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AFRICAN SAFARI CAMP UPDATES
November 2004

This Month:
• Monthly update from Xigera Camp in Botswana.
• Exciting sighting at Savuti Camp in Botswana.
Kwando Safaris game reports for November 2004.
• Monthly update with baby rhinos from Mombo Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly report from Rocktail Bay on South Africa's East coast.
• Monthly report from Skeleton Coast in Namibia.
• Monthly report from Serra Cafema Camp in remote northern Namibia.


Botswana Camps
Xigera Camp Newsletter - Nov 04                Jump to Xigera Camp
Baby giraffes and mom in the Okavango DeltaYet another month has sped past, bringing us within an inch to the end of the year. November has been a month full of excitement with more and more animals moving back into our area due to the continual ebbing of the flood waters. More dry land means increased grazing areas, which attract prey species and predators alike.

Our lion and leopard sightings have definitely increased during the last month, with more sightings recorded than in the past few months. We have seen lion and leopard cross the camp bridge more often, and hyaena too are now more plentiful.

The "camp's" Pel's Owl has put in a few appearances during the last month and even took to his old hunting spot on the bridge occasionally. Some guests were treated to a real wildlife feast on the afternoon of the 23’rd - whilst on their way back from their game drive they encountered mating lions, which did not have a care in the world and just kept doing what they did best (not sleeping for a change). Later that night, whilst sitting around the camp fire they, were treated to another surprise when a big male leopard crossed the camp bridge, a mere 15 meters away. Now one would think that would be enough excitement, but to add to all of this, a hippo came to graze next to the main deck area, a hyaena walked across the bridge, and a Pels Owl made itself comfortable on the bridge. A busy evening!

The abundance of fruit from the African Mangosteen trees did their fair share in attracting herds of elephant to camp - hardly a day went by without them in camp. Eating was the order of the day, but many also took the time to rest up in the ample shade provided by the Mangosteen and Knobthorn trees. Getting to and from the tents was quite a challenge, and we spent most of the time helping guests to and from the walk ways. Who said that we do not have traffic jams in the bush?

Bird lovers have had a great time during the month with lots of sightings of Wattled Crane, Pels Owl, Slaty Egrets, African Skimmer, Pelicans and a whole host of other birds. A few small fish traps have also been formed due to the receding water levels and these of course are major water bird magnets.

Weather-wise it has been a warm month the average high having been 32 degrees Celsius and the average low 21 degrees. The total rainfall came to 28 mm, which mostly came in the form of late afternoon / early evening thunder showers.

That's about all from us for now. We would just like to make use of the opportunity to wish all of you and your loved ones a merry Christmas and a happy new year. May it be filled with happiness, joy and love.

Bush regards from all the Xigerans

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Savuti Camp sighting - Nov 04                Jump to Savuti Camp
Early one morning, I woke up to an odd groaning sound. Half asleep, I walked out of my room to see if I could hear it a little better. It was the sound of death, death in the sense that it sounded like something was dying, but I could not deduce what it was. The sound continued for about an hour coming from the east behind camp.

After morning tea we left for a game drive with the guests. We had only driven 500 metres when we found 2 lionesses with a fresh wildebeest kill. We watched this impressive scene for the day, and that evening the hyaena came in their dozens, when the lions decided to leave for a drink of water at the waterhole in front of camp. The night was very vocal with a lot of interaction between lion and hyaena.

The next morning we left very early to check the kill site, and to our surprise, very little was left of the wildebeest bull. The lion were not there; instead, on the site was a young male leopard who had obviously just arrived  and was scanning the scene, so that he could sneak in. He made a move and hesitantly started feeding. He only managed three mouthfuls when we noticed two lionesses low on their bellies crawling towards the spotted cat. They got within 5 m of the kill before the leopard noticed the change of scene. At lightning speed he shot up the nearest Combretum imberbe tree to safety. In retaliation the lion dragged the kill under the same tree for shade, since it is October the suicide month here in Botswana where temperatures during the day range around 40 degrees Celsius. At this point, the leopard was now trapped up the tree but lay there as if it wasn’t a problem.

Later that afternoon when we got back for the afternoon drive, the leopard was still in his cell, desperate to get down because of the heat. The lion lay there, like prison guards, while they feasted and dozed off from time to time. We had only been there 30 minutes when we started noticing that the leopard was restless, climbing up and down the tree and sizing distances. He then showered one lioness in urine, as if to say: 'I got you'. He squatted on a main fork of the tree 6 m off the ground and waited, the atmosphere tense as all the cameras were wielded in the direction of the spotted cat. A 10-minute wait was enough and he sprang into the air, a free-fall landing with a thud, then took off at speed. The two lionesses who where now snoozing jumped up in fright, and took off in the opposite direction wondering what had gone wrong.

Later on we noticed that the leopard had cleared 7 m horizontal height from the base of the tree to where he landed. Now a bit of geometry: vertical height up the tree is 6 m, so assuming this is a 90-degree angle find the missing side of the triangle?

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Kwando Safari Camps Update - Nov 04
Lagoon camp                Jump to Lagoon Camp
* A pangolin was seen about 4 days ago – a rare thing!
* A pack of 3 wild dogs (2 males and a female) were viewed for a few days – first seen feeding on an impala lamb.
* A pack of 17 wild dogs (10 adults and 7 pups) have been seen over the last couple of days – also seen feeding on an impala lamb.
* A male cheetah was seen hunting – not successful.
* A pride of 13 lions killed 2 buffalo at the same spot, and then went on to kill a giraffe that they finished off 2 days ago.
* Good number of breeding herds of elephants all over the concession and spending time around the camp as well.
* A couple of small herds of buffalo – max c.100 being seen daily.
* Night drives have yielded a couple of African wild cats, genets as well as a striped polecat.
* Good general game throughout the northern part of the Kwando concession

Kwara camp                Jump to Kwara Camp
* 3 cheetah sightings over the last few days – a female with her 2 cubs seen a couple of times, once feeding on an impala lamb, another adult female hunting as well.
* The two male lions have been seen every day over the last week.
* Late last week they killed a buffalo close to camp.
* A pride of 18 lions was seen feeding on a buffalo, night before last the 2 adult males were seen pulling down a buffalo cow and calf.
* An adult (very relaxed) female leopard was followed for an hour.
* Elephant bulls are still frequenting the camp an a daily basis.
* Excellent sightings of buffalo – one herd of over 1000.
* 3 sightings of sable – the biggest group was 15.
* A pack of 5 wild dogs have been followed over the last few days – they were found finishing off an impala – one adult has a radio collar.
* A serval, and a couple of sightings of genets seen at night.

Lebala camp                Jump to Lebala Camp
* General game has been excellent – young impala, wildebeest and tsessebe.
* excellent sighting of a herd of roan antelope.
* Large numbers of elephants visiting the Kwando river mornings and late afternoons.
* Scattered herds of buffalo have been seen throughout the southern Kwando concession.
* A pack of 17 wild dogs (10 adults and 7 youngsters) have been followed to the north of Lebala over the last couple of days.
* Another pack of 3 dogs was followed today as it moved south towards the Selinda border.
* The sick lioness that killed a honey-badger last week is showing no signs of recovery.
* The 3 territorial male lions have been spending some time close to Lebala camp – have been calling frequently.
* Night drives yielded caracal, civet and serval as well as a number of genet sightings
* Large numbers of hyenas are still dominating the southern concession.

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Mombo Newsletter - Nov 04                 Jump to Mombo Camp
November at Mombo has been a real month of contrasts - the contrast between the first bright green flush after the rains and the golden grasses left behind by the retreating floodwaters; and between the electric blue of an Woodland Kingfisher's mating display against the grey rain clouds building up over Camp.

Lion cubs are at Mombo!No other time of year leaves you with such a keen awareness of the timeless cycles of life and death, as November with so much evidence of rebirth and regeneration everywhere.
November can be a stressful month as waterholes dry up, and the vegetation dries out. Elephant in particular can struggle to satisfy their gargantuan appetites for food and water, and we have frequently been visited by some of the older bull elephants, instinctively drawn to the surviving wet areas around the Camp.

Set against the daily struggle for life is the explosion of new life which erupts at this time of year: suddenly the woodlands are full of wobbly, impossibly curious new impala youngsters, and equally unsteady young wildebeest dot the plains… Many of our resident bird species, and newly-arrived migrant species are busy building nests for their chicks, and the air rings with the calls of kingfishers, Wood Hoopoes and Giant Eagle owls.

Game sightings this month have been phenomenal - we really are spoilt here! We have had regular sightings of all the wonderful animals that make Mombo such a special area to visit, and the light after the rain showers has been just perfect for capturing stunning images of wild animals in incredible Okavango scenery. Mating leopards and very young lion cubs have provided many of our guests with fantastic memories of felines, and the nomadic male lions who are slowly but surely carving out a territory for themselves here never fail to impress - on many evenings we have fallen asleep to thunderous crescendos of roaring, sometimes so close to Camp that it felt as though the tents were shaking!

Wild dog have begun to make a welcome return to Mombo. We have had numerous sightings of various groups recently, including two dogs reclining luxuriously in front of Camp at breakfast time one Sunday morning - much to the delight of the only guest who had chosen to stay in and spend a leisurely morning on the deck overlooking the floodplains.

One more harrowing sighting occurred when a pack of wild dog were attacked by lion - there is little love lost between Africa's super predators. The main power struggle here however is between lion and the hyaena, and we regularly debate just who is in charge at Mombo - hyaena are particularly numerous at the moment, and have now established a new den near Camp in an abandoned aardvark burrow.

The young hyaena seem to have a keen interest in all things mechanical, happily spending time investigating the game drive vehicles drawn up at a respectful distance from their den. Meanwhile, in Camp the young warthogs and tiny baby banded mongooses are starting to explore the incredible world they have been born into. The young piglets in particular are full of beans - just watching them can make you feel tired! Their favourite game seems to be chasing each other around in ever-decreasing circles until they fall over in an exhausted heap.

Baby rhinos are adding to Mombo's white rhino populationCelebrity baby status this month has however been effortlessly taken by the third white rhino calf to be discovered - taking the total population of white rhino roaming free in the Delta as a result of our ambitious re-introduction project to 30. This month has also seen the third anniversary of the first release of rhinos back into the Moremi Game Reserve. Just over three years ago, there were no wild rhino in Botswana.

Today, as a result of our joint project with the Botswana Government, there are 34, including a pioneer population of four black rhinos released last year. This third calf brings to a happy ending the tale of one of our first rhinos, Kgosi, who established himself as our first dominant bull in this area. He was killed in a territorial fight with a younger male rhino last year (a very common occurrence in wild rhino populations) but looking back through the records of our monitoring programme, it is almost certain that before he died, he fathered this calf - so his line will live on here at Mombo.

As we often like to, we saved the very best until last this November. Fittingly for a month so full of new life and promise, it was crowned with a Mombo wedding and we put on quite a show for the happy couple, who cannot have suspected quite what a celebration their special day would become…

Our staff really went to town with preparations and we secretly set everything up for our guests by the hippo pool - one of the most beautiful spots at Mombo, especially with the late afternoon sunshine filtering through the trees, and the calls of fish eagles echoing across the water. We have staged several memorable weddings here before - some of the hippos have now been witnesses at a number of bush nuptials - if only they could sign the register as witnesses!

We flew a priest in from Maun to officiate at the ceremony, and our staff serenaded the couple with traditional songs of good wishes for lifelong happiness and blessings. They presented the guests with traditional wedding gifts made of reeds and palm branches - bracelets and brooms to symbolically sweep clear the path of the newlyweds to future happiness. Much rice was thrown over them, too, to ensure fertility!

The choir then escorted the married couple to the tree hide overlooking the hippo pool, and with a view across the water to herds of zebra and an elephant or two ambling past, the register was signed by the human witnesses, and the champagne corks popped. An incredibly happy day for everyone here - we can never resist a good excuse for a celebration! With much applause and still more happy singing, the cake made its grand entrance, the traditional white icing crowned with porcupine quills and baobab flowers. As for who caught the bouquet - well that's a secret, but we may just be having a another Mombo wedding before too much longer! Watch this space...

This celebration of love and happiness was the perfect way to end November here at Mombo - a month of change and transformation, of new life and new hope for the future - we can't wait for December to begin now!

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South Africa camps
Rocktail Bay Turtle Report - Nov 04                  Jump to Rocktail Bay Lodge
There is no questioning it!  The 2004-2005 turtle season is in full swing.

The Rocktail Team is ecstatic to report that we have seen an impressive total of 76 Loggerhead nests, as well as 34 Leatherback nests over the course of the month. This is almost three times as many turtles as the 2003-2004 season. The viewing has been tremendous, with up to six turtles being spotted on one evening drive.

The first drive of the month proved to be successful, with the first Leatherback of the season making her appearance on Manzengwenya beach. The Wilson family, who had made the two day drive from Knysna, were determined to see a turtle before they left Rocktail. After many nights of walking our beaches and going on other unsuccessful drives, their persistence finally paid off. They first caught sight of her at eleven o’clock making her way up the dune, and they sat with her for almost two hours whilst she went through the grueling task of digging her flask-shaped hole, laying her eggs, disguising the nest, and making her way back down the beach to the Indian Ocean. They felt such a connection with her that they decided to adopt her. She was christened “Midnight”. We will be sure to let the Wilson’s know when we see her again.

It has been communally voted that the drive of the month was the 23rd. The vehicle departed the lodge at seven o’clock and only arrived back at camp at midnight. During those four hours, thirteen different nests were spotted and six turtles were seen in different stages of the laying process. On arrival back at camp, Gugu, our researcher, and the guests on board could hardly contain themselves, and could not stop talking about it for the next two days.

All in all, it has been an outstanding month, and if the sightings of turtles have already tripled, one can only imagine what December will bring us.

We wish all of you a joyous festive season, and we will be looking out for the Christmas turtle.

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Namibia camps
Skeleton Coast Newsletter - Nov 04                  Jump to Skeleton Coast Camp
“Birth, death, feeding, fighting and mating … every spectrum of life imaginable.”

“The most awesome activity we’ve ever witnessed … and that includes the Serengeti migration.”

“Wherever you look, there’s activity: bulls fighting, mothers carrying their pups away to protect them as jackals sweep on dead pups.”

Cape Frio Fur Seal colony
The Skeleton Coast of Namibia

These are three of many thrilled comments Skeleton Coast’s guests made after visiting the Cape Frio fur seal colony in November. Newborn pups lie scattered about the colony, which has swelled to well over 30,000: a raucous mass of bodies spanning more than 3 km of beach! The colony has been on the boil as seal bulls clash over territory, often flattening pups in the process. Cows appear just as frenetic, carrying pups like handbags, tossing aside other cow’s pups. They have also been observed teaching youngsters discipline in no uncertain terms: a bite on the rump usually being the method of education.

Whereas earlier in the year jackals fought over carcases, now hundreds of dead seal pups litter the beaches, picked through by Kelp gulls, Pied crows and the odd Lappet-faced vulture. Jackal pups have sprung up all over the coastline, remarkably coinciding with the glut of baby seals. Guests have regularly viewed pups amid the rocks on the beach: presumably one pair of jackals opting to den right next to the colony.

To the south of camp, the Hoaraseb River has flooded, ebbing and flowing over the past few weeks but finally reaching the ocean. BBC cameramen captured the river seemingly “sneaking” up on a herd of desert-adapted elephant, catching them unaware. Sightings of elephants lessened as the water crept in; however recent safaris have seen several small herds in the Purros area.

The pride of lions at the Hoaraseb were seen several times in November, with the flood not appearing to daunt them. They were last sighted wading in the muddy riverbed, although without the territorial male.

Brown Hyaena sightings have, as always, been frequent in the Khumib riverbed. However, the most evocative sighting of the month was a single male Brown Hyaena atop Agate Mountain: the volcanic crater close to Cape Frio. With mist whirling around, it was a sight reminiscent of something out of “The Lord of the Rings”.

Skeleton Coast’s desert-adapted Giraffe, which normal only obtain water from dew, were recently seen drinking from the flooded Hoaraseb River. Bulls continue to thrive in the same riverbed and continue to fight constantly, while females and youngsters in the Khumib are now scarcer than in winter.

Fresh green sward has covered many parts of the Skeleton Coast hinterland, providing fresh graze for Springbok and Oryx, many of which have streamed back from further inland. Hartman’s Mountain Zebra have also reappeared, presumably drawn by the new grasses.

Fishing at Rocky Point has yielded some massive Kabeljou with one German visitor reeling in three monsters. However, with the recent flooding of the Hoaraseb the water has turned muddy and angling has proved challenging.

Skeleton Coast Camp looks forward to another month of great sightings, and wishes everyone a merry festive season.

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Serra Cafema Newletter - Nov 04                  Jump to Serra Cafema Camp
Lovely Serra Cafema in Northern Namibia

Yet another month is over and we are closing in on Christmas.  November was a good month regarding the rains.  

We know that Angola must have had great rains as the river’s level is up with about 500cm. Some of the well-known rocks that the crocodiles use to bask on are now covered with water. This month, however, the clouds did not just come up to make us all glad and then disappear into thin air in the afternoons, it actually rained. We had two days of very good rain for this area. Even in the Hartman’s Valley you can see that green grass is coming up everywhere. What a pretty sight.

It seems that all this rain has resulted in some of the animals returning to the area and some leaving. The oryx definitely moved off after the rains, but the springbok and ostriches are coming back. We are seeing more and more springbok in the valley as well.  

A few days ago one of the guides spotted a brown hyaena on one of the scenic drives. This was quite an exciting event as it was in the early morning and not one of those sightings where you are limited to looking for the animal through your binoculars.  

As the river is higher and it is time for crocodiles to look after their eggs in their nests, we haven’t been seeing them that much. We only get to see the smaller ones around.

Guest-wise we had loads of agents coming through camp and we hope that they will send their guests in the hundreds to come and experience this beautiful area in the north west of Namibia.

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