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AFRICAN SAFARI CAMP UPDATES
August 2004

This Month:
• The first baby rhino has been born to one of the re-introduced Mombo Rhinos!
• Continuing our updates on the 2004 Okavango Delta flood - a great one indeed.
Kwando Safaris game reports for August 2004.
• Lots of news from Wilderness Safaris on their current projects and camp changes.
• Dive report from Rocktail Bay on South Africa's Eastern coast.


Botswana Camps
Mombo Rhino Project Announces Birth of First Calf!                Jump to Mombo Camp
New rhino calf at Mombo Camp
Just two-and-a-half years after the first re-introduction of white rhinos into the Moremi Game Reserve we can celebrate a very special occasion – the birth of our first white rhino calf, quite possibly the first rhino born in the wilds of Botswana in over a decade! This is the ultimate seal of approval on the project from the rhinos themselves.

When first seen earlier this month the calf was approximately two weeks old – mothers are often very secretive at first but we have now had several opportunities to observe mother and calf together. The calf, a female, was probably born in early July and has been named Dimpho, or “many gifts” – exactly the gift we have all been waiting for! She was born to Mmamatimpani, our oldest female, and the first one to be released back in November 2001. The gestation period for white rhinos is 16 months, so Dimpho would have been conceived in early March last year. Her birth brings the white rhino population in the Mombo area of Chief’s Island to 28.

Mmamatimpani was acquired by Wilderness Safaris from Mokolodi Nature Reserve near Gaborone, and is approximately 24 years old. She is believed to have originally come from Natal in South Africa. Dimpho is Mmamatimpani's second calf - she previously had one calf at Mokolodi but unusually this calf, a male, remained with her until she was moved from Mokolodi. By this stage the male calf was over ten years old and still together with his mother, this frustrated any further attempts by other male rhinos at Mokolodiat to mate with Mmamatimpani. Therefore when Mmamatimpani arrived at Mombo, she had not had a calf in over a decade, and we were concerned that she might have become infertile. She has certainly proved us wrong on that score!

Dimpho was first seen on July 21st, and at that stage was estimated to be 2 to 3 weeks old. Female rhinos are understandably very secretive just prior to and after giving birth. In fact we had not seen Mmamatimpani since June 6th, so the baby was obviously born after this date. At this time she was with another female rhino, "Maun". She presumably chased Maun away at some point prior to giving birth.

We have looked back at our sightings records for February and March last year to determine which of our males is Dimpho's father. February and March 2003 were a particularly interesting time here. Serondela, the male from Zimbabwe, moved from the area during this time, out to the East of Chief's Camp, up to to the area around the Anti Poaching Unit's camp. Kgosi meanwhile moved from the boma (release) area across to the APU camp area. It was during late February that these two males had the fight or fights which resulted in Kgosi's death. We found him dead on March 04. We can therefore rule out either of these two males as Dimpho's father. This leaves Sergeant, the third mature male. He was seen on 11 occasions in this two month period, on each occasion with Mmamatimpani. They were also out to the East of Chief's Camp, but further South than Serondela. We can very safely say that Dimpho was therefore fathered by Sergeant. Sergeant is also an ex-Mokolodi (and ex-Natal) rhino, but had never previously mated with Mmamatimpani. So it seems that the change of scene was good for both of them!

The birth of our first calf is excellent news - especially as we now know that the rhinos were established enough to start breeding just 16 months after first being released. Meanwhile we are continuing to regularly track the other white rhinos and the four black rhinos released last year. The floodwaters are at last starting to recede making the monitoring easier. We strongly suspect that several of our other female rhinos are pregnant, we look forward to more births in the future.

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Okavango Flood Update - August 2004
This year has been an incredible year in the Delta with floods that are just perfect and guests enjoying a great experience out there. We usually send out graphs measuring the flood levels each month, but we have discontinued them because we believe they have recently become inaccurate. The reasons for the inaccuracies are that (i) the measuring post in the Okavango River near the Namibian border got washed away twice and we do not believe that it has been put back in the same place (we’ve seen dramatic rises and drops in water levels that are not reflected in their graphs); and (ii) a lot of water ended up flowing behind an island and away from the measuring point – this water was not included in the calculations.

The water levels at the top of the Delta are starting to drop slowly, but there is still a lot of water coming into the Delta. A lot of the water has rushed down the western side of the Okavango and has now reached Lake Ngami, which is now rapidly filling up for the first time in nearly twenty years. The birdlife is spectacular. The water flowing down the Boro River to Maun has not been as high as anticipated. A large amount of water is backed up at the Buffalo Fence fault line waiting to come down the Boro to Maun and we anticipate that the waters will push well past Maun - about halfway to the Makgadikgadi.

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Kwando Safari Camps Update - August 2004

Lagoon camp                Jump to Lagoon Camp
• The Lagoon pride (5 females and their cubs = 14) pulled down an adult Buffalo bull after struggling with him for almost an hour. They were accosted by a large number of hyenas attracted by the bellowing and growling but were all chased off by 2 subadult male lions – not without a fights – one of the males was injured by the pride.
• The Lagoon pride pride pulled down another adult buffalo the following morning.
• Good sightings of genet, African Wild cat and white-tailed mongoose.
• A female cheetah spotted close to the Wild Dog den. Another sighting of cheetah – a male was confronted by the pack of 4 adult Wild Dogs.
• The wild dog puppies are growing fast and are spending more time out of their burrow.
• The adult dogs have been hunting at night during the last week with the full moon, and killed an impala close to the camp, but were robbed by hyena.
• Good general game including zebra, giraffe, buffalo, wildebeest.
• Also good sightings of water-birds feeding on receding floodplains, as well as excellent sightings of Marabou feeding in the pans drying on the mopane woodland.

Kwara camp                Jump to Kwara Camp
• A large herd of buffalo (500-1000 strong) moved up from Moremi tagged by a pride of 18 lions.
• Another pride of 5 was later spotted following and harassing the same herd of buffalo at the same time but on a different side.
• Another smaller herd of buffalo was seen daily
• 2 nomadic male lions killed a reedbuck and were found feeding in the early morning.
• “A Thousand” vultures and a hyena seen feeding on a giraffe carcass – probably killed by the large pride
• Good sighting of a young male leopard as well as other sightings of leopard including an adult male attempting to kill a reedbuck.
• A couple of hyenas visited one of the vehicles whilst stopped for sundowners – both parties were surprised!
• Night drives have been fairly quiet apart from the sightings of smaller nocturnal mammals – it has been very cold and the full moon hindering the success of larger carnivores
• The heronry at Godikwe is providing excellent sightings of breeding water-birds including resident Yellow-billed storks

Lebala camp                Jump to Lebala Camp
• Very cold last week and large game in Lebala area seems to have dispersed a bit.
• Couple of sightings of small breeding herds of elephant no more than 10
• Also only small groups of buffalo in the southern section of the concession – larger herds are all north.
• Reasonable general game – zebra, wildebeest, giraffe and red Lechwe with the odd sighting of Sitatunga as well on the drying floodplains
• Leopard sightings have been excellent though, at least one sighting each day including an adult female killing an African Wild cat – very unusual.
• nocturnal sightings of several African Wild cats, as well as other smaller nocturnal mammals including Caracal.
• A pride of 5 (4 subadult males and an adult female) sighted.
• Daily drives up North to view the Lagoon pride and visit the Wild dog den.
• The Lagoon Pride has been hitting the buffalo hard.
• Large numbers of hyenas seen around the camp and southwards towards their dens.
• Spectacular sighting of 3 adult male cheetah pulling down an adult wildebeest.
• Large numbers of Spurwinged geese and other aquatic birds on the exposed/drying floodplains.

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Wilderness News
Important updates from Wilderness Safaris on their current and planned projects...

Vumbura camp                Jump to Vumbura Camp
Plans for a new Vumbura, in 2005, is a brand new 12-roomed lodge to be built on a beautiful, pristine location and at the same levels of Jao, Mombo and Kings Pool. Nearby Mombo is often completely booked up, so we felt we needed an alternative – another superb Okavango game viewing camp what will rival the Mombo experience. We chose Vumbura because the game there is outstanding – especially around the new site – and we can also do night drives, walks and boating there. This new Premier quality camp will open at the end of April 2005 and will be located in a totally new area to the east of the present camp. Bookings for the existing Vumbura continue right up until the new Premier camp opens (at which time the old Vumbura closes), so bookings at the current Vumbura up until April will not be affected at all. The new camp is to have 10 Twins, two of which being Honeymoon tents, and we will probably divide this camp into four small and intimate sets of 6-bedded camps so that we maintain that small and exclusive atmosphere.

Little Vumbura will continue on as is with six rooms.

Chitabe and Chitabe Trails camps                Jump to Chitabe & Chitabe Trails Camps
Plans for Chitabe and Chitabe Trails are for both camps to be linked in future by a common raised wooden walkway. This will allow us to create a “Camp within a Camp” theme similar to that which presently exists at Mombo and Little Mombo. Chitabe and Chitabe Trails can then be expanded and contracted for groups and private parties, so that we can offer a more flexible personal experience.

Mombo and Little Mombo camps                Jump to Mombo & Little Mombo Camps
Speaking of Mombo - Mombo will be undergoing a major refurbishment to make the rooms more comfortable and functional. New roofs have been ordered and there will be a fresh internal configuration within the rooms with new furniture, which will result in an even better experience for Mombo's guests. The game has been truly incredible at Mombo this year - with this being the year of the leopard! Some guests have been seeing up to four different leopards in one day! One group of guests even saw the (dreaded) Big Five in 15 minutes!

Abu's Elephant Back Safaris                Jump to Abu's Camp
Alistair Rankin, an old friend of Wilderness Safaris, has, along with his partner Murray Collins, bought Abu’s Camp and Elephant Back Safaris in Botswana. The sale has just gone through. Randall Moore will no longer be running Abu’s and Alistair will be the person on site looking after the guests and making sure that things happen. We believe that there will be some exciting new developments here and for next year, we believe that there will be a new 3-night programme!

Wild Dogs in the Linyanti
2004 looks to be the year of wild dog sightings in the Linyanti Wildlife Reserve and from all indications it seems we have three dens in the area. Guests staying at Kings Pool, Duma Tau and Savuti are all enjoying fantastic wild dog experiences and interaction.

Xigera camp expanding?                Jump to Xigera Camp
We are also debating whether to increase the number of beds at Xigera and open an additional camp known as 'Little Xigera' during the course of next year - again linked and a similar concept to Mombo/Little Mombo and Chitabe/Chitabe Trails.

Maun - Cape Town direct flights
Air Botswana will be flying direct from Cape Town to Maun (and back) three times per week as from mid-October 2004. This is now an excellent and efficient way of moving guests from the Delta to the Mother City.

Caravans and larger luggage allowances in Botswana by 2005
We have two extra Cessna Caravans joining our fleet of aircraft in Botswana by the end of July this year - and for 2005 we are striving to have guests only fly in these beautiful aircraft. We are looking into the feasibility of having an all-Caravan fleet of aircraft next year with the added benefit that guests would then be able to travel with 20kg worth of luggage instead of the present 12kg restriction. No promises at this stage, but this is what we are hoping to achieve in 2005. We will keep you updated on all this as we progress.

Pafuri camp in the Kruger National Park, South Africa
The building schedule for Pafuri Camp in the Kruger National Park is looking good with the expected opening date moved slightly out to the 23rd December this year. We are building a tented camp here, using tents that will look similar to Duba Plains, raised off the ground. We believe that this will be the best value camp in all of Kruger!

New sea-facing rooms at Rocktail Bay Lodge                Jump to Rocktail Bay Lodge
Exciting news is that we have been given permission to built new Luxury, sea-facing rooms at Rocktail Bay next year. More details to follow.

Mkambati development in South Africa
Colin, Mike and Peter Anderson recently went down to Mkambati to experience the “Greatest Shoal on Earth” (the Sardine Run) first-hand. All have returned raving about the fact that they were swimming, snorkelling and diving all day with innumerable whales, sharks, dolphins, birds - and even manta rays! The dolphins and sharks follow sardines that are on their annual migration along this coastline. We are currently finalising the EIA's (Environmental Impact Assessments) for the new Mkambati development and, once concluded, construction will begin in earnest. Expected opening early to mid-2005.

North Island featured in new movie                Jump to North Island, Seychelles
North Island features as the location shoot in the upcoming movie Thunderbirds, which is due to be released this month. North Island remains on top of guests’ Wish lists for Seychelles and Island getaways.

Namibia expansion                Jump to Damaraland Camp
Namibia sees expansion next year too with the planned opening of an additional camp in the Damarland area in partnership with the local communities. It will be called Dara Nawas.

Vic Falls Tours
We have acquired six new sprinter buses in Vic Falls for tours and transfers and will be moving two of these to the Zambian side where we will be able to offer our own tours and transfers.

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South Africa camps
Rocktail Bay Dive Report                 Jump to Rocktail Bay Lodge
Who ever said that South Africa’s coastline was too cold was obviously not at Rocktail Bay recently. June saw average temperatures of around 21-23 degrees Celsius! The marine life sightings are now gearing up for the rest of the year.

Firstly divers and those guests that head out on the shore-launched boat got to see the beginnings of our humpback whale migration. These magnificent creatures spend our summer months in the Antarctic and then migrate northward toward Mozambique during the winter months, with Rocktail receiving them as visitors from June through early October.

Then from mid-October to mid-January we have the turtles’ egg-laying season on the beaches of northern KwaZulu-Natal, with Rocktail guests able to experience the research we conduct firsthand every evening. Mid-January to mid-March sees the hatchlings emerging from their nests and scurrying toward the ocean. Only one or two out of every thousand of the little guys that were laid will return once mature to start the cycle of life again.

While the diving has been unbelievable at Rocktail this month, the snorkelling off the boat has been excellent. Guests have seen green, hawksbill and loggerhead turtles, big schools of fusiliers, surgeonfish and spadefish, a 1.5m spotted eagle ray and of course everyone’s favourite – the dolphins! Sightings include bottlenose and shyer and more rare for our area, humpback dolphins.

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