Wilderness Safaris general
Monthly update from beautiful North
Island in the Seychelles.
Monthly update from Makalolo
Camp in Zimbabwe.
Kwando Safaris game reports for
Monthly update from DumaTau
Camp in Botswana.
Monthly update from Jao
Camp in Botswana.
Monthly update from Mombo
Camp in Botswana.
Monthly update from Chitabe
Camp in Botswana.
Monthly update from Jack's Camp in
Linyanti Explorations announces
Another great Dive Report from Rocktail Bay.
A rare Leopard sighting at Ongava Tented
Camp in Namibia.
Wilderness Safaris general Safari
Assorted Updates - Apr 05
Giraffe released in the Makuleke
For many years, giraffe have been locally extinct in the Pafuri
region. In late April 2005 five giraffe were darted in the Satara area
of Kruger by Kruger's Capture Unit and were transported to the Makuleke
Concession close to Pafuri Camp where they were released.
rhino will join the giraffe in June - the first to be released in the
north of Kruger since local extinction around the turn of the nineteenth
century. Overall, this has been a great coup for the partnership between
the Makuleke people, the Kruger National Park and Wilderness Safaris.
One of the most pleasing aspects of the Makuleke programme is seeing how
the wildlife has settled down and begun to build up into significant
Wilderness to market Selinda Concession in Botswana
Wilderness Safaris is excited to announce that
they will now be marketing
the Selinda Concession (NG16), which has been bought by Dereck and
Beverly Joubert. Ownership and management stays pretty much as it was
with Grant Nel being promoted to take the role that Brian Graham played
all these years.
Selinda is something of a return pilgrimage for the
Jouberts who did much of their early filming in the area, which is known
for its wild dog packs and hippo-hunting lion prides. Selinda is
adjacent to Wilderness' Linyanti concession (NG 15) and is an important
ecological link between the Linyanti and Okavango systems via the unique
Selinda and Zibalianja camps, as well as Selinda
Walking Trails will be available as usual. Selinda will have 9 tents
as from July 2005 while Zibalianja will stay as is. The big news is
that there will be no more hunting in the Selinda - the last hunt took place
in September 2004! New waterholes with hides will be put in place this
year that will significantly improve the close-up viewing of wildlife.
Wilderness Safaris Camp Updates
San Camp / Makgadikgadi
Great news is that fresh potable water was found
right at San Camp, so this camp now has running water and flush toilets
- gone are
the days of bringing water in from 10km away each day!
Jack's Camp / Makgadikgadi
Two changes at Jack's: There will be a plunge
pool, probably built at their tea tent site, and each room is to
have a fan - both
additions making summers easier to bear.
Gudigwa / Okavango
Unfortunately, for a number of reasons, we have
had to move our bookings from Gudigwa Camp. For guests who
want a cultural experience,
however, we can offer Jack's and San camps, where guests can go out
field with San trackers. Hailing from the Xai Xai area in western
Botswana, the San people offer a fascinating morning walk into the
plains around the camps.
Chitabe Trails / Okavango
The camp was renovated in the summer with all
the tents raised onto wooden decks, but without walkways. There are
now two family rooms,
each with an extended deck complete with dining room table and umbrella,
allowing private meals.
Abu / Okavango
In 2004 Alistair Rankin and others acquired
Elephant Back Safaris. Due to various circumstances they have
sold their interest back
to the original owner, Randall Moore. Randall will not be managing
camp but has committed to looking after any issues regarding the
elephants if necessary. Guests will be hosted by Gara,
who many of
you know and who is steeped in the magic of Abu. Wilderness
continue to do the marketing and reservations.
Xigera / Okavango
Xigera now has another two tents, both of which
have been decorated as honeymoon suites with four-poster king-sized
The floods have already arrived at Xigera.
Vumbura Plains / Okavango
The new Vumbura Plains opened for business
on Monday the 9th of May. Five rooms in South Camp are currently
operational with staggered
opening of the remaining rooms over the coming weeks.
North Island / Seychelles
Good news from North Island is that Villa
10 will now cost the same as Villas 1 - 9. On the environmental
front, areas around the
villas and spa have been successfully rehabilitated and replanted
indigenous vegetation. To date about 40% of exotic vegetation
cleared. The Spa is looking beautiful.
North Island in the Seychelles
North Island update - Apr 05 Jump
to North Island
This month has been one of our most
hectic months, activities wise. We have been on and off boats, changing
from one boat to another and we have all felt like wound-up “bunnies” with
our little clocks on full steam ahead.
a weather angle, we have been truly blessed with fantastic weather.
The ocean temperature has remained a constant 29ºC and
the average visibility for the month has been around 20m+,
pushing at times to 25m+. This is certainly nothing to complain
On the down side, weather-wise, our monsoon season has already started
to kick in, at least three weeks early, proving that our weather patterns
are not as predictable as in the past, when we could brag about end
May being the start of the trade wind season. Well this is a turn up
for the books. Before the end of the month could see itself out, the
winds had shifted to south-east. What this early arrival means though
is that we will have a couple of choppy and uncomfortable days, followed
by a couple of good calm days. We have already had some rain, which
has been sorely needed as it has been incredibly hot and dry.
From a diving angle though, we have had loads of fun as well. For
most of the month, the ocean has given us the chance to explore and
travel far and wide to dive spots that we have not dived that much.
For us, this has been truly exciting and it has given the likes of
dive sites like Sprat City and Twin Anchors a much-needed rest from
divers and visitors. We have been to South Marianne Island, Annardale
wreck, Ava Maria (La Digue), The Spot, Cathedral, Gulleys and so on.
We have also been able to do day excursions with double tank diving,
lazy lunches on La Digue Island with guests and exploratory diving
on Ava Maria as the 2nd dive of the day from Marianne Island.
Our “resident” sharks
have been a little quiet, I guess they too have been exploring
new areas and travelling around a bit themselves. On our second
visit to Marianne Island, we came across a nice sized Giant Guitar
Shark, an impressive sized Grey Reef Shark and an even nicer sized
Spotted Eagle Ray. Visibility was truly great and we topped it
all off with a nice lunch at a quaint little restaurant at the
jetty on La Digue island. Our guests were happy and we arrived
back late in the afternoon, tired from diving and a full tummy
of smoked fish salad to our credit.
The Annerdale Wreck, when we found it again, was amazing and the visibility
endless. This wreck is 35 years old and was an old tanker that ran
aground after hitting shallow reef in the early 70s. The fish life
here is abundant, with giant kingfish, shoals of blue banded snapper,
great barracuda and larger than normal orbicular batfish. Not to mention
the Sea Goldies floating in all the little nooks and crannies of the
wreck itself. We had an amazing dive here, one not easily forgotten.
We all wish that we could do
these far-range dive sites all year round, but sadly that is life
and we are once again reminded by the ocean that “she” is
in charge and that we will be kept to the closer range dive sites
when the mood demands it.
We have captured some good underwater shots on camera and many guests
have left with a souvenir CD in their pockets of their dives on North
Makalolo Plains update - Apr 05 Jump
Guides: Sacha Toroyni, Themba Sibanda, Belinda Whittall, Courteney
Hosts: Tamlyn Kluckow, Blake Strelensky, Shelley Mitchley
The last of the late rains was recorded on 3 April measuring
11.5 mm, characterised by a thunder and lightning storm in
the middle of the night. By mid-April temperatures began
to plummet, most notably in the mornings and evenings. The
mid-morning sun's rays are pleasant enough to sit outside
and absorb a good dose of Vitamin D, but siestas and mid-afternoons
have been uncomfortably warm and outdoor showers are still
a bonus! Most of the finer evenings at Makalolo have been
enhanced by the light of the silver moon and romanticised
with dinners near the pool deck or on the front deck of camp.
Most of the trees still have their leaves and are bedecked
in an array of sunset colours - yellows, oranges, reds and
browns! This makes a beautiful contrast against the warm
blue or dusty grey skies. Leadwoods in front of camp stand
proud and regal - their heads still a mass of green leaves
and yellow winged fruits. Large False Mopanes' butterfly-winged
capsules are exploding releasing bright crimson and chocolate
brown seeds. Camel Thorn Acacias have also come into fruit
- and it won't be long before the elephants are shaking,
rattling and rolling those trees to get at the sweet delights!
April's probability sightings: 3% for African civet, wild dog,
dwarf mongoose, white-tailed mongoose, red hartebeest, reedbuck
and roan. 9% for lesser bushbaby, leopard and white rhino,
10% common duiker, small spotted genet, 13% vervet monkey,
17% bat-eared fox, spotted hyaena, African wildcat, 20% side-striped
jackal, 23% eland and lion, 43% banded mongoose, 47% scrub
hare, sable, 57% kudu, 93% hippo, 97% impala and 100% baboon,
cape buffalo, elephant, giraffe, black-backed jackal, spring
hare, tree squirrel, steenbok, warthog, waterbuck, wildebeest
Thousands of buffalo have graced the Plains this month and
left their marks at Makalolo - once again covering the area
with thick velvet blankets of dust, floating above the golden
grass in the sunset light. An unusual sighting of buffalo calf
with a pink birthmark on its nose and a white spot on its forehead
was quite extraordinary - hope that these marks won't make
him prone to predators and that we will see and identify him
around these parts again! An unfortunate little buffalo calf
got stuck in the pan at the front of camp and drowned. Sacha
and his guests flexed their muscles and took charge of the
mission - to pull the young buffalo out of the pan with lengths
of rope - and thus saving the animals' drinking water from
A very rare and exceptional sighting of 2 springhares seen
in the morning hours trying to find their burrows caused the
birds to go hysterical - our feathered friends were screeching
and the braver White-helmeted Shrikes dive-bombed at the helpless
boing boings! The birds had obviously never seen springhares
in daylight hours before and suspected they were predators!
The springhares eventually found their burrows - getting home
a little later than usual!
Our lioness and her three sub-adult male cubs were seen again
near the airstrip - all looking very dishevelled and thin.
Approximately two weeks later, they were seen again in the
Little Makalolo area - we hardly recognised them, as they were
all looking fit and fat and discovered that the lioness's injuries
from her inflictions have all healed well. On an evening drive
at Somavundla, 2 lionesses with their 8 cubs were seen attempting
to hunt buffalo!
Rhino sightings are moving up! On a drive at Little Mbiza,
Sacha and his guests were very fortunate to discover 3 white
rhino, which they thought at first were zebra! On closer inspection
they were able to appreciate the full sighting of father, mother
and baby rhino grazing amongst the scrub. Themba also had a
brilliant sighting of a male rhino at Sausage Tree loop - seen
drinking with a bachelor herd of buffalo!
BIRDS & BIRDING
An incredible 157 different bird species were sighted this
month - all thanks to the enthusiasm and fervour of our "Uncle
Peter" and Courteney's birding expeditions! Some
rare sightings that were marked off on our checklist
this month were that of the Little Egret, Rock Pigeon,
Marsh Owl, Woodland Kingfisher, Acacia Pied Barbet, Arnott's
Chat and Black-chested Prinia. An excursion to Giraffe
Springs in search of the yellow variety Crimson-breasted
Shrike wasn't too successful, but they were rather pleased
with their sightings of a Sabota Lark and a Courser sitting
on eggs instead! The camp itself had lovely owl sightings
this month - a White-faced Owl seen during the day in
a tree above the boardwalk near the living area and on
another occasion at dusk, a pair of Pearl-spotted Owls
was seen and heard calling to each other in the garden
behind the dining room! A Senegal Coucal was also seen
in camp, with rioting Arrow-marked Babblers trying to
"What a fantastic place to begin our safari! All of you
staff made our stay so much more special! The accommodations
and food were superb, not to mention the many different species
of flora, birds and animals!" Betty & Kirsten Weaver,
"Our stay at Makalolo was a very special, memorable experience.
Thank you all for your hospitality and kindness. We will miss
this beautiful place." The Clarke Family, Johannesburg,
"We had a wonderful time with everybody who was very
nice and hope to come back again soon. Vive les boing boings
et pose to everybody!" Michel, Julien & Nadine
Sabo, Paris, FRANCE
"A truly brilliant stay - ellies and buffalo on the first
evening and it just got better!" Julie & Sue,
Kwando Safari Camps Update
- Apr 05
• Good numbers of elephant seen throughout
the week – seen drinking daily to the north of
• General game has well spread over the concession
including giraffe, impala, tsessebe, zebra, wildebeest,
reedbuck and kudu.
• Game drives have been following the Lagoon pride
most days of the week – 4 adult females and 8 youngsters
of various ages.
• The Lagoon pride killed a zebra mare
• Leopard tracks seen around and in the camp – and
heard calling in camp.
• Several sightings of Osprey along the river – seen
fishing on several occasions.
• A pack of 2 male wild dogs was seen several days
in a row.
• Night sightings include serval, genet and African
• The Lagoon Pride (12) had a good week – they killed twice during the
week – once an adult zebra and then a warthog. They were seen on a daily
basis throughout the week.
• Also a pride of sub-adults - 2 males and a female were found.
• A pack of 2 male wild dogs were tracked and found feeding on an impala. Also
a pack of 2 males and a female were found hunting but no kill.
• Another pack of 12 wild dogs were found resting/sleeping late one morning.
• The Water-cut male leopard was found with an adult impala hoisted in to a tree – suspected
he robbed 2 wild dogs of their kill. He was accosted on site by the whole Lagoon
pride but remained treed until they left.
• Buffalo seem to be heading back towards the riverine areas as the pans
dry up - moving out of the mopane.
• Good sightings throughout the week of elephant bulls and breeding herds.
• General game include good herds of giraffe and impala, as well as zebra,
tsessebe and kudu in smaller herds.
• Night sightings include flap-necked chameleons, hippos around camp
• Big bands of Dwarf and banded mongooses sunning themselves in the early
• Also sighted – African rock python, martial eagle, gymnogene,
and fish eagles.
• Quite a few groups of elephant bulls have been seen around the concession and
the camp itself.
• An adult female leopard caught and killed a young tsessebe, she was relaxed
and was watched feeding on it for some time.
• The 3 territorial male lions were seen throughout the week and heard
calling at night.
• The general game has been good over the last week – big herds of
zebra as well as giraffe, tsessebe, wildebeest reedbuck and impala.
• Civets were seen every evening, as well as genets and serval.
• Night sightings have also yielded various owls including white-faced,
giant eagle and barred owlets.
• Fishing has been fairly good over the past week – mostly Tilapia
species (catch and release).
• A pride of 10 lions – 1 sub-adult male and 9 lionesses found
hunting – they killed and fed on an impala – and interacted with
a clan of hyena that showed up.
• 2 Dominant adult male lions found sleeping as well as a pride of 5 – 1
sub-adult male and 5 lionesses.
• A couple of lone adult bulls seen moving around the camp area.
• General game includes impala, zebra, sable, wildebeest, giraffe, tsessebe
• Good numbers of lechwe and diverse water-birds as well as a large pod
of hippopotami in the lagoon in front of the camp.
• Night sightings include hyena, both side-striped and black-backed jackal
and flap-necked chameleons.
• 2 sighting of serval hunting in the early evenings as well.
Lebala camp Jump
• Hyenas continue to dominate the southern Lebala area and are seen frequently> at
• An old male lion was followed several times throughout the week – last
seen resting yesterday morning.
• A relaxed female leopard was followed top the south of camp hunting
and marking her territory.
• A pack of 13 wild dogs was followed again in the south – several
mating attempts by the Alpha male and female were witnessed – we
hope they will be denning again in June for the 8th year in a row with
• Both side-striped and black-backed jackals have been seen regularly
throughout the concession.
• Elephant have been seen in large numbers throughout the concession – a
herd of 200 was seen drinking at twin pools.
• General game including waterbuck, kudu, zebra, wildebeest, giraffe
and tsessebe seen throughout the week.
• Good eagle sightings with both Bateleur and Tawny eagles nesting in
the Leadwood forests.
• African Skimmers seen throughout the week at Skimmer pan.
• A pride of 7 – 6 females and one male found hunting zebra – they
later caught and killed a warthog.
• An adult male lion was found marking his territory.
• A shy young male leopard found at Twin pools, as well as a relaxed adult female
marking along the road.
• Another young male leopard was followed hunting spring-hares – not successful.
• An adult female hunted and killed an adult impala ram – but was
robbed of her kill by hyenas.
• A pack of 2 wild dogs was found hunting lechwe but missed – they were
followed on several occasions during the week with no success – they
also twice missed catching warthogs.
• Lots of breeding herds of elephant have been seen heading to and from the Kwando
river – as the pans are drying they are becoming very muddy with bachelor
herds hanging around the airstrip area.
• A small herd of buffalo (70) was followed heading down to the river
(no lions following them).
• General game has been excellent – lechwe, kudu, impala, waterbuck,
zebra, tsessebe, steenbuck and reedbuck.
• Summer migrants are departing for northern feeding areas.
• Quite a number of sightings of snakes basking in the sun.
• A number of sightings of chameleons at night as well as jackals, lots
of hyenas hunting and a couple of sightings of African wild cats.
DumaTau Camp update - Apr 05 Jump
The month of April clearly noted the
change of season with the last thundershowers occurring
at the end of March. Towards the end of April, temperatures
rose to 37 degrees C for nearly a week, with averages
recorded as min 19 degrees C and max 32 degrees C for
the month. On the 29th of April winter arrived with early
morning temperature of 13 degrees C! The landscape has
also started to don its winter colours as lush green
gives way to beautiful autumn shades. As the Kwando River
(originating in the Angolan highlands) has increased
its flow into the Linyanti we have noticed our front-of-house
lagoon system also spreading its banks. It is fascinating
being able to watch the Black Egret spread its wings
to form a canopy as it fishes at the water’s edge.
The onset of the dry season has also brought about
the predictable change in wildlife activity. In particular,
the breeding herds of elephant have already started
to congregate in and around the camp vicinity in large
numbers. This is particularly exciting for guests arriving
with DumaTau being their first stop in the bush and
as they drive from our airstrip to the camp, they encounter
all these elephants - what a great welcome to the African
bush! Our campsite has really come alive these past
few weeks. Apart from increased elephant activity,
DumaTau (meaning ‘roar of the lion’)
has lived up to its name in fine style with roaring of
lions in and around the camp heard and seen on a regular
basis. Lions have even recently been mating in the
camp. Our two regular camp elephant bulls also seemed
to have moved into camp for the season. They kept me
awake most of the night recently as they decided to
flop onto their sides right next to my room the other
night in order to catch up on what appeared to be some
much-needed sleep with severe heavy breathing, snoring
and flatulence coming from every orifice possible!
One even decided to sleep in and continued to lie there
until 7:30 in the morning! Leopards are also a regular
occurrence in the campsite with no less than three
different leopards recently spotted (no pun intended)
in the camp. Hippos come out every evening to graze
in front of the swimming pool deck.
The campsite has a great species diversity of owls with
the following heard from the comfort of our beds virtually
very evening - Wood, Pearl-spotted, Scops, Barred and Giant
Eagle owls. With all this activity in the camp alone, you
can just imagine what is all seen out there on game drive!
With an absence of some six weeks, we were very pleased
to once again sight (close to camp) our pack of 14 wild dogs,
all looking in superb condition. We also enjoyed our first
buffalo sighting for some time. The absolutely magnificent
brotherhood of three cheetah is also frequently seen in the
nearby Savuti Channel. It is particularly rewarding to see
the overwhelming joy on the faces of guests who photographed
these wonderful cats a number of years ago and now get to
see them again and in such awesome condition amidst all the
severe odds in this harsh, wild area. They (and we too) find
this hard to believe but then again, that is the imponderable
nature of the African bush - what a glorious place to be!
Other wildlife sightings for the month include giraffe,
zebra, wildebeest, kudu, impala, red lechwe, bushbuck, steenbok,
spotted hyaena, warthog, serval, African wildcat, African
rock python, martial eagle (as well as numerous other raptors)
black-backed jackal. General birding in this area is as always
Jao Camp update -
Apr 05 Jump
month of April was a great month and the following report will
tell you all about it!
On the climate and weather front we had a whopping 25mm
of rain on the 2nd of April. Other than that, no other rain
was recorded through the month. The temperatures had a minimum
of 16 and a maximum of 32 degrees. The average was minimum
19 and maximum 31 degrees. On the whole, the month of April
was even and fair with only a few days bringing morning cloud
cover or wind.
Winter seems to be peering over the horizon with the onset
of cooler evenings and crisp early mornings. As a result
of later sunrises and earlier sunsets, we will soon change
the daily activity, afternoon tea and wake-up times.
The floods have come in! The 13th of April was the first
day that the floodplain in front of Jao began flowing. Within
three days the level rose to about a foot from the tip of
the lodge boat jetty and has subsequently stabilised, keeping
its level. We all await the next push, which will hopefully
bring the water into the downstairs area.
With the floods in we were able to start our Hunda half-day
and full-day activities again. Trips to Hunda have mostly
been very profitable on the sightings front. Up to 22 lions
have been seen on a single day, including two dominant males
and six cubs. These all consist of two prides, one of which
is a pride that have recently moved from a neighbouring concession,
totalling 14 lions.
With all boats up and running, we are
also taking excursions up the deeper water channels. Excellent
bird and hippo sightings are frequently encountered. On
the birding side of things, amazing sights have been recorded
through the month. Massive flocks of waterbirds are continuing
to delight even the more temperate of bird enthusiasts. A
few special sightings include: 1000-2000 flock of Spur-wing
Goose flying overhead during another typically brilliant
delta sunset; a flock of about 100 Wattled Crane were seen
shortly after the Spur-wings flew over. Two Ospreys are spending
most of their time fishing around the Jao camp and flood
plains area. The Pel’s
Fishing Owl is back again, spending most of day near
the lodge bridge end of the Island. There has also been
a small group of the endangered Ground Hornbills seen in
the surrounding areas.
Pete Hancock from Birdlife Botswana visited at the end of
April to investigate the endangered Slaty Egret breeding
and roosting sites. Unfortunately they were not yet breeding,
but more than 50 birds were seen during a single game drive.
A monitoring programme is going to be set up with the help
of the guides under Victor doing transect counts, checking
up on the breeding site and looking for new roosting sites.
In general, Jao is a birdwatcher’s
paradise at the moment, the Jao floodplains are literally
teaming with a multitude of various birds feeding in the
shallow waters: Spoonbill, Marabou Stork, Fish Eagle, Osprey,
Saddle-bill Stork, Openbill Stork, Slaty and Black Egret,
flocks of Ruff, huge flocks of Red-winged Pratincole, Long-toed
Plover, Wattled Crane, Goliath, Purple and Grey Heron,
Pink-backed Pelican, Black-winged Stilt etc. Truly an amazing
On the animal side, large herds of over a hundred red lechwe
are amassing on the Jao floodplains. Buffalo, elephant and
lion sightings have remained constant whilst most other species
have slowly infiltrated more towards the drier lands of Hunda
Island. It is here that guests are currently seeing big game
on a more regular basis. Highlights include the lion cubs,
large tusked male elephants and good leopard sightings. Closer
to home, hyaenas have started to den in between the airstrip
and Jao. A few marvellous sightings were had of the alpha
female and her one cub.
The female leopard is still spending a lot of time in the
lodge island area, and there was an incredible sighting of
predator interaction in the area when a male lion chased
a male leopard up a tree with loads of growling and adrenalin.
All in all, wonderful sights to see at Jao!
Mombo and Little Mombo monthly update
- Apr 05 Jump
Dumela! Here's all the latest news from Mombo and Little Mombo
for April 2005. Well the weather is turning, but summer hasn't
quite given up the ghost just yet. Daytime temperatures can
still be hot - perhaps unusually so for autumn. Autumn in Botswana
though never lasts long and we are sure that winter is just
around the corner - you can all but smell it in the fresh early
morning air and the cool dawn breezes. Evenings are very pleasantly
warm, and the lower morning temperatures are invigorating rather
than intimidating! The major change this month has been that
we've had no rainfall whatsoever, although a couple of hot,
cloudy afternoons made us wonder.
After all the rain in March, it seems we have now had our
lot for this year, which, along with the slight drop
in daytime temperatures (which have been between 27°C (84°F)
and 33°C (96°F), with an average of 30.61°C)
is another sure sign of the changing of the seasons. Overnight
temperatures were noticeably cooler this month, from a low
of 15°C (60°F) to 20°C (70°F), with an average
of 17°C. Not one drop of rain fell in our trusty
rain gauge all month.
The weather has not however been the most important factor
in life here this month; we have been mesmerised by the early
onset of the annual Okavango flood. In a matter of days,
waters which began their journey many months ago in Angola,
stole up on Mombo, and soon the view from Camp was a vista
of azure blue water and vivid green grasses, with the sun
sparkling off the water like a million diamonds, and a never-ending
pageant of animals feeding on the new shoots: zebra, wildebeest,
and especially buffalo and red lechwe. It is a real carnival
of animals, a constantly changing scene as the water creeps
ever closer to Camp, and the animals move in closer too,
feeding on the very sweetest grasses at the edge of the water.
Often at night we can hear the lullaby sounds of animals
splashing through the water, a gentle rustle competing with
the frantic mating calls of the reed frogs, clamouring for
the attention of females. Even in a few hours, it is possible
to see that the water has advanced, and there are myriad
waterbirds - cranes, egrets, herons, dikkops - taking advantage
of the rising flood. After all the rain we had last month,
the water table here is high, so even the modest amount of
floodwater we have received so far has seen this area yet
Already Jiga-Jiga Channel to the north of Mombo has burst
its banks and the water there is spilling out across the
floodplain, following the dusty, time-honoured paths of previous
floods. One evening we heard a huge herd of buffalo move
past Camp, walking through the shallow water just after darkness.
It took over half an hour for the herd to pass us, so we
estimate that there must have been upwards of 2 000 animals!
The noise of their hoofs in the water kept us spellbound;
it sounded exactly like a waterfall.
In more tranquil moments, baboons have been coming down
to the water's edge to lap up the precious liquid, and, one
evening, a thirsty leopard, utterly serene and calm and seemingly
oblivious to the agitation her appearance caused to the monkeys
looking down from the jackalberry trees.
As yet it is too early to say whether this will be a big
flood. Predictions indicate that it may be an average flood,
on a par with those of 2002 or 2003.
However there has been a lot of late rain within the Delta,
and more importantly, in the Angolan highlands, so we
may yet see what we call the second spike - an upsurge on
the graph of floodwater entering Botswana from the Caprivi
Strip. And besides, there is no such thing as "average" in
such a magical place as the Okavango.
In perfect synchronisation with the rains, the floodwaters
this year have reached us just two weeks after the last of
the rain fell. The Okavango is surely one of the most perfectly
balanced and co-ordinated ecosystems on Earth. Everything
ticks along in time with everything else, with a precision
and a finesse that watchmakers can only dream of.
The countless thousands of litres of life-giving water which
flow into the Okavango, filtered through hundreds of kilometres
of papyrus beds in the Panhandle and the upper reaches of
the Delta, seem to spark off all sorts of new activities
among the animals and birds here, whether it be birds building
nests, or the impalas beginning their annual rut.
The breeding cycle of impalas in particular is closely tied
to the changing of the seasons. They typically give birth
en masse in late November / early December, as the first
rains of summer fall, and as the area comes alive with
new shoots and leaves for the young impalas to feed on. With
a six-month gestation period, this means that they mate
in May. Before this can happen, however, the impala males
rut - that is, compete for mating rights. The bush echoes
to the curious growling roar produced by male impalas as
they chase each other around in ever-decreasing circles,
each male trying to achieve dominance over his rivals. They
watched impassively by the females, who wait to see who
will be the lord of the harem.
Due to their surging testosterone levels, male impalas often
don't pay any attention to their surroundings, concentrating
only on defeating other males. This means that at this
time of the year, males make up a disproportionately high
number of the impalas killed by predators. Recently we saw
a female leopard who had killed an adult male impala perhaps
twice her weight, decide against hoisting it into a leadwood
tree - the kill was simply too heavy - and so instead she
hid the impala and herself in an impenetrable candle pod
acacia bush, to keep the kill safe from the prying eyes of
vultures, and the ever-curious noses of the hyenas.
Throughout this month, it is Mombo's leopards who have provided
us with some of the most incredible game drive moments,
particularly when they get entangled with other species.
Over the last few years we have noticed a definite increase
in baboon populations in this area - and baboons of course
can provide many hours of fascination and amusement, not
least because of the mirror they can hold up to our own "sophisticated" human
behaviour! There is however no love lost between baboons
and leopards, and any encounter between these two species
can be fraught with danger for both.
On two occasions during April we have seen baboons carry
the fight to a leopard - one young male was mobbed by so
many baboons that he was invisible beneath an angry fur ball,
and it was some seconds before he could wriggle his way out
of that one. Meanwhile, the porcupine he had been stalking
used this very welcome diversion to make good its escape!
The older male leopards here are generally more wily, but
even one of our big toms was almost caught by baboons, after
he seized one, and was pursued by the rest of the troop.
He made it into a tsaro palm island and no baboon was going
to follow him in there and risk those slashing claws in a
It's possible that with so many baboons around, Mombo's
leopards may become more nocturnal, but we think that this
is unlikely as the night at Mombo belongs to the hyaenas.
So we are confident that we will continue to enjoy the superb
daylight close encounters with the spotted cats which are
such a memorable feature of a stay at Mombo for so many of
Leopards are often coy when mating, so it was a real bonus
to find two mating right out in the open in one of the newly
green floodplains. A chance to witness rarely seen behaviour,
and to appreciate the extreme size difference between male
and female leopards. The continuing saga of the leopards
of Mombo is never less than enthralling, and we now look
forward to the next generation continuing the tale.
Perhaps the most unforgettable sighting of the month also
involved a leopard, but purely by accident. We have regularly
been seeing three wild dogs around Mombo, and the fact that
they have stuck it out here - despite competition from lions
and hyaenas - is a good sign for the future of the species
in the immediate area. We have seen the alpha pair of this
little group mate, so we are very hopeful that they may den
and raise puppies.
Late one afternoon in the middle of the month, we found
the three of them stretching in the soft light, and their
lean bellies showed that they would soon be setting off on
a hunt. The previous day they had made a kill, but had lost
it to hyaenas so they were very hungry by now. We watched
their first attempt, as they streaked through the long grass,
cotton-bud tails streaming out behind them - but the impalas
lost the dogs by running through a herd of zebra.
After a brief rest, the indefatigable dogs were in action
again, but they suddenly stopped and began leaping up at
a small acacia tree. It took us a moment to realise what
was going on: in the tree was a male leopard, with a freshly
killed impala in its jaws. It seems that the wild dogs had
inadvertently chased the impala into him.
The leopard was none too pleased to see the dogs, but in
snarling his displeasure, he dropped the impala - which was
instantly seized by the dogs, yipping in excitement - they
couldn't believe their luck! They immediately began feeding
and were making short work of the impala, but this was just
too much for the leopard, who bounded down from the tree
to reclaim his meal. After a brief, furious fight, he retreated
back up the tree, and the second time he descended, it was
The wild dogs very quickly devoured the impala, pausing
only to drive off a hyaena which came along to investigate.
As we watched this incredible sequence of events, darkness
began to fall, and we headed back to Camp, speechless at
the drama we had seen unfolding right before us.
Meanwhile, back in Camp, we have been delighting guests
with special candlelit "honeymoon" dinners,
transforming secluded corners of the Camp into magical
(and romantic!) private dining rooms. The perfect prelude
(along with the cooler temperatures) to snuggling up
together and falling asleep to the sounds of hippos chortling
their happiness at the new grass and water suddenly available
Very soon we will be starting our winter menus, which means
hot porridge for early-morning breakfast. Perfect! And another
great antidote to the slight chill of winter mornings will
be the Mombo cookbook, which should be hot off the press
in the next couple of months.
As ever, we will leave the
last word on Mombo to our guests who shared this magical
place with us in April:
minute was exciting, enjoyable, wonderful! We rate this
Camp as Number 1!
had a wonderful time - everyone was friendly and professional
and our guide
• Brooks was
• Mombo would exceed
even the most well travelled and fastidious guest's expectations.
day held a new adventure!
place - the setting, animals, people was beyond fantastic!!
We loved this place so much that it forever touched our
hearts beyond description - count on us being back!
will tell everybody about your glorious Camp and we are
sure you will have many visitors from our description
of this outstanding, exquisite safari experience. Our
love to all of you for showing us the "heart of
• Brandon was
our guide - he was amazing! He had such passion for the
animals and what he is doing. It really helped enhance
• We were
made to feel like this is our second home, thanks to
all the great staff.
Little Mombo team: all of you are special, sweet, warm,
welcoming people - Thank you to all of you for everything
- the entire stay here although short was the highlight
- all of you are fabulous and a pleasure to be around.
highlights were the game drives with Alex. He has such
a sharp and experienced eye and led us to many things
that we had not seen on previous safaris.
We look forward to welcoming you here to this unspoilt African
paradise. For now, that's all from your April Mombo team
- until next month: Brandon & Debs, Justin & Angela,
Craig, Peter & Sharon, Thompson, Max, and Nick. Until
Chitabe Camp & Chitabe Trails update
- Apr 05 Jump
/ Chitabe Trails
Being a predator is a tough
life. Not only are you constantly
endangering yourself when hunting, but you also have the attentions
of other competitive predators to confront or avoid.
Sadly, the cub of our female leopard, Mosadi Mogolo - our
firm little favourite who we watched from infancy, observed
making her first kill and grow into young adulthood - was
killed by hyaenas. She suffered an initial injury, probably
from a male courting her mother, which proved too much for
her to cope with. Unable to eat the kills offered to her
by her mother and unable to climb a tree to escape the hyaenas,
she was taken early one morning by the marauding clan. Such
is life in this harsh environment and serves as a reminder
of the savage realities of a predator out there. It also
reminds us why it serves no purpose other than eventual pain
to become attached to a wild animal.
The Magnificent Seven, the pack of boisterous wild dog youngsters
who moved into our area were also reminded of reality recently.
They ran into and were attacked by the resident lion pride.
They managed to escape, but two of them were severely injured
- one on his back and side, the other lost his ear and had
a large gash on his skull. Due to the closeness of the ties
and bonds in a pack of Wild Dogs, these two have been cared
for, fed, and their wounds licked clean by their pack mates;
and seem to be well on the way to a complete recovery, despite
the scars and the missing ear! They should be denning to
produce puppies sometime soon, which is something we all
look forward to.
On a happier note, the lion cubs we had given up for dead
have been found! Ben spotted six cubs being shown the rudiments
of the hunt by four lionesses on our southern boundary.
April was the month of the leopard - every couple of days
we were rewarded with sightings of our residents. Lelobu
seems to have found a girlfriend in the New Hide area, and
a sub-adult cub has been seen with them. Three leopard in
one sighting has been the highlight of a few of our guests'
stay! Ben and his guests were also privileged to observe
two other leopards mating near the airstrip.
The lions have been quite busy in this month - so busy in
fact that we have only had limited sightings of them. The
coalition of three males has been patrolling its territory
against invaders and nomads almost constantly, and covering
a lot of distance to achieve this. We also spotted an old,
very thin lioness who had stolen a kill from a leopard, feeding
directly under the tree where the angry cat was at bay in
the topmost branches.
Of the seven known cheetah in the area, we have had very
sporadic sightings of them - the female with two semi-adult
cubs in the Old Chitabe area has obliged us, but we haven't
seen the female with three young cubs this month.
The flood that has arrived early in the western side of
the Delta has yet to reach our corner of the Kalahari, and
the Gomoti Channel, apart from a few isolated pools, has
dried up completely in anticipation of the new waters arriving.
Herds of elephant have been arriving from out of the woodlands
where the pans have eventually dried up in search of water
- they march out, dusty and parched, like grey ghosts. After
a drink and a bath in the channel in front of camp, they
melt off into the tree islands in search of food, and then
head west, where they seem to know that the water has arrived.
As everything here has begun to dry up in anticipation of
the arrival of the life-giving waters, the resident hippo
that feeds in front of camp at night has had a few battles
with invading males, twice right in front of the camp. The
noise and ferocity of these animals when they fight has to
be seen to be appreciated.
The walking season is upon us again, and we have walkers
out there almost every day, soaking in the wonders of
being on foot out there in our glorious wilderness. This
is an experience enriched by encountering things one would
not normally notice from a noisy moving vehicle - the engagement
of all of the senses (including some that have no name),
at one with the majesties of creation that surround you.
Sleeping out in the hide, serenaded by the ‘plink’ sounds
of the reed frogs, listening to the whoops of hyaena
giggling at their own private jokes, and hippos chortling
to themselves in the channels is an experience few will
Temperatures have started to drop in anticipation of winter,
with average lows around 12 degrees Celsius, and average
highs around 29 degrees.
The sunsets have transformed once again into their winter
splendour - the sky is like the inside of a cobalt Faberge
egg as the golden orb of the sun sinks us into another star-studded
African night. Listening to the chirrups of the Scops owls
and the warbling lament of the nightjars as we sit around
the fire of an evening reminds us all what a special and
wondrous place Chitabe is, and we invite you to share the
joys both great and small of simply being here.
From our Visitors' Book:
Matthew & Jennifer Lynch (USA) - " What
an amazing honeymoon! We had a fabulous time with such a
great group of people. The staff and managers here are terrific
and Phinley was extraordinary. It was the trip of a lifetime!"
David & Ann Barrow (UK) - "Our first stay in Botswana
- a wonderful country made more memorable by your staff
Jack's Camp update - Apr 05 Jump
to Jack's Camp
month of April has flown by – the very first suggestions
of autumn to be seen in the ripe Mopani pods and all the Hornbill
chicks emerging from their nests at once. Late April has heard
their distinctive “kok-kok-kok” all over as they
remind their parents that they are hungry. While the mellow
afternoons still invite guests to lounge on the swing beds
and reach for the iced tea, the mornings are, for the first
time, meriting poncho-wrap ups and mugs of steaming cocoa.
As always in the colder months, the night sky is magnificent,
with the total absence of clouds and crisp air revealing and
magnifying the tiniest of twinkles.
A fantastic sighting of brown hyaena
and lion interaction was witnessed by some lucky guests,
and there does appear to be a new lactating female
brown hyaena in the area. A new den site has been discovered
with numerous remains – jackal,
domestic dog, honey badger and aardwolf. There has been increasing
evidence of resident leopards in the area which up to now
we only suspected. A brown hyaena cub of about 12 months
was found hanging in a tree in the woodland – all
evidence pointing to having been predated by a leopard.
As in March, a very good aardvark sighting was enjoyed
by guests, on the way back to their tents one night.
Our hyaena researcher Glyn spotted a cheetah hunting
with her two cubs near the airstrip and we enjoyed watching
them for a considerable length of time.
The numerous birdwatchers who have visited camp this month
have been lucky with unusual sightings such as Hamerkop and
Saddle-billed Stork, while the raptor sightings have remained
particularly good too. Kaelo and Will start guiding guests
from this month. Will has found the birds of the Makgadikgadi
a new and exciting challenge, while Kaelo is delighted to
be tracking with spoor rather than using VHF on fish!
Regards from the Kalahari.
More changes at Linyanti Explorations
- Apr 05
Excerpted from the Press
It is with great pleasure that we announce the following
new developments at Linyanti Explorations.
the cessation of all hunting activities on The Selinda, the
reserve now forms part of the largest “no hunting” conservation & wildlife
area outside of the National Parks and Game Reserves in Botswana.
• As a consequence of this, Motswiri Camp will be
available for photographic safaris as from July 1st. Motswiri Camp is a
small 6-bedded camp built in an
ancient Leadwood grove on the banks of the
western Selinda Spillway where the perennial floods
of the Okavango bring with them the myriad of life
that is characteristic of this river.
The camp will
operate as an “adventure safari” camp, offering full
day walking safaris (with tracker); canoeing safaris
in safe waters (depending on flood level and
duration); game drives and night drives. Game
viewing is excellent in the area and due to the
remoteness of the camp, very exclusive.
• As from July 15th Selinda
Camp will have 2 more
rooms available for booking. This will take the camp
capacity to 8 twin/double rooms plus 1 pilot/guide twin room.
• All our operations will now be open year round,
with the exception of the Trails camps, Mokoba and
Tshwene, which will close Dec-Mar. However,
walking safaris can still be booked, and will operate
out of Selinda, Zibalianja or Motswiri Camps.
Linyanti Explorations (Pty) Ltd.
30 April 2005
Rocktail Bay Dive Report - Apr 05 Jump
conditions for the month have been really unsettled due to a
cyclone situated off Madagascar. Although we have had no winds,
we have had the ripple effects of big swells, kicking up the
sand on the reef. Frustratingly the visibility was at around
20m and water temperature 25 degrees Celsius but because of the
swells one had to wait for the sand to settle after each set
came through. On one particular dive at ‘Elusive,’ Darryl
was the first to reach the bottom and as he looked up he saw
a black ball of baitfish swirling, then suddenly they parted
and scattered as a huge 30-kilogram kingfish darted though. It
nearly bumped right into Darryl, quickly made a sharp turn and
After that the sea conditions settled and the visibility
improved to an average of 15-20m and some wonderful dives were had at ‘Elusive’.
A very special sighting of a male leopard shark, which
seemed to have moved into the seaward section of the reef, where
he remained for about ten days! Sometimes there is confusion amongst
divers as these sharks are also called zebra sharks in
some countries because they have stripes on their bodies when
young, which change into spots when adults. They are very docile,
tending to rest during the day and hunt at night. They
feed mostly on molluscs, invertebrates and small fish.
Big honeycomb rays are still being sighted
either resting next to the reef or gliding out across
the sand. This is a good sign, as they are summer visitors
to our reefs, and even though the water temperature has dropped
to around 24 degrees Celsius, it isn’t time for the winter wetsuits just yet.
The blacktail sharks that we also see mostly in summer are
still regulars at ‘Pineapple’, with three of
them being seen on one particular dive.
The dolphin sightings this month have been spectacular, particular
as we have seen them in action! Towards the end of the month
we went on a snorkelling trip. The divers had just finished
the first dive and they jumped off the boat and raced over
to tell us what they had seen. A pod of Bottlenose dolphins!
They had apparently swum right up to them during their dive!
Would we be able to see them too? The sea answered with a resounding
yes! We actually watched them hunting small fish that seemed
to be flying fish. No, these were not flying fish but thin,
silver, garfish (also called needlefish) that seemed to be
flying because they were literally jumping out of the water
trying to get away! Amid all the excitement, Darryl also noticed
a blacktip reef shark that was coming to investigate the commotion.
Willie also saw the shark but noticed something bigger underneath
it! Bigger than the shark? Yes, turns out it was a potato shark!
A potato shark, I hear you ask? Well, when all the excitement
died down, it turned out that he was in fact a big potato bass!
For those of you who know Casper, Bart,
Homer and Tyson, you are aware that these potato bass
are large fish that can grow up to 2m long and can weigh in
at a hefty 100 kilograms. Tyson is certainly around heavyweight
status and his territory is a reef named ‘Gogo’s’. Some of you know him
well; for those that don’t, he has lived at ‘Gogo’s’ since
we have been here over the past four years. When we first got
to know him we noticed a chunk of his top lip was missing,
looked like he had been in a punch-up – hence the name.
He is a very curious fish and tends to get himself into trouble
at times. Well, this time he had certainly done it! Clive saw
the line trailing out of his mouth and on closer inspection
he realised that Tyson had got himself a fisherman’s
catch! The problem is that the fish was right down his
gullet, with two big hooks. Clive approached and wrapped
the end of the line around his hand getting a good grip.
Everyone watched as the two began to battle. Tyson would
shake his head wildly from side to side as Clive pulled
at the line, then as Clive slackened the line slightly,
Tyson would stop. Eventually Clive pulled the fish and
most importantly, the hooks out of his mouth.
Tyson seemed to be sulking and reversed
under a ledge while Clive removed the hooks from the
fish, his big eyes watching every move – but when Clive
offered the juicy tomato rockcod back to Tyson he gently
sucked it down! In a much better mood now that he realised
Clive was trying to help and not to steal his fish, he
let everyone come and shower him with the attention that
he loves so much: A very special moment that both human
and fish will not soon forget!
Summer is still holding its warm grip
on the ocean and we have had no signs of our cold-water
friends yet – the
Cape Gannets, Albatross or unmistakable spouts of water – the
wonderful humpback whales. We wait in anticipation!
sighting at Ongava Tented Camp -
Apr 05 Jump
sighting - 25th April 2005
After a productive afternoon in the Etosha
National Park, we headed back to the Ongava Reserve - for a surprise bush
dinner! As it was already starting
to get dark, I used the spotlight in the hopes of finding some interesting
nocturnal critters. We were driving slowly on a section of the road to
the lodge where I hoped to catch a glimpse of a female leopard that is resident
in that area.
And there she was! I spotted her eyes gleaming red
in the beam of light and immediately stopped, switched the engine off and asked
the four guests to be absolutely quiet. The leopard was shy at first and we sat patiently
in the hope that she would relax and become used to our non-threatening presence. Eventually
she moved out of the bushes inch by inch and stared at the vehicle very curiously,
beginning to relax. Another vehicle showed up, and she dashed off
into the bushes. I signalled to the vehicle with my spotlight that they should
stop, so it moved back quite some distance and switched the engine off.
leopard came closer once again after I turned my Land Rover around and sat
quietly in the small Mopane shrub next to the road. I switched off all lights and we waited for
her to move into the road. In the light of the full moon, I saw how
she came out of the bushes and I switched on the light and shone it with
just some of the spotlight wash on her so as not to disturb her. As
she crawled to the edge of the road, I gradually lifted the light until the
beam was right on her and we could see her lying beautifully in the middle
of the road. After a few minutes, she moved along the road and then
off to the other side of it to a patch of tall Commiphora trees. She
lay there for quite some time before finally moving off into the night.
guests were absolutely thunderstruck and managed to get her on photo as well
as video. After the encounter they couldn’t
stop chatting all the way to the Tented Camp and related the incident with
great enthusiasm to the other guests in camp. What an wonderful end to another
magnificent day in the bush!
By Douw Steyn
Wilderness Safaris Guide