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AFRICAN SAFARI CAMP UPDATES
May 2003

This Month:
• Great game in May at Jacana Camp (Okavango Delta - Botswana).
• April/May update from Linyanti Tented Camp in Botswana.
• March/April update from Sossusvlei Wilderness Camp in Namibia.


Botswana Camps
Jacana Camp                Jump to Jacana Camp
Jacana Camp in May

It has been another very enjoyable month in our water paradise here at Jacana Camp. Occupancy rates have been a little bit down on last year due the war. Interesting is that there have only been three Americans in camp all this month as we are a Vintage styled and priced camp (i.e. cheaper than most other Okavango camps) and we have a different profile of guest. [Even though we are a lot cheaper, we still include all the activities and all the drinks in the price.] Europeans and Brits have been our most been prominent guests.

Our long awaited, small guest curio shop is now open for business. Guests are loving our new and much larger tents - as well as our new bathrooms. All the hard work in summer has paid off.

On the game viewing side of things we have had some stellar sightings and guests have been very happy.

Our resident elephant named Jack spent a good part of the last month on the island. At one stage he was present right in camp for 10 days straight alternatively thrilling and scaring guests. Occasionally we will have other large bull elephants visit us and we have to be careful to determine whether it is Jack or not. Jack is generally very placid so we have to be a bit more careful if it is another elephant. Pel's fishing owl sightings were on an absolute high nearing the end of the month, with sightings every day (sometimes twice). We have also had regular sitatungu antelope sightings, from both boat and mekoro. When guests have been more interested in the bigger game, the Kwetsani flood plains have been very productive with regard to lion and general game sightings. The birding on surrounding islands has been fantastic as usual.

A highlight of many a guests stay has been our traditional dinners, staff village tours and bush brunches. The staff village tours take guests through the many traditions that are still carried out today by our staff who mainly come from villages in the surrounding areas of the Delta. We follow this up with a meal consisting of all the traditional foods, eaten with hands while sitting on cushions on the ground around the camp fire. This is then followed by ainging and dancing with the staff. The bush brunches take place in the heart of a nearby small island only accessible by water, under the shade of a large sycamore fig tree. We have plans to also do dinners on this island next month.

The guests have all enjoyed themselves immensely this month, and we have really enjoyed the fact that they have all embraced the water aspect of the camp this month. There are many activities that take place at Jacana Camp that are just not possible in many other places. The main two are mekoro rides across these vast and open flooded plains, sometimes to relax and other times to search for birds, sitatunga or Pel's fishing owl as well as all the general game of the Okavango. Another very popular activity is to mekoro to a large island in the area and take a walk amoungst red lechwe, zebra (that are trapped on these islands for the season by the rising floods), baboons, vervet monkeys and elephant to name a few.

We expect that the boating season will end rather earlier this year due to the low floods. Currently there is plenty of water for all activities but we expect that use of the motor boats will become more difficult as time goes on. Fortunately mekoros are a good backup in the time between boating and driving. Best regards,

Jacana Management (Martin and Barbara)

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Linyanti Tented Camp                Jump to Linyanti Tented Camp
This report covers the period from 17/04 - 31/05
Management present : Brian, Chantelle & Meshak (Trainee Manager) - Taps has been on leave this month and returned in camp on the 27th of May.

Things are great here at Linyanti Tented Camp.

The staff are excellent and have all pulling their weight fantastically over the last month. The atmosphere in camp is good. Meshak has been a blessing, helping us with the daily running of the camp (we are often guiding, doing pickups or doing freight runs). We have not gotten round to do much more building or general maintenance whilst Taps has been away, but the camp is looking good and is being kept clean and tidy. We plan to do some more work with mopane poles when we get back from leave (possibly building a luggage rack at the front).

The bush has thinned out considerably in the past weeks and we are starting to see under the Knobbly Combretum shrubs. The leaves of the Kalahari Sand Apple (Lonchocarpus nelsii) have started turning yellow and much of the scrub mopane has started turning Brown. Autumn colors are showing in the veld. Towards the end of April and the first half of April the Purple Pod Terminalias were in full fruit and were very beautiful to look at, competing with the rich golden colors of the Kidney-shaped mopane seeds. Both hanging like Christmas decorations in the woodlands. The grass is rapidly disappearing and we can here the termites chewing away in the nights. The water in the Linyanti River is getting lower and lower as the days go by, and the elephants are starting to stream in. The Acrotomes and Vernonias have finished flowering and there are fewer butterflies around. Towards the end of May the Cat's Claws (Clerodendrum uncinatum) started showing off their beautiful blood red blooms (the color warning one of what your fingers will look like if you pick them - they have sharp thorns! - hence the name). The leadwoods have finished throwing their seeds all over the front area. The nights and early mornings are getting chilly and the clouds seem to have disappeared towards the end of May. The mopane pans are all rapidly drying up and the game is starting to move in towards the river side.

The impala have been great to watch this month as they have been rutting, and thus chasing each other all around, fighting and generally making lots of noise. The rut is now ending and the males have lost a lot of their former condition. Just out of interest - Chantelle found, on gamedrive, a tiny baby impala of only a few weeks of age. This is very unusual considering the time of the year. We have seen it on numerous occasions afterwards and it seems healthy and doing well.

On the 18th of April one of the Chobe Boys (lions) was still seen at the giraffe carcass, gnawing on the rotting remains. On the 9th of May we witnessed one of the Chobe Boys mating with presumably one of the Kings Pool lionesses). On the 18th of May we found the 2 boys sleeping near the turnaround point at Kings Pool Airstrip. They paid no attention to us and carried on sleeping even though there were planes landing nearby - typical lions - just lying around. On the night of the 20th we found the two Chobe Boys walking along the river road towards LTC. Just prior to seeing them we had bumped into a breeding herd of buffalo in the riverine ahead of them. The two boys looked thin and hungry and we were expecting that something may happen when the lions found the buffalo, but as things happened the lions carefully avoided the buffalos and carried on their way. Whilst waiting for the lions to pitch up at the buffalos we sat for a while with the lights off at the buffalos and stared at the African night sky, while listening to the buffalos chewing and moo-ing all around us - What an awesome evening.

Kings Pool Pride (4 adult females and 3 subadults) have been quite active in the area during May and we have seen them on quite a few occasions (usually between the BDF Camp and Kings Pool Airstrip). They tend to frequent the area close to the river and riverine/floodplain vegetation. On the night of the 8th of May we saw 1 Kings Pool Lioness with two of the subadults. She had a bad wound on the tail and we could even see the bone inside. On the 12th three females and 2 of the subadults were seen in the thick riverine vegetation near the BDF Camp. We did not notice the female with the wounded tail, maybe she was lying somewhere in the thick vegetation with the other subadult. On the 15th the four females and the three subadults were lying near the river close to the airstrip. The wound on the tail of the female was still clearly visible. The lions had obviously fed earlier as some still had blood on their chins and chest. On the 28th the four females and three subadults were seen sleeping in the floodplain grass near Boscia Lagoon. They all looked well and quite content (possibly a little hungry) and were seen lying close to each other, rubbing against each other and licking each other.

The Linyanti Pride were not seen again during the period after they left the giraffe carcass.

Unlike last month, this month we have seen many buffalos. Almost every day we have come across either breeding herds or "dagha boys". We have also bumped into a few on the walks that we have taken. Just adding that bit of excitement and reminding us to move around very carefully, listening often, reminding us that Africa can be a dangerous place.

The elephants are definitely piling in and in the afternoons, in particular, we are seeing numerous come down to the water to drink. We often see elephants whilst on the canoes and have had a few cross the river right in front us. It is amazing how big they look when you are so close to the water level. On one canoe trip we saw over 70 elephants come down to drink. The elephants often swim across the lagoon in front of camp, just showing the tops of their heads, trunks and backs. They also go into the reeds on the other side of the river and we are only given notice of their presence by the sounds of breaking reeds and gurgling water (sounds like a scuba diver). In one of the breeding herds seen this month we noticed a youngster without a tail and with only half a trunk. We wondered what caused this mishap and marvelled that this poor creature was still looking in such good condition considering. On the 9th of May we saw a brreding herd come down to the river to drink and play around. We noticed that there was a very tiny calf with them. When they had all had their fill of water the herd proceeded to cross the river to the other side. We could see that the mother of the calf was quite concerned and she kept on walking up and down the water testing it. Finally she attempted to cross, with the baby following. Where the youngster started struggling the mother and and another female assisted by pusing the baby's backside with their trunks until they were all over. It was great to see the motherly emotions and protection and left us all in awe of the mother and the courage of the youngster. The few guests that we have taken into Kings Pool Sunken Hide during gamedrive have all been amazed at the close proximity that one gets to the elephants. I am quite sure that these periods will remain etched in their memories forever. On the 24th of April we came across a group of elephants that were extremely agitated near the Chobe Border. Then we noticed a male mount a female and proceed to attempt to mate with her. She started to move away from him and then ran away, with the male right at her heels. Suddenly the rest of the herd charged us and we had to rush away and leave them behind.

The leopards have given us a great show all this month. On the night of the 18th of April we heard the baboons barking loudly near camp. I took the Land Rover out while the guests were all having supper and discovered a female right near the managers tent. We tried to gather all the guests on the other vehicle, but by the time they managed to get themselves together and ready it had disappeared into thick bush and we could not find it again. On the 27th of April we were out early in the morning when we noticed that many impala were staring in one direction. Upon looking round I surprised a young female who ran away. Later on in the evening before coming to camp we made a turn back to that place in the hopes of finding her again, and got lucky. Whilst following her she led us to a site where there were two other leopards. It was a mother and her two subadult cubs at an impala kill. While we were watching them a hyena pitched up and managed to steal the kill, which the leopards had left on the ground. The next morning we came back to the spot, without really any hopes of finding the leopards again when we came across the young male, cornered up in a mopane tree with the hyena at the bottom. The young female was also in the nearby vicinity. On the 30th we again saw the LTC mother nearby camp. She was calling constantly (presumably to find her youngsters). On the 5th of May, very close to the spot where we had seen the young male in the tree with the hyena below, we came across the LTC Female again. She had just killed an impala and quickly moved away from the kill site as other impala were all snorting at her. We returned later on in the afternoon to find that she had dragged the kill under a fallen mopane. We had great views of her, but the next morning when we returned to the site we found only tracks of hyenas again.

On the 9th we managed to get some good views of the BDF leopard Female near Ele Carcass Loop. On the 12th we saw her again near Mowana Plains, stalking impala. On the 17th we again bumped into her near the BDF on a night drive. We again saw her on the 22nd, stalking impala. She was very relaxed and allowed both vehicles very good views of her as she lay on a fallen tree trunk before getting up, yawning and then getting on to stalk the nearby impala. This BDF Female is definitely the most relaxed leopard in the area and has allowed us some great views of her.

On the 28th of April I was following the tracks of a male lion when I managed to spot a male leopard stalking impala. I quickly got the guests and went in to view him. He was very skittish and only allowed us a brief view before disappearing into thick vegetation. We think that this was the Inkwe Hide Male. On the 24th of May we were going to the airstrip to drop off guests when I noticed vultures dropping down and landing in a nearby dead tree. I quickly got out of the car and went to investigate. There I managed to surprise the Inkwe Hide male, who was staring at a hyena who had just taken his impala kill. He ran into thick bush and we couldnt find him again. After dropping off the one set of guests we quickly came back to the area and found him picking at the bones the hyena had left over. I then took the second set of guests back to the airstrip for their transfer. On the 28th of May Kenneth, from Kings Pool spotted an impala kill in a large leadwood tree. When we arrived the leopard was not to be seen, but later on in the evening the Inkwe Hide Male was observed crunching on the head of the unfortunate impala.

On the 5th of May we bumped into 1 unknown male leopard near the Chobe border. He was quite unconcerned with us and seemed to be waiting for animals to come and drink at a nearby pan.

The Wild dogs have also been good to us this month. There are 2 distinct packs which move through the area. One pack consists of between 14 and 16 dogs, while the other consists of 6 or 7. The pack with 14-16 we assume is the same pack that frequents the Duma Tau area. The other we have named the Linyanti Pack.

On the 21st of April we found the Duma Tau pack lying in the shade nearby the airstrip, as we were picking up new guests. We then saw them again on the 9th of May running through Kings Pool and also on the 14th (halfway between Kings Pool and LTC). We noticed that one of the younger dogs was limping. On of the adult males looks extremely old with grey fur around his muzzle and tattered ears. On the 16th, while we were having tea at the sunken Hide this group of dogs came and joined us. They were quite unconcerned that we were all standing around, to the delight of the guests and photographer Hans Rack.

On the 26th of April we saw the Linyanti pack near Waterbuck Pan. They were resting in the shade. The Alpha Male is very dark in color and one of the females seems to have a slight case of mange on the rear end. We then saw them again on the 2nd of May near the BDF Camp, sleeping with full bellies. On the 6th they were seen hunting at Ele Carcass Loop. On the 9thg they were again seen hunting in the same vicinity. We were having sundowners when they ran past. They took no notice of us and proceeded to disturb a female impala and gave chase. They missed it, but the guests were all stoked by the sighting. On the 24th whist transferring guests to the airstrip we found this pack sleeping in the mopane near camp. The next morning we bumped into them again, whilst on a walk in the BDF area. They lay down nearby us and even waited so that we could call in some of the Kings Pool guides who were on gamedrive.

On the 1st of May we were alerted of a single male cheetah resting in the shade of a Blue Bush near Kings Pool Airstrip. On the 28th Chantelle was taking new guests back to camp after picking them up and found a dead impala just in the riverine nearby Lechwe Flats. When she got out of the car to investigate a male cheetah sat up and stared at her. She returned to the car and the guests had great views of it feeding on the impala and dragging the prey into the shade nearby. The cheetah was quite alert and was constantly looking around for other predators.

We have had 3 sightings of Sitatunga this month. Twice from the canoes and once from a vehicle. On the 22nd of May we were out on the canoes when I saw the ear of a female sitatunga pearing out from the papyrus beds. We approached carefully and she then came out into the open giving us great views and even allowing some of the guests to get photos of her. She was extremely relaxed and then slowly made her way into the papyrus beds. We were all very excited at the views she had given us.

On the 28th of May Chantelle was on her way to go and pick up guests at the airstrip when she managed to see Roan Antelope halfway between KPL and LTC. It was very skittish and ran away as soon as it saw the vehicle.

No Sable were seen this month.

The general game is great and we are seeing impala, kudu, baboons and giraffe every drive. There are also a fair number of zebras around and a group of +- 20 wildebeest have also arrived. One of these Wildebeest has a radio telemetry collar around its neck. On the 22nd we had great views of a couple of giraffes mating near camp. On the 24th of April, on a night drive, we came across an African Wild Cat who was spitting and snarling at something in the grass. After the cat left we went in to investigate and found a python of approximately 1 and a half meters.

The migrant birds have now left us and we saw our last Paradise flycatcher at the end of April. Gymnogene sightings have been great.

On the 5th of May we were all having tea at the main area when we heard a thud in the grass nearby. There, in the grass we saw a large chameleon fighting with a male boomslang. They had obviously fallen out of the leadwood by the main area. The fight continued for almost an hour, coming right up to the fire-place. We then left them and went on drive. I was told by Meshak that the fight continued almost until sundown.

As I say this month has been great and we have seen a lot. We are almost sad to be going on leave now.

Peter Warrick was here at the beginning of the month and we enjoyed a long walk from LTC to KPL. It took us 5 hours and we bumped into 12 different groups of elephant and 2 groups of buffalo en route.

Guest comments :
Doug Mercatoris - " Wonderful people and place"

Terry Landers and Barry Bassett - " Fabulous food. Incredible tracking. Wonderful elephants. Overall excellent experience"

Isa Panzetta & Alessandro Lambrusciti - " See you soon paradise - Thanks every body"

Simon and Angie Thomas - " Fantastic time - my first experience of a safari and everything else has a lot to live up to!! Great food, lovely camp. Many thanks to Brian, Chantelle and all the staff"

Ian McCallum - "Well done, you guys"

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Namibia Camps
Sossusvlei Wilderness Camp                Jump to Sossusvlei Wilderness Camp  
Managers in Camp:
March: Nic & Melanie
Assistant Managers: Damon & Regina
April: Damon, Leon & Regina

Guides In Camp: Christie, Dios, Gert & Justin

This Report will cover both March and April. With regards to all aspects concerned, these have both been two fantastic months in the Namib Desert.

Weather:
March has been a month for clear sunny days and extreme temperatures. Throughout the month, temperatures have ranged upwards from 30*c. We also experienced a brief shower of rain early in the month. This was nowhere near enough but was highly appreciated. We thought this was the end of our rainy season and caused a bit of concern. Then April came, bringing with it a belated rainy "season". Just before the rain happened, hundreds of white butterflies filled the air pollinating the surrounding shrubs. The blue skies were then replace with dark, drape like, clouds. The clouds opened with rain causing a fruity / herbaceous scent lingering in the air. This continued for 4-5 days dropping the temperatures to an average of 20*C. The rain did not affect any activities and helped in creating the most beautiful sunrises and sunsets.

Activities:
The day our guests arrive we introduce them to the area by guiding them through the property until a sundowner viewpoint is reached. During this time the guides explain the adapted fauna and flora of the desert. The guests then enjoy a drink of their choice, watching the sunset over the dunes. On there return they have the chance to see some of the nocturnal carnivores. The sightings we have had on several occasions are mainly Cape Fox, Bat-eared Fox, Black-backed Jackal and less common the Spotted Hyena and Aardwolf. The Spotted Eagle Owl is also sighted frequently.

The next day is an early start. We are now waking the guests a 04h00 am to see the spectacular dunes. This is a full days activity which includes walking, climbing of dunes - Big Daddy is still a challenge for the fit, Great photographic opportunities and a lovely picnic brunch is enjoyed in the shade of an Acacia tree. After the brunch the guests have the choice to include Sesriem canyon.

Sossusvlei is known to be one of the best areas for stargazing. We are making very good use of our Telescope and are exploring the heavens with our guest. This is always a great way for our guests to spend their last night in the camp.

If our guests are staying for 3 nights we include Naukluft Mountains hiking trail which is fantastic for bird watching. Kudu and Hartmanns Mountain Zebra are also frequently seen while on the trails.

HIGHLIGHTS:
Tom Mangelson, who is a world famous photographer, visited the dunes every day with Dios. They had the opportunity to watch a springbok giving birth to her foal. Another sighting, which needs to be mention, is that some of our guest were enjoying a balloon flight with Eric and saw a Cheetah in the riverbed. Everyday is a highlight but these were special sightings.

Occupancy:
In March we experienced a 20% a drop in our occupancy rate if compared to last year. April has been on par with last years occupancy. A great thanks to the French market that has sent us a lot of business this month. All in all we have had 100% guest satisfaction with regards to Camp standards and Daily activities. One recommendation that I could make is to sell SWC as a three-night destination rather than two. This is feedback from our guests.

Camp Improvements:
We are making a few improvements to our honeymoon suite to make the room more comfortable and for honeymooners to feel more special. In addition, we will be re-painting all the rooms to give a new facelift.

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