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Jewel in the Crown

4 DAY TRIP: 26 to 29 November 2023

“Broad, bold, off-white supercilium, describing the distance from bill to nape, isolating the crown like a royal diadem. Black face, white throat, green back, yellow breast, scarlet belly. And covert spots, sparkling jewels draped over the wing, purple now at this new angle, matched in their intensity by a shining shoulder patch, etching themselves indelibly into my memory”. -The Jewel Hunter (Chris Gooddie)


The main target of our trip, the African Pitta, is surely the most beautifully coloured of all the birds in our region-those lustrous blue patches on the wing and the rump, the deep red belly, green back, golden-buff chest, pink throat, black tail, and a boldly striped black and yellow head.


The African Pitta is a  migratory species to south-eastern Africa and the Congo Basin. Its breeding habitat in south-eastern Africa is deciduous, lowland riparian forest or thicket with intermittent dense understorey and small sub-canopy glades. On migration however, they may sojourn at any areas of bush or woodland. Fallen dead trees and open branches are favoured perches when performing their peculiar bouncing display but they are elusive and hard to observe despite their brightly coloured plumage. Their loud, explosive calls are infrequently heard. They spend much time during mornings and at dusk scratching in leaf litter or around termitaria or may stand motionless for long periods. Following rains breeding birds call and display from the mid-canopy.

They arrive in southern Africa from late October, though mainly in November and early December.

Kavinga Safari Camp


Kavinga Safari Camp is in a private concession within the southern boundary of Mana Pools National Park, approximately one kilometre upstream of the confluence of the Ruckomechi and Chiwuye Rivers. The camp is set on a cliff overlooking the magnificent Ruckomechi riverbed set against the extraordinary backdrop of the Zambezi Escarpment mountains. Most first-time visitors will want to see the classic Zambezi River landscapes with the floodplain “albida” trees.  But Kavinga offers something very special of its own, which is entirely different.

This exclusive camp has seven safari tents, each built on a platform a couple of metres high on the edge of a cliff, looking down on the ephemeral Ruckomechi river below. This unusual construction gives a particularly good easterly vantage point towards the camp’s waterhole and across the riverbed with a view of the rising sun above the magnificent Zambezi Valley floor. As a result, guests can often spot wildlife from the chairs on their veranda.

Each tent has been designed with an emphasis on privacy and is surrounded by insect repellent gauze, allowing the air to circulate, contributing to maximum coolness. Inside each tent are 2 comfortable beds in flexible arrangements, to cater for everyone’s needs, as well as an ensuite bathroom.

A cleverly designed photographic hide built to look like a termite mound has been constructed at the water’s edge, with safe access from the camp above.  From here, the most incredible daytime or night-time close-up photographic opportunities can be enjoyed.  There isn’t anything quite like this elsewhere in the park.

Camp waterhole & hide



Kavinga’s extensive private concession which comprises the beautiful, rugged foothills of the Zambezi escarpment, the thick riverine woodlands and sandbeds of the Ruckomechi and Chiwuye Rivers, and the mopane and baobab scrubland in between, offers an exclusive and extraordinary wildlife experience.

Kavinga is primarily a place for wildlife lovers.  Daytime activities are focused on exploring the very varied habitats of the camp’s concession area either by vehicle or on foot with the attention of a knowledgeable professional guide.

During the dry season (April to November) water in the Mana Pools area becomes scarce, drawing much of the wildlife towards the permanent Zambezi River. Most camps in the park are set up along the river to take advantage of this, but the owners of Kavinga Safari Camp and a few others have taken a bold alternative approach. Water might be limited in Kavinga’s remote southern section of the park, but the camp pumps a waterhole here and this, along with a scattering of natural springs on the concession, draws wildlife from miles around.

Our visit is timed to coincide with the beginning of the rainy season, thereby maximising our prospects of finding the Pitta. After good rains the mammals are no longer dependant on permanent water sources and numbers begin to thin out. But this time is just as awesome with the emerald brilliance of summer bursting from the ground and the trees, with the crisp, clarity of the air, with the dark purple backdrop of thunderclouds forming over the mountains, and with a truly astonishing diversity of life all around.

Most evenings, herds of elephant gather in the riverbed providing a wonderful wildlife spectacle and shyer species, like leopard, visit the pan right below the camp under the cover of darkness.


The camp is open longer than most properties in the park (to end November), giving guests the opportunity to experience the park into the beginning of the rainy season when migrant birds are more numerous.

The Pitta is by no means the only attraction and the prospects of encountering other migrant species are good, such as Steppe and Lesser Spotted Eagles, Eurasian Hobby, Thick-billed Cuckoo, Dwarf Bittern and, who knows, perhaps a rarity or two.

Resident species to look out for

White-headed Vulture, Ayres’s Hawk-Eagle, Martial Eagle, Dickinson’s Kestrel, Verreaux’s Eagle-Owl, African Wood-Owl, African Barred Owlet, Southern Ground Hornbill, Three-banded Courser, Double-banded Sandgrouse, Wood Pipit,  Swallow-tailed Bee-eater, White-browed Coucal, Retz’s Helmet-Shrike, Orange-winged Pytilia, Bohm’s Spinetail, Mottled Spinetail, Racket-tailed Roller, Arnott’s Chat, Lilian’s Lovebird, African Golden Oriole, Eastern Nicator, Red-throated Twinspot.



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