We have done a number of Zimbabwe game reserves in the past but Mana still remained on our list. And now, having just returned from 10 days in Mana, split between River Camp and Ingwe Pan, we thought we ought to write to you about our experience. Wonderful sums it up, and I apologise in advance for using the word ‘impressive’ so often.
Mana River Camp, run by Justin, was highly efficient, with smiling Eddie always ‘there’ to help in every way. The meals and snacks, produced by chef ‘Zim-one’, were varied, tasty and very professional – an impressive beef wellington on our first night!
Henry, our guide for the five days, was amazing. We saw most of the game available and there was no end to his extensive knowledge and abilities – especially tracking and forecasting the whereabouts of the painted dogs, a walk to see those elusive lions, and his reassuring advice and encouragement to sit perfectly still and enjoy the elephants as they wandered through our campsite, simply metres away.
Inge Pan camp, run by Sheppard, was equally efficient. And Howard, with his broad grin and wonderful sense of humour, was always ‘in attendance’. Every evening Howard would prepare a different and innovative ‘venue’ and lighting arrangement for supper, and chef Joseph never failed to impress with his cuisine and nibbles – what a team!
Honest, our guide at Ingwe, was highly impressive too. The bush at Ingwe was much thicker than previously on the flood plains and how he spotted things was remarkable. Also, we took to doing a bit of walking to seek out more wildlife – his tracking, calmness, and knowledge (especially his love of the bird life) were amazing – we learnt so much and saw stuff from a different perspective.
But you know all that already, I’m sure.
What we really wanted to write about, however, are two special things we will always remember.
Firstly, (for some unknown reason, probably concerns about the national elections) we were the only people in camps apart from the first two days in River Camp. So (maybe because they didn’t want us to feel lonely), the managers and guides both sat with us for dinner each evening and we really appreciated the chance (having previously lived in Zimbabwe) to chat with them about many issues – we learnt so much from them and we absolutely treasure the time they gave us.
And most impressive of all, and locked into our memories forever, was our anniversary celebrations at Ingwe. Somehow, we had let slip that it would be our 47th wedding anniversary whilst there, and on the eve of which Howard surprised us by laying up our supper table on the decking of our tent – all beautifully lit up with lanterns, and a lovely dinner followed. And then, the next day (our anniversary), after our usual afternoon game drive, Honest suggested we finish up at ‘gumboot pan’ for our sundowners - and there, laid up and waiting for us, facing the setting sun, were three chairs and a bar, and a bottle of bubbly on ice. How thoughtful and extra special was that.
That was then followed by another lovely lantern-lit ‘surprise’ supper beside the pan, culminating in a procession and dancing from all the staff, and the presentation of a beautifully decorated anniversary cake by Joseph.
Wow. We were simply overwhelmed.
We would be extremely grateful Jeremy (we met you briefly at Ingwe) if you could pass on to your teams (including backup staff) at both River Camp and Ingwe, our huge appreciation of the wonderful way they all really cared and looked after us, always going way more than that ‘extra mile’.
What a very special trip it all turned out to be. Our thanks to you all. An experience we won’t ever forget.
Richard and Sue Calderwood.