SAFARI CAMP UPDATES
Comprehensive update from Wilderness Safaris - Botswana
Excellent month of game viewing at Jao Camp in the Okavango Delta
Monthly report from Chitabe Camp in
the Okavango Delta
Fantastic game sightings at the three Kwando
Safaris camps in Botswana.
Comprehensive update from Wilderness Safaris - Namibia
Comprehensive update from Wilderness Safaris - Seychelles / North Island
Comprehensive update from Wilderness Safaris - South
Will that be a suite or a twin Mr. Elephant? - Elephants on parade at Mfuwe
Comprehensive update from Wilderness Safaris - Zimbabwe
Comprehensive update from Wilderness Safaris - Malawi
Wilderness Safaris receives acclaim and awards
Wilderness Safaris Botswana
been our best game-viewing year ever. The combination of a) lower water
levels (that helped concentrate
the game), b) lower hunting quotas throughout the country (and no lion hunting
anywhere at all) combined with c) our own "no hunting" policy has
meant that we have enjoyed the best game viewing that we can ever remember.
Just about each and every camp has had great game viewing all year.
The encouraging sign is that our guide training program in Botswana is really
starting to bear fruit - and this year we have had the most positive feedback
on our local guides ever. We cloned the Zimbabwe guide training system and
imported it into Botswana about three years ago and we have seen the standards
appreciate remarkably over this period.
Wilderness and Jack's
and San Camp have joined forces. While the ownership
of the two camps remains with Ralph and Catherine (Uncharted Africa Safari
Co.), the reservations, marketing and day-to-day management will be handled
The rationale of the link up was that we needed a Makgadikgadi operation to
complete our Botswana circuit and Jack's / San needed access to our reservations,
marketing, management and flying. We are confident that the combination of
Jack's and San with Wilderness will be a winner. Nothing will radically change
on the ground and the experience that Jack's and San offer will remain as it
[From Colin Bell - WS Director]: I was
up at Mombo for 5 days in August and what I saw up there blew me away. I
and concentrations of animals anywhere
in one place - ever. There were huge herds of zebra, elephant, buffalo - and
all the plains game at every point on the compass. Leopards were everywhere
as were lions. We just missed out on cheetah for some reason (as there are
plenty around) and wild dog. The game experiences at Mombo were truly amazing.
The camp is looking great and is working exceptionally well. We have got that
extra lounge / dining area up and running and groups of 4 to 8 people staying
in the main camp at Mombo can enjoy private meals in this area. Please book
this facility in advance to avoid disappointment!
* Mombo also has just received a whole lot of new white AND black rhino that
have just been released into the wild. The first black rhino, 4 of them, have
now been released and an additional 10 female white rhino are running wild.
In total, 32 white rhinos have been released at Mombo as well as 4 black rhinos
over the past two years. It's been a huge success story for all and a wonderful
Finally, we are very proud of Dave and
Helene's Hamman's new cheetah book that has just arrived hot off the press.
They are the owners of Chitabe and
have produced a great coffee table book on the cheetahs of Africa. Dave did
the photography and Luke Hunter did the text.
Excellent Game viewing at Jao Camp Jump
A healthy and happy greeting
from all of us here at Jao.
With the very late rains to this part of the world, the general
game viewing on the Jao flood plains has been spectacular with large herds
of zebra ,wildebeest
and approximately 1000 buffalo moving in from the west to take advantage
of the permanent water within the concession. The lion sightings have been
and covering the whole concession with the prides alternatively heading
east for the lechwe on the floodplains and then west after the herds of plains
We are proud to annouce that we have also had three new additions to the
floodplain pride in the form of approximately 6 weeks old cubs which were first
in the middle of the month.
Leopard have been sighted regularly and we suspect that
the Jao female has cubs in a palm thicket just off the island. A big male
has also been frequenting
the island and has become accustomed to the vehicles. A large female cheetah
has taken up residence north of Kwetsani and has been sighted often by
We have been doing a lot of mekoring around the floodplains
east of Jacana and over the last 2 weeks a female sitatunga and her lamb
have been seen just
after sunrise on an island close to the mekoro station. The highlight of
the month must go to the two Pangolin seen on the western floodplain road
The migrants have all arrived and the camp resounds with
the sounds of summer, in particular the woodland kingfisher and redchested
cukoos. The birdlife in
the area continues to astound our guests both in quantity and quality and
all of them depart Jao with a new appreciation for the avian world.
We have had a lot of dinners under the stars, with the
weather being very kind to us in this regard and the surprise bush dinners
being the highlight
for a lot of our guests. The staff singing has once again been a favourite
with guests and hardly any "chirp and roar forms" fail to mention the impact
that the friendly and caring attitude of the Jao staff has had on our guests.
We have also been able to delight honeymooners that have stayed with us
private dinners and surprise candles, homemade chocolates and champagne
in their rooms.
On the lodge side, the staff christmas party was held on
the 23rd for the whole concession and the enthusiasm with which everybody
joined in the activities
contributed a lot towards strengthening the comraderie and team spirit
of our staff. Also with the slightly lower occupancy of this time of year
been able to get stuck in to the maintenance side with Spike and his team
totally revamping tent 7 and also strengthening the entire walkway from
tent to tent 9. Construction has also started on the new swimming pool
which will be situated in the flood waters themselves and will provide
location to relax and cool down with a bush cocktail or two.
The team for next month will be Clinton ,Rebecca, Sandra, Peter, Zelda, Frank
and Tanya and we look forward to another great month out here.
Monthly report from Chitabe Camp Jump
/ Chitabe Trails Camps
Following on from last month's
wonderful sightings (which included the rhino), November has been just as exciting
for guides and guests. A highlight in the
past at Chitabe has been the big herds of buffalo, as featured both on the
WS web page and brochure. More than a few times this month we were blessed
with an awe inspiring sight of a herd of over 1500 strong making their way
in front of the Main camp; this enabled us to watch some interesting interactions
between the buffalos and the Chitabe lion pride right on our doorstep (and
the luxury of the bar)!
The four male lions in
the coalition have been exerting their claim over the pride as they settle
in to their role as leaders. Two of them have been
mating with a number of different females - sustaining to the extent that
most prude of guests could not resist a peek at the action. We are keeping
our fingers crossed that the lionesses have gained some experience from
their previous and largely unsuccessful attempts at rearing young.
which has been seeing all of the action... Two females pulled down a
young Zebra at the waterhole just in front of Chitabe Trails and continued
the carcass. The ‘lions share’ of the kill was not decided
by the dominate female but a much larger species. An elephant bull arrived
no where and noisily charged straight at the lions causing them to drop
the Zebra and take cover in the long grass... releasing the kill for
a trio of
lionesses waiting on the sidelines. We watched the pair continue to
cower in the reeds
until the bull moved away proceeding with his journey. Leaving all of
us gazing on to pondering both incredible displays of power.
Elephants have always been a big part of everyday life at Chitabe
and they are often found feeding on the island in between the tents. Such over
to these animals did not make the following sighting any less magical,
in fact maybe even more the opposite? A breeding herd of approximately 300
from the forest up the channel which runs parallel to both camps. Guides,
guests and managers watched from the dinning room over their breakfast as the
proceeded past. They continued on to the top of the island where they were
suddenly spooked (the wind changed, we believe picking up the sent of the
lions sleeping in the reeds). Lost for words we watched the incredible transformation
from gentle giants to a formidable force as the elephants trumpeting loudly
ran back in to the cover of the trees. Although the whole episode probably
lasted just 20 minutes, it was definitely one of those memories that will
with those that observed it for a long time.
Wild dogs (our logo species at Chitabe) continued to keep a high profile this
month. Since leaving their dens, the pups from both the Mogogelo and Moonstone
packs have provided endless entertainment for all as they continue to run circles
around and over the adults during play. This has proved beneficial in developing
their stamina, as the pups whilst heading out on hunts have been able to keep
up with the pack, with seemingly little effort. But as life goes in the bush,
every up has a down. Sadly, a female from the smaller Sandibe pack which frequents
this area was killed by some of the other dogs right on the edge of our concession.
The exact reasons behind this behavior are currently being explored by the
Wild Dog Researchers.
Back to the big cats, both Cheetah and Leopards have
been spotted regularly (no pun intended). A close up sighting was provided
by a very relaxed young
leopard who chose to get comfy in the sausage tree above Main Camp’s
tent number one. Other predators such as Hyenas and Jackals often remind
us of their presence, when they stop to return the gaze of guests having
General game has been very concentrated around the immediate
vicinity to the camp as the water has been visibly drying up every day – only
to be topped up by the rainfall. Good sightings of relaxed groups of Giraffe
enable those guests with cameras to take interesting shots as the stand
side by side drinking with the other antelope. The first species to drop
were the Tsessebe followed a week later by the Impala.
Since the first rains,
many more species have been reappearing after keeping a low profile. As
no creature should really be left out of
The Reptiles, Amphibians and Insects have held many of those guest s who
this continent primarily for the “Big Five” equally as captivated.
One such incident was played out this morning in the lounge entrance
way. When two Skinks were so engrossed in a territorial dispute they
to the arrivals and departures going on around them
It's that time of year again when one of the dominant sounds
from early morning throughout the day is the call of the Woodland Kingfisher.
The call is later
surpassed by the night sounds of the many Scops owls we have roosting in
camp. One species which seems to be getting most of the attention from other
visitors to the island is a pair of Paradise Flycatchers who are busy building
their nest in one of the trees which burnted down last year in our fire.
A poignant reminder to all that life continues with force as one month rolls
in to the
next and the rains soften the ground once more.
“ Thanks to all that made such an effort to ensure that we had a wonderful
stay and Joe a wonderful birthday – the private dinner and the cake.
The fact that nothing is too much for any of the guides and staff to do
is very noticeable, they are truly caring and sharing people!”
“Outstanding camp and staff. Seeing the Wild Dogs
was a very special treat . Joyce and I are two out of two at Chitabe for
seeing the dogs!
Not a bad average. The guides did a great job to track them and determine where
they were heading. Will look forward to our third visit!
Kwando Safaris November Update
Kwara camp Jump
One fantastic Leopard sighting of a
sub-adult male Leopard that attempted to catch a fairly large Monitor Lizard;
the Monitor managed to give the Leopard a good whip with its tail and keep the
Good Lion sightings including a pride of 9 females with 2 cubs that were feeding
on Giraffe kill until 2 large males rushed in and chased them off the carcass,
killing one of the cubs in the process.
Good Cheetah sighting of a male that was viewed on several occasions, mainly
marking his territory.
Good herd of Buffalo of over 1,000 animals.
Boat trips to the Heronry have been rewarding and the various chicks are
getting large and very ugly, especially the Marabou Stork chicks. There have
excellent sightings of Elephant from the boat in the channels and breeding herds
on the islands.
Kwara received 26 mm of rain this last week.
Lagoon camp Jump
Good Leopard sighting of an animal that
was picked up just outside of camp and then strolled through the camp later
that evening when everyone had retired for the night.
Nice herds of Buffalo up in the north numbering
The resident territorial male Lions have been tagging the Buffalo herd in the
north, splitting the larger group into 3 herds.
There was a light sprinkle of rain that has dispersed the Elephant, although
there has still been good sightings of Elephants.
The Impala herds have started dropping their calves which has transformed the
atmosphere in the bush – the start of a new season.
There have been sightings of African Rock
Pythons, one of the sightings was of a large specimen that was ± 2.5m
long and fairly sizeable in girth.
Lebala camp Jump
Fantastic interaction between predators
witnessed at Lebala again. Two female Lions were chased off a Giraffe
carcass that they were feeding on by a clan of 8 Hyenas. One female Lion
came back to try and claim the carcass back and was viscously attacked
by the Hyenas, who managed to inflict some severe bite wounds before
the Lion managed to climb a tree for safety!
Two leopard sightings of a young male who is becoming relaxed.
Two Wild Dog sightings including a pack feeding on a Kudu carcass.
Dramatic action was witnessed of ± 40
Crocodiles feeding on a dead Hippo in the water. There were several large
with 3 or 4 exceptionally large ones that the Guides estimated at over
5 metres! There was a feeding frenzy at the carcass amongst the Crocodiles
including competition amongst themselves, spinning in the water as they
rip the flesh, plus avoiding the odd charge by the resident Hippo.
Excellent general game including large
herds of Zebra of up to 150 animals, Blue Wildebeest, Tsessebe and Impala
with their newly born babies, Sable
and Roan Antelope, scattered groups of Elephant, and one sub-adult Eland
Nocturnal sightings include Serval, 3 sightings of Caracal and some excellent
sightings of Aardwolf.
Lebala received 19 mm of rain this last week.
Wilderness Safaris Namibia
Namibia too has had an outstanding
year. It seems as though the country is now being discovered and occupancies
are on the up. Our new camps - Serra
Cafema, Palmwag Rhino Camp and Little Ongava
have helped to considerably ramp up the experience that guests have enjoyed.
These new camps have added a dimension of quality and privacy that was often
lacking throughout much of the country.
We are going to make minor changes to Sossusvlei
Wilderness Camp over the
next months, as this camp needs a sleep out facility that the Kulala's offer.
For next year, Sossusvlei Wilderness will have an enlarged deck out front
of the bedroom where guests can sleep under the stars if they so wish.
* We have just been told that there is a new park fee coming into effect
on the 1st January 2004. This will cost us R80 per entry into the Sossusvlei
and Etosha. Generally guests who stay at Sossusvlei and Ongava enter the
parks only on one day - so there will be an R80 surcharge. If guests stay
three nights we will generally enter the park on two days and they will be
charged an extra R160. Sorry about this. We had no warning about this increase
and have no alternative but to charge extra for the increase.
Seychelles / North Island
Wilderness Safaris Seychelles Jump
/ North Island
are enormously proud of what has been achieved there under often very trying
circumstances. Even though our African camps are often so remote,
we can always "make a plan" to get goods on site in an emergency.
Seychelles is very different as there is at least a two to three month waiting
time from the moment you order an item, till it arrives on the island. There
have to be few places on this planet that are this difficult to run an operation.
The guest reviews that we are now getting are out of this world. Many guests
and agents have said that there is nowhere more beautiful than North Island.
We have had many guests already rebook their second holidays on the island.
We are moving to an all-inclusive tariff
from around Christmas '03 and this will further improve the whole feel
of the lodge. Guests will
pay a bit more up front, but it will mean that they do not leave the lodge
with a nasty taste in their mouth on check-out. Indian Ocean Islands are
famous for their enormous extras bills that are often higher than their up
front charges. On North Island, even items like the resort Scuba diving courses
and all scuba dives, all activities, wines, beers and drinks and an arrival
massage are included in our new tariff. The only exclusions are expensive
wines on our "reserve wine" list, spa treatments and full PADI
The de-ratting and alien species eradication program took place some months
back. It was an extraordinarily complex and expensive exercise. But this
has resulted in a totally rat / cat free island. We are now already seeing
an increase in the number of birds on the island, directly as a result of
We have been doing all the spa treatments in the guests' villas and guests
have loved this facility. As a result, the building of a separate spa is
on hold and will only be completed somewhere around the middle of next year.
Wilderness Safaris South Africa
We have made large strides in developing our new South African lodges this
year and the areas we have been able to secure are truly breathtaking and
will easily match the areas and experiences that we offer in the countries
north of South Africa.
The northern part of Kruger Park (in the
Pafuri / Makuleke area), Mkambati (in the Eastern Cape along the "Wild Coast")
and our very special site on the coast at Plettenberg Bay are truly mouth-watering
and so different
from anything that is currently available in South Africa. These areas will
add to the existing South African experience and lodges to complement what's
on offer. We are aiming at opening our Kruger and Mkambati lodges and camps
somewhere in the middle to late part of 2004 - and Plettenberg Bay will probably
open in 2005.
* Our northern Kruger property (The Makuleke
/ Pafuri area) is so different in scenery, vegetation and wildlife from
any of the existing reserves and
lodges in and around Kruger. Our Kruger camps will not be competing with
any of the lodges in the south, but will be complementing their experience.
therefore suggesting that guests visit both the north and south of Kruger
on their travels - much like guests visit the Okavango and Linyanti / Chobe
in Botswana. Visiting both the north and the south will give visitors a much
more rounded and fuller picture of what Kruger is all about.
The trees in
the Pafuri / Makuleke are up to 50% higher than an average baobab! One
feels as though one is walking in Mana Pools or somewhere in central
Africa when one walks along the banks of the Luvuvhu River in the Pafuri.
We will be able to offer night drives, off-roads, hides, walks and even
mountain biking from these new camps... all within Kruger. And we have
our own airfield
close to the camps to allow for quick and easy access from Johannesburg
and from the southern Kruger.
[Colin Bell]: * Mkambati Nature
Reserve along the Wild Coast (between Durban and East London) has always
been a very
for me. I am taking control
of this project for Wilderness. I have taken the personal step of realigning
my time to spend more time in the bush and will take on an additional and
new role here at Wilderness to oversee the development of Mkambati Nature
Reserve. This will allow me to get into the field a lot more than I have
been doing. I believe that this reserve has the potential
to be the best nature and game reserve in all of South Africa and possibly
the best coastal reserve
Ndumo Game Reserve and the Tembe Elephant Park in northern Kwa-Zulu Natal
can now be easily combined on game activities using a new pontoon we have
built that allows us to cross the Pongola River and travel into Tembe directly.
This avoids the traditional long drive via the main road as our Land Rovers
can now game drive within Ndumo and then hop onto the pontoon and be pulled
over (by hand) to the other side of the river and then drive into Tembe
via a side entrance. So guests can view all the great scenery, rhinos,
buffalo, hippos, crocs etc in Ndumo and drive into Tembe for elephant and
Zambia - South Luangwa
Elephants on parade at Mfuwe Lodge
We have attached a
few photos of the truly amazing elephant story from Mfuwe Camp in Zambia's South
Luangwa National Park...
the Mfuwe Lodge reception area. They
do this almost daily for about six weeks.
A comment from one amazed guest that was at the lodge at
Can I please make a trunk call?"
Wilderness Safaris Zimbabwe
Colin Bell - WS Managing Director]:
A few weeks back I returned
from a great trip around Zimbabwe and thought I should
comment on the situation there, especially in light of some of the
recent negative comments in the press.
The scoop within Zimbabwe is that the country is just the same as it has
been for the past 3 years. The living conditions for the average Zimbabwean
have continued dropping. The food situation in the country (especially the
rural areas) is not good and in many areas people are starving. There are
large scale fuel shortages and there is no foreign currency. In many areas,
the local people have had to resort to poaching to survive and keep their
families alive. The economic and political situation is a mess. Hence the
locals are being searched for foreign currency (although our guests / tourists
are being left alone).
There are however, four shining areas in the quagmire and these areas are
Vic Falls, the south-eastern sector of Hwange, Matusadona and Mana Pools
People often ask us why we are keeping going in Zimbabwe. Sure it would
be easy to just to quit and say bye (especially as we are making financial
losses in Zimbabwe). But the ramifications of quitting are just too awful
to contemplate - for the wildlife and for our staff. If we had to move out
of Hwange in particular, poaching would escalate and the animals would be
decimated very quickly for the cooking pot. There are only 27 waterholes
that are functioning throughout the whole of Hwange and we are maintaining
and running 22 of them, entirely at our cost. So this is where the game is
and why we are witnessing incredible game concentrations around Makalolo
and Linkwasha. We are also doing a lot of the vet work in our areas and maintaining
the wildlife status quo through our anti-poaching efforts in collaboration
with the Parks' authorities. Without these efforts Hwange could potentially
We are currently supporting seven rural schools around Makalolo and Linkwasha's
eastern boundary and between us and contributions from our guests we are
supplying cash and goods to these schools that works out to about 3 times
the schools annual budget. Without this support these schools would not be
able to provide a decent education to the kids. All in all when one weighs
up the wildlife, our staff (and their families' livelihoods) and the schools,
we have no option but to keep on going in Zimbabwe - hoping that change happens
On the positive side of things, the game and wildlife experience has been
superb all year and Zimbabwe still offers one of the best game experiences
anywhere in Africa - and at great value too. Our camps have been running
at reasonable occupancies all through the year (but nothing to shout home
about) and the guests have been having a superb time. We hosted the travel
editor of the New York Times (unbeknown to us) on a safari earlier this year.
She traveled as a full paying guest and wrote the most incredible article
on southern Africa that was the front page on their travel supplement. She
painted a glowing picture of her Mana Pools / Chikwenya experience. The reason
I mention all of this is that people are traveling to Zimb and they are getting
an excellent wildlife experience, despite the negative publicity in the newspapers.
Wilderness Safaris Malawi
There are some wonderful new initiatives and lodges that
are changing the face of Malawi (and the lakeside properties along neighbouring
Mozambique's shoreline along Lake Malawi) and are making the country even
more exciting and attractive to visit. These lodges complement what is on
offer at Mvuu in Liwonde National Park and up in the Nyika. One of these
projects is on the shores of Lake Malawi - but in Mozambique waters - and
is easily accessible from Malawi. Nkwichi Lodge is situated in the Manda
Wilderness area of Mozambique up along the northern shores of Lake Malawi
in an area of quite exceptional beauty with thick indigenous forest fringing
a white sandy beach - where wild dog have been sighted. On offer is Lake
Malawi's finest snorkelling , bush walks, and visits to historic Likoma Island.
Kayak Africa have been established for some years and have 2 exquisite tented
camps in Domwe and Mumbo Islands in the Cape Maclear peninsula along the
southern lakeshore within Malawi. The camps are accessed by boat or by kayak
and offer diving, snorkelling, kayaking and birding walks.
Air Malawi Flights into Mvuu
* All Air Malawi flights to and from Blantyre and Club Makakola on the Southern
Lakeshore now call in at Mvuu en route. The plane is a Cessna Caravan which
takes 12 guests. We are currently negotiating with Air Malawi to extend
this service to and from Lilongwe and hope to be able to offer you a quick,
efficient and cost effective air option for getting to and from Malawi's
finest game area.
Wilderness Safaris - Awards
Wilderness Safaris is being recognized internationally by a number of prestigious
organizations and publications. These awards have certainly warmed our
hearts and bear true testament to our wonderful, motivated and committed
Sunday Times in the UK voted this as the best resort in the world
for style! In fact they stated that: "North Island has
set a towering new standard in the art of barefoot style, and has leapt
to the top of the world's honeymoon hot list".
Sunday Times readers voted this camp as having the best service in
the world and said: "The staff are experts at
making you feel like an individual in a very special environment"
Bay: Harpers and Queen in the UK voted Rocktail Bay as the joint
best dive experience in the world
The River Club was voted as one of the 20 best hotels' in the world
by Fodors and was also voted by Harper's and Queen as one of the World "Most
Luxurious" Action Spots
Wilderness Safaris was voted as the best eco-tourism
company in the world by ASTA - the American Society of Travel Agents.
And to top everything off -.Wilderness Safaris is enormously
proud to have received the World Legacy Award for the World's Number
One Wildlife Travel Company from Conservation International and National