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Beginning of Year 2003


Seychelles News
North Island - The Seychelles
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The North Island project in The Seychelles Islands is a dream set to become a reality when North Island finally opens its doors in April 2003. April is totally sold out already to “guinea pigs”, prior to the first guests arriving in May. Please have a look at our North Island information and photos - this should be quite an exclusive and special getaway for those looking for something new.

Botswana News
The 2003 Okavango Flood
The new flood has arrived up in the far north of the Okavango Delta and at this stage, if current trends continue, it is set to be a BIG flood. Check this page for monthly updated as the flood comes in. To see a chart of this year's flood compared to years in the past, go to 2003 Flood Chart.

July 2003 Flood Update: The flood has actually turned out to be a small one in spite of the early indications; however, this means better game viewing and access to areas otherwise un-driveable in a bigger flood year. We were in the Delta for 15 days in June and the game viewing was terrific.

Rhino Re-introduction Project
Current herd size at Mombo: 15 (7F, 8M)
It is now three months since the second batch of ten white rhinos was released in the Mombo area. We celebrated the first anniversary of the re-introduction of rhinos into the wild in Botswana and the project continues to be extremely successful.

Joint OWS / APU monitoring patrols are locating all of the rhinos on a regular basis, ensuring their safety and collecting a great deal of valuable data on the rhinos’ movements, habitat preferences etc. So far, no evidence of any poaching or other illegal activities has been found in this area, showing that the presence of the APU is an effective deterrent to illegal hunters.

Following their release, the new rhinos covered a lot of ground as they explored their new home. However, they now seem to be settling down and their movements between sightings are much less pronounced. For the most part, the rhinos have remained in the groups they were in while in the bomas.

With the onset of the rains, there has been some seasonal movement of the rhinos towards new grass and water sources, as we expected. Of course now that there are more rhinos in the area we are encountering larger groups (up to four at one time) and guests at Mombo are enjoying more rhino sightings on game drives.

We have witnessed some interesting interaction between the adult bulls released earlier, and the newly released females, evidently with a view to mating.

Currently 12 of the rhinos are within 25km of Mombo, with six within the Mombo game drive area. Two others have recently left their usual area – we believe they have moved west as they did temporarily last year and the 15th rhino is the one which was re-captured by the DWNP near Gumare and returned (for his own safety) to Chief’s Island. It is entirely natural that the rhinos – especially males as they approach maturity – will move slightly further afield, seeking their own territories.

We are expecting our next consignment of ten white rhinos from South Africa during the first half of this year, hopefully when temperatures will be low enough to enable the BDF Air Wing to fly the rhinos directly to Mombo airstrip.

Everyone involved in this project is working hard to ensure that 2003 will be another great year for Botswana’s growing wild white rhino population, and of course looking forward to the day when this population begins to grow organically, that is to the birth of the first rhino calf, which will be the ultimate seal of approval on this project.

July 2003 Rhino Update: Nicky and I were at Mombo in June when another 8 White Rhinos made the trip from South Africa (by truck) to the bomas at Mombo. They all made the trip successfully and were due to be released in early July. We also saw some of the previously released Rhinos while on game drive at Mombo. It's great to see these lovely animals back in the wild again! On a sad note, one of the big males from the initial release, named Kgosi, was killed earlier this year in a natural territorial dispute with one of the other males. This is however a natural behavior for male Rhinos and they are occasionally injured or killed as in this instance. With the eight newly arrived Rhinos, this makes the number of Rhinos released at Mombo to 23 animals, minus Kgosi, for 22 Rhinos running around on or near Chief's Island!

Nicky and I also spoke with the head of Botswana's Wildlife Department (who was at Mombo for the Rhinos' arrival) and more Rhinos are scheduled for later in 2003. Another shipment of ten more White Rhinos plus the first four Black Rhinos! The Black Rhinos are very exciting news! Two of the Black Rhinos are from farms in South Africa (via a trade for Roan Antelope and Tsessebe) and two more are a gift from the president of Namibia.

The newly reintroduced Rhinos in the Okavango Delta are VERY well looked after by Botswana's Anti Poaching Units (APU's). The animals all have tiny transmitters implanted in their horns and they are all tracked and located daily by the APU's. In fact, the Rhinos are about as well defended as the country's President according to some sources we spoke to! Botswana certainly does take their wildlife resource seriously - and well they should; it is a rare treasure.

Bushman village at Gudigwa

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The Bushman San village at Gudigwa Camp (Okavango Delta, Botswana) is on track to open 1st April 2003. This is the culmination of four years of hard work for Conservation International, the Washington based conservation NGO.

The local community owns Gudigwa 100%, from funds raised by Conservation International. All revenue, less booking commissions, go directly to the community. It’s a one-night cultural experience and all guests will arrive at Gudigwa together at about 4pm and leave the next day at about 11am. Unfortunately we cannot deviate from this set program until the community’s capacity is increased.

Kings Pool now a smaller “Premier” camp

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Kings Pool Camp (Linyanti Reserve, Botswana) is being completely rebuilt and converted into a “Premier” camp to the same standards as Mombo and Jao camps. The rebuilding is on track right and Kings Pool is set to reopen at the end of April 2003. Each room will be brand new and much larger, with its own pool and sala. Kings Pool will also decrease in size to a 9-roomed camp, the same size as Jao and Mombo. Wilderness Safaris now offers a “Premier” camp circuit through the Okavango and the Linyanti / Chobe.  Call us for details.

July 2003 Kings Pool Update: Nicky and I visited the newly upgraded Kings Pool during our June 2003 safari and we LOVE the new rooms - they are HUGE!! These are certainly the best rooms at any safari camp in Botswana that we have seen to date.  The rooms are much wider now and more of a square shape as opposed to the more rectangular (but still very spacious) rooms at the other two Premier camps (Mombo and Jao). Each room also now has it's own private plunge pool and outdoor sala/sun deck with views of the Kings Pool lagoon. And if you want to see good Elephant's, well, this is still one of the best for Elie's. Congratulations to Wilderness Safaris on the "new-look" Premier Kings Pool!

Mombo news

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Mombo Camp (Okavango Delta, Botswana) has completed a complete interior upgrade and the camp is looking stunning. For those who have not visited Mombo in the last 2 years, the cuisine at the camp is outstanding. Craig, the executive chef there has done a great job. There is also a new manageress at Mombo. Her name is Pieter Sollitt. (pronounced Pee-eta). Greg and Corle (managers at Mombo and Little Mombo for the past several years) are going to be spending a little less time at Mombo this year and will move around more to other Wilderness Safaris camps and areas. Greg has been at Mombo for four years and needs a bit more variety in his month. They will be available for private guiding throughout Botswana. Sadly BK (a Mombo fixture for many, many years and manager of Little Mombo and the old "Trails Camp" way back when) left Mombo a few months back. For anyone interested in huge amounts of wildlife and amazing accommodations, please ask us about Mombo and Little Mombo.

New and bigger tents at Jacana Camp

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Jacana Camp in the Jao Reserve (Okavango Delta, Botswana) is getting new and bigger tents that will be installed in the camp by the end of March 2003.

Gombo village excursions are shelved for now

Guests staying at Kaparota, Vumbura and Little Vumbura camps in the Okavango Delta used to have an option of taking an excursion northwards outside of the Okavango and into the communities’ lands to visit Gombo Village for a lunch. It was a great day excursion. However the villagers at Gombo have decided that they had had enough of Elephants raiding their crops and Lions harassing them, so they have moved their village much further north. The new Gombo is too far to reach from these camps, so the Gombo village visits are over at present.

The photo workshop with Lex Hes
This photo workshop held each year with Lex is always a roaring success. This year’s January workshop was no exception and was held at Mombo and DumaTau camps. There will be another one next year in January – so if you are a very keen photographer who wants to learn more and do so in an amazing setting with immediate feedback, this trip is a great opportunity. Lex covers all aspects of photography – the practical as well as the theoretical issues and guests love these safaris. Call us for details.


Namibia News
Serra Cafema Camp
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Namibia’s most remote camp opened on 14 March 2003. Serra Cafema is located way up north on the Kunene River (just at the Angolan border) and this is an incredible camp…in some ways is a bit like being on the banks of the Nile River as the Kunene River meanders through the desert. It is closer from Windhoek to the center of the Okavango Delta than it is from Windhoek to Serra Cafema camp – but the trip up there is certainly worth it. Serra Cafema should be considered alongside the Skeleton Coast in terms of quality and how remote it is. It is a wonderful location with the most incredible activities. Boating, the Himba cultural experience, walks, drives are all part of the plan up there. One of the new activities being planned is a quad bike route through the sand dunes. Guests will travel out in formation with a guide and head for the dunes. The excursions will be carefully controlled to ensure that there is no environmental damage and will get guests into some wonderful areas while having a lot of fun.

(report dated 27-March 2003 from Colin Bell, Wilderness Safaris' Managing Director.)
Check out the photos just in from the new Serra Cafema Camp in north-western Namibia (on the Kunene River, just inland from the Skeleton Coast Park). This small and intimate 6 roomed camp is our latest in Namibia and has just opened its doors a few days ago. It is also our remotest camp and in my opinion our very best Namibian camp. It is so remote, so isolated and in one of the most beautiful areas of the planet. Mombo in the Okavango Delta is closer to Windhoek than Serra Cafema is to Windhoek. We opened to a full camp for its first four nights. Many of the guests rated this as one of their best lifetime experiences ever (and they were a very well travelled group).

The activities here are so special and one of the best highlights is a very sensitively handled quad bike trip out into the desert and the dunes, finishing off at some incredible waterfalls. Add in boating along the Kunene River, the Himba people and some of the best scenery in some of the most isolated places on the planet - and the camp is a winner!!!

Palmwag Rhino Camp

Jump to Tracking Black Rhinos in Namibia Safari            Jump to Palmwag Rhino Camp
All is on track to open this small 12-bedded camp on 2nd April 2003. Palmwag Rhino Camp promises to be one of the most exciting and unique camps in Namibia. It will be run with some of the “Save the Rhino Trust” trackers. This ensures that guests enjoy a great experience, and at the same time their efforts (guests will help with tracking duties) and revenue contributed will reduce the Trust’s overheads by paying the trackers salaries etc. For those who want to add something even more special to Palmwag Rhino Camp, Blythe Loutit, who started the “Save the Rhino Trust” and who probably knows more about Namibian rhinos than anyone, can host your group at additional cost.

Little Ongava opens 14 April 2003

Little Ongava Camp, a new "Premier” styled camp, is being built on top of the hills in the 30,000 hectare Ongava Game Reserve (just south of Etosha), and will open in April. Ongava will now have three different camps offering three different camp styles and experiences. The main camp has 10 rooms with brick and thatch; Ongava Tented Camp with 6 rooms has tents on the ground – and the new Little Ongava, will only be 3 rooms and will match the quality and service of our other "Premier” camps such as Jao, Mombo and Kings Pool in the Okavango Delta.

Lions in the Skeleton Coast

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A huge plus to a visit to the incredible Skeleton Coast Camp has been the increasingly regular sightings over the past few months of Lions in the Skeleton Coast Park. The pride wandered into the Park over a year ago. They were very elusive at first as no doubt they were harassed as they made their way to the coast. They are just starting to become a little habituated to the camp's Land Rovers. They have now set up their territory in the Hoarusub Canyon, not far from the camp – between the Clay Castles and the coast. Initially they were surviving on Himba cattle and donkeys, and the camp was continually reimbursing the Himba for their losses. Now they have become more accustomed to the taste of Gemsbok and have stayed put in the park, closer to the coast. The last time Lions were seen on the coast was over ten years ago and their tracks are now within sight of the sea. It is certainly a possibility that we may once again have the sight of a huge male Lion feeding on seals which will be a huge relief to the Gemsbok! There are currently three males, one female and three small cubs – all of which look healthy and well settled.


South Africa News
Makuleke concession

Wilderness Safaris has been awarded the tender for the Makuleke concession within Kruger National Park. This is an interesting and incredibly beautiful area in the extreme north of the Kruger National Park. The Makuleke’s northern boundary is the Limpopo and its southern boundary is the Luvuvhu River. The area in total is a fraction under 25,000 hectares (52,000 acres), so by Kruger / Sabi Sands standards it’s quite large. Prior to the 1960s, this area was inhabited by a few Shangaan villagers – the Makuleke people – and was outside of the Kruger National Park. (The Kruger’s boundary stopped at the Luvuvhu River). “Crooks Corner” on the junction of the Limpopo River and the Luvuvhu is where all the old time ivory traders and other mavericks used to hang out on their travels to and from central Africa. The area has such important habitats, so in the 1960s the Kruger Park authorities decided to move the Makuleke people out and incorporate this area into the Kruger Park. In the new South Africa, the Makuleke’s won this area back in a land claim – as long as it remained a conservation area and part of Kruger – i.e. the Makuleke’s get all the commercial benefits.

There is one camp in this area that is about to open up – called Outposts. This is in the extreme west of the area. Wilderness Safaris are planning two 18-bedded camps in the east - one of Mombo / Jao - ("Premier camp”) quality and the other of the “Classic camp” quality like Duba Plains (not quite as upscale - more classic safari style). These camps are scheduled to open in 2004 with the Mombo styled camp opening first. We anticipate excellent game viewing in the stunning habitat and recommend complementary circuits to the Kruger / Sabi Sands camps in the south as the vegetation and scenery are so different. The wide open Limpopo River; the little “koppies” that are infested with huge Baobabs; the Fever tree forests; the lush riparian forests along the Limpopo and Luvuvhu Rivers; the incredible wetlands that are proclaimed Ramsar sites all combine to make this an incredible area for wildlife and scenery. The Thulamela ruins, just south of the Luvuvhu River and close to the proposed camps, are a mini “Great Zimbabwe” with all sorts of wonderful gold and other artifacts having been found there. This Makuleke area should be a wonderful new addition to the whole Kruger Park / Sabi Sands experience. (Access will be by air and by road). Check back for future updates or call us for more details.

Mount Anderson

The exclusive 6-bedded Mount Anderson Lodge is open. For people who want to combine the Kruger Game experience with the mountains and scenery to the west of Kruger, there can be no better place than Mount Anderson. This beautiful lodge is owned by Mike Rattray of Mala Mala. Activities include horse riding, wonderful walking and trout fishing. We recommend this lovely lodge wholeheartedly.

Grace Hotel

The Grace Hotel in Johannesburg is now being connected directly to the Rosebank Mall Shopping Centre via a new foot bridge. The Mall of Rosebank is one of South Africa’s premier shopping malls with great shops, restaurants and a wonderful craft market. Access to the Mall is now a breeze as the Grace is a mere 15 metres away from the Mall. Guests can now walk from the Grace directly into the Mall. There is also talk of a new spa opening up at The Grace.


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