were fascinated by us as they stood staring. We were entertained by a raft of hippos displaying their defence tactics. We weren’t fazed at all.
Amos did an excellent job guiding us, keeping us together and ensuring our safety. He was very aware of our fitness levels and knew we were only as capable as our weakest link. An excellent tracker, he knows the bush and Mana Pools in particular as he’s involved in anti-poaching, hiking and conservation. He returned us to our vehicle and his tracking was spot on!
He told us with fondness of his employer Mr. C. A. C Landsman, for whom he was a houseman. Amos was a young man then (16), he later joined the Zimbabwe game parks and moved to Mana Pools. Mr. Landsman moved to Johannesburg in the late 70’s/80’s and Amos would dearly love to make contact again.
We treated ourselves to a last outing before it was time to pack our bags and bid Mana Pools farewell. We paddled canoes aided by the guide Mash. What an unexpected pleasure drifting along the currents, hugging the riverbanks and keeping well away from the Hippopotami. The only sound was the slip slap of an oar, our laughter and the distant drone of an aeroplane bringing new guests to the lodges on the Zambian side. Clients who hope to catch the big one; the Tiger fish. Personally, I think the ladies from the staff village have a better luck (and skill).