SAFARI CAMP UPDATES
Monthly update from Linkwasha
Camp in Zimbabwe.
Kwando Safaris game reports for
Monthly update from Duba
Plains Camp in Botswana.
Monthly update from Mombo
Camp in Botswana.
Turtle update from Rocktail Bay in
Another great Dive Report from Rocktail Bay.
Unusual water and excitement at Skeleton
Coast Camp in Namibia.
Monthly update from Mvuu
Camp in Malawi .
Linkwasha Newsletter - Feb 05 Jump
all standards it looks like we have had a very bad rainy season.
Generally speaking, by this time of the year we have experienced
the end of the cyclone, but this year, we have only received
53 mm for the month. To be precise it has only rained twice in
February! Temperatures have been fairly usual for this time of
the year, with highest recorded being 37 degrees Celsius and
lowest 18 degrees C.
The mornings start off
with a lot of dew, which is interesting for walkers as they
leave trails behind making it easy for them to find their
way back. The grass is full of pollen grains and in some
other areas has grown tall. It looks alive in the morning
and changes as it gets the scorching heat, making it evident
that we have received little rainfall. The teak trees are
in flower and it is appealing to drive through woodland covered
by teak. Acacia trees in and around Ngamo are bursting with
pods now, and elephants are frequenting the area for their
Beautiful flowers are showing themselves, Bidens Schimperi,
yellow cosmos and other seasonals. There is not much water
in the pools or in natural waterholes.
We have had very good sightings
for the month of February, with February 7 being a highlight
as lion, leopard, buffalo, elephant and rhino were all spotted
within 2 hours between Old Camp and Scott’s Pan. The next day was rewarding
as lions were seen chasing rhino in front of camp. Another
rare sighting was of a gemsbok; we treat this like gold as
they are very scarce in the area. Then there was a leopard
with baboon kill in a tree who later got a warthog – looks
like he was on a harvesting spree!
Lions have been seen regularly.
The ‘Ngamo boys,’ as
they are affectionately called, of late seem to be splitting – the
bigger ‘boy’ is by himself most of the time. One
night they were actually in camp, providing us with some nice
music and some shivers going down the spine. Giraffe seem to
be enjoying the acacia trees and some teak flowers, as they
are found in the forest most of the time.
There is a lot of insect life which has made us appreciate
and understand that humans are not the only inhabitants of
planet Earth. Even though we may have great powers of life
and death over living creatures, our domination should be benign
Eland are a common sighting
at Ngamo plains with large herds often seen. The rhino has
been a little unfair as he has shown himself only at night – perhaps
he wants to be strictly nocturnal? Twin hippos in the waterhole
in front of camp were born - congratulations Mr and Mrs Hippo!
Our percentage sightings are
as follows: hippo 90%, bat-eared fox 90%; bush baby 3%; buffalo
81%, cheetah 3%, eland 87%, elephant 81%, lion 52%, rhino
35%, leopard 23%, baboon 90%, giraffe 28%. We have had a
fair sighting of the other animals like sable, kudu, reedbuck,
jackal and other antelope. Wildebeest, zebra and waterbuck
are very common as well as the ‘Hwange
goats’ – impalas!
Most seasonal birds are preparing
for their migration. Abdim’s
and white storks were seen landing and taking off in various
areas. Good luck, guys, on your way back to the Northern Hemisphere.
Egyptian geese, spoonbills, and crowned cranes are relaxed
as usual and having a good time as the food seems to be abundant.
• Ron and Marjorie Stiwell:
USA. Thanks to all for helping make this PERFECT trip of
a lifetime. Fantastic Experience.
and Ann Seledman: USA : Thank you for a wonderful stay. Enjoyed
everything but most of all everybody.
and Lota Post : USA . Had a fabulous time. Wonderful service.
Kwando Safari Camps Update
- Feb 05
Lagoon pride of 18 have been seen frequently during the last short while – they
managed to catch and kill 3 baboons in one short frenzied spurt of activity.
* Breeding herds of elephant as well as smaller bachelor herds have been
seen throughout the concession.
* A herd of 10 eland see as well.
* Hyena seen patrolling around the concession especially at night.
* A brief sighting of a shy cheetah after it had been tracked for some time.
A pair of Ostrich with their chicks.
* A pair of side-striped jackal with their litter of youngsters.
* Night drives included porcupine and genets.
* General game still excellent – seeing giraffe, zebra, impala, hippo,> tsessebe,
* Summer migrants still in full force – frequent sightings of osprey.
* A pack of 5 wild dogs caught and killed an impala.
* A pride of 8 (split from the pride of 17) caught and
killed a an adult female buffalo, they were joined by 3
adult male lions.
* A different group of 3 male lions also seen last week.
* 2 different leopard sightings in the last few days – one
was a female who is lactating - we hope she has a couple
of youngsters stashed away somewhere.
* Night drives yielded jackal, hyena, African wild cat,
spring hare, scrub-hares and genets.
* A couple of breeding herds of elephant around the concession.
* General game continues to be prolific – big herds
of zebra, tsessebe, giraffe, impala, reedbuck, kudu, and
groups of up to 20 wildebeest.
Lebala camp Jump
* Good numbers of elephant, breeding herds, bachelor herds, and solitary bulls
throughout the concession.
* Couple of herds of buffalo.
* A young male leopard – relaxed.
* A pack of 2 wild dogs seen moving through the concession.
* A pride of 5 lionesses were seen a couple of times – they were later
joined hunting by 3 male lions but were not successful.
* An adult male leopard – relaxed.
* Small herds of 50 buffalo was found drinking at one of the pans.
* Large numbers of hyena still seen throughout the concession – mostly
seen at night. Also seen at night – African wild cat, porcupine, serval,
hippo out of the water and civet.
* Excellent general game including sable, roan, giraffe, impala, kudu, tsessebe,
Duba Plains Camp monthly update -
Feb 05 Jump
at Duba for the last month was a paltry 83mm, well below what
we should expect at this time of year. However the water table
is particularly high as a result of last year’s
flood, which is reflected in the unusually high growth of letaka
reed beds at a time where the area is meant to be at its driest.
It’s worth remembering that only 20 years ago Duba camp
was surrounded by permanent swamp. The floodwater is now only
a month away and although the water flow at the Panhandle is
relatively low, we expect local flood levels similar to last
Probably the highlight for many of the staff at Duba is the appearance of eight
giraffe that are enjoying the good browsing to the north of camp, a sure sign
of the dry conditions this year. Whilst waiting for a delayed plane, I spent
a very happy hour at the airstrip watching some young males sparing. Giraffe
are nomadic animals, so it’s difficult to predict how long they’ll
stay but we’ll keep an interested eye on them.
Birding remains superb and a Stanley’s Bustard, extremely rare, has been
seen in the grass at Buffalo Point, Baobab Island and Lion Pan. Wattled Cranes
are flourishing in the Paradise area and along the Molapo channel and Pink-Backed
Pelicans are still fishing the pans in large numbers to the east of the concession.
Elephants are still present in significant numbers much to the delight of guests.
It’s unlikely that they will now move north to the mopane woodlands unless
we have significant rainfall in March/April. One of the advantages of Duba is
the prevalence of jasmine creeper that flourishes at ground level across the
flood plains. Elephants love this plant and on the floodplains large herds of
up to 70 make a majestic sight, almost unrivalled in the Delta.
We haven’t seen our cheetah since the beginning of the month, though with
a territory that stretches to Vumbura, it’s likely that prey species are
abundant there at this time of year. One leopard sighting occurred at night at
Horseshoe Island. It was shielding itself behind a bush surrounded by inquisitive
spotted hyena. The leopard had a fresh wound on its side and even though we
looked for evidence of a kill, none could be found. Perhaps the leopard was attempting
to drag a kill into a tree when the hyena moved in. Aardwolf dens are abundant
at Duba. We reckon we have four active dens in the area and with patience, guides
have been rewarded with good sightings.
The buffalo herd has spent most of February in Tsaro territory, moving little,
probably because the herd has been calving. As a result, the Tsaro Pride instead
of pushing the herd in the hope of catching stragglers, have rather waited for
a few newly born calves that either fail to get to their feet quickly enough,
or get abandoned by their mothers. It’s strange to see a mother abandon
its calf but this often happens with an female’s first calf or if the calf
is born as the herd is moving and the adult is reluctant to become exposed at
the back of the herd. It takes a newly born calf between 15-20 minutes to walk,
not much time if the herd moves quickly.
The very high water table from last year’s
flood has also influenced the herd’s movements. Normally in the rainy season,
the herd will spend a greater proportion of its time in the islands where the
rain stimulates good grass growth. This year however, rainfall has been particularly
low and the herd have favoured the margins of the old channels that are still
lush as last year’s floodwaters
only receded slowly. This makes movement patterns more localized and explains
why the buffalo have not been seen often in the acacia woodlands to the north
of camp despite the reduced threat from the Pantry Pride (see January newsletter).
One very interesting observation regarding the buffalo herd is that its sheer
size (currently over 1000) favors a higher breeding rate compared to a normal
size herd of around 250. As three lion prides prey on this herd, it makes sense
for the buffalo to stick together in a large herd where proportionate losses
are fewer and the buffalo can defend themselves against lion with greater ease.
One remarkable fact is how aggressively the herd now responds to lion attack.
Some 70% of the kills that have taken place in the last year have seen the buffalo
attempting to chase the lion away rather than simply abandoning the victim and
The Tsaro Pride is doing well and has, we estimate, produced six cubs. It’s
difficult to tell how many females have given birth as undoubtedly some have
lost their litter. With young cubs the pride has split into small groups and
lone females have followed the herd preying on abandoned calves and picking up
after-birth. When the pride does join up, the focus is still on calves and over-protective
mothers. Therefore the majority of adults killed have been females. Cubs have
mostly been seen after a kill has been made when the mother moves the cubs out
of hiding to feed. The Tsaro Pride has been remarkably tolerant of the remnants
of the Pantry Pride that have been seen regularly in their territory, especially
the young adult male. In fact, the Pantry male was seen feeding on a kill made
by Tsaro at the beginning of the month. Only when the Duba Boys came to feed
did the male move slowly away. It should be remembered that these lions are blood
relatives which may explain this unusual behaviour.
The Skimmer Pride continues to flourish although they still spend a lot of time
in the west of their territory, which our game drive vehicles cannot access.
The Duba Boys remain extremely intolerant of the Paradise Male (the remaining
father of the Skimmer cubs) and guests have seen some interesting confrontations
between the two prides. It is always a great interaction to see but often results
in the whole Skimmer pride moving across the channel and therefore inaccessible
to our game drives. Only when the buffalo herd spend days at Paradise are the
lion drawn back
to the eastern side of their territory. Towards the end of the month one of the
youngest cubs went missing and its sibling has spinal injuries. In any litter,
the youngest will always struggle to survive due to intense competition for food.
Mombo Camp update - Feb
to the latest update from Mombo Camp in Botswana's Okavango
Delta. it is hard to believe that another month has flown by
so quickly! Of course there is the old cliché that
time flies when you're having fun, which would go a long way
to explaining this phenomenon to those who have spent time
here this month! But then there are always those special moments
to linger over, too...
Summer is not quite
behind us, but already we are seeing the first signs of
the coming winter, and of the change of the seasons. The
sun rises that little bit later in the mornings, and sets
just a few minutes earlier. This slight shortening of the
tropical day however merely serves to intensify the experience
of being at Mombo, and the unique combination of luxury
and unspoiled wilderness that exists here.
As we move away from midsummer, we have had a slight drop
in temperatures, and a few fleeces have been spied in the
mornings. Of course after a few minutes on the game drive,
the first rays of the rising sun strike the Land Rovers and
guests are soon peeling off those extra layers and enjoying
warming up as the earth does.
Cloudy days have again reduced average
temperatures, but we have still had some scorching
days. However, we did not receive the rain we needed and
which was so often promised by the cloud formations. In total
we have had only 27mm (just over 1 inch) of rain at
Mombo in February, only a third of what we had in January.
Temperatures in February were more consistent, with less
difference between minimum and maximum temperatures. The
lowest minimum daily temperature we recorded was 18°C (64°F) and the highest minimum temperature
was 20°C(68°F), with an average daily minimum of
19°C or 66°F. Daily maximum temperatures ranged from
30°C(86°F) to a warm 36°C(96°F). Often
on the hottest days we had welcome cool breezes blowing
in which took the edge off the heat.
It is hard to choose a favourite moment in the day when
each day is so full of wonders and never-to-be-forgotten
moments, but we have all really been enjoying the early mornings.
Few things can match the exhilaration of being among the
first people to see the African bush as it gracefully slips
off the cloak of night, and to gaze in rapt admiration at
the first pink glow on the horizon, as the sky blushes like
a new bride. The cool breeze in your face and those wonderful
shimmering moments when the vague form of an animal or a
tree is lit up for the first time and reveals itself in the
fresh morning light.
On many mornings during
February we had spectral wreaths of mist lying across the
floodplains, with the tsaro palm islands rising above them
like the peaks of some unexplored mountain range. It was
one such morning that provided us with one of the most
spectacular sightings of the month: the intense drumming
of bovine hooves across the plain signaled a buffalo herd
in a panic, and they bunched up as they ran, a sure sign
that lion had begun that deadly game of cat and mouse -
or cat and cow as it should perhaps be called.
As the buffalo quite literally
ran for their lives, the phantom shapes of two young male
lion drifted through the fog, a perfect example of how
lion can make even movements powered by the deadliest of
intents seem effortless and graceful. As the mists swirled
around the confused buffalo, the distressed bellow of one
female announced that the lion tactic of using the mists
as a fatal smokescreen to mask their attack had been successful. At
Mombo, lion generally hunt during the hours of darkness,
but they are nothing if not opportunistic, and the mist
proved too great a chance to pass up for these ever-resourceful
close of each day has also been beautiful, especially with
the last clouds of this year's rainy season still lingering
over us, providing a perfect screen for the sun to project
every color in Nature's infinite paint box onto. And
in between these two solar shows, there were of course
many hours of quite breathtaking game viewing. Not that
sightings were necessarily restricted to daylight - towards
the end of the month, Mombo slumbered peacefully in the
silver light of a full moon (which has to be seen to be
believed) lighting up the floodplains and a rich tableaux
of buffalo and zebra, with elephant, porcupine and genet
moving through the Camp. Each night the nocturnal animals
emerge to reclaim Mombo as their own - as if to remind
us that we are merely visitors here, and that we musty
tread lightly as we explore the natural riches of the Okavango.
After all the rain we had in January, we had high hopes
for more in February, but these went unfulfilled - at least
until the end of the month when we again had a few showers,
mostly during the hotter part of the afternoon. The sun has
taken its toll on the grasses which sprang up in response
to last month's rains, but there is still ample food for
all the grazing and browsing animals, which in turn ensures
a steady supply of food for the predators.
Already the first waters of this year's
flood - flowing towards the Delta from the Benguela
highlands in Angola - have begun to enter Botswana. Early
indications are that this year's flood will be on a par with
2003's inundation, that is, an "average" annual
flood - if anything here can ever be described as average!
Last year's flood was greater than this, but much of
the water was captured by river systems in the western
part of the Delta, and this could easily change this
year as channels are blocked and opened in the upper
reaches of the Okavango, and in the Panhandle. There
is still a great deal of water available here in rain-filled
pans and we can be assured that as the last of it dries
up in March and April, the floodwaters will begin arriving
at Mombo to replenish the channels and lagoons.
The arrival of the floodwaters is perhaps
the most spectacular of the changes that take place
here each year, but everywhere we look, growth and change
continue apace, on every scale: from the tiny, fluffy red
velvet mites which emerge from the sand after rains, to
the growth of the huge (and delicious!) white "maboa" mushrooms
which grow from within the termite mounds with enough
force to punch holes right through the walls of these citadels
- to the evident delight of the baboons that feast
After anxiously following the movements
of one of our resident female leopards who was pregnant
(known as the Tortilis female after the distinctive "umbrella
in her territory) we now believe that she has given birth.
We have yet to see the tiny scrap of spotted fur that
a leopard cub is during its first few days of life,
but it appears from our most recent sightings that
she is now lactating, a sure sign that there is a small
mouth out there hungry for milk. This female leopard
succeeded in raising her previous cub - the female
we call Legadima (or Lightning) after losing several
previous cubs, so we hope that this success will be
the first of many.
Perhaps the most momentous birth of the month however was
that of the fourth white rhino calf to be born at Mombo since
the start of our rhino re-introduction project began in late
2001. The mother had detached herself from her usual social
group and appeared very heavy - good indicators that she
was going to hide herself away to give birth. Rhino mothers
are incredibly secretive at first, and when we caught up
with the mother and baby - happily playing together in a
mud wallow - the calf was approximately ten days old. In
fact this was the youngest age for a first sighting of any
of the calves born here. We now have over thirty white rhino
wild in Botswana; there were none before we started this
project in conjunction with the Botswana government. And
watch this space, as we are expecting more births in the
next few months. [Ed: In fact, a fifth calf was spotted a
few days after receiving this newsletter!]
Being born is of course only the first
of the "trials
of life" and each new baby at Mombo finds itself
in a world teeming with opportunities, but also stalked
by dangers. As I write this, we are anxiously waiting
to see what becomes of a litter of lion cubs who we have
seen alone several times now, and who are in real need
of a good feed. We are very much hoping of course that
they have not been abandoned - if they have, their chances
of survival are slim. This is one of those difficult
occasions when it is impossible not to become emotionally
involved in the lives of the animals around us.
The process of renewal and change continues in the Camp,
too... February is one of the quieter months in the safari
year, and provides an opportunity for us to polish the family
silver as it were - that is, to overhaul and maintain every
aspect of the Camp so that it is at its most beautiful right
throughout the year... All of the guest tents have had work
done to their canvas, to ensure that they continue to blend
in perfectly with the ancient mangosteen and jackalberry
trees on the island, and the woodwork has been given particular
attention to heal the ravages of the hot African sun.
New creations are being brought to life in the kitchen too
- from our new improved early morning rusks (made following
Sharon's mum's recipe - perfect with that first pre-dawn
cup of coffee!) to Craig's latest masterpieces... If pea
and chickpea risotto or white chocolate parfait with coffee
chocolate praline, wild figs and Kahlua sauce don't tempt
you, then you really cannot be hungry at all!
All around us, life continues in a profusion that can only
really be appreciated by standing on the deck at Mombo, and
looking out over the endless floodplains, dotted with zebra,
wildebeest, and buffalo, or by sitting quietly in the hide
at the hippo pool and soaking up the atmosphere in the company
of dozens of species of waterfowl.
But don't take our word for it: as always, we will leave
the last word on Mombo this month to the people best qualified
to describe it - the guests who have shared this little corner
of African paradise with us during February:
celebration of our anniversary leaves us with a permanent
memory - we want to come back!
the staff at Little Mombo were perfect representatives of
for your hospitality and friendship - we loved to be with
you. There will be a next time!
a great team with fantastic commitment and attention to detail...
was a great learning experience regarding the culture of
a fantastic life being at Mombo!
food was spectacular and unbelievable!
accommodations - it was exciting to have the buffalo and
leopard right in our "backyard" as
well as hyena and baboon!
James' Mombo update: After
spending 8 nights at Mombo in February, I can say that
it is now rivaling Duba Plains for the sheer number of
lions in the area - between 80 and 90 lions known to the
guides. Of course, the general game is also superb,
but my feeling is that the high numbers of lion around
Mombo have kept the Wild Dogs from re-emerging in numbers
like we saw in the middle and let 1990's. As always,
Mombo did not disappoint!
Bay Turtle update- Feb 05 Jump
fewer sightings of mothers coming up to nest, and an astronomical amount of hatchlings,
we can tell that the 2004-2005 Turtle season is drawing to a close. Nevertheless,
we still have a small amount of time left, and as you know in Africa, anything
As we have said before,
hatchling time is the most rewarding time of the season and ‘rewarding’ would be an understatement for the month of February.
We have seen, assisted, dug out and protected these tiny souls every single
night this month.
Everyone who has accompanied Gugu and Mbongeni on their
nightly “treks” has
felt some form of maternal instinct when witnessing these palm-sized
reptiles breaking out of their nests. Many visitors have even run
the gauntlet with them, keeping a watchful eye as they flap their
puny flippers madly to get down to the surf. A tear or two may have
even been shed; as they battled the waves to head out east as they
obey their instinct.
February brought us the last, to date, sightings of
mothers coming up to nest. Oddly enough, two of the mothers seen this month,
nested within a night of each other. Pamela Bates, who was staying with
us at the time, could not resist and decided to adopt both of them. She named
them “Thelma” and “Louise”.
Thelma is a Loggerhead turtle, and she chose the night of the 7th February
to lay her eggs; this was also the first time that she had been tagged.
Louise is a Leatherback turtle, and she laid her eggs on the night of the
8th February. She had previously been tagged, in the season 2002-2003.
It just goes to show that you can never tell when these majestic beings
are going to expose themselves on land.
This month also delivered our youngest adoptive parent.
Her name is Alexandra McCallum, and she is only 8 years old. Alex
decided to adopt a Loggerhead turtle that was seen on 30 December 2004. This
particular Loggerhead had already been tagged way back in the 1997-1998
season. Alex decided to christen her new turtle “Dory”,
after the famous co-star of Finding Nemo. Not only did Alex adopt a
turtle, but she got heavily involved with the hatchlings too. Out of the five
nights that her and her family stayed with us, they went out on a staggering
four drives. She helped Gugu dig in the nests, and made sure that they
made their way off into the blue safely. We want to once again congratulate
Alex on becoming our youngest adoptive parent, and also to thank her for getting
As with last month, we have had some more sightings
of predators prowling the beaches for the helpless babies. We have seen
quite a number of honey badgers on the beaches. They are unmistakable,
with a white sash on their back, and black under parts and legs. They have
large, strong claws on their front paws, and normally use these to dig into
the ground or into beehives (hence the name). But those claws also make the
job of digging for hatchlings that much easier. The badgers’ tracks, not to mention those of mongoose, genet and crabs,
are littered around the nests that we have missed. We know it’s
heartbreaking, but that is the way of Nature.
We are all starting to feel a bit sad that the season is coming to an end,
but on the positive side, we still have 15 days of research time ahead of us,
and a whole new season to look forward too, starting in October.
Rocktail Bay Dive Report - Feb 05 Jump
Pineapple Reef has been alive
with fish this month! We have had some very exciting sightings
of game fish mixed in with the usual reef inhabitants. It is
lovely to find miniature-size Threadfin butterflyfish and Meyer’s
butterflyfish to name a couple of types seen. There are plenty
of juvenile Emperor angelfish; the unmistakable luminous blue
coloring never fails to catch your eye. One particular fish
is the sub-adult phase of the Semicircle angelfish with its extraordinary
combination of the juvenile luminous blue markings over the adult
colors. The unmistakable swimming style and blue coloring of
the Redfang triggerfish from the very young to large adults are
wonderful to watch in large numbers over the reef.
There have been regular sightings of
a shoal of young Sea pike on Gogo’s which have
been fairly inquisitive and allow everyone on the dive
to take a good look. We have also seen some very handsome
sized Barracuda of over 1 metre in length, in small groups
as they move in and amongst the nervous reef fish.
A Giant kingfish (Ignoblis) on Pineapple
was circling under an overhang, a prized catch for all
fishermen and here it was just in front of us. There is no
mistaking its strength, its sheer size - an impressive predator
on the reefs, it is the king of all kingfishes! Prodigal
son or Cobia have been seen on several dives, some singles
or in a group of 10 or 15 seen on Aerial and Pineapple Reef.
Every diver’s natural reaction
is to look up in the hope of the grey shape of a Whale
shark (or other) swimming above as these fish usually
accompany a large fish or ray cruising by. The Cobia
themselves swim in a very similar manner to the shark
and as they are naturally inquisitive fish they appear
very quickly out of nowhere, circling each other right
in front of you in an almost frantic manner and then,
no sooner arriving they disappear again.
More snorkeling trips
have given us the dolphin experience which Sarah and Pam
never tired of as we were dropped in front of them and played
with them over and over again! Up to 10 Honeycomb rays were
also seen lying on the sand just below, as well as turtles
coming up for air.
new neighbor on Pineapple is the Shortnose blacktail reef
shark, otherwise named Grey reef shark, a curious shark
that is not afraid to approach divers. If we spot the shark
(we have seen 2 at one time) at the beginning of the dive
then more often than not it will follow us the length of
the reef. A most extraordinary feeling was seeing Casper
and 3 other Potato bass forming a defense line between the
shark and their reef including us, a comforting thought.
I honestly felt Casper and the others were protecting us
as they faced the visitor a few metres apart from each other,
appearing to warn the shark to stay clear of their territory
and never turning their backs on it.
A fight between a Natal knifejaw
and Potato bass was witnessed which was quite a scene as they
bit and twisted around each other! The Knifejaws appear to
be in pairs or small groups at the moment so perhaps they are
protective of nesting areas. Casper has his usual entourage
of juvenile White kingfish around him including one juvenile
Golden kingfish with stunning coloring.
A Tawny nurse shark 2½m long sleeping under an overhang,
made Herman’s dive. We were able to get so close, as
she was resting and we spent many minutes with her. Another
Leopard shark was sighted this month, resting on the sand next
to the reef. A harmless shark with a tail almost the same length
as its body, which gently sways in the surge. Another interesting
tail seen this month belongs to the Feathertail stingray. The
tail was seen swaying in the surge just behind a coral head
and as we swam over it we saw the body of an impressive 1½m-wide
Shoals of Blue chub
and Slingers hunting on the reef have been exciting to watch
as they all descend onto the reef to feed just in front of
us. Huge numbers of Yellowback fusiliers and Rainbow runners
create a wall of fish as they swim by, their colors luminous!
These fish are also often seen from the surface whilst feeding
on plankton. Spadefish are also seen feeding on the surface,
their bodies glinting in the sun as their dorsal fins break
the water. Darryl witnessed the surface ‘boiling’ as
Yellowfin tuna created and then fed off a bait ball only metres
from the boat. As quickly as it started it had stopped and
the calm water returned as the fish moved on.
Daniel and I spent 15 minutes of our dive just sitting on
the sand at the northern end of Pineapple Reef as hundreds
of Kingfish circled us. There were Blacktip, Big Eye and Yellowspotted
kingfish. As we played with the sand they would swoop down
to see what we were doing, completely surrounding us. The adrenaline
to see so many fish for so long and so close was utterly memorable.
Casper and the 3 other Potato bass were also with us, as well
as shoals of Coachmans, Pencilled surgeon and Fusiliers, in
Coast Newsletter - Feb 05 Jump
thundered down Skeleton Coast’s normally dry riverbeds during February,
while showers gave rise to delicate green grasslands: “peppermint-flavored
Skeleton Coast” as one of our managers described it.
The Hoaraseb River
swelled to huge proportions in February, belching silty water into the Atlantic.
At the mouth of the river its warm waters mixed with the cold Atlantic Ocean
sending steam billowing into the air.
The Khumib River, where camp is situated,
surged several times in the past month, giving some visitors the rare privilege
of waterfront views. Muddy torrents crashed through for a few hours during each
flood, subsiding as quickly as they appeared.
The open plains south of camp -
normally peach-coloured gravel - are carpeted in grass, attracting masses of
oryx, ostrich and springbok. The latter have calved and tiny baby springbok are
now bounding about like pogo sticks. Bouncing babies, quite literally.
February was a dramatic time of change and rains inland resulted in massive herds
of springbok and oryx congregating in the plains of the Garden Route area. At
one point, a single grassy plain hosted more than 150 springbok and about 100
Hartmann’s mountain zebra continue to be seen sporadically.
Skeleton Coast Camp’s resident brown hyena, Wally, was regularly sighted
in the past month, often adjacent to camp. One evening he simply lay on the sand
20 metres from our campfire, his head resting between his paws.
Giraffe and elephant sightings have been infrequent due to the flooding rivers.
to the Hoaraseb River area have focused on its amazing scenery and showing guests
the delights of quicksand. Fortunately, no safari guides were lost in the quicksand
Skeleton Coast Camp is famous for its dune driving and
February was no exception. Our guides took all guests on roller-coaster rides
through the dune fields, zooming up the hard windward slopes before sliding down
the slip faces. One intrepid guide, John Mitten, managed to get his vehicle stuck
on top of a sand dune - literally hanging over the edge of a slip face - in a
scene reminiscent of a Warner Bros
cartoon. He was eventually given a nudge by a few friends and cruised down the
slip face, red-faced but unstirred.
Cape Frio fur seal colony still houses thousands
of baby seals that are growing both in girth and energy. Amassing near the edge
of the ocean, the 3-4 month-old seals regularly dive into the waves, although
rarely venture past the breakers. Jackals regularly scour the beach around the
colony, feasting on stray carcases. The smell of the colony continues to leave
a lingering impression on all visitors and most remark that they’re glad
we enjoy a beach side lunch upwind of Cape Frio.
Skeleton Coast was treated to
superb weather in February and many guests took advantage of this and went swimming.
While the water was a little bracing, all participants relished the opportunity.
Cape fur seals were sighted surfing nearby guests, some bobbing up and inspecting
the newcomers to the coast.
Finally, fishing was sporadically excellent with one angler reeling in a 30kg
sand shark, which was photographed before being returned to the Atlantic. In
late February, guests caught several good-sized kabeljou, which were then baked
in camp for dinner.
newsletter - Feb 05 Jump
to Mvuu Camp
unpredictable weather continues! February is traditionally the
wettest month in Malawi and yet there has been virtually no rain.
The bush has been drying out quickly, and there are fears that
the park’s capacity to support its large population of
grazers, most notably hippo and impala, may be adversely affected
as we move into the dry season, so fingers are crossed here that
March sends us more rain. The maize crop in the surrounding villages
also looks indifferent although not disastrous.
Here is a selection of some of the more unusual sightings during the month. Male
hippo are commonly seen fighting, both on land and in the water. Almost invariably
the cause is breeding and grazing territory and the fighting gets more intense
as pressure for grazing becomes greater in the hot, dry months. It is extremely
rare to see females fighting but on 2nd Feb on an open stretch just to the west
of the airstrip there was a serious fight between two adult females. Guides Julius
and Symon and their guests observed this fight in full daylight for about 15
minutes before backing off and letting nature take its course. Neither cow was
seriously injured, which is not always the case when hippo clash.
On the same drive they observed Pel’s Fishing Owl - a regular sight around
Mvuu, sitting on top of a termite mound eating a genet cat. This is possibly
not such a rare occurrence - all large raptors are to a degree opportunists – but
it is the first time anyone at Mvuu has ever observed a Pel’s eating anything
other than fish.
The new impalas, born in November and December are now old enough to be fast
and alert. On several occasions we have observed large male baboons chasing these
young - on 2 occasions into the Ntangai River south of camp, where the impala
then had to swim across the river past the noses of several large crocodiles
who were all presumably too surprised to react.
A regular and magnificent sight at this time of year is the herds of elephant
crossing the main river. Our herds in the park generally range between 15 and
45 and the motivation for these crossings is always a particular source of food.
On one occasion while on a boat safari, Henry and his guests observed a large
herd with many babies crossing the river at the northern edge of the park - this
is where the Shire Rive flows out of Lake Malombe and is at least 700 metres
wide and currently in spate. The crossing took over 20 minutes and we were able
to observe this spectacle from a distance of no more 30 metres and use the flow
of the river to keep drifting down stream with the elephants and keep engine
noise to a minimum. By the time the crossing was complete the elephant had drifted
downstream over 300 metres yet reached the far shore at a clearly well used crossing
point so they must have known exactly where they were going to end up when they
entered the river.
One of Liwonde’s two herds of buffalo - both part of the relocation exercise
a few years back from Kasungu National Park - are now being regularly seen on
the huge floodplains north of camp. On 12th February, on an afternoon boat safari
Pheroce spotted 7 crocodiles eating a male bushbuck at the top of the Lodge lagoon
and it was possible to approach
slowly and quietly to within 20 metres without causing any disturbance. Then
on February 23rd Richard Chimwala was having tea with his guests prior to an
evening drive and they observed a male bushbuck swimming across the Lodge lagoon
being pursued by a large crocodile.
Birding is never less than phenomenal at Mvuu but the highlight for February
was easy to pick. On 7th February on a walk Angel and Mcloud spotted two Angola
(African) Pittas in a thicket near to Mvuu.
The rains bring fleeting glimpses of many irregular visitors and the high point
in February was a small flock of Greater Flamingos landing at the mouth of Namandange
River. Flamingo are often seen passing overhead but seldom seem to stop and allow
us a good view, so this was real bonus and all the guests were able to get good
views for over an hour before they moved on to the south. All the usual “specials” – Brown-breasted
Barbet, White-backed Night Heron, and Osprey have been regularly seen and also
4 African Skimmers at the mouth of Namingalala River. The park’s
White-breasted Cormorants which are extremely numerous and live in
several large colonies on the river’s edge are now coming into breeding
plumage. Narina Trogons were also regularly seen in the mopane woodland during
With regards from Mvuu - come visit us soon!