SAFARI CAMP UPDATES
2003 SAFARI NEWS & UPDATES
Beginning of Year 2003
North Island - The Seychelles
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
The 2003 Okavango
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
Serra Cafema Camp
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
Black Rhinos in Namibia Safari Jump
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
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.
in the Skeleton Coast
Coast Camp Jump
Skeleton Coast Safari
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
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.
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.
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.