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AFRICAN SAFARI NEWS
August 2005

This Month:
Sanctuary Lodges & Camps general Safari News.
• Dive Report from beautiful North Island in the Seychelles.
• Monthly update from Linkwasha in Zimbabwe.
• Monthly update from Makalolo Plains in Zimbabwe.
Kwando Safaris game reports for August 2005.
• Monthly update from Savuti Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Mombo and Little Mombo Camps in Botswana.
Mombo Rhino Trust update.
• Monthly update from DumaTau Camps in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Chitabe Camp in Botswana.
• The new Rattray's at MalaMala in South Africa set to open ahead of schedule.
• Monthly update from Pafuri Camp in South Africa.
• Monthly update from Ongava Lodge in Namibia.
• Monthly update from Ongava Tented Camp in Namibia.


Sanctaury Lodges & Camps Updates
Rodgers Sibanda
Rodgers Sibanda, one of our longest serving guides at Chobe Chilwero, experienced difficulty with his eyesight and required a medical procedure called "Phaco emulsification".  Warm hearted guests, a doctor included, who stayed at Chobe Chilwero in August 2004 decided to open their hearts, homes and pockets to ensure that Rodgers regained his eyesight – imperative in his profession!  The guests in question organised that Rodgers travel to France, received the necessary operation and treatment as well as stay on for some touring.  Rodgers departed for Paris on 22 October 2004 and returned to South African soil on 24th November 2004.   Whilst travelling, Rodgers saw the magnificent Eiffel Tower, toured Paris and visited their beautiful vineyards.
 
Rodgers has now regained his eyesight for long distance and will have to utilise reading glasses.  Rodgers and his family expressed their gratitude to all concerned and thanked everyone for their assistance as well as the wonderful opportunity to travel abroad, which was a first for Rodgers.  “My health is now the best. Life is now much easier for me because of their effort and love, which they had. May God bless them. Their offer was of fundamental importance to my future and life.” 
Rodgers Sibanda
 
A big thank you from Sanctuary Lodges and Camps to our kind hearted guests who chose to remain anonymous.

Elephant Outreach
Elephant OutreachDouglas Alan Groves (pictured with Sandi, Jabu, Thembi and Marula) has been working with and studying elephants since 1972.  Before coming to Africa in 1987 to work on a film project involving elephants, Doug worked with elephants in zoological and wildlife parks on the west coast of the USA for 15 years.

Once in Africa his attachment to and passion for elephants deepened and he decided to commit the rest of his life to studying them and their needs as well as teaching everyone about these beautiful animals.  Doug has since been involved in numerous research, educational, film and eco-tourism projects involving African Elephants.  He is also full-time caregiver to three orphaned African elephants whom he adopted shortly after arriving in Africa. The moments in life he finds the most fulfilling are when, with an elephant trunk gently resting in his hand, he walks the elephants single file into the bush to find their food for the day and shares his knowledge with visitors walking beside.

Baines' Camp - Botswana                 Jump to Baines' Camp
Activity continues in front of the camp with hippos bobbing in and out of the water exclaiming in sheer delight.  A recent highlight has been sightings of various lions mating as well as viewing some cute lion cubs, with a number of lions viewed at an elephant carcass!  An interesting occurrence has been of a beautiful, small female leopard frequenting the camp on various exploration activities.  A few guests, whilst on a walk, experienced a particularly good sighting of leopard. General game viewing has been fruitful.
 
Sanctuary Lodges and Camps recently hosted a press group from the USA.   The group experienced the delights at Chobe Chilwero, Chief’s Camp as well as Baines’ Camp with its glorious skybeds!  The group experienced the magnificence of the Okavango Delta and Chobe National Park and enjoyed various educational game drives, walking safaris as well as night game drives. A highlight of the trip was the unique elephant interaction with three gentle giants Jabu, Thambi and Marula!  Each magnificent in presence and yet so different in charm, the group learnt about elephants and were able to touch and ‘hold hands’ with the elephants – a wonderful experience indeed!
 
“Less than a year old, this intimate lodge, with just five thatched-roof suites, offers “romance in the wild,” as guests can sleep under the stars in mobile four poster beds wheeled out on the suite’s terrace.” [Jonathan Siskin, Luxury Travel Advisor]

Chief's Camp - Botswana                 Jump to Chief's Camp
     
The floods have arrived and filled the pans in the interior and periphery of the island. Interestingly, with the combination of the grasses and the full pans, game have been moving from the west to Chief’s Island.   Water has also been pushing into the Boro flats and Lethaka hippo pool mainly due to the climatic conditions over the Gumare fault line.  Another rhino calf, number 5, was sighted at the end of the Paigo channel and indicates that the rhino population seems to be flourishing!
 
A truly interesting sighting was that of two honey badgers attacking and killing an African Rock Python!  These two honey badgers wasted no time in attacking the python and then devouring it!  Wildogs galore!   Guests were treated to a sighting of 14 wild dogs in front of the camp – a treat indeed to see them make their kill!  Impala, tsesebe and elephant have also been quite active around camp during the day with lions and hyenas roaming the camp at night.  A magnificent male leopard has been seen moving towards the camp while the two male cheetahs are back in the area providing spectaular game viewing.
 
Upgrade
An upgrade to Chief’s Camps main area was successfully completed in June 2005.  The refurbishment includes new furnishings in the reception and lounge area with new artwork.  The main deck area also received a ‘face lift’ with complete new furnishings, while the bedrooms have been equipped with mini-bars.

Stanley's Camp - Botswana                Jump to Stanley's Camp
There was a spectacular evening drive where guests were delighted to see leopard, two female lions with five cubs, a herd of about 100 buffalos, as well as a herd of over 20 elephants with their little ones.  Various lions were seen mating and 13 wild dogs were spotted just outside the camp near the staff village on the way to the elephant picnic.  A male elephant died very close to camp and guests were able to see a number of lions feasting on the giant.
 
We are glad to report that the unique and educational elephant activity continues to be the highlight of visiting Stanley’s Camp (also available at Baines’ Camp).


Chobe Chilwero - Botswana                Jump to Chobe Chilwero
A family of lions has been frequenting the camp and a number of unsuccessful hunting occasions have been seen.  Lofty giraffes have also been in the area with 11 being spotted together!  There have also been a number of elephant, leopard, antelope, sable and zebra sightings, hence game viewing has been quite impressive.  A highlight was a sighting of some majestic lions killing a young elephant.
 
The park has also included a new road which is approximately 12 kilometres long providing an additional route for game viewing.


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North Island in the Seychelles
North Island Dive Report - August 05               Jump to North Island
A good month! Lots of diving, more than was expected by the Activities team. We did quite a number of courses even though the sea conditions were not the greatest. The visibility has been low, averaging 8 metres or so, but the life on the reefs is still fantastic. Reef-ray and stingray sightings have been especially high this past month and it seems to be the same individuals seen on the dives.

Two Hammerhead sharks were seen out at sea on two different trips which is good news for all, as this means the numbers must be increasing slowly. The fishing industry, as many know, has had a huge negative affect on shark numbers in the past so news like this is definitely good!The weather conditions have not been too bad with the south-east monsoon only really showing us its “stuff” towards the end of August – this of course meaning “SURF’S UP!” On a very good note, I am happy to say that in this past year 100 staff members have blown bubbles under water. This means over 60% of all North Island staff are now qualified divers!

FISH CATCH STATISTICS  (All catch and release):  Sailfish: 1;  Bonito: 6;  Yellow Fin Tuna: 7


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Zimbabwe Camps
Linkwasha update - August 05               Jump to Linkwasha Camp
August has been a comfortable month as far as temperature is concerned. In the first half of the month it still had the bite in the early morning, but the cold from July has gone and signs of the hotter months are clearly here. The maximum this month reached around 32°C and the lowest in the morning has been 15°C. It has almost been like a switch had been flipped as the August winds arrived right on time, blowing a lot of leaves off the trees and leaving them bare. Warmer days have brought on a lot of haze in the sky and on a few days we did experience some cloud but these disappeared as soon as they came!

Linkwasha is getting drier and drier by the day. In a lot of patches where there had been some dried grass on the plains this has turned to sand. All natural waterholes have dried up and the pumped waterholes are the only ones remaining, supporting the large numbers of elephant and buffalo that have been flocking to the precious liquid. In the latter part of August some new leaves started to show and we are very sure that they have been welcomed by the browsers in the area! The Camelthorn (Acacia erioloba) forests have started bringing out new shoots and look absolutely beautiful with bright green colours in an area that looks quite desolate. Some of these trees have also started to bring out their beautiful yellow flowers. Blue bushes have also started greening up and will not only provide some food but will also provide good shady cover for the animals, especially predators. A lot of the large False Mopane trees still stand shady and green … an oasis in this desert area!

This month has definitely been a month for big game! We have had an awesome time and the wildlife viewing has been excellent, with more and more elephants every day. A month ago the waterholes were visited mostly during the afternoons but as the month progressed and it has gradually gotten warmer and warmer, these large animals have been marching to water at all times of the day. It is quite ironic how these animals always seem to locate mineral-rich areas in the ground right where the roads go and although it serves us with some nice up close and personal experiences it can also be a little difficult to pass these areas with all our guests on board!

Although the water holes are dominated by the elephants we have also had a nice variety of other game. We have been seeing more and more roan antelope in the Scott's Pan area as they frequent there mostly at midday. Our Front pan here at the camp has been very productive and quite often some of our guests that have chosen to stay in and enjoy the camp have been entertained by animals coming and going in large herds. On one particular morning we had four large herds of buffalo come drink here. Ostrich Pan has been the area where we have had rhino sightings on the few occasions that our resident bull has been spotted, if not having a wallow in the pan, lying asleep in the shade of the large False Mopane canopy.

Leopard and lion sightings have been very good this month. The four male lions that are often called “the Ngamo Boys” have been around quite a bit, putting on quite a show. We have been lucky to have been in the right place at the right time to watch these cats hunt. On one occasion in the early morning they had attempted to pull down a young elephant that was wandering around alone, chasing him and jumping on his back! Inexperience made them lose their breakfast as this young elephant engaged low gear and headed for the trees! Some of the guests got some nice footage as others just looked on in amazement. On another occasion at Scott's Pan they tried to get a buffalo but failed as well. Once again being able to share this with folks from the other side of the planet was very rewarding.

Leopard have also been seen on a number of occasions, lying up on a termite mound, drinking at a waterhole, hunting, mating in the car park in camp and also in a tree with a steenbok it had killed. On one particular day we had an incredible vista that included 10 different species of large mammals. What more can we say!

This month has also been good for some of the smaller and rarer animals such as the aardwolf, wild dog, striped polecats and red hartebeest, with bat-eared foxes always a regular sighting.

Birding here at Linkwasha has been very good this month. With many of our guests also being very keen birders we have had an enjoyable time, although nothing too unusual this month other than the Rock Pigeons seen near camp. Some of the 116 different species we saw this month included some of the more colourful birds such as Swallow-tailed Bee-eaters, Violet-eared Waxbills, Crimson-breasted Shrikes and the ever present Lilac-breasted Rollers. On the raptor side, a Tawny Eagle and a Fish Eagle were seen fighting and tumbling out of the sky, almost hitting the ground before they let go! African Hawk Eagle has been seen a few times.  Rock and Dickinson’s Kestrels were also a daily sighting.


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Makalolo update - August 05               Jump to Makalolo Camp
Summer has arrived in the vast Hwange National Park, with a minimum temperature of 6 and a maximum of 34 degrees Celsius. The August winds are now sweeping out the cold air and bringing in the warm dry heat. The Makalolo staff can often be seen rushing for cover as sand storms approach the camp and canvas blinds are awoken from their long sleep, having been drawn up in tight rolls since the end of the rainy season. However, a glimpse of winter is still hanging over us, with the chilly nights bringing relief from the hot days. Ponchos are still a common item of fashion in Makalolo, as the guests huddle tightly in them on their evening drives.

With winter disappearing behind the hazy clouds of dust and smoke and with the short rainy season this year, the vegetation is reflecting late summer in September. The vast golden grassland that usually covers the Makalolo Plains is now nothing but dry silver Kalahari sands and stunted roots, all that’s left over from the grazing wildlife. Most of the trees in the area have lost their leaves. However, the Majestic Teak trees that surround camp are still holding on to their last reminisces of burgundy and yellow withered leaves. Our evergreen False Mopanes sprinkle the dry earth with their crimson seeds and sport emerald butterfly-shaped leaves, which are electrifying in the parched environment. These trees still offer peace and tranquillity in this harsh season under their shady canopies. There is however some relief with the Acacia Erilobas starting to come into new leaf and brilliant yellow flowers. The Ordeal, Red Syringa and Okna Pulchra are also starting to rejuvenate with new shoots. Our lone Sausage tree, close to the Ilala Palm area of Mbiza, is radiant with new velvet maroon flowers. With the rainy season still 3 months away, we are all watching in anguish as day by day leaves fall, the grassland dries up and the water starts to subside.

The month of August has shown a dramatic increase of game. With the vegetation thinning out, the animals seek food and water, largely concentrating on the pans in the area. We have had spectacular sightings of plains game this month as well as mammals of the rarer kind.

The elephants are flooding the plains with different shades of grey. Scanning across the terrain, as far as the eye can see, great rows of dark grey materialise from the thickets; these ghostly appearances make one wonder how these giants can emerge from out of nowhere. As the herds amble slowly out of the undergrowth, they head towards the oasis nestled in the plains. They lift their trunks and breathe in fresh air - then speed their awkward tree-trunk legs as fast as their urge for water can take them. As they arrive at the banks of the pans, they become children again and churn up the waters, creating a muddy pool with which to cover their great bodies. After they have finished, they step aside and dip their trunks into the water to drink, probably wondering why it doesn't taste quite as clean as it should! At this thought, they turn and start to saunter towards greener pastures - the Makalolo Swimming Pool! This tale is appearing daily in the Guests’ African Journals and on a couple of occasions inspired individuals have climbed into the swimming pool and watched closely as the great grey giants suck happily at the transparent cool water of the pool.

At the tree lines, other billowing walls of dust can be seen coming from the bush. Smaller dark shapes come into view from the undergrowth and on closer inspection it is clear that these are giant herds of buffalo, measuring up to one thousand individuals at times. They too are drawn towards the pans and as they reach within a few metres, throwing their heads backwards and putting a spring in their steps, they start to race!

These two great African creatures often meet on the plains and join forces to quench their thirst. A memorable day at Makalolo took place in August, when on a hot summer's day, the view of the Makalolo Plains took everyone's breath away. There, in front of camp, were approximately five hundred buffalo, and fifty elephants all spread out over the vast terrain and, slowly, moving towards the swimming pool with great anticipation. A few of the buffalo huddled at the foot of the pool wall, longingly waiting for a helpful elephant to come along and empty a mouthful onto the ground, to satisfy their need for water. We sat on the benches surrounding the pool, not even noticed by the individuals who had come to drink.

On another unforgettable afternoon, while seated at Little Somavundla Pan, the vehicles lined up in an orderly fashion to witness an elephant performance, along with our attentive guides, Sacha and Belinda. The stage was set, with the sun going down, African cocktails in hand and the sound effects of a wallowing hippo. The two main actors walked onto the stage to perform a spectacular show. These towering elephant bulls decided to display their strength and power a few metres away from their audience. The two titans clashed as they threw their mighty heads up high, bringing them down with thuds, curling and twisting their trunks in circular motions around their gigantic tusks. The younger of the two then backed off behind the vehicle and, on realising that he was no match against one much bigger and more powerful than himself, decided to rather take his anger out on an innocent termite hill, kneeling down and digging his tusks into it and pushing his forehead against it. Then, he stood up and walked away, keeping an eagle eye on his competitor following close behind him. At this, the stage went quiet, with only the last shadows of the pink dust and the silent herds of giants sipping calmly at the waters edge, leaving all astonished and mesmerised.

Our lion population is still in our midst. One warm evening at sunset, the baboons started warning everyone that a predator was present. Suddenly out of the bush next to camp came a lioness. On informing the game drives, they asked how many were present. We counted: "1, 2, 3…" - they kept on coming... "4, 5, 6, 7, 8..." and coming… Eventually we radioed our valiant guide, Tendai, "many" and continued to count as felines of all different shapes and sizes emerged one by one. On several occasions, a couple of youngsters would pause to tackle each other. This pride of sixteen, comprising three adult females and 13 cubs of different ages, rested at the pan and, all in a line, lapped loudly at the water’s edge and then continued on in search of an evening meal. The four "Ngamo Boys", majestic male lions with hefty manes, have also arrived, entering the Makalolo concession in search of females. They call with all their might, proving that this is now their territory and, with this new coalition present, the females have had to flee, in order to protect their young.

Some rarer predators have been sighted this month. A couple of unforgettable views of a family of cheetah have been seen, sitting comfortably on top of a termite hill. The family of three tried their luck in catching a waterbuck for dinner but failed and turned back to take refuge on the top of their termite castle.

Our warthog family is still gracing the plains, mincing along muddily after their noontime wallows. We have lost a family of hogs to the jaws of the lion and hyaena, but remain with one family on the plains, strutting their stuff, heads held high but unfortunately majestic tails no longer - a reminder of a close encounter with death.

On a sadder side of Mother Nature, a young two-year-old impala ram was found one morning under the shade of the dining room. It was very weak and had obviously eaten poisonous vegetation by accident. Holding it in our hands and trying to recuperate it with salt water, its eyes looked longingly into ours and, with a silent prayer and a whisper of compassion, this small creature closed its eyes and fell into a permanent deep rest. We were thus reminded of true nature and the hard lives of the animals around us.

A total of 101 different species of birds was recorded at Makalolo this month. Most of the summer birds have returned to the floodplains and ancient forests, bringing their bright colours back to the blue skies. The golden tints of the African and Black-headed Orioles are seen, singing their jovial songs while fluttering amongst the young Kuduberry trees, while the White-helmeted, Grey-headed Bush and White-Crowned Shrikes whistle their sweet melodies as they dance and sing. Our resident Red-billed Francolins still greet us every morning and evening with their quirky chirps, while their cousins, the rarer Crested Francolins, have heard through the 'bush telegraph' that there is a possibility of delicious muesli crumbs to be had! Two little Black-eyed Bulbuls sit like porcelain ornaments and give the occasional chirrup, in case that they have been forgotten and thus are handed their afternoon tea, much to everyone's amazement! The Red-breasted Swallows have arrived from their European journey, and on one morning at Broken Rifle Pan, our resident birder and guide, Sacha, and his guests saw them collecting mud in their beaks and flying off in search of a safe haven in which to build their nests.

Other sightings of our feathered friends this month have included the elusive Red-eyed Bulbuls bathing in the birdbaths in camp. The 'three blind mice' call of the Chinspot Batis has marked the start of summer. The displays of the proud and majestic Crowned Cranes and White Storks, Meyer’s Parrots, Golden-breasted Buntings, Plum-coloured Starlings and Yellow-eyed Canaries, Pygmy and Striped Kingfishers, Swallow-tailed Bee-eaters as well as the Racket-tailed Rollers bring out colours of brilliant purple, yellow, blue and green to our surroundings. Birds of prey, seen swooping in the skies in search of tasty morsels, include the Greater Kestrel, Yellow-billed Kites, Booted Eagle, Lanner Falcon and Vultures, including the White-backed, White-headed, Hooded and Lappet-faced.

On one occasion while sitting in front of camp, guide Themba noticed a silvery-grey bird of prey soaring in the skies and, on closer inspection, realised that it was a Gymnogene in search of a flavoursome rodent! The summer birds that have been seen are the Little Stint and the Common and Wood Sandpiper. These birds have arrived back in full force and are bringing joy to all those keen birders our there. A good pair of binoculars is a must for special sightings of our summer visitors!

On a different note, we would like to welcome back our friends, the busy, regal dung beetles. The end of August marked summer with our little metallic friends bustling along in the warm air, in search of a kind elephant that may have left them a nice fresh parcel of dung!

This time of the year is a truly remarkable one, with mammals, reptiles, insects and birds of all shapes and sizes merging on the Makalolo floodplains.


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Botswana Camps
Kwando Safari Camps Update - August 05
Lagoon camp               Jump to Lagoon Camp
• The 2 male lions that have been seen in the area over the past short while seem to have established themselves as the new territorial males. They spent a week mating with a pair of nomadic females, and were then seen for the next week nightly, calling and marking their territory.
• They pulled down and killed a buffalo close to camp.
• The resident Lagoon pride of 12 had moved northwards to avoid the 2 new males, but were seen hunting later in the period close to the the airstrip.
• A fairly relaxed female leopard was seen “hunting” in the midst of a spread-out herd of buffalo.
• Another female leopard was seen scavenging on a buffalo carcass remains of a lion kill.
• A clan of 4 hyena were also seen scavenging the buffalo carcass that the female leopard was feeding upon.
• Another relaxed leopard was followed hunting on a morning game-drive – she chased and missed a francolin.
• A couple of sightings of a female cheetah and her 2 cubs – she was also found feeding on a lechwe kill.
• A pack of 3 wild dogs (2 males and a female) were followed – they may be the foundation of a new pack next winter.
• Breeding herds of elephant - up to 100 in a herd have been seen as well as big herds of bulls. They are seen visiting the river throughout the day – excellent sightings all day from the new deck overlooking the river at Lagoon.
• Large herds of buffalo are being seen daily both north and south of the camp – it is dry enough now that they can visit the river twice daily.
• Interesting bird sightings – Hamerkop killing a frog, secretary birds, a large number of white-backed vultures bathing along the wetlands, a pair of giant eagle owls and their 2 chicks, as well as excellent sightings of slaty egrets fishing.
• Night sightings – chameleons, black-backed jackal, clans of hyenas, African wild cats, honey-badger, civet, and the guides highlight – a group of 3 caracal at Zebra Pan – a male and 2 females.
• The general game was excellent all along the river areas, also a couple of sightings of both Roan and Sable antelope.


Lagoon Camp Improvements
New deck at Kwando Lagoon CampLagoon is still a 12 bed bush camp in the most remote piece of southern African bush in the massive 232,000 ha Kwando river concession famous for large herds of elephant and buffalo and predator action.

They have added a wonderful deck in front of the camp out over the lagoon water, right under the shady trees in front of the lounge. Why you may ask? - as always a picture tells a story!  The new deck is integrated with the boat landing and new fire place overlooking the lagoon. So now, in addition to the famous game viewing, which is still amazing, we now can add spectacular dinners on the deck.

The rest of the improvements include a larger area around the pool for a more convivial atmosphere and new floors in the lounge, bar and dining room.

Kwara camp               Jump to Kwara Camp
• A Pride of 13 (5 lionesses and their 8 sub adult cubs) were followed hunting several times – they chased a herds of zebra, tsessebe and impala but missed. 3 adult males were found on a buffalo kill. Also pride of 5 – 4 lionesses and a young male followed a couple of times killed a zebra – they later moved through the camp between rooms 7 & 8.
• The 2 males were also seen – marking their territory. They chased one of the nomadic males off a buffalo kill. One of the 2 males is showing a lot of signs of having been in a pretty serious fight and appears to have been blinded in one eye – probably in a territorial dispute with the 3 nomadic males.
• Several sightings of leopards – a very relaxed female killed a reedbuck and was seen feeding for a few days, another relaxed female was chased up a tree by a pack of wild dogs, while another leopard was seen drinking at the lagoon in front of the veranda at midday.
• A nervous adult male leopard was seen briefly, another was seen close to a herd of buffalo at night.
• An adult male cheetah as well as a coalition of 3 males seen several times – they were found feeding on an impala, and were seen again 2 days later hunting and feeding on another impala. A few days later they chased and killed a reedbuck – but were relieved of their kill by a hyena. The single male was followed – he chased and killed an impala at sunset – he was chased off by a couple of wild dogs that ate for a while and then left the carcass to the cheetah.
• A pack of wild dogs – 4 adults and 6 pups (approx 3 months old) spent a few days around the camp – they chased and killed an impala in front of the camp, and caught a reedbuck in some swampy terrain a few days later.
• A couple of elephant bulls were seen around, they often came onto the camp to feed at night.
• One very large herd of buffalo (est. 2000) was seen – they came to drink a couple of time in front of the camp.
• Night sightings – a hyena scavenging a lion kill, a couple of side-striped and black-backed jackal, also a relaxed aardvark, a couple of civets, serval, African wild cat, honey-badgers, and hippo feeding in front of the camp.
• General game - a herd of 150 zebra, tsessebe, impala, lechwe and a few warthogs – all seen from the deck at camp.
• A herd of 6 sable was seen several times.
• The flock of pelicans in front of camp has gradually diminished from a peak of over 100 down to 6 as the water has dried up – with the floodwater still rising we expect the lagoon to be replenished in the next few days.


Lebala camp               Jump to Lebala Camp
• A pride a 4 lionesses hunting in the late afternoon near Old Hippo Pools managed to catch and kill a warthog.
• Several other groups of lions seen – a single male marking his territory, a pride of 2 lionesses with one adult male and a young male, as well as a group of 6 lionesses from the pride of 14 were seen with a male lion; another group of 8 lionesses, one youngster and an adult male also seen together.
• A very relaxed male leopard was followed hunting lechwe during the day at Twin Pools. A relaxed young female was seen a couple of times between the airstrip and the camp. Another relaxed adult female was seen as well as sightings of several shy individuals.
• A female cheetah and her 2 cubs were seen regularly – she chased a steenbok and missed, chased an impala which she caught but then it escaped. She later caught and killed a lechwe which she and her cubs fed on.
• A pack of 3 wild dogs – 2 males and a female were seen several times – the female is showing signs of pregnancy causing some excitement – it would be fairly late in the season if this is indeed so.
• Large concentrations of elephant seen all over the concession, seen all along the river drinking and bathing all during the day and night-time, moving back and forth between the river and the mopane, also seen in and around the camp during the day and at night.
• Large herds of buffalo seen all along the floodplains moving down to the river at midmorning and in the evening.
• Night sightings include clans of hyena, porcupine, both side-striped and black-backed jackal, black-footed cat, civet, serval, honey-badger, African wild cat, caracal, hippo out of the water grazing.
• The caracal was seen from the camp following the channel that runs along the front of the lounge!
• The general game still excellent along the floodplains, a large herd of roan antelope, some sable, giraffe, impala, warthogs, zebra, tsessebe, wildebeest, and reedbuck.
• A flock of 52 pelican seen as well as wattled cranes, osprey, marshal eagle, both black-breasted and brown snake eagles, Bateleur, Gymnogene, pratincoles, both swallow-tailed and carmine bee-eaters and several types of owls including marsh owls.


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Savuti Camp monthly update - August 05               Jump to Savuti Camp
We are in the middle of our dry season in the Savuti Channel, which is evident from the amount of wildlife that has started to utilise the waterholes.

We have been treated to some spectacular wildlife encounters this month. The camp waterhole has been a hive of activity and sightings of over 800 elephant moving to drink and bathe is absolutely mind-blowing. Being able to get down to the same level of these large animals in the log pile hide has been the highlight of most of our guests’ stay. We have seen elephant bulls fighting, small elephant calves trying to control that “impossible” trunk as they learn to drink, and the almost silent understanding of who drinks first. This must be one of the only places you are able to get this close to truly wild African elephants!

As if sitting in camp and watching the daily comings and goings at the waterhole was not enough, the game drives have been delivering some unbelievable sightings.

The two cheetah males put in an appearance during the month, spending most of their time to the east of Savuti Camp. We were lucky enough to watch them hunt and kill a young kudu female. After gorging themselves, the activity of the kill brought some more visitors: three African wild dogs moved in and a short altercation between the two occurred with the cheetah simply leaving the remainder of the kill. The wild dogs in the meantime were chased off the carcass by spotted hyaena who ate just about everything during the course of the evening. Returning to the kill site in the morning we found only scraps of hair and a hoof.

The guides were in the Zibalianja area late in the month when they spotted a visitor to these parts: A female cheetah with two sub–adult male cubs. They looked hungry and the guides decided to wait and see what would happen and were rewarded for their patience when the female took down an impala ewe. Her cubs are at a stage were they must learn to hunt for themselves and the mother cheetah did not immediately kill the impala, allowing the cubs to learn from the prey. They were unable to properly dispatch it and after a few tense moments the female came in and killed the impala. They were seen again later that day, full and contented, lying in the shade of some low bushes. It would be an added bonus if they start to utilise this area more readily.

Leopard sightings this month have been good and sightings of the Manchwe female in camp, hunting baboons, was a real highlight! Another highlight was seeing a female and her sub-adult cub feeding on an impala carcass. This female is very nervous and offers only fleeting glimpses, her cub however is extremely confident and allowed us some memorable photographic opportunities as she “posed” on a dead stump and fed on the carcass.

The lion have been concentrating around the Kubu Lagoon area with at least two of the dominant males mating with females from the Savuti pride. We did have three lion walk through the camp during breakfast one morning and, on following, found them moving quite quickly through the mopane woodland. We kept up with them and on entering the channel found four jackals baying at a few spotted hyaenas feeding on an impala. These disappeared as the lions charged in, which also sent a female leopard up a tree to escape the lions. Only at Savuti!

Another exceptional sighting has been a small herd of eland, the largest antelope in Africa, around the Manchwe Pan area. This is the first time in more than a year that we have seen these antelope. Late one afternoon the guides picked up a caracal as it rested in the shade. This very relaxed individual moved off and started to stalk some impala. This was quite surprising as a caracal is a small cat of around 15kg (30lbs), so trying to hunt impala which weigh about 60kg (120 lbs) is quite unusual.

Once again a month filled with some wonderful memories, the weather has been superb with a couple of windy days as is expected in August, with minimum temperatures of around 12°C and maximums around the 28°C mark.

As it gets drier we expect even more exciting things to occur around the waterholes and can’t wait to tell you about them next month - or for you to come and see for yourself!


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Mombo and Little Mombo monthly update - August 05               Jump to Mombo and Little Mombo Camps
August is, according to local tradition, the windiest month in Botswana and this month has been no exception. Although the cool winter mornings are now only memories, the regular breezes blowing in from the floodplains take the edge of the midday heat in the most refreshing way. It is awe-inspiring to watch the wind race across the dry plains, pushing clouds of white dust before it, and coating the patient zebra with a faint grey patina as they trek in long lines towards the channels which hold the key to their survival, the waters of the Okavango flood.

This year's flood has already turned however, and begun to recede. Slowly the waters evaporate and the green flush begins to retreat across the plains to the channels, almost imperceptibly at first, and this retreat exerts an irresistible magnetic pull on the animals, many of which have little choice other than to follow the cloak of life as it is withdrawn.

Temperatures have been noticeably higher this month than in July, we are into spring now and you can feel the sense of anticipation as well as the warmth. This year's winter has been unusually mild so we are all curious to see how that will affect the rains in summer. As you would expect at this time of year, we've had no rainfall at all again this month. There have however been some unusually cloudy days, but these merely serve to give advance notice of the rains to come in November.

At this time of year, many fires are lit by farmers in the Caprivi Strip in neighbouring Namibia, to ensure fresh green grass for cattle in the summer. Although these fires are a long way from us, the haze they produce sometimes hangs in the air, giving the light a curious softness, and filtering out the harshness of the sun. As the sun sinks in the west it becomes a hazy red drop of molten liquid as it dips into the distant wreaths of smoke ¡V and the effect is repeated at dawn as it climbs above the horizon, greeting us each day with a ruby red sun climbing the trunks of the mokolwane palm trees, and for a few magical moments, it hangs motionless, surveying the wonders of the day anew.

And then there are those moments when the whole balance of the universe is revealed, with the rising sun mirroring the setting moon, day and night in perfect harmony, and the inner mechanisms of the celestial clock are visible. This perfect symmetry reflects the precise, finely honed balance of life in the bush, each species fitting into its niche, and each essential if the ecosystem is to flourish.

The occasional hint of smoke on the breeze is easily overpowered by the deceptively subtle fragrances of the first trees to bear flowers. The distinctive white and yellow flowers of the Candlepod Acacia are particularly heaven-scented. The towering sausage trees are newly green, cloaked in vivid leaves, and the flower stems are already growing, soon to burst open to reveal stunning indigo blooms which will be fertilised by bats during the warm spring evenings.

Mombo Lions
As winter yields to spring we are seeing something of a changing of the guard amongst our predators, with some of the older territorial male lions and leopards seemingly entering the twilight of their reigns at Mombo.

With regard to lions, only three of the Wheatfield Boys still survive, and they look rather sorry for themselves now. These four magnificent male lions were once the undisputed rulers of Mombo, but as they grew older, more nomadic male lions pushed at the boundaries of their territory, and finally a few months ago they were toppled in a mostly bloodless coup by a new coalition, four dreadlocked vagabonds who inevitably were christened Bob Marley and the Wailers. Their offspring continue to flourish (the 17 cubs in the Mathatha Pride are now aged between 5 and 9 months old) even as the Wheatfield Boys decline, with no territory of their own now they have been pushed into marginal areas and, without lionesses to provide for them, they are often going hungry. A sad ending for these former monarchs, but it is all part of the endless cycle of life: the old giving way to the new and successive generations replacing those who have gone before.

The cubs are an absolute joy to watch. As they grow older, their play becomes more focused on the skills they will need to hunt: stalking, pouncing, wrestling and dragging "kills" are among their favourite games. If only the adults would join in sometimes instead of just lounging around in the shade! A sighting of this pride now has three lion generations: the old "Gogo" or grandmother, her daughters, and their offspring.

Sometimes even the prospect of lions is not quite enough to entertain some of our younger guests, and one evening we even managed to rig up a small "cinema" here for perhaps the most authentic ever screening of 'The Lion King', the songs in the movie were regularly punctuated by lions roaring not far from Camp. Cinema of course is an exaggeration, but in keeping with the bush philosophy of "making a plan" we learned just what can be achieved with a sheet and a few nails! The younger members of the family were raring to go the next morning and were rewarded with a fantastic sighting of "Simba" and his sixteen siblings!

The Wailers will need to keep a careful eye on their territory, as we now have two new nomadic males in the Mombo area, and they are already mating with the Moporota Pride, the wall-eyed lioness and her sisters.

Wild Dogs
Fantastic news today, our wild dog pack, which was little more than a twinkle in our eyes two months ago, has become a reality. Guests on their morning game drive had the first sighting of Mombo's very newest arrivals and very welcome ones at that - unless of course you're an impala: wild dog puppies!  The two males and single female have succeeded through, what else, dogged persistence, in achieving what we feared was impossible in an area with so many lion and hyaena. The three puppies are wonderful evidence of their triumph over the odds.

Of course it will be a struggle to raise these puppies successfully, at most they are only two months old now, which is rather young for them to have left the den where they were born. Hopefully they have not been disturbed.

It's difficult to convey just how exciting this event is, it is the icing on the cake for us this month, and it had already been a pretty awesome month!

Leopards
Mombo is justly renowned for its leopards, and a great leopard sighting is hard to beat. Our young female leopard, Logadima, is becoming a more skilled hunter, and succeeded this month in killing a side-striped jackal out on the floodplains, and then caching it in a tree. Jackals are a favourite prey of leopards, although jackals are usually clever and fast enough to ensure that they are rarely caught by their spotted enemies. In fact leopards seem to enjoy eating all types of dogs; leopards on the outskirts of towns in Africa are notorious for eating domestic pets in an interesting twist on the age-old cats vs. dogs enmity.

Logadima's fortunes seem inextricably intertwined with those of her age-mate, the Far Eastern Pan Male. She regularly crosses paths with this leopard from the wrong side of the tracks (okay, acacia woodland!) and she was seen one afternoon snarling down at him from a tree very close to Camp. He was giving as good as he got, and snarling back, perhaps he was in an ugly mood after missing a warthog piglet only a few minutes earlier. We saw him watching the piglets from the shadow of a termite mound, crouched close to the ground and tensed to spring, with just the rapid flicking of the tip of his tail betraying his impatience. Perhaps his hunger got the better of him as he launched himself into the midst of the warthog family just a fraction of a second too soon, and the startled pigs were just able to escape.

Perhaps Logadima and this young male will mate eventually, as close to a Romeo and Juliet story as is possible in the bush. They are half-brother and sister, though.

A more deadly drama also seems to be being played out among our leopards at present, however ¡V and yet another example perhaps of an established territorial cat being pushed out by a newcomer. A few weeks ago we started getting occasional glimpses of a new, large leopard in this area, a male we'd never seen before. This interloper seems to be on a collision course with the wily old Burnt Ebony Male, a leopard who truly does seem to have nine lives. He may be running out of lives however, as this week we found him very badly injured, and the nature of his injuries suggests that they were inflicted by another leopard ¡V most likely this new male, challenging for dominance. Of course leopards don't have it all their own way, one leopard who had seized a young baboon had to retreat ignominiously ¡V dropping the shocked but otherwise uninjured, and very lucky, baboon, when one of the huge dog baboons rushed to the rescue.

Rhino
The re-introduced rhino continue to provide some great game drive moments, and are certainly one of the best Mombo stories; a truly successful conservation project. The new calf we saw for the first time in June proved to be a female, as we thought, and she is now three months old. Her mother has moved with her a little further east, and indeed several of our female rhino are currently on the boundary of the territories of our two dominant bulls, so there will be quite a contest over these females. This could explain the agitated behaviour of our resident bull, Serondela, who suddenly dashed into the road just ahead of a game drive vehicle, giving the guests the ideal opportunity to get some close-up pictures of one of these magnificent animals.

On several occasions this month we saw fresh tracks of a female black rhino, one of only four in the wild in Botswana, but she managed to elude us. Our dedicated rhino monitoring team, a joint project with the Department of Wildlife and National Parks, managed to follow the spoor for some 10km (6 miles) before she gave them the slip. It is very good news, though, to know that she is alive and well, and that she is spending much of her time in the Mombo area. A sighting of a black rhino is a special moment, they are far and away the rarest animal in Botswana, and this is the only place where they can be seen in the wild.

Around Camp
And when you tear yourself away from the bush, the delights of Mombo and Little Mombo await you, from the delicious food (with new spring menu items appearing each day!) to siestas on the outdoor salas. The Camps are truly gleaming in the sunshine, although you would be forgiven for not noticing the glow of the wooden walkways as you stroll along, looking down on the many bird species wading in the water, or out at the buffalo grazing on the floodplains.


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Mombo Rhino Trust update - August 05               Jump to Mombo and Little Mombo Camps
As in July, we have tried to devote more time to looking for some of our more elusive rhinos, and we have had some great results this way. Also, we have had some very interesting “near misses”, especially with black rhinos. This means that we perhaps see fewer rhinos per patrol, as well as across the month as a whole, but it does give us a more comprehensive picture of the rhinos’ current movements.

Most of the rhinos we are regularly able to locate have shown only limited movements this month. There have been some notable exceptions, however – especially Mmabontsho and Mathathane and Maitobolo. Many areas of Chiefs Island are now very dry and the floodwaters are beginning to recede in many areas. This year’s flood was definitely below average, at least in this area, and is evaporating quickly. If the rains are late again this year, or patchy, we could see a decline in the condition of some of the animals here as food and water become scarce. This has not previously been a problem for rhinos in the Moremi Game Reserve, but we will have to monitor their condition carefully as we move into summer.

In both the Mombo and rhino HQ areas, we have seen something of a movement eastwards by “resident” rhinos – moving towards channels and other flooded areas. The best grazing is to be found in these areas; many other areas are extremely dry already, and it is only the end of August. There has been, to an extent, a reversal of the trend we had begun to see of rhinos in the Rhino HQ area in particular, beginning to move west.

The further east the Mombo area rhinos move, the less likely they are to be seen by Mombo guests, as they are all now at or beyond the edges of the areas we usually cover on game drives.

It seems that this year’s (rather mild) winter is largely behind us. August is, according to traditional wisdom, the windiest month in Botswana, and this month has been no exception. Although in general, temperatures are climbing again, the regular breezes (and occasional strong winds) certainly play a role in making it seem cooler (the wind-chill factor).

Temperatures in August have been noticeably higher this month than in July – we are coming into the brief Botswana spring now. Daytime temperatures this month have varied between 27-34°C (84– 98°F), with an average of 24.5°C (89°F). The nights are of course somewhat cooler, with temperatures ranging from 19°C (68°F) down to 8°C (46°F). As expected at this time of year, no rainfall was experienced during August. We have had some cloudy and hazy days, but it seems that these may be largely due to the annual phenomenon of controlled burning for agricultural purposes in the Caprivi Strip.

The effect of the winds this month has been, as noted above, to produce lower temperatures, so rhino behaviour has been similar to the colder months of June and July. Rhinos are quite susceptible to changes in temperature, and do not seem to enjoy either very low or very high temperatures. Although typically they are more active in the cooler parts of the day, and at night, they are tending to become more active later in the day – once temperatures have risen a little – and to remain active until much later in the day, with a shorter rest period during the day. They then become active again much earlier in the afternoons. All of which actually means that we are more likely to see rhinos without needing to track them, and to come across more spoor, which we can track.

In previous years, we have seen a definite trend of white rhinos moving out into the floodplains, following the receding flood to feed on grass species which grow particularly well on recently inundated areas. As this year’s flood was low, and is already in retreat, it will be interesting to see if the rhinos start to move off Chiefs Island earlier than they have done in previous years. As yet, however, we have seen no concrete evidence of this.

Currently, it seems that the movements of the resident rhinos are tied to water availability, and they are concentrated now close to the major channels and flooded areas to the east, particularly the channel which runs past the Anti-Poaching Unit and then down the eastern side of Chiefs Island. Channels and other flooded areas are, of course, the only sources of water at present. In most areas away from the channels the grass is now very dry and presumably less palatable and nutritious, although we know that rhinos can, and do, eat drier grasses.

Our understanding of rhino movements in the areas we most frequently patrol – Serondela and Sergeant’s territories – remains very good, but within these areas we have to take into account rhino social behaviour which does, of course, have a significant effect on the movements of individual rhinos, although this month it really does seem that water is exerting the most magnetic pull on the rhinos.

This month in general, “resident” rhinos (that is, those that tend to stay within a certain area, have done for some time, and do not tend to make significant movements) have been moving in fairly restricted areas. If anything, there has been a general shift to the more eastern parts of home ranges and territories – i.e., towards water. This has made our job a little easier, but as ever, there are a few rhinos that seem to have pronounced cases of wanderlust.

As last month, we have had a few surprises and a few learning experiences: we now have a much better understanding of the movements of Mmabontsho (black rhino female) and the sheer distances she regularly covers. Also further evidence of Mathanthane and Maitobolo’s pronounced movements. Big Joe, it seems, has returned to more familiar areas, that is, Sergeant’s territory.

Most of the breakthroughs in understanding we have made this month have been due to intensive tracking efforts by Poster and the APU trackers (the current Mathathane team includes some excellent trackers), and some long walks on spoor.

We have also been able to finally confirm that our newest calf, Lonetree II (Warona’s calf, now approximately three months old) is a female. This means that of our six known calves, three are female (Maitobolo, Dimpho, Lonetree II), two are male (Valentine and Lesego) and one is still unknown, despite being now +/- one year old (Lebogang). We believe that there may be at least one more calf that we have been unable, as yet, to locate (with Moremi being the mother). We suspect that in fact, the seventh calf may already have been born (to Moremi) although this is merely a hypothesis, and we have no actual evidence of this, beyond the behaviour of previous expectant mothers. There are very good indications that one of the adult females in Sergeant’s territory, Piajio, is about to give birth. However, this has been the position with her for some time, so we may be mistaken here.

Three of our calves are now over a year old, and in two cases, the mothers are almost certainly ready to come into oestrus again – Mamatimpani and Dimpho - so it is not impossible that by the end of next year, we may see females having their second Mombo calves. By the end of 2010 or thereabouts, we could start to see the first calves born at Mombo to rhinos which themselves were born here….

With no further births being recorded this month, and no deaths, the known population stands at a constant 33 white rhinos and 4 black rhinos, with male : female : unknown ratios being 10:22:1 and 2:2:0 respectively. No deaths have been recorded in nearly two years and the population of white rhinos is growing at a very healthy rate. The next calf to be born (which will be our seventh) will mean that the Mombo Re-Introduction Project will, in addition to its many other achievements, have contributed a net gain to the world’s white rhino population.

Nick Galpine – Mombo – August 2005


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DumaTau Camp update - August 05               Jump to DumaTau Camp
The month of August heralded a definite change in season with the cold winter months making way for much warmer days and evenings. Average temperatures were recorded as 13 and 32 degrees Celsius with 39 reached towards the end of the month. The first of the Carmine Bee-eaters have arrived in our area. We now start bracing ourselves for October - the hottest and driest period in Botswana and can already note the increased stress among the elephants as they struggle to cope with the scarcity of food and water resources. However, this is indeed the ebb and flow of nature and as onlookers one should not pity wildlife's daily battle for survival but instead rejoice in the knowledge of Nature’s promise of the times of plenty soon to come. As the dry season approaches its peak, wildlife in the Linyanti is concentrated around the permanent waters of the Linyanti River and lagoon system - creating a wildlife spectacle of awesome intensity and species diversity. As DumaTau camp is situated on these waterways, most of our wildlife sightings take place in and around the proximity of the camp making for relatively short distances being travelled on our daily game drives.

Another incredible month of wildlife sightings was experienced at DumaTau which, among others, included the following: roan, elephant, zebra, civet, lion, cheetah, hippo, giraffe, leopard, genet, wild dog, buffalo, kudu, red lechwe, bat-eared fox, black-backed jackal, spotted hyaena, wildebeest, baboon, serval, steenbok, honey badger, tsessebe, warthog, African wild cat, Selous’s mongoose, sable, impala, waterbuck.

The wildlife sighting for the month has to be watching a Saddle-billed Stork first kill and then devour a 1.5-metre black mamba! Some great photos were taken by our guests of this spectacular and fascinating sighting.

The five lion cubs in our area are all doing just great and have provided many hours of exciting entertainment for our guests as they go about their playful routine between nursing sessions with their two mothers. A cheetah with her two adolescent cubs also moved into our area for the first time, resulting in some spectacular hunts and kills being witnessed as she provided food for herself and her cubs.

The wild dog pups have not as yet emerged from the den but we expect this to happen soon. Leopard sightings continue to be plentiful in our area including that of mother and cub. The most awesome leopard sighting for the month was in camp at full moon with a leopard jumping from a tree onto the thatch roof of one of our rooms and then onto the balustrade in front of the room's deck, creating a wonderful silhouette in the bright moonlight and viewed from the comfort of the bed situated a few metres away with only the shade cloth of the front doors between – unforgettable!

The DumaTau chorus was very vocal this month and I can only recall about four days out of the whole month when I did not wake up to the call of lions close by - that is certainly the spirit and charm of DumaTau - indeed the one place you have to visit at least once!

Greetings,
Ian and the DumaTau team


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Chitabe Camp update - August 05               Jump to Chitabe Camp
It has been an exciting month at Chitabe - one of those "you should have been here" months, when the incredible bounty of nature and its interactions presented itself in an incomparable fashion.

The Jackalberry trees around the island have been fruiting, providing a valuable food resource for many birds and our resident vervet monkeys and baboons, who often shatter the peace of the afternoons with their shrieking and yelling! The Sausage trees have taken on their springtime electric green hues, and their red flowers litter the ground like fallen hearts. Impala feed on them, and leopard often lurk concealed in their branches, awaiting unsuspecting prey below. The Knobbly Combretums are also flowering, which gives an impression of a million firecrackers exploding around the island. In the surrounding floodplains, the Cottonwool grasses have taken on their seasonal reddish colour, and coupled with the smoke from distant bush fires in the drylands, sunsets have been a spectacle of colour.

The Walking Trails have been in full swing, and guests have been out there enjoying the peace and solitude of being on foot in the bush, learning of the smaller, more easily missed things and tucking into meals cooked on the fire before settling into well-earned sleep lulled by the tinkling of frogs, the distant howls of the hyaena and the chortling of hippo in the channels.

For two weeks, Chitabe Trails had our pride of 15 lion stationed across the channel from the camp. Every morning we were treated to the sight of the cubs playing with the adults and each other in the light of the rising sun, and in the afternoons we sat on the pool deck and watched as they lazed in the shade under the trees, ever watchful for any unsuspecting prey animals coming down to drink. Some afternoons our "game drives" were spent watching out from the deck with bated breath as warthogs, impala, kudu and even elephant came to the water – before they were warned of the lions' presence by the baboons. One morning we even saw a young bull elephant being chased by a frisky but frivolous lioness - we kept track of the chase by the trees and bushes being bashed over and aside by his flight! Eventually one night the lions’ patience was rewarded. We had just finished dinner when a bellowing shattered the quiet night air - Newman brought his vehicle around and we drove out to find the pride on top of a buffalo bull. From start to finish, the kill lasted all of five minutes, before the adults and cubs were feasting on the carcass. The bull was one of a pair that had left the herd and had come down to drink at the channel. At time of writing, the other bull is still lurking on the large island across from the camp, and the lions, after an absence of a fortnight, are not far away….

Early one morning, we were treated to the sight of wild dogs killing a pregnant duiker in front of the pool deck - a sight that some people wait a lifetime to see played out right in front of us in the crisp clear light of dawn. The Alpha pair ate their share first and as soon as they had had their fill, they dashed off back to the den. Phinley had anticipated this, and was in position with his guests to watch them return to their puppies and regurgitate fresh meat for their breakfast. On another late evening, just as the sun was setting, they killed an impala ram right in the camp. They ate as much as they could, and as darkness fell they headed back to their den. The carcass still had a lot of meat on it, and our resident male leopard took the remains and dragged it into the cover of the palm scrub to finish it off.

On another evening, this same leopard made an attempt at killing a kudu, which we heard bleating in the darkness. The kudu escaped his clutches, but a hyaena took up the chase, running straight through the camp and continued across the channel and into the trees!

The clan of spotted hyaena on our concession have also denned. Their site was spotted by Newman while on a walk and on a subsequent follow-up he confirmed the den at the base of a tree with two young cubs emerging in the late evenings to play in the moonlight. We think that they have now abandoned that den as the cubs are old enough to join their clan on hunts.

The cheetah in the area have been doing well - and apart from the seven of which we are aware, two newcomers have been sighted in the east. They have been found on kills several times this month, but so far no-one has been lucky enough to witness the actual event.

Many herds of elephant - breeding herds and bachelors alike - have been coming down to drink and bathe in the pools in the channel to the west of camp. Many a siesta time has been spent watching these magnificent beasts cavorting in the water - babies frolicking with their near-uncontrollable trunks, mothers disciplining young bulls who get too boisterous play-fighting with each other, and older bulls enjoying the water in silent contemplation. They often come onto the island to scratch themselves against the trees before feeding on the thinning vegetation. Guests are lulled to sleep (or kept awake!) by their gentle rumblings and soft, heavy footfalls.

The Gomoti Channel on our eastern boundary with the Moremi Wildlife reserve is still holding water, and the adjacent plains have been teeming with wildebeest, kudu, zebra, giraffe, baboon and impala. Large pods of hippo are still hanging around in the deeper sections, and one of them was killed by the two resident lion (a male and a female) before it could reach the safety of the water. They kept guard over the bloated carcass for over a week until they lost interest and the crocodiles dragged it into the water.

The weather was unusually warm for August, when we would usually expect at least one frosty morning, none occurred. The average high temperature was 30°C, the average low 13°, with some days cooled by a gentle easterly breeze. We are expecting the coming summer to be a hot one!

With regards from Chitabe and Chitabe Trails


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South Africa camps
Rattray's on MalaMala
Rattray's on MalaMala   Rattray's on MalaMala   Rattray's on MalaMala
We are delighted to advise that the completion of Rattray's on MalaMala is ahead of schedule!

Reservations are being accepted as from 01 November 2005.  The buildings are completed and the decorators are in the process of installing the soft furnishings.

The main building is almost complete, whilst the 8 double bedrooms (Khaya's) will be finished within the next two weeks. The rubble clean up and landscaping of the camp surrounds is well under way and they are welcoming the onset of spring to hasten the growth of the wonderful indigenous gardens.

Staff selection and training will begin shortly and a few "dummy" runs will take place during the latter half of October. This will enable them to rectify any gremlins which inevitably occur in a building operation of this size prior to them manifesting as inconveniences to their valued clientele.

Peter Dros has been appointed as the Manager of Rattray's on MalaMala and will commence employment on the 1st September 2005. Many of you will remember Peter since he was previously the manager at Kirkman's Kamp. He resigned in 2003 and has since been residing in Pretoria.
Rattray's on MalaMala   Rattray's on MalaMala
Rattray's on MalaMala is a culmination of 40 years of bushveld experience.  This elegant camp embodies an "Into Africa" character with eight luxury suites, each with 'his' and 'hers' en-suite bathrooms, a private verandah with a filtered plunge pool, and an outdoor shower, all within the sanctuary of a private garden area on the banks of the Sand River.  Each guest has the choice of remaining connected to the outside world from the sanctuary of their room via continuous internet connectivity and satellite television which facilities will not be available in the main public areas.

Facilities within the elegant main building incorporate a viewing deck, complete with telescope, an air-conditioned library, an attractive bar showcasing the history of the area and an adjoining wine cellar stocked with a wide range of South Africa's best wines.
Rattray's on MalaMala   Rattray's on MalaMala   Rattray's on MalaMala
The focus of the Rattray's safari will continue to reflect the ethos of the MalaMala Game Reserve over the past forty years which is game viewing. A maximum of 4 guests per safari vehicle further enhances the Rattray Experience.

We will continue to post photographs of Rattray's on MalaMala as they progress. Please do not hesitate to contact us should you require any additional information and be assured the camp will be ready as promised on the 1st November 2005.

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Pafuri Camp (northern Kruger) Newsletter - August 05                  Jump to Pafuri Camp
It’s hard to believe a month has passed already since my wife, Colleen, and I joined the management team here at Pafuri Camp. I still pinch myself every now and again just to remind myself that this wild and rugged but beautiful landscape that surrounds me every day is real and not some crazy dream.

We had a very light scattering of rain at the beginning of the month, and although it wasn’t enough to settle the dust, it did however allow the tiny new shoots of grass to surface for a short time. There has been no rain recorded since and at the time of writing, the area is still very dry with daily temperatures averaging about 33°C.

Game viewing in our concession of the Makuleke / Pafuri area of Kruger National Park has been quite remarkable, with regular sightings of large breeding herds of elephant along the Luvuvhu River as well as in the Fever Tree Forest. There have also been wonderful sightings of buffalo and eland.

We have also had phenomenal sightings of lion. A large male and a separate female with cubs have been seen regularly out to our west, near Mangala, with a second female and cubs being quite active close to the eastern boundary of the camp. We have also been very fortunate with the number of leopard sightings we have had in the past month. There have been regular sightings outside the old Pafuri ranger’s house where we now live and also along the Luvuvhu River as you head towards Lanner Gorge. Colleen also got very excited as she was coming up our driveway one evening she had four porcupine walking casually down towards her, and later that same evening we had a beautiful sighting of a honey badger just strolling along the road in front of our vehicle.

The month of August also saw the dropping of the fences around the rhino boma, allowing the six white rhino, which have just been recently introduced back into the Pafuri area, to walk out and explore their new home. I am happy to report that they seem to be doing very well.

Birding as usual has been excellent throughout the region. While standing on the main deck, two guests having tea before their afternoon game drive were witnesses to our first kill just in front of the camp. A Brown Snake Eagle in all its glory took on a fairly large black mamba and after a lengthy battle carried it away in victory. We have had regular sightings of Brown-headed Parrot, Brown-hooded Kingfisher, also Pied and Giant kingfisher and even a Bat Hawk. Our guests have also been waking up to the magnificent call of the African Fish Eagle as it flies along the Luvuvhu River in front of the camp just about every morning in search of breakfast. And while on game drive my guests and I were fortunate to come across a beautiful Martial Eagle eating its prey while perched on a branch of an Umbrella Thorn tree.

There were two very special highlights for me here during my first month at Pafuri camp.

The first was a trip to Lanner Gorge. With its rugged beauty and breathtaking views this must surely be one of the most beautiful places in the world that one could have the privilege of seeing.

The second highlight for me was a visit to one of the archaeological sites that we have in the area. It was amazing walking around the site picking up different shapes of stone and rock and letting my mind drift back thousands of years to the Stone Age period. It was fascinating just to imagine what all the different tools that I held in my hand would have been used for and how they were used. I couldn’t help but wonder, as I continued to explore the area, what day-to-day life must have been like in those times for the hunter gatherers.

Pafuri Camp had the pleasure of hosting the first-ever Tour de Kruger mountain bike challenge. All 105 riders and all the support teams spent the last night of the tour as guests of our camp. It was a chance for the riders and everybody else who had been involved in this gruelling bike ride to unwind and relax, after what promises to continue to be one of the most challenging mountain bike tours out. The funds raised by the riders went in support of two charities: Children in the Wilderness and Peace Parks.

On a closing note, as I continue to explore the Pafuri Region with all its history, wildlife and natural beauty, I can’t help but wonder why I had not visited this section of the Kruger Park sooner!

Thanks
Geoff Mullen


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Namibia camps
Ongava Lodge update - August 05               Jump to Ongava Lodge
August is supposed to be our windy month, but while there were some chilly mornings and evenings, there was very little wind. The evenings especially were very pleasant, bringing a distant haziness to the skies, adding red to the sunsets.

On the activities side, for the last two to three weeks, many sightings of large elephant herds have been experienced in Etosha. These have mostly been in the Olifantsbad and Aus areas, but also Okaukuejo waterhole and Neubronni. These herds have a high percentage of youngsters, some still very small, travelling with them.

Rhino sightings, both black and white, have as usual been numerous. At the Lodge waterhole, up to five black rhino at a time have been seen regularly. These types of numbers would be exceptional anywhere else and this makes our hide, placed right next to the waterhole, legendary. Some of the most stupendous photos of rhino, both black and white, have come from this location.

Giraffe have also always been photographed regularly at the Ongava waterhole. The way they have to crane their necks down to drink water makes for great photo studies!

In Etosha, as with the elephant, lion are seen on a regular basis. For example, seven lion and 90 elephant drank at the same waterhole at the same time! This of course took place on opposite sides, as far as possible from each other and also keeping a wary eye on each other throughout.

On the 22nd of August, guides and guests found a pride of eleven lions lolling around in the shade of the big trees at Allan Dam. There were two big males, three young males, four females and two youngish cubs. They spent the whole time just posing for us, but that is to be expected from the king of the beasts.

For the last week of this month we had a visit by a group of five young male lions from Etosha. We think they come from the Ombika area. Most mornings we’ll find a variety of lions that are similar looking and of about the same age on our way into Etosha.

On a nature walk, not far from the Lodge, we surprised an aardwolf, which ran away in typical aardwolf style, shaggy coat waving and looking over its shoulder.

In Etosha, on the last day of August, we came upon a really big monitor lizard, swallowing a good-sized puff adder. He was doing this in great gulps, swallowing the puff adder whole.

A grand finale to a great month at Ongava.
Regards
The Ongava Team


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Ongava Tented Camp update - August 05               Jump to Ongava Tented Camp
The idyllic hues of the winter season have disappeared. The late winter breezes have stripped the trees of the last of their leaves, leaving branches barren and open to the sun’s rays, scorching them to grey and black. Along the river courses, die-hard Mopane trees still maintain vestiges of green and brown foliage. The cold nip in the air has been replaced by the tepid annual August winds, lifting the fine, talcum powder-like, white limestone dust, smothering everything in its wake. Cream-coloured grasses bend, defying the wind’s might.

The Acacia newbronii trees have come into blossom with their vibrant yellow pom-pom flowers breaking the bleak landscape of the Etosha Pan. Giraffe and springbok in numbers gather around, gently picking off the blooms amongst the sharp thorns.

Plains animals abound at the waterholes, riveting everyone by their sheer numbers and the antics of the “swimming” springbok as they wade in belly deep, in search of cleaner water. The natural waterholes and dams have completely dried up, forcing the animals to scatter in search of better grazing and consistent water. Rhino, both black and white, are frequenting the waterholes in and around the camp, making the guides’ jobs that much easier in finding them.

The frequent roar of the lions leaves a reminder that their food source is closer and easier to prey on. Stompie (one of our notorious lionesses known for her aggressive nature and mock charges on us on numerous occasions), together with her pride, keep everyone captivated as they frequent the waterhole opposite our lapa for their nightly drink before heading off. Leopard have been seen in camp and on the way to the airfield, two cheetah were observed chasing a scrub hare before being thwarted at the last moment by the fence surrounding the landing strip.

Black-chested Snake Eagles, Tawny Eagles and Pale Chanting Goshawks have been easy to spot as they perch in the bare Mopane branches, seeking out some unsuspecting reptile. Sparrow Weavers are enthusiastically building new nests indicating spring is just around the corner. The colourful Swallow-tailed Bee-eaters beautify the bare trees as do the Lilac-breasted Rollers.

The dust in the air reminds one of a smoggy day in London, but lends itself to providing a red orb as the sun sets in the west framed by barren branches. Absolutely stunning.

The campfire lit, smoke wafting through the barren trees, as the crickets start their evensong ends another perfect month in the paradise that is Ongava.


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