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AFRICAN SAFARI NEWS
July 2005

This Month:
Wilderness Safaris general Safari News.
• Monthly update from Linkwasha in Zimbabwe.
• Monthly update from Makalolo Plains in Zimbabwe.
Kwando Safaris game reports for July 2005.
• Okavango Flood update as of July 30, 2005.
• Monthly update from Mombo and Little Mombo Camps in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Selinda and Zibalianja Camps in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Jacana Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Jack's and San Camps in Botswana.
• Report on the new Pafuri Camp in South Africa.
• Dive Report from Rocktail Bay in South Africa.
• The Spirit of the Namib safari update.
• Monthly update from Serra Cafema Camp in Namibia.
• Monthly update from Ongava Tented Camp in Namibia.


Wilderness Safaris general Safari News
Scheduled Safaris Updates - July 05
With the valuable experience gained since launching the new scheduled safaris, it’s now time for some fine-tuning to the existing 2005 itineraries, and 2006 safaris. Since the continuing aim is to enhance the guest experience and to create that perfect Exploration, there have been some small innovations to the present itineraries:

In the Khwai region of the Delta, both Discoverer and Adventurer camps have moved to the Santawani concession in the stunning, seasonally flooded Gomoti Channel.
The Great Namibian Journey will no longer travel through the dunes to Sandwich Harbor. Instead, the Harbor is experienced by going on an extended Dolphin Cruise complete with a delicious seafood lunch.
Canoeing on the Linyanti is dependent on the number of hippo residing at the time in the channels in which we canoe. It is therefore completely up to the hippos whether canoeing takes place!
Itinerary changes are to be introduced in 2006, on the itineraries of the Discoverer and Adventurer products in Namibia, as well as the Pans, Sands and Rivers and Untamed Lands itineraries for Botswana.
We are also proud to introduce a new and exciting Discoverer itinerary: The Great Botswana Journey.

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Zimbabwe Camps
Linkwasha update - July 05                Jump to Linkwasha Camp
July has still been very chilly in the evenings and early mornings, although it has been warmer than June. However, it has not gone below zero but it has been close on a few occasions and on the coldest morning we recorded 3°C. On some evenings a cool breeze has been coming up at about seven in the evening, not lasting long, but we have had to relight some candles at dinner and put some blinds down. During the day it has been getting very warm, with so much dust and smoke in the air from the animals and surrounding fires outside the park it has given us some spectacular sunsets!

The concession here at Linkwasha is looking very dry and most of the grass out in the open plains is disappearing very quickly, especially closer to some of the main waterholes, as these are areas that are being frequented by most of the animals like the elephants. Huge herds of buffalo have also been around, so a lot of grass that is not being eaten is being trampled by herds moving in and out of waterholes. We have not had a lot of wind, as the July and August winds have not yet arrived, but despite this, many of the deciduous trees have lost their leaves and are starting to look very bare now, even more so than last month. Waterholes are struggling, as we have had trouble with pumps here but lucky for us, some early Christmas presents were received – some new engines – so Back Pans is back to normal, pumping away.

Game viewing this month has been awesome - probably some of the best we have had in a long time. The waterhole in front of the camp has had a lot of action, with one of the best days showing four herds of buffalo drinking from there and each herd being more than 200 animals. Elephants are there all night and march out of the tree line at several different times during the day. Zebra, wildebeest, eland and some of the other smaller plains species are to be seen out the front of camp at all times of the day.

On the rest of the concession things have been very good as well, in the Scott's Pan area there has probably been the most pressure in terms of numbers of animals. Big varieties seem to congregate there especially around the hotter times of the day, including elephant, wildebeest, eland, warthog, impala, kudu, buffalo, sable and also the rare roan antelope. On most occasions these could all be seen at once!

On one particular morning drive, three cheetah and one of our resident leopards were seen in the exact same area! In the Back Pans area things have been good as far as elephant go. The resident pod of hippo there are doing well and are now wandering further and further away from the pan in order to find decent grazing. There has been one female lion in this area and on the few occasions that we have seen her she has looked quite heavy; we have been watching her for some time now and hoping in anticipation that she will have her cubs and share this with us too! She mostly moves around the camp here and on one occasion chased some buffalo from the waterhole whilst we were sitting at the fire after dinner.

Ngamo Plains has become very dry but still boasts with a lot of the plains animals such as giraffe in the acacia forest. We have seen rhino but they have been elusive and we were only lucky to see them on a few occasions. Our four male lion in the area have also been around but have been moving a lot so we have not seen them as much as we usually do. We have seen wild dog but unfortunately the only one we saw had been injured with a wire snare around its neck, we hope he will be fine after reporting this issue to the wild dog researchers.

This month, in terms of variety, has been very good, in fact excellent. As the season progresses we only expect it to get better! Some of our percentages this month were as follows. elephant 100%, buffalo 81%, lion 32%, leopard 6%, bat-eared fox 100%, eland 74%, sable 100%, giraffe 100%. On our best day we had seen 23 different species.

On a funny note however, we had a rather unusual incident of a baboon falling through the roof of one of our senior staff houses!! We will leave the rest to your imagination!

This month with our bird sightings there has not been too much new happening, other than the arrivals of the Red-breasted Swallows and one sighting of what we were sure was a Yellow-billed Kite! We were not a hundred percent sure as it was seen from a distance but looked very much like it. If it was it would be unusually early, but then again stranger things have happened. There have also been some White Storks in the Back Pans area, probably the same birds that were recorded in June. This month our total bird count was 112 species.

GUEST COMMENTS
Jim and Jill Kielty, Omaha Nebraska, U.S.A. - Thanks for the wonderful hospitality. We saw a lion eating her kill and a wild dog eating a wildebeest. Great memories, thanks.
Elain and Marvin Mack, West palm beach, Florida, U.S.A. - Left a little of our hearts in Africa, taking a little of Africa home with us! Thanks.
Laurie and Chris Buettner, Occidental, CA, U.S.A. - An African fantasy come true!

Regards
Willem and Trish

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Makalolo update - July 05                Jump to Makalolo Plains Camp
A minimum temperature of 5 and a maximum of 31 degrees Celsius were recorded during July. The earlier part of the month was characterised by heavy dew on the boardwalks in the mornings, which allowed guests to track their guides' wake-up call movements! In mid-July the temperatures started to creep up into the late 20s and early 30s during midday, and outdoor showers during siesta times once again became a hit!

The latter part of the month has seen the build-up of August winds, twisting and twirling, swaying and swirling amongst the trees, covering everything in a fine layer of dust. Early mornings and evenings still have a high chill factor, and our gorgeous ponchos are still the most popular fashion item out there!

Everything is looking a little arid now, as the effects of winter have taken their toll. There is not much ground cover as far as grasses and scrubland are concerned. This is due to the large herds of buffalo and elephant moving across the Plains, leaving a trail of devastation and a smoke screen of heavy pink dust behind them. The forests are looking rather gaunt and because of the lack of leaf cover, game viewing has become somewhat easier than usual. Rugs of fine autumn leaves ranging from Kuduberry, Ordeal and Teak trees cover the cold Kalahari sand floor, providing warmth and a safe haven to a hodgepodge of small creatures. It's
raining Large False Mopane seeds as the little crimson and brown buttons fall from the heavens and thud onto roofs and boardwalks, ensconcing themselves amongst the carpets of dry foliage.

It has been a spectacular month for the more uncommon antelopes! Large herds of roan have been seen, as many as 20 at a time, with a remarkable sighting of roan calves dodging death with cheetah! Gemsbok made an appearance at Ngweshla and a lone male reedbuck has been seen at both Madison Pan and on the road to Mbiza. Our solitary red hartebeest has returned to the Plains with her wandering wildebeest connections. At one time we suspected that we may lose her to the hungry hyaenas, as she had injured her front left leg and was walking with a dreadful limp, but luckily, she healed and is prancing around amongst the wildebeest once again!

Walking safaris have proved to be quite thrilling this month. After proving how far one can spit kudu and giraffe dung, Belinda and her posse strolled into the Ngweshla area, to discover a cheetah pair feeding on a baby wildebeest! Then, those with a pioneering spirit put on their best walking shoes, clasped walking sticks perfectly carved by nature and trundled through the scratchy bushveld, whilst tracking a large herd of buffalo for 8 km!

A total of 21 lions was seen in one day comprising the resident pride of 16 (3 females and 13 cubs) at Gardenia Pan and the sub-adult pride (1 female and 4 males) at Broken Rifle Pan (these being the older cubs of the 3 aforementioned lionesses). The pride of 16 has been a little elusive, moving between the Linkwasha vlei near the airstrip and Ngweshla. The cubs seem to be doing well, though one young chap had a big bleeding gash above his eye when last seen - probably a clumsy infliction from a sharp stick.

On one particular evening, we watched the most exciting play on earth, lit from the ceiling by moon and stars, and spot lit by the red beams of the game drive vehicles. The scene of our astonishing drama was FRONT OF CAMP, WARTHOG BURROW! The collared lioness and her two sub-adult male cubs were already placed on set; one of the young male lions with an injured back right leg had taken refuge in the warthog burrow whilst his brother, who looked a bit on the bloated side (had obviously made a meal of some of the warthog piglets), spent a lazy day amongst the trees with mother. Later that evening, 7 haggling hyaenas were cued and arrived on the scene, forcing the injured young male lion deeper into the safety of the warthog burrow. His mother and brother were all too quickly warned and came to his rescue! By this time, front of camp had come alive with an African sonata of cackling, giggling and calling for reinforcements from the hyaenas and then the bass of the low "emergency air horn" moans from the lions kicked in!

The hyaenas were about ready to launch an attack on the lions when suddenly a herd of 50 trumpeting elephants bulldozed their way onto the stage, sending hyaenas and lions scurrying in all directions. Two black-backed jackals that were hiding in the dark then added their sopranos to the chorus. During all the commotion, in the distance was heard the deep, drawn-out hum of another pride of lions, making their approach! When the collared lioness and her cubs heard the harmony of the call of the other lions, they immediately made their exit and headed towards camp, disappearing into the shadows. The seven hyaenas were quick to kick up a cloud of dust as they exited the scene, but not before one of them disappeared down the warthog burrow to "take away" what we suspected was yet another piglet! The final star attractions of the show arrived, our sub-adult pride of five. They sniffed around and investigated the event, very disappointed to discover that the gig was cancelled! They called out into the dark, the little female taking the lead with her powerful and impressive voice, but nothing answered. Eventually they moved off and the front of camp was left in complete and utter silence, as if nothing had ever been there!

Other sightings for July were as follows: baboon, giraffe, hippo, springhare, steenbok, warthog, waterbuck, zebra, sable, tree squirrel, black-backed jackal, kudu, common duiker, vervet monkey, side-striped jackal, eland, banded mongoose, African wildcat, small spotted genet, scrub hare, white-tailed mongoose, bat-eared fox, lesser bushbaby, leopard, Selous mongoose, leopard, striped polecat, cheetah, reedbuck, slender mongoose and gemsbok.

69 different bird species were recorded during July. Birds of prey have provided awesome sightings, as well as migrant birds who shouldn't be in the southern hemisphere at this time of the year, but decided to stay! A rather frazzled White Stork was seen at Madison, trying to escape the clutches of a pair of Tawny Eagles. The stork flew into a herd of buffalo and almost landed on a bovid's back; this scattered the herd and left the stork out in the open, eventually being caught, killed and eaten by the Tawnys! Another pair of Tawny Eagles have been seen building their nest in a Rain tree situated to the west of camp.

Love or lust has been in the air with the birds this month. A pair of romantic Hooded Vultures were seen mating, whilst perched in a tree at Little Somavundla, while a love-struck pair of Black-breasted Snake Eagles were seen at Somavundla Pan also mating on a branch. At Ngweshla, a pair of Bateleurs were seen doing the same thing! Martial Eagles have been frequenting the front of camp, an adult and immature seen sitting at the front waterhole and earlier in the month an immature Martial made an attempt to hunt a flock of guineafowl in the early morning hours. We had 3 Red-billed Hornbills visit camp, and Fork-tailed Drongos have been up to their usual tricks, mimicking the calls of the Pearl-spotted Owls and recently riding on the backs of the throngs of wildebeest
swishing across the Plains. A Yellow-billed Kite flew over the front deck of camp on 27 July - this either marks the start of summer, or the YBK didn't make it north with the migration!

GUEST COMMENTS
"Thank you so much! You've all been such gracious hosts, showing us a fantastic time. All of the guides managed to keep their promises, a feat I think that shocked even the animals! The warmth we found here made up for the windy mornings for sure. We will miss all the "thousands and thousands of animals!" DANIELLA & GIORA, CANADA & FANNY SCHNEIDER, SOUTH AFRICA

"What a wonderful adventure! Like the elephant, we will never forget! The animals, the people, the Makalolo hospitality...all the best one could ask for! What a beautiful camp!" TOM, DEBBIE, BRAD & KURT NEWMEYER, CALIFORNIA, USA

Please get directions to Makalolo and we'll take you around a few loops and turns!

Take care out there,
Shelley & the Mak squad


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Botswana Camps
Kwando Safari Camps Update - July 05
Lagoon camp                Jump to Lagoon Camp
(Weeks 1-2)
• 2 male lions were found mating with 2 nomadic females.
The Lagoon pride of 12 was followed hunting a herd of buffalo – they chased but were not successful.
The were followed hunting several times but did not make a kill – however they are in good condition suggesting that they are making their kills very late into the night.
A very relaxed young male leopard was followed hunting impala but missed his kill. He was seen later in the week sunning/sleeping on a termite mound.
There was a leopard sighting most days over the last period – mostly marking territory or hunting. One set of tracks showed that an adult male walked right through the camp at night. Another leopard was followed hunting without success.
A female cheetah with her two cubs was followed hunting – they killed and ate an impala. She was followed several times over the last period and was seen killing another two impala – the cubs are in excellent condition.
2 adult male wild dogs were seen a couple of times, once finishing off the remains of an impala.
Elephant sightings excellent as usual for this period, being seen in large numbers now through to the beginning of the summer rains.
Large breeding herds of buffalo are seen daily coming down to the river to drink – especially in the late afternoon, one particularly spectacular sighting of large herd of each elephant and buffalo drinking and bathing together.
Night sightings include black-backed and side-striped jackal, flap-necked chameleon, hyenas moving through the camp, large spotted genet, a porcupine, a couple of caracals hunting and an African wild cat with young.
General game - giraffe, zebra, impala, waterbuck, reedbuck and small groups of tsessebe.
Also seen – a good number of Bateleur eagles adults and juveniles, osprey, tawny eagle, several hawks, a Bradfield's hornbill, yellow-billed storks and spoonbills, a couple of puffadders, a honey badger and a family of dwarf mongooses.

(Weeks 3-4)
• A mating pair of lions was seen over a period of a few days – there was an additional male lion in attendance
Another pride of 2 males and 2 females were seen for several days in the area – showing signs of pre-estrus but no mating activity as yet.
A female leopard caught and killed a porcupine. Another female was found sleeping on a termite mound and was seen several times over the past period.
An adult male leopard killed a warthog.
Several sightings of a young male leopard – he was eventually found feeding on an impala kill – judging from the tracks he had robbed a cheetah of its kill.
A adult female cheetah and her 2 male cubs were seen almost every day – they were followed hunting several times but were not successful until the 22nd – they caught and killed and impala.
An adult male cheetah was tracked several times but not found
A pair of male African wild dogs was seen in the southern areas.
Excellent elephant activity in the area - it continues to increase as the dry season persists – large breeding herds of elephant as well as solitary bulls are seen throughout the day drinking in front of the camp as well as throughout the concession.
Like the elephant – a number of large herds of buffalo are seen daily throughout the concession – most often coming down to drink from the river in the late afternoon and evening.
Night sightings yielded chameleon, hyena, side-striped jackal, black-backed jackal, white-tailed mongoose, large-spotted genets and African wild cats.
The general game in the area continues to abound – zebra, impala, blue wildebeest, tsessebe, a herd of roan antelope with 5 youngsters, a large male sable antelope, giraffe, reedbuck and warthogs.
Most mornings bands of dwarf mongooses are seen sunning themselves, as well as the occasional sightings of puff-adders and black mambas.

Kwara camp                Jump to Kwara Camp
(Weeks 1-2)
• 3 lionesses stalked and killed an adult zebra just behind the camp on one evening game-drive.
The pride of 15 was seen numerous times, also hunting zebra and resting in the morning and late afternoon sunshine.
2 leopards were followed on consecutive nights in the area west of camp.
Leopard were tracked several times with guests which was enjoyed by all.
Another leopard was viewed across the Maunachira River close to the site of the new Island Camp.
A female cheetah was followed hunting in front of camp, and a full-bellied male cheetah was found sunning himself on a termite mound.
A pack of 3 wild dogs (one had an injured foot) were found drinking one morning in front of the camp – they were followed hunting and killed an impala. They came back to drink in front of the camp again during lunch and were followed hunting again – they caught and killed another impala on the afternoon game drive.
Hyenas were seen most evening drives also seen wandering close to camp.
An elephant bull provided some entertainment drinking and wallowing in front of the camp.
A group of 5 elephant bulls have been spending most of their time feeding in and around the camp including two of them scratching themselves on the managers tent.
A large herd of buffalo (approx 1000) was followed close the old Mekoro station.
A mating pair of black-backed jackal was seen for a while, another pair was seen in front of the camp at the pan, a pair of side-striped jackal are seen each late afternoon on the airstrip, seen hunting and catching a mouse.
A herd of 8 sable antelope, as well as good numbers of zebra, impala, giraffe, tsessebe and a few warthogs also seen in front of the camp and on the surrounding plains.
Hippos were seen fighting in the pan in front of the camp
Night sightings include aardvark, a couple of very relaxed honey-badgers,, a number of genets, a civet, a serval and African wild cats (one was hunting and caught a mouse)
Interesting birds – several wattled cranes, a couple of pelicans and a family of 5 ground hornbills

(Weeks 3-4)
• A pride of 3 lions was found calling and marking their territory. 5 lionesses and an adult male found resting, later drinking at the lagoon in front of the camp, and were followed hunting the next day.
The 3 males were followed harassing a large herd of buffalo during the morning – they managed to isolate and brings down an old bull which kept them feeding for several days.
A pride of 12 – 9 females and 3 young males were found – very relaxed were found together feeding on a giraffe carcass – there were 2 large adult males in attendance but they were resting in the shade. The 3 young males later killed a buffalo calf but were robbed by the 2 adult males.
The 3 adult males later killed another adult buffalo – again during the day – hundreds of vultures in attendance.
A very relaxed female leopard was followed for a couple of hours, a sub-adult male was seen for a little while but was not as relaxed.
An adult female leopard (little shy) caught and killed a large male baboon next to the Kwara camp managers quarters, she stashed her kill in a tree close by and continued to feed there for 2 days.
A large relaxed male leopard was seen in the vicinity of one of the buffalo kills but kept well clear of the lions.
An adult male cheetah was found sleeping – he later was followed hunting and killed an adult reedbuck.
A group of 3 sub-adult male cheetah were seen drinking in front of the camp, they rested in view of the camp for the whole day – made 2 attempts to kill but missed – they were successful in catching a reedbuck on their 3rd attempt.
A pack of 3 wild dogs were seen in front of the camp – one still limping heavily – they rested in front of the camp for most of the day.
Small groups of elephant bulls were seen around the concession.
A breeding herd was seen at close quarters from the boat by guests on a river-cruise.
A herd of 250 buffalo came past the camp from the west and were last seen close to the Mekoro station – feeding and drinking from the river – some mating activity was noted.
3 large herds of buffalo were seen further east – largest est. 1500
Night sightings include – civet, African wild cat killing a mouse, honey-badger, hyena at the lion kill and side-striped jackals
A large herd of zebra was seen feeding with some wildebeest on the burnt areas west of the camp, impala, tsessebe, hippo, a herd of 24 giraffe, baboon, reedbuck and warthog.
A couple of pelicans are still in front of the camp, also see were fish eagles, wattled cranes, 20 yellow-billed storks, secretary birds and a long-crested eagle.

Lebala camp
                Jump to Lebala Camp
(Weeks 1-2)
• An adult male lion was found feeding on a warthog. Another male was found feeding on the remains of a buffalo calf.
A lioness was seen several times on her own as well a a couple of male lions patrolling the area.
A pride of 5 females lost their warthog kill to a clan of 10 hyena.
A mating pair of lions was found at the old hippo pools.
A very relaxed female leopard was followed for a while.
3 different leopards were seen on the 5th July
A young male leopard was followed for a while – he caught and killed a springhare.
An adult male leopard was seen with the resident female north of the camp a couple of times as well.
A pack of 2 male wild dogs were found resting with full bellies after a considerable tracking effort over a couple of days. (thanks Evelyn)
Lots of breeding herds of elephants all around the camp – one game-drive saw about a thousand elephants spread over a distance of about 3-5 km (2-3 mi) “the whole area was covered with elephants – a few bulls were fighting”
Large breeding herds of buffalo (up to 1000) concentrating to the south of the camp – some fighting and mating activity as well.
Another couple of herds of 500 strong seen around the concession
Lots of water-birds, cranes, marabou, saddle-billed and open-billed storks, Bateleur and tawny eagles, goliath, little, purple and green-backed herons, as well as white-headed, hooded, lappet-faced and white-headed vultures.
Both black-backed and side-striped jackals have been seen frequently along the open plains, a pair of each were found feeding on a reedbuck carcass, cause of death unknown.
Lots of hyenas esp south of camp – and occasionally in camp as well.
Excellent sightings of several rather large crocodiles sunning themselves along the riverbanks.
Very good general game including impala, zebra and giraffe all around, also seen steenbuck, sable and roan antelope, baboons and vervet monkeys. Also an excellent sighting of a sitatunga north of the airstrip
2 honey-badgers were found as well as yellow, dwarf and banded mongooses.
Night-sightings include an aardvark, striped polecat, a couple of civets, African wild cats.
A female pangolin and her offspring were found feeding in the late afternoon sunshine - digging for ants and termites
A number of excellent birds sightings seen including a couple of carmine bee-eaters – unusual for this time of year

(Weeks 3-4)
• A single lioness was tracked and found on an impala kill close to camp
A pride of 4 male lions was found at Skimmer pan.
There were several sightings of single male lion roaring and marking his territory. Later he was followed until he started digging at a hole on the side of a termite mound, and later was rewarded with a warthog.
An adult female leopard was seen close to Skimmer pan – but was a little shy. A male leopard was later found on his impala kill at Lechwe corner. There were several other leopard sightings including one hunting baboons without success.
A single male cheetah was found, as well as a female cheetah and her 2 cubs – she was seen several times during the last period.
2 adult male wild dogs were seen a couple of times – they hunted and killed an impala.
Later in the week a single wild dog was seen at the hyena den south of camp.
Large breeding herds of elephant are seen throughout the day and night-times all over the floodplains – the largest group seen together was about 200 individuals.
Excellent sightings of several different herds of buffalo were seen north, south and west of the camp, one of the herds moved right through Lebala camp to the river.
Hyena still continue to dominate the Lebala area, packs are seen patrolling all over the area nightly - up to 10 together.
Night sightings include both black-backed and side-striped jackals, porcupine, serval, civet, genet, African wild cat, white-tailed mongoose and chameleons.
Excellent general game all over the floodplains – lechwe, impala, giraffe, tsessebe, zebra, wildebeest, reedbuck – all especially prolific close to the water in the late afternoons.
Consistent sightings of the resident raptors – snake eagle, Bateleur eagle, Marshall eagle, tawny eagle, African hawk eagles, osprey as well as a variety on herons, Bradfield's hornbill, honey-guides, ostriches and wattled cranes

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The 2005 Okavango Flood update - July 30
As may be gathered from the camp newsletters, flood levels in the delta are subsiding.
Water levels at Duba Plains, Vumbura Plains, Jacana and Kwetsani have all been reported as dropping.  The reason for this is very clear (see graph below of the water flow at Mohembo in the Okavango panhandle). The level of flow has decreased enormously since the peak of the second spike at the end of April. Now at the end of July we are almost back to the levels experienced in January.
Floodplains and lagoons will stay innundated for some time still, but from here into the summer months levels will continue to drop.


Okavango Delta Flood Chart for end of July 2005

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Mombo and Little Mombo monthly update - July 05                Jump to Mombo Camp
July is perhaps the coldest month of the year in northern Botswana - but it's all relative! We are in the middle of winter now, with generally warm, dry weather, and cool nights and mornings. Average temperatures this month were a little lower than in June, but on the whole we are having a much milder winter than in 2004. Even the occasional cold snaps, when ghostly wreaths of white mist curl around the palm islands before the sun rises, are soon burned away by the tropical sun, beaming down out of cloudless skies.

At this time of year there is an extra special quality to the light in the evenings and early mornings, making for excellent photographic opportunities and the chance to capture some incredible images, like the steam that forms when a lion exhales on a cold morning or a Lilac-breasted Roller perched on an acacia branch, brilliantly-coloured chest feathers puffed up to insulate him against the wind.

July is a time for reflection, a month of quiet calm - the floodwaters have flowed into the Mombo area and have now continued beyond us, along the fringes of Chief's Island until they flow into the Thamalakane River which snakes its way through Maun, before seeping away into the Kalahari sands. The annual arrival of the waters in Maun, the chief town of Ngamiland, is always a cause for much celebration, representing as they do the advent of new life and an annual covenant renewed.

At Mombo, the floodwaters have reached their greatest extent - less than last year, but on a par with 2003. The lower water levels this year have meant that many areas which we cannot reach in a high flood year have remained accessible, allowing for some wonderful game drives along the myriad rivers and channels of the incredible Delta.

The full moon this month was a true spectacle - an enormous flame-coloured disc rising beyond the trees to the east, and slowly turning the colour of old weathered ivory as it inched its way above the layer of airborne dust which hangs in the air over distant deserts. Once the moon was higher than the trees, its pale white face was reflected in the waters which flow past the Camp, and must be a constant source of wonder to the enormous Goliath Herons which fish there at night.

Out on the dry plains, rising columns of warm air create dust-devils which dance their enchanted path across the sun-baked pans patiently awaiting the next rainfall, in October or November. It is as if everything has paused, between the onset of the floods and the start of the rain. An ideal time to contemplate the wonders of nature which are writ large here, and to take stock, to discover those things in life which are truly important.

Of course a stage as wonderful as this needs some incredible actors to grace it, and the never-ending dramas, great and small, unfolding in the lives of the majestic animals which live around us are as always utterly compelling. Every aspect of life is on display, from courtship to mating to the raising of young, feeding and grooming, and the necessary violence of predators hunting and killing. It is impossible to describe every magical moment that has been experienced on game drives this month, but we've tried to include a few of the more special ones. Mombo is well-known, and rightly so, for predator sightings - the sheer profusion of game here means that this area can support unusually high densities of the major predators, and following a sighting of mating leopards just to the east of Camp earlier this month, this situation looks set to continue with a new generation of these wonderful cats soon to enter the scene. Some of our leopards are becoming adept at digging warthogs out of their burrows, which is of course very bad news for the warthogs, usually safe when they are underground. Leopards are patient and clever enough to catch them even here, however - to a hungry predator, no chance of a meal can be overlooked! This philosophy was demonstrated by one our female leopards, who one afternoon was rudely awakened from her siesta by a guineafowl landing next to her head! Instantly alert, she flushed the guineafowl into the air twice more, and as the flock began to descend, she had already selected her victim, and pounced with unerring accuracy.

The shallow floodwaters provide fantastic grazing opportunities for the large herds of buffalo which move through this area, and a herd of buffalo in turn provides a real opportunity for a pride of lions - particularly a pride like the Mathatha Pride, long-time Mombo residents, who have a plethora of hungry mouths to feed at present. The cubs are now at an age where they can be left relatively safely while the adults hunt, although even lion cubs are never entirely safe - we realised during the course of this month that two of the nineteen cubs are missing. This sadly is not too surprising, as there are many pitfalls along the way for a young lion, and only the strongest survive. For the pride to have only lost two cubs is an incredible achievement. Evening sightings of this pride in particular are very special, as the adults prepare to set off to hunt, and the cubs play together in the last light of day. On one notable occasion, this pattern was reversed, and guests on a game drive saw a long line of adults returning to where the cubs had lain concealed in the shade of acacia trees throughout the long afternoon, and there was a fantastic ceremony of rubbing heads and noses and purring as all the members of the pride, large and small, got re-acquainted.

As with the leopards, no chance to feed is overlooked. Perhaps the most unusual moment we witnessed this month was an African Fish Eagle being killed by a lioness. The eagle had hooked a large catfish from a channel, and as it struggled to take off with the fish in its talons, a lioness, undoubtedly attracted by the sudden flurry of activity, bounded through the water and batted the eagle out of the air. Still clutching its fish, it tried to take off again, but the lioness again knocked it down, and this time killed it with a bite from those terrible jaws. After this however she seemed to lose interest - unlike the guests of course who were spellbound as this curious piece of natural theatre unfolded right before their eyes.

As yet we still cannot be certain whether our nascent pack of wild dogs has successfully denned. Each time we see the two males, their behaviour is very typical of dogs on a mission to feed new puppies, but so far we have been unable to confirm this. Meanwhile the legendary cheetah brothers, the ‘Steroid Boys’, have been very much in evidence of late. Their territory covers a huge swathe of Chief's Island, but the impala herds of Mombo are irresistible to them. Just this morning they killed an impala, only to lose their kill to lionesses, and the half-eaten kill changed hands once again when a big male came in to claim the lion's share.

The great variety of habitats at Mombo mean that many of the Okavango's hundreds of recorded bird species are found here, from wetland specialists stalking through the reeds on spindly legs, to the plovers noisily defending their eggs from any animal that might accidentally step on them. A number of endangered or rare birds are regularly seen here: White-headed Vultures soaring down from their vantage points at the top of the giant baobab trees, Slaty Egrets, and the stately and graceful Wattled Cranes. The presence of some of these species is a fine testament to the pristine and unspoilt nature of these wonderful wilderness areas.

The acacia woodlands in the centre of Chief's Island also host a great variety of species, and it is here that some of the more colourful characters are found: Crimson-breasted Shrikes, Melba Finches, sunbirds, and Violet-eared Waxbills, each of them a glittering jewel in amongst the thorns of the trees.
This month our guests have enjoyed regular sightings of our reintroduced white rhino. Following the discovery of the newest calf last month, there are now more wild rhino in Botswana than there have been for perhaps two decades or more, and the fact that they can be seen roaming free in the Okavango again makes a sighting of these magnificent animals not just a great safari moment, but also living proof of a conservation success story.

Some great detective work by our guides this week resulted in a sighting of one of the very elusive black rhinos. One of the adult females in particular is known to regularly move about the northern part of Chief's Island; she rarely stays in one place for long. Once her distinctive tracks had been seen, however, the guides soon worked out where she was heading and were able to give the guests a chance to see the rarest of Botswana's mammals.

One of the great delights of Mombo is that we have been able to create a home from home for our guests in the very heart of the Okavango. The cooler weather of winter is no real challenge, now that we have hot water bottles available not just in the beds at night, but for those first few moments of the early morning game drives. Extra blankets on the chairs around the fire and a few extra Leadwood logs blazing away soon have the cold on the run. And then of course there is the food - what better way to keep warm on a winter's night in Africa than by tucking into a wonderful meal by the light of candles and paraffin lamps? Hot desserts, particularly the fig pudding with caramel sauce, have been real winners. And for anyone who overindulges, we now have a new fitness centre, with exercise machines for people who are feeling guilty!

As always, we will leave the last word on Mombo and Little Mombo in July to the guests who shared this little piece of paradise with us during the month:
You seem to have covered everything to make our stay an unforgettable experience!
I will always tell everyone that Mombo is the Camp not to miss!
The staff are all tremendous - what a pleasure! What a very special place!
Multiple leopard sightings - hot water bottles - landscape - best food on our trip!
Thompson (our guide) - so intelligent and a wonderful personality!
This is a very special place: the beauty of the landscapes, the majesty of the animals, and most especially the warmth and generosity of the people make Mombo an unforgettable experience!
Just keep up the wonderful work you are all doing.

That's all from your July Mombo and Little Mombo teams:
Brandon & Debs, Pete & Sharon, Craig, Noreen, Kate, Thompson, Mavis, One, and Nick.
Until next time, or until we see you here!

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Selinda & Zibalianja Camps update - July 05                Jump to Selinda Camp                Jump to Zibalianja Camp
First sighting of the 2005 Selinda wild dog pack’s litter of pups was on the 12th of July and 13 little tykes came waddling out the den under the alpha female’s watchful eye. The rest of the pack were as excited as we were at their emergence, and there was much cavorting, yipping and yelping.

The dogs continue to wreak havoc with the local impala and kudu herds – twice daily. With so many extra mouths they need to double their hunting efforts now that the pups are being weaned.

The Zibalianja waterhole now has an almost continuous procession of animals visiting it. The most commonly seen are impala, warthogs, elephant, kudu and zebra, all stopping in throughout the day and night. Action though is never far away, and a dramatic chase ensued when a big male baboon took exception to the leopard Amber’s presence, and sent the leopard packing across the floodplain to the refuge of an acacia tree.

For a number of years we have been considering canoeing on the Selinda Spillway. Well, it has now become a reality and our new Canadian kayaks are being put to good use at Motswiri. The floodwaters make it possible to silently explore the banks of the spillway where a variety of animals come to drink.

The most spectacular sighting of the year has to be the arrival of a massive herd of buffalo in front of Selinda Camp. At a conservative estimate, 2 500 beasts covered the floodplain and spillway in a noisy, dusty, black blanket as the whole herd drank their fill. The herd has since been seen on numerous occasions.

We are very concerned that some calamity has befallen one of the three male cheetah. We noticed recently that he was not well and had become separated from his two comrades. The other two have been quite distraught and spent a good deal of time searching and calling for their missing buddy. We can only hope that the sick male recovers and rejoins the coalition – we will keep you posted.

For the first time ever we will be open for the “Green Season” of December, January and February! Scenically, this is one of the most dramatic times of the year and a photographer’s dream. Game viewing is rewarding and the birdlife is at its best. See you there!

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Jacana Camp update - July 05                Jump to Jacana Camp
“NO, JACK! DON'T BREAK THAT TREE!”

What does one do with a 5-ton landscape artist? A lot of cleaning!

After a two-week absence, Jack the elephant, is back in full force. He has successfully shaken every last nut from the Real Fan Palms and is now doing serious gardening. He lacks planning, though. Several big Feverberries are no more and lots of branches are lying around. We clean up as best we can and wait for the next onslaught. For all the hassle he causes, he does provide great experiences for guests and good close up shots near the rooms and dining area.

A second, larger elephant has been visiting as well. He has stunning tusks, but keeps his distance and lingers only a few hours. Earlier this month, a whole group of bulls were huddled under a tree near the airstrip. It seemed like an “old boys” convention. Wonder what they were discussing?

The water around camp is dropping more and more. We will soon be taking the long channel to the jetty. Guests can expect a 45-minute or more transfer to the jetty. The route follows the main channel and is filled with birds and great vegetation.

Activities at Jacana have been more water-based this month. Lots of birds and elephants out on the islands. Cats have been scarce. Not much lion around at the moment. Leopard have been seen and a great sighting of a female stalking impala at the jetty – she was unsuccessful, but it was a great sighting for guests coming from the airstrip.

The local herd of tsessebe have become very relaxed and can be seen at a close distance when on drive. Big herds of lechwe are still on the Jao floodplains together with wildebeest and zebra.

The hippos are moving around more and more, and can be heard close to camp at night. Other noisy things at night are big catfish feeding in the shallows around the rooms, sucking and splashing as they hunt small critters in the grass and swamp.

Fishing has been successful this month: Some impressive bream, nembwe, African pike and some feisty tigerfish. The water is warming up and proving attractive to bigger fish with many more bugs on which to feed.

Fish-eating birds are plentiful as usual. Some African Fish Eagles were seen battling at dizzy heights, followed by lots of calling by onlookers. The Pel's Fishing Owls are around a lot and can be heard regularly at night. They are accompanied by their elusive cousins, the Scops Owl, always heard, but rarely seen.

And don't forget Jack, who will be continuing his landscaping efforts.

Cheers
The Jacana Management team


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Jack's & San Camps update - July 05                Jump to Jack's & San Camp
Meerkats at Jack's CampWinter in the desert! Golden sunrises, cold feet and mountains of fleeces! Looking out over this parched, shimmering landscape in the cold hard light of morning it’s a miracle that anything survives here at all, but survive it does.

For one, the Mowana troop. This hardy troop of meerkats has recently increased its numbers from 8 to 11 with the welcome addition of three males from outside sources. At first these males were very stand-offish but soon won the favour of the dominant female who has been without a mate since October. This is fantastic news as now this troop, which had diminished to a worrying eight, now has breeding potential. All that is needed now is time while the new males settle in, habituate and then start getting romantic ideas! This they have done with surprising speed, with the vigilant Tobesani reporting back that the males were soon sleeping in the same burrow and then foraging closer and closer to the main colony each day. The next developments will be when one of the three will vie for the title of “daddy” and start breeding with our lone damsel!

July also saw the arrival of Anna, in from Abu Elephant research, her mission to locate and habituate the ‘Taka group’ - a second colony of meerkats that we had been keeping a loose eye on in a neighbouring territory. Taking on slightly smaller subject from what she is used to, Anna has been setting forth in all modes of transport in an attempt to habituate them to all possible conditions, from flapping trousers to quad bikes to the sturdy chug of the Land Cruisers. The habituation process has been a lot smoother than expected: having been within two metres of the den site on their emergence in the mornings and then keeping within 10 metres of the troop as they head off to forage - all within five days!

Other developments have included very gratifying success with the Brown Hyaena project. Glyn Maud, supported by vet Dane Hawk out of New York State, managed a capture rate of four hyaenas and one research assistant in a period of 2 nights! On the first night, using new techniques of outlying bait from the main carcass in a hope of tempting in more timid animals 2 hyaenas were attracted. The trap site was deliberately set up on the supposed boundaries of 3 clans to pull in hyaenas from all sides. They didn’t have to wait long: at 22h08 the first hyaena came in and was held firm by the traps. Dane and Glyn moved in to do the business of darting, collaring, weighing, measuring, sexing, assessing age from teeth wear, blood and hair samples and ear nicks for ease of field identification. Puduhudu, as she was subsequently named is a 2 ½-year-old female fitted with a GPS collar.

During the hyaena’s medical exam an ominous sign was found: A loop of synthetic rope around the rear right leg of the animal. Although this did not appear to be causing the animal any distress it does lead to more sinister problems of the hyaena-human conflict in the area, a subject that Glyn is vociferous about. However, no sooner had the hyaena lolloped off, the traps reset and the team pulled out another hyaena walked straight up and became ensnared. The well-practiced team swung into action and the result was an 8-year-old female named Gweta, also fitted with GPS.

The following night proved equally successful, with ambitions knowing no bounds as Glyn set up 2 trapping sites within radio communication of each other. The first victim came in the shape of a research assistant, a prime adult male, but his wife deemed it unnecessary to collar him. So the traps were set, the donkey smelt ripe and the team settled in for the stake-out. At 20h30 the first hyaena was drawn to the bait, a young female maybe 20 months old, caught and subsequently named Tabatsukudu. After all the necessary data had been collected, Dane’s experiments with new combinations of sedation and reversal drugs had reduced the recovery time to that of 7 minutes from the point of administration, a remarkable feat of achievement in itself. 00h15 and site No. 2 struck lucky, a 6-year-old male who, according to Dane, had to be wrestled to the ground single-handedly. Other reports confirmed that he twitched in his sleep. A new technique of body condition rating was used, looking at hydration levels and muscle mass and this gave the hyaenas a rating of 4/5 and 5/5 respectively, which bodes well for the health of the hyaena population in the area - even at this point of the year where the last rains fell back in April.

About a week later, an aerial survey with the kind help of John Schwikkard’s piloting skills and plane, collected data for the above animals and other collars roaming the area and saw that Puduhudu and Tabatsukudu were operating in the Planka area, to the north of Jack’s. Gweta is out to the west in the Makgadikgadi National Park and another collar, Dingary, collared 7 weeks ago, operates north on the Orapa Road. In hindsight the success of the night was given to the laying of scent trails to the carcass by dragging entrails around the surrounding area in the evening before each night. All this, and the fact that all hyaenas that came into the sites were un-collared, suggests again that populations in the Makgadikgadi area are doing well.

Other excitement in camp includes Kudu, a prime bull with magnificent horns seen roaming the area in between Jack’s and Tsgaro airstrip, along with a harem of 3 females. Aardwolf have been showing themselves earlier and earlier as the nighttime temperatures fall, forcing them to utilise other termite sources. African wildcats have been spotted on Lion Island (we suspect delusions of grandeur) as well as along the Ntwetwe Pan shoreline. We have had two confirmed reports of two black-footed cats out towards Chapman’s Baobab which has created much anticipation. The two resident Red-necked Falcons are still causing consternation within the resident dove population of Jack’s Island and the yellow mongoose family have been proving as bold as ever in and around camp.

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South Africa camps
Pafuri Camp - July 05                  Jump to Pafuri Camp
I am feeling a little dizzy, my first month at Pafuri Camp is drawing to an end and my head is spinning. How does one begin to describe the multitude of mind-blowing experiences that a month in Pafuri delivers?

On a birding walk on the Mangala floodplain a male lion walked straight towards us. His roar reverberating off the sandstone cliffs, yellow eyes locked on us, unafraid of the small group of humans. He passed within a stone’s throw of us!

Dusk and dawn from the main deck is heralded by the appearance of the sensational and much sought-after Bat Hawk. This phenomenal raptor is roosting somewhere in the camp and we are treated to regular shows of bat-hunting prowess over the Luvuvhu River during morning tea.

At the confluence of the Luvuvhu and Limpopo rivers two bull hippos clash. Enormous mouths stretched wide open, deadly tusks slashing and stabbing. The water turns to foam in the frenzy and the foam is red with blood. We are standing on the bank not more than fifteen metres from the gigantic warriors.

Thousands of pink nectar vases are tended by countless twittering sunbirds beneath a canopy of fever trees. Anisotes formosissimus – its botanical name meaning “most beautiful” is in full flower and the sunbirds have never been happier. The tiny birds dart from flower to flower in search of its sweet nectar. A whitish smudge marks the head of every sunbird in the area. The flower is perfectly formed to deposit its pollen onto the head of the unknowing sunbird which then spreads the pollen from plant to plant with nectar-inspired enthusiasm.

The month of July has brought no measurable amount of rain to the dusty earth. An isolated storm did however drop about a millimetre on game drive one afternoon. Apart from a few windy days at the beginning of the month the days have been warm and clear with the nights and early mornings tending to be a little icy. The night sky has been sensational with Venus, Jupiter and Scorpio dominating the early evening sky.

Game viewing along the Luvuvhu has been fantastic. Large numbers of buffalo and elephant kick up dust and trample the earth on their regular trips to the water. Literally thousands of baboon, vervet monkeys, nyala, kudu, bushbuck and waterbuck visit the river during the hotter times of the day. On one of our first afternoon teas, a leopard was seen strolling along the south bank. Cat sightings have been good, with sixteen lion and leopard sightings for the month as well as sightings of serval and African wildcat. Lion highlights included a pride killing a buffalo within earshot of the camp, some great views of two young cubs (about 4 -6 months) and the regular roaring patrol of the Makuleke male. Leopard viewing was best close to camp with a large male being seen near the bridge on a number of occasions as well as a female in the same area. Leopard track density everywhere in the concession is very high and we look forward to tracking these less known leopards.

Six white rhino are presently in a boma becoming accustomed to their new home. The return of white rhino to this area is cause for great celebration – no white rhino have been here for over a hundred years. Eland herds have been seen on two occasions, with the herds numbering 20 and 25 animals each. Buffalo herds have been seen on an almost daily basis. Typical herds number between 50 and 100 animals, the larger herds up to about 200.

A personal highlight of the month was two separate sightings of four-toed elephant shrew. These crazy-looking insectivores bring great joy to anyone swift enough with binoculars to get a good view.

A bird list of confirmed sightings for July numbers 200 species, in keeping with our expectations of awesome birding at Pafuri. Racket-tailed Roller, Pel’s Fishing Owl and Bat Hawk are the month’s crackers. Other exciting birds included Böhm’s and Mottled Spinetails, Green-capped Eremomelas, and Mosque Swallows.

Thanks
Fraser Gear

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Rocktail Bay Dive Report - July 05                  Jump to Rocktail Bay Lodge
Sea conditions have varied from flat to 2.5m swells; 8m to 20m viz.; with water temperatures around the 21-22 degree Celsius mark. Even though divers arrive warmly wrapped up for the early morning dives, we are blessed with mostly sunny days during winter, and there is nothing better than coming up from a dive to have the sun shining on your face.

We continued to see Humpback Whales throughout the month, out on the horizon breaching and blowing and a couple of close encounters. Another occasion saw two Humpbacks sleeping just north of Island Rock. As we stopped to take our life jackets off Clive spotted their tails sticking out of the water. They lie in the water in a head-down position, with just their tails sticking out of the water; this is called “sailing.” We sat for a while and watched as they alternated between this position and lying flat on the surface as they took a breath, before doing their headstands again.

The most spectacular sighting of the month was a lot more active. As we were travelling to the dive site we saw three Humpback Whales putting on the performance of a lifetime. They were travelling in the same direction as we were, northwards, and it was incredible to watch them breaching time after time. One would breach followed by another, then two would breach together, then the other and on and on. It was incredible to see such huge creatures lift their bodies almost clear out of the water before crashing down in a huge spray. Normally a whale breaching about five times in a row is a sight to see, these whales must have breached about thirty times! Each breach was echoed by ‘oooh’ and ‘aaaah’ as we watched in amazement.

The reefs have been extremely active and full of life. A wonderful dive at ‘Elusive’ began with a huge honeycomb moray eel swimming right past us, followed closely by a curious potato bass who charged right in to see what the commotion was about. Then another big honeycomb eel came out from under a ledge to see what the potato bass was so interested in – all this as we were exchanging OK signals! The dive continued to impress as we watched numerous devil firefish on the prowl; a huge school of blue-lined snappers enveloping us; tropical kingfish cruising in and out; and even a good-sized cobia – often mistaken for a small shark.

For sheer numbers of fish, ‘Gogo’s’ was certainly the winning reef this month. For those of you who have dived here, you know just how beautiful the coral is on this reef and how diverse the fish life. Well, the fish seem to have multiplied even more! There are literally hundreds of redfang triggerfish, blue-lined snappers, humpback snappers, sea pike, concords, lemonfish, dusky rubberlips and sea goldies. As two of our Dutch guests said: “Our first sea dive and it was amazing. Saw too much to describe. A wonderful dive.”

Another special reef is ‘Solitude’. This reef is a lone outcrop surrounded by sand, where all the life gathers. With just Dave Gilbert and myself it truly was a dive of solitude! We descended in clear blue water to the reef below, a black tip reef shark had a quick look before moving off across the sand. We saw five giant kingfish (Caranx Ignoblis) in the cave and sat on the sand watching as they swam around and then out the other side. As there was quite a strong north-south current, we headed straight for the northern side of the reef so as not to be swept off across the sand. This current seems to be the one that the fish like! They sit facing into it and wait for the plankton to be swept to them. We sat and watched them feeding in the current - dusky rubberlips, soldiers and schools of fusiliers that swam around the rocky outcrop. The beautiful black branched coral swayed in the current and we quietly watched the garden eels and razor fish going about their business on the sand. Our time was all too quickly finished and we surfaced slowly watching the reef disappear below us. Dave completed his PADI Advanced Diver Course with us – Congratulations and we wish you many more wonderful diving experiences!

Till next month!
Darryl, Clive, Michelle
The Rocktail Bay Dive Team


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Namibia camps
Spirit of the Namib Safari report - July 05                  Jump to Spirit of the Namib Safari
Kayaking in Walvis BayOn this past Spirit of the Namib from the 12th of July to the 22nd, we had an amazing trip with many great sights and scenes. One of the biggest highlights was when we went for a great morning kayaking at Pelican Point at Walvis Bay. We had tons of seals right amongst us whilst kayaking. It was great seeing all of them so very close to you in the water!

There were also numerous Heaviside’s dolphins that came to investigate. Some of them came up into the air, being completely out of the water. This must have been about 40 metres away from us at times! We also did a full-day excursion to the Sandwich Harbour area with an amazing adventure through the Kuiseb Delta and some of the big dunes on the coast.

The real unexpected treat came when a humpback whale showed up and actually surfaced out of the water for a brief glimpse of its forequarters before shooting out some spray from the blowhole and then plunging back into the water. We only saw a few more "sprays" before losing sight of it. About 2 kilometres north along the beach we had another brief glimpse of another whale, this time only seeing a small part of the back and the spray again. We thought it was the same one, but the second vehicle with the other half of the group was about 1km back and radioed us to report that they were looking at one as well! Even though the sightings were brief, it was truly amazing as whale sightings around these areas are still quite rare – a wonderful addition to the Spirit of the Namib!

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Serra Cafema update - July 05                  Jump to Serra Cafema Camp
Another month has passed, they really fly by – it must be because we are having so much fun!

The worst of the winter is over and our days are warming up. We still have thick fog coming up the river valley most mornings, but it burns away quite early, and the temperature does not drop so low over night as it did in June. For all of July we had a minimum temperature of 13ºC, and a maximum of a very pleasant 33ºC.

The camp is looking great, much of our furniture has been re-upholstered this month, giving the main area and guest rooms a real face-lift. We have almost completed work on the new laundry, and have planted grass and various herbs around the kitchen to give the back-of-house a new look also.

With regards to guiding it has certainly been the month for predators! A small pride of 3 male lions (1 adult, 2 sub-adults) moved through the area, coming up from the south and crossing over the airstrip where we found their tracks, then heading down to a nearby canyon with the appropriate name “Leeu Rivier” (Lion
River). This had us all excited and the Himba people fearing for their stock. Their fears were put to rest, however, after we all spent two days helping to move all the livestock away from the canyon.

Lions were not all we saw in July. We had numerous brown hyaena sightings, several times actually viewing them in and around camp – which can be a thrilling experience when walking in the dark! Crocodile sightings have also been regular, especially now that the river has dropped to expose a few obvious favoured
sunbathing spots. To top it all off, we ended the month with two cheetah near the airstrip spotted by two of the camp staff on their way to the Marienfluss to pick up a staff member who had been on leave.

Not bad for the desert …
Regards,
Robyn Dreyer


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Ongava Tented Camp update - July 05                  Jump to Ongava Tented Camp
The idyllic hues of the winter season dot the landscape with a kaleidoscope of yellow, ochre, burnt orange and brown with spurts of green as the last few Mopane trees refuse to relinquish their summer foliage. The warm days and cool nights remind that winter is still eminent but with the promise of spring yet to come. Driving through pockets of cold and warm air in the early evening, the cool breezes waft across the grassy plains lifting the heady, earthy, grassy smells as one returns to camp, wrapped under a poncho, knowing a glass of sherry, a hot shower, a scrumptious meal and the warmth of the camp fire awaits one.

Antelope, followed by the predators, abound at the waterhole as the dams start drying up. Both black and white rhino frequent the waterhole at night, mostly at dinner time, sending the guests scurrying for their cameras, only returning to their meal once the rhino has left. Spotted hyaena whoop through the night after drinking their fill under the spotlight of the waterhole. Lion are heard in the early evenings and mornings roaring their dominance to the animals on the plains just beyond camp.

Guineafowl herald the new day, raising clouds of dust in the chilly morning air. Rüppell's Parrots screeching, Bare-cheeked Babblers a-babbling and a host of other birdsong join the cacophony orchestrated by the tok-tok-tok of the hornbills. A perfect start to a new day.

Sightings at both Ongava and Etosha have enthralled guests by the sheer numbers of springbok, gemsbok and Burchell’s zebra. 63 elephant were counted in one morning’s drive between Olifantsbad and Aus in Etosha. Bloated lions were often found lying next to zebra and gemsbok carcasses surrounded by White-backed Vultures, Lappet-faced Vultures and black-backed jackals. Rarer sightings of cheetah on the Ongava Reserve and in Etosha sent the guides into frenzy of excitement, not to mention an even rarer sighting of an aardwolf in Etosha.

Tawny and African Hawk Eagles were often seen perched high in the branches waiting for unsuspecting prey to come past. Majestic Secretarybirds, crowns displayed, strut through the grasslands whilst the Lilac-breasted Rollers grace the dry woodland with their beautiful plumage. In the twilight of early evening Double-banded Sandgrouse plonk themselves down in a cloud of dust just beyond the light of the waterhole indicating the day is just about done.

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

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Eyes on Africa, Ltd.
1743 West Fletcher Street
Chicago, Illinois 60657
Tel: 800.457.9575 / 773.549.0169    Fax: 773.327.2977    Email: Eyes on Africa

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