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AFRICAN SAFARI CAMP UPDATES
August 2003

This Month:
• August is on record as the best ever Lion month at Duba Plains Camp in Botswana.
• Wild Dogs, Leopards and Lions at Kwando Safaris in Botswana.
• "Big Five Month" at Botswana's Chitabe Camp.
• Outstanding Month again in the Linyanti at Kings Pool Camp.
• Springtime in the Okavango Delta at Jacana Camp.
• Fabulous August game sightings at Vumbura Camp in Botswana.


Botswana Camps
Duba Plains August Report                Jump to Duba Plains Camp
The camp managers for the month of July were James Rawdon and Tanya Pruissen, with assistance from Camilla and Kate from the overland division. The guides were Vasco Mosarwe, James Pisetu and James Rawdon. The average minimum temperature was 8°C and the maximum 31°C. As expected, there was no sign of any rain, or cloud build up for that matter. Most of the month was pretty chilly, except for the last few days, which suddenly saw the midday temperature rise to 34°C. Jackets are still called for however, but not for much longer. The floodwaters are finally receding at a rapid rate. Daily, one can notice a difference in water levels when crossing over the bridge. We are now able to access the majority of our concession, but generally only utilise about half of it. There has been so much awesome game viewing close to the camp, that we have only made it as far as the Paradise area on a handful of occasions.

Elephant numbers are way up, with several large herds sighted daily. Almost like clock work, the elephants come visiting through camp after brunch. There is one remaining muddy pool in front of the tents in which the elephants have chosen to take their daily mud baths. After bathing, they then move into the camp to scrounge around for the many fallen Jackalberries around the tents. This has proved most popular with all our guests, only occasionally causing them to miss part of their midday siestas. There were a couple of leopard and cheetah sightings towards the beginning of the month, but nothing on a regular basis. The cheetah are simply hassled too much by the lions and hyaenas to remain in the area. Reports from Vumbura tell us that our visiting cheetah have ventured across from their neighborhood. One of the biggest highlights of the month was a half hour or more spent with a pair of Cape Clawless Otters. They were spotted while patiently waiting for the large buffalo herd to cross a channel in front of us. The buffalo were soon forgotten as one of the otters caught a fish and took it ashore to feed on. The other otter tried in vain to get its share of the catch. They then set off down the channel right in front of us, deciding to mark their territory on a perfectly exposed sand bank. This was extremely amusing, as it involved a strange jig which none of us had ever witnessed before. The usual host of nocturnal creatures were encountered on the night drive; including genets, civets, wild cats, side-striped jackals, aardwolf and the occasional pangolin. The hyaena den was not very productive during August. Most, if not all the young are now old enough to venture off foraging with the adults. No doubt the females will return to this den site in the near future to have their next litters.

August proved to be another amazing lion viewing month. What was expected to be a somewhat quieter month on the lion front, in fact turned out to be one of the very best. Although the daily average number of lions seen per day was down to 13, they were still located on everyday of the month. The lower average can be attributed to 10 young male lions being evicted from the area by the Duba Boys and Paradise Males. In total, 73 different pride sights were enjoyed. The Tsaro pride alone was encountered on 29 days of the month. For many guests, the most amazing viewing involved following the Tsaro pride and Duba Boys on their diurnal buffalo hunts. These lions are truly amazing, allowing us to join them on no less than 17 successful daytime buffalo hunts. Regardless of time and temperature, the lions will continue to pursue the buffalo herd until they either successfully complete a kill, the buffalo herd leaves their territory or the sun begins to set. The only other kills the lions were seen on were: a single male lechwe, kudu and warthog. With the lions being active throughout the day, many full days were thoroughly enjoyed with a picnic brunch on the vehicles while accompanying the lions on their persistent search for food.

As explained above, not much time was spent in the Paradise area, hence very few sightings of both the Skimmer Pride and the Paradise Males. We suspect they are still spending the majority of their time to the north of the deep channel, where there is little competition from other predators and in particular no other lions to threaten the survival of their new cubs. Hopefully they will soon return to the southern side of the channel in order for us to determine just how many cubs they have. The Pride has not been seen in its entirety since the beginning of the year. Other big news is the departure of the four Skimmer Males. This has come as quite a surprise as they were just settling in with the Tsaro lionesses and becoming quite confident in their territorial displays, not to mention all the mating that had taken place with the Tsaro lionesses. We suspect they have moved further to the east towards another large herd of buffalo, where the lion population does not appear to be as concentrated. They were last encountered on the 14th July. Whether they will be found again, remains to be seen.

The Duba Boys are currently experiencing a second lease on life. Only months ago they were looking in very poor shape, being challenged from all sides. The Paradise Males had managed to take over the Skimmer Pride and it appeared the Skimmer Males had control of the Tsaro Pride, even producing a cub. However, the last couple of months have seen the Duba Boys in tiptop condition with no sign of the Skimmer Males and very little of their sons, the five Tsaro Boys. August was a record month of Duba Boy sightings and we witnessed them on 26 days of the month. All bar one sighting saw them accompanying the Tsaro lionesses and most of them involved mating. For the first time in a very long time, the Duba Boys were actually seen participating in the buffalo hunts. The Tsaro Boys returned to the Duba area on two occasions, both resulting in exceptional sightings. The first, at mid month, had them appear from nowhere and set off after the buffalo herd. It was not long before four of the males pulled down an adult female buffalo. While watching this we heard another bellow near by. Upon rushing over to investigate, the fifth male lion was attempting to pull down another adult female buffalo on his own. This he managed in no time at all. The second sighting was alongside our airstrip. The game drive vehicles were following the Pantry pride stalking the buffalo herd, only to have the Tsaro Boys charge in at the herd and successfully capture a buffalo. A solitary Duba Boy suddenly appeared and immediately rushed in to chase them off. He succeeded with two of the males, but paid the price with a couple of superficial facial wounds. He was no contest for the five young males who quickly proved their strength in numbers. The Pantry Pride made several valiant attempts to see them off but failed miserably, eventually leaving the area. It was a truly an amazing sight to watch 17 lions chasing each other backwards and forwards with loads of roaring.

The Pantry Pride appear to be as strong as ever since they lost one of the adult lionesses in a failed buffalo hunt during July. Although never in peak condition when compared to the Tsaro Pride, they certainly have the upper hand with regards to territorial clashes. The best day of the month occurred on the 25th, involving 22 lions in total. The morning began with one vehicle finding the Pantry Pride resting at the edge of their territorial boundary, while the second vehicle found the Tsaro lionesses hunting the buffalo. The Tsaro lionesses were pushing the herd, waiting for a suitable opportunity. The setting was perfect for photography. The buffalo herd was stampeding with the lions in hot pursuit causing all the cattle egrets to take flight and a huge cloud of dust to develop over the herd. All this was taking place with the sun rising behind this incredible scene. This proved to be the beginning of a very memorable day. The Pantry Pride suddenly showed up, immediately displacing the Tsaro Pride, which set off after a single lioness, which they incorrectly identified as a Pantry lioness. They isolated her and attacked her from all sides. The poor lioness managed to break away, allowing her to call out. Immediately the 8 attacking lionesses realised it was one of their own. We rushed back to follow the Pantry Pride continue the hunt, no where nearly as adept as the Tsaro Pride. They never made any serious attempts, however, we got to see the whole pride nervously swim across a wide channel. One group of guests was due to depart for another camp, so we had to set off for camp. Upon reaching camp, we checked once more with the vehicle, which remained with the buffalo and lions. They advised us the buffalo had swung back into the Tsaro Prides territory. Luckily we had a last minute cancellation, allowing the guests to stay another night. We quickly rushed back to the hunt just in time to watch the lions pull down an adult buffalo right next to us. The final kill took place at 2pm. To round the day off, a very brave (or stupid) hyaena strolled over to the kill. One of the lionesses immediately took off after it. Presuming it was a mock charge, the hyaena casually trotted away. Fortunately it looked over its shoulder right into the face of a very angry and serious lioness, only a meter or two behind it. Somehow the hyaena managed to avoid the lioness's out stretched claws by tucking in his rear end as far as it possibly could. An extremely eventful 12 hours with the lions, one that will not be forgotten for a very long time to come.

All in all, August was one of the very best lion viewing months on record at Duba. The great news is September has continued in the same vein, hence a slightly late monthend report. The diurnal activities of the Duba lions make for a truly unforgettable experience, throw in all the other wonderful trees, birds and animals on show and one soon realises Paradise has finally been found. We look forward to sharing these amazing experiences with all who chose to visit our home on the Plains.

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Kwando Safaris August Update
Kwara camp                 Jump to Kwara Camp
Excellent Leopard sighting at Kwara with a relaxed female. Two other sightings of Leopard.
Three female Lions seen feeding on a young Kudu. Plenty of Lion tracks around indicating a lot of Lion movements.
Lots of Hyena activity in and around camp. A female is on heat and there has been a lot of challenging amongst the rest.
Buffalo herd of ± 400 is still around and has provided some good late afternoon sunset photographic opportunities.
Good sightings of bull Elephants and regular sightings of breeding herds coming down to drink in the afternoons.
Ground Hornbills in 3 – 4 groups have been sighted regularly.


Lagoon camp
                Jump to Lagoon Camp
Superb sightings of Elephants and Buffalos in particularly large numbers.
Wild Dogs passed through camp and then drank from the Lagoon in front of camp whilst out hunting.
Excellent Lion sightings with adult females and the “3 big boys” have been seen regularly. The Lions were seen plucking a Buffalo calf out of the herd after the got the herd on the run.
A female Cheetah and her juvenile were seen walking past the Wild Dog den, sending all the occupants of the den racing for cover!
Excellent sighting of a large Pangolin who crossed the track in front of the vehicle and then sat quietly under a bush, relaxed and unconcerned by all the photographs.
One Leopard sighting and other nocturnal sightings include a Caracal seen hunting on the edge of shallow water and a Striped Polecat.
A nice herd of 19 Roan Antelope was seen near the Airstrip.


Lebala camp
                Jump to Lebala Camp
The Wild Dog puppies are out of the den!! There is a total of 8 puppies, 2 of which are extremely white in colour, whilst the rest are generally dark all over. The alpha female has a large wound on her right shoulder.
An excellent Cheetah kill was witnessed on the open plains not far from camp. A female with a juvenile brought down an Impala.
Good Lion sightings with the pride of 14 seen twice, and a large blonde male who visited the bush dinner site.
An interesting sighting was Vultures feeding on a Buffalo carcass at night under a full moon, competing with Hyenas on the carcass.
Good general game of Elephant, Buffalo, Zebra, Tsessebe, Red Lechwe and a nice herd of Sable that are now seen daily.
Nocturnal sightings include Caracal (excellent sightings) and Serval.

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"Big Five Month" at Chitabe in Botswana                Jump to Chitabe Camp

The month of August was excellent at Chitabe. Winter came and went and apart from Jack Frost presenting us with a few really cold mornings, the temperatures have been very pleasant, with an average minimum of ten degrees and maximum average of twenty-eight. The flood waters are continuing to slowly creep in and have pushed their way beyond the front of Chitabe Trails camp. On a whole, the area is still very dry, but the upside of this is that the game has been unbelievably good. August was our " BIG 5 MONTH". We definitely have had an abundance of elephants on the concession this year, and the Gomoti area of the concession seems to be a favourite hang out for the huge herds of buffalo. We've had numerous sightings of herds well into the thousands, and as we all know.... where there are buffalo - the lions cannot be far off. This proved to the case with the Gomoti lion pride who were spotted "dinning on a buffalo" each time the herd was sighted. The Chitabe lion pride have been under huge pressure from four younger males that have moved into the area, the oldest pride male `Scar Face` has been badly injured and thoughts are that it is highly unlikely he will make it through the next month. Our leopard sightings have been consistently good, with a sighting almost every other day. `Mosadi mogolo`, meaning "old woman" is a very relaxed female who has two cubs approximately seven months old. We recently noticed that the male cub has separated from his mother and sister. At the time of our last sighting, he was looking a little thin and weak, so we are all keeping fingers crossed that he gains some strength. We have confirmed six different leopards in the Chitabe area this month and there is a strong possibility that there are even more.

We have to take the opportunity to thank Nick, Mombo and Wilderness for affording us the opportunity to have our first RHINO sighting. We first picked up their tracks at the beginning of August and have seen them several times since. On the afternoon of the 28th, our guests the Taylor's and Welsh's spotted the two female Rhinos, they continued their game drive only to come across a herd of +-5000 Buffalo, some Elephant on their way back to camp, and a male lion. To put the proverbial cherry on top, the next morning they saw two leopard, and therefore, became our first guests at Chitabe to have a confirmed Big 5 sighting and we issued them with our own little home made Big 5 certificates. All the staff, guides and managers were all beaming with pride that once again we have the privileged to have rhino in the Chitabe area. Let's hope they stay! Some other special sightings we've had were Pangolin and Aardvark (on the same drive) and a number of other Pangolin sightings through-out the month. We also had the pleasure of seeing a small herd of about twenty Roan Antelope in a lovely area knows as "Tico`s Pan".

Not to be out down by the cats, rhinos and bovine, The Chitabe pack of four Wild dogs are denning at the moment and have produced eight puppies. Nothing seems to be more endearing then seeing wild dog puppies, with bellies so full they drag along the sand. The game drives have seen some fantastic interaction with the pups as they are getting very used to the vehicles. The adults don`t even move from their resting places and the pups come gallivanting out from the den to meet the vehicles, as if to give each and every guest a personal "wild dog welcome" to Chitabe.

We've done one two day walking trail this month and about six one night sleep-outs at the hides. This experience is proving to be so successful and the guests really enjoy the simplicity of the platforms, mosquito nets and the subtle ambiance created by old fashioned lanterns and a small cosy fire.

Just a few of our guest comments this month:
" The friendliness and beauty of the lodge and surroundings", the Glascock family "Staff were wonderful, warm, caring and interesting", Wolf. "We enjoyed everything, but particularly our sleep out. Bob and Sam were great company and the setting was perfect." Taylor "Staff and guides are very friendly, and an excellent atmosphere", Nakajima "Great camp, staff were wonderful see you next year.", the Charman family

From all of us at Chitabe - we look forward to another wonderful month and hoping that you can join us to share some of these experiences. All the best, The Chitabe Team.

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Outstanding Month in the Linyanti at Kings Pool                  Jump to Kings Pool Camp

Things as usual are going really well at Kings Pool, I think August so far tops all other months. It has been the best game month that I can remember, so September through to November could be even better. Guests are really enjoying the private pools in their rooms now that the warmer weather is here to stay.

Management for August: Ryan, Gordon, Celine, Bonang and we are glad to add Yvonne and Lu-ann to the team. For those of you who don't know Yvonne, she is Yvonne Christian - ex Bushlife in Harare. She comes to us with heaps of experience and adds a touch of class to the Kings Pool operation

It has been a pretty hectic month at Kings Pool! The elephants have been keeping us very busy. They are battling to come to terms with the new elevated wooden walk ways we put in earlier this year and in a few places are removing them from their path. Gordon and myself are slowly (not too slowly) becoming an expert maintenance team.

The lions have decided to move their core territory area away from camp. At one stage it felt as if our camp was the very core of their territory. Every evening before game drives returned Gordon and myself were on lion patrol watching them walk past the kitchen and through the car park to the staff village and then to the rest of the camp. Then every morning they would walk through camp to the other side. Things have now settled down a bit on the lion front anyway, but the elephants have taken over.

Climate: The climate has warmed up rapidly, except for one morning that was colder than our coldest winter morning. Luckily most of the cold fronts in South Africa have missed us.

Wild life: This has been amazing. Not too sure what to mention, it has all been good. One special event, rather sad, was a lioness taking on a bull Roan antelope. It was a long match but the lioness won after about 6 hours, also suffering a few minor injuries herself. We think we have found an Aardvark burrow, we will need to monitor it for a little longer. We have been seeing wild dog.

We have had really great guests. All the feedback for August was really nice, with a couple of comments saying that they prefer Kings Pool to all the other camps. But this we know!!!

All in all Kings Pool is rocking!!

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Springtime in the Delta at Jacana Camp                  Jump to Jacana Camp

This should give you an indication of what is happening within the Okavango Delta at this time of year as the flood waters start to recede and we get into spring! Jacana is a great little 4 roomed camp in the heart of the Okavango

It has been a very busy, but thoroughly enjoyable month for us here at Jacana. Our guests have been a combination of independent travelers and those coming through as part of a group on a privately guided safari. The water started noticeably receding at the start of the month and has continued to steadily do so since then. At first we were very disappointed to start losing the water but soon the benefits of this new phase in the year became apparent. Although boating activities are more limited than they have been for the last four months, mekoro activities are currently unaffected. Sitatunga and Pel's Fishing Owl sightings are still very regular, in fact, Sitatunga sightings seem to be at their highest point this year. The receding water has certainly brought in huge quantities of birds to feed at the waters edge, we are also noticing an increase in the number of species spotted as some of the winter migrants have started to return.

One aspect that would be hard not to notice is the increase in elephant activity in the area. We are constantly entertained by a number of large bull elephant that frequent our island, including of course the infamous "Jack". A small breeding herd numbering five individuals often seen around in the past have started to roam closer to camp and have spent a few days and nights feeding on Jacana island this month. We have also frequently seen a larger breeding herd numbering around 15 individuals in close proximity. They are sighed frequently while guests are partaking in water activities.

The night noises around Jacana have also started to change from the usual owl calls of the wet season. They have now been accompanied by the barking of baboons, whooping of hyenas, roaring of lions and rasping of a large male leopard that is known to live in the area. The lions we are hearing, but have not sighted yet are suspected to be the pride that was frequently sighted last summer and spent 3 weeks parked on the edge of the island. We are going to try to hold on to the boating for as long as possible but will welcome the ability to do night drives once we can drive on to the island again.

With the weather constantly improving, guests are taking advantage of our new pool with it's beautiful view (which was completed conveniently in time for winter!). We also look forward to the drying out of the floodplains to give an opportunity to our resident vervet monkeys to leave the island. They are getting rather mischievous after being stuck on the island with us all winter. No doubt once they have the opportunity they will move on and be replaced by a new troop that has not yet discovered the wonders of soap and toothpaste.

This month we have had many bush brunches out on deserted islands and the summer will bring the opportunity to have some dinners out in this amazing wilderness. Our cultural dinners are just getting more exciting with the arrival of some new staff members with some superb dancing skills. Accompanied our already talented drummers and singers these events are a constant favourite with the guests. Always accompanied by a tour of the staff village to learn the mysteries of basket weaving, mekoro carving, fire by friction and other such unforgotten skills. We look set to have another booming month, with more people to come and enjoy this unique and dynamic environment that we live in. Cheers for now,

Jacana Management
Martin and Barbara

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Fabulous August game sightings at Vumbura Camp                  Jump to Vumbura Camp

August from the outset is turning out to be another memorable and humorous one.

Of particular excitement early in this month was the sighting of our two yearling cheetah, male and female . This was the first sighting of these two since they were last seen with their mother who now has three younger cubs. The cherry on the cake was that our guests watched the two take out a female impala on the flood plains. Of interest was that that a male impala saw the cheetah and herded the female towards them, seemingly offering her as the sacrifice probably to save himself.

We have said cheers to an Australian film-making couple of blokes, from the Victoria's Open Range Zoo, situated at Werribee. The aim was to make a three minute video for their lion enclosure. We were pretty privileged to have these blokes here and now have a couple of movie stars in the family, our guide Kay being the main actor. Our lions did it all for them and they got great footage along with all the other animals that they saw. Vumbura will hopefully be promoted to 300,000 visitors a year who watch this video at the lion enclosure. The camera man Peter, told me that he rated his Vumbura experience in the top three of his life. The other two were films he produced in the Amazon and Nasa in the United states.

The Vumbura pride has been keeping the cameras rolling with several buffalo and a zebra kill. Enormous herds of Buffalo have been coming across the flood plains and are an awesome sight, especially when their skins are wet, and glisten with blackness.

Just when we thought we had sent the best, last night's sighting has to top the lot. The Vumbura pride was seen walking along the airstrip road towards Imbishi 1 island. Stretched out in two columns they made a fantastic sight. Having killed a small buffalo in the morning, the thought was that they were going for water. Unbeknown to them, a herd of in excess of 500 buffalo was on the other side of Imbishi 2 island. Before long the inevitable happened and the lions got scent of the buffalo. Moving into ambush positions the lions attacked from the rear of the column of buffalo. Mayhem followed as the 500 plus buffalo stampeded towards the new bridge. Three buffalo were brought down in the first encounter. Just when the buffs thought they were safe, a young one panicked and separated form the herd. One of the larger lionesses saw it and charged 100 metres tackling the buffalo at full run, the two animals hit the water and the lioness quickly strangled the buffalo. Where were the guests you might well ask? Watching the whole show with a bird's eye view on the new bridge. Who won in the end? The hyenas came in full force shortly after dark and the lions were removed from their carcasses! The guests and guides came home speechless.

On a lighter note, Vumbura has had a ghost visiting the tea station almost every night. In the early morning, managers arrive to see the milk jug on the floor, empty and upright. The puzzle was resolved when Sybrand arrived to do the early and found a young Caracal stealing the milk. The Caracal jumped behind the bar fridge where it remained for a while. It looked soft and cuddly until the time we tried to remove it then showing its prowess, aggressively hissing and scratching until it escaped. We have the photo!

A couple of honeymooners from France left us with some interesting suggestions to improve our service: one, have a heater in the tent which switches on automatically half an hour before wake up and switches off after the pick up for breakfast; two, heat the swimming pool; and three, remove all the dead trees in the park

It's the 20th and we have just experienced the coldest day of the year; 5 degrees with an icy wind. Guests witnessed a giant eagle owl eating a cat fish. A first for all the guides. 25th and its warm again!! Last few days after the cold snap the game kept to itself in the thick bush. Today our male Cheetah walked for several kilometres to the joy of the guests. Lions are back and killing buffalo.

We seem to be the orphanage or something. We now have a young hyaena who sleeps under the swimming pool deck. We have lots and lots of sable antelope in the area as usual! Vumbura must be one of the best places in Africa to enjoy sable!

August has been a busy month. Summer, despite the cold snap is on its way and the small flood is disappearing fast.

We will be moving activities half an hour earlier and half an hour later as from the 1st September. Sybrand , Kathy and Ross will be managing Vumbura in September.

Kind regards,
Roger

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