SAFARI CAMP UPDATES
Monthly update from Savuti
Camp in Botswana
Monthly update from Vumbura
Camp in Botswana
Kwando Safaris game reports for
Monthly update from Kings
Pool Camp in Botswana
Monthly update from Mombo
Camp in Botswana
Monthly update from Pom Pom
Camp in Botswana
Monthly update from Duba Plains
Camp in Botswana
Monthly report from Rocktail Bay on
South Africa's Eastern coast.
Monthly update from Royal
Makuleke Camp in South Africa (northern Kruger) - due to
open middle of 2005
Some interesting facts about Namibia's Black-faced
Monthly report from Ongava in
Newsletter - Oct 04 Jump
One of the two Duma Tau/Selinda
male Lions, nicknamed Pirate because he has one eye, has died. He died
last night after sustaining nasty injuries from a fight with the Savuti
Squad (the team of 4 males who have taken over the Savuti channel).
We first saw him on the 18th of October, resting with
a full belly at Zibalianja Lagoon. He was not far from his pride female
who had 3 cubs estimated at 9 months old. When we saw him yesterday,
19th, he was in agony, dragging his back right leg which indicated
that it was broken. All this damage was on the side which had the damaged
eye. There were also signs of a spinal injury sustained from the fight.
All the guests who saw him on the morning drive could see from
the shrouded look in his single eye that death was looming. The evening
drive witnessed him getting weaker and this morning he was pronounced
All the guides are very upset about
this new turn of events but not much can be done as Nature takes
its toll. The night of the fracas the Savuti Squad walked from Savuti
Camp to Zibalianja (20km) along the channel, caused havoc and moved
out of the scene to Duma Tau Camp another 4,5 km. It looks like they
are going to take over any lionesses amongst the three camps, Kings
Pool, Duma Tau and Savuti, roughly an area of over 80 000 hectares.
The whole concession is still a boiling pot for lions right now and
we hope stability will come soon.
Bizarre events then happened at Pirate's death site.
We went to check if the dead lion had been tampered with at Zibalianja,
and to our surprise about 8 hyaena were lurking in the tree line while
at the site were four lionesses, a 10-month-old cub and the late male's
compatriot. Pirate was obviously devoured last night and all that was
left was a bit of his head and skin. Our assumption is that the hyaena
came overnight and fed, but in the process the noise must have attracted
the resident pride. They were seen to feed off the dead lion. This
cannibalism was difficult to view, with the cub feeding on his father
and the females on their mate.
Another odd factor was that Pirate's companion was
lying next by the skull, head-to-head as if the former was still alive.
Pirate's comrade himself does not have long to live as he is just a
pile of bones, it is only a matter of time now. As if this was not gruesome enough, Nile crocodiles caught the
whiff of the lion and arrived for the feast, unfortunately one of them
did not make it back to the water. The lions killed it and were having
a double feast. While gruesome, it was an amazing morning drive.
Wild Dog update: The main Rock Pan pack of wild dogs
which was 29 in total - 13 adults and 16 pups - has now scaled down
to only 7 pups, last seen a week ago. The other 7 were seen away from
the main pack obviously lost. The dogs were scattered by lions along
the Linyanti River three weeks ago and the pups separated. A week later
they were reported in the neighbouring Selinda Concession and are now
confirmed dead. The Manchwe pack has been scaled down from 8 adults
to 5 and 3 pups to only 1.
They gave us a good show yesterday (20th October) when they arrived
in camp just after early morning tea as we left for the morning drive.
We got a message from our waiter calling us for an impala kill in camp.
Talk about location, it was at the laundry! Only two dogs were feeding
for a brief moment and then they took off to relocate the others. We
waited in vain for the return, one vehicle pulled out to scout around
and found the whole pack of dogs feeding on yet another impala ewe
near Room 1. They completely ignored the first kill and left it as
a present to the hyaena. From nowhere two hyaena arrived but were harassed
by the dogs and they left for the waterhole. Suddenly one dog gave
an alarm and the whole pack took off at speed, some members of the
pack kept stopping to regurgitate as they sped off. We could not establish
the cause of alarm. We tried to relocate the pack on the afternoon
drive and this morning but to no avail. The hyaena meanwhile had a
Vumbura Camp Newsletter
- Oct 04 Jump
to Vumbura Camp
It has been a great month at Vumbura.... The game has been spectacular
and the usual October heat abated...What a relief.... Had the
first of the season's thunderstorms... what a sight as the lightening
streaked across the sky and the wind picked up and brought with
it the first few drops of rain.
We have had some great sightings this month... the elephants
are around in huge numbers and a very relaxed herd has come
onto the Vumbura island on numerous occasions.
There continues to be a lot of upheaval
in the lion population of this area. The pride residing
to the east welcomed 6 cubs of which only 1 has survived.
The two magnificent newcomers have managed to dethrone the
dominant male, and as a coalition, they are now the undisputed "kings". The main "Vumbura" pride
has split up and 3 females have joined these two males.
3 more females have joined up with the solitary (previously
dominant) male, with the last of the seven females going
her own solitary way. The lioness and two sub-adults that
made up the pride of four with the previously dominant red-maned
male, has been left to fend for themselves, as he is now
staying with the other 3 females. It has proved difficult
for them and after numerous confrontations with other lions
and hyaenas, the lioness was last seen severely injured.
The pride residing to the west, made up of four females and
8 cubs have been spotted - all in great condition.
Leopards have been spotted on a few occasions. A female was
spotted with two furry cubs - age estimated at two months.
Another interesting sighting was of two leopards mating, one
of which was the very relaxed male that seems to dominate the
Cheetahs - the female with the three sub-adults has left them
to fend for themselves. The solitary male is still spotted
every now and again, marking his territory west of the airstrip.
The prevalent lion population makes cheetahs nervous and therefore
harder to spot.
A new hyaena den has been discovered with 4 x 3 month old
pups. The have continued to use sheer force and numbers to
chase lions from carcasses and make their presence felt.
By far the highlight of this months game viewing has been
TWO sightings of a pack of 5 wild dogs. Due to the wide range
that they roam in and the vast distances that they cover daily
it is a rare occasion when they honour us with their company.
We can only hope that they linger a while...
Other sightings include serval, porcupine
and honey badger. The long awaited Woodland Kingfisher
has returned with the familiar Tjjik Chirrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr
filling the air constantly announcing the definite arrival
Kwando Safari Camps Update
- Oct 04
Lagoon camp Jump
The pride of 13 pulled down and killed a buffalo on Monday
* 3 adult male lions were viewed fore several days but
were lest seen 2
days ago .
* Wild dogs were seem after many days of tracking – unfortunately
puppy has survived from the original 8 – with the
remaining 3 adults.
* General game has been good with zebra, giraffe, in
good numbers – also
impala, tsessebe, wildebeest.
* A herd of 30 buffalo close to camp.
* No leopard sightings during the week.
* An adult male cheetah was followed this mornings game-drive.
* Lots of herds of elephant throughout the concession and
* Serval and caracal have been seen on night drives.
* Large numbers of elephants in breeding herds are seen around
camp daily – most midday/afternoons a herd of around 20 in the river in
front of camp.
* Large herds of buffalo moving around the northern areas – often being
harassed by lions.
* A leopard was seen killing a spring hare.
* A very thin lioness with a young male were seen at an elephant carcass.
* The lioness was seen a day later with a honey badger she had killed – she
carried it around but was not seen eating it.
* 3 African wild dogs were seen – 2 males and a female – they were
on Monday morning.
* 3 adult male lions arrived at the elephant carcass after a noisy night
roaring at the camp.
* General game has been good, zebra, giraffe, tsessebe with young, – 2
Sable bulls were seen on several occasions.
* The first impala lambs we seen last week.
* A Woodland kingfisher – 1st for the season was spotted on Sunday the
* Excellent viewing and photographic opportunities at the Carmine Bee-Eater
* Water levels have dropped about a foot.
* 2 male lions with 3 females have been spending time
close to camp
following a large herd of buffalo that has been close to camp
for the last
week – 1000 strong.
* A male leopard was viewed with it’s Lechwe kill in
* Another male leopard was followed while it was marking its
responding to another leopard calling.
* Hyena have been seen in and around the camp on a nightly
* Nocturnal sightings include porcupine and genets.
* Heronry still providing excellent viewing – chicks
of black-crowned and
rufous-bellied herons seen on every visit.
* A bachelor herd of 6-7 elephant have been viewed around the
camp for the
* Water-levels dropping quickly and as the floodplains dry
out good numbers
of zebra and tsessebe (no wildebeest yet) as well as giraffe.
* No sign of cheetah or wild dogs during the last week.
* Good numbers of buffalo have been seen every day – a couple of herds
numbering around 200 buffalo in each herd.
* Lions have been sighted almost every game-drive – 3 different pairs of
adult males have been moving around the area.
* Game-drives stayed out past midnight last week watching a pair of male
lions hunting buffalo – they made numerous attempts but were not
* A breeding herd of 20 elephant was seen coming down to drink while the
small groups of elephant bulls have been frequenting the camp day and
* Leopards were sighted 3 days in a row – as well as a young female
leopard seen being chased off a buffalo carcass by an adult hyena.
* 3 cheetah were seen on Sunday feeding on an impala lamb – they were seen
again later being chased by lions.
* Night drives have yielded hyena, serval, genets, and a variety of
* Water levels continue to drop – a large number of hippo are still seen
the lagoon day and night in front of the camp.
Lebala camp Jump
* The water level continues to rise until yesterday just surrounding Lebala
camp making it the highest level since the camp was built.
* General game throughout the southern concession has been excellent during
the last week.
* Many buffalo have been in and around camp for the last week or so – first
time this has happened in years.
* A young female leopard was seen in camp and viewed south of the camp as
* The territorial male north of camp was seen as well.
* Large numbers of hyenas seen throughout the southern areas, as a result
(we think) the southern pride of 14 has been displaced to the west – last
seen early last week.
* Elephants seen in large numbers on every drive.
* Goon nocturnal sightings including 3 Serval in one evening as well as
jackal and genets.
* Very good general game concentrating along the floodplains as the water
recedes, and all the pans inland have dried up again (34 mm rain about 3
* Impala lambing season on full swing.
* An elephant bull died west of Tsessebe Island – the carcass was visited
by lions – a male and a female that kept the hyena at bay for a while.
* A second clan arrived and the lions were overwhelmed by the hyena numbers
(– approx 40) After the lions mover off the 2 clans of hyena tussled at
carcass for some time.
* More than 100 vultures were at the site as well.
* Yesterday 2 lionesses were seen feeding on the elephant carcass.
* Large numbers of buffalo moving through the concession to access the
* Summer migrants such as Red-back and Lesser-Grey shrikes have arrived
front their northern over-wintering, as well as a white pelican, and
* Herds of Elephants are being seen daily moving across the Lebala
floodplains to the river.
* Hyena have been seen every night drive as well as genets, porcupine,
African wild cat and serval.
Kings Pool Newsletter - Oct 04 Jump
I am writing this as the first few drops of rain are falling
from an approaching storm, and we all hold our thumbs that it
will give us our first real down pour for the season. The dry
October heat, however, has attracted the usual variety of game
to the Linyanti river, all of them here to slake their thirst
from its waters.
The elephants were not here in the numbers that we had last
year due to the very good rains we had in the beginning of
2004. This has, however, given the bush a welcome break from
the heavy utilisation that the area experienced in previous
years. We have still had amazing sightings of big breeding
herds moving through the Linyanti and there is still nothing
quite like a group of 100 or so elephants crossing the River
between Botswana and Namibia. We have also had our resident
bull ellies in and around camp, providing us with entertainment
during meals and sometimes holding guests up while trying to
make their way between the main area and their rooms.
Our female leopard with the two cubs are all still well and
healthy and have been seen on numerous occasions throughout
the month. The cubs are often found playing around with each
other, while the mother is out hunting. Other leopards have
also been sighted during October including our local male prowling
his territory and hunting his stash of baboons in camp.
Sad news for us is the death or disappearance of 2 more of
our wild dog pups from the Kings Pool Pack. This leaves us
with 2 pups and seven adults. We have also seen the big pack
from the Duma Tau area across our side. They were then 15 pups
and 13 adults although rumors from that side, are that some
of the pups are now also missing.
A large buffalo herd of over 100 animals have been using the
area between the airstrip and camp for much of the month. They
have used the lagoon in front of camp a couple of times as
their watering hole. One afternoon during tea we had about
100 buffalo on one side and about 100 elephants on the other.
The ongoing strife in the hippo pool in front of camp has
also been providing some excitement. The pod of about 20 or
so hippos, have been for the last year, trying to get rid of
a young bull who tries to share their water. The big bull of
the pod chases him from the water, and the youngster, not willing
to face the challenge, high tails it out of there, and then
spends much of the day dejectedly hanging around camp, resting
in the shade of the Crotons. It has now reached the stage where
even the females chase him out of the pool, poor guy.
Other than that we have been seeing a
few Roan antelope as well as Sable, two of the most magnificent
antelope species, both only visitors to the Linyanti
in times of real dryness.
On the birding front, the summer visitors are all mostly back
although we are still waiting for the call of the woodland
Kingfisher, one of the true sounds of summer. We have had amazed
guests visiting two breeding colonies of Carmine Bee Eaters,
an area awash with the deep red colour of this beautiful bird.
A fish trap at Lechwe flats has also provided some spectacular
sightings of numerous bird species including multitudes of
pelicans, black egrets, knob billed Ducks, Saddle Billed Storks
A few comments from our guests here at Kings Pool are:
" What a way to start our travels!
The people were so gracious and animals stunning. Thank
you everyone for making our introduction to Africa one we
will never forget."
" Fantastic - Everyone here is great
- The place is amazing - and the peacefulness is a blessing!
Could not have asked for anything more !! "
" What a magical place. Thank You
to you all for such fantastic hospitality - We'll spread
the word. Best of luck to each and every one of you.
You are all special people."
Mombo Newsletter - Oct 04 Jump
The sun has got his hat
on and he's coming out to play! Yes, summer has definitely arrived
after a few false starts and unseasonal cool spells… Temperatures are climbing almost daily as
we wait for the onset of the annual rains… Fortunately,
owing to this year's larger than average flood, there is still
a lot of surface water around to tide the animals over until
the pans start to still with rain again - probably in November.
Minimum daily temperatures on average
have been 16.88°C,
with the lowest temperature recorded being 12°C. The average
maximum daily temperature was 32.67°C, which means that
each day we typically have temperatures ranging from 65°F
to 95°F. Cool breezes and the shade of ancient mangosteen
and jackalberry trees in the Camp mean however that it
is always easy to chill out here, and it is always the
perfect temperature for a dip in the plunge pool or an
ice-cold gin and tonic or home-made lemonade…
We have had one spectacular storm so
far, which we greeted joyfully as we hoped it heralded
the start of the rainy season, the other part of the intricate
mechanism of water supply here, which in harmony with
the floods, ensures that Mombo always has water, and is always
a place of plenty…
An incredible sound and light show -
mighty peals of thunder overhead, and flashes of fork
lightning which lit up the floodplains and palm islands as
if it was daylight… In just an hour,
we had 10mm (half an inch) of rain… Just one more
example of the drama of nature unfolding around us…
October can be a stressful month for
many animals, especially if the rains come late, and
it is at this time that many weaker animals succumb. However
October is also a month of great promise, as many of the impalas,
tsessebe, and other animals are now very obviously pregnant,
and we can expect the first arrivals in the annual miracle
of synchronised birthing in just a few weeks. Impalas
in particular all give birth within a few weeks of each other,
and the plains are suddenly swarming with wobbly lambs
born to coincide with the appearance of the first green shoots,
themselves appearing in response to the first rains…
Of course many of these young will fall to predators, but
many more will survive to swell the ranks of Mombo's outstanding
plethora of game. All in all, a heavy sense of expectation
hangs over the Delta as rains and births are awaited to continue
the timeless cycles of Africa.
Other annual events have also been unfolding - the arrival
of migrating birds from the northern hemisphere is providing
new treats for birders - the first yellow-billed kites arrived
a few weeks ago, along with the dashing ruby darts that are
the gorgeous carmine bee-eaters. European swallows are now
also arriving, having fled the onset of dreary winter and survived
the hazardous journey across the Mediterranean and over the
Shrinking pools of water are forming fish traps which are
soon crowded with birds feeding on the hapless fish - egrets,
storks, herons, bitterns, stilts, hamerkops - it is a tough
time of year to be a fish. Or a frog for that matter!
As the flood retreats, we are able again
to access areas that were cut off for some months by
rising water levels earlier in the year, and guests can enjoy
the beauty of the Simbira Channel and Boro River areas. Being
able to drive further afield opens up the possibility
of still more new discoveries - earlier this month a new leopard
cub was discovered, its mother feeding on an impala carcass.
However the cub has subsequently disappeared, possibly
killed by a large male leopard that was also seen in the
area. This same female sadly lost another cub in March of this
A female zebra was observed midway through giving birth, but
it appeared that the foal somehow became stuck when it had
only partially emerged into the world, and as the mother was
not able to push it out, we can only assume the worst for both,
as she became weaker and weaker. Amidst all the wonder here
there are moments of poignancy too, which remind us how fragile
the balance of nature is, and that birth and death are equal
parts of this precious ecosystem.
Being able to drive further
has meant that we have been able to locate some of
the rhinos we have only been able to see from the air
during the flood season. We have had particular success
in tracking down the black rhinos, and more sightings
of the first calf, now almost six months old and growing
fatter every day! November 09 was the third anniversary
of the first release of rhinos into the Delta by OWS
and the Botswana government - in that time we have
had three white rhino calves born - this is the eldest.
We saw her on Sunday just after a rainstorm, only a
few kilometres from Mombo. Earlier that day the guests
had also enjoyed a great sighting of her.
As the flood recedes,
the white rhinos - along with herds of zebra, lechwe,
and buffalo - have been following the water out onto
the lush green floodplains which form the fringes of
Chief's Island. This allows some wonderful opportunities
to view animals in very typical Okavango settings -
feeding on emerald lawns of grass, and crossing the
crystal clear channels which snake their way through
the landscape. A backdrop of palm trees completes this
classic Delta scene.
The lion prides of Mombo are providing much of the drama at
present. Four new nomadic males who arrived earlier this year
are succeeding in driving a wedge between the two existing
territories of our long-standing male coalitions, the Wheatfield
Boys to the north, and the Woody Boys to the south. As Mombo
lies on the fault line between these two domains, we have been
treated to an almost nightly crescendo of thunderous roaring
as the ownership of these prime lion territories is very vocally
contested. Slowly but surely the newcomers have been pushing
the older males to the fringes of their territories, and have
now started mating with the pride females.
With so many lions in the area, there are a lot of hungry
mouths to feed. On one night this month, five buffalo were
killed in three separate incidents. But of course the lions
don't always emerge the winners in these contests.
The legendary Steroid Boys, our long-reigning
male cheetah coalition, have also provided much excitement
on game drives, not least on the day when they unsuccessfully
tried to separate a sow warthog from her piglets, aiming
to eat one of the youngsters. The mother put up such
a spirited defence in this high-speed mêlée of
spots and tusks and claws that finally all her offspring were
able to make it to safety.
One of the joys of living at or visiting
Mombo, has always been the extent to which the bush "invades" the Camp,
from the antics of the vervet monkeys at breakfast time to
the silver flash of a harmless spotted bush snake on the walkway,
to the genets and porcupines which emerge after dark and occasionally
provide a fun last sighting of the day as we escort guests
home after another fantastic meal and bush stories around the
fire… On one evening we witnessed a stand-off between
a young genet and a small rock python - the genet eventually
deciding that she could just as easily climb a different
Our traditional boma dinners, where we
serve food inspired by Botswana's remarkable traditional
cuisine - foods hard-won from the thirstlands of this
arid country and cooked as they have been for generations -
and the festival of singing and dancing which accompanies
the meal are a highlight of many guests' stays here. On one
occasion at Little Mombo, a huge elephant bull, perhaps attracted
by the flickering light of the fire or the stamping feet
of the dancers as they whirled around it, approached
and eventually stopped just a few feet away from the performance,
perhaps sensing the ancient rhythms which guide all life
here in the Okavango…
Just this morning, eating an early breakfast, we watched a
slender mongoose fleeing the attentions of assorted birds as
they mobbed him all the way to the shelter of a tsaro palm.
Once there however he was still not guaranteed any peace and
quiet as a gaggle of Egyptian geese approached and spent the
next few minutes honking noisily at him. Who'd be a mongoose?!
As each month passes we get to welcome back old friends to
Mombo - very few people only come here once and we have guests
who over the course of several visits have become very good
friends of the Camp and staff. They take delight in following
the stories of the animals they have seen on previous visits,
and seeing how all the different threads are woven together
to make the rich tapestry of life here.
With our guides spending so much time
in the bush here, they know it so intimately that they
are aware of almost every episode in the lives of the predators
here, and the herds they prey on. The marks in the sand
each dawn read like the births, marriages and deaths column
of a newspaper, revealing the activities which have taken
place during the hours of darkness…
You can also read about Mombo in two new books which will
shortly hit the shelves - perfect if you can't wait for your
next visit here - Mombo can come to you! Perfect too for armchair
travelers, although bear in mind that we have some extremely
comfortable chairs here too - each with a superb view!
'Mombo - Okavango's Place of Plenty'
tells the story of the Mombo area from long before the
first Camp was built here, to the present day, and contains
anecdotes from many of southern Africa's best wildlife guides
and most noted conservationists, recounting some of the most
amazing things they have witnessed here. The photo's in the
book are all instantly recognisable as Mombo and will bring
back many happy memories…
Craig, our executive chef, is busy putting
the final touches to his cookery book, provisionally
entitled 'An Elephant in the Kitchen' and which will we hope
finally pry the lid off the bubbling pot of secrets that make
Mombo one of the finest eating experiences in Africa…
Pom Pom Newsletter - Oct 04 Jump
Thunderbolts and lightning, black mambas, camp pythons, murderous
baboons, greedy lions and unfortunate giraffes typify some of
the drama experienced at Pom Pom during October.
The month was noted for the absolutely
spectacular light and sound show directed and produced by Mother Nature as
pre dinner entertainment. What a show! All our guests
had front row seats at our bar overlooking the picturesque
front of house lagoon with the most incredible display of lightning,
casting brilliant bolts and lighting up the entire area with
magnificent reflections cast in the lagoon. This lasted
for nearly an hour with our guests holding their breath in
amazement. Truly an unforgettable experience to behold!!
We certainly had interesting sightings during the month with
our baboon drama probably topping the list.
A troop of Chacma baboons were in our
camp at around midday, doing their usual thing. In typical fashion a mother
was foraging peacefully with her tiny baby in playful close
attendance. Suddenly a large male baboon came charging
in, grabbed the youngster and ran off some distance. The
mother started barking the alarm call which immediately caused
the rest of the troop to scatter into the nearby trees. Heads
were bobbing up all over the place as they all nervously started searching
for the predator, probably suspecting a leopard, whilst the
mother kept on sounding the alarm in frantic fashion. What
the troop did not realize was that in this instance the
predator was one of their own, who sat under a tree nearby
and proceeded to eat the baby baboon! One of our experienced
guides who witnessed this drama, had never yet seen this
behavior in nearly 20 years of active guiding in the bush.
Another interesting sighting was that
of our Pom Pom pride of 9 lions (6 females and 3 males)
who are well known for giraffe kills (or should that be skills?). On this particular
occasion however, they brought down two sub adult giraffes
virtually simultaneously and a short distance apart from each. What
October was also our snake month with
2 good sightings of a large African Rock Python in the
pathway among our tents. We
also had numerous sightings of a variegated bush snake frequenting
our bar. This caused quite a stir because this snake,
which is totally harmless, is often mistaken for the highly
venomous boomslang. And then of cause we had a great
sighting of a 3,5 meter Black Mamba standing up defiantly
in front of one of our game drive vehicles before disappearing
into the bush - what a handsome but nasty guy!
Other sightings for the month included
herds of elephant, hippo, leopard, lions walking through
camp, hyaena pups, honey badgers, side-striped jackal,
crocodiles, zebra, wildebeest, tsesebe, kudu, red lechwe,
impala, reedbuck, bushbuck, warthog, large-spotted genet,
lesser bushbabies, Pel's Fishing Owls, Pearl-spotted
Owls, Wattled Cranes and the numerous other bird species
which are synonymous with Pom Pom.
Temperatures were not as hot as last
October with min/max averages of 19 and 35 recorded. As October slips into
November, the thunder clouds gather each afternoon with
the clear promise of the long awaited rain expected soon. The
black cuckoo has been heralding the expected rain for many
days now ..... Surely he must know what he is talking about?!
Duba Plains Newsletter - Oct 04 Jump
How easily one forgets the energy sapping heat of an October
day! This is normally the beginning of our quiet season, but
this year it has been a great pleasure to host full camp for
the whole month. And for those guests who have braved the heat,
many have been treated to a rich diversity of wildlife and the
excitement of the lion hunt for which our camp has become so
I mentioned last month that Katembo is moving to Little Vumbura
in November and we welcome Marks as his replacement. Marks
comes from Seronga, has worked for the last five years at Jao
Camp and brings with him a vast amount of knowledge and experience.
In particular his focus on ecology, birding and general game
has bought facets of Duba previously ignored, wonderfully alive.
Co-incidentally, his sister Thebe has also joined us from Vundumtiki
as a housekeeper. We welcome them both!
After shrinking over the last year, the
main buffalo herd has now grown from 500 to 800. It is
difficult to say where the others have come from. It is possible
that the herd in the northern part of the Duba concession
has grown too big and splinter groups are moving south across
the rapidly drying channels. Perhaps the small herd that
moved to the Vumbura area last year has returned, as
water levels are now low. For lion enthusiasts, this is a great
time of year to see these predators hunting their prey
because: 1. the buffalo herd has grown, and 2. the herd feeds
mainly along the channel margins where the grass is most
lush and lions hunt more successfully when they stampede the
herd into the water. 3. As the Duba floodplains are not under
water, the herd remains in the lion’s
territories for longer periods, especially the Tsaro Pride
territory. 4. Our game drive vehicles have greater access
to the concession, in particular the Paradise area where
the Skimmer Pride hunts regularly. We witnessed twelve
buffalo kills and numerous hunts in October.
On the 23rd, we found the buffalo herd
grazing the lush grass around the fringes of Munye Molokwane
Island. In the cool of the early morning the first Cattle
Egrets began to arrive for a day’s foraging as
the Open-Bill Storks trawled the channel bed in formation.
We got a call from another guide who had found the Tsaro
females and a Duba Boy a mile to the south. They had
just woken up and were heading towards the herd. With
quick thinking, our guide positioned the vehicle so that
guests were treated to the sight of the pride approaching
and then crossing the Molapo channel. The Duba Boy bought
up the rear and droplets of water glistened in the sun
as they dripped off his lustrous mane. As the pride approached
the buffalo they adopted that crouched walk so typical
of a hunt in progress. Sensing their presence, the buffalo
responded by bunching together and standing alert. With
the element of surprise lost, a one-hour stand-off ensued
with the lions attempting to split the herd and panic
them into the water. Finally, two females managed to
sneak round the back of an island and charged the herd
into a wet floodplain. An adult female tripped in the
mud and failed to get up before the lions surrounded
and began to suffocate her. It always amazes me how a
pride of lions can so successfully coordinate a hunt,
but when it comes pulling a carcass clear of the water
to facilitate easier eating there is absolutely no team-work
Suddenly, all the lions stood alert looking
to the east. We followed their gaze and saw that the
Pantry Pride had been watching proceedings from a distance
and were moving in to steal the kill. Seven of the Tsaro females
and the Duba Boy, who had until then been lying in the grass,
gave chase to six of the Pantry pride. They must have
run for three kilometres before we heard the roaring of the
Duba Boy and other Tsaro females. One wonders why the Duba
Boy was so keen to chase away its own offspring. Perhaps
his behaviour is because he has been mating with various females
in the Tsaro pride. The other two pantry Pride lionesses
who had hidden in the long grass unnoticed, then tried
to muscle in on the kill which was being held by the remaining
two Tsaro females. At first, the Tsaro females didn’t
recognise the Pantry females as they moved in. Suddenly
fighting broke out and the invading lions, realising
that they were no match for the bigger Tsaro females,
moved off west to follow the buffalo. By that time, the
buffalo had moved into Skimmer Pride territory and by
the end of the day had lost an adult female and calf
to the Skimmer Pride.
The Skimmer pride is shaping up to become the dominant pride
in the next two or three years. The cubs are nearly a year
old and out of eleven, six are male. Once these brothers begin
to hunt, the kill rate should climb dramatically and they are
likely to push their territorial boundary further east into
Tsaro Pride territory. If the Duba Boys are still around, a
challenge to their dominance is distinctly possible.
The Pantry Pride continues to struggle
as the Tsaro Pride regularly pushes into their territory.
It wasn’t until
the 21st that we saw them for the first time resting near
Skimmer Pan, well to the west of their territorial boundary.
They were looking skinny and nervous. As the waters drop
in the north of the concession, the Pride is likely to
head there, where the game is more plentiful.
The birding in October has been exceptional. Fish traps are
now attracting vast numbers of Great-white and Pink-backed
Pelicans. We counted 28 species of birds in the vicinity of
one of these fish traps in one morning! These included Slaty,
Little, Great White and Black Egrets, Saddle-bill, Marabou,
Woolly-necked and Yellow-billed Storks, Hamerkop, Spoonbills,
Squacco Herons, Sacred, Glossy and Hadeda Ibises, Red-billed
Teal, Spurwing Geese, Knob-billed Ducks, Greenshanks and Sandpipers,
Black-winged Stilts and Pied Kingfishers to name but a few.
Highlights include a Common Wimbrel which is more frequently
seen on the coast and very rarely moves to inland waters, Pink-throated
Longclaw, a pair of Rock Kestrels hovering over the grasslands,
Swallow-tailed Bee-eaters, Marsh Owl, Martial Eagle, Lesser
Jacana and Black Coucals shyly frequenting the long grass of
We had three leopard sightings in the
month and on one occasion saw four hyaena chase a male
leopard up at tree near Shade Pan. The leopard wasted no
time gracefully jumping up the tree trunk, well out of their
way as the hyaena sniffed around, waiting in vain for the leopard
to return to terra firma. Other highlights include an aardwolf
spotted on a few occasions, serval, a family of bat-eared
foxes, white-tailed and yellow mongoose and African wildcat.
November promises more excitement and dramatic storms. We
look forward to seeing you at our home on the plains of Duba.
Bay Turtle Report - Oct 04 Jump
Here at Rocktail Bay Lodge, there
is a buzz in the air, as for the next five months, we hope to tag, microchip,
measure and note the location of over 500 turtles. We also hope to see a good
number of hatchlings and we will be driving in excess of 9000 kilometres down
our beaches over 150 days.
Rocktail is part of an on-going research project that entails the data capturing
and study of Loggerhead and Leatherback Turtles. From 15 October to 15 March,
these prehistoric creatures make their way up our beaches to lay over a thousand,
billiard ball-sized eggs each in a season and they will leave their mark on
our beaches in the form of tractor-like tracks.
This research project is one of the most successful to date and has been running
for over 40 years, and we have seen the nesting population increase from a
mere handful to over 500 per season.
Our research area runs from Black Rock (5km north of Rocktail) to Mabibi (30km
south of Rocktail). Along the way we cover four bays - namely Rocktail, Lala
Nek, Manzengwenya and Mabibi.
Both the walks and drives are a unique experience. Scouting for turtles is
not all that keeps us occupied, the phosphorescence on the beach delights all,
as do the darting ghost crabs and the star constellations of the southern sky.
The season got off to a terrific start, with a dainty Loggerhead being sighted
on a cloudy and misty evening on the 18th of October. This is the earliest
sighting of a nesting turtle in the past few years, hopefully a sign of a good
season to come. She delighted the Kufferath Family in digging a very successful
nest, and then disappearing into the darkness. We have seen a number of Loggerhead
and Leatherback tracks on other drives along our beaches.
At the halfway point of our drive we stop to enjoy a welcome drink among the
rock pools at Mabibi. On the drive of 20th October, a fresh Yellow-Fin Tuna
weighing in excess of 20kgs was found on the beach at Manzengwenya after it
had beached itself.
Each month we will keep you updated about the progress of the project and
inform you of the exhilarating months ahead.
Makuleke Update - Oct 04
Now that summer is upon us in Pafuri, the temperatures have risen
to a maximum of 39 degrees Celsius and they cool off at night
to roughly 19 degrees. Early rains have fallen, so the bush is
fresh and green once again, and the animals have not had to suffer
the change in vegetation. So far 40 mm of rain has fallen.
Lion sightings are definitely improving, with 6 sightings
of the Airstrip Pride females, and two sightings of the males.
The males however are still a bit skittish, but they are getting
a little more used to us, while the lionesses are not concerned
about the vehicles at all.
With the river still flowing quite strongly, the crocodiles
and hippo have been moving up into areas they normally wouldn't
at this time of year. As a result we now have a crocodile nest
directly opposite Pafuri Camp. It will be amazing to watch
the little critters leaving the nest, as the view is unimpeded.
Hakymbo the leopard is no stranger to
us now, he is often heard "sawing logs" around
the house and campsite. Although he has only been spotted
on 2 occasions, he is now no longer nervous of the movement
of vehicles in his territory, but still he remains a
late night traveller.
There have been many sightings of the large buffalo herds,
we appear to have quite a few on the concession at the moment,
and they seem to be sticking around, as food and wallowing
sites are plentiful.
The Albida trees have started seeding, which means that tasty
snacks abound all over the forest for all and sundry. Of course
this usually attracts the elephants, and we have come across
many lone bulls snacking away happily on these gifts from the
gods. No signs of the breeding herds though, they appear to
have moved off with the onset of the rains, but only time will
On a walk near Lanner Gorge more dinosaur bones have been
found, which makes for great excitement all round. Gary has
been on a mission ever since to see what else he can uncover;
we'll keep you posted.
I have also compiled our personal birdlist for the area, which
is being added to on a regular basis, as migrants are starting
to move in. We are currently on 239 positively identified species,
Note: Royal Makuleke is due to open in the middle of 2005.
Royal Makuleke Camp is
situated between the Limpopo and the Luvuvhu Rivers in
the northern sector of Kruger National Park. This Makuleke "Concession" covers 24,000 hectares
of an area that is often referred to as the Pafuri Triangle. This
area is the ancestral home of the Makuleke people (who were
evicted from this part of Kruger in 1969) and this lodge is
named after the Royal House of the Makuleke who, along with
their people, are partners in the lodge.
The Pafuri Triangle lies in the northernmost corner of the
Kruger National Park, bordering upon Zimbabwe and Mozambique.
Bounded by the Limpopo River in the north and the Luvuvhu River
in the south, it contains the lion's share of the KNP's biodiversity.
It is a highly important wildlife area in South Africa, mainly
because it contains up to 75% of the biodiversity of the country's
biggest wildlife park and also because it is located at the
heart of the new transfrontier conservation area between game
parks in South Africa, Mozambique and Zimbabwe.
Accommodation will comprise
of 12 luxury air-conditioned rooms. The camp can be divided
into two smaller camps of six rooms each. The rooms are
under thatch and canvas and each has a private pool, sala,
en-suite bathroom with a luxury bath, indoor and outdoor
shower. Accommodation at Royal Makuleke will be on a par
with Singita and other lodges in the south - but will blend
into the environment and still have a wonderful bush atmosphere. Activities
include day and night game drives in open 4x4 vehicles,
foot safaris, hides, mountain biking and some of the best
paleo-anthropological experiences in Africa.
Impala - The Facts Jump
The black-faced impala is a unique subspecies of impala because it evolved in
geographic isolation from other subspecies of impala over thousands of years
in the Kunene region (formerly Kaokoland) and southern Angola. It is now
thought to be extinct in Angola.
- A recent genetic study by Eline Lorezen (University of Copenhagen) has confirmed
that the subspecies status is genetically justified (they are not so different
to common impala to be considered a separate species).
- Black-faced impala are different to common impala. They
• a dark nose blaze;
• a longer, bushier tail;
• darker colouration; and
• a larger body weight (10kg heavier than South African common impala).
- Black-faced impala form smaller herds than common impala because they live
in an arid environment where food and water resources are scarce and spread
- There are only 3000 black-faced impala (Aepyeros melampus
petersi) remaining in the world. This subspecies is considered ENDANGERED and is ENDEMIC
to Namibia (that is, >90% of the world’s population lives here).
- In their natural range, the Kunene region, black-faced
impalas have declined drastically from maybe thousands to just 500 animals
in the last 30 years. Poaching,
droughts and competition with livestock are thought to have caused this
severe population crash.
- Etosha’s population of black-faced impala, translocated to the park
in the early 1970’s, is now thriving. Etosha now contains half
the entire global population of black-faced impala, at least 1,500 animals.
- On commercial farmlands in Namibia a new threat to
the black-faced impala has emerged in recent decades. Interbreeding between introduced South
African common impalas and native black-faced impalas on farms results in the
loss of Namibia’s pure black-faced subspecies. This is a serious
problem because 1000 black-faced impala are found on private farms, which
represents one-third of the total population.
- Ongava Game Reserve contains almost 10% of the global
population of black-faced impala, approximately 200-250 animals. Ongava has an important role to
play in this subspecies’ conservation and has been the subject of a crucial
study to determine home ranges and microhabitat use (University of Queensland,
2000-2003). This study is now complete, but a few impala with radio
collars remain (although these are progressively being removed).
- Black-faced impala have very large home ranges. Females at Ongava
in the wet season had home ranges six times as large as common impala elsewhere
in Africa (average=33km2). In Namibia, large home ranges are typical
of other species like lions, elephants and hyaenas. Animals have
to walk further to find food and water here compared to less arid environments.
- The national management strategy for black-faced impala
focuses building up the population by establishing a protection zone
for black-faced impala that excludes common impala entirely. This zone
includes the Kunene region, Etosha and bordering farms, Erongo Mountain
Wilderness Conservancy and Waterberg Plateau Park.
- Farmers who want to translocate black-faced impala
to their farms should introduce more than 15 animals initially. Translocations
that release less than this number often fail, because small populations
are very vulnerable to predators (especially cheetah) in a new and unfamiliar
- In Etosha, there are 5 subpopulations of black-faced
impala and little movement of impala between these areas: Ombika, Olifantsbad,
Halali, Namutoni and Kaross. This
distribution reflects the 5 initial release sites of black-faced impala
in the park 30 years ago.
- At Ongava, about two-thirds of the population drink
at the Lodge waterhole and this is the core of their range. However,
they range as far as the southern kopjes (south of tented camp) and in
the vicinity of Allen Dam, especially when there is water in the environment
in the wet season.
- As many as 75% of lambs may die before reaching adulthood. The
Ongava study showed that 50% of lambs died in the first two months of
Ongava Newletter - Oct 04 Jump
At the beginning of October we experienced
very hot days, humid afternoons, which some say it’s a sign of good rains. Let’s
hope. The veld looks dry and the under cover of the grasses are yellow while
the fallen leaves of the Mopane trees are adding the red and brownish colour
to the ground. To add the flavour of spring, here and there the white flowers
of Bottle trees (Pachypodium lealii) can be seen on the grey Ondundozonananandana
In the heat of midday oryx, kudu, red hartebeest, blue wildebeest, black-faced
impala and waterbuck can be seen coming towards the Ongava Lodge to satisfy
their thirst with the cool sweet waters from the waterhole. In the afternoon
zebra and sometimes giraffe can be seen approaching the waterhole for their
There is a lot of action at the Lodge waterhole, with one of the leading lionesses,
Collared Female and her pride again in the area. Occasionally our guests get
a chance to see them at the waterhole.
Etosha and calf, and Lloyd and Thor - all black rhino, were all to be seen
every night at the waterhole. They came to the water one by one and it is amazing
to see how they greet each other by horn rubbing.
Our hope for rain was actually fulfilled, in mid-October we received about
22.5mm of rain over two days. Although it is not enough to change the grasses
yet, the quick reacting Mopane are in total green. Some of the birds like Masked
Weavers, Canaries and Melba Finches can be seen.
In Etosha the famous white elephants were observed at Nebrownii waterhole.
These male elephants like to bathe in the white, muddy waterhole from which
they get their white colour. Overall breeding herds of between 30 and 50 elephant
were seen during the course of the month.
Raptors like Pale Chanting Goshawk and Greater Kestrel are to be seen along
the roads of Etosha National Park. Lapppet-faced as well as White-backed Vultures
and Bateleurs are scanning the Park from the skies.
The Kori Bustard and Secretarybird are patrolling the open grass fields of
Etosha while they are patiently waiting for more rains to come to satisfy their