SAFARI CAMP UPDATES
Renovations and Wild Dog photos at Kwando Lagoon
Camp (Linyanti area of Botswana).
The passing of a legendary Elephant named Abu.
First Xigera Mokoro Trail of 2003 - great story from the Delta.
New photo and update from Gudigwa Camp (North of the Okavango in Botswana).
Monthly update from Xigera Camp (Okavango/Moremi in Botswana).
Monthly update from Jao Camp (Okavango Delta,
Monthly Lion chronciles from Duba Plains Camp (Okavango
Photos and information on the NEW Little
Ongava Camp (Namibia) - it looks amazing!
Monthly update from Ongava Tented Camp (Namibia).
Monthly update from Chikwenya Camp in Mana Pools National Park, Zimbabwe
Kwando Lagoon Camp Jump
Kwando Safaris is
pleased to announce that the complete renovation of the Lagoon camp public
areas is now over and they have a bright
shining new camp with all the charm of the old but better still. The relaxed
personal atmosphere of the 12 bedded camp is enhanced by the special sand
floor and minor design upgrades but the experience remains Vintage Africa.
Lagoon is enjoying the quality
Wild Dog sightings that precede them choosing their den site (hopefully
near the camp again) in late May. The new alpha female
pregnant and it seems sure that for the 7th year in a row, Lagoon will
enjoy some of the best Wild Dog viewing in Africa. The sequence here
was taken by a
guest last year – it is of the pack killing a Leopard that ventured
too near to the den.
Passing of Abu the
- Elephant Back Safaris
Abu, the star
of Randall J. Moore's Abu's Elephant Back Safaris camp in Botswana's
has died after sustaining serious injuries in a fight with a wild bull
Elephant which was in musth late in 2002. Despite the concerted
efforts of a team of veterinarians over a period of four months, Abu
eventually died of a heart attack.
Abu's story is well-known amongst those
who has visited the camp. He was brought back to his home continent
of Africa from the United States by Mr. Moore in 1987. Abu, who was
44 years old when he died, has spent most of his life in a small safari
park in the States after having been sold to the park after a culling
operation in the Kruger National Park (in South Africa) in the early
Abu became somwhat of a star after his
return to Africa, appearing in numerous television commercials and
fashion spreads. He also played a leading role opposite Clint Eastwood
in the motion picture White Hunter, Black Heart. Abu appeared
in several other films as well, including Circles in the Forest.
Those who were lucky enough to meet and
get to know Abu can attest to what a special animal he was. He will
be missed but his spirit will live on in the memories of those who
Xigera Mokoro Trail Jump
Camp and Mokoro Trail
Here is a great story
from the first Xigera Mokoro Trail run this year in the Okavango Delta.
It's a superb new safari offered where guests go
and camp out in a very remote part of the Okavango with a good guide. You'll
camp out in that big void half way between Xigera and Mombo - with not
a soul around. We think this story sums up what the whole experience
is all about.
Departures are every third day between now and the middle of November.
Getting Intimate with
the Okavango By Richard Field
INTIMACY. It is what most people search for in life, but few people
find. I have lived and worked in and around the Okavango Delta in Botswana
for over 5 years, but it was only just the other day, that we finally
I went on a three-day mokoro trail
in the heart of the Okavango………
It is 2pm on an April afternoon
and I’m sitting in a mokoro in
Botswana’s Okavango Delta. The sun is hitting us directly, as well
as reflecting off the water. It is hot. Ahead of us, we can see hundred’s
of pelican’s and Marabou storks lined up on a sandbank at the end
of Xigera Lagoon. There are also red lechwe grazing peacefully on the
bank to our north. Aside from the heat, it is a very peaceful scene.
The serenity is accentuated by the fact that we are moving silently.
With a BaYei paddler in the back of the mokoro, there is almost no sound
as we move through the open water.
As we move closer to the pelicans, we understand why they are here in
such numbers on today of all days. The annual flood of the Okavango Delta
has just hit Xigera Lagoon, where we are camping for the next couple
of days. Perfect timing. Xigera Lagoon is a huge expanse of fairly shallow
water, and before the new floodwaters arrived, there were numerous sandbanks
that had emerged. As these sandbanks had been covered with shallow water,
the pelicans and marabou storks were lined up along them and were picking
off fish as they arrived with the water. They were essentially making
their own fish trap.
When we continue our approach, the pelicans begin to take off. There
must have been over 400 White and Pink-Backed Pelicans that took to the
air. Added to this were several hundred Marabou Storks that had come
to feast on the incoming fish, and hundreds of African Skimmers that
were flying in long circles above our heads. The skimmers had been nesting
on the exposed sandbanks until the water arrived, but were now also making
the most of the glut of food. Also in smaller numbers were Yellow-billed
Storks, Saddle-billed Storks, Wattled Cranes, Fish Eagles, Greenshanks,
Grey Herons, Goliath Herons, Squacco Herons, Rufous-bellied Herons, Slaty
Egrets, Little Egrets, Malachite Kingfishers, Pied Kingfishers, Long-toed
Plovers and a host more. It was an absolute festival of birds topped
off by a sighting of a pair of Caspian Terns. We knew that this was a
special sight when our BaYei guides, Ishmael and William, who had been
born and raised in the area, admitted that they had never seen them before.
Yet their shear size rendered them unmistakable.
As we checked our bird books to confirm the sighting of the Caspian
Terns, we nearly fell out of our mekoro (the plural of mokoro) by a noise
that sounded like a huge clap of thunder moving across water. We looked
back to see the herd of red lechwe, that had previously been grazing
peacefully, charging across the open expanse of water. Clearly unimpressed
with us, but in doubt as to whether to carry on crossing the lagoon,
the lechwe stopped midway. They seemed to be evaluating the relative
risks. Us behind them or the unknown in front of them. They decided to
take a chance on the latter and carried on their explosive mission across
With the spectacle of the birds
and the lechwe behind us, my travelling companion (an American travel
writer named Jeff)
and I were keen to try
some fishing. Ishmael found us a quiet spot on the main channel of the
Boro River and proved that he had chosen the spot well by pulling in
a huge tiger fish with his first cast. However, the next half-hour was
spent casting unsuccessfully and the decision was made – collectively
- to move to a new spot.
The new spot was perfect in every
way – except for the fishing.
But that didn’t actually matter. We sat with fishing rod in one
hand, cold beer in the other, casting into the rushing water. As we fished
we watched another herd of lechwe grazing on a flood plain in front of
us. A couple of bull elephants sauntered past us. All the while the sun
was starting to sink slowly and the light was changing to a colour that
fairly closely matched our beers.
I was getting intimate.
Jeff however was itching to move.
He was in the process of telling Ishmael as much when his fishing
line took off. He had latched
himself a tiger.
It took him a full ten minutes to bring it in, and whilst we didn’t
have a scale with us, it must have weighed in at about 4 kilograms. We
decided to fish on. A couple of bream later and a fairly quiet fishing
afternoon had turned into fresh fish for dinner.
We returned to our mekoro and headed
for our fly camp. The sun had just set and a full moon was rising
in front of us. The
only distraction was
a 747 that was still catching the sun that had so recently left us. It
was flying so high that we couldn’t even hear it. I wondered if
they knew that at that moment they were flying over one of the most pristine
areas left in Africa. I wondered where they were going but didn’t
worry about it for long. Wherever they were going I knew where I would
This mokoro trail was something of a renaissance. Twenty years ago, a
few days camping in the heart of the Okavango, and travelling purely
by mokoro was standard fare for most tourists who weren’t into
hunting safaris. Many of Botswana’s top professional guides cut
their teeth doing these sorts of trips. However, visitors to the Okavango
these days spend almost all their time in up-market lodges and camps,
where they hardly even feel the earth beneath their feet, let alone
get their toes wet. These lodges offer an amazing experience, however
for the most part, intimacy is no longer on the menu.
Hennie and Angie Rawlinson are
the owners of Xigera camp. Located on the southwestern edge of Moremi
Game Reserve, and
right in the heart
of the permanent water of the Okavango, it is perfectly situated for
an amazing water experience in the Delta. Hennie was one of the Okavango’s
top guides in the early ‘80’s, and was best known for his
camping trips in the Delta. When he and Angie won the lease for the Xigera
concession in the late 90’s, they soon decided that aside from
a beautiful, up-market camp, they were going to run mokoro trails as
well. Hennie and Angie met at Xigera, and having spent much time being
intimate in the Delta, they now wish to revive intimacy with the Delta
for their guests
Ishmael Setlabosha is one of the
more amazing people that resides in the Delta. He was born and raised
on an island just
north of Xigera lagoon
and an incredible knowledge of the Okavango and its many inhabitants – both
plant and animal – is now thoroughly ingrained. His knowledge is
not from textbooks but from life. It is an intimate knowledge and those
who have walked with him on the islands of the Okavango will not soon
forget the experience.
I was fortunate enough to have
this experience the next morning. We had a short mokoro ride to a
large island where we began
our walk. We
set in behind Ishmael who was armed only with a rather fearsome looking,
home-made spear, a pencil flare and a lifetime’s experience in
He missed nothing. Any tracks and signs were analysed and a new route
was taken accordingly. For example, Ishmael found fresh tracks of an
old bull buffalo heading into a dense thicket. Whilst we were relieved
when Ishmael started walking in the opposite direction, such was our
trust in him that we would have been right there with him had he headed
straight in after the tracks. We were able to stalk to within 20 metres
of a herd of grazing impala, and tracked and found a small herd of kudu
browsing on the edge of the island. He chatted willingly about many of
the plants that we walked past. He gave us an indication of the full
medical cabinet that exists in the bush, as well plants that poisoned
fish, plants that you could eat, and plants whose roots would leave your
baby smelling fresher than Johnson and Johnson baby powder.
We had walked for three hours,
but hadn’t raised
a sweat. It was a botanical experience, an anthropological experience,
and a cultural
experience, but most of all it was an intimate experience.
On the way home, Ishmael spotted
a female sitatunga – a rare and
highly aquatic antelope, and one of the most prized sightings of the
Okavango Delta. Once again, through the skill of Ishmael and William
we were able to get close to the “tunga” before it leapt
away into a thicket of papyrus.
We returned to camp around midday, had a substantial brunch and snoozed
until early afternoon. We had planned an afternoon of swimming and fishing.
Swimming is the ultimate way to get intimate
with the Okavango. Clearly safety is an issue, and swimming at random
is not recommended as large
crocodiles and hippos abound. Ishmael however, took us to his swimming
It was a tiny channel between two small islands of sand that would soon
be entirely covered by water. The new floodwater was charging through
this little channel and staying in the one spot was difficult but not
impossible. The water was deep enough for us to dive without danger,
but shallow enough on its extremities, for us not to have to worry about
the presence of unwanted reptilian visitors. Even at the deepest point
of this small channel the water was clear enough for me to count all
the hairs on my big toes. Yep, all three were still in place! The temperature
was wonderful. It was cool enough for us to feel immediately refreshed,
yet warm enough for us to rather stay in then get out.
At one stage I saw a tiny White Fronted Plover about twenty metres down
stream from me. Using the fast current I drifted towards it with only
my nose and eyes out of the water. I was able to float to within a metre
it finally flew off.
The whole experience was absolutely unbelievable. Whilst sitting in
the water with it rushing over my back and shoulders I knew that I was
no longer just a visitor. At that time and in that place, I was a part
of the Okavango. There was genuine intimacy.
It was with reluctance that we left our swimming pool and carried on
our way. We were in the mokoro’s for a while, but I couldn’t
say how long exactly. The rest of the world may have been in turmoil,
but I was in a state of total peace.
I had a few interesting things happen to me on that afternoon mokoro
ride. Firstly, as we brushed a reed, a tiny green frog jumped onto my
lap. He was a Long Reed Frog. A very inappropriate name as he is only
about 13mm long. He stayed in my lap until much later when I relocated
him onto a water lily pad.
Secondly I saw a pair of bright
orange dragonflies mating. Nothing unusual about that except that
they were flying in the same
direction as I was,
they were moving at roughly the same pace, and were about a metre from
my head. They spent so long travelling right next to me, that I was able
to pull out my field guide and identify them – Urothemis assignata.
Despite their long and complicated name I was touched by their intimacy
and I could not think of any other mode of transport that would let me
spend so long with a pair of amorous insects.
Before sunset we stopped so that
Jeff could fish again. There is definitely a certain Zen that you
get when fishing. However
I didn’t need
to fish – I was there already. I instead stayed seated in my mokoro
and watched as a Western-Banded Snake Eagle flew overhead and perched
in a nearby tree. If I hadn’t been in such a state of “Okavango
Zen” I probably would have fallen out of my mokoro at this wonderfully
rare sight. I listened to fish eagles and swamp boubous calling. On a
neighbouring island a troop of vervet monkeys started chattering. From
the same place came the alarm calls of a red billed francolin. I wondered
what predator they saw, but marvelled at the fact that the feeling that
I was still part of the Delta had not left.
That night during dinner we had
a large male hippo come and join us on the small island on which
we were camping. We saw him
a long way off as the moon shone brightly off his wet back. He wandered
to within 20 yards of our small camp, before sensing that something was
not quite right and moving back into the shallow water. He stayed close
by for most of the night, and his slow footsteps and constantly munching
jaws, were strangely comforting. The only other animal that disturbed
my sleep that night, was a Pel’s Fishing Owl, which issued its
haunting call from somewhere close by on the island. We would look for
Any sighting of a Pel’s Fishing Owl is special. They are unbelievably
attractive birds, not common anywhere, and are highly secretive - particularly
in daylight hours when they spend most of the day hiding from the unwanted
attentions of their main competitor, the African Fish Eagle. Xigera however,
is one of the best places to find the “Pel’s”. The
habitat is perfect, with many good hunting sites, and many safe places
to roost and nest. Consequently, it should have been no surprise that
we had three separate sightings of Pel’s the next morning. We had
to work for the first two – mokoroing to small islands, hopping
out and closely inspecting the dense woodland. The tough task was made
easier by the skill of Ishmael and William, who had an amazing sense
for which islands and which trees to look in. We managed to accidentally
flush the final Pel’s whilst in our mokoro. As he burst out from
within a Mangosteen tree, he was harried and harassed by a flock of grey
louries. We were as sorry to have disturbed him as we were happy to see
Our safari finished later that
morning when a boat from Xigera Camp came to pick us up. As the boat
approached it struck me
that for the
last two nights and three days we had been without any artificial noise.
There had been no engines. No boats, no vehicles, no generators, and
best of all no radios blurting out depressing reports of wars in far
off places. Whilst I was not happy that I had to return to the “real” world
that afternoon, I felt a strong sense of relief that with the rebirth
of the mokoro trail, should I ever feel the need, I would once again
be able to get intimate with the Okavango.
Gudigwa Camp Jump
More photos flooding in of the
new camps that have recently opened. This time it's from Gudigwa Camp
just north of the Okavango Delta in Botswana
- the Bushman owned
camp. This is of the outdoor bathroom - with the "grass hut" in
the centre of the photo.
There has been a 100% success record
so far from all the guests who have gone to Gudigwa. They have all
the experience. It's a great camp
to give guests an understanding of culture and traditions in Botswana
and fits in well within a Botswana itinerary.
Xigera Camp Jump
Xigera Camp monthly
report - April 2003.
Winter has closed
in on us with it's chilly mornings, shorter days and it's Scorpio
dominated night skies. The days however are still nice and
warm with temperatures averaging around 31'C. The long awaited floods eventually
reached us on the 15th of April. We had a marker up against the side of
the side of the entrance bridge, and the guests kept an enthusiastic eye
on it to see the rising levels. The water level has been constant for the
last 11 days now, and it is rapidly becoming clearer.
We have had quite an array of guests in camp,
mostly Swiss, German, French, Italian and American. A few South
Africans and Mexicans. One
Mexican gentleman in particular, (by the name of Carlos), in particular
will be remembered for some years to come. He made sure the guests
learnt all the different ways in which to consume Tequila, and
the morning after
he was just as happy to prepare and share a few of his weird hangover
Talking about activities, we've had really had a good month of sightings.
Amongst the most memorable would definitely be our 3 Cheetah sightings.
The first was a female on an Impala kill, which later got stolen by the
lions. The same Cheetah was found the next morning on another Impala
kill. This time she was lucky enough to eat her fill before she moved
on. The third Cheetah, a big male who just graced us with his presence
for a day.
We have had Lions on a dead Hippo for a day, but they decided to move
on when things got too smelly! Of course, the Hyenas were just too happy
to take over. These Lions, and many others were also seen on numerous
other occasions during the month. It has been a lion month of note.
Our leopard sightings have been just as good, and we are happy to say
that we have found another relaxed male which have brought many of our
guests great viewing pleasure. A Leopard was also spotted from a Mekoro,
which is amazing. Elephants have been plentiful, as per usual and we
have also recorded quite a few buffalo sightings for the month.
All in all, guests have been very happy, due
to a combination of good food, hospitality, good guides and great
sightings. Feedback in our visitors
book says it all.
Georgina Sack from France:"Many thanks to the team. An unforgettable
stay!" Sandra Pierce, Toronto Canada:"A dream come true,
we walk away with memories that will last a lifetime. Sonia Berry,London,Uk:"You
all makes this a wonderful experience, great for relaxation, an escape
from the rest of the world. Fabulous!" Natalie Fitz-Gerald from
Santa Fe', came up with this one: X-celent I-nteresting G-reat E-ternal
Memory R-epeatable A-mazing.
These are just some of the comments that were made between the lst
and the 4rth of the month. It would be impossible to quote all the
other good comments from satisfied guests.
So, I reckon that we can say that it has been a great month, and
that we are looking forward to the next.
Regards Solly, Michelle
and all the Xigerians.
Jao Camp Jump
Jao Camp monthly report
- April 2003.
A great month has passed us
here at Jao with alot of exciting experiences happening all around
us every day
to so many individuals. We have been yet again witnessing the forever
changing Delta and the highlight this Month was the yearly floods
arriving here. A bit early this time , but still a sight that makes
anyone humble at the immense power and beauty of this ecosystem
with the temperature making it even more of a phenonemon. There
was a min average of 19, and an average maximum of 34. With all
of this water, still 6mm of rain fell here throughout the month.
As I mentioned , the water came early and pushed
strongly for just under two weeks , and now has slowed to a trickle.There
may be more arriving in the future as we hear that the water
coming in at the top of the Delta has increased in volume
The management that was present this month
was Clinton, Rebecca, Sandra and Peter. Supporting this team
was Milli, who was
heading the "beauty technology department". Her department
is in high demand with the guests. We are in the process
of building her a massage sala,which will extend out from behind
shop, on a raised latta pole walkways. This is very exciting
to see and the thatchers are almost complete. When the thatchers
are finished, Spike will go in and complete the flooring
all the bits and bobs that he is so well known for. Milli
has gone for her annual leave for the most part of next month
we welcome Adrie ,who will be releiving her. I look forward
to her enjoying her time with us.
Peter is also on leave for the same time,
and we await Sandra and Dale to return to us from theirs.(Dale
will be heading
the F & B department and we thank Rebecca for covering for her
while she was gone.) On the F & B side , there has been
some very successful occasions. Many private dinners and
have taken place. Also ,we have found a new location where
we can have the most awesome bush dinners, while the floods
in. The venue is fantastic and the location I will keep a
secret , so that you and others can experience the surprise
come and visit us.
There has been some great night time drumming
sessions happening here, where the guests and all of the staff
join together and
practice the African way of drumming. This normally turns
into huge fits of laughter, as the guests take over to beat the
rest for you to see when you are here next.
As usual, the Bomas have been very popular, and
just to get those personal touches there are piped chocholate
beverages of choice and the like for those romantic or special
times. Before I go into the guiding side, there have been
a lot of folks that have taken full advantage of the option of
in, having breakfast and champagne on their balconies and watching
the world go by through papyrus and palm.
Frank was heading his team of guides for this month and we thank
them for being able to show, share and educate so many folks
that have come through our area. To be noted was the movement
of game, such as the antelopes.They have moved from the Jao game
drive area down to the South , away from the flood water. Like
any other flood season there is a very high population of red
lechwe on the Jao and Kwetsani flood plains.
Due to the high water levels, it is difficult
to follow the lion movements however, we have had a fewer sightings
There are more elephants around the area, especially on the
Jao Island. The Bird Life has, as usual, been very good and the
of the guides have been passed on to so many guests that
have passed through this month during it's 62 % occupancy. There
been awesome sightings of up to 1500 Wattled cranes.
There have been two herds of buffalos sighted regularly. One
herd is about 1000 and the other of about 300 buffalo. What a
fantastic experience for us here to see this. Also there has
been many requests for boating and we are able to explore most
of the area to the east. However the area to the west is at the
present limited, due to the low level of the water there. This
should change next month.
Mokoro activity is at the moment directly in front of the main
camp, and as usual very popular with seeing the sunsets from
the water and exploring all the options of the area. A lot of
the guests have been going to the boababs on this eastern corner,
where they have their morning tea , coffee and biscuits or sundowners
if this is happening in the evening.
On the maintenance side, the general upkeep is in full swing,
and finding new products that make our Job easier is a great
challenge. We have been maintaining the roads and as mentioned,
we await for the opening of the massage sala.
So , here we go into another month with all of
these experiences giving us that hope of even more happiness
and success with Jason
and Antoinette helping us as relief management this month.
I am sure that the Delta will show us more of her magic in the
following days and entertain all of these wonderful people
come and share our home with us. Regards Clinton, Rebecca
and the team
Duba Plains Camp Jump
Duba Plains Camp monthly report -
The camp managers for the month of
April were James Rawdon and Elmari Cuyler, with Paul de Thierry joining
us later in the month. We had the pleasure
of welcoming Tanya Pruissen as a permanent member of the Duba family, managing
alongside James and Ike. The guides were Kenneth Liwena, James Pisetu and
James Rawdon. We also had the privilege of Peter Kat (famous Lion researcher)
visiting us for a few days. Peter openly shared his extensive knowledge
of lions gained in other areas of the Okavango.
Peter gave an excellent talk before dinner one night, which was extremely
well received by all the guests. Questions continued well into the night.
The average temperatures
experienced during April, was a minimum of 19°C and a maximum of 33°C.
No rainfall was experience during the entire month of April; instead,
we had wonderful sunny, blue
skies welcoming us into the coming winter season. The floodwater
towards the end of March, but really pushed in over the last two
weeks. We are
now cut off from the Paradise area until about September. No worries
though, as most of the resident animals from that area have shifted
further south to the drier areas, over which we can traverse on our
The most noticeable of these being the Skimmer Pride and the two
new male lions. With the onset of winter, the long grass is dropping
the elephants are returning in large numbers. The buffalo calving
has peaked over the last month, much to the delight of our well-fed
content lions. Seven zebra surprised us with a 24-hour visit before
the floodwaters were rising and it was time to head for higher ground.
Other special sightings included serval, bat-eared foxes, aardwolf,
a leopard and a couple of pythons.
The hyaena clan continues to do exceptionally well,
with seven pups currently at the den. All the pups are very relaxed
in the presence
of game drive vehicles and take great pleasure investigating the tyres
anything else that may be worth chewing on. Luckily they lose this
curiosity before they are big enough to cause any damage. The highlight
hyaena viewing had to be watching them get the better of a three-year-old
Skimmer Male at a buffalo carcass. The bull buffalo was killed at
night during the full moon and shared between three Skimmer Males and
members of the Tsaro pride. The scene was surprisingly peaceful until
the hyaenas arrived, managing to isolate one of the young male lions
and then move in for the attack. About fifteen hyaenas encircled
the lion, all rushing in at once & biting him on his back. No serious
damage was done, other than to the lions ego as he slunk away with
his tail between his legs. The noise created by the hyaenas was incredible,
happily recorded by guests on their video camcorders.
April must rank as one of the best lion viewing
months Duba has experienced. Not in terms of the numbers seen, but
rather in the awesome quality
of the sightings witnessed. The lions were recorded on everyday of
averaging 16 lions per day and 73 different pride sightings during
the month. In total 42 lions were located, with only the Old Vumbura
(7) being absent. This is expected at this time of the year as the
Old Vumbura pride relocates to the drier areas further north. The main
for the incredible viewing was the regrouping of the Tsaro pride,
bringing with them a two-month-old male cub. The last few months had
Tsaro pride disband into smaller subgroups, proving more elusive
and not needing to prey on the buffalo herd to the same degree that they
used to. Many successful kills were witnessed, including 24 buffalo,
1 lechwe, 1 baboon and 3 warthog. All were carried out by the Tsaro
pride, bar the baboon, 1 warthog and perhaps 3 buffalo. All except
were daytime kills. The Tsaro pride tactics at this time of year
are to stampede the herd and separate out any injured, sick or young
With the floodwater rising, the shallow channels offered perfect
obstacles for the lions to take advantage of the calving buffalo herd.
this resulted in many calves being caught, sometimes along with the
females coming back to protect their young. One sighting saw the buffalo
the upper hand as a new born calf struggled to its feet for the first
time, only to have two lionesses zero in on it. The mother and calf
were left at the back of the herd and appeared to be a sure thing for
ever-present lions. Courageously, a lone bull buffalo returned upon
hearing the bellow of the calf's mother. Between the mother and bull,
managed to escort the calf back to the safety of the herd. "A very
happy and satisfactory ending to what could have been a very sad termination
of a new and innocent life", so commented some very relieved
The Pantry pride has moved back into the camp island, resulting in more
regular sightings. The pride seems to be fairing a lot better, often
seen with full bellies. The cubs are now 18 months old, remaining very
playful, often enticing the adult females into a hilarious game of chasing
each other all over the place. From what we witnessed, they sure need
all the practice they can get before they take on any buffalo. The best
Pantry pride sighting involved the entire pride setting off after two
buffalo bulls at sunset. Just as the buffalo reached the water in front
of camp, one of the lionesses managed to leap onto the buffalos back.
This slowed the buffalo down sufficiently for the rest of the pride to
jump aboard and force the buffalo down. Quite amazing to watch the fearless
cubs taking part in the hunt. As we enjoyed our sunset drinks watching
the lions feed, the Duba Boys decided to enter the fray. This they did
very peacefully, no doubt due to the immense respect shown by the lionesses
as they nuzzled up to rub head to head with the two Boys. Dinner at camp
that night was regularly interrupted by the snarls and growls that erupted
as the buffalo was reduced to skin and bones.
The Duba Boys continue to preside over the Pantry and Tsaro pride, but
never venture back into the domain of the New Males. Although the Duba
Boys still appear to be in great shape, they are facing more and more
resistance form the five young Tsaro Males and four Skimmer Males. No
longer do these younger males give way to the Duba Boys, but rather they
stand their ground with much vocalization and aggression. The four Skimmer
Males are now completely separated from their natal pride and have become
nomads. We thought one of the older Skimmer Males had been killed, but
then he appeared again on the last day of the month sporting a few fresh
battle scars. The remaining three males shared several kills with the
Tsaro pride and were regularly seen exploring parts of their territory.
Although some aggression was seen between the various males, they were
surprisingly tolerant of each other. Only time will tell how they sort
themselves, but one thing seems certain and that is the presence of the
two New Males first located in October 2002. These two beautiful specimens
have successfully laid claim to the Skimmer pride, with some mating being
recorded. One incident saw the dark maned male fight off the Skimmer
Males from a fresh buffalo kill. He strode around for sometime with his
awesome mane and chest puffed out. The Skimmer Males cleared the area
and were found many miles away by morning.
Lastly, the Skimmer pride is moving back south to their usual winter
haunts and bringing their new males with them. With the floodwaters rising
and dry hunting areas becoming highly sort after, we will no doubt witness
some fascinating encounters in the months to come. Hopefully the Skimmer
lionesses will produce some cubs and perhaps the Tsaro lionesses will
begin mating again. Fascinating times lie ahead and we all look forward
to welcoming our many guests to share in these experiences.
The NEW Little Ongava
Check out the photos of the
new Little Ongava that opens in a few days time (during April 2003).
It only has three chalets - so it's
very small and personalized.
Eyes On Africa now
offer three different camps in the 70,000-acre Ongava
The 6-"roomed" tented
camp - Ongava Tented
Camp - Vintage styled.
The 10-roomed brick and thatch lodge - Ongava
Lodge - Classic
The new 3-roomed brick and thatched lodge Little
with private pools, salas etc - Premier styled.
Ongava Tented Camp
MONTHLY REPORT - APRIL 2003
Management Team: Jannie Swart,Theresa Swart,Theodore Amakali
Guides: Jannie Swart,Linus Hanabeb, Mike Clark
Hello from this great little tented camp on Ongava Game Reserve.
This has been a very strange
month for Namibia. We have already experienced all four seasons
during the last
of the month there was some rain that lasted for about 5 days.
We at OTC had 42mm of rain over a few days but we still need
more, as we had a dry summer. The "rainy" season is
sort of over but if we can get some more rain and a warm winter
we will make it through the dry months. The tempreture is getting
cooler at night. The last few days it dropped to 13 Celsius and
at midday it was well into the 30s Celsius.
During the last couple of weeks there have been few Ellie sigthings
due to the rain and they have dispersed - but the lion sightings
are realy good. We expect the ellies to be back shortly though.
It looks like the lions at Ongava are busy forming a pride of
10 lions.There is stompie and her three baby's of about 4 months
old then there is collared female and her three big cubs of about
1 year old and also the two blond brothers as we call them. Well
the lion population at Ongava is really good we can identify
19 lions that we see regularly. In the western part of the reserve
there are the three brothers without any mane - but they are
realy good hunters.The beginning of the month they killed an
oryx and 5 spotted hyaena's tied to take the kill. Luckily there
were two game drive vehicles on the spot who witnessed the whole
incident. What a sighting? Another very interesting sighting
was watching three black backed jackals killing a springbuk in
The white rhino sightings at Ongava are often the highlight
of the day and the chance to see them is now about 98%.The night
drives are not bad either with lots of interesting sightings......
a few pearl spotted owls and then smaller animals like the bushbaby's
and african wild cats and some small spotted genets. We also
had a few black rhino sightings in Etosha at the morning drives
and on the reserve.
Maintanance is still one of the
things that takes a lot of time. We have put up some new towel
rails in all the bathrooms and
lots of smaller things here and there. Tent 6 also got its new
shade net back and up. The maintanance on the vehicles is a never
ending job as usual.
Chikwenya monthly report - April 2003.
No rain at all this month and already the temperatures have
started dropping. The acacia albidas are preparing for the winter
- all are in full leaf and in various stages of flowering. Some
of the albidas in Mana are even in fruit already, very early
in the season. The rest of the bush is still quite green, with
only the beginnings of drying off of some of the smaller seasonal
plants. The various seasonal pans are still holding water and
harbouring small populations of water life - the most noticeable
of which being a flock of Garganeys - a rare migrant waterfowl!!
Other noticeable birds for the month are purple-banded sunbird,
Pel's fishing owl, osprey, arrow-marked babblers feeding a striped
cuckoo chick they had reared and a Gabar goshawk in a remarkable
aerial dive to catch a speedy chameleon.
We found tracks of a lioness with a cub, through the camp, which
confirmed last month's suspicions that Elolaka had had young.
However, from the 22nd to the 25th we found her mating with one
of the males. Judging from the size of the tracks of the cub
we would estimate that it was around two months old, so probably
too early for Elolaka to be ovulating again if it was still around.
We can only assume that the cub must have been killed. While
she was being courted at the far end of the concession, the young
lioness was being courted by the older male, right in front of
camp - a couple of nights where sleep was frequently punctuated
by the growling, scuffling and roaring of the amorous couple.
So maybe in five or six month's time we will have two lots of
youngsters entertaining the guests and staff of Chikwenya.
'Chikwenya', the grand dame of Chikwenya's elephants, passed
by the camp a couple of days ago with her herd. This seldom-seen
matriarch has one tusk - the left one, and what a tusk - straight
as an arrow and reaching the ground. Another female in her herd
also has only one tusk, the right one and about half the length.
One other female in the herd has no tusks at all - not unusual
in this part of the world. We followed the herd for about an
hour on foot, being very careful not to be seen or smelt. They
contemplated the river for about half an hour, then, stimulated
by a teenager who could not resist the cool Zambezi water any
longer, all climbed in and swam across to a sandbar. They then
crossed a couple of small channels to Chikwenya Island, where
they normally spend a lot of time. The tusk-less female was even
more hesitant, but not far behind, with her small calf and another
sub-adult female. They kept the calf tightly sandwiched between
them and for good reason. We watched a large crocodile move rapidly
in, the herd oblivious to its presence. The crocodile had its
face swatted a couple of times by the continuous flicking of
the elephants tails and at one point had its snout up on the
rump of one elephant. When the group started climbing into shallower
water the crocodile backed off.
Solomon Tevera, Sacha Toronyi and Tamlyn Kluckow, Anne Hadingham
and I have all been in for most of the month. Kevin van Breda
has been out for most of the month getting practical experience
for his final exams.
A couple of extracts from our visitor's book :
"Lion, leopards, cobras, genets, & much, much more!
Caring staff & delicious food ~ heavenly. Many thanks to
everyone." Hugh and Wendy - USA.
"Outstanding weekend - thanks to the wonderful management
and staff. We'll be back!" Lawry and Carol - Harare.
"Sitting here enjoying a most stunning view while being
thoroughly looked after! I have been on a number of safaris & can
honestly say that the past few days here at Chikwenya rate the
highest!" Jason - USA.
That's all for April