SAFARI CAMP UPDATES
An update on Chitabe & Chitabe Trails
Camps from Hélène Hamman, who recently spent two weeks visiting the camps.
More fantastic Lions at Duba Plains
Camp (Note: Nicky and I were at Duba for 4 days in June
June update from Jao Camp in
the Okavango Delta of Botswana.
June update from Vumbura
Camp in Botswana.
A recent guest's visit to the NEW North Island
Resort in the Seychelles
- if you want pampering this is IT!
Chitabe & Chitabe
Trails Camps Jump
The following update was
written by Hélène Hamman,
co-owner with her husband of the Chitabe camps in Botswana.
wonderful weeks at Chitabe and thought I would fill you in on all the latest
in and around camp.
On the 1st August it will be a year since we re-opened after last year's
fire and the new camp has settled comfortably into it's new niche and has
a very cozy and relaxed atmosphere. Occupancies and guest feedback are the
best they've been for a long, long time. A big thanks to Wilderness Safaris
and all the operators around
the world who have supported Chitabe!
The new (annual) flood waters have arrived in front of the camp and when
one looks out from the tents and the bar area you gaze upon a beautiful tranquil
channel and floodplain - a meandering slice of blue waters within a sea of
The waterhole in front of Chitabe Trails camp is full and the elephants are
seen on a daily basis coming in for their afternoon drinks. Sitting on Chitabe
pool deck with a smooth glass of red wine raising a toast to the elephants
seemed to be the right thing to do. I was very pleased to see the variety
of game in
the area and when we drove out of camp one afternoon we saw zebra, wildebeest,
tsessebe, ostriches, impala and kudu all within 100 meters from camp. There
are lots of elephants around and even came across a baby which had just been
and was still wet from the after birth.
Predator sightings in the Chitabe area have been amazing and lions are everywhere.
It's always a treat to see predators in the bush, but to see them interacting
is what I enjoy and find really exciting. Africa's life cycle was very evident
over the course of five days when the following was seen by the game drive
vehicles: Cheetah stalking and taking an impala, the following day a leopard
an impala only to be chased off by some hyenas. Without so much as a pause
the female leopard abandoned her impala and turned and ambushed a warthog
- 20 meters
from the vehicles. She promptly took the warthog up a tree, just to make
sure the hyenas wouldn't confiscate this meal. The following morning both
and hyenas where finishing off the impala carcass only to have the last remains
stolen by three wild dogs. The next day we watched four male lions eagerly
feeding on a giraffe. However, not to be outdone by the larger predators,
we also witnessed
an African wild cat stalk some francolins. To top it all, we have had a number
of sightings of pangolin - a real treat! We've had such superb sightings
of the female leopard with her two three month old cubs that I think I will
with Chitabe uniforms. Both the female and cubs are very relaxed with the
vehicle and we spent half an hour gazing at their little faces which were
They decided to give us an added bonus by playing in the sun and jumping
up, over, around, and under a fallen Leadwood tree.
Both Chitabe and Chitabe Trails rooms have been refurbished and now have
new double doors put on the front of the tents. This has brightened up the
and given them a nice little face lift. New curtains and some extra special
touches have added to the ambiance of the tents. Last year we installed 220-volt
hot water geysers in all the units and I cannot tell you how wonderful it
to take a long, luxurious piping hot shower. During the winter months the
showers are usually used morning and at night - and midday's, the outdoor
showers are often used.
The Chitabe sleep-outs and walking trails are a hit with all guests from
all ages and nationalities. Being able to sleep under the stars, snuggled
under blankets and duvets on raised platform "hides" is proving to
be the perfect recipe for many guests to round off their African safari. The
staff go out of their way to ensure safety for all guests and yet bring adventure
and excitement to the "sleep-out". I'm so proud of the guides at Chitabe
who are all "accredited walking guides" and really enjoy being able
to put their feet on the ground and share their knowledge of the smaller details
such as insects, shrubs and flowers to the guests.
All the staff, both management and junior, are infectious with their enthusiasm
and love of both the Okavango and the camps. I feel very fortunate to have
such a dedicated, loyal and proud team. We are in the process of taking on
management, and I am very excited by some of the prospects in the pipeline.
People that will bring added experience and extra touches and ideas are going
elevate Chitabe to new heights.
Back in the office again and trying to catch up on a few weeks work. But
you can bet your bottom dollar that I'll be back in camp in a few months
more bush rejuvenation and Chitabe energy!
Plains Camp Jump
The camp managers
for the month of June were James Rawdon, Paul De Thierry and Ike Mogalakwe.
The guides were
Vasco Mosarwe, James
Pisetu and James Rawdon. The average minimum temperature was 11°C and
the maximum 28°C. June saw several overcast days result in an unseasonal
2mm of rain. The flood stabilized way below levels of the previous
few years allowing us access to many more areas we do not normal reach
the flood season.
The best news is we are able to
reach the Paradise area again. Our first two crossing to Paradise
proved extremely productive
with a cheetah on a bushbuck kill, a big male leopard, the four Skimmer
lions, a Cape clawless otter and pangolin being sighted. Other highlights
of the Paradise area include a big herd of waterbuck (only area to
see them at Duba), many huge crocodiles and large pods of hippo.
seen at Paradise has surprisingly remained in the Duba area, successfully
managing to out manoeuvre the lions and hyaenas. A total of six sightings
were enjoyed with the cheetah relaxing down more and more during each
encounter. Lets hope she sticks around. The hyaena pups are growing
up fast with the
older individuals joining the adults on their nightly foraging. Their
inexperience and lack of confidence shows as soon as a lion is spotted
far off in the
distance, they choose to take off at high speed in the opposite direction.
Elephant numbers are on the increase resulting in many wonderful hours
being spent watching the amusing antics of the calves attempting to
imitate the adults. The usual host of nocturnal creatures was encountered,
one highlight being the Pantry pride cubs at play with a pangolin rolled
up into its defensive ball. This frustrated the cubs far too much to
continue with the game, eventually getting bored and leaving it alone.
As usual the lions have provided us with many hours of fantastic game
viewing. The lions were encountered on everyday of the month including
79 different pride sightings. We averaged 17 lions per day, tracking
down 44 of the 53 lions during June. One may notice our total has risen
from 49 to 53 individuals, this due to a Skimmer female finally bringing
out some cubs. They were seen on the last day of the month, across the
Paradise lagoon. Unfortunately they were some ways off, so we could not
be sure if there were any more cubs or not. We presume these four cubs
belong to one lioness, so here's hoping more will appear during July.
Only four of the six Skimmer lionesses have been accounted for, perhaps
the remaining two will appear with little ones in tow. Surprisingly one
of the three-year-old lionesses was seen mating with the Paradise Males,
whether she will actually conceive at such an early age, remains to be
seen. The Skimmer Males have provided us with some fine viewing. For
the first time in many months they were actually located with three of
the lionesses from their natal pride. This was short lived as the Paradise
Males saw them the very same day. The Skimmer Males appear to be gaining
in confidence, resulting in many more sightings of them, always looking
well fed and in perfect shape. One fantastic sighting saw the Skimmer
Males attack the younger Tsaro Males, managing to isolate one of them
and giving him a hiding he would not forget in a hurry. The Skimmer Males
have certainly made inroads with the Tsaro lionesses and were once again
seen mating with one of the older lionesses. We're expecting many more
of the Tsaro lionesses to come into season, hopefully this time most
of them will conceive within a few months of each other. The Tsaro Males
were not encountered for the last two weeks of June, ever since the Skimmer
Males attacked them. This comes as no surprise. At four years of age
they should be well on their way to a nomadic life style, until they
are big and strong enough to challenge for their own territory. The five
males have a very strong bond so should remain together to form an awesome
coalition in a couple of years time. With the males away, the demand
for food has significantly been reduced, allowing the Tsaro lionesses
to focus their attention on hunting warthog. Having said that, the viewing
highlight of the Tsaro lionesses had to be them chasing the buffalo herd
through a shallow flood plain. With all the confusion, eight lionesses
jumped on six buffalo of varying sizes. The buffalo herd returned to
help the captured individuals, successfully rescuing three adult buffalo.
This left the lions with two calves and a sub adult buffalo to feast
The Duba Boys were seen regularly, mostly trailing the Pantry pride
or buffalo herd. They no longer get involved in any form of hunting,
but prefer to scavenge from their lionesses. They continue to patrol
their territory frequently, but only challenged their young sons, the
Tsaro Males. One occasion saw the Tsaro Males successfully kill a female
buffalo and her calf. The Pantry pride soon arrived, but nervously paced
up and down in the distance. The Duba Boys came rushing in from nowhere,
scattering the young males. One Tsaro Male attempted to stand up to Dad
and received a severe beating for his efforts. Much to the satisfaction
of the Pantry pride, they gained a free meal.
NOTE: We were present for the following
sighting and have amazing photos and video sequences which we
adding to the
Most hunting sequences witnessed during June
involved more than one pride
June saw the Pantry
pride following the buffalo near our staff village. They successfully
brought down a buffalo calf and then a young bull buffalo, only
for the Tsaro Males to arrive and distract the Pantry pride from
the bull. The buffalo herd saw their opportunity and returned to
bravely rescue the bull. The Pantry lionesses showed lots of confidence
as the Duba Boys turned up, successfully chasing the Tsaro Males
off into the distance. The Pantry pride do know their limits however
were seen jumping on a buffalo close to the edge of their territory.
The buffalo managed to fend them off and rejoin the herd, now in
the Tsaro prides territory. The adult lionesses immediately retreated,
the inexperienced cubs to continue the hunt. The cubs soon realised
they had no adult support and ran back yelping their frustrations
mothers. A very wise decision as within minutes the nine Tsaro
lionesses arrived, successfully killing a buffalo calf in the shallow
Still no sign of the Old Vumbura pride who must be experience successful
hunting further to the north. With the lower flood levels, hopefully
we will be able to reach their territory towards the latter part of the
year. Hollywood (male lion) is wisely laying low and was not encountered
this month. The coming months are going to be extremely exciting with
the potential arrival of many little cubs, even more territorial clashes
between all the males and then between the various prides hunting the
same herd of buffalo. Not to mention the cheetah, hyaena den, increasing
elephant numbers and the return of the migratory birds later in the season.
Sadly we say goodbye to one of the Duba family, Ike Mogalakwe has chosen
a return to city life to be with his family. We all wish him well for
Jao Camp Jump
A very cheery hello
from all of us here at Jao. The team this month was Clinton,Rebecca,Sandra,Peter,Milly
and Dale.Frank has
been heading up the guides department. The Maximum temperature this month
was 28 with a minimum of 11.
We have had a great month with a total occupancy of 74% and many a
happy guest enjoying their stay with us. Bush dinners and brunches
have been a favourite once again and the colder weather did not dampen
any spirits.Boma evenings around the fire are always enjoyed with the
staff's cultural participation a highlight.
Winter is truly upon us, so every bed now has an extra warm mohair
blanket, and in the evenings a hot water bottle welcomes everybody.
This after a sumptious meal,and festive time around the table or fire.
The floods have not been as high as last year but we have opened the
boat channel to Handa. The all day picnic trips to the island have
been a huge success. We have been pushing the Mekoro and walking experiences
- with strong emphasis on the truly wild and untouched nature of the
Quite a few sleepouts have been done this month with David and Cathy.
The incredibly luxurious set up of the camp sites is always very impressive
for guests when combined with the adrenaline filled nights out in the
There have been some special occasions, such
as birthdays,where the "little
surprises" have gone down really well and large numbers of
honeymooners have enjoyed this wonderfully romantic location as
well as private
dinners, either in their rooms or around the pool.The wine cellar
has also been a wonderful setting for dinners.
For those who did not want to take advantage of their siesta time,there
were mekoro poling lessons,candle making,back of house tours,Elephant
dung paper making sessions and ,most notably, Milly's massages to enjoy
in the afternoons.
There is a lot of general game around the Jao floodplain with zebra,giraffe
and a herd of about 100 wildebeest included in this.Guests have been
fortunate enough to witness some lion kills this month and more recently,we
have been watching with fascination 2 new male lions in a takeover
bid for the floodplain pride. Fortunately at this stage the cubs have
survived this time of intense stress and aggression and we hope to
see them prosper in the future.The female leopard has returned to camp
again and is even more relaxed than ever providing guests with unparalleled
photographic oppurtunities and some breathtaking encounters as she
saunters past the vehicles.
Maintenance is ongoing with the floors in rooms 3 and 4 having been
stripped and varnished as well as all the walkways.The lodge is looking
superb and many positive comments have been appreciated. The 'mozzie
busters'were extremely effective, - we have noticed a significant decrease
in insect activity around the camp.
This brings the letter to a close. We are looking forward to another
awesome month here in paradise and to sharing our incredible home with
many fortunate guests.
Dr John Scollard,
a Vumbura guest, agreed that we could quote him on a statement he
the early winters'
morning fire when he broke the silence made from the mesmerising fire
saying, quote, "being in this place is like having a dialysis
of the soul ". Dr Scollard and his wife Diane, also a PhD., are
preparing to write a book and it seems that Vumbura has been the catalyst
that has enabled them to start the work which makes us here at Vumbura
very proud indeed.
June has been, for us the staff, a memorable month.
We have been exceptionally fortunate that we have been mostly full,
for the guests
to have experienced the magnificent sitings that have occured
each day in this corner of the wilderness. How to choose certain
when each day has been spectacular. Perhaps to mention a few...
In all the safety briefing we have given we not only
talk about safety in walking to and from the tents in the evening
with the guide,
but also what to do in the event of meeting dangerous animals
during the day. In all my time in he camps, my guests have only ever
ele's during the day. June was different, as the Vumbura pride
often visited the camp on six occasions coming into the lodge surrounds
during breakfast and moving through the camp.
On two occasions we abandoned breakfast and
followed them on vehicles to witness the stalk and the kill of
a buffalo. On another occasion,
guests on a three day stay here saw the pride kill two buffalos
at one hunt, followed by a leopard killing a tsetsebe and sorry
for this, the two Vumbura brothers (the big males), killing a zebra.
Along side this action was the siting of a relaxed Caracal, two
badgers, and a siting of two other leopards not to mention the
large grazing herds that are occupying the plains at the moment.
forgot the Aardvarkl!! Our fortunate guests from England, whilst
preparing tea on "Same Day " Island, during a break
on morning's the mokoro safari, were surrounded by the ten lions
were busy hunting in the channels for Lechwe. The guides, gathered
the guests at an anthill and the two parties observed each other
in silence, the lions with apparent curiosity and the guests
with anticipation of the others' private thoughts. The lions
to carry on with their hunt for an appetising meal. The guides
explained that at no time did they feel threatened.
of wild dogs
in the area, the female happily and thankfully for us, very
pregnant. This bodes well for good wild dog sightings in the months
come. Seven wattled cranes were sited together in the vicinity
mopani bridge. Our Cheetah made themselves visible with regularity
another small pride of lions with three month old cubs, occupying
the area near our hippo pools.
Our South African guests sited a pangolin on one
of their trips and two purple Galinules on the river, apparently,
are really common in India, but here it was a choice siting.
Guests coming in from the airstrip are treated to huge herds of Zebra,
Wildebeest and Tsessebe on the open flood plains.
The flood has started to arrive with the flood plains starting to
deepen under water. It does not appear that it will be a huge flood
but at least the flora and fauna relying on the water will now be
content. Temperatures are at 10 degrees minimum and 25 degrees maximum.
Vumbura is a happy place; as I write
this mail, our waitressess and barladys in the lodge are busy singing
away and laughing
amongst each other. Yes it's great to be here. Kind regards
Roger et al
The Seychelles - North Island
NEW North Island Resort Jump
The following is from a
recent visitor to Wilderness Safaris' new North Island Resort
Seychelles - sounds spectacular!
Two Days and a Night at North
helicopter in a clearing - spectacular – despite
the rain. Immediate sense of the idyllic.
Bio-diversity wide, much indigenous, challenging; attitude to
it highly responsible.
The entire area where the villas are sited
set back the length of the long gently curving beach, masterfully
retains the "Robinson
Crusoe" feel, which extends to the whole of the private
island. Robinson would have refused rescue if he had been
found here - he'd still be there now, two hundred years later
old as the Giant Tortoises we met, and as contented.
Yet, (and here another surprise), discreetly
there is everything you could ever wish for in this modern
day and age for the holiday
of a life-time by the sea:
A spacious Villa, all to yourself.
Boats, sea kayaks, snorkelling, diving and fishing equipment
all in immaculate order, your own buggy, mountain bikes, gym,
spa, ice-cold drinks, (and TV, DVD/CD, computers, internet).
The architecture and the materials, mostly stone, wood and thatch
have been sensitively selected and are in such keeping with the
environment that you hardly notice the villas. North Island immediately
brought to mind Costa Rica, the most eco-friendly and eco-responsible
country I have come across.
Naturally, one villa is not visible from another.
The approach to each villa across a slatted
wooden bridge with rope hand rail leads to a heavy wooden
door, and a private world opens in front of you, entirely
yours for your stay. A wood deck leads your eye to a sunken
circular whirlpool in which to swim, and out over the beach
and the open ocean to a focal point, Silhouette Island,
living up to its name - a silhouette 10 miles away on the
(There are small enclosed areas between the decking void
to the ground a few feet below but these will look better
when plants have grown up). Beware not to disappear down
one of these late at night!
Inside there is unstinting
space, some 4,890 sq ft, used to its best advantage, in part
for the main bedroom, (huge
full length glass windows), bathroom, (sunken bath, inside and outside
shower, large shower heads, two long and impressive wood-framed looking
glasses overhang the basins). Full length wardrobes of course. That
is but one part of the villa. There is then a separate suite for
guests the other side of the hall. If you don’t relax here,
I defy you to relax anywhere. All is in impeccable taste, as befits
a desert island.
The team are tip-top, highly
professional. They do’nt miss
a trick when it comes to service, yet are friendly, never pushy,
and know their jobs through and through. Indeed the tone and the
way they treated Eloise, my daughter, and myself throughout made
us feel at home, and how we wished it was!
is no menu. Geoff the chief chef, (and manager while we were there),
is a star. He discusses
lunch or dinner with you, and importantly, the time
you would like it. I have not eaten so well in a year, yet left
North Island without having added one ounce in weight. We looked
to every meal; (he went to the trouble of concocting something
different for Eloise aged 11), and each lunch and each dinner delighted
An open rectangular ornamental pool
is the back of the imaginatively designed dining and oval bar piazza,
open and fresh but covered. Across from this to the left
is the cool air-conditioned library
built from an original old stone farm building. On the other side
up to the right is the path to a shaped 45-ft swimming pool overhung
by a coconut tree. The path continues up past
the spa to the top of the mountain.
Debbie was using the pool as
a nursery dive centre. She is head diver, with 17 years experience.
She was giving a first
enthusiastic learners, who listened intently, taking to diving like,
well.…ducks to water. Clear and patient, she inspired self
confidence in these first timers.
Dillon was a most conscientious
host. He arranged for us to be as active as we wished – driving
over the hill in a buggy through the forest to visit West beach;
seeing Rachel on her way to catch a kestrel or two; inspecting
Villa North Island
and Villa Royale; arranging the lesson in the pool with Debbie; snorkelling,
and answering endless questions without a trace of unrest. He even
transferred my digital camera images onto disk. I only wish we had
had more time to explore the island in all its bio-diversity.
had the attention of Geoff, Debbie, Justin, Cecil, Nick (we
discussed cricket) and Romano, Eva, Adel, and Nelson and Patrick,
and we met Voosi the Zulu. We had a good chat to the colourful
. You have a top class team.
General Gordon of Khartoum thought the Seychelles was the site of
the Garden of Eden, and tried to prove it. Eloise and I are more
precise; we know the site of the Garden of Eden was North Island,
and that this is where it remains to this day, thriving again in