SAFARI CAMP UPDATES
Wilderness Safaris and Elephant Back Safaris join forces.
Anthrax outbreak in Chobe National Park, Botswana.
Kwando Safaris game reports for
Monthly update from Jao Camp in
Monthly update from Chitabe
Camp in Botswana
Monthly update from Vumbura
Camp in Botswana
Monthly update from Kings
Pool Camp in Botswana
Monthly update from Mombo
Camp in Botswana
Amazing tales of lions mating and fighting at Duba
Plains Camp in Botswana
Wild Dog Update from
the Savuti / Linyanti area 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
Wilderness Safaris and Elephant
Back Safaris Join Forces Jump
Camp / Elephant Back Safaris
Safaris is extremely pleased to announce that, from 2005, they will be
handling the marketing and reservations for Elephant Back Safaris, which
will remain under the ownership of ardent conservationists, Alistair
Rankin, Colin Dhillon, Murray and Kenneth Collins.
Elephant Back Safaris’ animal-focused programme offers guests the
rare opportunity to communicate with a special herd of elephants, consisting
of mature bulls, cows and babies. The programme works towards bridging
the gap between man and animal. They will be adopting a new approach
to how the elephants are handled and will be creating a once in a life
time experience for guests, who will be able to get up close and touch
these awe-inspiring animals, not only on a physical level, but an emotional
and spiritual level as well.
Visitors will have a chance to share intellectual space with the planet's
largest and most intelligent land mammal. The team will concentrate on
developing and promoting a comprehensive educational awareness programme,
which will inform guests about the important position that elephants
hold within the ecosystem and the issues surrounding their existence.
It is hoped that this programme will assist guests in making an informed
decision regarding the elephant’s situation in Africa. Guests are
also invited to join the resident Bristol University researcher in her
study of adolescent male elephant behaviour.
Elephant Back Safaris’ Abu Camp is located on the western side
of Botswana's Okavango Delta. Guests will be touched by a life-changing
journey as they spend time with the herd that have the run of half a
million acres of Delta, one of Africa's last true, pristine wildernesses.
No effort has been spared to ensure that guests enjoy this unique experience
in total comfort and safety.
During the elephant back safaris guests are seated in large padded saddles,
which are mounted behind the most experienced and knowledgeable elephant-handlers
in Africa. The camp, concealed in an ancient riverine forest, consists
of five extremely luxurious, custom-built and stylishly-furnished tents.
The lavish bedrooms, with mahogany four-poster or antique sleigh beds,
are complemented with plush en-suite bathrooms complete with copper or
porcelain baths, shower and flush toilet. Every tent has a different
style but all reflect the very high standard that defines Abu Camp. A
private, tree-shaded deck with a hammock overlooks a lagoon frequented
by a myriad of bird and animal life.
On the other side of the lagoon, a five-minute drive from the main camp,
is the completely private and secluded Elephant House, which is a new
addition to Elephant Back Safaris. Built in the same style and standard
of luxury as Abu Camp, Elephant House sleeps four people, in two double
bedrooms, each with en-suite bathrooms. After an elephant experience
or early morning game drive, with their personal guide and exclusive
Landrover, guests can spend time relaxing on the expansive pool deck
whilst soaking up the beauty of their environment.
“Our elephant back safaris offer many magical, memorable moments,
not least the opportunity to come very close to and even mingle with
the wild animals. The herds of giraffe, zebra, buffalo and antelope are
unconcerned by the approach of the elephant herd of which you are a privileged
part. We also offer game drives in open vehicles or a day spent drifting
tranquil waters of the Delta in a mokoro, the traditional dugout craft of the
Okavango,” continues Alistair.
Whether one wishes to commune quietly with the silence of the bush from the veranda
of one's own tent, or exchange stories around the fire, Abu Camp is the perfect
hideaway for a safari to remember and savour forever.
For 2005, rates have been confirmed for three night safaris, with set departure
dates. This year, Elephant Back Safaris will continue to operate the five night
safaris, with set departures, but the three night option is available on request.
Together, Wilderness Safaris and Elephant Back Safaris aim to lift the elephant
experience to new heights while enhancing peoples’ understanding and appreciation
of the elephant. This is part of Wilderness' footprint in Africa as well as their
commitment to conservation in Africa.
Anthrax outbreak in Chobe NP - September
has been an anthrax outbreak along the Chobe River and certain
parts of the park have been closed. The main area affected
is the area from Serondela westwards to the Ngoma gate. That
part of the park is closed for now - and probably will be for
the next two weeks or so.
think of anthrax in terms of weapons of mass destruction....
but anthrax in Africa is nothing to get too concerned about.
Anthrax is found just about all the
way through Africa. Parks like Etosha, Kruger etc have regular
outbreaks - and some animals die each year from this disease.
But no humans are affected in any way. A person can sit next
to an anthrax infected carcass and not get sick at all. The only
time one is at risk is if one gets covered in blood / gore of
an infected animal and this blood / gore finds its way into ones
body. Only then is it remotely possible that you can get infected.
Anthrax in Africa is endemic - and
life goes on with it being all around. When there is an outbreak
of anthrax, the key is to burn or bury the carcases of the dead
animals so that the spore can't be translocated to other areas
by vultures, predators and other scavengers.
people today are quite worried
about Anthrax - but this is because of the role that the media
has played in this disease post 9/11. It is possible
for chemists to take the natural anthrax spore and refine it
in a laboratory and manipulate this spore so it becomes super
potent so it can be used as a terrorist weapon that can affect
humans. But that is not a risk out in African parks.
Kwando Safari Camps Update - September 2004
Lagoon camp Jump
* Still no sign of the Wild dogs that disappeared
in to the Mopane about 3 weeks ago.
* Big herds of elephant and buffalo sighted daily throughout
the concession – converging at the Kwando River.
* The Lagoon pride had been seen regularly, were stalking some
impala but were not seen making a kill
* 2 different groups (4+5) of Roan antelope were seen
* 3 sightings of honey-badgers on morning game drives
* A caracal was seen on one of the night drives.
* Male lions were seen of a buffalo kill south of the camp
* Lagoon pride have been on the floodplains for
4 days – killed
a young buffalo over the weekend.
* One of the cubs from the Lagoon pride has been missing for
almost 1 month now – presumed dead.
* Lots of buffalo seem in smaller herds of around 300
* Night drives yielding genets, caracal, bush-baby, scrub-hares,
springhares and chameleons.
* A Leopard kill was found – impala hoisted in a tree
but leopard was shy and not spotted.
* Good general game – Roan, Zebra, Tsessebe, Giraffe,
* No cheetah seen for almost 2 weeks
* Lots of breeding hers of elephant around the camp and in
the lagoon in front of the camp.
* Water level rising again (last pulse before drying up) and
some of the drying floodplains are wet again
* A few different prides of lions seen during
the last week including: a pride of 2 males, 3 lionesses and
2 cubs on a buffalo carcass and 2 pairs of male lions involved
in a territorial fight.
* A herd of Buffalo estimated 1000 strong seen on a daily basis
with lions hunting them.
* A pack of 5 wild dogs sighted – 3 adults and 2 5 month
old puppies – one puppy died with a broken hip and the
other puppy was lost by the adults – last seen was the
adults trying to relocate the missing puppy by calling it.
* Serval and Civet seen every evening drive close to the camp.
* Very good birdlife – esp. at the Heronry where herons
and storks have been seen on their eggs as well as a breeding
pair of black-crowned night herons
* A breeding herd of 10 elephant was seen around the camp as
well as the usual bulls frequenting the area.
* Several different herds of buffalo seen – max
* 3 different sets of lions – 4 younger males, and 2
coalitions of 2 males.
* 3 lion kills seen in 4 days all of buffalo
* Game drives also spotted 2 females that are injured badly
and may not survive unless they are able to hunt, on Monday
only 1 female was found – the other is suspected to have
* Good leopard sightings – 2 sub-adult males and a young
female – all spotted around the camp – one of the
males was hunting baboons in camp.
* General game not prolific but good sightings of zebra, tsessebe,
impala, giraffe and wildebeest
* Herd of 50 elephant seen close to camp – southern pans
in Mopane are drying up.
* Floodwater is receding in Eastern Delta
Lebala camp Jump
* A good week for interaction at Lebala with lions and hyena fighting
2 nights in a row:
* A pride of 12 killed a buffalo but were chased off their kill by a pack of
* The next evening 3 male lions killed a buffalo and the pride of 12 killed another
buffalo as well – they spend the evening interacting again with hyena.
The 3 males responded to the commotion and moved from their kill to the other
kill, fought with the hyena and the pride of 12 before killing a hyena and appropriating
the 2nd kill.
* The next evening the 3 males were in camp causing some consternation and eventually
killed another buffalo at the lookout point in the reeds.
* General game has been good with zebra in large numbers.
* African wild cat, Serval and caracal
* Plenty of buffalo around – one herd estimated 1,5 – 2000 head.
* Summer migrants are back – sightings of Wahlberg's eagle and Yellow-billed
* 3 Leopard sightings – one killed a springhare and one was shy and ran
after it was spotted.
* The general game has been getting excellent as the pans in the Mopane
yield little water.
* Large groups of elephants and buffalo
* Monday morning – 3 male lions killed a buffalo and were joined by the
pride of 14.
* young males from pride of 14 were chased off by 3 adult males.
* 3 male cheetah killed a young kudu at Twin Pools
* There have been 4 sightings of the pack of dogs (Lagoon Pack) last week – 5
puppies have survived so far.
* Hyenas are seen every evening in the southern concession indicating very high
densities – will have a strong influence in the dogs success.
Jao Newsletter - Aug 04 Jump
It has been a mild month
with average temperatures ranging from 14 to 28 degrees Celsius.
Our maximum temperature was 31 and minimum 8 degrees. Early mornings
at the beginning of the month have been rather chilly. The wind
picked up dramatically towards the end of the month and the early
morning breezes have been crisp and strong, prevailing to the
East. No rain has been experienced, although there has been a
cloud build-up over the last 2 weeks.
The big game viewing has been prolific on Hunda Island. The general
game has been impressive with journeys of giraffe and herds of
zebra and wildebeest. Lion have been roaring around the Jao floodplain
and the hide and have been viewed feeding on kills. One particular
party of guests were lucky enough to witness a female cheetah
stalking, chasing and then killing a red lechwe (from beginning
to end). On the other game drives the male lion, Tyson, has been
seen mating with a young female. There have been numerous elephant
sightings in the camp and a few folks have been hearing them
snoring and making noises during the night, as they sleep nearby.
They have been eating palm nuts and shaking trees during dinnertime
too. Hyaena have been frequent visitors in the camp and hippo
in the surrounding areas. Their activity seems to becoming less
due to dropping water levels. There have been a mother and a
calf that were sleeping and feeding between tents 8 and 9.
The birding situation in the concession is as usual excellent.
The Pel's Fishing Owl has been sighted on very regular occasions,
and even made an appearance in the morning, amazing guests as
he sits on the branches just outside the dining area and preens
himself! Lesser Flamingos have been spotted as too have the Yellow-billed
kites Indicating the beginning of spring.
The water level in the concession has been going down radically
and has dropped by 1.6 feet. Even though this has happened, we
are still doing all the activities which include mokoro (the
dug-out canoe), which takes place from the main lodge, game drives,
boating, fishing, and the Hunda Island trip. This latter activity
is where one boats to an island, where the environment is very
different, more of a savannah environment. There are vehicles
that are parked there and drives and picnics are the order of
the day. Unfortunately, we are not sure how long we are going
to be able to do this due to the water levels - we will just
have to wait and see.
Jao Concession Lion Update:
It appears that the dominant male
pair of Beaver and Barehead are spending more and more time away
from their original pride of females which is the Floodplain
Pride near Kwetsani. Sightings of these four lionesses
have been sporadic. A single male, nicknamed Tyson, has moved
into the Kwetsani area in the absence of Beaver and Barehead.
sightings of Beaver and Barehead are coming out of Tubu Tree,
they have been frequenting the west and south of the concession
for the last four months. It is possible they
are abandoning their original pride females and looking for
additional females in neighbouring territories. At this
stage we do not have any resident females in the Tubu game
drive area, however, we do have had several small groups of
nomadic females using the area for a few weeks at a time. Beaver
and Barehead have managed to locate and mate with several of
these females. When there are no females to be found
here, the males travel deep into our neighbouring concession,
NG26. Personal communication with the NG26 staff has
led us to believe there is a pride of about 17 lions in their
area. This is undoubtedly a strong attraction to the males. It
is possible that there has already been fighting between the
lions as Beaver has been limping heavily for the last 6 weeks,
and Barehead is carrying a deep wound on his left cheek. The
injury to Beaver's front leg is slowing him up drastically
and impairing his hunting ability. It is also causing
him to frequently lag far behind Barehead. This may have
serious consequences for the males if they get into conflict
situations with other lions.
Sightings are as always of
good quality when we locate the territorial pair of males,
and they often roar in the early mornings and evenings, allow
close approach by vehicles for photography. The number of sightings is not as frequent
as it was earlier in the year due to the males movements beyond
our game drive areas. To quantify this Barehead was seen
on 7 days in August, Beaver only on 5 days.
For the whole concession, our estimated count of lions (individuals
sighted and identified in the last four months - May to August
2004) is 20 animals.
Chitabe Newsletter - Aug 04 Jump
From the start of the month many breeding
herds of elephants have made their way into our concession. The
opportunity to view 50-60 elephants enjoying a mud bath was a
sight to see. The interaction between the cows and their newborn
calves was especially nice to witness. Along with all the elephants,
a herds of more than 800 buffalo meandered through the area a
few times giving our resident lions the hope of successful hunts
and good meals. Needless to say, when the buffalo were around
all our game drives were waiting for the anticipated hunt - which
on many occasions turned out to be very successful.
Pangolin sightings are still and will always be a highlight.
We have had several sightings this month and always appreciate
the good luck they bring. Most of our sightings have been in
the evening when the pangolin forages for its termite diet.
The pangolins have habituated to our vehicles so our guests
have had the opportunities to follow the pangolins for an extensive
amount of time.
We've had a couple of excellent sightings of our Moonstone
Pack of wild dogs. On all occasions they were hunting impala
and they even tried their strategies towards an ostrich. One
afternoon, while on game drive, our guests spotted the dogs,
and after a short while a chase began - this time the dogs
were the prey and were being pursued by two lionesses. The
dogs ran in all directions, which fortunately confused the
lionesses and their efforts came to an end.
In and around camp, we had an interesting experience with
one of our resident young bull elephants. He is a very relaxed
and accommodating creature and is always posing for the guests'
cameras, no doubt many a guests has left Chitabe was some awesome
close-ups of an elephant. One afternoon before tea he was browsing
in-between the office and the lounge, so he grabbed all our
attention. Slowly but surely he moved closer to one of the
raised walkways. There was a delicious shrub on the other side
so he stretched his trunk over the walkway, whilst his tusks
were positioned under the walkway. This was wonderful to watch
until he lifted his head and 6 metres of the walkway lifted
with him. He put his head down and luckily the walkway came
back down in the same position. However, our relief was brief,
as the second time around he decided to lift his head with
more force and the whole section of the walkway collapsed to
the ground. Needless to say, it was repaired in a matter of
hours no worse for wear to elephant or walkway.
The temperature highs this month rocketed up to 39 degrees
Celsius and dropped to a low 7 degrees Celsius. The mornings
are still very cold due to the wind factor, so our morning
campfire is a blessing when sipping freshly brewed coffee and
admiring the first sweet light of dawn. The minimum this month
caught us below freezing allowing our guests to wake up to
a breathtaking contrast of a snowy white flood plain with snow-white
mist sitting isolated between Illala palm islands and a clear
baby-blue sky. Needless to say, the hot water bottles and the
morning campfire were treasured by all. Fortunately the increase
in temperatures allowed a bit of "thawing out" and
prepared the guests for the afternoon drive. Having layers
of clothing is always the best option during the winter months
in Botswana, as the variance in temperatures allows guests
to be warm in the mornings and slowly peel off layers as the
temperatures increase in the afternoons, only to cool again
in the evenings.
We have had it all this month in terms of wildlife. The month
started with a herd of over 300 buffalo roaming through the
concession with opportunistic lions never leaving their side.
Like the lions, our guests spent as much time as they could,
waiting for the anticipated hunt to take place. Without waiting
too long the lions singled out their prey and the hunt took
place in the dramatic scene of a setting sun casting its rays
through the dust kicked up by the herd. Just when the guests
thought the day couldn't be any better they continued their
drive and came across an aardvark feeding, another highlight
for the wildlife enthusiast.
During the month we have had nine separate sightings of pangolin,
which is incredible as this is considered highly rare. There
was a group of guests on their 25th trip to Africa and had
never seen this magical creature before. They mentioned that
this was the highlight of all the trips they have had in the
With regards to the Felidae family, we have seen it all this
month: lion mating, cheetah with cubs and one of our resident
leopard with her cub. On top of that we have seen African wild
cat prancing on mice, serval and a lesser spotted genet.
Our winter months of June, July and August have been fabulous
in terms of wildlife, weather and hospitality. No doubt September
will also be a superb month to be at the Chitabe Camps.
Vumbura Newsletter - Aug 04 Jump
There have been some really
great sightings in the Kwedi over the last month. The lion have
been extremely active in the concession and there have been great
sightings of cheetah as well. The buffalo have been back in their
hundreds and provided some really great photo opportunities especially
at sunset with the animals swirling in clouds of dust. Many relaxed
breeding herds of elephants have wandered close to and into the
camp ensuring some exhilarating stories from guests. The old
bulls still keep many awake in the middle of the night while
pulling down branches and tearing off their leaves. This is an
awesome sight with the silhouette of the elephant blocking out
the full moon and the two tusks gleaming in the moonlight.
Vumbura itself has been full for most of the month with boating
into the camp still a necessity. The water level is dropping
rapidly however, and driving into the camp should resume within
the next month. It is beautiful boating in along the narrow
channels lined with papyrus and water lilies. The route around
the back of the camp has been explored but is still too deep
to drive in. The Mopani Bridge is probably the only way that
we will be getting into the camp so things are underway to
get this rebuilt.
The temperatures have increased and the days got hotter and
hotter as the month went on. The sunsets and sunrises have
been getting later and earlier respectively but none the less
more beautiful. The air is so crisp and so clear and the cool
dawns soon merge into hot days. We are all preparing ourselves
for the dry October heat. Looking forward to it!
Kings Pool Newsletter - Aug 04 Jump
You know those times when there is so much to say and you don't
know where to begin? Well that's where I am at the moment.
Last month the wild dogs got all the attention so this month
we will give the leopards the spotlight. The cast consists
of five characters, a female known as the B.D.F. Female and
her two offspring, as well as the big male called the Thoningii
Male and the female from the same area known as the Thoningii
The B.D.F. Female has featured quite
prominently with three separate occasions when she and
her cubs were seen with impala kills hoisted in trees. Viewing
quality out of the top branches. The cubs are estimated
to be about 4 months of age, they have become very playful
and curious. There has even been an occasion witnessed where
they stalked a herd of buffalo. A poor small spotted
genet fell foul to their playful antics and eventually ended
up as a very smelly dead genet that even a hyaena refused
to eat. The Thoningii Male has been up to his usual baboon
killing and ever-present roaming through camp during the
wee hours of the morning, causing a sleep shortage for the
guests once the resident troop of baboons become aware of his
presence. Earlier in the month he killed a baboon and hoisted
the carcass into a tree near the car park, delighting guests
over the next 3 nights with his presence. The beautiful Thoningii
Female, who has not wanted to be outdone by the others, gave
us a show in broad daylight on "how to kill an impala and impress
guests" who had landed at the Kings Pool airstrip only
5 minutes earlier.
Other members of the cat family have been putting on their
own shows for the Kings Pool guests. The lions impressed with
a hippo kill near our boat station and a start to finish zebra
hunt culminating in the zebra being brought down and devoured.
We had guest appearances from a caracal, a few serval and some
On a sadder note, the wild dogs and their 6 puppies left the
den for a period of five days only to return with 2 of the
pups, 4 presumably killed by lions.
On the avian front we are seeing some
of the migratory birds returning like the Carmine Bee-eaters
Eagles. Wattled Cranes, Ground Hornbills, Secretary Birds,
Ostriches, Slaty Egrets and Pink Backed Pelicans are being
seen regularly. So who said the Delta is the only place
for fantastic birding?
The air is scented from all the flowering trees in the region,
the most impressive at the moment being the Acacias and Mangosteens
in all their glory.
The Guests visiting Kings Pool over the
last month have been very cosmopolitan with regard to
countries – with
Italy, New Zealand, Australia and France being well represented
which is really nice to see. We still seem to be the
honeymoon hotspot with, even as I write this, three newly-wed
couples in camp. All experiencing those Kings Pool surprises
like candles and bubbly in their rooms and private romantic
dinners in their salas.
Our guest quote of the month comes from
Bob Seago: " I
will treasure this honour to the end of my days".
Mombo Newsletter - Aug 04 Jump
You know those times when
there is so much to say and you don't know where to begin? Well
that's where I am at the moment.
August is very definitely a transitional month
here in the heart of the Okavango Delta... we are on the cusp
of summer and the annual flood has now turned and is in reluctant
but accelerating retreat. The increasing temperatures and decreasing
water levels are all part of the never-ending cycle of changes
in this most dynamic of ecosystems.
Things are definitely heating up, the mornings and evenings
have lost the edge they had in July. We are not fully into
summer though, and we still need to occasionally press into
service some of the blankets we keep near the fire, just in
case. The next few months are the driest times of year, as
the summer rains will probably not start until the end of October,
and many of the areas which were flooded earlier in the year
are now starting to dry out again under the gaze of the hot
Very unusually, we did have one very brief shower of rain
this month, but it lasted a mere five minutes, and did little
more than pockmark the sand. Very useful for our guides however
as a way of aging the spoor they saw on the roads, and working
out whether the leopard or lion or rhino they were tracking
had passed that way before or after the shower.
The highest maximum temperature
recorded at Mombo this month was 33°C, and the lowest maximum temperature was 17°C,
with the average daily maximum temperature 28.07°C. The
lowest minimum temperature we recorded was 6°C, and the
highest minimum temperature was 22°C and the average daily
minimum temperature was 13.07°C. Fortunately on many of
the hotter days we have benefited from a cool breeze which
makes the temperatures very pleasant indeed.
Mombo has always been a place of golden opportunities, and
it is literally golden at present, with the grass drying to
various shades of yellow, and huge areas of it shimmering in
the sun. The general reduction in the amount of water here
throughout the month means that in many areas the game is more
concentrated - narrow channels snake their way across the thirsty
plains, each clearly marked by an accompanying green ribbon
of vegetation. These life-giving arteries are met by long lines
of dusty zebras, treading patiently across the plains to drink.
A curiosity of life in the Delta is that the onset of the
flood often takes us by surprise, so stealthy that we often
don't realise quite how much progress it is making. But once
the water levels begin to drop, they can do so very quickly
indeed and it is often astonishing how once-flooded areas revert
to dry ground in a matter of days. Some of the floodplains
adjacent to Mombo Island, which we were able to cross by mokoro
less than two months ago, are now completely dry.
At the lowest point of these floodplains, small pools of water
often remain, home to increasingly desperate fish, who ultimately
find themselves wriggling in mud, and who present an easy meal
to the birds which flock to these fish-traps: snowy white egrets,
stately grey herons, and busy ibises. Occasionally the sound
of huge wings beating the air will scatter the other birds
as one of the big, bad, marabou storks drops in to feed on
the hapless fish.
But it is the sound of smaller wings that more often makes
us look upwards - clouds of red-billed queleas, looking like
smoke from a distance, swarm over the area, moving fluidly
and in perfect synchronization from acacia tree to acacia tree,
or down to the ground to feed on seeds. These tiny but voracious
birds are considered an agricultural pest in many parts of
Africa, but here they represent a very visible (and audible)
example of just how teeming with life this area is.
First time visitors to Mombo are often taken aback at the
sheer numbers and variety of animals here, and the herds of
zebra, wildebeest and impala are just the most visible of the
thousands of the animals that might be seen in a day's game
viewing. And of course wherever there are concentrations of
game, the predators are never far behind, and Mombo is no exception.
The ongoing saga of the lions of Mombo is currently taking
a new twist, with the long-term dominant male Wheatfield Boys
being increasingly pushed out of the area by a coalition of
four younger males, who after wandering in the wilderness as
nomads, now seem to have set their sights on Mombo, and have
been mating with some of the pride females. If there is indeed
a takeover of this territory, as seems very likely now, this
may cause a period of instability among our local lion prides,
with not uncommon instances of new males killing cubs sired
by their predecessors. So it may be that we see some schisms,
and even possibly a reduction in the lion population in this
Another example of the ever-turning wheels of nature here:
the reduction in lion numbers may well open a window for cheetah
and wild dogs to return here in greater numbers.
Hyaena numbers in contrast are very definitely increasing,
with one of our clans successfully raising several litters
of cubs in the same den, a hole in a termite mound possibly
taken over from an aardvark. The den is a favourite game drive
destination, but we have learned to park slightly further away
these days as the cubs began to develop an interest in consuming
anything they could detach from the Land Rovers. This is further
testament to the hyaenas' remarkable powers of digestion, but
not such good news for our busy maintenance team!
As the water levels drop again, we are able to use those parts
of our road network that have been inaccessible for several
months. The animals too are taking advantage of the newly available
areas of excellent grazing remaining in the wake of the flood
- our horizons and theirs are quite literally expanding.
In Camp too we are constantly looking for new ways to further
enhance our guests' safari experience in Botswana - we call
it the Mombo extra mile, and it can be anything from having
a guest's favourite drink ready for them at the bar as they
return from their afternoon game drive, to romantic private
dinners for anniversaries and other special occasions, to our
legendary Mombo bush picnics, under the shade of spreading
umbrella thorn trees, with Craig our chef in his brilliant
white jacket, tossing pancakes to serve with his chocolate
Amarula sauce - all cooked over an open fire under the cloudless
blue skies of the Okavango.
One innovation in Camp this month has been the construction
of a long breakfast bar, facing out over the floodplains in
front of Camp, so that guests can enjoy their tropical fruit
kebabs and Mombo muesli while watching the first rays of morning
sun reflect from the water in front of them, and the first
lechwe and buffalo picking their way through the shallow pools.
As the sun rises behind Camp and lights up this phenomenal
view, the impatience to get out in the bush and begin the game
drives is almost palpable... if only the filter coffee wasn't
Yet again the leopards have provided many of our most exciting
moments... The young cubs who were born to several of our females
in just a few months last year, are now almost at the age of
when they will have to leave to make their own way in the world.
The young female cub we see quite frequently near the Camp
has graduated from catching squirrels to genets, and in just
a few months of course there will be a glut of young impalas...
One evening we were sitting by the fire with the die-hards
among our guests that evening, when we heard the alarm calls
of impala, and the distinctive sounds of one being caught.
We raced along the raised walkway, and by the light of the
moon and torches, we saw a young male leopard crouched over
the prone form of a male impala.
As we watched from the safety of the walkway, a large hyaena
marched in, and attempted to steal the kill. A bitter tug-of-war
ensued, but then an uneasy peace broke out, and we saw the
very unusual sight of these two predators feeding on the same
kill. The hyaena evidently decided that this was too good to
share, and lunged at the leopard, chasing him away into thick
undergrowth. A second hyaena then appeared and the two of them
began eating in earnest. The cheated leopard tried several
times to reclaim his kill, but each time he was repelled by
The guests (who we had fetched in their dressing gowns to
witness these remarkable scenes) returned to bed, and we were
all disappointed for the leopard, but thrilled at what we have
just seen. However by the next morning the leopard had recovered
about half of the impala, and this time he had stashed it in
the lofty branches of a sausage tree.
The leopards don't always get their own way, however. The
young female cub had a close call with a troop of baboons,
and had to dash for the safety of a thick palm island when
she was pursued by some of the big dog baboons. And just a
couple of days ago, guests from Little Mombo witnessed a leopard
and her cub losing a kill to lions.
All of this month's drama has been taking place beneath the
towering Acacia galpinnia trees, with their brilliant yellow
flowers, which gives them the appearance of being on fire...
Quite a stunning sight.
And perhaps best of all, at the close of the month, we received
news of a possible second white rhino calf, this time in the
Gumare area, in the west of the Delta, which some of the rhinos
released here have colonised. If confirmed, this would be our
second calf after Dimpho, who was born in early July. Exciting
times - indeed there is not a day that passes here that lacks
excitement... but don't take our word for it...
As ever, we will leave the last words on Mombo to our guests...
We are lucky enough to welcome repeat guests back to Mombo
almost every month, and some have been so often now that they
really are like old friends, and know the Camp and the area
intimately. Talking to them, it is the thrill of following
animals over a number of years that keeps them coming back,
and seeing how each story continues as each new chapter unfolds.
Mombo is definitely a compelling place - very few guests come
here only once....
Duba Plains Newsletter - Aug 04 Jump
||We have had
a brilliant month at Duba! The good weather of August
brought with it great game viewing. The guides this month
were Dux and Moalosi, both Level II wilderness qualified
guides, adding wealth to the guests’ experience
with their great knowledge and bush experience.
The month started off
with a blue moon seen rising over the open plains of
Duba to the call of a side-striped jackal. The first
signs of Spring are here with the Knobthorns and Shepherd
trees in flower, leaving a rich sweet scent in the
air. The floodwaters have receded enough to allow access
to most areas, including trips out to Paradise. This
allowed us to view the Skimmer Pride which had not
been seen for a while and found them with 12 healthy
cubs between the ages of one and six months. They have
been diversifying their diet and were seen feeding
on an immature hippo and on another occasion a kudu
The Tsaro Pride was seen
regularly throughout the month. The delta dual continues,
with guests being witness to many lion/buffalo interactions
and were there to see 6 successful hunts in the month.
Tsaro pride lost all their cubs over the last couple
of months, the lionesses have been coming into oestrus
again. The ever present Duba Boys have risen to the occasion,
despite their old age, and have mated with several lionesses
during August. The photos at left show a Duba Boy mating
with one of his daughters (5 years old). This is not
an ideal situation. The Duba Boys have been dominant
for over 6 years now and must be at least 13 years of
age. It is expected they will be displaced by a younger,
stronger coalition in the near future. Having said this,
there are no immediate challengers in the area. Only
time will tell.
The Tsaro lionesses were seen on a couple of occasions
herding the buffalo back into their territory. At one
of the buffalo kills a dead hyaena was found, proving
lion and hyaena are still eternal enemies. On the 28th
a huge fight between 2 prides broke out. Both the Tsaro
and Skimmer Prides were moving around the same herd of
buffalo near Baobab Island. Earlier the Skimmer Pride,
with 12 cubs, had spotted the Tsaro Pride in the distance.
They immediately left the area and removed their cubs
to an area they believed to be safe. Little did they
know, the Tsaro Pride would chase the buffalo herd right
to their hide-out. As a last resort, the Skimmer lionesses
charged out towards a couple of isolated Tsaro lionesses.
This proved to be a fatal error.
There was a lot
of chasing each other backwards and forwards, until
the Tsaro Pride realised their dominance in number
and pressed home their attack. A huge fight broke out
between the 2 prides ending up with the Skimmer lionesses
and cubs scattering and at least one Skimmer cub being
fatally mauled. At one point the Skimmer lionesses
mistook each other as Tsaro lions and fought amongst
each other (see photos at left). Eventually they realised
their mistake, but too late, the Tsaro lionesses had
caught up. The Duba Boys were also present during the
clash, but spent most of the time running around aimlessly,
roaring. Due to the nature of the terrain (impassable
channels and dense palm islands) we were unable to assess
how many cubs had been killed. The next week or so will
show us how many of the Skimmer Pride survived the clash.
Hopefully they have learnt a lesson and perhaps next
time they will remove their cubs well out of the area
of a potential clash.
took their chance and fled many kilometres overnight.
Their ploy did not work in their favour as the Tsaro
Pride and Duba Boys had already caught up with them by
morning. Within a few minutes of chasing the buffalo
herd, a single lioness managed to isolate a large bull
(see below). As soon as the other lionesses saw what
was happening, they immediately returned to assist the
lone lioness. The bull was brought down relatively quickly,
but survived for quite some time. All this took place
within 20 metres of the 3 game drive vehicles, right
out in the open, in perfect photographic light. A fantastic
way to reach the end of August.
The night drives have been rewarding this month with almost
nightly sightings of serval, one sighting was of a serval swimming
across a 50m channel, and were also seen hunting rodents. Other
nocturnal animals seen include the rare aardwolf, civet, bat-eared
fox, white-tailed mongoose and porcupine. The hyaena clan around
Baobab Island have a den with 3 very relaxed and inquisitive
cubs. There were great sightings of elephant, tsessebe, lechwe,
warthog, buffalo, side-striped jackal and hippo.
Prolific sightings of birds are converting many guests to
avid birders, with fantastic sightings of the rare slaty
egret, rosy-throated longclaw, ground hornbills and endangered
wattled cranes. The receding waters provided fish traps for
the water birds; many saddle-billed storks, black-crowned
night herons, sacred, glossy and hadeda ibises, little, white,
great and cattle egrets where seen feeding at these pools,
also pelicans, rufous-bellied and squacco herons. There were
also sightings of a melanistic gabar goshawk, secretarybirds,
marsh harriers, snake eagles, martial eagles and the ubiquitous
fish eagle. Large flocks of wattled starlings were seen following
the buffalo and flocks of queleas darkened the sky at sunset.
The resident camp African wildcat delighted us by keeping
her 2 kittens under the wooden pool deck and then moving
them under a log near the bar where we could see the mother
and kittens in the day. The mild weather allowed us to do
brunches in the bush and dinners at the million-star restaurant.
Repeat wilderness guests this month included Louise Orr, the
Goldberg family, Lloyd Roberts, the Mohans, Janice Stango
and Sara Goldberg, Ben and Becks Field (travelling with Jamie
Thorn a BBC wildlife photographer),the Groths ,the Fergusons,
Chris and Frances Leigh, Trisha Wilson and Will Taylor from
Experience" travel agency and the Shapiro family.
It was great having you all visit us again! The famous
artist Authur Court was a delight to us and other guests.
Savuti Wild Dog Update - August 04 Jump
Yesterday was thrilling as we had the best view of the pups from
the Manchwe pack for the first time. This pack has yielded 3
pups which are approximately 2 to 3 months old, plus 4 adult
males and the Alpha female. If you remember from last month's
update they are the specialist, non-retiring kudu hunters. Yesterday
the pups were on a trial hunt with the team, obviously very cautious
and always taking the rear with one of the males being both mentor,
trainer, babysitter and security from the hyaenas that kept following
In no time both Thuto, our
guide, and the dogs spotted a huge male warthog foraging.
The action started right then, with the dogs chasing the
large target to the amazement of the our guests. The pig
was cornered, got a few bites on the rear and then it shot
into its burrow in reverse as usual. The dogs kept harassing
the boar, which then in panic, shot out into danger and charged
at the dogs. First it targeted the one dog, a big blunder
as the other dogs nipped its unprotected rear end. The one
dog managed a good bite on the belly and broke the tough
skin, disembowelling instantly. The wounded warthog tried
all means and used every tactic and effort to survive, but
each bite off the boar's rump added up and probably prompted
shock after the loss of blood and peritonis and it eventually
Mixed feelings amongst the guests, while they all enjoyed
the chase the ladies did not like the gruesome squealing and
the sight of blood. The men had their eyes glued to the camera
eye-pieces and the index fingers working overtime. An adrenalin
rush it was. Within seconds the commotion, the inquisitive
hyaena became three and by the time the animal died, eight
individuals were advancing to the meal. The dogs fought their
best but sheer numbers made the hyaenas conquer. The victory
did not go without some injuries, the hyaena had some blood
oozing off their rumps while they enjoyed the fruits of opportunism.
Fearing injuries and the safety of the pups who were at a safe
distance, the dogs backed out without feeding much.
This morning the Rock Pan pack was nowhere to be seen about
the den. Definite evidence from tracks told us that lion had
reached the den site last night but there wss no sign of the
pups or mother. The rest of the pack was seen in the Savuti
channel resting on the morning drive. We should know by this
afternoon if all is okay at the den or whether they have moved
the pups. No signs of killings, so we have to be patient and
check the results, keep your fingers crossed......
Well, we apologise for the scare yesterday,
the lions luckily failed in their attempt to kill the wild dogs
and so the Rock Pan pack is fine - the 15 pups and their mom
were seen later in the day playing about.
On yesterday's morning drive we had a surprise when we noticed
Matilda, the Savuti lion pride's young female who came into
oestrous on 14th August 2004, was mating with second-ranking
male in the coalition of four males. This is definitely an
extension (7 days) of a honeymoon with various males. When
we saw her on the 14th she was pairing with Black Jack, the
leader of the coalition, which continued for about 3 days.
Yesterday Black Jack was watching helplessly while the couple
were mating. He showed no interest at defending his position,
perhaps he was too exhausted to bother. This is the third time
the Savuti females who are meant to be in hiding have shown
up with the new bosses. Slowly, one by one, they are being
submissive to them when they go into oestrous.
While these three were together, the two other males were
patrolling about camp. This did not go down very well with
the housekeepers who were cleaning Room 7. As they were walking
to Room 6, two ladies caught sight of a single male who was
heading towards the camp waterhole to try his luck on the wildebeest
and zebra who were drinking. The housekeepers were so nervous
they sounded the foghorn! This has a wave action effect on
the staff here: the managers shot off towards the alarm while
everyone assembled at the main deck. As the managers raced
to Room 7, coincidentally a male lion was running after a herd
of wildebeest who were heading straight for Room 7! Everyone
remained where they were and waited for the hunting lions to
move off. Once calm had returned, everyone could continue with
their days work. Nothing like a little adventure around the
Bay Report - Aug 04 Jump
of the winter months has been good to all our guests and staff alike. We have
been very spoilt with outstanding sightings of bird, fish and mammal species
that have tantalised everyone’s tastes. The moonrises from the beach, sunsets
over the hills and glorious sunrises in the mornings have showered many with
a charm endemic to Maputaland. We feel honoured to have shared so many momentous
occasions with so many wonderful people.
The winter sky has strewn the Milky Way in its entire glory overhead lighting
our beaches at night. During the day the beach at Rocktail has sent its invitation,
which very few can resist and most have taken pleasure in long, soul-capturing
walks down our 30km stretch rarely seeing another human being.
If, by some remote chance your thoughts were disturbed, it might be our Dolphins
in the Bay, rounding up fish or surfing the waves to shore or perhaps the Yellow-Billed
Kite (a summer Migrant) that cruises the beaches in search of food, often taking
a seat next to the fisherman in return for discarded bait.
On a drive to Black Rock with the Poulon family, little Oscar spotted two four-legged
mammals running alongside the Land Rover; to everyone’s surprise they were
two Side-Striped Jackals. A sighting of this Jackal is certainly a rarity amongst
these parts but this is the second sighting this year and we hope for many more.
Lala Nek to the south of us has also delivered its promises, with excellent visibility,
and marine life in abundance. The water has been a bit chilly, at 23 degrees
Celsius, but hasn’t dampened our enthusiasm and curiosity of what lies
beneath in the underwater world. What we would have missed out on, are sightings
of, Octopi, Oscillated Snake Eels, Blue Spotted Ribbon Tail Rays, Moorish Idols
and juvenile semi-circle Angel-Fish to name a few. And from the beach, we have
also been treated to viewing Humpback Whales breaching just beyond the breakers,
whilst having our tea after the snorkel. You couldn’t ask for more.
Congratulations to our Birds and Botany Group who spotted “The Bird sighting
of the Year”. Two Indian Yellow Nosed Albatross Off Black Rock one
morning!! It was an incredible morning for all – especially Richard and
Duncan, the specialist guides for Birds and Botany, A LIFER for many in the group.
Excitement has started here with our Turtle research project set to start in
the middle of October, we have already been fortunate to witness a very early
Loggerhead mother making her way up the banks of Manzengwenya beach, the dune
she managed to climb was of incredible height, and managed to dig a very successful
nest. Good luck to the little hatchlings!!!
Makuleke Update - August 04
Having taken a short reprieve
from our post on the Luvuvhu River, it is clear to see that where
we live must be the closest to heaven one could get. We returned
to find that the weather has warmed beautifully, and there are
no more chilly nights. Average maximum temperatures are 31C, with
average minimum temperatures being 16C. Little rain has fallen
(approximately 9mm), and the pans and grass are only just beginning
to dry up; however, the bush has exploded in a vibrant mixture
of spring colour.
The pink and white flowers of the Impala Lilies are pushing
their way out of the drab mother plants all over the concession.
The Sjambok Pods are noticeable in all their yellow brilliance,
with the red Flame Creepers advertising to all beasts and birds
that their tasty nectar is ready. The thorny Aloes in all varieties
are only just starting to finish their celebration of spring.
Although the bush is drying out a bit, there is still plenty
of food on the concession for everyone. The kudu herds seem to have done very well in the last breeding
season , with herds of up to 12. The impala have done exceptionally
well too, and are looking all fit and fat from the good feeding.
The buffalo herds have moved over the river onto our concession,
as the grazing has all burnt on the opposite side. One river
drive afforded us brilliant sightings of three reasonably sized
herds, they seem to be sticking to the riverine bush between
the Hutwini Hill and the river. This as ever has drawn the
lions into our vicinity once again, and at full moon they can
be heard proclaiming to all that this land is theirs. These
are certainly no mangy lions as one is inclined to see further
South, these are very big, very healthy lions that are not
quite used to the presence of vehicles, they are very much
at that inquisitive stage.
The elephants have moved back with a vengeance, they were
a little late this year due to good rains elsewhere, but have
now returned. Their paths are well worn from making their daily
pilgrimage to the river to bathe and drink. The breeding herds
are a little nervous of the vehicle, but in no way aggressive.
In the camp on the banks
of the river, at sunset and all through the night the plaintive
cries of the Pel's Fishing Owl can be heard, a joy few can
brag about, what a treat!
While having sundowners on our site on the Luvuvhu River we
watched a pair of Cape clawless Otters feeding and just having
a bit of fun. At the same time a Narina Trogon landed in the
Sausage Tree above us and gave us a spectacular show.
Very close to Lanner Gorge we went for a walk and came across
some San Rock Art that date back thousands of years - drawings
of elephant, wild dog and some people. The area is very rich
in history and we are sure to find more drawings, we will keep
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.