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AFRICAN SAFARI CAMP UPDATES
March 2005

This Month:
• March update of General Safari News.
Children in the Wilderness update.
• Monthly update from beautiful North Island in the Seychelles.
• Monthly update from Linkwasha Camp in Zimbabwe.
Kwando Safaris game reports for March 2005.
• Monthly update from Kwetsani Camp in Botswana.
• Another baby rhino is born at Mombo Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Tubu Tree Camp in Botswana.
Linyanti Explorations (Pty) Ltd. sold to Seba Safaris (and Dereck and Beverly Joubert).
• Another great Dive Report from Rocktail Bay.
Damaraland Camp in Namibia receives Top International Conservation Award.
• Four additional Black Rhinos relocating to Ongava Game Reserve in Namibia.


General Safari News - Mar 05
Assorted Updates
Pafuri Camp in South Africa
The building of Pafuri Camp is well underway, with the camp scheduled to open in June. Work on upgrading the former SAN Parks airstrip only a few kilometres from the camp has begun. Pafuri Camp lies between the Limpopo and Luvuvhu rivers, in the private 24 000-hectare Makuleke Concession, in the far north of the Kruger National Park. It is the wildest and most remote area of the Park, offering excellent game viewing and birding is unparalleled, with specials like Pel's Fishing Owl, Black-throated Wattle-eye, Lemon-breasted Canary, Böhm's and Mottled Spinetails making this a sought-after camp for birders.

This area is the ancestral home of the Makuleke people and is the most diverse and scenically attractive area in the Kruger, contrasting and complementing the scenery and wildlife experience encountered at lodges in the southern region. Wilderness Safaris has been fortunate enough to enter into a mutually beneficial 45-year lease of the concession.

Since Wilderness established a presence in the area, wildlife numbers have increased dramatically; they also sponsor the Makuleke anti-poaching team. Lion, buffalo and elephant are regularly seen and leopard density is high. Even a small pack of endangered wild dog have been sighted recently.


Pom Pom Camp
Wilderness Safaris has decided not to extend its contract with Pom Pom Camp; thus, this camp is no longer under their management in Botswana.


Sefofane Update
On 01 May 2005 Sefofane Air Charters will commence a brand new flight schedule between Johannesburg and the Sabi Sands / Timbavati area. There will be three daily connections using Pilatus PC12 aircraft, which offers a quick point-to-point service in total comfort. The early morning departure from the Sabi Sands / Timbavati will enable guests to connect with Air Botswana's Maun flights on the same day. Guests will also be able to make a same-day connection to Victoria Falls.


Extra Luggage Allowance
Good news!  The long-standing baggage limit for inter-camp air transfers on Sefofane has been raised to 20kg (44lbs) in Botswana (and some in Namibia); as always this must be packed into soft bags and applies to Cessna Caravans only.


Air Namibia to fly to London
On 13 March Air Namibia's MD, Kosmas H Egumbo, announced the introduction of flights from Windhoek to London, beginning in July 2005. The airline will fly into London Gatwick three times a week, leaving Windhoek's Hosea Kutako International Airport on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday and return services leaving Gatwick Airport on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday evenings. With the new London service, Air Namibia will offer a daily connection to and from Europe.

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Children in the Wilderness update - Mar 05
Now in its 5th year, Children in the Wilderness recently ran some highly successful programmes over the December-January period. Here's what Martin, Jacana Camp Councillor had to say:

"The camps had a vibrant and friendly feel to them that was further reinforced by the many team building games played and songs sung (which you can hear hummed from time to time many months after the camp by the staff or the children). The kids also had a chance to get some exercise in a range of energetic sport sessions in which they took part each day. All of these activities are very important in their own right but within the Bana Ba Naga programme, they were part of a greater plan that centered on instilling a sense of love and respect for the environment in all the children that attended...

Every day the children set out, in a Land Rover, mokoro or on foot, armed with notebooks, checklists and the inexhaustible knowledge of their guides. After each activity, they would come back overflowing with excitement over the things they had seen and wonders of nature that they had experienced. ... We all have such fond memories of every child who participated on the programme, you could see how each child had gained something different from the experience and combined this new outlook with their already radiant personalities."

FOLLOW THE RIVER AND YOU WILL FIND THE SEA
By Lesego Kadisweng (Participant at Kaparota Camp)
"According to my school of thought, I wonder if God is aware that there is another substitute for Eden, a paradise camp in the Okavango Delta called Kaparota, a Camp that has the very same features, as the way the garden of Eden is explained in the Bible, a camp full of love, joy, peace and prosperity, and as for the smiles. Scientifically I would say smiles here are perennial. This camp is small but it takes giant steps in every activity it does... I found it hard to think that people like the beautiful workers of Kaparota do really exist and if I was to give examples of all the good things the Kaparota staff do, you would have to give me an endless supply of tissue paper, as tears of joy want flowing down my cheek, like a river flowing from the top of Kilimanjaro..."

Background: For a number of weeks each year, Wilderness closes some of its camps to paying guests, and invites groups of 16-24 impoverished children and orphans between the ages of 8 and 17 to participate in a wildlife camp experience. Over the course of these weeklong sessions, children are hosted and entertained, while being educated in all different facets of life - including wildlife, conservation, geography, geology, as well as art, nutrition, health and HIV/AIDS awareness.


A small percentage of Wilderness Safaris' sales go towards this worthy project, helping the future of Africa's people and wildlife.

James Note:  If you book travel with Eyes on Africa, there is an option to add a donation to Children in the Wilderness of any amount per person per safari. This money will go directly towards hosting the children in the camps. For more information go to http://www.childreninthewilderness.com

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North Island in the Seychelles
North Island update - Mar 05                Jump to North Island
Although March had some gloriously warm days with flat oceans, we also experienced some choppy ocean conditions with rain and overcast weather. This was unusual for March based on previous years but we expect the currently ideal conditions to persist until mid-May. Encouraged by the generally good conditions, 16 of our guests dived with us on 40 dives this month and almost double this went out on the fishing trips, while snorkeling, sunset cruises and hobie sailing all proved as popular as ever. Given the heat many guests chose simply to relax and swim, with the occasional luxurious pampering of the spa not far away.

FISHING
We had both a successful and interesting month out at sea with excellent and regular catches contributing to the popularity of this activity. Perhaps the highlight was a spectacular Sailfish which we managed to successfully release. Barracuda, Bonito, Wahoo, Dorado, Job Fish and Yellow Fin Tuna were among the other species caught – those needed for dinner being kept and the others released back into the ocean.

James' Note: Nicky and I spent five nights on North Island in March and it is amazing!  I'm also proud to boast that the "spectacular Sailfish" noted above was mine! We also caught Wahoo, loads of Bonito, Barracuda, and Yellow Fin Tuna.  We released all our catches save one tuna which James insisted on keeping for 2-days' worth of sashimi (I've never eaten so much and I loved it!)

DIVING
Since spotting two Lemon Sharks when first diving at the “The Spot” about two years ago we have not seen this species again until this month. Whilst on a recent dive to “The Spot”, conditions were perfect, with a light south-north current. 13 minutes into the dive, what appeared from a distance to be a giant ray swimming along the bottom, turned out to be not one but four Lemon Sharks swimming together. A fantastic sighting it proved to be. These sharks were around 2m+ in size and approached us to take a closer look. Within a short space of time they had turned to ignore us. After having identified that they were not Giant Sleepy Sharks or any other shark, I signaled the divers to stay together. If Lemon Sharks are provoked, they have been known to attack divers. They have a rather nice set of teeth to do this with. Within a short space of time, one of the Lemon Sharks broke from the group and returned to take a second look, albeit a short one. Needless to say, that particular dive had us incredibly excited. We counted 12 sharks in total, from the Lemon Sharks to the White Tip Reef Sharks to one lone Giant Sleepy Shark lazing around on the bottom. “The Spot”, on a good day, is still a highly rated dive site with exciting activity and rates amongst our favorites.

With regards from the Seychelles,
Debbie Smith

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Zimbabwe Camps
Linkwasha Newsletter - Mar 05                Jump to Linkwasha Camp
Elephants at Linkwasha Camp, ZimbabweUnfortunately, we have only recorded 9mm of rainfall for the month of March - it is going to be a very dry year. Winter is announcing its arrival. Mornings are getting chilly and we have started using ponchos. Clouds have been gathering in late afternoons but heavens do not open, especially in our area. In the Ngamo area, the airstrip and other surroundings have received a bit of rain and the pools on the roads are full of water.

The grass is tall in some other places , looking happy in the morning and a bit sad in the afternoons. Ordeal trees are turning golden-yellow, acacias are visited on daily basis by elephants as the pods are now ripe, and some teak trees are still flowering and make the forest look beautiful.

We’ve had very good sightings for the month of March. At the beginning of the month we were entertained by a mating pair of lions. One of the four brothers managed to fight off his brothers and had a nice honeymoon around camp. They stayed around for ten days thereafter. He did not want his other brothers close even after the mating was over, but finally hunger forced them to move on as there were no animals to hunt around camp. During that time he tried to go for the baby hippo who was out of the water during day time but mum came to the rescue.

Another highlight was two rhino charging each other in front of camp. The smaller of the two ran away and was never seen again! A wild dog killed a baby waterbuck in front of camp. In fact, everything was happening in front of camp, including another lion attempt on buffalo!

Sighting percentages for March are as follows: Elephant 68%; eland 100%; lion 65%; leopard 3%; wild dog 1%; waterbuck 100%; sable 100% with a lot of young ones; spring hare 100%; rhino 23%; zebra 100%. Buffalo, kudu, impala, black-backed jackal were seen very often.

Some migratory birds are still around in few numbers but most have left by this time. No new sightings as yet with the exception of Dusky Lark that were seen by the platform, which had not been seen for some time. Crowned Cranes still seen in their honeymoon plumage.
 
Guest Comments
Barbara and Joe Mulcahy:  Glens Falls New York - We enjoyed Africa. Everything was perfect. Enjoyed it all.....a million thanks
Michelle Enns : Chico Califonia - Enjoyed the variety of game. It is a nice way to end our African Safari . Thank you for your hospitality. Will always treasure this.
Helen Lee: USA - thanks for all the memories that we will take home. It was a trip that I will never forget.

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Botswana Camps
Kwando Safari Camps Update - Mar 05
Lagoon camp                Jump to Lagoon Camp
(Weeks 1-2)
* The pack of 3 Wild dogs that has been frequenting the area over the last few weeks was followed hunting but with no success.
* Good numbers of elephant have been seen throughout the area – a couple of the herds were found to be quite aggressive and were viewed from a safe distance.
* An elephant carcass was found yesterday just north of the camp – it appeared to have died from natural causes but had not yet attracted any scavengers.
* Hippo have been frequenting the camp on a nightly basis – guests and staff obviously moving around with much caution at night.
* The general game good – with widespread herds of zebra, wildebeest, impala, tsessebe and small groups of reedbuck – especially to the north of the camp.
* 105 mm of rain during the last week.
* Night sightings include genets, African wild cats, Serval and porcupine.

(Weeks 3-4)
* The Lagoon pride has been hunting prolifically during the last week and have killed 3 zebra so far.
* 3 sightings of leopard during the last week – 1 was from the boat whilst on a river cruise – very relaxed male walking along the river bank.
* Also a young male leopard seen a couple of times around the airstrip.
* Several small breeding herds of elephant throughout the concession.
* Large herds of 30 – 50 Zebra seen through the week.
* General game has been good – giraffe all over the concession as well as good numbers of zebra and wildebeest.
* Other sightings include a polecat, serval, civet, bat-eared foxes, African wild cat, genets and jackal.
* Large herd of buffalo are to the west in the mopane woodland.
* Along the river good numbers of water-birds and raptors.

Kwara camp                Jump to Kwara Camp
(Weeks 1-2)
* A pack of 5 wild dogs was followed hunting – they narrowly missed catching a zebra foal.
* General Game throughout the area has been excellent throughout the week.
* 2 female cheetah were found resting with full stomachs.
* A couple of big herds of elephants were seen during the week moving throughout the concession area.
* A large African Rock Python caught and ate a spring hare at night.
* A couple of ostriches were seen as well.
* Two nights ago the 2 adult female cheetah caught and ate a young tsessebe.
* Also good rain received at Kwara Camp during the last week.
* 3 lionesses were found resting at Tsum Tsum but had eaten.

(Weeks 3-4)
* good sighting of a male leopard hunting but did not catch anything.
* 3 large adult male lions seen yesterday morning resting – well fed.
* Numbers of male elephants around the camp on a daily basis.
* And nightly hyenas around the camp as well.
* Large herd of buffalo have moved off into the mopane woodland.
* 2 sightings of serval as well as Aardwolf, honey-badger and civet.
* 3 male cheetah seen last week.
* a small pack of wild dogs caught and killed an impala but after prolonged interaction with a couple of hyena were robbed.
* A pride of 12 lions were followed stalking and hunting at night but were not successful.
* General game throughout the week has been excellent.

Lebala camp
                Jump to Lebala Camp
(Weeks 1-2)
* A clan of hyena was found feeding on an old unidentifiable carcass.
* A large male leopard was seen for a while but proved to be very skittish.
* Another skittish young male leopard was seen as well, a relaxed young female as well.
* An adult male leopard was found with his impala kill in a tree - relaxed.
* 2 sightings of African rock pythons during the week.
* 6 hyenas were watched feeding on a young zebra carcass.
* A pride of 6 lionesses were found hunting impala but were not successful.
* A day later a male loin robbed the 6 lionesses of a wildebeest and fed for 3 days on it.
* The pride of 6 lionesses were seen later in the week well fed.
* Another pride of 4 lionesses and 2 males was seen moving into the Mopane – there were tracks of cubs in the area as well.
* A herd of 300 buffalo and good general game throughout the week.

(Weeks 3-4)
* Good general game including giraffe, wildebeest, zebra, tsessebe.
* A single male lion was found resting yesterday morning.
* Lagoon pride also seen throughout the week – we last seen drinking at a waterhole – well fed.
* 3 male cheetah were seen on several occasions – the later killed a tsessebe but were robbed by a clan of hyena.
* Leopard have been seen almost every evening during the last week – the camp area resident female leopard killed a spring hare.
* the Lebala pride was tracked for a few hours – they were following a herd of buffalo but were not located.
* Elephant have been seen throughout the concession but in smaller herds.
* Hyenas continue to dominate the Lebala area, and are often found following the other predators (normal klepto-parasitic behaviour).
* Night drives have yielded serval, civet, genets, African wild cat and porcupine.

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Kwetsani Camp monthly update - Mar 05                Jump to Kwetsani Camp
Crossing water at Kwetsani camp, BotswanaGreetings from Kwetsani! Life in the Delta is fantastic at the moment with the changing of the seasons from our rainy season into the floods. The weather has started cooling down slightly from February but not too much. Though it is a little cooler in the evenings and early mornings!

We have been closed for most of the month as we have been finishing our maintenance period with renovations to the lodge. We have to admit that the camp is looking rather beautiful. We opened with a bang after the 23rd of March and have had wonderful guests with us since we opened.The first half of the month we unfortunately did not get that much time to spend watching the game as we were all hard at work trying to get the lodge up and running. We have however had some lovely sightings and experiences since then.We have had a large number of elephant bulls around camp, which is always amazing. There is nothing to beat sitting and watching these giant creatures from camp where they barely seem to notice you. There has been a bit of change in the lions in the concession where two new males have made their way into the concession and seem to have displaced our local boys to a certain extent. They have been a little elusive, especially with the incoming waters but we have spent many nights sitting around the dinner table or lying in bed listening to the majestic roar of the male lion. The Kwetsani pride spent some time near the camp for a few days but seem to have moved to our dry land areas.We have had large herds of zebra and some breeding herds of elephant but expect the zebra in front of camp to soon be replaced with lechwe over the next couple of weeks. We are looking forward to the arrival of the floods with its additional activities. Cruising around on the boats is an incredible way to experience the delta!Africa is just a magic place and the Okavango Delta is one of the most beautiful places that can be experienced in southern Africa. It has a magic and beauty about it that will enchant you and capture your heart.The weather this month has been warm with a maximum temperature of 40 'C and a minimum of 20'C. The rainfall this month has been 95ml. So there has been a lot more rain this last month than during the rest of the rainy season.

We look forward to what the month has to offer, as with the rising water, it will be a spectacular time to be in the Delta.

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Another baby Rhino at Mombo Camp - Mar 05                Jump to Mombo Camp
On 04 March 2005 the rhino monitoring team at Mombo tracked and located a new mother and youngster to the south-east of Mombo Camp. Guides estimate the birth date to be sometime in the middle of February. The mother was released from the Mombo bomas during November 2002. The team have named the calf Lesero.

This brings to five the number of white rhino born in the wild in Botswana since the beginning of the re-location programme. The total white rhino population now stands at 32, along with 4 black rhino. It is likely that there may be more births in the coming months, as the rhino have clearly settled down in their new home.

Well done to Nick, Poster and their colleagues in the Anti Poaching Unit!

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Tubu Tree Camp update - Mar 05                Jump to Tubu Tree Camp
Lion and safari at Tubu Tree camp in BotswanaTubu Tree had a bit of a roller-coaster ride this month with our sighting of predators. In the beginning of the month we had some good cheetah sightings for the first week and a half, with two big males hunting together quite successfully, and then also a single female that struggled a bit on her own to hunt with a few failed attempts.

Lions have really been up and down with a big new pride that varies between ten and fourteen lions close to Tubu Corner. They have made some brilliant kills - we once found two wildebeest about thirty metres apart from each other and because they are such a big pride they kill quite often. We even had some new males moving through the area which were a little bit vehicle-shy. Lioness sightings were good where we saw them on a regular basis on game drives and night drives.

Leopard sightings were very similar to the lion sightings where we had some poor sightings that only lasted seconds and very good sightings where they made attempts at catching impala with the impala spotting him and then following it for a few metres. At a time we didn't see any predator for over a week, so we really had the ups and the downs of wildlife in the wild.

The floods have just started coming in and so we took our guests to Jacana and Jao to go and enjoy the new flood. They were so fortunate to see sitatunga and Pel’s Fishing Owl on their mokoro excursion.

The water should be at Tubu Tree in the next few weeks and we are really looking forward to seeing what this year’s flood is going to do. We are also still getting some good rains and that might also help with the flood levels and how fast it comes in.

Interesting sightings were also African wildcat with two kittens about two to three weeks old and Ground Hornbill killing a puff adder on the afternoon game drive.Tubu Tree is teeming with plains game. Big herds of impala, zebra and wildebeest in the area and in front of camp with regular sightings of kudu, giraffe, tsessebe, steenbok, warthog and elephant wallowing in the mud pools on game drives. Buffalo have also been seen on the drives and encountered on walks. Animals to look out for at night are the bush babies, civet, African wildcat, genet and spring hare.

Nightlife birding also delivers an interesting variety like Giant Eagle Owl, Barn Owl, White-faced Owl, Water Dikkop and Nightjars. Birdlife is always good with sightings of Little Bittern, Pink-throated Longclaw, Barred Owl, Pearl-spotted Owl, Wattled Crane, Short-tailed Eagle, African Hawk Harrier, Martial Eagle, Yellow-billed Stork and big numbers of Marabou storks, Fish Eagles and egrets. The birdlife should actually also explode in to big numbers with the flood that is coming in. Vultures are also seen on a regular basis with 4 different species in the area.

The guests always enjoy the singing and dancing with bush dinners, sleep outs at the hide and bush brunches. We will probably start mokoro and boating activities in the middle of April.Tubu Tree greetings from Manie, Sandra and the team.

James' Tubu update:  Nicky and I spent 4 days in the Jao concession in February 2005 and we visited Tubu and twice drove to Hunda Island (where Tubu is located) for game drives - all we can say is Wow!  We will most certainly stay at Tubu next safari.  The best time to visit is after the flood waters have come in as much of the game is then forced from the Jao floodplains onto Honda Island and it teems with game (I would say peak months are May - August).  The island is very reminiscent of Mombo and northern Chief's Island in Moremi and the camp is beautiful.  We watched a procession of over 100 zebras from the camp's deck as we had a refreshment during a mid-morning visit.

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Linyanti Explorations sold to Joubert's and Seba Safaris - Mar 05
Excerpted from the Press Release:
There is to be a “changing of the guard” at Linyanti Explorations.  Brian and Jan Graham, after more than 30 years involvement in Botswana’s tourism industry, are retiring.  As a consequence of this, and by agreement from all shareholders, LINYANTI EXPLORATIONS (PTY) LTD. has been acquired by Seba Safaris. Linyanti Explorations owns and operates the following camps in Botswana:  Selinda Camp, Zibalianja Camp, Motswiri Camp, and Walking Safaris in The Selinda.

The majority shareholders of Seba Safaris are none other than the well known wildlife cinematographers, Dereck & Beverly Joubert.  For many years the Joubert's were in fact based at The Selinda, their bush camp literally around the corner from Zibalianja Camp.  Their passion for Botswana & its natural heritage is unquestionable, and The Selinda has always held a very special place in their hearts and they have, in many ways, been part of the Linyanti Explorations family for years.

Despite this seemingly dramatic change we would like to assure everyone that in fact it is “business as usual.”  All operations will continue as normal under the umbrella of Linyanti Explorations (Pty) Ltd.  It is also important to stress at this point that Linyanti Explorations is in no danger of being swallowed up by the corporate safari industry.  The company will remain an independent operator with the values, dedication and service that has made it successful over the last three decades.

To emphasize this, three of the previous shareholders, namely Andre and Marianne Martens, and Grant Nel will be staying on with the company.  Andre and Marianne will continue to oversee all aspects of operations on The Selinda, whilst Grant will take on Brian’s role at Head Office.  Grant has spent the last six years working closely with Brian so for all intents and purposes this change will be seamless.  Although Dereck & Beverly will continue with their film work, they intend to be extensively involved in the running of the company, albeit not on a day-to-day basis.

In an industry where trust and loyalty are held in high regard, our pledge is to uphold the ethos of giving our guests “the best African experiences…in the best places to be.”  We hope that we can continue to enjoy the support of our long standing relationships, and develop new ones, in the years ahead.

Linyanti Explorations (Pty) Ltd. 31 March 2005

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South Africa camps
Rocktail Bay Dive Report - Mar 05                  Jump to Rocktail Bay Lodge
Green Turtle at Rocktail Bay“Now I know where all the marine life from Sodwana is, right here at Rocktail!” A truly impressed diver with hundreds of dive experiences in South Africa and our new greatest fan! We had just surfaced from Yellowfin Drop and the list of sightings during the dive was endless. In amongst the abundance of fish a large 2.5m Bowmouth Guitarfish followed by a Nurse Shark swam right underneath the divers completing the wow factor ten-fold. We had Johan Boshoff from Dive Spot come diving with us to add to his extensive research of the coastline of Southern Africa compiling a comprehensive user-friendly CD for marine enthusiasts to learn more about marine life and dive spots of southern Africa. It’s the perfect tool to help ID fish, corals, invertebrates, sea birds etc without having to invest in a library of books. It was a pleasure to hear that our reefs are some of the very best he has seen. The abundance of species to be found is truly impressive. It was even suggested that had the research started here the time taken to collect all the data would be halved! Including Yellowtail Rockcod scarcely seen along the coast. It really is a useful tool to access and for those who are interested to take a look www.marinelife.co.za or contact on info@thedivespot.co.za
 
Just when we thought that the first and last sighting of Whale Shark had been and gone back in December, an 8m wonder arrived and delighted everyone who saw her. Divers who had missed the first dive and were joining us for the second could not hide their disappointment as they were told the others had snorkeled with her. But Darryl made Ieva’s day by managing to track the Whale Shark down and Ieva was excited to the point of bursting as we were able to snorkel with her again. Swimming alongside the Shark during the first sighting were numerous Cobia but interestingly she had a change of guard and the second sighting we noticed that she was being escorted by juvenile Kingfish instead. The remora stayed with her, nestled under her belly. As she circled amongst us you had to take care and move out of her tail’s way as it was cutting through the surface. The spots on her back shimmered in the sun, millions of stars sparkling less than a metre below. Surely you could never tire from seeing these creatures.
 
Redfang Triggerfish are very popular with the divers. Their unmistakable style of swimming, sometimes in shoals of 50 or more in all sizes, always catch divers’ attention and no matter their experience marvel at the sight. As you approach the fish they dart under a rock for protection believing out of sight means out of danger, only they keep leaving their tails hanging out and these are often pointed out during the dives.
 
Really the numbers of fish this month have been quite staggering! Normally we see solitary Jobfish or in ones and twos but the shoal of Green Jobfish over Coachman’s Ledge were amongst the hundreds of fish that greeted us on the dive, you could not see reef for the number of shoaling fish, Coachmen, Humpback Snappers, Dusky Rubberlips, Black Tip Snappers…
 
Honeycomb Moray Eels are not only in abundance but putting on the pounds. We have seen free-swimming eels, which is exciting as normally they rest under rocks by day and hunt by night for small fish and octopus detecting their food by smell. Growing up to 2m in length with a girth of some note! An impressive predator to see.
 
Why is it that those Open Water students who are slightly nervous of the creatures of the sea need reassurance that sharks are unlikely to be seen, yet every time they show up! Wide-eyed and hands in the air with noticeably more bubbles expelled, I felt Deborah coped with the situation very well. It was our cheeky resident Blacktail Reef Shark who came by to say ‘hello.’
 
The sea can only be described as ‘Lumpy’ and ‘Out of sorts’! We have had constant swell of anything between 1m to 2m but divers have not been put off by the surge and have been constantly marveled at the incredible number of fish life. Clouds of juveniles under overhangs and what seems like millions of Fusiliers creating of wall of blue and gold alongside the divers.
 
An undeniable treat this month was to go to the infrequently visited Blood Snapper Reef and quite simply it was awesome! As we sank to the depth of 47 – 50m Blood Snappers by the dozen surrounded us. The distinctive stripes of the Emperor Snapper and enormous Baardman Tasslefish were also shimmering in the most amazing visibility of 30m.
 
“Stumpy” is a female Loggerhead that has made Elusive Reef her home and is often found sleeping under the ledges. She must be 150kg and of the most inquisitive nature. Easily recognizable by the front left flipper bitten in half but healed nicely. Tiger Shark is most likely accountable for any bite wounds on a turtle as its teeth are designed to cut easily through the tough carapace. Turtles can survive the attack but not without the cost of a limb or chunks missing from the shell.
 
Juvenile Cape Gannets have been seen flying north, the first sign of winter. Juveniles are still a chocolate-brown color whereas the adults are striking birds easily recognized by their black and white markings. Gannet activity picks up in the winter months as they follow the sardine run from the Cape into KwaZulu-Natal. However we need not worry about the cold temperatures yet, the water is still a balmy 27 and summertime sightings are still present during the dives.

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Namibia camps
Damaraland Camp receives Top Conservation Award - Mar 05                  Jump to Damaraland Camp
Incredible sand dunes - Skeleton Coast camp, NamibiaThe World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) has named Wilderness Safaris’ Damaraland Camp as the overall winner of the Tourism for Tomorrow Conservation Award 2005 at an awards ceremony held on 08 April 2005, in New Delhi, India. This award is one of the top two global travel environmental awards, and is adjudicated by independent judges who conduct on-site inspections of all the finalists. The event was part of the 5th Global Travel & Tourism Summit, the industry’s premier event, during which leaders from the travel and tourism industry and governments gather to network.
 
The Tourism for Tomorrow Awards, sponsored by British Airways, AVIS, BBC World and TIME amongst others, recognize and promote the world's leading examples of best practice in responsible tourism in four categories: Destination, Conservation, Investor in People and the Global Tourism Business Award. The Tourism for Tomorrow Awards were set up in 1989 to encourage action from all sectors of the travel industry to protect the environment.

Ten years ago, the area around Damaraland Camp was in decline; there was no formal conservation protection, wildlife numbers were in rapidly diminishing and unemployment within the local community was close to 100%. Today, due to the successful partnership between the Damaraland Community and Wilderness Safaris, and the implementation of a viable eco-tourism model, around 180 000 acres of land are under conservancy protection, wildlife numbers are thriving and the local community have money in the bank and employment. Encouraged by this example, the neighbouring Doro Nawas Community has in turn created its own 180 000-acre conservancy.
 
This award is an accolade that bears testimony to the concerted efforts of all those involved in Damaraland Camp, and in particular the members of the community who have had the foresight to invest in their future by protecting their wildlife and natural surroundings.
 
Damaraland Camp lies within the Torra Conservancy, 90 kilometres inland from Namibia’s Skeleton Coast. It is an area that has been plagued in the past by poaching and destruction of the natural habitat. Committed to empowering the local community and giving them a sense of ownership, Wilderness Safaris set up a partnership whereby the local community’s Trust earned significant cash revenues as well as jobs, mentoring and training. One of the poorest communities anywhere is now thriving and poverty alleviation has been achieved directly through conservation and tourism. This attitude has instilled a sense of pride and belonging in the community who now see their environment as being integrally linked to their future successes. Thus poverty reduction, conservation and empowerment were placed together on the same agenda.

Financial initiatives that earn the community a significant percentage of the camp’s bed night accommodation revenue coupled with conservation initiatives on the ground are increasing the value of wildlife to the community and to the country. The result is that rare desert-adapted animals like the desert elephant and black rhino are increasing in numbers throughout the region. It is a win-win situation for all: The community prospers, the country wins and the surrounding environment is sustained and balanced – and Wilderness Safaris’ guests can enjoy a wonderful experience.

Wilderness Safaris is extremely honored to have received this acknowledgment of the Damaraland Camp success story, which has enabled and enriched the local community who are committed to preserving their environment and wildlife for future generations. This is a fulfillment of Wilderness Safaris’ promise to protect and conserve our most precious natural treasures; our planet and our people.

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Ongava Game Reserve to receive 4 Black Rhinos - Mar 05                  Jump to Ongava Lodge
Black Rhinos in NamibiaIn the innovative public / private sector partnership by the Namibian Ministry of the Environment and Tourism (MET), a further four black rhino (Diceros bicornis bicornis) will be placed under the custodianship of Ongava Game Reserve bordering Etosha. Wilderness Safaris’ commitment to research, conservation and community empowerment in Namibia have earned it the right to host these animals at Ongava, but they remain the property of the state. This effectively expands secure black rhino range within the country, while Ongava is able to show its guests an endangered species and to participate in meaningful conservation programmes.
 
Relocation costs of the four animals have been covered by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the Namibian Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET) and Ongava Game Reserve.  The rhino - which originate in Etosha and will be released in April - will be monitored around the clock by Ongava's Anti-Poaching field staff, who are proud to be involved in such an initiative.


History of Ongava Game Reserve:  In 1991 the shareholders of Ongava converted four unproductive cattle ranches into a highly productive 66 000-hectare private game reserve that is now a haven to large concentrations of wildlife. The Ongava Game Reserve forms a buffer between Etosha National Park and the farms to the south. This buffer enables large game such as elephant and lion to move in and out of the Park without entering hostile environments. Most general game has been reintroduced onto the property, including springbok, gemsbok, wildebeest, Burchell’s zebra, Hartmann’s mountain zebra, waterbuck, red hartebeest, giraffe, eland and the rare black-faced impala.
 
The most successful reintroduction project on the Reserve, however, is the white and black rhino project. A large boma on the property allows for careful reintroduction of the translocated rhino to the region and to the region’s vegetation. At present, Ongava holds one of the largest Namibian rhino custodianships for the Namibian government. These custodianships are set up in safe havens throughout the country in hopes of breeding rhino to more sustainable numbers and reintroducing them into areas where they previously flourished.

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