SAFARI CAMP UPDATES
The new Spa at North Island opens.
Monthly update from Chikwenya
Camp in Zimbabwe.
Monthly update from Makalolo
Plains in Zimbabwe.
Monthly update from Chitabe
Camp in Botswana.
Kwando Safaris game reports for
Monthly update from Mombo
Camp in Botswana.
Monthly report from Rocktail Bay on
South Africa's Eastern coast.
Fabulous Dive Report from Rocktail Bay.
Monthly report from Ongava in
Little Kulala Camp reopens
North Island in the Seychelles
North Island Spa launched
- Dec 04 Jump
to North Island
With its naturally refined atmosphere and extreme attention
to detail, North Island has always been the ideal destination
for an atmospheric getaway and the leading light in barefoot
luxury. Now, with the addition of a personalised spa that
caters to each client’s specific needs, North Island
offers guests the option to indulge in some professional
pampering and holistic healing.
Situated in a setting that’s
untouched and in tune, North Island has always placed great
emphasis on rejuvenating and refreshing guests in an environment
that is stress-free and therapeutic. The addition of a spa
gives visitors the option of actively enhancing their stay
at North Island and benefiting even more from the natural healing
opportunities available on this island sanctuary.Located above
the main pool on huge granite rocks, the North Island Spa overlooks
the clear azure ocean. It’s here that guest will be able
to enjoy the advantages of personalised care and service. On
arrival, spa therapists will develop a special programme, designed
to address individual needs and requirements. Included in this
programme are treatments aimed at relieving stress, detoxifying,
cleansing and purifying, and others best suited to after-exercise.
Each guest decides, in collaboration with an expert, on what
best caters to their individual needs. It’s all about
individual care and attention, rejuvenation and refreshment – the
cornerstones of North Island’s philosophy.
Only the best will do at North
Island. ESPA, an internationally renowned boutique spa operator
based in the UK, has a vision that is synergetic with that
of North Island’s. Focussed on aligning inner and outer
beauty through the therapeutic benefits of spa treatments,
aromatherapy, thalassotherapy and skin care, ESPA is a respected
partner of the North Island Spa.
Mixing exceptionally high standards
with an unrivalled understanding of therapeutic healing techniques,
ESPA products and treatments offer the quintessential solution
to revitalising the mind, body and soul. Made, wherever possible,
from natural products, ESPA products are created using the
highest quality organically grown plants, selected for their
purity, potency and therapeutic qualities. That’s what
goes in. The result is a holistic approach that ensures that
visitors emerge from their treatment feeling energised, revitalised,
relaxed and de-stressed.
North Island invites guests to
indulge themselves and enjoy the regenerative opportunities
of the North Island Spa. This sanctuary, situated in a resort
that sits on the edge of a paradise, is the ideal addition
to an already idyllic location. When you leave North Island,
you’ll be a different person to when you arrived …
• Conde Nast Traveller UK rated North Island as one of the world’s
50 cool hotels and one of the sexiest new places across the globe!
• American magazine, Organic Style, named North Island as one of their greatest
• Canadian Robb Report’s 16th Annual “Best of the Best” named
North Island as the Best of the Best Resort. The ultimate “island paradise,” North
Island was selected by Robb Report editors, who were impressed by its 11 secluded
5,000 square-foot villas, tropical elegance, and exceptional cuisine offered
by this “sanctuary in the Seychelles.”
• North Island was also named the UK Sunday Times Travel Magazine’s
Best Resort in 2003. According to the editor, Brian Schofield, “Style in
the travel industry is all about making the guest feel relaxed and welcome, as
opposed to being awe struck. North Island has set a towering new standard in
barefoot luxury and has leaped to the top of the world’s Honeymoon Hot
list. North Island is as luxurious and private as anyone can wish for. In addition,
the judges were duly impressed by its dedication to the environment.” The
magazine itself quotes that, “North Island really is a once in a lifetime
experience and most of us will probably only experience the many destinations
that will feel its influence and will copy its tricks, but the judges agreed
that this kind of vision deserves recognition.”
Chikwenya Camp Newsletter
- Dec 04 Jump
to Chikwenya Camp
November and December are the epitome of 'feast or famine' in the Zambezi Valley.
November is a dust bowl at its harshest, any new green on eager trees are cruelly
out of reach for the painfully thin browsers and grazers that crowd the creeks
for what little grass clings to life there. The Albidas have released their bounty
and their leaves, and stand like skeletal ghosts in the surreal colour-drained
landscape haunted by the scent of unseen flowers and distant rain. Clouds build
and promise respite as the land begs for rain; we pray for the animals, but only
light showers tease, barely damping the surface and evaporating like steam off
the scorching earth. Some impala drop their young too soon, only to abandon them,
their udders dry without grass, and they struggle on just to save themselves.
Many elephant still head off, periodically swimming the Zambezi to Zambia and
its stormy hills or to the Zimbabwean escarpment where rain has been more generous.
This is the time of the predators. When others starve, they
feast. The month began with phenomenal wild dog sightings as
the Nyamepi pack of 24 hunted and killed an impala in Grasshopper
Creek, unperturbed by a game drive vehicle. The hunt was over
in record time and the quarry almost completely devoured in
minutes as the vehicle arrived, but guests were treated to
greeting displays and the adults regurgitating for the pups
as well as the Alpha female, which had a broken leg. For a
few days, the dogs were found in this area, where they were
observed regularly for long periods as they rested and the
pups wrestled in the shade. Always close to water, they would
all go down for a drink before beginning the hunt. Hunting
was observed on numerous occasions in the late afternoons and
early mornings with high success rates confirmed by the meagre
remains and the dogs' full bellies.
The Chikwenya lion pride has been very active. Kwela has isolated
herself from the pride and has denned just across the Sapi
in Mana Pools. Her swollen lactating teats indicate that she
has given birth. She has been seen on several occasions hunting
for herself, though not always successfully. On one occasion,
she was seen chasing two warthogs towards the camp's main area.
The pride has outdone itself - hunting and killing a buffalo
in view of a game drive vehicle and a stone's throw from Room
9. It took them a day and a half to finish eating it, allowing
us plenty of photo opportunities as they ventured into the
flood-plain to quench their thirst in small pools and lie on
the sparse but cool grass and sand to do what lions do best
- digest. Late in November, Norman Monks, the National Parks
ecologist, and his wife Nyasha came to collar one of the females
in the pride as part of his ongoing lion research project.
Through our documentation of sightings, we contribute information
on the movement of the Chikwenya pride. We have not seen Mafuka
for quite some time, which is our only other collared lion
and Livingston's partner(a territorial male). It is a wonderful
opportunity to follow the lion's movements more accurately
With so little bush cover and food around, the abundance of
game never ceases to amaze. The normally shy nyala come to
drink at the back pan in herds of up to ten or more, accompanied
by their equally beautiful cousins the bushbuck, oblivious
or too thirsty to worry about vehicles. Large groups of over
30 banded mongoose are seen daily searching the potholes of
the shrinking back pan, occasionally darting for the cover
of their termite mound home. Other solitary animals like the
slender mongoose are seen several times daily as their striking
red fur coats offer no camouflage in the pale dust, their character
revealed as they peer comically at us through holes in hollow
fallen trees. We were treated to a rare night sighting of a
pair of mating white-tailed mongoose. Bush pig and porcupine
have retreated to the cool shade of the forest where they dig
small holes everywhere in search of hidden roots and dormant
tubers. Even the secretive leopard have been seen acting nonchalant
when their cover is blown.
It is hard to believe that life could
spring from such a barren place in the nick of time to
save these creatures. Finally towards the end of November,
our prayers were answered. The clouds built up in earnest
to huge black threatening Cumulonimbus and dumped their life-giving
load on Chikwenya in torrential downpours typical of
Africa. The smell of first rain on dust is narcotic to animals
and humans, the memory etched in our minds forever. Electricity
is in the air as lightning dances its impressive theatrical
display from the colossal clouds. As if from nowhere,
a million tiny seeds burst into life and took hold in the fragile
soil. Almost before our eyes, the grass began to grow and
before we knew it, in less than a week, Chikwenya was transformed
into Zimbabwe's own Garden of Eden with a luscious carpet
of green. The relief was palpable, tension gone and the
impala dropped their tiny lambs en masse. Some were not so
lucky, but most survived through camouflage and in their
newborn, odourless state we watched oblivious lions pass them
by as they lay stock-still. Hippo can still be seen out grazing
during the day; making up for lost time, they are quickly
getting their figures back - some are closely followed
'baked bean' babies - so little they hitch rides on Mum's
backs in deep water.
December's sweet new grass brought the elephants back in their
hundreds. One herd, which lost a calf in October, was blessed
with another from one of the other females. Newly born and
still all wet, we got to witness his first wobbly faltering
steps, and his first noisy attempts at suckling, while the
other members introduced themselves, touching him and blowing
warm air on him and dusting him with sand. A young bull, confused
by all the excitement mounted the new mum several times much
to her chagrin, resulting in a lot of trumpeting and tight
grouping of the herd as she tried to tuck the new baby under
her body with her trunk. The poor little thing was nearly trampled
several times by the clumsy bull. An unforgettable and touching
Everywhere you look, babies, babies and more babies! Baboons
with their tiny black tots clinging to mum's bellies, use the
lawns to play with each other in awkward clumsiness. Vervet
monkeys (our naughty children) bring their newborns into the
camp to see what the buffet has to offer. So tiny are these
little (almost human) babies, yet they stare out from their
mother's breast with curious big black eyes, which are too
big for their tiny grey-white faces, craning their necks to
see you, absorbing every sight and sound like sponges. Many
trees are fruiting and the adults pack their cheek pouches
so full of mahogany or purple cluster pears that they cannot
close their mouths - red pips stick out like rascal tongues
taunting us. Everything can relax now and the grass is a comfortable
bed for all in this veritable Paradise.
The birds have come into their own with some very rare sightings
in both November and December, starting with that most coveted
of all, the African Pitta (Angola Pitta), which was seen on
several occasions in the thicker bush and dense forest by a
lucky few. Other great sightings include the gorgeous Narina
Trogon, Livingstone's Flycatcher, the seasonal Broad-billed
Roller, Painted Snipe, sanderlings, Striped and Emerald Cuckoo,
Purple-banded Sunbird and the elusive Dwarf Bittern. Bearded
robins nested right in camp and have two rapidly growing chicks.
Never forgetting our camp are the wattle-eyes and Red-throated
twinspots and last but not least, a very unusual sighting of
a Crested Guineafowl that walked right through the busy camp
and explored the bar, buffet and car park area as we all looked
on! Since it is usually very difficult to find these normally
shy creatures, we could only surmise it was looking for one
of its lost marbles, or a place to nest, which it eventually
did behind the manager's house.
The cicadas have given way to a chorus of a
million and one frogs that treat us to a deafening serenade
every night and days too, frantically laying eggs in every
puddle, which hatch in no time at all into scrumptious seething
black masses of tadpoles. We watched dragonfly larvae, birds,
snakes and small mammals all feed on them. Only a few are fortunate
enough to mature and escape the puddles before they dry up
With the explosion of frogs
and rainfall filling winter burrows, snakes have been flushed
out. We find them on the boardwalks, basking in the sun or
hunting frogs in the bushes. A subtly beautiful assortment
of Spotted bush snakes, Striped-bellied sand snakes, Vine
snakes, Olive grass snakes, juvenile brown house snakes,
Red-lipped herald snakes, Purple gloss snakes, Bibron's burrowing
adders and African rock pythons, but no big nasties! All
dart off at speed when their most feared predator approaches
With the rains, insect populations have also exploded, to
the delight of birds and lizards. Flying ants form the staple
food, but dung beetles take advantage of the sudden increase
of fresh soft green dung to roll into balls and lay their eggs.
The dancing flutter of millions of delicate colourful butterflies
is constantly present in one's peripheral vision, exploding
from bushes like divine confetti.
The full moon on Christmas day ensured that we awoke to a
gentle soaking rain, allowing the luxury of a sleep-in for
most. A much-needed gift to the land, it rained every day until
New Years Eve when the sky cleared. We ate dinner by candle
light under the black velvet sky, diamond studded with the
brilliantly clear Milky Way and saw the New Year in with flutes
of bubbly and song.
Makalolo Newsletter - Dec 04 Jump
"Wow" - it has
been an incredible month at Makalolo! All things spotted, striped,
furry and horned have given us encouraging sightings! It was
also proven that wet weather road transfers have their advantages,
as on several road trips both in and out of camp, a female cheetah
and three of her cubs were seen lounging around a termite mound
in the public area of the park. We had a lone male cheetah frequenting
A tranquil sunset in front of camp was disturbed
by a frenzied herd of wildebeest being chased at top speed by
the cheetah - the hunt persisted for several minutes, but in
the end, the cheetah failed dismally! Multitudes of zebra have
appeared all over the plains, relishing the short grasses and
shoots. A young male zebra was seen in front of camp and appeared
to be carrying a snare on his back leg. He was successfully darted
by Courteney (Linkwasha) and within minutes, the wound was effectively
treated and the zebra was up and galloping around!
A pack of
nine wild dogs (comprising four adults and five big pups) were
seen at Ngweshla on top of a kudu kill. They were then seen a
couple of days later in front of camp attempting to hunt wildebeest
calves! However, they were made to look the fools, when the wildebeest
herd retaliated and chased the pack of dogs into the bush! We
witnessed more wildebeest dropping their calves in the earlier
weeks of December, which included the birth of a deformed young
wildebeest whose front legs were formed facing the opposite direction.
The three lionesses and their eight cubs have stayed in the area
and were seen at Broken Rifle earlier in the month, feeding on
both an adult and baby zebra - one of the cubs was seen holding
a zebra hoof in its mouth!
Towards the middle of the month, we noticed that two new young
male lions entered the area and they have been seen several
times at the pan near the airstrip. An amazing highlight was
that of three leopard tortoises - seen together, walking down
the road from Broken Rifle to Ngweshla - not going anywhere
in a hurry! We ended off 2004 with an amazing rhino sighting
in front of Little Mak - so close one could almost touch it!
An array of migratory birds has started
to arrive on the Plains for their "summer" vacation.
The storks have come out in full force - including White
storks, Abdim's, Woolly-necked, Open-billed, Saddle-billed
and Marabou storks, as well as spoonbills. The pans have
come alive with White-faced ducks, Egyptian and Spur-winged
geese, Hottentot and Red-billed teals and Knob-billed
ducks. A pair of Crowned cranes have taken up residence
at Somavundla Pan and are often seen in the early evenings
and mornings roosting in the platform tree house. Red-billed
oxpeckers are nesting in front of camp near the road
from camp to Mbiza. Eurasian, Carmine, Swallow-tailed
and Little bee-eaters have all been seen flitting through
the bush, adding bright colours to the surroundings!
An evening drive down the road from Linkwasha to Little
Mak was surprising when three White-faced owls were seen
sitting in the middle of the road together!
Chitabe Camp Newsletter
- Dec 04 Jump
to Chitabe Camp
Midsummer in the Okavango is a wondrous time of new growth and
new life, infused with almost magical colours, scents and scenery-
everything just seems so alive. Fireball lilies were the first
wild flowers to burst into bloom with the advent of the rains,
followed by a kaleidoscopic witches' brew of others - Flame Lilies,
Wild Stockroses and Jasmine, Vlei Ink Flowers, White Plumbago,
Poison Apples, Milkweed, Ragwort and Large Devil Thorn.
The birding is spectacular here at the moment, with all of our migrant visitors
having arrived, as well as the residents putting on their breeding plumage and
displays. Carmine and Little bee- eaters, all kinds of swallows as well as Purple
and Broad-billed rollers swoop through the sky hawking those insects foolish
enough to be flying around.
The outlying pans in the woodland are full of water, and support a great variety
of water-loving birds: Wattled cranes, Knob-billed ducks, Saddlebilled storks,
White- faced and Fulvous ducks and Egyptian geese, among others. This influx
of birds, as well as an explosion in small mammals, has contributed to the
arrival of many raptor species. The mornings in camp are a riot of birdsong,
with all of the locals and visitors trying to outdo each other - the contest
between the Red-billed francolins and the Woodland kingfishers continues!
At night, a chorus of owls provides evening entertainment - Barn owls, Scops
and Pearl-Spotted owls fly around the camp and fireplace, and sometimes even
pop into the bar to see what we are up to.
We have many Tree Monitor lizards on the island at the moment - taking advantage
of the explosion in small mammal activity that the rains have precipitated,
and they can often be seen creeping about in the trees and undergrowth.
Out there in the bush we have had some rain, mostly at night or in the late
afternoons, the clouds and lightning creating spectacular sunsets for guests
out on game drives. Everything is a glowing emerald green at the moment, and
grazers have been rejoicing in a time of plenty. Large nursery herds of impala
are everywhere, the little lambs the cutest little carbon copies of the mothers.
Tsessebe, wildebeest and giraffe also have been spotted with young in tow.
On a sadder note, Snowdrop, our resident bushbuck, lost her lamb to marauding
baboons a few hours after giving birth, but her lamb from last year is still
here and we spot them regularly around the camp. The local reedbuck herd also
remains in the vicinity.
Large breeding herds of elephant have been passing through the area. The great
beasts haven't stayed around though - they appeared to be heading off to an
important meeting somewhere at the end of the world.
The lions are one step closer to a real pride
structure - there are two lactating lionesses, and so far
we have spotted three cubs, and the male presiding over them
seems determined to make more!
Mosadi Mogolo, the small Acacia Road leopard female, is doing well, as is
her cub, and the two of them have provided some beautiful sightings for guests.
Near Robin's Floodplain, Lelobu, the big male leopard who sports a magnificent
dewlap has been sighted regularly and one occasion, Newman watched him unsuccessfully
courting a very shy (possibly disinterested) female. Leopard courtship can
be a violent, noisy affair, as these normally solitary animals only join up
for the purpose of procreation.
The wild dogs have also been sighted quite
regularly, mainly the small Moonstone pack. Relax and his guests
were lucky enough to be on the spot to watch them bring down
and dismember an impala with surgical precision - the entire
operation was over in three minutes, demonstrating their extreme
efficiency as predators.
The Mogogelo pack seems to
have split into fragments of it's former size. We think that
Agate, the alpha female, left the pack with some subordinate
males, while Rakaku, the alpha male, remained in the vicinity
few dohs. The rest have dispersed, probably to find their own territory.
Chio from Moonstone's pack has also joined them, after an absence of
some months when we didn't know where she was.
We had a visit
from the Botswana Wild Dog Project researchers as they
tracked and monitored these packs, and they provided us with
a wealth of information about these amazing carnivores and
In terms of weather, it has been quite a sweltering month here, with average
lows of 21 degrees, and average highs of 41 degrees. We had about 80mm of rainfall
on the camp for the month, providing temporary relief from the heat and humidity.
All in all, December has been a wonderful month in the carnival that characterizes
life at Chitabe, with a rich pageant of life, colour, song, wisdom, drama and
some comic moments - a pageant that we invite you to experience!
Kwando Safari Camps Update
- Dec 04
Lagoon camp Jump
A couple of leopard sightings over the last week – the
last was followed
marking her territory 4 days ago.
* A male cheetah killed and ate a young impala yesterday.
* The pack of 3 African Wild dogs were seen regularly – were
hunting on Tuesday evening.
* They were followed hunting last week until they caught
and killed a
* The Lagoon pride continue to hammer the buffalo in
the area – a few
evenings ago ago they killed 2 buffalo calves.
* Herds of buffalo as still frequenting the area but
have dispersed into
smaller herds with the rains having filled up all the
pans in the area.
* Breeding herds of elephants are still frequenting the
area but are
tending to spend more time in the Mopane forests which
are rapidly becoming
lush and green.
* General game sightings have been excellent with all
of the general game
species in the area seen with their young.
* A number of sightings of African rock pythons as they
come out of their
winter aestivation as well as leopard tortoises since
the summer rain.
* Night sightings yielded caracal, genet and porcupine.
* All the summer migrants have arrived making the bird-watching
best in the area.
* River/Lagoon Water levels are again stable following scattered rains.
* Pack of 3 wild dogs seen on several occasions.
* Good numbers of elephant breeding herds –esp. in the northern side of
* Regular sightings of herds of buffalo numbering 50 – 200.
* The lagoon pride of 14 have been seen on most drives, and were seen
taking down a buffalo calf.
* A couple of leopard sightings over the last week.
* A couple of cheetah sightings during the last week as well.
* Hyenas were seen on most evenings.
* Frequent sightings of reedbuck to the north of the camp.
* Excellent sightings of general game – zebra, tsessebe, wildebeest, impala
and giraffe .
* night sightings include genets, civet and porcupine.
* 2 different leopards have been
followed during the last week – both
spending most of their time marking their respective territories.
* A couple of cheetah sightings over the last week – including
that stalked and killed an impala lamb and a male moving through
* A pride of 17 lions was found a few minutes after having
killed an adult
buffalo – remarkably, shortly thereafter, they were forced
off their kill
by a group of hyena initially only 6 in number.
* A herd of 500 buffalo has been frequenting the area followed
by 2 adult
* Scattered bachelor herds of elephant were seen throughout
* General game sighted included tsessebe, impala, kudu, lechwe,
wildebeest and zebra.
* Smaller game sights included genets and a large grey mongoose.
* Birdlife in the delta continues to be prolific with all the
migrants in attendance, most of the chicks in the heronry are
* Lions have been seen every day over the last week.
* 2 male lions followed a herd of buffalo for a few days, and finally
pulled one down on Tuesday.
* Good numbers of buffalo have been seen every day due to the excellent
grazing on the short grass areas that were burnt 8 weeks ago.
* 3 nomadic male lions passed through the area.
* Cheetah were seen twice, a female and 2 cubs, as well as an adult male
chasing a tsessebe (unsuccessfully).
* 1 wild dog sighting, a pack of 4 moved through close to the camp, a
different pack to the one seen last week with a radio collar.
* A female leopard was seen – one of the resident females, but was in thick
* The Red Data species the Wattled Crane has been seen throughout the
concession – max group of 5.
* A few elephants are still been seen around – but most have moved north
into the Mopane in the north of the concession.
* Lots of tsessebe and impala with their young are attracting predators to
the open flushing floodplains.
* Night sightings include Serval, civet and genets.
* Lots of Aardvark tracks but no sightings.
Lebala camp Jump
* Excellent viewing of general game on the floodplains, impala, tsessebe,
zebra, wildebeest, reedbuck, giraffe and lechwe all seen with young making
easy pickings for the predators.
* Large numbers of hyena continue to dominate the area and are regularly
followed moving out on hunting forays from their dens.
* Hyena were found shortly after they killed a young zebra and fed quickly
before moving off.
* Buffalo are still being seen on the floodplains but have dispersed into
smaller groups since the first rains.
* Elephants are being seen daily, moving in and out of the verdant Mopane
* Nights sightings over the last week include a couple of civet sightings
as well as African wild cat and genets.
* Also seen in the evenings were a number of different species of snakes.
* Summer migrants have arrived in full force, with the Woodland kingfisher
and Black cuckoo calling incessantly in and around the camp.
* Lots of hippo sightings around the concession including hippo grazing out
of the water day and night.
* Breeding herds of elephant are still being seen around but many of them
have moved south into the Mopane woodland.
* Buffalo are still being seen albeit in smaller numbers.
* A herd of 7 roan antelope.
* Excellent general game and their young on the floodplains.
* Hyena continue to dominate the area in large numbers.
* A leopard was found hunting lechwe as well as another which stalked and
killed a warthog piglet.
* The lagoon pride has been very active to the north of the camp
* A pack of 3 wild dogs was fond after being tracked for a while.
* The surviving 2 from the old Lagoon pack was also seen.
* One evening drive yielded a mole-rat, pangolin, and a caracal as well as
an African wild cat killing and eating a mouse.
Mombo Newsletter - Dec 04 Jump
Summer at Mombo burns on...
December was a particularly hot month, as expected, with maximum
temperatures ranging from 22°C
to 36°C (and almost certainly above 40°C on occasions
- which is 110°F). Even minimum temperatures did not dip
below 17°C, and climbed as high as 27°C. These scorching
midday temperatures were greatly relieved however by cool breezes
stirring in the palm trees, and the ever-tantalising promise
Following our brief closure for maintenance work in early
December, the Camp is now radiant, the newly oiled woodwork
gleaming in the sun. Like a fine red wine, Mombo Camp gets
better and better with time. We have also made a few changes
in the Camp to further enhance the guests' experience, including
new bar areas at Mombo and Little Mombo, and new outdoor furniture
to enhance those fire-side discussions.
The sun's rays have illuminated a remarkable month of game
viewing here at Mombo. The multitude, and variety, of game
in this area is never less than breathtaking, and the excitement
has been mounting with the temperatures. Add to that a few
seasonal celebrations and you have the makings of another magical
month in the Okavango Delta.
Daily events in the bush have been taking place against a
remarkable carpet of green: there was an explosion of new plant
growth following the few days of heavy rain we experienced
earlier in the month - perfectly timed for the legions of recently-born
impala, wildebeest, warthog and tsessebe. The synchronicity
of life in the bush can be remarkable, and it is fascinating
to see that animals such as impala instinctively know when
the rains are due. Floodplains are carpeted with tiny yellow
and white flowers, and the first flame lilies visible among
the palm leaves. The flame lily is a spectacular floral inferno,
which revels in the well-deserved Latin name Gloriosa superba.
Perhaps the most curious sighting
this month has been of zebra, which have been behaving courageously
and living up to their old name "tiger horse".
We have seen them in full pursuit of wild dogs - understandably
enough, as wild dogs are a known predator of zebra foals
especially. Inexplicably however we have also seen zebras
chasing banded mongooses.
The banded mongooses which live in Camp have had a much more
peaceful time of it, successfully rearing several young, as
have a number of the warthogs frequenting the Camp. Summer
really is a time of growing up as youngsters of various species
learn to cope with the trials of life - and to enjoy its pleasures
too! Finding food and avoiding predators can sometimes be too
much to do at once, as one warthog piglet learnt this month.
In front of a game drive vehicle, a giant Martial Eagle swooped
down on the piglet, seizing it in its talons and bearing it
aloft. The warthog wriggled and squirmed for its life and somehow
twisted free, falling to the ground again, remarkably unharmed.
All this commotion had however attracted a hyaena, and it was
left to the warthog mother to chase off the hyaena and prevent
it achieving what the eagle had narrowly failed to. The young
warthog lived to tell the tale.
Our young female leopard cub, now over 18 months old, is steadily
becoming a more ambitious and competent hunter, having graduated
from squirrels and genets to baboons and now sub-adult impalas.
Our young rhino calves are growing up fast. At six and eight
months they have passed the stage at which they looked like
over-sized warthogs - as their horns start to grow, they now
look very much like miniature rhinos instead. There has been
some upheaval amongst the re-introduced rhinos this month,
with our dominant males trying to chase off the younger bulls,
which are now reaching an age and a size where they can start
to be a threat to the supremacy of the older bulls. The rainfall
has prompted fresh grass growth in many areas, and, as we have
seen in the past, the rhinos are moving back onto Chief's Island
and into acacia areas to take advantage of this. We are now
in our fourth year of having rhinos back at Mombo, and we have
enough research data to start identifying trends and patterns.
It is truly fascinating and a huge privilege to be among the
first people to get the chance to study wild rhinos in Botswana
in almost two decades.
But of course it is not just
the rhino that fascinates... our lions have recently been
demonstrating some "Duba
Camp" behaviour: they have made the occasional daytime
kill. Lions are opportunistic hunters, and they will kill whenever
need and chance cross paths, but the majority of the kills
we record here take place during the hours of darkness. It
is not uncommon therefore to find satisfied lions on morning
game drives, having feasted on a buffalo, giraffe or zebra
overnight. The sheer numbers of game animals here support a
very high density of lions, and on many recent nights, their
roars have been in direct competition with the thunder of the
gathering tropical storms.
These storms have begun to refill many of the dried up pans
in the area. The heat of the sun ensures that many of these
pools of rainwater do not last for long, and is also drying
up the remaining pools and channels left over from the annual
flood, providing a huge bonanza of besieged fish for birds
and crocodiles. It is not uncommon to see a dozen or more different
bird species at a single, shrinking pool - along with waders
probing the mud for food. Everything from tiny, delicate stilts
and sandpipers, to the massive pelicans and Marabou storks.
Who'd be a fish in the Delta in December?!
We have also had many sightings recently of some of the rarer
birds for whom the Delta is a sanctuary: giant and graceful
Wattled cranes, Slaty egrets and Lappet-faced vultures. Plus
a very unusual sighting of a Giant Kingfisher, its dagger-like
bill poised to strike any unfortunate fish it might spy from
its perch overhanging a stream.
And with yet another year having flown by, the infamous Mombo
New Year's Eve party came around again... this year we really
pushed the boat out - quite literally.
We placed mokoros (dug-out canoes) in a semi-circle around
the lodge (echoing the defensive laagers of the early African
explorers), and each canoe was filled with water and floating
candles. Safely enclosed within this semi-circle was our candle-lit
dining table - the perfect venue, under the stars, to indulge
in the banquet specially laid on by our chefs. At the stroke
of midnight, as we entered 2005, we had a small burst of pyrotechnics
as forked lightning flickered on the horizon and lit up the
inky black night sky. And the orange glow of a bushfire in
the distance added to the spectacular display of lights. Just
a few moments later, light rain began to fall, promising much
new life and new excitement at Mombo in the next twelve months.
2004 was an awesome year here at Mombo - just when you think
you have seen it all, the bush here throws up more and more
surprises and every day there are new stories to learn, new
dramas unfolding and new friends to meet.
Bay Newsletter - Dec 04 Jump
We have much to report from this last month of 2004. Many exciting
events have come to pass.
The majority of the days have been
filled with sunshine, beautifully calm seas and a pleasant cool breeze.
The humidity has been high this month, with most of guests turning
into “water-babies” for most of their stay. At the beginning
of the month, we had a fair amount of rain, and it did wonders to
the surrounding forest and grassland areas. Once the sun came out,
all the new flowers were in bloom, the most widespread being the “Everlasting
The sea, on the other hand, seems to
have had a mind of its own. Almost overnight, the sea turned from
a beautiful blue to a green colour, and the water temperature dropped
to a cold 17 degrees Celsius. It has since cleared, and warmed up
to a more inviting 24 degrees. Neptune was obviously in a wicked
One of the natural disasters this month,
the Tsunami, wreaked havoc across the eastern side of the Indian
Ocean. We had instruction from the Parks authority to evacuate all
the holiday makers off our beaches. It is certainly safe to say that
this is the first time in Rocktail’s history that we have had
to evacuate people off our beaches. However, luckily no-one came
to any harm and the effects of the Tsunami were limited to us seeing
no turtles whatsoever on our nightly turtle drives on 26 and 27 December.
On a lighter note, we have had a new
confirmed sighting of a very unique little mammal that has been avoiding
us for years. Every evening guests sitting at the bar can always
be sure of hearing the splash of water, as a flying object skims
across the surface of the water in the swimming pool. On the night
of 10 December, like clockwork, we heard the splash, and heard the
leaves rustling in the tree above; we jumped up to get a look at
this creature. Right there, captured in our torchlight in the tree,
was a Wahlberg’s Epauletted fruit-bat (Epomophorus Wahlbergi).
It glared at us, but showed no intention of flying away, and we were
finally able to identify the mysterious water skimmer – most
Around camp, another visitor is the
Hinge-back tortoise that has become a regular at our buffet area.
This little reptile has taken a liking to the attention it has been
getting, and just keeps coming back.
An event that we expected was the arrival
of the Ragged-tooth sharks at Island Rock. They have arrived, pregnant
and seemingly very relaxed and we have counted about 20 of them,
in and around Island Rock. Many of our guests this month (some sure,
and some not so sure of how wise it is) have had the privilege of
diving and snorkelling with these sharks.
December, as you all know, is that
special time of the year when Father Christmas comes to visit. Rocktail
was no exception this year, and Santa even made the journey all the
way to Rocktail Bay to spoil the children from the Van De Wel Family.
He surprised everyone, coming out of the forest “Ho Ho Ho’ing”.
Eyes bulged and smiles appeared on people’s faces, as he sat
down and began to hand out all the presents he had put under the
tree during the night. He spent at least an hour with us, before
leaving, and heading back into the forest. (Quite a bit of time for
someone that has such a busy schedule.).
All in all, Christmas 2004 was a superb
time, with perfect weather, a wonderful combination of good food
and good company. To top it off, on the Christmas morning snorkelling
activity, which took place in the bay of Rocktail, we were graced
by the presence of six Bottlenose dolphins surfing the waves, just
behind the snorkellers. For some, that was the best Christmas present
December also means the end of a year,
and we celebrated Rocktail-style: by having a Toga party. It was
a great celebration; with a feast to would have made the Romans look
feeble. As the clock struck twelve, champagne flowed, and 2005 was
Rocktail Bay Dive Report - Dec 04 Jump
Wow! Wow! Wow! The checklist
whilst out diving has been seriously successful and all in just
one month: Whale shark….tick,
sharks …..tick, Leatherback….tick, dolphins….tick.
We’ve lost count how many seasons we have experienced in
the past few weeks, the ocean has been playing riot with sea
conditions with varied visibility of 4 – 25m, stunning
blue warm waters and some shockingly cold dives, 17 degrees Celsius
if you please!
Our first sighting so far of a whale
shark was early on this month. Surfacing at the end of
the dive, a beaming skipper Clive uttered the magical words: “Whale Shark”.
Some of us have waited for a very long 12 years to see one
and this was to be The Day! The squealing from the snorkellers
started from there on in. “A shark the size of a whale,
is that good?” asks one hesitant diver. “You bet
it is, now get in,” was the reply as she was helped
over the side of the boat. This was not an opportunity
to miss. A beauty 6m in length , we jumped in and snorkelled
alongside and even touched it until we just could not keep
On the same day, a Leatherback of some senior years (judging
by her enormous size) was spotted not so far from the boat,
calmly bobbing along the waves. Again, mask, fins, snorkels
on, gently slide in and we were lucky to see her duck dive
- with just couple of strokes with those powerful flippers
she was gone. To snorkel with a Leatherback turtle, no matter
how brief, is a rare and wonderful experience.
Have I mentioned the snorkelling with
dolphins? They have been coming and going all month.
Clive has some fantastic footage on his underwater video camera
of us all swimming above a very playful pod of bottlenose
dolphins. Including their newest member of the family
who was extremely small and therefore very cute. We saw spinner
dolphins earlier that day too!
The dive centre’s newest acquisition is a fantastic
new underwater video camera that is rarely far from Clive and
Michelle’s side. The library of diving footage is
increasing daily and of superb quality. You can now enjoy
watching your dive experience starting from the brief,
launch, boat ride and your time underwater. A great holiday
The Ragged-tooth sharks have arrived
in their numbers and fairly early on in the season. Island
Rock is overrun with hormones as these heavily pregnant
ladies cruise around the reef, no doubt feeling very large.
The markings on their backs from the vigorous encounters
with the males during mating season down south in Durban are
starting to heal, although some have been left with nasty
looking wounds. As they enjoy the warmer waters for the summer
month’s gestation period we have
experienced some memorable dives swimming amongst them with
some close encounters. The impressive ‘thwack’ of
the tail as one sends a warning sign resounds across the water
and the ‘cruise-by’ sends diver heart beats
racing and air consumption rocketing. Up to 10 raggies
swimming in front, beside and inches above your head is
an unforgettable experience. As we lie low on the sand
one will gently swim towards us, as she approaches the
number of sharp teeth become unerringly clear with the
build up of algae turning the teeth ominous black - as
she stopped eating some time ago. One diver enjoyed a raggie
swim overhead but not without seeking reassurance from
the dive guide. As Jerry could not find my hand to hold,
he settled for my calf, and as the raggie got closer the
grip got tighter, and as she swam overhead so my blood
flow ceased to circulate!
Groups of snorkellers have also enjoyed raggies as they are
seen coming up and gulping for air on the surface to keep their
neutral buoyancy over the reef with minimum effort. One group
of 10 snorkellers hovered over 14 raggies in 12m clear blue
Nudibranch fanatics would not be disappointed with the number
of sightings we have had of late. All types and colours imaginable,
they never cease to amaze. The advantage of poor visibility
allows us to concentrate on the smaller inhabitants of the
reef and we have been spoilt. A stonefish was also a handsome
Rays are now commonplace on almost every dive. HUGE round
ribbontail on Pineapple and Gogos Reef, 15 eagle rays swam
around like butterflies circling lucky snorkellers before they
were gone. Honeycomb rays on Pineapple Reef particularly and
Sand sharks are back for the summer and black tip sharks have
also been spotted on several dive sites. Aliah on her qualifying
dive saw a tawny nurse shark, a treat to see!
Turtle sightings have been plentiful both on the beach and
during our dives. Each time a joy to watch.
Now we have unexplained cold waters of 17 Degrees Celsius
and thermoclines that you do your best to avoid! The viz is
unusually bad for this time of year but no one has been put
off as the fish are plentiful, as shoals of spadefish, fusiliers,
snappers, parrotfish and kingfish together with the usual reef
fish had made every dive a pleasure.
Newsletter - Dec 04 Jump
The month of December was a very good month all round. We had
fantastic occupancy levels, as well as excellent animal sightings.
As to be expected for December, the days
were very hot, but with cooling winds in the afternoon,
which lasted into the evenings. For Christmas we hoped that
the wind would stop howling, but no such luck. Maybe it was
just as well, because this wind brought us the much-needed
rain, which we all hold so much hope for in this dry, beautiful
country. On 30th December we experienced a lovely downpour
with 9mm of rain recorded. Traditionally, Namibia experiences
the “small rains” in October
to November and then the “big rains” from January
to March. Our “big rains” had started, much
to our delight.We had thrilling lion sightings at the
waterhole nearest to the lodge the week before Christmas,
as well as over the Christmas weekend. The lions lay
in the shade of a bush near the waterhole for an entire day.
One evening, shortly before Christmas, the tawny cats could
be seen patiently watching the antelope and giraffe approaching
the water for a drink. The antelope and giraffe were
naturally very put off and nervous, snorting and blowing a
lot, increasingly frustrated that they were not able to get
their much-needed drink of water. The lions finally moved from
their snoozing place and chased down their prey successfully.
We found a freshly killed giraffe about a kilometre from the
waterhole the next day after the previous night’s “stake
out” by the lions. Later a male lion killed an oryx in
front of bungalows 11 and 12. The guest must have slept deeply
as they did not see or hear the kill, but nevertheless the
next morning the rest of the animal was evidence enough. These
guests seemed to be lion-magnets – as they also had
a lion sleeping under their veranda wooden deck during
another night!Two to three black rhino and a baby came
to quench their thirst at the lodge’s watering hole almost nightly – delighting
guests and staff alike! We even experienced a short courtship
between a black female rhino and her chosen beau, whom she
then decided to cast aside for her second preference. The new
suitor chased the first ‘boyfriend’ away into
the bush with much snorting and an impressive display of
his testosterone-laden dominance.
One of our field guides had an amusing incident. He and the
guests spotted a lioness with her kill - inside one of our
hides! Good thing our guide spotted her first in that very
shady, secure and sneaky spot. Wonder whether she used the
place to hide and spot her kill from there???
Little Kulala Newletter - Dec 04 Jump
Little Kulala has
finally opened its doors again (after the fire) and we welcomed our
first group of guests on the 20th December.
Despite the heat and windy conditions, the guests enjoyed their daily
excursions to the dunes and also the Nature Drive in the evenings.
Sleeping on the roof has now become a priority for the guests and the
new pool is being used to its full capacity.
Unfortunately we have not had many animal sightings at our water hole
yet. A few oryx have visited and one or two springbok.
We ended off 2004 with a lovely
braai (barbecue) for our guests – but
they were all too exhausted to stay up until midnight. That’s
the hectic life in the desert!