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AFRICAN SAFARI CAMP UPDATES
April 2003

This Month:
• 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, Botswana).
• Monthly Lion chronciles from Duba Plains Camp (Okavango Delta, Botswana).
• 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


Botswana Camps
Kwando Lagoon Camp                Jump to Lagoon Camp
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 is heavily 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.

Wild Dogs killing a Leopard near Lagoon Camp
Wild Dogs killing a Leopard near Lagoon Camp
Wild Dogs killing a Leopard near Lagoon Camp

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Passing of Abu the Elephant                Jump to Abu's - Elephant Back Safaris
Abu, the star of Randall J. Moore's Abu's Elephant Back Safaris camp in Botswana's Okavango Delta, 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 1960s.

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 loved him.

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Xigera Mokoro Trail                Jump to Xigera 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 became intimate.

How?

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 the lagoon.

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 rather be.

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 the Okavango.

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 pool.

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 coming from 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 him tomorrow.

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 him.

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.

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Gudigwa Camp                Jump to Gudigwa Camp
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.
Gudigwa Camp - guest hut and bathroom
There has been a 100% success record so far from all the guests who have gone to Gudigwa. They have all loved 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.


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Xigera Camp                Jump to Xigera Camp
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 concoctions.

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.

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Jao Camp                Jump to Jao Camp
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 again.

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 the curio 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 and 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 and 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 the like have taken place. Also ,we have found a new location where we can have the most awesome bush dinners, while the floods are in. The venue is fantastic and the location I will keep a secret , so that you and others can experience the surprise when you 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 rhythm.......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 platters and 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 sleeping 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 this month. There are more elephants around the area, especially on the Jao Island. The Bird Life has, as usual, been very good and the knowledge of the guides have been passed on to so many guests that have passed through this month during it's 62 % occupancy. There have 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 that come and share our home with us. Regards Clinton, Rebecca and the team

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Duba Plains Camp                Jump to Duba Plains Camp
Duba Plains Camp monthly report - April 2003.

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 and experience 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 arrived 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 game drives. 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 and the elephants are returning in large numbers. The buffalo calving has peaked over the last month, much to the delight of our well-fed and content lions. Seven zebra surprised us with a 24-hour visit before realizing 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 and anything else that may be worth chewing on. Luckily they lose this curiosity before they are big enough to cause any damage. The highlight of our 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 fourteen 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 the month, averaging 16 lions per day and 73 different pride sightings during the month. In total 42 lions were located, with only the Old Vumbura pride (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 reason 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 seen the 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 one buffalo 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 animals. With the floodwater rising, the shallow channels offered perfect obstacles for the lions to take advantage of the calving buffalo herd. Unfortunately this resulted in many calves being caught, sometimes along with the females coming back to protect their young. One sighting saw the buffalo get 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 the ever-present lions. Courageously, a lone bull buffalo returned upon hearing the bellow of the calf's mother. Between the mother and bull, they successful 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 guests.

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.

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Namibia Camps
The NEW Little Ongava Camp
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.

New Little Ongava guest chalet    New Little Ongava guest chalet with private plunge pool

Eyes On Africa now offer three different camps in the 70,000-acre Ongava Game Reserve:
• The 6-"roomed" tented camp - Ongava Tented Camp - Vintage styled.
• The 10-roomed brick and thatch lodge - Ongava Lodge - Classic styled.
• The new 3-roomed brick and thatched lodge Little Ongava, with private pools, salas etc - Premier styled.

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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 month.The beginning 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 Etosha.

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.

Greetings
Jannie
OTC

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Zimbabwe Camps
Chikwenya Camp                Jump to Chikwenya Camp
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

cheers
Sean Lues.


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