Wilderness Safaris general
Dive Report from beautiful North
Island in the Seychelles.
Monthly update from Linkwasha
Camps in Zimbabwe.
Monthly update from Makalolo
Plains in Zimbabwe.
Kwando Safaris game reports for
Monthly update from DumaTau
Camp in Botswana.
Monthly update from Savuti Camp in
from Mombo Camp in Botswana.
Monthly update from Kings
Camp in Botswana.
Monthly update from Selinda Camp in
Monthly update from Tubu
Camp in Botswana.
Monthly update from Vumbura
Monthly update from Duba
Plains in Botswana.
Monthly update from Mombo
and Little Mombo Camps in Botswana.
Report on the new Pafuri
Monthly update from Serra
Camp in Namibia.
Monthly update from Palmwag
Rhino Camp in
Wilderness Safaris general Safari
Assorted Updates - June 05
Camp opened on July 2nd and is looking beautiful. Set under enormous Jackalberry
and Nyalaberry trees on the banks of the Luvuvhu River, its architecture
reflects a wonderful combination of Makuleke stonework and woodwork.
The name 'Kulala Wilderness Camp' has become a misnomer since its upgrade to
thatched roof, wooden doors and floors, and rock bathrooms! Therefore,
it has been decided to rename it: it is now called Kulala Wilderness
Renovations at the River Club are continuing with Litunga (the furthest
room downstream) being converted into a family room and the paving of the
camp paths progressing.
San Camp has upgraded its adjacent ‘short drops’ to
en-suite flush loos. In addition, the tents this year are green and not
At the recent Seychelles Underwater Film Festival on Mahé, the North
Island dive team entered three images taken on our dive sites, one of which
made it through to the final round of public voting.
At Rocktail Bay, turtle adoptions are going well: One of the guests adopted
a Leatherback Turtle from last season and a schoolgirl in Cape Town has
raised money to adopt the first of next season.
Thick coastal mist is now penetrating upstream along the Kunene all the
way to Serra Cafema lining the valley in the mornings and providing much-needed
moisture in the dry winter months.
North Island in the Seychelles
North Island Dive Report - June 05 Jump
to North Island
June has come and gone and
amongst the highlights on the scuba diving front, we have another new
dive site, our first whale shark sightings, milk fish shoals, and the
seasonal arrival of the sprats on “Sprat City”. All very
During the early part of June we experienced 6 days of on-and-off
rain, overcast weather, and a seriously grumpy ocean with 5m visibility.
What a combination! The entire plateau area of Seychelles, incorporating
Silhouette, Mahe and the inner islands, all experienced the green water.
We battled to find a spot that did not offer poor visibility. On the
rain front, we had 97mm in one shower on 7th June. Over these 6 days
we had a total of 400mm of rain, which was totally un-seasonal. I must
add that it was very welcome as we are traditionally in the dry season
Despite the poor conditions during the first week or two of June,
we managed to put some dives out on the better days. We had been
forced to dive closer to home and Steve, on doing a shore entry off
the main beach, swam beyond the normal site that we dive, crossed
a vast amount of sand and found another ledge, teeming with life. Rays,
eels, huge shoals of kingfish surrounded the divers and “Outside Edge” was
born. It comprises a 50m-length ledge lying at 23m of water and
offers a vast number of geometric eels, round ribbontail rays, reef
rays, devil firefish and more. Divers that came back after having
dived it raved and said it was their best dive to date. So, you never
know, just when nature forces you to stop diving the sites usually
dived and limits you to about 300m from the closest beach, you find
On one of the typical choppy days, on return from a dive off main
beach, I was summoned out to sea to identify a massive shoal of
sharks” cruising around just below the surface. On closer
inspection, these small unknowns were swimming around in a very
loose shoal, appearing to be eating something. They cruised in
at the inflatable boat, moved off, swam past, swam back. At first
I identified them as baby grey reef sharks as they seemed to resemble
these, but on further investigation, they turned out to be Milk
Fish (Chanos chanos). They feed on algae and invertebrates and
it is not uncommon to find them in large shoals near the surface.
We also witnessed sea urchins moving off the reef, due to the unsettled
ocean conditions and extreme surge - not a common sighting.
As if to apologize for the poor
weather during the first part of the month, the ocean calmed down,
visibility improved and we went back to “Sprat City.” We had a bet on whether the sprats
would arrive before the end of June and yes, I won the bet: they
had arrived in their thousands. This is how the dive site got its
name in the first place: during June to mid August, small fish
called sprats arrive on Sprat City and basically take over the
reef. They seem to enjoy certain outcrops on this dive site and
you can hardly see the reef for these tiny fish. They are in large
shoals everywhere. They in turn bring in the larger predator fish,
which feed on them, also enticing the rays, sharks and pick-handle
barracuda shoals. This is the most active season for this dive
site and there is action here, day and night and especially late
afternoon, when the king fish start to feed. It is hugely exciting
to dive this site over this period. Those that survive all the
feasting that goes on get bigger and eventually move off.
During the last week of June we saw our first whale shark and at 14
metres, it wasn’t a small one either. It was measured against
the size of the boat and its length was far greater than the length
of the boat. It approached divers at 10m on Sprat City and circled
them for 15 minutes or so. It was curious and just kept swimming
around everyone. It eventually went up towards the surface, swam
towards the boat, circled the boat and then, satisfied as to what
we all were, moved off. It had no tag and its sex was not identified
by the divers. After the dive, one hour later, the boat crew were
mooring the boats on the West Beach side of the island and as they
approached the mooring buoys to attach the ropes, the large whale
shark appeared again, together with a smaller one of 10m in length.
They circled the boat, had a look and then disappeared again.
The whale shark season normally starts in August and these sightings
are early. In fact, the helicopter pilots have been sighting a lot
over this last week. Perhaps it has something to do with the tsunami
or perhaps the seasons are just early, which may explain the poor visibility.
The water has been filled with plankton and other small juicy edibles
that the whale sharks feed on.
Indian Ocean bottlenose dolphins have also graced us with their presence,
although slightly shy.
With all of this action, it would appear that the ocean life has come
alive, poor visibility or not. At the time of writing this report,
the ocean has settled down to a nice lull, visibility has improved
to around 12m and we are experiencing 26ºC water temperature.
Over the month of June we managed 59 dives with 36 different divers.
We visited 7 dive sites with Sprat City (9 visits), Twin Anchors
(4 visits) and the ‘Boulders - Main Beach – Outside Edge’ being
popular with 6 different visits.
On the fishing front two Sail Fish proved to be a highlight. Both
fish were successfully released.
Regards from North Island,
Linkwasha update - June 05 Jump
June has been quite cold and crisp
as usual in the early mornings but has been warming up quite nicely at
midmorning. Ponchos on the game drive vehicles have been rather welcoming
for guests as they are very eager to have them when offered! On the 23rd
we had some cloud blow in from the south-east, which made for some slightly
warmer nights. The coldest that we have experienced this month was 2°C
at about 6:30 in the morning. The days have been very pleasant and later
we have a breeze starting up that dies down by midday. The highest temperatures
were around 27 to 28°C.
The concession here at Linkwasha is already looking very dry and is
almost what we would expect in late August. There is very little surface
water left around and most of the pans that still had some water last
month are now mud wallows for the elephants and warthogs. With the breeze
that we have been getting, predominantly from an easterly direction,
a lot of the trees are now starting to lose their leaves. Some of the
Ordeal trees are still showing off their golden colours but mostly all
are now taking a bare look. The surrounding open plains are also looking
very dry, at Ngamo plains and areas here in front of camp it is well
grazed and is getting dusty as there are no signs of green on the ground.
Further towards the outer areas of the plains there are still good amounts
of grass, but dry.
Wildlife this month has been relatively good considering the cold mornings.
Generally we have found that during the mornings things are quiet until
the sun starts to warm things up a bit and animals get a bit more active.
As a result the late mornings have been better for game viewing. Afternoon
game drives have been excellent as everything seems to happen at the
water and on several occasions we have not had to do much driving around
at all but go to a waterhole and sit there instead. I recall on one occasion
that we were at Scott's Pan we were having sundowner drinks and had elephant,
giraffe, wildebeest, zebra, roan antelope, black-backed jackal, hippo,
warthog and impala all around us. It was magical and then as the sun
had just disappeared behind the horizon a leopard emerged from the tree
line to come for a drink!
Huge herds of elephant have been seen at the water,
not only in the afternoons but also at midday as well. The little
waterhole in front of the camp has been quite good as well, especially
at full moon while sitting quietly at the campfire with the silhouettes
of the animals moving around the water. Spotlighting in the evenings
on our way back to the camp from afternoon drives has also been very
productive as there has been a wide variety of nocturnal animals that
have been kind enough to show their faces, some of them being Selous‘ and
The buffalo herds seemed to have moved out of the
area for the first half of the month, but started coming back towards
the end; we have not seen many herds at all this month apart from
some old bulls that hang around the back pans area. Rhino have seen
on a couple of occasions especially at Scott's Pan. The "old guy" as we call him has been very
elusive and we’ve seen more of signs of him at the middens
and tracks! But as usual on the occasions that he had been spotted
we had some good photographic opportunities.
Leopard and lion have been a little slow but many
tracks have been seen. With the lions the female and her two daughters
are still hanging around the camp area. On the last sighting the
female seemed to be carrying quite heavy and we hope to have some cubs
soon, it will be exciting to wait and see what happens. Some new lion,
two females and a young male, have also been seen in our concession.
Apparently they had been seen in our sister camp's area for a short
while, we are still not quite sure where they came from, and it will
be interesting to find out. We’ll
keep you updated! The four males have been heard calling from Ngamo
plains on numerous occasions.
We have been very lucky where other animal species
are concerned, such as giraffe – large numbers of which have
been seen at Ngamo plains, at times in the region of about 30 animals.
Bat-eared foxes now venturing around later in the morning for the
sun are regular sightings. Sable, eland, and spotted hyaena have
all been seen too.
This month there have been some exciting bird sightings
and also some rather unusual ones! One lone Abdim's Stork and Yellow-billed
Stork have been seen at Ngamo and Scott's areas have been seen on a few
occasions in the same area. A flock of seventeen White Storks have also
been seen right at the front of the camp also on the 4th and 5th of the
month. The arrivals of the Capped Wheatears are very evident on the plains
and in the grassland as they flutter around dung piles and sit atop termite
mounds. We have also been witnesses to some Ostrich courtships on
the plains around the camp and guests have enjoyed the dancing and showing
off of one of the resident male Ostriches in our area who put on
quite a display. Cape Teal were also seen at Madison Pan close to the
airstrip. One Red-breasted Swallow has also been seen at Back pans which
is early as they would only start arriving here late August. Our total
count for this month is 110 species.
Makalolo update - June 05 Jump
We are still awaiting
a true winter to unleash itself upon us in fine, old
fashioned, ‘better late than never’ style!
The coldest temperature recorded in June was 5 degrees
Celsius, but otherwise we have been blessed with superb
maximums averaging 25 degrees Celsius throughout the
Temperatures seem to take a bit of a nosedive in the
mornings, approximately an hour after wake-up call,
resulting in our wildlife being slightly elusive during
the earlier part of the game drive day. Cloud cover
build-ups in the evenings have acted as a shield, trapping
a fair amount of warmth from the afternoon sun's rays
and thus preventing a bit of comfort from escaping
us at night. After retiring from the evening campfire,
we still appreciate being greeted by the hot-water
bottles tucked under our bed covers!
Carpets of rustling,
dried Zimbabwe Teak leaves unfurl and crunch on the
unraveled roads before us. The bush has dried up,
leaving sparse and prickly grasses clinging to the
deep Kalahari sands. Many of the Zimbabwe Teak trees
are cloaked in drab brown and khaki colors, whilst
the Ordeals seem wilted under the heavy weight of
yellow leaves they are wearing. Kuduberry trees are
most attractive at this time of the year, being festooned
in an array of yellow, bronze, pink, rust, maroon,
purple and various greens! Ochna pulchras are still
set in hardy green leaves, whilst Leadwoods are a
flush of dusty yellow winged fruits. Red Syringas
stand tall, looking rather skeletal with their almost
bare crowns, and Large False Mopanes are dressed up
to the nines in their butterfly-wing-like leaves as
they spit out their ripened brown seeds and disperse
them amongst the layers of forbearers lying at their
Makalolo's activities have varied a bit this month!
As well as our usual game drives, nature walks and
platform tree house visits, for those experiencing
a subdued morning game drive, Belinda has adopted different
types of dung to act as accomplices in entertaining
our guests - these new activities include elephant
dung baseball, kudu dung spitting contests and kudu
June has been
an incredible month for cat sightings! The three
lionesses from our original resident pride have
reunited with their 13 little cubs in tow, making
an awesome new pride of 16! These cats have been
seen at several places in our concession ranging
from the airstrip to beyond the picnic site at
Ngweshla - most of the time they are huddled together,
trying to beat the cold! Five of the sub-adult cubs
from our original pride (1 female and 4 males) are
making it on their own in the wilderness and took
us by surprise one morning when they appeared on
the road leading to the front of camp. They were
all quite relaxed, and it appeared that the little
female has just come into oestrus, as her brothers
seemed quite "interested" in
The three young male lions from the Ngamo area have
been visiting the Makalolo concession, and were seen
lying on a termite mound at Little Somavundla, when
a family of warthogs came down to drink. The lions
took this opportunity to have bacon on the menu, but
as they made their approach, the wind changed direction
and the pigs picked up the lions' scent! The warthogs
then took off at high speed, leaving only clouds of
dust for the lions to choke on! The collared female,
with her three sub-adult male cubs who seemed to be
progressing well, has been seen again, but sadly she
is missing a cub and one of the remaining two has a
very injured back left leg and has become lame and
is incredibly thin. We can only assume that the intrusion
of the three males from the Ngamo area has resulted
in territorial warfare and one cub has been killed,
whilst his brother is suffering serious injuries from
their mighty blows.
During an afternoon at the platform tree house, Tendai
and his guests were amazed when they discovered a male
cheetah approaching from the eastern side of camp.
They tracked him again at sunset, and were delighted
to have a full, very relaxed view of him at Little
Somavundla. The bonus of doing a road transfer to Main
Camp is not knowing what you'll see along the way and
we've had thrilling cheetah sightings in the Kennedy
area! On one particular road transfer, Sacha saw three
sub-adult cheetah resting just off the main road. Shortly
afterwards, he came across another group of three resting
on top of a termite mound - a total of six cheetah
on one drive!
Themba, "Hyaena Den" is
another of the happening places at Makalolo! Apart
from the putrid smell, two cute little hyaena pups
and their very shy parents occasionally make an appearance
for a few minutes, before disappearing into the safety
of their castle. We have had quite of a few sightings
of aardwolf lately and on one night drive, a pair was
An orange ball of fire and pink skies at sunset make
a breath-taking backdrop for the thousands of buffalo
that walk in single file, like ants, across the plains,
accompanied by hundreds of wildebeest. We have a majestic
herd of 25 sable that visit the front pan almost on
a daily basis. Hundreds of elephant are still making
the log pile at Little Makalolo a cherished and much-appreciated
close encounter! They are still regular visitors to
the pool in the evenings and their constant rumblings
in the night are a perfect serenade for our guests.
Only 82 species of birds were recorded in the sightings
this month. The most fascinating encounter was that
of a Barn Owl, who decided to seek refuge in the rafters
of our dining room roof for a day. We didn't notice
he was there until he dropped a rather furry looking
parcel on the dining room table - luckily, nobody was
dining at the time! He sat above us for most of the
day, trying to sleep and quietly observed the camp's
daily activities by peeking through half-shut eyes!
Kori Bustards made an extravagant appearance at the
airstrip to compete with Sefofane on the runway - the
birds numbered 8 in total! A melanistic Gabar Goshawk
was sighted at Little Somavundla and a Gymnogene has
been frequenting the platform in front of camp! A pair
of Black-chested Snake Eagles were seen mating at Mbiza.
Strangely, some of the migrant birds are still hanging
around in our area - Abdim's and White Storks and one
afternoon 6 Spur-wing Geese were seen frolicking in
the pan in front of camp!
Kwando Safari Camps Update
- June 05
• The Lagoon Pride of 12
have moved back north to the Lagoon Camp area and have
been seen on a daily basis – they hunted and killed
2 buffalo one morning in front of guests.
• Guests saw a female cheetah and 2 cubs on an Impala kill
• A large adult (relaxed) leopard was seen on one evening
drive at the airstrip, the following morning guides followed
drag marks from where it had killed an impala to the
spot where a clan of hyena robbed him of his kill.
• Another leopard was found in the morning and followed
for a while before moving off into the sage.
• Plenty of tracks of wild dogs throughout the area but
only one sighting of a pack of 2 males hunting.
• Large herds of buffalo seen throughout the area, most
often viewed in the late afternoons drinking along the
• Many breeding herds of elephant seen throughout the concession,
as well as bachelor herds. They are seen all throughout
the day from the front of Lagoon Camp coming down to
the river to drink and bathe.
• Night drives yielded hyena, civet and plenty of hippo
out of the water.
• One of the game-drive had a special interaction of fish
eagle, 3 giant eagle owls, 2 tawny eagles and an osprey
all intent on a kill that one of the owls had.
• The pride of 12 lions killed
a buffalo but were displaced by a clan of hyena.
• 2 nomadic males and 2
lionesses were found on another buffalo kill.
• An adult female leopard
(very relaxed) was followed hunting in the early morning.
• A female cheetah and her
two cubs were found in the southern part of the concession,
they were viewed for several days in a row.
• A coalition of 3 male
cheetah were found relaxing after a morning’s hunting.
• There have been plenty
of tracks of the pack of wild dogs but they have been
keeping their den well hidden thus far.
• There were many sightings
of breeding herds of elephant throughout the concession
as well as bachelor herds – a couple of bulls have
been frequenting the camp at night.
• Good numbers of breeding
herds of buffalo were seen throughout the concession,
most often seen in the late afternoon coming down to
• The floodplains and adjoining
areas yielded good numbers of zebra, wildebeest, tsessebe,
impala and giraffe.
• Smaller game sighted included
dwarf, slender and yellow mongoose, as well as saddle-billed
stork, open-billed stork, African spoonbill, black and
slaty egrets and goliath heron.
• At night a couple of African
wild cats, civets, several flap-necked chameleons as
well as a pair of black-backed jackal were found feeding
on a buffalo carcass together with a clan of hyena.
• 2 Adult male lions were followed hunting
buffalo, lions were seen on game drive throughout
• The 2 males killed a young buffalo calf last Saturday
• An African Wild dog was found hot on the heels
of a kudu calf but did not manage to catch his
• A herd of 4 elephant bulls have been spending a
lot of time around the camp feeding on the large
trees around the tents.
• A herd of 200 buffalo were found grazing, and then
stampeded away when attacked by 2 male lions which
caught and killed another calf.
• A clan of 3 hyena we found drinking and wallowing
at Honeymoon Pan.
• The lagoon in front the the camp has been especially
productive, impala, elephant, lechwe, warthogs
and a wide variety of water-birds all seen by guests
from the tents and the main lounge
• The floodplains a yielded large dazzles of zebra,
as well as smaller groups of giraffe, impala, tsessebe
• The nights driver were very productive and included
a serval hunting mice, civet, caracal, porcupine
as well as youngsters outside the Bat-eared fox
den, as well as a variety of different owls
• A pride of 13 lions was found sleeping – they
were well fed.
• 2 adult males were found moving around roaring and marking their territory,
they later joined up with the big pride of 13.
• 3 young males split from the large pride and managed to catch and kill
• A pride of 3 nomadic males was found moving into the concession – they
were followed for a while before they bedded down for the day.
They were later followed hunting a herd of about 700 buffalo
• A pride of 9 lions was found (1 adult female, 3 sub-adult males), and 5 sub-adult
females, they were followed hunting and later killed an adult zebra.
• An adult male leopard was seen in the eastern concession area, as well as a
mating pair of leopards seen from the boat at the Godikwe heronry.
• A female cheetah was followed while hunting as well as a sub-adult male that
narrowly missed catching a warthog and a reedbuck – he himself was later
chased at night by the 3 nomadic male lions. Next morning he caught and killed
a reedbuck but was robbed in the afternoon by a clan of hyena.
• 3 male cheetah were found in the north resting, they were followed hunting
tsessebe but were unsuccessful.
• A pack of 3 wild dogs was seen in front of the camp at morning tea, they lay
up for the day close to the camp.
• A herd of 700 buffalo were seen feeding on the new short grass on the burnt
areas. They chased off the 3 young male lions that were stalking them.
• Another herd of about 250 was seen, as well as a herd of 500 at the new site
for Kwara Island Camp.
• A few elephant bulls were seen – some spending some time shaking the
camelthorn trees for their seed-pods
• Herds of up to 150 zebra responding to the fresh new green shoots in the burnt
grass areas, as well as a herd of 25 giraffe, smaller herds of tsessebe, sable,
impala, roan antelope, kudu, baboons, wildebeest and warthogs.
• At night both black-backed and side-striped jackals (mating pair) seen, chameleons,
hyenas, bushbaby, serval seen four times hunting and killing rodents, civet,
aardvark, African wild cat and 4 bat-eared foxes watched foraging for insects.
• Birds include 4 sightings of Verreaux's eagle
owl, Temmincks courser, young pratincoles, young white-backed pelicans, spoonbills
and yellow-billed storks.
Lebala camp Jump
• A pride of 12 lions, 4 lionesses, 6 cubs
and 2 sub-adults were followed hunting throughout
the week, they were seen hunting and the feeding
on a large warthog.
• A female leopard hunting – she killed an adult
female impala but was robbed shortly thereafter by
hyenas. There were a few sightings of shy leopards
in the camp area. Also a relaxed adult male was seen
from the camp in broad daylight hunting reedbuck.
• An adult female cheetah was followed everyday – she
was seen making 5 different kills throughout the
week, and was robbed of her kill on 3 occasions.
• Bachelor herds and breeding herds of elephant seen
in good numbers both north and south of the camp,
coming to drink from the river along the flood plains,
• Large herds of buffalo seen throughout the concession,
- some close to the camp as well.
• Hyenas we seen almost every night on their nocturnal
patrols, as well as a couple sighted moving through
the camp as well
• Other night sightings include honey-badgers, civet
• General game has been good – especially between
Twin Pools and the southern floodplains - zebra,
giraffe with young, kudu, impala, red lechwe, Steenbuck,
wildebeest, reedbuck and tsessebe.
• Birds specials for the week include a flock of 9
wattled cranes, rosy-chested longclaw, and Kori bustards.
• A single adult male lion was seen a few times marking and calling south
• Another large adult male lion robbed a clan
of 10 hyena of their buffalo kill near the old hippo pools.
They were both later found taking turns feeding on a buffalo carcass
• An adult male leopard was robbed of his kill by a clan of hyena.
• A shy young female was seen, as well a 3 other sightings of relaxed individuals – one
was chasing a caracal.
• 3 adult male cheetah were followed scent-marking and hunting.
• An adult female cheetah and her cubs killed and ate a young male impala south
• More and more large breeding herds of elephants are being seen daily moving
to and from the river.
• Excellent sighting of a buffalo cow giving birth on an evening drive, as well
as several large herds (up to a couple of hundred in each) being seen daily
north and south of the camp
• Another clan of 15 hyena was found feeding on a buffalo carcass north of Tsessebe
Island, several other sightings of hyena including one with a pair if jackal
• General game excellent – giraffe, kudu, roan, impala, tsessebe, wildebeest,
zebra, lechwe, reedbuck, steenbok, and several troops of baboons
• Night drives include African wild cats and serval seen nightly, 3 caracal,
a honey-badger, 2 porcupines foraging together.
• Winter resident birds seen – ground hornbills, Kori bustards, Marshall
eagles, secretary birds, and a number of vultures.
• A pair of black mambas was seen hissing and coiling around each other – either
a territorial fight or mating!
DumaTau update - June 05 Jump
The month of June
unleashed the awesome wildness of DumaTau camp. It is
indeed difficult to pick a highlight for the month as
there were so many, with most of them occurring in or
very near the camp. Here follows a brief selection.
Just as our guests were departing on their game drive
early one morning, a pack of 13 wild dogs came bursting
onto the scene as they ran past our guest rooms. A
few minutes later they killed an impala right in front
of the honeymoon room, and we enjoyed the best seats
in the house, watching the dogs feast on their kill
from the honeymoon gazebo only a few metres away! We
were delighted to observe that the alpha female was
Then we had leopard
in camp virtually every evening creating much havoc
among the resident troop of baboons who roost in
the many Mangosteen trees shading our thatched
guest rooms. Leopard sightings have been plentiful
and at one stage during the month we were averaging
three per drive, prompting a guest to ask, "Do
you guys breed leopards here?”
Next we were
all enjoying early morning breakfast before departing
on the morning drive when one guest said, "I so wish we could see wild dogs today." No
sooner were these words uttered when an impala come
bolting over the balustrade at our dining area, knocking
over a number of lanterns with a wild dog in hot pursuit.
Soon we had ten wild dog all over the camp, running
in various directions as they attempted to flush out
the panic-stricken impala. They continued their hunt
in camp for some time, totally ignoring guests and
staff and at times running just a few metres past us.
Eventually they located and killed the impala, yet
again right in front of our honeymoon gazebo, henceforth
known as the wild dog gazebo!
The dogs have since denned in the nearby Selinda area
and often come across the water to our side of the
concession boundary in order to hunt.
Early one evening we also sighted a serval with a
cub in front of our scenic bar (called the Dung and
Beetle). We also had daily encounters with elephant
in camp who enjoy snacking on Acacia pods, often vigorously
shaking the tree in order to release the pods. We have
such Acacia trees at our office/kitchen area, often
restricting movement to and from the office and/or
kitchen as an old elephant bull likes to hog this tree
for up to an hour at a time. The other day he was outside
the door and as I started opening the shade cloth door
to go out, he just slammed it closed in my face with
his trunk. OK, got the message I thought. Quite a charming
fellow! However, because of his regular trashing of
our High Frequency antenna, he has been named HF!
June also saw the first herds of buffalo in our area
with sightings of up to 100 seen at times.
An interesting sighting was experienced whilst following
a large male lion early one evening. We were following
him along the riverine fringe from the camp when suddenly
he stopped, lifted his head to sniff the air, then
turned left and proceeded directly into the woodland
for approximately 250 metres before freezing on the
slope of a termite mound. We sat watching from our
vehicle as he started to crouch and stalk but still
we could not see beyond the termite mound. Suddenly
he flew into action with an enormous burst of speed
and hair-raising growl as he took a powerful swipe
at a leopard who must have been terrified as she scampered
up a nearby Mangosteen tree before coming to rest on
an overhanging branch. The lion proceeded to look upward
and then made a feeble attempt to climb a nearby tree,
before abandoning the silly idea and moving off. This
was some really exciting lion/leopard interaction and
a real privilege to witness.
We have had lions
moving through camp during the evening on a number
of occasions, with plenty of “duma
tau” (roar of lion) being heard from the comfort
of our beds. Some evenings have been particularly noisy
with a cacophony of animal sounds filling the evening
air. I have to mention the great comment made by a
teenage girl at breakfast one morning, when asked what
she had heard during the night. She replied " Oh
wow, last night I heard things being made, born and
There has been much more, including but not only the
Zebra, elephant, cheetah, hyaena, serval, black-backed
jackal, bat-eared fox, giraffe, wildebeest, buffalo,
kudu, hippo, crocodile, warthog, African rock python,
black mamba, tawny eagle, giant eagle owl, bateleur,
honey badger, steenbok, impala, red lechwe.
Our guests were awestruck while watching about 150
elephants cross the water whilst on a midday cruise
on our beautiful lagoons which are a back-spill from
the Linyanti River flowing north from us into Lake
We are also very privileged to have cubs in our area,
with one lioness nursing three beauties and another
taking care of two. Recently the two lionesses teamed
up with all 5 cubs together so that one of the mothers
could go hunting. How thoughtful!
Temperatures for the month averaged at a min of 13
degrees C with an average max of 31. The coldest morning
was recorded as 8 with our warmest day being 33 degrees
C. Yep, the time has arrived for handing out those
snug hot water bottles before retiring in the evening
and enjoying that customary plate of hot porridge around
the morning campfire. DumaTau, certainly the place
IAN & PETRO
Savuti update - June 05 Jump
Winter has finally arrived
here in the channel and it is with a lot of hesitation that
we climb out of our warm beds in the morning to go and find
the game! Once out there though, the temperature is soon forgotten
as we have been treated to some amazing sightings this month.
The seasonal pans have all
but dried up and elephant numbers have climbed everyday
at the water points in the channel - at the moment we are
seeing no less than 100 – 200 elephants drinking
at the camp waterhole daily. The interaction between these
huge animals as they come to quench their thirst is amazing
to watch. The breeding herds are also present but do not
stay around for long, rather coming in to the water drinking
and then moving off into the safety of the woodlands.This
month has been dominated by the three cheetah males that
utilize this area as part of their territory. They were
found early one morning and the guides waited for them
to stretch and wake up as it warmed up. Their patience
was rewarded when a small herd of wildebeest moved out
of the woodland and into the clearing where the cheetah
were resting. Immediately the cheetah were on the hunt.
These three cheetah have learnt to use a decoy and one
of them will move into open sight of the intended prey
distracting them. Then the other two brothers will move
around and get into a chasing position to bring down prey.
This usually works and it did so again this morning as
they brought down a young wildebeest, after a breathtaking
chase right across the open channel. The Savuti pride has
also had some new arrivals, 5 new lion cubs have been seen
in the area around Zibadianja Lagoon. The females have
been moving them to a new den site every couple of days.
These small cubs are still not able to go with the females
and remain in the den while the lionesses hunt.
Leopard, are always a special
sighting on game drive and the guides have been treated
to some good sightings while on drive. Early one morning
a large tom leopard was found on a kudu kill. This is a
large kill for a leopard and he fed on it for the following
three days, being joined at the kill by a female leopard
on the second day. Leopards are primarily solitary, so
this sighting was a real exception. The male leopard chased
the female from the kill twice, before moving off a fair
distance, allowing her a chance to feed.
The temperatures this
month have been quite low with an average minimum of
9 degrees Celsius and warming up to about 25 degrees
in the afternoons.
Baby Rhino News at Mombo -
June 05 Jump
On June 10 rhino
calf number six was spotted at Mombo Camp!
All six have been
born in the last thirteen months, and last month we were able
to celebrate the first birthday of our first calf. This latest
calf (who is still so small that we cannot tell if it is a
male or a female) was born to one of the mature females we
released at Mombo back in November 2003.
The gestation period
of the white rhino is sixteen months, which means
that this calf was conceived in early February 2004 – just
three months after the mother (Warona, named after
Botswana's contestant on the 'Big Brother Africa'
TV show!) was released. The fact that our female
rhino are conceiving so soon after being introduced
to this area is further proof (if we needed any)
of how ideal this area is for the species – they
are obviously settling in and becoming established
Before we started this
project, no rhino calf had been born in the wild
in Botswana in at least a decade, and perhaps as
long as 15 years. This means that every calf born
here is incredibly valuable and that each birth is
an historic occasion. And every new calf born here
makes the future of the species in Botswana even
Chief's Island, and
in particular the Mombo area, is well known for its
high concentrations of all manner of game, resulting
of course in the presence of many predators – especially
lion and hyaena. Both of these species are known
to prey on rhino calves, so we were a little apprehensive
at first, but the mothers have all done a superb
job of protecting them from harm, and have been successful
in raising them.
We know that the father of our youngest rhino is Serondela,
a wild male captured in the Chobe area in late 2000 and released
into the Mombo area to keep him safe from cross-border poachers.
He has already fathered one of our other calves, Valentine,
who was born in early February this year (hence his name!).
We were particularly pleased that, with this sixth birth,
we were able to predict it very precisely. It seems that
immediately before a female rhino is about to give birth,
she detaches herself from her group, and moves into an area
of thick bush where she is unlikely to be disturbed. Often
she will go some way from her usual home range.
Once we started to see this
same pattern of behaviour emerging with Warona in early
June, we were very confident that she was about to give
birth. Also, and very tellingly, she had been looking heavy
for the last couple of months, to the extent that we actually
expected this calf a month ago – but
she made us wait just a little longer! Nothing can quite
compare to the thrill of seeing a new rhino calf for the
first time – it is particularly emotional for all those
of us who have worked on this project, as we really do get
to see the fruits of our lab ours…
Warona and her new calf are
a little shy at the moment, so we don't as yet have any
photos of them. However, we have some great shots of Valentine
with his mother, Bogale – he's
now about 4½ months old, and is full of all the energy
and curiosity that makes young rhino such a joy to watch.
We've had some phenomenal sightings recently, especially
as mother and calf are currently quite close to Camp.
We have watched him suckling
several times (which rhino calves will do into their second
year, if their mothers let them get away with it!). Also
we have seen him playing with other rhino – his favourite
game seems to be play-sparring with other male rhino, all
of whom are much bigger than him of course. With
his mother close by, he can get away with murder, and can
become quite cheeky on occasions!
While sightings of calves are naturally a highlight of our
ongoing monitoring programme, with combined research and
security patrols, we are also recording regular sightings
of the other adults. We are now well into our fourth year
of monitoring, and as we collect more data, we are able to
build up a more accurate picture of rhino behaviour and ecology
in the Okavango Delta. It's an immense privilege to be able
to study rhino in the wild in the Delta, as no one has ever
had this opportunity before.
As in previous years, we
are seeing very interesting movements in relationship to
the annual flood. We are in the grip of the southern hemisphere
winter now of course, and this must be one of the most
beautiful times of year here. The rains of last summer
are only a memory now, as most of the pans and waterholes
have dried up. In their place however comes the annual
flood, bringing new life to the parched landscape. Of course
the flooding reduces the amount of land available to many
species, and this means that game concentrations are very
high at this time of year. This does not seem to adversely
affect the rhino however – there is so much
food and water available in this season that there is plenty
to share with all the other herbivores. As the water pushes
down each side of Chief's Island, we are starting to see
some of the rhino, which had moved to further-flung areas,
return to the main island. This is not as pronounced a trend
as it was last year, but then this year's flood has been
lower than expected, more on a par with the first two floods
experienced by the reintroduced rhino in 2002 and 2003.
Some rhino have moved a long way from where they were released,
particularly our four black rhino. These, released in November
2003, have proved to be very elusive, and often we rely more
on spoor and tracks to identify them than on actual sightings.
This of course is partly due to the habitat they prefer (as
browsers, they seem to like some of the thicker bush areas)
and also their solitary nature (meaning that each black rhino
needs more space than a typical white rhino).
The female black rhino in particular have demonstrated an
amazing propensity to walk over long distances, to the extent
that they are very difficult to monitor from our base at
Mombo. Instead, officers from the Wildlife Department's Anti-Poaching
Unit (APU) are monitoring them from their bases on the fringes
of the Okavango Delta.
We never really expected that all the rhino would remain
in the Mombo area, or even on Chief's Island. Rather, the
aim of this project from the beginning was that ultimately
the rhino would begin to repopulate the entirety of their
former range across northern Botswana. Perhaps in 20 years
or so, Botswana will be able to export rhino to other countries
in southern Africa, with a view to repeating the success
of this project in, say, Zambia or Mozambique.
Botswana has everything going
for it to become an important rhino range state, with a
very committed government and private sector (eco-tourism
especially), and, thanks to decades of careful management
and protection, vast areas of untouched wilderness which
are perfect for rhino! We have already had interest from
other African nations who see this project as a blueprint
for future rhino reintroduction's.
In the near future, we plan
to bring in many more black rhino (most likely from South
Africa). We need to boost our current foundation population
of four to around 20 which is the threshold for a viable
breeding herd. At the moment there is inevitably a fairly
low chance of our black rhino mating – although we
have seen tracks showing that on at least two occasions,
a male and female have passed very close to each other,
and so they must be aware of each other at the very least.
That will be the next phase of the project: to reintroduce
more black rhino into the Mombo / Chief's Island area, while
at the same time continuing to monitor and study our white
During July we will be carrying
out an important operation, working with veterinarians
from Zimbabwe, to dart several rhino in the bush and fit
them with new radio transmitters. While we have been extremely
successful at locating them even without radio telemetry
equipment (due to the tracking skills of many of the people
involved in this project), radio transmitters certainly
make things easier – and will
facilitate less disruptive aerial tracking work.
Of course we are always busy
raising funds, particularly to finance the black rhino
reintroduction's, and we welcome any and all donations.
If you would like to contribute to this exciting conservation
project, please email email@example.com – the
new Trust website will be up soon.
We'd also like to take this
opportunity to thank everyone who has assisted us in any
way, and in particular the SAVE Foundation in Australia,
and Tusk Trust in the UK, for their generosity and ongoing
support for our work – thank
Thanks are also due to the International Rhino Foundation
in the USA for their fundraising work on our behalf, and
to SANParks, the South African National Parks Board, for
their logistical help and expert advice.
Rhino Reintroduction Project
Mombo Camp, Okavango Delta, Botswana
Kings Pool update - June 05 Jump
is dedicated to the wild dogs of the Linyanti. The pack that
chose to den near Kings Pool last year have again honored
us with their presence and have denned at the same site.
The fact that the wild dogs have returned indicates that
they were not pressured or harassed by either man or
beast. We do not yet know how many puppies there are
but will let you know as soon as we do.
Near Kings Pool we have a hide known
sunken hide" which during the dry season is well
frequented by elephants. The special aspect of this
hide is that once inside you are at eye level with
the ground so one’s viewpoint is quite unique.
This experience has been a regular highlight for
our guests. At times one can sit there for quite
some time without much happening but at other times
you are watching 50 elephant drinking a mere yard
or two away.
As I write this, there is a female leopard and her
cub feeding on a baboon kill near the airstrip. Our
guides saw leopard tracks just after leaving camp for
the morning safari and decided to follow them. After
a marathon tracking exercise of about 2 miles, the
guides were rewarded with the leopard mother and her
offspring having a sumptuous breakfast of baboon.
As it continues to dry out and the elephants do what
they were put on Earth to do; the game viewing at Kings
Pool can only go from strength to strength.
update - June 05 Jump
It is with great excitement
that we can once again announce that the Selinda pack of
wild dog has denned on the Selinda. Using one of their sites
from 2003, we calculate that the alpha female whelped on
the 12th of June. We can expect to see the little tykes in
the first week of July.
Being so close to Zibalianja and CMU camps, the dogs have
made these two places their personal dining rooms. Impala
are frequently herded into the camps, where they are quickly
dispatched and devoured before any hyaena pluck up the courage
to enter the camp environs.
Guests marveled as the “3-Boys” cheetah
coalition chased a male warthog into the refuge in his
burrow. He then fatefully came trotting out to see if
the danger had passed, only to be KO in round No. 2.
Sadly a lone hyaena rushed in and stole the meal before
the cheetah could eat.
The unstable lion social order continues with the Selinda
pride fragmented between the camps, and strange males popping
their heads up all over the place. One female has two small
cubs, but we fear for their lives with the current dynamics.
The floodwaters of the Okavango have pushed past Motswiri
Camp along the Selinda Spillway. The fish and birdlife that
follows this annual marvel have to be seen to be believed.
Two big male lions have also been frequenting the camp.
The eastern spillway floodwaters have
been temporarily halted as they fill a small lagoon
that was once a major hippo hangout in the ‘80s! Literally
thousands of elephant have been using the clear waters
of the spillway as back country pans are near non-existent.
The autumn aerial survey revealed an estimated population
of 2009 buffalo. This is the highest estimate since we started
our surveys in 1995!
Tubu Tree Camp update - June 05 Jump
We've had an excellent
week of game viewing around Tubu marking the third birthday
of the camp. It started with a pair of mating lion on the floodplain
across camp. We then had a pride of eleven (four lionesses
and seven sub-adults) killing an adult zebra close to camp
one evening but losing it to a big male lion. He chased them
off and fed off it for three days much to the dismay of the
lingering hyaena. But there was another surprise awaiting guests
on their return to the kill one evening: two leopard were spotted
in a tree above the carcass. They would scavenge a bite whenever
the lion went for a drink of water. They were a mating pair
and seen again the next day.
Guests were also lucky enough to see leopard from mokoro.
They went out one afternoon and noticed two red lechwe cached
up in a Leadwood tree on an island but no leopard. The guide
decided to take the guests for sundowners and return at dusk.
On their return they stopped the mokoros far away and checked
the tree with binoculars, still no leopard. They waited in
silence for about ten minutes when two hyaena came running
across the floodplain and headed straight for the island
on which the kill was cached. The leopard who had been hiding
in the long grass at the base of the tree was forced up it
with the arrival of the two scavengers. This allowed the
guests a view of him from the mokoros.
There is a large breeding herd of buffalo in the area that
is seen on a daily basis. They make quite an impressive sound
when they're heard moving through a water channel. Reedbuck,
tsessebe, giraffe and the various baboon troops are seen
Black Crake, Squacco Heron, Pygmy Goose, Marico Sunbird,
White-bellied Sunbird, Green Woodhoopoe, Violet-eared Waxbill
and Rufous-bellied Heron are some bird species that were
We celebrated Tubu's birthday in style with a champagne
bush brunch under a large Fig tree, enjoying the open air
and great views.
Anton & Carrie
Vumbura Plains update - June
This is the place where
the Crimson-breasted Shrike rubs shoulders with the Swamp Boubou.
The lions walk under the walkway where the old road ran, still
following their traditional territorial boundaries. As I write
this note , a 4.5-metre python has curled up under a Feverberry
tree next to the lounge deck seemingly considering us a safe
haven, having had a camp of guests eyeing him or her out for
the entire duration of teatime without being threatened.
afternoon usually at teatime, breeding herds of elephant
rush from the sandy dry Kalahari Apple-Leaf tree
areas to the water, after which the youngsters play with
each other, pushing and shoving on the sand by the water’s
edge. A resident leopard calls all the way from South
Camp to North on regular occasions. Whilst showing guests
around North Camp our esteemed guide Kay pointed out a tree
overhanging the walkway between North rooms 2 and 3 where
a leopard housed its kill last year. The star deck built
only four weeks ago has several Lesser Striped Swallows
nesting underneath, most probably enjoying the warmth
that the fire above provides during the cold winter's evenings.
North Camp Room #1 is known as " Lion's Den” simply
because whilst under construction lions were found watching
the water frontage from the deck. Room 2 is “Elephants’ Rest” whilst
Room 3 competes with the communal WC as "The Hide." This
loo happens to be the best site for game viewing
Firstly thank you to our first guests, Mary, John, Erika
and Stephen Snedden from Idaho in the US, for putting up
with the little snags that happen in a new camp. The Sneddens,
however, had an awesome time with us and we all had fun together.
They were closely followed by the Doherty family from England
and then our good friends of old, Pat and Marion Kraft of
Florida. From there on we have had folk from all parts of
the world, experiencing what has been a really great month
in the bush.
The flood this year seems to have been a relatively small
one, seemingly over as the water levels are dropping. Boating
has resumed from the Little Vumbura boat station, having
been at Imbishi Island for the high water period. Weather-wise,
the winter is in full swing with minimum temperatures down
to 5%C . It has been unusually windy adding to the freshness
especially on the camp decks!
Game has been spectacular. We have
our own female leopard chasing baboons in the trees. Franz
Eich (also an old friend) took a picture of her in mid-air,
blue sky background as she jumped from one branch to another.
Another female leopard with cub are seen almost on a daily
basis. The cub - a male - was seen eating a honey badger
the other day - brave mother for tangling with that one! ‘Big boy’,
our dominant male leopard, was watched stalking a baboon
in a floodplain. Sitting on his haunches, he watched
the baboon until in a perfect ambush position, he dashed
forward and killed it without a sound, the rest of the
troop unaware of its fate.
Exciting morning drive
happened as the guests drove past a female sable with her
youngster. Whilst viewing these animals a female leopard
was sighted in the vicinity watching them both. It then
became apparent that the young sable had a neck injury
which was bleeding, most probably from an attack by the
leopard then being saved by the mother. The leopard moved
off and was followed back to a tree where her cub waited
impatiently. Later the leopard went back and killed
the sable pulling it back to the tree with its cub. The
adult sables then went beneath the tree taunting the leopard,
presumably to try and get it to release the carcass. This
continued until a few hyenas arrived feeding on bone scraps
that were dropping from the tree.
Our Okavango community staff have done a great job becoming
integrated and getting to grips with providing a first class
service to our guests. We are very proud of them all.
Roger & the Vumbura Plains Camp team
Duba Plains update - June 05 Jump
I must start with an apology
for the delay in publishing this report. We have been subjected
to the ravages of modern technology and unable to rectify
the problem until now. Therefore in this report, I’m
going to summarize what has happened at Duba over the last
The annual flood has now begun to subside, having peaked
in the concession around the 15th of June. The flood
arrived later than last year due to low rainfall in
Angola from November through to January. What amazes
me though is that the water level in front of camp has
nearly reached last year’s level whilst other parts of the concession,
inundated with water last year, have remained fairly dry.
The vast tonnage of sand that the Okavango brings down
every year from Angola creates mini-dams in existing channels
causing “channel switching,” making it difficult
to predict which areas will be flooded from year to year.
Duba also sits on a fault line, and tiny movements in the
fault also cause flood variation, movements which we are
unable to feel due to the many hundreds of feet of sand
that lie beneath our area. Thankfully, game drives haven’t
been the muddy adventures of last year, though as the
flood subsides conditions will worsen. Watch this space
or should I say, watch out for the hole!
The camp itself has been busy. You may notice a green hangar
at one end of the airstrip. This houses a small single-engine,
four-seater plane which has already proved her worth
in finding the buffalo herd when it has crossed out
of range of our vehicles, giving the guides and guests
the opportunity to focus on the wealth of other things
to see in the concession. Dereck and Beverly Joubert
have become a regular sighting on game-drive as they
finish making “Relentless Enemies,” the
last of the trilogy, focusing this time on the extraordinary
interaction between the lions and buffalo of Duba.
The film will be released on the National Geographic
channel early next year and a book will be published
with it. The September edition of the National Geographic
magazine will also feature some of their photographs
Lion and buffalo sightings
The buffalo herd is very healthy and from aerial surveys
carried out by Dereck and Beverly Joubert, currently
numbers 1 200. This is an increase from the 1 040 counted
in February and is probably due to good calving rates,
but also a good visibility of calves from the air in
the latter count. We still wonder how the herd puts
up with the relentless pressure from the Tsaro and Skimmer
lion prides. Recently I flew across the Nqoga Channel
and was astonished to find a small island in the middle
of a vast papyrus reed bed on which a small herd of
male buffalo were resting, proving that buffalo do push
through the swamps. Our main herd, though, moves consistently
around the concession feeding on the lush couch grass.
The herd still crosses to Paradise, an area currently
inaccessible by vehicle, though it’s
unusual for the herd to stay there for more than three
days. Grazing is limited and the sub-adults in the Skimmer
Pride are becoming efficient hunters, so for the buffalo,
it’s not the Paradise that we imagine it to be! Perhaps
it’s also a factor that the herd is so familiar
with the area that stops them moving further afield.
In 2001, the herd numbered nearly 3 000 and split due
either to pressure from lions or lack of good grazing.
The part of the herd that split is still on the Duba
concession, but in the northern part which is only
accessible to us for a few months per year, due to
high water levels.
For the most part, lions continue to prosper at Duba. The
Tsaro Pride has provided the majority of sightings since
April due to higher water levels and the demise of the
Pantry Pride. The pride currently numbers nine adult females
and four cubs. However, nine cubs have already died this
year underlining the dramatic decline in the breeding success
rate that we began to witness last year with the death
of all twenty-two cubs. There is one adult female in the
pride that is very intolerant and aggressive to the cubs.
At one buffalo kill this female was eating at the carcass
when a cub joined her to feed. She did not take this intervention
well and with one hefty swipe of the paw killed the cub
instantly. The cub’s mother then, bizarrely, ate her dead cub.
This irritable female continues to harass the cubs and will
often stalk them as if intending to kill more. This year’s
litters have been born at various intervals throughout the
year, contrary to perceived wisdom that pride cubs born together
stand the highest chance of survival due to older cubs picking
on their weaker/younger siblings. The first litter consisted
of four cubs born in November 2004. All have since died,
one due to the irritable female and the other three to either
hyaena predation or starvation. None of the second litter
of five born in January has survived either. We’re
not sure how they died. Of the four surviving cubs, two
are three-and-a-half months old and two are one-and-a-half
months old. The milky-eyed female is lactating and regularly
leaves the pride to feed her hidden cubs. Two lionesses
have mated recently with the Duba Boys and if successful
we can expect to see those litters around October/November.
Another interesting trend has been the declining success
rate of the Tsaro Pride in hunting buffalo. An obvious
reason for this was the departure of the five Tsaro males
nearly two years ago. These males were extremely efficient
hunters. A second possible reason is that for the last
nine months, one or more of the Tsaro females has been away
from the main pride tending to young cubs and consequently,
a depleted pride will have a lower hunting success rate.
The third reason is the ability of the buffalo herd to defend
itself. This they do by staying away from water as the
muddy channels make them vulnerable if they are stampeded
into the mud. The herd also lies down to rest if under pressure
from lion. Lions generally find it difficult to stampede
a sleeping herd! From looking at Dereck and Beverly’s
records from March to June, we estimate that an average
of fifteen buffalo (adults and calves) have been killed
The Skimmer Pride has only been seen a handful of times
on game drive due to floodwaters that prevent access to most
of their territory at this time of year. Whilst looking for
the buffalo herd from the air, we have seen the pride feeding
on a buffalo carcass. In total, we believe that there are
now four adult females and nine sub-adults of which five
or six are male.
The Pantry Pride has not been sighted since February. However,
we continue to hear three lions, two females and a male,
calling on a regular basis to the north of Duba. This would
indicate the Pantry Pride as per our last sighting consists
of one adult female, one sub-adult female and one sub-adult
male. High water levels prevent us from making regular searches,
although as the flood subsides we should hopefully find them.
The only source of food in that area is red lechwe, warthog
and the occasional kudu.
The night air now reverberates to the sounds of trumpeting
elephants that have returned from the Mopane veld to
the north. Late season rains had delayed their reappearance
as the pans there held water for longer than usual;
always a wonder to see the same bulls return year after
year. By August/September we should see massive breeding
herds feeding on the drying floodplains, providing
splendid photographic opportunities.
Birding remains fantastic in spite of the departure of the
summer migrants. Highlights include sightings of Gabar Goshawks
(melanistic form) hunting amongst large flocks of Wattled
Starlings as they fly over the buffalo. Red-necked Falcons
have also been seen in the canopies of Palms and even feeding
on a Cape Turtle Dove. Of the endangered birds, the ever-beautiful
Rosy-Throated Longclaw has been sighted almost every week.
Since our last report, leopard sightings have been sporadic.
Whilst following the herd into the marshy area to the south
of Buffalo Point, the Tsaro Pride flushed out a leopard,
killed it and ate it. Often vervet monkeys can be heard alarm
calling in camp in the hours of darkness though searches
have yet to yield positive sightings. Sightings of the beautiful
serval cat are on the increase and we have seen one on a
couple of occasions taking refuge in the Tsaro palms next
to Tent 5.
Some comments from our guests:
“We arrived after three fantastic stays (Chitabe, Savuti,
Jacana) and it was a hard act to follow – but you all
get top marks and our stay was brilliant. We are very sorry
to have to go home.” C&RB-M - UK
“We have unfinished business here.” BM & MR – Australia
“I am hooked on Africa. This was a first trip. We’ve
seen so much and had an incredible time at Duba.” CM – USA
“We have been to your camps four times – Mary
and I love your organisation and hospitality. We hope you
keep the small camps alive. The atmosphere is very special.” J&MK – USA
Please come and visit us soon!
Paul & all the Duba staff.
Mombo and Little Mombo monthly update
- June 05 Jump
in the depths of winter now in the Okavango: warm, dry
breezy days, and cool (sometimes almost cold!) nights.
This year has not been as cold as 2004, but we have still
noticed a definite drop in temperatures during June.
Daytime temperatures ranged between 23°C
(76°F) and 30°C (90°F). Overnight temperatures
were cooler than in June, ranging from 7°C (44°F)
and 15°C (60°F). Gentle breezes blowing in from
the water helped make the higher midday temperatures much
more bearable. So a perfect time of year to visit Mombo.
But then it is always the perfect time to come to Mombo!
This month has been all about the annual flood. It's a very
special time of year, and one which perfectly illustrates
the paradox of the Okavango Delta - there is much more water
in the area now in the dry season than there is in the wet
season! All of the pans which were filled by rainwater last
summer have now evaporated under the hot African sun, and
so animals are dependent on the steady influx of water which
has made its way from the Benguela Plateau of Angola, through
Namibia's Caprivi Strip, and then along the Okavango Panhandle
in extreme northern Botswana.
Once the waters cross the Gumare fault line they fan out
in the shape of a welcoming hand, life-giving fingers reaching
out across the Kalahari sand deposits, bringing essential
nutrients with them. Tectonic movements, sedimentary deposition
and the actions of hippo dislodging papyrus islands in the
upper reaches of the Delta can have a remarkable effect on
the direction the floodwaters take.
This year, as last, we
suspect that much of the flow has been diverted to the West,
and this means that water may reach Lake Ngami beyond Maun
for only the second time in two decades.This still leaves very significant volumes of water to flow
down each side of Chief's Island, and from our vantage point
at Mombo, at the north-western tip of the Island, we can
see the waters steadily trickling in and spilling out of
time-worn channels and streams and out across the floodplains,
and then into the Simbira Channel and beyond us as they flow
on towards their date with destiny in the Kalahari.
It really is an incredible
process to watch… if you
look away from the flood for a few moments, and then look
back, you could swear that the waters have moved on in that
brief time. Everywhere that is touched by the influx turns
green almost instantly, as if painted in broad swathes of
verdant colour by the brush of a particularly gifted artist.
From the sunlight sparkling in the water like so many diamonds
to the flaming glow of the rising full moon as it rises over
Little Mombo, the water provides a perfect mirror image of
everything that happens in and above it - crocodiles basking
on sandy islets and flights of white-faced ducks rejoicing
in the water, whistling in unison as they land as if to announce
the arrival of the flood.
Even though this year's inundation appears to be much less
in extent than last year's, the magic of this season is undeniable
with vast stretches of leonine yellow grass transforming
into lush green floodplains. At almost any time of day, it
is possible to sit in Camp and watch lechwe running through
the water, or massive buffalo standing stock still in the
deeper water, bovine masses slowly grazing on all the water
plants around them.
The Okavango constantly defies
and exceeds human expectations, and many of the "rules" which
people claim govern animal behaviour in other parts of
Africa simply don't apply here. Try telling the wading
lions of the Okavango that cats don't like water... after
all, if dinner is on the other side of the channel, someone
is going to have to get their paws wet!
In the soft evening light, the shallow Vs of geese and storks
flying overhead signal the end of another day, as the spoonbills
shake their heads in disbelief at the sudden bounty all
around them. As I write this, a Hamerkop has just flown
over the Camp... according to some African traditions,
if one of these "lightning birds" flies over
your house, you must burn it down and rebuild it. That's
one African tradition we may have to break with!
Many other time-honoured
traditions of the classic safari are observed in our timeless
setting, from the tartan blankets around the fire to the
three-legged pot of hot chocolate bubbling away in the
coals - the perfect antidote to cool winter evenings. Perhaps
the most pleasurable of all safari traditions is to sit
around a camp fire at the end of the day, looking up at
the ghostly sweep of the Milky Way above, and the stars
of the classic winter constellation, Scorpio, crawling
boldly across the night sky. Sipping a steaming mug of cocoa,
musing over the day's sightings in the bush and thrilling
to the anticipation of yet another day of phenomenal Mombo
game viewing the next day.
What a month it has been for game drives. Logadima, the young
female leopard whose progress from a cub to a fully independent
adult has kept us spellbound for the last two years, is
finding her feet as a hunter. She has started bringing
down prey larger than herself, up to and including impala
rams. For three days this month, she stayed with one kill
that she had hoisted into a spreading umbrella thorn tree
very close to the Camp. You know you are being spoilt when
the first creature you see in a day is a leopard!
Some of the most dramatic sightings - and most fervent speculation
- have been generated by the wild dogs which are tenaciously
holding on at Mombo, despite the almost overwhelming lion
numbers in this part of the Delta. We had been seeing a group
of three dogs in this area earlier this year (two males and
a female) and in April one of the males was seen mating with
the female. Now we have been seeing the two males hunting
without the female, and we think (if we have calculated correctly!)
that they may be denning - in other words, that the female
has had pups. Suddenly it seems that a ragtag bunch of three dogs may
have transformed into a nascent pack, the beginnings of a
resurgence of the predators that helped cement Mombo's phenomenal
reputation back in the mid-1990s. Certainly the two males
are hunting as if they had extra mouths to feed - sweeping
through the acacias to cause pandemonium among the impalas,
and rapidly devouring each one that they catch, gulping down
great chunks of meat and then making a beeline out of the
area - behaviour that suggests that they are running back
to the den to regurgitate food for the latest generation
of the Mombo wild dog dynasty.
As yet, we still don't know if these puppies have indeed
been born, but we can be sure that we have at least one very
special new baby in this area. Early on in the month we discovered
yet another new white rhino calf, the third to be born this
year and the sixth altogether since we started the reintroduction
project back in late 2001. The mother is Warona, one of our
older females, introduced in November 2003. With her calf
being born early this month (we found this newest calf when
it was just four or five days old), this means that she conceived
within three months of being released at Mombo - a testament
to the suitability of this area as rhino habitat, and to
how quickly rhino settle in once they arrive here. Just
as exciting, we are looking forward to receiving more black
rhino (from South Africa) later this year, as part of our
major initiative to boost the population of this very rare
species in the Delta to the point where they too can begin
Perhaps the stars of our
game drives this month have been the Mathatha lion pride.
Despite their name (‘problem’),
the only problem they are having at the moment is trying
to fill so many hungry mouths. They currently have nineteen
cubs to feed, which means that they need to hunt almost every
day - and some days more than once - to satisfy so many growing
appetites. The sheer number of cubs
in this area at present (there are also eight cubs in the
Old Trails Pride to the north of Mombo) illustrates the odds
that are stacked against the wild dogs - but these resourceful,
adaptable canines always find a way to pull through.
If the dogs do indeed have pups, then these youngsters are
likely to cause serious competition to the lion cubs in the
cuteness stakes - one of the best experiences you can have
on a game drive is to watch a group of social carnivores
with young. The playfulness of cubs and puppies however cannot
disguise the serious intent behind all their games - preparing
them for a life of hunting. Even in an area as rich in game
as Mombo is, a predator's life is never easy!
As ever, we will leave the last word on Mombo and Little
Mombo in June to the guests who shared these magical times
with us: • You have my unqualified
endorsement: the place! The staff! The animals! All fantastic!
• This is the most magnificent place we have ever seen:
warmest people, so friendly, so many animals, and luxurious
• The entire staff were incredibly welcoming and made
us feel at home - thank you!
• It has indeed been a privilege to once again have stayed
at Mombo... Jacqui's personality radiates throughout. The staff
was charming, willing, and most able at all times. Credit must
also be given to Craig and his team who provided such a delicious
choice of food for every meal... We shall return again!
• The amazing game drives are worth the trip alone!
• The highlight was watching the lions running through
our Camp at breakfast...
• Everyone should come to Mombo at least once in their
• Everything is top calibre - the staff is informative,
funny, and gracious - wonderful!
At the end of this month we said a fond farewell to two
of our managers, who are moving on to new roles within the
Angela will be moving to Maun to work in the Environmental
Division, overseeing the many research projects being conducted
under the auspices of Wilderness Safaris across northern
Botswana, and to help co-ordinate the Children in the Wilderness
Jacqui will be heading north to work at DumaTau
We wish them both all the very best!
That's all from your June Mombo team...
Until next time, all the very best from Jacqui, Angela, Craig,
Peter & Sharon, Noreen, Mavis, One, Koki, Lee and Nick.
Pafuri Camp - June 05 Jump
to Pafuri Camp
Wanted: White rhino, Ceratotherium simum, preferably young and open to seeing
new places. Male or female, this is a chance for you to see the Great North,
meet new species, and make new friends. Transport, antibiotics and radio transmitter
provided, free of charge.
Four rhino responded, or more accurately, were volunteered for their services.
They may have had other plans for the day – a little light grazing near
Satara Camp for example – but South Africa National Parks (SANP), Kruger
National Park, the Makuleke people and Wilderness Safaris together had a larger
picture in mind, which changed their lives.
The plan was simple: relocate between four and six white rhino from the central
district of the Kruger National Park to the Makuleke concession in the Pafuri
area in the far north. Sounds fairly straightforward, but many threads had
to join together to make it work.
It was a cool winter’s morning when a select group of excited individuals
gathered on the Satara-Orpen Road: The Kruger Capture Unit, its field rangers
and Veterinary Services, SANP Chief Executive, Dr David Mabunda, other SANP
staff, Wilderness Safaris staff and assorted media and general hangers-on,
all waited for the circling helicopter to find some “volunteer” rhino.
Once found, Markus Hofmeyer, the Kruger vet, would dart them with a sedative,
and the hard work could begin.
A few minutes later, the radio crackled: “We have two, up the gravel
road to Timbavati picnic spot!” Markus fired the darts, and the
animals, at first startled, slowly slumped down. Now the Capture Unit
and the removal truck left the gravel and bounced through the bush to
the drugged rhino. To avoid needless destruction of the vegetation, only
these vehicles left the road; all non-essential personnel (i.e., the
rest of the crowd, as well as several Kruger tourists who spontaneously
joined in) had to follow on foot. Impala and zebra watched, somewhat
bemused, at a line of humans running through the long yellow grass, around
Marula and Knobthorn trees and sicklebushes, narrowly avoiding falling
into warthog holes, toward a sleeping rhino.
Meanwhile, the Unit was hard at work. Around an immobilised rhino, all
seems controlled chaos: some taking blood samples and measurements, another
organising the radio transmitter, a driver bringing the truck into position
with its crate, the vet constantly checking temperature and vital signs,
and still others splashing water on it to prevent dehydration – all the while
keeping onlookers quiet. Suddenly everyone has finished and a rope is tied
around the horn and threaded through the bars of the crate, then, with a
little antidote and judicious prod, the rhino awakes and is firmly guided
into it. In this way, the amount of time an animal is ‘under’ is
minimised, kept to around 20 minutes. In fact, the third and fourth animals
turned out to be four kilometres off-road, so that we arrived puffing
and panting, just in time to see the third rhino being woken up!
All went smoothly, and by midday, sedated just enough to make them comfortable,
an enormous truck took four tons of rhino on the long journey north.
What’s incredible about this operation is the amazing fact that
there are rhino to move in the first place. By 1896, this evocative species
had become extinct in the Lowveld, literally shot out of local existence
by hunters. Only in 1961 were they introduced back into the Kruger, and
since then have successfully established a large population of 5 000.
However, as one travels further north, the number lessens considerably,
so that none were to be found in the Pafuri area in the furthest north.
The “until now” is the next marvellous feature of the story,
and involves another return to the area, this time of human beings. In 1969,
the Makuleke people were forcibly removed from the Pafuri area by the South
Africa’s Nationalist government. In 1997, in a successful land claim,
the Makuleke won their land back, and in a farsighted decision, resolved
to keep and manage the land within the Kruger National Park. They also decided
to partner with Wilderness Safaris in building and managing a camp – the
brand-new Pafuri Camp – within the concession that would provide
visitors, both self-drive and fly-in, with the experience of viewing
one of the most pristine and species-diverse regions in the Kruger. The
economic benefits include profits from the concession fee, a percentage
of the lodge revenue, job creation and training and community development
The camp itself is a blend of Makuleke style, Kruger characteristics and
the essential ingredients of Wilderness Safaris: a remote, unspoilt location,
enthusiastic, knowledgeable staff and an eco-friendly campsite. Each of the
twenty tents (some are family rooms) peek out between enormous Jackalberry
and Nyalaberry trees to look over the Luvuvhu River, and only wood, canvas
and Makuleke-inspired stonework has been used, creating a camp that is in
tune with its environment, evocative of both the people and natural elements
of the area.
The benefits here are not just monetary: The excitement and pride of
the Makuleke people at not just returning to their land but being able
to share it with others is almost palpable. This is clear at Pafuri Camp,
where the staff, all dressed to the nines in their new Wilderness uniforms,
are clearly thrilled. The day the rhino returned, a large group of journalists
and the camp’s first guests sat in the beautiful dining area, listening to
the Pafuri staff choir (a spontaneous creation initiated by Godfrey, one
of Pafuri Camp’s trackers), as they sang praise songs to the Xibejane
(rhino in Shangane), Wilderness, and gave thanks to God for their return
to Makuleke. As they sang, the rhythmic stamping of feet and melodious
voices formed a perfect counterpoint to the silent Luvuvhu River flowing
by, where two male nyala drank, clearly unconcerned at all the noise.
When the truck carrying its precious cargo arrived at Pafuri, they were
treated to a reception of note: members of the Makuleke people, including
its chief, Wilderness Safaris, media and television crews and even students
from the EcoTraining Field Guide programme were all awaiting them. As
the sun disappeared behind the baobab-adorned hills, the crates were
hoisted into the “boma” – in
reality a 1-square-km fenced area – and with the judicious application
of antidote, four somewhat bemused rhino walked out, looked around at
the crowd of humans filled with their flurry of emotions, and wandered
off into the darkening bush.
Welcome home, Xibejane.
June 05 Jump
June has certainly been
an interesting month, we have been kept very busy with guests,
improving the camp and watching out for brown hyaena…
It was a quiet month for guests, giving us a chance to continue
the maintenance work around camp without disturbing anyone.
Work has begun on a new laundry closer to the camp; the old
laundry will soon be transformed into a staff kitchen and entertainment
area in the staff village. And this is just the beginning of
our building projects, with a lot more to come in the following
month or two.
The fog has been coming up the river valley thick and low
in the mornings, covering the surrounding hills and dunes.
The temperature has dropped, evidence that winter is well and
truly on the way. But the chilly nights and mornings are still
followed by glorious hot sunny days.
There has been an elusive pair of brown hyaena visiting the
camp regularly. We have yet to catch sight of them, but find
their tracks all over camp most mornings. They have even been
scavenging any food that is not carefully locked away at night.
We hosted a team of geologists in camp for the last two weeks
of the month, providing us all with insight into our fascinating
surroundings. They are busy studying the movements of sand
dunes as well as different forms of erosion and other geological
phenomena. One of the geologists works for NASA and is specifically
looking at similarities between our dunes and those on the
planet Mars. We are keenly awaiting the results of their studies.
Towards the end of the month all of our staff participated
in a HIV survey to raise awareness of the impact of HIV. The
survey is anonymous and is designed to remove some of the stigma
from the virus; the knowledge gained also aims to encourage
Wilderness staff and their families to make the right lifestyle
Rhino Camp update - Jun 05 Jump
Rhino Camp is looking good, despite the east wind that started
picking up in June and the mosquitoes that have become a reason
for discomfort during the hot nights. But the camp is still
surrounded by an abundance of Hartmann’s mountain zebra,
oryx (gemsbok) and springbok which adds immensely to the atmosphere.
One particular oryx has been staying close to the overflow
of the water tank and the herds are regularly seen at the camp’s
waterhole. A late afternoon drive from camp through the golden
grass plains presents us with magnificent views of herds of
Elephant bulls have started moving back
into the area. Two elephants, one known as the Koabes
bull, along with a young “askari,” were
seen regularly along the Achab River. Another unknown
bull also appeared between Werelds-end spring and upper Achab.
No elephant breeding herds have yet returned. After the
good rains on the Grootberg to the East, the elephants
were absent from the Rooiplaat Area for about five months.Good lion sightings were made during
June, along with good photographic opportunities which
also presented themselves.
One beautiful afternoon
presented us with two males and a lioness in season, only twenty
metres away. They were relaxed and almost ignored our
presence. Johan and Ivan took unbelievable pictures – the
best taken yet of lions at Rhino Camp. It must be mentioned
that we spent most of the morning tracking this pride
of lions. We left them after they fell sleep and found them
again in the afternoon.These animals were again seen at intervals. Later in the
month only one male was seen with the female. There was also
a lot of lion and hyaena activity around camp. Tracks of
a lioness with a cub were also found.
When it comes to black rhino, we’ve had a variety
of sightings. ‘Eva’ the black rhino cow was seen,
and the carcass of a 4-year-old calf found in the field was
probably hers. This calf died of natural causes and is an
unfortunate loss to the local population. We think it was
Eva’s because she had been seen to be pregnant, but
when she was sighted, there was no young calf . The bull ‘Don’t
Worry’ was with her.The black rhino bulls ‘Don’t Worry’, ‘Speedy’ and ‘Ben’ were
seen, although less regularly than other months. The cow
and calf ‘Dyana’ and ‘Takamisa’ were
the rhino most often seen.
On a sad note, 25th of June was also the day when we laid
Blythe Loutit of the Save The Rhino Trust to rest. She was
buried on the ridge overlooking the Uniab River next to Mike
Hearn. Her commitment to the rhino of the area never flagged,
and it is thanks to her that the rhino are around today.
Her legacy will continue.