18 Jun 2015 / by Pilot Michael / in 2015 Africa Flying Safari
Mana Pools Zimbabwe
From the Okavango Delta we flew Northwest to Kariba airport on the northwest point of Lake Kariba. I don’t think the flight could have been any more beautiful, first we started out over the Okavango Delta that is fill with wildlife including elephants, zebra, water buck, hippos and tons of birds. From there we joined up on the southern point of Lake Kariba and flew the entire length of the lake at very low altitudes, waving to the locals on their fishing boats, just enjoying the sights of life around Lake Kariba. After a quick stop at Kariba airport to clear customs into Zimbabwe, we were on our way to Mana Pools.
I really had no idea what to expect at Mana Pools, I didn’t do a lot of checking into the camps before we arrived. I knew that this was one of the most basic camps we would be staying at but I didn’t have any idea what to expect from the camp of the wildlife. The arrival started out with one of the most challenging landings of my life, it wasn’t that the runway was short or too narrow, it was covered and I mean COVERED in rocks the size of a small fist. I made my first pass to inspect the runway and didn’t really notice the density of rocks on the runway, I’m guessing due to the complete coverage my brain didn’t recognize it as a hazard. My inspection pass was downwind so I made a fun climbing teardrop entry to final and setup for a nice soft field landing. On very short final I realized what I was dealing with and decided to continue with the approach. I touched down smoothly, rolled out without touching the brakes and meandered off the side of the runway to find parking in the grass. It wasn’t until after I had parked that I realized how lucky I had been to not hit a huge pot hole or a huge rock as they were both everywhere.
After the uneventful, eventful landing, we were picked up by our camp guides Bob and Gary who drove us the 30 minutes to camp. Upon reaching the camp I knew I was in a great place, we were situated overlooking the river in smaller canvas tents. The kitchen was a beautiful mix of function and organization, the dining table was setup under a canvas cover. This is how a safari feels in my head, I don’t need the fancy lodges and shiny silverware, this is how you get closer to nature. I was not disappointed, from having an elephant walk right behind me while I chatted with a guest near the tents, to hearing and then seeing the aftermath of a lion killing another lion. We were in the wild and I no longer felt as though I was the top of the food chain. Bob and Gary took us out on hikes to see the animals and to teach us how to safely hike in this wild country. This will forever be one of my favorite spots on our 2015 flying safari.