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February 2003

This Month:
Duba Plains Camp update - Lion capital of Botswana.
Skeleton Coast Camp update - Interesting sightings from this awesome, remote camp in Namibia.

Botswana Camps
Duba Plains Camp                Jump to Duba Plains Camp
The camp managers for the month of February were James Rawdon, Ike Mogalakwe and Elmari Cuyler. The guides were Katembo, James Pisetu and Eric. Matt Montague came in to help us out when professional photographer, Gerald Hinde, visited for 10 days. Matt and Gerald spent 10 days solid, 14 hours a day, with the various lion prides. Their aim was to capture images of the lions hunting buffalo, and this they successfully achieved. It is always extremely helpful having a game drive out all day, it makes finding the animals in the afternoon a lot easier. We look forward to welcoming Gerald back in the near future.

The summer rains continued to fall sporadically throughout February, however, not resulting in too much rainfall. A total of 68mm fell. The average temperatures experienced were a minimum of 22°C and a maximum was 32°C.

With most of the summer rains having fallen, the grass levels are at their annual high, making it slightly more difficult to spot the lions and other game. This resulted in three lion free days, but we still managed an average of nine lions seen per day and a total of thirty-nine pride sightings. Not all of the regular lions were accounted for, only totaling forty-three of the sixty odd lions normally tracked down. We did not pick up the Old Vumbura Pride (7 lions), new males (3 lions) or the Vumbura Pride (10). A bonus was a sighting of a new unnamed, irregularly seen pride - a lionesses with three very young cubs. In total, kills witnessed included seven buffalo and four warthogs. The buffalo continued with their avoidance of the lions, however, several spectacular kills by the Pantry Pride were witnessed.

The Tsaro pride remains fairly split up, with no sign of their new cubs yet. It appears at least three lionesses have now given birth. We expect to see the older cubs (three weeks old at present) within the next couple of weeks. The entire pride was accounted for, with the five young males moving around without the lionesses. This has allowed the four Skimmer Males to occasionally join up with the Tsaro lionesses. One sighting involved eight of the Tsaro lionesses being chased off a recent buffalo kill by ten hyenas. With no male lions present, they did not put up much resistance. As the hyenas began to enjoy their free meal, the four Skimmer Males turned up. The hyenas naturally vacated the area at speed. This did not assist the lionesses as the males were in no mood to share the spoils.

The Pantry pride gave us the best lion viewing of the month. The beginning of February saw the pride really struggling to find any prey. This resulted in the skinny little male cub, which was abandoned in December for two weeks, finally succumb to starvation. From that point on, the rest of the pride has not looked back. They pushed further into the Tsaro prides territory than ever before, in search of the buffalo herd. This risky strategy paid off handsomely with several successful buffalo hunts, as well as dominating a couple of clashes with the Tsaro females. One morning involved the Pantry pride isolating a big bull buffalo, eventually pulling it down and putting it out of its misery. Within minutes, three Tsaro females arrived on the scene in an attempt to steal the kill and see off the trespassing Pantry pride. They failed miserably, with one of the pregnant females being corned by the Pantry pride. She was severely attacked, but managed to escape with some nasty puncture wounds around her rear end. She will recover, but may think twice about challenging her determined neighbours. Another incident saw the Pantry pride challenge the five Tsaro Males for a buffalo calf, but alas, they failed this time. The Tsaro Males are steadily gaining in confidence and will soon be an awesome force. The Pantry pride cubs are learning fast. They do not hold back when it comes to pulling a buffalo down, at sixteen months of age they are showing considerable skill and courage. One of the cubs tried a little to hard and paid the price of being tossed several metres through the air by a big bull buffalo. This usually proves more than enough of a deterrent to the youngsters, but on this occasion, it went straight back on jumped on again.

The Duba Boys are still seen regularly and are spending more time than usual with the Tsaro females. Whether this is a good thing or not, remains to be seen. They are not the fathers of the new cubs, which does not bode well for the pride. The next month or so should answer our concerns. The Skimmer pride was fairly scarce as they remain to the north of the Paradise lagoon. The one adult female was seen once with her three sub adult female offspring. The two older lionesses must still be in hiding with their new cubs. With the annual flood arriving in less than a month, we should find the Skimmer pride moving back to their usually haunts further south. This will make it far easier for us to locate them, hopefully with several new additions.

The biggest surprise of the month came in the form of a shy cheetah. They are not regulars in the Duba area due to the high lion and hyena populations. The cheetah was fairly shy and immediately moved off. This may have been caused by the close proximity of the Duba Boys and the scent of the Tsaro females with their cubs nearby. The hyena pack continues to
thrive with four black young ones at the den. With their bold and inquisitive nature, they are a definite highlight for anyone visiting Duba. The buffalo are finally giving birth in large numbers. Several guest have departed overjoyed with the privilege of having witnessed the birth of a wild animal. Although a quieter month than we are accustomed to, it was still a spectacular month. The following month should be an exciting one with the prospects of new cubs and the arrival of the annual flood.

Namibia Camps
Skeleton Coast Camp                Jump to Skeleton Coast Camp  
(report from Daleen de Villiers, the new manageress in the Skeleton Coast who has just moved there after being in Sossusvlei for over a year.)

Managers: Damon Little, Daleen de Villiers [Chris Bakkes is on leave this month!]
Guides: Chris Liebenberg, Douw Steyn

What can I say; it was a month full of new things for me. The original plan was to only stay 1 month in Skeleton Coast and then start with Damaraland Rhino Camp, but my plans have changed. This will be my home for the rest of this year and I must say that I do look forward to the upcoming year.

Douw and Chris have guided all the safaris for February. We had a few full safaris and a few safaris where only one vehicle went out. There is absolutely no doubt that the guests loved it here. All of the guest were very impressed with this wonderful area and always came back from the drives with big smiles. They had a few good sightings like the lions in the Hoarusib. Douw also had it where one male lion actually chased the vehicle. It is amazing to see lions in this area. Douw and Chris said that they found the lion tracks crossing over the dunes going all the way down to the beach. Imagine that!!!! They had a few elephant sightings as well. They did not do the full day in the Hoarusib, because the river that came down in flood and still can come down.

Douw and Chris had other sightings like bat-eared foxes chasing a caracal. They first thought it was a leopard and then it was actually a caracal that chased one bat-eared fox, but eventually 3 other bat-eared foxed came to the rescue and chased the Caracal away. I was very lucky with a Cheetah sighting. It was my third day in camp and I went out with Thys driving up in the Khumib River and we saw a dead springbok next to the road. When we stopped the vehicle we looked around and sure enough, the cheetah was lying between the rocks very calm and relaxed. He was most probably about 15-20m from us. It was so amazing seeing such a wild animal in this harsh desert environment. Other animals like the Oryx, springbok, steenbok and giraffe was still seeing on the drives.

Besides all the game, the people are spoiled with the enormous empty spaces and the most impressive landscape scenery that they see every day on their safaris. Douw and Chris had enjoyed these activities as much as the guests did, which makes it pleasant to see them all come back from the drives smiling. It actually made me very jealous, but I will still get out there!

Our vehicles did not give us too much trouble, considering the incredibly harsh conditions out here - until a few days ago when 3 vehicles broke at once. Two of the vehicles had problems with the rear-axles. The one vehicle had a problem with the universal connector for the steering rod. Hans helped us to fix two vehicles. One vehicle will be fixed in the next two days. Flat tyres can't be considered as a problem. It seems to be normal out here. The land Rovers were always ready the next day for the guides to start their trip.

The temperatures were something that I had to adapt to, because of the misty mornings and cool temperature during the evenings, especially for someone who has worked in Sossusvlei for longer than a year. The temperatures were cool in the evenings and during the nights. There were a few mornings where we woke up and it was like a white blanket that had covered the whole area. The temperatures were +/- 16 degrees C during the nights and +/- 25-32 degrees C during the days. There were a few days where we had a "little" bit of rain. About "10mm" rain; In Skeleton Coast language, that means the rain drops were about 10mm apart from each other.

It was a very busy month for me to settle in and to get use to the Skeleton Coast, but after a few days I felt welcomed by everyone. I've done a lot of shopping for the camp, it was for all the little things that were needed in the camp and were outstanding. With the help of Ella, Chris and Giel I managed to get the camp sorted out with smaller things that were needed. I feel very positive about this place and I know I will enjoy every moment of it here. The camp got a wonderful atmosphere with the co-operation of the staff and the good spirit of the guest. Guests never complain and is always very satisfied with their time at the skeleton coast.

Thank you

Daleen de Villiers


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