SAFARI CAMP UPDATES
Report on the effects of the tsunami on
the Seychelles Islands.
Monthly update from Linkwasha
Camp in Zimbabwe.
Monthly update from Abu Camp in
Kwando Safaris game reports for
Report on the New Vumbura
Premier Camp in Botswana.
Monthly update from Mombo
Camp in Botswana.
Monthly update from Duba
Plains Camp in Botswana.
Dive Report from Rocktail Bay in
New Baby Elephant at Damaraland Camp in
Monthly update from Skeleton
Coast Camp in Namibia.
North Island in the Seychelles
The Dec 26 Tsunami
- North Island update -
Jan 05 Jump
to North Island
the update on the Seychelles following the Tsunami in the Indian
Ocean. Included below is the press releases from the Seychelles Government
Marketing Arm (Seychelles Tourism and Marketing Authority - STMA), detailing
impact of the Tsunami on the Seychelles.
Essentially, apart from minor damage
to low lying areas on Mahe and Praslin (mainly on reclaimed land), the
Seychelles has emerged practically unscathed - "stirred but not shaken!" On North
was ZERO impact at all and the only evidence of the Tsunami was the tidal changes
in the form of large tidal swells (of 2 to 2.5
metres -smaller than some waves in Hawaii) over a very short period of time
(10 minutes), as the wave having lost force, passed through the Seychelles.
North Island was developed, the island dynamics were researched extensively and
it was explained by the environmentalists and island specialists that the
raised mound where the beach meets the island land (created naturally by the
island over many millions of years) is the most import area of the island and
should be both protected from erosion and in no way should be removed, tampered
with or developed. This is the island's natural protection from losing
to the sea.
Over the years since the island was formed (over
500 millions of years) this type of event has probably happened before and
this is why the island looks the way it does. After this recent natural
certainly understand why respecting this development constraint was so
North Island is fully booked and our guests are enjoying superb
all island activities in true North Island style. The property's GM, Bruce
Simpson, writes"there was absolutely no impact on North Island whatsoever.
Today we have
guests out swimming, on a dive as we speak and no person would even know that
tail end of a tsunami came through the islands."
Our thoughts are with all
the people effected by this terrible natural
1 - SUNDAY 26TH 2004 @ 07:35HRS LOCAL TIME - - REPORT ISSUED BY STMA
The tropical paradise islands of Seychelles in south-western Indian Ocean
have emerged practically unscathed in the wake of the Asian earthquake that has
caused havoc to some parts of the northern Indian Ocean.
Reports from the Seychelles indicate that besides a strong tidal wave that
washed out temporarily parts of the tiny capital of Victoria, damage over the
islands has been minimal and there has been no human casualty.
2 - MONDAY 27TH 2004 @ 18:30HRS LOCAL TIME - REPORT ISSUED BY STMA
Some 24 hours after receiving the milder effects of the tsunamis
from the historic Asian earthquake, the holiday paradise of the Seychelles in
the Indian Ocean can best be described as slightly shaken but not stirred.
Much more spared than its northern ocean neighbors like the Maldives and Sri
Lanka, the Seychelles have counted only one Seychelles national still missing
Small pockets of the main islands of Mahe and Praslin have been affected by
the strong tidal waves but general tourism has not been disrupted and all
inter-island and international flights were operating as normal today.
Only two medium-sized tourism establishments have had operational problems to
speak of as a result of being hit by waves. The Paradise Sun and the La
Reserve Hotel, both in Praslin island, will close temporarily to carry out repairs.
Linkwasha Newsletter - Jan 05 Jump
The grass that was green and healthy in December had, by the
end of the first week, started to wilt and was turning a grey
blue color. The earth was dry and there were no pools of water
on the roads or out on the plains. It looked really bleak. January
started off drier than any other month I have experienced here
in the last eight years! On the evening of the 13th huge clouds
blew in from the north east, and from then on we received showers
until the end of the month. The bush recovers beautifully - shallow
pools dot the plains, and are alive with frogs, storks, spoonbills,
ducks and other summer visitors. The plains are once again looking
green and in the forest the grass stands tall.
The bat-eared fox pups are venturing further and further from
the den. The family which bred in the den near the old camp
is very relaxed and the young pups are easy to approach in
the vehicle. On the 28th there was a huge number of termites
emerging from their underground nests, providing a fantastic
feast for all in the vicinity. Hundreds of Yellow-billed kites,
a few Black kites, Steppe eagles, Steppe buzzards and Lesser
Spotted eagles presided over the scene, with jackals and the
family of Bat-eared foxes running in between them all. Pups
were jumping into the air catching termites - an amazing site!
The big buffalo herds were regularly sighted in the first
ten days of the month but after the rains and the days cooled
off, sightings have been of lone bulls or groups of bulls.
Before the rains three or four herds would come down to drink
at the camp water hole throughout the day and until sunset.
There are lots of hairy brown calves in the herds. Elephants
started to make a comeback at the beginning of the month indicating
that water sources deep in the park were starting to dry up.
Big herds were seen at Scotts Pan and at Wexau Pan. Much like
the buffalo, once the rains fell, they moved west and sightings
now are predominantly of bulls or small breeding herds. Huge
herds of eland are out on the plains, especially at Ngamo,
and the herds vary in size from five or six animals to well
over 50. Wildebeest calving seems to have dropped off now.
Some of the first born calves from Nov/Dec are already sporting
Leopard sightings this month have been very good. On one evening
drive back to camp, three different leopards were seen! The
young male who hangs around Scotts Pan was seen feeding on
a tortoise near the Rhino midden. Guests spent a good 30 minutes
here. On another occasion he was seen stalking impala near
the pan and a few nights later chasing spring hares. The young
male who lives around camp killed a White-tailed mongoose 50
yards from the dinner table during one memorable diner!
The White Rhino bull which was first seen at Ngamo last month
has been seen a bit more regularly. Most of the time sightings
have been from camp or on the plains around camp. He is not
covering nearly as much ground as the other bull in the area
and we hope that this means that he will settle down and be
spotted more regularly. There is still no sign of any cows
The wild dogs have passed through
camp a few times this month terrorizing the impala. As a
result our big herds have been split up. One morning they
killed a lamb near tent # 9. Hyena sightings have been scarce
but most nights they are heard from camp. The male cheetah
has been seen out on the plains in front of camp a few times.
He is still making the most of the impala lambs and we think
possibly ostrich chicks which have survived until now.
There has been quite a shake up with the lions in the area
in the last few weeks. The four sub-adult males from Ngamo
have moved deeper into the concession, right into camp on some
nights, and they seem to be setting up a new territory. The
cub belonging to the lone female from Ngamo was found dead
on the 25th and it looks as though it may have been killed
by other lions. The other cubs in the area are doing well and
the one young male who looked so sick is much better and has
gained weight fast. No kills were witnessed this month but
we have seen them chasing waterbuck, buffalo and wildebeest.
Kills found were of wildebeest and buffalo.
The birding highlight this
month was the sighting of a single European (Western) Marsh
Harrier hovering over the Pan at Mfagazaana. The small pan
in front of the main lodge has also been active with a variety
of water birds: Southern pochards, Red Billed Teal, Hottentot
teals, Knob Billed ducks, Egyptian geese, Spur Winged geese,
Red Knobbed coots, spoonbills, greenshanks, Three Banded
plovers, Painted snipes, Wooly-necked storks, White storks
and Abdim's storks. Breeding in the area around camp are
Yellow-billed hornbills, Ground hornbills (2 nests) and Grey-backed
Bleating warblers. An ostrich hen was seen from camp with
five chicks that must have been between four and five months
old - great news that these chicks have survived the initial
hardships of life in the African bush!
"Great to see the BIG 5 in one place and in such short
time! We loved this place." (L.N & JN - FL - USA)
is overwhelming! Will always remember the ride to see the Lions.
A wonderful conclusion to our safari!" (G.R
- CA - USA)
"To wonderful to express
! We can never thank you enough for the memories we will take
from Linkwasha." (B.R & S.R
- CA - USA)
Abu Camp Newsletter
- Jan 05 Jump
to Abu Camp
Abu Camp has closed for
maintenance after an amazing season. We will open again for the
2005 season on the 1st of March. We have had great feedback on
the new three night safari and believe it will become the ultimate
African experience. The elephant villa has opened and our first
guests were totally blown away. Comments ranged from “see you in May with the rest of the
family” to “this is the first holiday I have seen
my husband truly relax. The villa has amazing karma”.
The flood was huge last year and gave
us a taste of what a wet cycle can be like. Fortunately
this year the floods appear to be normal again. What the
flood taught us was that we could not only rely on wildlife
sightings for our guests’ entertainment,
as the animals disperse when water sources are abundant. Instead
we focused on the camp’s elephants - nothing quite
compares to listening to a talk on the anatomy of an elephant,
which is standing one foot away. Every now and then, the
massive pachyderm shows guests just how well it understands,
and showers them with a little spittle and dust - very
interactive, not to mention entertaining!
The herd remains, as always, dependable.
They are a real show stopper: Naya is now almost two
and turning into a mischievous elephant. Just the other day
whilst walking with them, she snuck up behind a guest and
grabbed the guest’s shorts
with the curled tip of her trunk, yanking upwards. Underpants
and all. A good laugh was had by everyone. She certainly
knows she is on the stage at times.
Pula is now four years
old and threatening to grow as big as his wild father, Martin
Luther King. Martin is one of the highest ranking wild bulls
that inhabits the Abu area. Our aim is to release Pula into
the wild once he comes of age, as would happen naturally
in the wild with any young bull.
Jika and Sirheni, Naya and
Pula’s moms, are coping
well with the safaris despite having their little ones
to look after. It appears that Sirheni might be coming
into estrous shortly. Jika is now a full ride elephant,
having passed her apprenticeship in December. We now
have five elephants that participate in the safaris.
Kitty is nine years old this year - her attitude to life
is wonderful and she is always up for a bit of filming.
She was the star in the National Geographic underwater
series in December. It has been six years now since
we found her and the Abu herd is definitely her very own.
boys, Benny and Mthondo, just keep on doing the boy thing
and pretend they are not part of the herd. The females
love to walk in a straight line touching where possible,
whilst the males wander off and flank the herd or trail
behind it. Benny is getting on now and is almost fifty.
Probably have to throw him a party. Just the other day
we were viewing wild dogs from the elephants, and Benny
walked right up to one. Benny, not known for his braveness,
really impressed us.
Cathy, our matriarch, holds the Abu herd together and
without her we would be lost. She keeps control of
her herd gently, and is known to often reach out
a reassuring trunk.
We look forward to welcoming new guests at Abu in March!
Kwando Safari Camps Update
- Jan 05
A pack of 3 Wild dogs – 2 males and a female
have been seen for a few days –
> they were followed and made an impala kill. (one
of the males has a broken leg
but is running on 3 legs – he has lost his
Alpha male status to the other > male).
* A male leopard was seen close to the camp – he
is shy but with the Lagoon
team spending more time tracking will become more
relaxed with time.
* A female cheetah and her 3 cubs was seen during
the week – she killed an adult impala ram – quite
unusual for a female.
* Good sightings of elephant bulls and breeding
herds in the area.
* Large herds of buffalo seen both north and west
of the camp.
* General game prolific – impala, zebra, giraffe
as well as a herd of at least
80 eland and a breeding herd of 10 Sable – also
a few scattered herds of 2-3
* Night sightings have yielded porcupine, , genets,
African wild cat, serval
and civet as well as hippo grazing close to and
in the camp every evening.
* A mating pair of banded rubber frogs (poisonous)
was found after the rains.
* the Lagoon pride has been seen again during the last week – last followed
hunting last night close to the camp but were not successful.
* The pack of 3 Wild dogs has been seen frequently during the last week hunting
throughout the concession.
* A leopard was seen briefly a couple of days ago before disappearing in
to long grass.
* Big herds of elephant are still being seen daily around the concession
and in front of the camp during the day.
* The large herds of buffalo are spending more time away from the Kwando
River in the thick mopane woodlands where there are plenty of pans full of rainwater.
* General game in the area is excellent including wildebeest, zebra, giraffe,
tsessebe, roan and sable.
* Night sightings include hippos feeding out of the water, genets, African wild
cats, serval and porcupine.
* General game has been excellent – large groups
of Zebra, giraffe, tsessebe, wildebeest and impala as well
as steenbuck and reedbuck.
* An adult elephant bull was found dead, and subsequently
several different groups of lions were seen feeding on
the carcass at different times (a pride of 4, a group of
3 adult males, another group of 2 males, and 2 lionesses) as
well as a large group of hyena and several jackal both side-striped
* Several hundred vultures were also in attendance for
* A pack of 5 Wild dogs killed and ate an impala just
behind the staff village.
* A group of hyena was found at their den – 4 adults
and 2 cubs.
* A pack of 4 wild dogs was also seen – 2 of them
* A group of 3 cheetah – an adult female with 2
year-old male cubs was found – the next day they
killed and ate an Impala.
* A shy leopard was found in a tree with its kill.
* Buffalo were seen a few times during the last week.
* Night sightings include leopard, serval, genets, civet
and various owls.
* 3 male lions have killed an adult hippo close to camp and have been feeding
for the last 4 days. They have been coming down to drink in front of the
camp during the day and have been viewed from the guests verandas.
* A number of hyena are also attempting to feed on the hippo producing some good
* The large pride of 16 has been seen over the last 3 days and were found
this morning feeding on an adult giraffe.
* An adult male cheetah killed and ate an impala.
* Rare African Skimmers have been feeding in front of the camp over the
* The large pod of hippo is still seem daily in front of the camp.
* Elephant bulls and small breeding herds have been seen throughout the concession.
* Tracks of wild dogs were followed but the dogs were not found.
* General game has been prolific including giraffe, zebra, tsessebe, impala,
kudu and reedbuck.
* Night drives yielded serval, genets, African wild cat and porcupine.
Lebala camp Jump
* Good numbers of elephant both breeding herds and solitary bulls are being seen
around the area.
* Birding has been exceptional over the last week including several Kori
bustards, all the different bee-eaters, Abdim’s storks, and Open-billed
storks in large numbers.
* Predators are being dominated by the several large clans of hyena in the area.
* Several small groups of buffalo were seen – mostly well away from
the river as the numerous pans are full of water.
* Couple of leopard sightings including a relaxed large adult male seen several
times – last at the old hippo pool close to camp.
* Hippos continue to frequent the camp every evening – several guests
comment about their loud feeding close to the tents.
* A couple of nights ago a couple of serval were seen – one, as it
was watched, managed to stalk, kill and eat a mouse.
* The general game on the open plains is excellent – good numbers
of Zebra, wildebeest, tsessebe, giraffe (large herds) and reedbuck as well as
the occasional warthog.
* One night drive revealed a couple of African wild cats – one of
which had a couple of kittens.
* Several leopard sightings have been the highlight over the last week with both
relaxed male and female leopards being seen.
* A male lion was seen moving through the camp and was followed for some
* A pack of wild dogs was followed hunting but not successful.
* Hyena are seen throughout the concession and around the camp nightly.
* A pride of 6 lionesses was seen throughout the last week and finally killed
2 wildebeest calves.
* Excellent sightings of breeding herds of elephants are still being seen throughout
the concession, as well as scattered small herds of adult bulls.
* Large numbers of general game species seen daily on the open plains including
steenbok, giraffe, zebra, tsessebe, wildebeest and reedbuck.
* Night drives have been productive with a number of servals as well as jackals,
porcupine, genets, African wild cat and various owls.
The New Vumbura Premier Camp -
Jan 05 Jump
new Vumbura premier camp is currently under construction and
scheduled to open on 09 May. The new camp will be called
Vumbura Plains. The new camp's site is a
good 45 minutes drive away towards the south east from the current
camp. Vumbura Plains will use the existing airstrip
which is the same distance from the new camp as it is to
the current camp (about 40 minutes drive).
James' update: Nicky and I visited the
camp's construction site in February 2005 and met with the
husband and wife architect/design team of Silvio Reich and
Lesley Carstens (celebrated South African architects who are
also renowned for their work on CCAfrica’s Ngorongoro
Crater Lodge in Tanzania and Wilderness Safaris’ Mombo
and Jao Camps in Botswana and North Island in the Seychelles). The
camp is located in a superb spot with several suites overlooking
the lovely Kaparota lagoon. The units are huge, with
private plunge pools and the camp itself is something like
1.7kms in length - all on raised walkways. It promises
to be Wilderness Safaris' most lovely camp to date.
will initially be set up as two distinct camps (similar to
Mombo / Little Mombo) and the layout is as follows:
VUMBURA 1 with:
5 twins, 1 honeymoon = 6 tents and 12 guests
VUMBURA 2 with: 3 twins, 1 honeymoon and 2 family's = 6 tents with 12 guests
VUM STAFF with: 2 staff beds which are shared between Vumbura 1 and Vumbura
James' note: The camps will be managed separately (one by
Roger of Kings Pool and currently Little Vumbura fame) and are to be called
Vumbura East and Vumbura West.
camp will have it's own private vehicle.
Then as from 01 August the camps
will increase to 28
beds in total (and the concession goes back to a total
of 40 beds again) as follows:
VUMBURA 1 with: 7 twins, 1 honeymoon = 7 tents and 14 guests
VUMBURA 2 with: 4 twins, 1 honeymoon and 2 family's = 7 tents with 14 guests
VUM STAFF with: 2 staff beds
Mombo Camp update - Jan
of January 2005 at Mombo has been a time of renaissance as
we take advantage of this traditionally quiet month to reflect
on all the incredible experiences of the previous year, and
draw breath before the rigors - and far more importantly
- the pleasures of the coming season.
Mombo is cloaked in
a wonderful coat of green following the rains, with each
plant trying to outdo its neighbors in its profusion of
new shoots and leaves. The year-round availability of food
for herbivores in this area - plus the many small pans
which fill with rainwater and sustain life until the return
of the floods - ensure that animals here have no need to
leave this area in any season, and assure us of phenomenal
From the booming call of
the giant eagle owl as the first purple smudges of dawn
appear in the eastern sky, to the last call of the reed
frogs late into the night, Mombo is a place which hums,
whistles and roars with an orchestra of life like nowhere
else on earth.
Towards the end of
the month, a group of guests, newly arrived at Mombo, were
being driven from the airstrip to the Camp - a distance
of only 2km - when they came across a lioness hunting warthogs.
She very narrowly missed one, and the guide was able to
follow the lioness as she stalked a small group of zebra,
and succeeded in killing a young foal. As the foal's feeble
struggle ended, the lioness called to her cubs in a soft "umph",
a sound almost impossible to describe, but which tells
the youngsters that it is safe to emerge, and emerge
they did, tumbling over each other in their eagerness
to learn another lesson on their long path to becoming
Africa's top predator.
At the latest count, we had
18 lion cubs in the Mombo area, all born in the last three
or four months. With so many hungry young mouths, the
prides have been extremely busy, preying on buffalo specifically.
Often we have fallen asleep to the sound of the giggle
of hyenas and the shattering roars and growls of lions,
as each night's kill is hotly contested.
Eight young lion
cubs provided one of our most memorable game drive sightings
this month, as it was the first time that they had ever
seen a vehicle. At first they were very wary of this
strange green animal lumbering towards them, and they disappeared
into a nearby palm island. Curiosity soon got the better
of them however and they emerged one by one to get a
closer look. They were evidently disappointed to learn
that a Land Rover makes such a poor playmate, and losing
interest, they set off instead on an expedition to explore
the next island, watched over by their mothers.
of the young cubs peering over the backs of their mothers,
blue eyes wide with fascination, is one of those quintessential
safari memories that remains with you forever. During
this month we also discovered a new hyena den, in an old
aardvark hole in the base of a termite mound.
find of the month however was undoubtedly a ten-day old
leopard cub, born to a young female in the Simbira Channel
area. This is her first cub, and so far she is proving
to be an excellent, if very wary, mother. When first seen
the cub was peering from a hollow in the trunk of an ancient
sausage tree, where it remained for a few days before the
mother took her cub with her to a new place of refuge.
Incredibly, it was a gaggle of guinea fowl who prompted
the relocation. Once they spotted the mother leopard, they
relentlessly followed her around, calling raucously until
she had had enough.
Another welcome new appearance
- or rather re-appearance - at Mombo has been a pair of
wild dog males, which have moved into the area and who,
for now at least, are managing to hold their own against
the lion and hyena.
James' note: On our February
visit, we had great dog sightings and the "pack" now numbers
three as a female has joined the two males.
The masses of greenery have
seen record numbers of zebras here. We have also noticed
a lot more elephants at Mombo than we normally see at this
time of year.
Despite the rain, many of the smaller channels are
drying up. As small shallow pools are formed, hundreds
of birds - egrets, herons, pelicans and storks
- converge to feed on the hapless fish squirming
around in the mud. Best of all, we have had several
sightings of African skimmers this month. These gorgeous
tern-like birds thrive only in the very purest and
most unspoiled environments, so to see them very
close to Camp is a wonderful confirmation that we
are successfully minimizing the human impact on this
The re-introduced black and white rhinos continue to thrive,
although they have been a little more elusive now that they
can feed on juicy green grass in the acacia areas. The three
calves born last year all continue to do well, and seem to
get bigger almost daily. We recently spotted one female white
rhino with her calf relaxing in the shade, oblivious to the
fact that a mere 60m away, under the next tree, a pride of
lions was resting after having satiated themselves on a buffalo
they had just brought down. But then it would be a brave
lion indeed that tried to get the better of a rhino mother!
Perhaps the most enjoyable events this month have been those
which we associate most with this time of year - the flaming
red sunsets with the last rays of the sinking sun making
the low clouds glow like precious metals, and the huge energy
of the electric storms, thunder rumbling overhead to compete
with the roaring lions, and electric blue fingers of lightning
searing through the night sky and lighting up the floodplains.
Each day beings new things to wonder at - changes to stimulate
even the most jaded imagination. We are utterly convinced
that no-one can leave this Camp unmoved, and as evidence,
we will as always leave the last word on Mombo this month
to the guests who have shared this magical place with us:
has been our favourite place - the perfect mixture of being
left alone and entertained.
(our guide) was very knowledgeable and respectful of the
animals and the environment.
• We were
touched by the lovely surprise of the private dinner under
the African sky on our balcony.
• Everything exceeded
• Thank you for an amazing stay!
• We really enjoyed
having Thompson as our guide - he is very knowledgeable
and also has a great sense of humor…
of our expectations were met and exceeded - one of the
best experiences of our lives! Thank you!
• Ella is
a wonderful manager, extremely kind, sweet and accommodating.
a beautiful Camp - everything was impeccable - the food,
the service, the rooms and of course our guide, Francis.
was the most enjoyable part of your stay? Tracking leopards,
and the staff - especially Brandon, Debs, Thompson and
That's all from your Mombo January
team: Brandon & Debs,
Pete & Sharon, Justin & Angela, Ella, Keya,
Kele, and Nick. Oh, and Legadima the leopard, who has
practically taken up residence in Camp this month… yesterday
for example we had a wonderful sighting of her as we
were enjoying afternoon tea, strolling nonchalantly
along in the shade of the tents.
Duba Plains Camp update - Jan
January 2005 was hotter
and drier than last year with only 79mm of rain as opposed
to 180mm in January 2004. However, we did not escape the storm
that deposited 20mm of rain and a large Jackalberry tree onto
Tent 5 in less than an hour! Thankfully no one was in the tent
at the time and we hope to have a new one in place by the end
of February. Although the water flow at the top of the panhandle
as well behind last year’s levels, the water table is
high and any rainfall we are getting is running off into the
channels. Our environmental guru, Map Ives, thinks that flood
levels at Duba could be similar to last year because of the
high water table.
The high water table has also prolonged
the life of the fish traps in the area and although
the pelicans have gone, Slaty and Black egrets and Openbill
Storks are still seen in good numbers. Early in the
month a beautiful pair of Ospreys was seen in the Eden area
along with a number of African Skimmers, sure signs of
a pristine environment. Walberg’s
and Tawny eagles have returned and Diederik and Jacobean
cuckoos have been spotted in the acacia woodlands to the
The dry weather has also affected the annual elephant migration.
In December most of the elephant population around Duba migrated
50-60km north to the Mopane woodlands that constitute their
favourite feeding areas during the rainy season when the
pans fill with water. However, the hot weather in January
has dried the pans and forced many of them to return to the
northern delta adding to the already rich diversity of wildlife
It’s been mentioned many times
in the newsletters just how intolerant lions are of
other cats, which make leopard and cheetah sightings a special
treat. Since November however, we have seen cheetah
almost every week. One adult female, a sub-adult male and
a sub-adult female were first seen near Phala Island area
to the north of camp. At first they were very shy but quickly
became accustomed to the vehicles. It is very possible
that the cheetah have a large territory covering the neighbouring
Vumbura concession, which explains the erratic sightings.
As the younger two are now over a year old, they have
been abandoned by their mother and since the beginning
of the month, only the sub-adults have been seen in the Eden
area to the south of camp.
The buffalo herd now number over one
thousand and calving is reaching a peak with the rains.
This has changed the hunting habits of the lions, who
are picking off the newly- born calves and any overly protective
mothers. We had expected to see the new litter of Tsaro
cubs, since up to five females mated during August/September.
But of the four females currently lactating only one
young female has bought out two cubs, one of which has
since died. The whole pride is now often seen together and
a couple of the females are mating again, which suggests
that other litters have been lost. The one remaining
cub is getting a rough ride from the older females who
appear openly hostile towards it. It’s amazing
to think that just four years ago the combined lion prides
at Duba had a cub survival rate of over 80%, a figure
that has dropped now to around 20%.
The Skimmer Pride is still doing very well
and with the eleven cubs now approaching 18 months old, their
chances of survival are high. This pride does not rely solely
on the main buffalo herd to sustain it, as the Paradise area
is favoured by bachelor groups (Dagger Boys) and there
is a host of general game in the area. However, if the buffalo
herd crosses the Molapo Channel which forms the boundary
between the Tsaro and Skimmer territories, fights between
the two prides are common. On the 15th, the Tsaro females
pushed the buffalo into the channel and managed to pull
down an adult female that had become stuck in the mud. Although
the herd almost stampeded into the Skimmer Pride on the
other side, the lions ignored them and focused their
attention on chasing the Tsaro off the kill in the water.
A real scrap ensued with the nine Tsaro females eventually
retaining their prize catch.
If the Skimmer Pride has prospered, then by comparison the
Pantry Pride is in serious danger of collapsing altogether.
During late November, one of the older females was killed
in a fight possibly with the Tsaro Pride and another was
badly injured. Then the Old Vumbura Pride was later seen
near Shade Pan, in the heart of Pantry Pride territory following
the buffalo. We followed the badly injured lioness for the
next week, but she never rejoined the pride and we last saw
her near Phala Island.
During December, the remaining part of the pride (3 adult
females and the sub-adult male) was seen in a skittish state
near Baobab Island. They have since stayed in that area,
though when the sub-adult male eventually moves away it will
be difficult for the females to defend any sort of area,
however small. Amazingly, they have been able to bring down
some buffalo and also a couple of red lechwe, a great example
of how these amazing predators adapt their hunting techniques
in an hour of need.
Bay Dive Report - Jan 05 Jump
month marks the halfway point through summer, and of course the start to the
New Year. Temperatures have been creeping up, and the sea temperature is reaching
28 degrees Celsius. The ocean has cleared up with beautiful blue water streaming
in from the south. This has been a blessing for the divers and boat-based snorkelers,
once again enjoying the “Great Viz”. Most of our guests cannot believe
how warm the water is.
We have experienced quite a bit of rain, and this has been wonderful for the
The southerly wind has done wonders
for the visibility at Lala Nek. Our visitors have had many a fantastic snorkeling
experience at this marine haven. The fish life has been plentiful and new
species have been seen by all, the highlight being “Gugu’s Eel”.
Gugu, one of our guides, has managed to coax this little honeycomb moray
eel out of its hiding place on numerous occasions, while around him a number
of small Black-Cheek Eels bob in and out - perhaps also looking for attention.
We have had a
number of first-time snorkelers, who discovered the marvels of the Indian
Ocean. Anne Kennedy was one of these first-timers, who said she couldn’t, but did, and then we couldn’t get
her out of the water!
The fruits of the dune forest are in season, and we have had fewer visits
from our little forest friends. The mahogany tree that shelters our dining
area has been a favourite with the vervet monkeys, who have been stuffing their
mouths so full with the seeds that they started drooling. Besides the mahogany
seeds, they also feed on sand apples, dwarf apricots and water berries, all
absolutely delicious, even to the human palate.
Not surprisingly with the warm weather, there has been an abundance of bird
species, some common, some uncommon. A good number of bird watchers relished
these uncommon sightings - Broadbill rollers, Purple rollers and Wattle-eyed
Our trips through the grasslands to Vasi Pan have been worthwhile. Some special
waders that have been spotted are the Lesser Jacana and the Lesser Gallinule.
Vasi, which filled with water recently, has played host to many bird species
and has been very gratifying indeed.
On the sand track to Manzengwenya we often run into the
resident banded mongoose family, which scatter all over the dune road.
Lately, on the same road we have seen a handful of suni antelope. These are
among the smallest antelope in the world, and certainly the rarest in these
We have had fun-loving guests in camp this month, and
would like to tell you a “little” story about a “big” fish. A couple of days
into our guests’ stay, we decided to enjoy a fishing expedition in the
late afternoon. Melissa Middleton had never fished before and decided to give
it a go. A couple of days later, she and her husband Harry went down to the
beach, to enjoy some fishing with Simon. Melissa, sitting on the
beach quietly and very relaxed suddenly yelled for help - there was something
pulling at the end of her line. Simon stepped in to lend a hand. Half an
hour later, after a long struggle, Melissa landed an 8kg Yellowtail Kingfish.
Needless to say, the guys were green, with envy that is. Well done Melissa,
you really showed the guys how it should be done!!
On the 25 January we had a highly unusual sighting. Amil
and Paloma Dos Santos decided to go for a morning walk to Black Rock.
They saw something in the distance and assumed it was a log. As they approached, “the log” got up
and scrambled into the ocean. This was none other than a 1.5-metre crocodile – yes,
CROCODILE! Stunned, they stood and watched the surf but could see nothing and
continued their walk. Lo and behold, on their return the same thing happened.
This is the first time in Rocktail’s history that a crocodile, of
all things, has been seen on the beach. A very rare event indeed!
update - Baby Elephant - Jan 05 Jump
is with a great deal of pride that we in D-Camp introduce
the newest addition to the elephant family that lives in
our riverbed. Young Rosie (if it is a girl) or Pepe (if it
is a boy) was born on Friday, the 14th January 2005. Both
mum and new baby are doing fine. It is fascinating to watch
the young elephant as it learns about the new world into
which it has arrived. While
still looking a bit crumpled, it follows mum wherever she
goes, never being more than a few paces away. Mother is very
attentive and although the baby is forever underneath her,
she never seems to bump it with her legs and manages to help
it through any obstacles it encounters.
Reproductive success for these elephants in this harsh environment
is a challenge, and as such, the birth of this little calf
is encouraging news for the elephant population. Due to restricted
food availability, these elephants have low reproductive rates,
and elephant kinship groups are small.These gentle giants have adapted
their behaviour in order to survive. They may wonder up to
60km a day in search for ground water, digging holes known
as “gorras” into
the sand to access this. The elephants are crucial in keeping these
watering points open for other desert-dwelling creatures and
as such constitute an integral part of the desert ecosystem.Visitors to Damaraland have thoroughly enjoyed encounters
with these unusual, highly adapted pachyderms. We at D-camp
will keep an eye on the little one, and let you know of any
Skeleton Coast Newsletter - Jan 05 Jump
rain and more rain. January has ushered in the wet season at the Skeleton Coast
and while the surface water quickly evaporated or drained away, the region’s
normally arid gravel plains are now carpeted in green grass.
January began with
one of the most spectacular game drives on record: guests visited the Himba village,
viewed three herds of desert-adapted elephants then found the Skeleton Coast
lion pride on a kill. The lions were at the Klein Poort - a spectacular narrow
canyon in the Hoaraseb River - and had just killed an oryx. They were totally
at ease with the vehicle, affording excellent viewing.
The Hoaraseb River began
flowing strongly in early January after fresh rainfall fell inland. While this
stopped our exploration of this area for a couple of weeks, the river dried up
and game drives resumed down the spectacular riverbed.
One game drive actually
witnessed the flood moving down the Hoaraseb. As the flood crept up towards a
breeding herd of elephants, the cows responded by trumpeting and kicking dust
up at the approaching waters. After this, the herd sprinted down the riverbed
and scrambled up a side canyon. Elephants were regularly seen in the Purros area
of the Hoaraseb.
The Cape fur seal colony at Cape Frio is as frenetic as ever.
Thousands of cows continue to abandon their youngsters each day to fish in the
plankton-rich currents. Pups are growing rapidly but are still dependant on their
mothers. Nonetheless, they often venture into the ocean and are already fighting
and bickering with neighbouring pups.
Jackals, ghost crabs and kelp gulls continued
to scour the fur seal colony, with brown hyena tracks showing that there are
nocturnal visitors to the colony, too.
Well away from the Atlantic, desert-adapted
giraffe were regularly viewed in the Hoaraseb and Khumib riverbeds. In addition
to these, game drives yielded regular sightings of brown hyena, springbok, steenbok
and oryx. Summer rains have brought fresh grass shoots, carpeting areas
that were previously barren. This has attracted Hartmann’s mountain zebra,
springbok and oryx.
Closer to camp, three giraffes made regular appearances along
the banks of the Khumib River, skirting around the edge of camp. At the nearby
Sarusas Springs there have been numerous sightings of brown hyena: one of the
rarest large carnivores in Africa!
Skeleton Coast Camp was full all January with
delighted visitors. At this time of year, the area boasts a pleasant Mediterranean
climate. It is, indeed, an ideal time to sample this remarkable wilderness area.
Despite the area’s spectacular wildlife, many guests rate our finest activities
as swimming, fishing, viewing shipwrecks and strolling down the beach. A truly