Wilderness Safaris general
Dive Report from beautiful North
Island in the Seychelles.
Monthly update from Mana
Canoe Trail in
Kwando Safaris game reports for
Update on the 2005 Okavango
The new Kwara
Camp is under constrcution in Botswana.
Monthly update from Selinda in
Monthly update from Mombo
Camp in Botswana.
Monthly update from Kwetsani
Camp in Botswana.
Monthly update from Tubu
Tree Camp in
Monthly update from DumaTau Camp in
Another great Dive Report from Rocktail Bay.
Monthly update from Little
Camp in Namibia.
Wilderness Safaris general Safari
Assorted Updates - May 05
Children in the Wilderness Charity Bike Ride
The 2005 Children in the Wilderness charity bicycle ride is scheduled to take
place 11-17 August 2005. It will be a first and a wonderful adventure for all
involved as cyclists will travel for about 400km through the Kruger National
Park and its adjoining new Transfrontier Park in Mozambique. The ride will cover
four nights and riders will be able to ride through pristine countryside, past
remote villages and through big game country! For more information, go to the
Air Botswana News
effect from July 1, 2005 Air Botswana's Cape Town-Maun services will be reduced
to 2 services per week in each direction. Air Botswana will keep BP270 (CPT/MUB)
on Fridays and Mondays and BP271 (MUB/CPT) on Thursdays and Sundays. However,
note that at the end of October 2005 the airline will revert to 3 services
per week, that is the Tuesday (MUB/CPT) and Wednesday (CPT/MUB) services will
note: Most of the flying in Botswana is done on Cessna Caravans,
but while we cannot guarantee the aircraft type, we can guarantee
luggage allowance and this has been increased to 20kg [44 lbs]. The
type and size of luggage/cases also therefore need to remain the
same as it was previously: soft bags that are not too big, in order
to fit into the very snug baggage compartments of the plane. As
can be seen in the picture - such bags are just too large!
Camp in the Makuleke region of the Kruger National Park in South
Africa's north-east corner has the following scheduled flights confirmed
in the following slot times by Sefofane Air Charters, effective from
15th July 2005:
Depart: JIA 11.40 Arrive: Pafuri 13.10
Depart Pafuri 13.30 Arrive JIA 15.00
Depart: JIA 13.20 Arrive Pafuri 14.40
Depart Pafuri 15.00 Arrive JIA 16.30
Camp and Wildlife News:
Pafuri Camp is nearing completion and scheduled
to open in June this year. The camp will have 20 thatched rooms
built along the Luvuvhu
River. Wilderness Safaris has signed a 45-year, mutually beneficial lease
with the Makuleke community, who were removed from their homeland in 1969 but
reclaimed it following land restitution in 1997. The lease allows
Wilderness to develop and run the camp in one of the most remote and
untouched areas of the KNP, while the Makuleke benefit from skills
development, job creation, training, and 8% of all lodge profits.
Vumbura Plains Camp
Plains, now up and running, is situated on the Kaparota Lagoon with
magnificent views of lagoon and floodplain. Although water levels
fluctuate, the lagoon itself holds water year round. The camp spreads
out in a north-south direction along the shady riparian growth on
the fringe of the floodplain, so that its two 'wings' have been named
Vumbura Plains North and Vumbura Plains South respectively. Game
viewing is excellent with all 5 large predator species present in
camp in the last week.
game viewing continues in Hwange. A recent group of guests had six
different lion sightings and herds of ±1500 buffalo and thought
Hwange had the best game viewing of the whole trip. Visitors to Linkwasha
recently saw elephant, white rhino, buffalo, lion and leopard in
less than an hour.
Jack's Camp - Makgadikgadi
hyena viewing at Jack's Camp continues to be great. A new den
site has been discovered, interaction with lions was witnessed by
some lucky guests, and a year old cub was found hoisted into a tree
by a leopard.
Turtles at Rocktail Bay
phenomenal total of 70 Loggerhead and Leatherback turtles were adopted
at Rocktail Bay this past season!
Zimbabwe Camps and tourism
Finally: Rhino arrive at Ongava
Safaris remains as upbeat as ever in Zimbabwe, particularly after
Indaba in Durban, where much interest was shown in the country
as a tourist destination. In fact, occupancies are up considerably
on those of last year!
River Club, Zambia
River Club in Zambia is looking as charming as ever, and offers
a wonderful end (or beginning) to a safari - a time to relax and
enjoy the peace and serenity of the mighty Zambezi River and possibly
interact with the schoolchildren and villagers of the Simonga Village.
Wilderness now operates a tours and transfers company in Livingstone,
taking care of all its guests in the Livingstone area and four
more vehicles have been added to their fleet there.
In the innovative public / private sector partnership
by the Namibian Ministry of the Environment and Tourism (MET), four
black rhino (Diceros bicornis bicornis) arrived at Ongava Game Reserve
bordering Etosha. The animals are being monitored around the clock
by Ongava’s anti-poaching field staff and are settling down
Wilderness Safaris’ commitment
to research, conservation and community empowerment in Namibia
has earned it the right to host these animals at Ongava, and
this will expand the range within the country in which the black
rhino species can dwell securely, while Ongava is able to show
its guests an endangered species and to participate in meaningful
North Island in the Seychelles
North Island Dive Report - May 05 Jump
to North Island
The seasons are officially late in that our monsoon season only started
towards the end of May, as opposed to the expected middle of May, but
what are a couple of weeks here or there. The fact of the matter is that
we experienced very good diving during the month. Our visibility has
been around the 20m+ mark and our water temperature has remained a constant
Due to the stable weather conditions with calm oceans and inviting
water temperatures, for most of the month we were able to dive
the long range dive sites. We visited ‘Annerdale Wreck,’ ‘Shark
Bank’ and even managed to dive two sites that we had not dived
in a couple of years – ‘Outer Banks’ and ‘Hang
Ten.’ Talk about variety! The comical thing about the dives
to ‘Outer Banks’ and ‘Hang Ten’ was that
the fish visibly stared - I don’t believe they have seen anyone
at all since we found these dives sites. The reason that we have
not dived here regularly is that they are not always good spotting
sites and we prefer to take our guests to sites that we know will
produce good sightings. Nonetheless, it was really good to dive there
once again. Within a couple of minutes on ‘Outer Bank’,
we had sighted two Giant Sleepy Sharks, one large in size and one
clearly a juvenile. Fish life was abundant with shoals of colourful
Fusiliers floating around in very impressive tight balls. ‘Outer
Banks’ was alive on this day.
‘Hang Ten’ was a lot quieter but
an impressive-sized Great Barracuda met us halfway down on our
descent and hung around in the distance throughout the entire dive.
As we made our way back up, it made an appearance once again, clearly
very curious as to what we were or what we were up to.
We have spotted numerous White Tip Reef sharks, Giant Sleepy sharks,
Giant Moray eels, Sharp Nose Stingrays, Spotted Eagle Rays, Round Ribbontail
Rays, Cow Fish and a healthy variety of marine life abundant in our
waters. We had, in the past, spotted very small White Tip Reef Sharks,
most likely juveniles, and these have since grown a bit. We definitely
believe that the corals are growing in a healthy manner at our dive
sites and we continue to watch with hawk-like eyes. On this note, we
have been doing quite a few marine and scuba diving presentations in
the evenings for guests, focusing on North Island marine life, dive
sites, weather and all of the research that we are involved with, thus
creating a better awareness for those not in the know.
We were thrilled to have an underwater filmmaker
here from Cornwall recently who has dived and filmed in many
well known dive spots around the world, and after returning from a
day of diving to ‘The Spot’ and ‘Fisherman’s
Plateau,’ he stated that these were the best of the best
that Seychelles has to offer and that he has never had such good
underwater footage available to him as he got on these dives. He
returned from his dive visibly excited and could not wait to set
up his video camera to play back the dive that he filmed. Not only
did we swell with pride, we basically have just not stopped boasting!
Seychelles Underwater Film Festival (SUBIOS)
Incidentally, the Seychelles has an Underwater Film Festival each year,
to which underwater photographers and film-makers from around the
world can submit entries. This event took place over two weeks in
mid-May and proved to be larger than originally anticipated. Our
dive team entered three digital images all taken on our dive sites
here over the last couple of months or so and I am thrilled to say
that the jellyfish image (below centre) was pre-selected by the judges
and made it through to the final round of public voting. It was great
to have North Island mentioned and represented by these images, along
with some of the staff that attended the opening ceremony and the
other evenings that were arranged.
The calibre of underwater videos that were entered was amazing and
it brought home the urgent need for all of us to make a difference
in the underwater realm. The President of Seychelles was present for
the opening ceremony and public voting. Over the festival period, a
village was set up at Beau Vallon Bay, Mahe, and guest speakers presented
talks on corals, sharks and the underwater world in general. The urgent
need to stop shark-fin fishing was highlighted and this has become
a worldwide appeal. The plight of Whale Sharks and their future was
also highlighted. Excellent videos were shown on these evenings, and
it was a great family outing for the locals, contributors and international
Overall for the month of May we managed 33 dive trips with 26 guests
who achieved 81 dives. We visited 11 different dive sites with ‘Sprat
City’ (10 visits), ‘Twin Anchors’ (7 visits) and ‘Boulders’ and ‘The
Spot’ (5 visits each) being the most popular.
Mana Canoe Trail update - May 05 Jump
season has started off on a very good note. We received below average rains
in Mana Pools so it’s looking
a little dry for this time of the year. On the other hand
for people who spend time on the river, like us, this is
good news as the game is already coming down to the floodplain
in large herds.
With the movement of the prey the cats follow suit
and we were very fortunate on our first trip of the season
to have very good sightings of 3 different prides
of lion during our adventurous journey. At Vundu campsite
(our first night camp) the Ruckomechi pride called
during the evening. That gave us something to do in the morning
and after walking about 3 kilometres in the general
area we stumbled across the pride. Not expecting to see them
we all ducked behind a bush and from there we watched
the pride playing for about 20 minutes before they
caught wind of us. When they started moving off we realised
there were 2 other males sitting close to us but
out of view. I thought that that had to be my best sighting
of lion on foot but it was almost outdone the next
morning when at Chessa campsite we followed a pride that we’d
clearly heard killing and feeding on a waterbuck
and mating sounds thrown in just to enhance the incredible
The next morning we walked in the area and came across
the pride of 8 lions that included 2 big males and two
12 to 18-month-old cubs fast asleep and trying to sun
themselves. We managed to identify the mating pair after
they got up, gave us some highlights of their priority
in life at the moment and then went back to sleep. We
sat and watched this pride for about half an hour and
in the end we left them still snoring away. We all got
satisfaction out of being able to creep up to within
20 yards of a sleeping pride of lions, watch them rolling
over constantly to try and ease digestion and leave unnoticed
30 minutes later.
Sightings this month also include a cheetah with two
cubs which we found sitting in the shade of a big Acacia
tree at Mcheni, the famous Mana Pools elephant bulls,
eland, hyaena and believe it or not, hippo. We also got
to witness a Fish Eagle catching a bream - incredible
There are more young warthog, buffalo
and impala than we’ve ever seen in the park. The cats have also
done well and the wild dogs we imagine have started denning
now as they have disappeared for the last few weeks.
The elephant and buffalo herds are already coming down
to the river as most of the inland waters have dried
out. This is going to be great game season but just before
the rains we predict a shortage of food. The predators
will thrive in these conditions and we’re really
looking forward to the season.
Our ‘Worst’ Guest Comments
Thank you very much for a very grand experience with
your animals and people. What a surprise to have
an elephant dung cake for my birthday. Thank you for the
experience... CG & BG - Colorado, USA.
The magic of the Zambezi - Thank you Humphrey, Obert
and Constance for sharing it with us. U-boat hippos,
close encounters of the elephant kind, absent lions,
full moon, we had it all. Thanks for getting us through
all this safely. Zambezi trips are always special, this
one was more than that, laughter, excitement, and a great
team made this one trip to remember and savour. I will
look forward to coming back. AE - Paris, France
20 lions, des centaines d'hippos, des elephants, des
buffles, des impalas...Nous n'imaginions pas autant d'animaux
en safari canoe! Les paysages sont exceptionnels et nos
guides aussi. Humphrey et Constance nous ont fait decouvrir
leur passion du bush et avec eux nous avons passe 3 jours
hors du temps. MILLE MERCI et nous esperons a bientot
pour d'autres aventures.
O, X, V et N - Boulogne, France
The Mana Canoe Trail Team
Humphrey, Constance, Adam, Bob, May and Trust
Kwando Safari Camps Update
- May 05
• The Lagoon pride killed
their first buffalo of the season – an adult cow.
Shortly thereafter 2 young adult males came in fighting
but were later chased off the carcass by the pride. The
following morning the 2 males had taken over the carcass
with one old female – the rest of the pride including
the cubs had moved off.
• A shy male cheetah was
sighted but moved off into the long grass.
• A pack of 2 male wild dogs was found feeding on an impala
on the river-bank close to tent 6 – was spotted
by the maintenance man Thusego!
• Big breeding herds of elephant visiting the Lagoon all
day – also excellent elephant activity during the
day at John’s pan.
• The young adult male continues
to frequent the camp for marulas nightly.
• Large herds of buffalo
(numbering hundreds) have been seen daily.
• Night drives yielded African
wild cats and owls.
• A caracal was seen outside
the camp on a morning drive.
• Good numbers of general
game including impala rams fighting, giraffe, zebra,
lechwe and reedbuck.
• A Gymnogene (African Harrier Hawk) was watched raiding
the nest of a crested barbet – also unusually high
numbers of Bateleur eagles seen as well as a 2m long
mamba sunning itself on the airstrip.
• Lions were seen most game-drives
• In an interaction that lasted some time - the Lagoon
pride killed 5 baboons out of a troop after they
became trapped on a small island – the last
was snatched off his 3m high perch by one of the
• Later same day – 2 male lions were found feeding
on a giraffe calf with an adult female giraffe (the
mother?) looking on.
• A male was found feeding
on an impala at Twin pools.
• 2 nomadic males found feeding on a giraffe.
• Lagoon pride brought down a couple of buffalo calves,
also feeding on a warthog close to the airstrip.
• Pride of 2 males and a female followed hunting buffalo.
• Adult male leopard drinking.
• Sub-adult male leopard
• Pack of 10 hyena feeding
on a buffalo calf.
• Female cheetah and 2 cubs found – well fed
after a successful hunt.
• A single male wild dog was found after it ran hunting
past the camp at first light, also a pack of 2 males
has been seen hunting regularly all over the north
• Beautiful sightings of breeding herds and bachelor
herds especially on the late afternoon and evening
game drives drinking and bathing in the Kwando River
• Good sightings of
herds of buffalo all numbering in the hundreds.
• General game include
giraffe, zebra, impala, lechwe, tsessebe, wildebeest
reedbuck, a herd of 5 roan antelope, 15 sable and
kudu as well as the odd steenbok and a number of
banded and dwarf mongooses.
• Nocturnal animals,
honey-badger fighting with a jackal, African wild
cat, striped polecat, serval hunting rodents, four
giant eagle owls seen on one night-drive, white-faced
eagle nesting, 7 Wattled cranes, Pink/Rosy-throated
• An adult Lioness was seen at midday coming
down to the lagoon in from of camp – she
was later followed hunting impala.
• A leopard was seen on a tree from the motorboat – it
was shy and eventually disappeared into the long
• The relaxed Kwara resident female was followed
during a night drive as she moved through and marked
• A pair of male wild dogs was followed hunting – they
chased a young kudu bull which out of the mopane
towards the vehicle where it stood for several
minutes before running off – when the wild
dogs reappeared the kudu had run off.
• A coalition of 3 male cheetah was followed – Initially
shy but relaxed as the morning wore on – they
chased wildebeest but were not successful.
• A few bull elephants around the concession.
• General game – a herd of 17 sable seen twice
during the week – 2 sable bulls were watched
in a serious fight that took 10 minutes, a herd
of 9 sable also seen several times during the week.
Big herds of impala seen – the rams are still
rutting, also seen tsessebe, reedbuck and giraffe.
• A couple of serval were seen at night as well as a water mongoose, African wild
cat, porcupine, side-striped jackal, as well as giant eagle, scops and barred
• The lagoon in front of the camp apart from the resident hippo has a flock of
over 100 pelicans both Pink-backed and Great While together, over 50 yellow-billed
storks, juvenile Ruffs, ground hornbills and wattled cranes.
• 2 adult male lions followed on the evening – roaring and marking
• A buffalo herd was followed, cow gave birth
and the calf was taken by a pair of adult male lions.
They were later in the week found feeding on another buffalo calf as well.
• A single lioness came down to drink at the lagoon in front of the camp.
• A pride of 5 from the west killed a red lechwe at the lagoon in front of camp.
• A leopard was seen in a tree from the boat.
• Male leopard found stalking a herd of impala – chased and missed.
• Another male leopard followed hunting francolin which it missed, but later
dug a springhare out of its hole – by all counts the springhare was already
• A pack of 2 wild dogs found sleeping with
full stomachs. Two male wild dogs later found hunting – unsuccessfully
chased a young kudu.
• A few breeding herds of elephant seen around but most sightings were of bachelor
herds and solitary bulls.
• A honey-badger was found carrying a Selous mongoose it had killed.
• Side striped jackal found hanging around a lion kill.
• Good herds of zebra, giraffe, kudu, and impala as well as a herd of 17 sable
antelope – the 2 dominant bulls were fighting.
• The pan in front of camp still producing excellent
sightings of crocodiles sunning themselves, hippo in and out of the water,
elephant, impala, lechwe, both species of pelicans, as well as a wide variety
of other water-birds.
• 2 sighting of serval hunting in the early evenings as well.
Lebala camp Jump
• An adult male and lioness were found moving
through the mopane woodland marking territory and
calling. The same male was found later calling and
then rejoining the female – suspected she may
be coming into pre-oestrus.
• A large adult male leopard was found marking his
territory and calling – initially a little
shy but became more relaxed with time.
• Another coalition of 3 males (different to the Kwara
3) were followed hunting – they chased and
missed a zebra foal, missed a reedbuck and eventually
caught and killed an impala ram just after sunset.
• A couple of elephant bulls seen daily in the floodplains,
breeding herds seen moving down to the river during
the day and at night.
• A couple of herds of buffalo moving down to the river
daily, often seen from the camp.
• Excellent general
game all over the Lebala area.
• Smaller game includes a couple of serval sightings,
slender, dwarf and banded mongooses as well as a
rare sighting of a Selous mongoose. A number of African
wild cat sightings including one that was viewed
hunting and killing a mouse.
• At night a numbers of sightings of hyena, also seen
both black-backed and side-striped jackal.
• 2 lionesses and 8 cubs followed hunting giraffe which they missed,
and also later missed a lechwe.
• A single male lion was followed scent-marking his territory, and roaring.
• A pride of 11 was hunting close to Lebala airstrip – the next day they
killed a young buffalo.
• Lions were seen on most days.
• An adult female leopard was followed hunting springhares.
• An adult male was located south of the camp – moving through and marking
his territory – he was stalking a troop of baboons when they discovered
his presence there was some aggression back and forth before the leopard ran
for him life pursued by the adult males from the troop.
• 3 other individual leopards found during the past week.
• 3 relaxed male cheetah followed hunting.
• An adult female with 2 cubs seen 4 days in a row – she killed a large
adult impala ram in full view of all.
• A pack of 13 wild dogs followed on their morning
hunt, they killed something small which was consumed before the guides could
see what it was and before the rest of the pack could relocate each other.
They were followed for a couple of days in a row – in the pack
is the heavily pregnant Alpha female and we expect they should be denning soon.
• Up to 100 elephants in breeding herds seen both on morning and afternoon/evening
• Buffalo herds up to 300 strong located both north and south of the camp – quite
a bit of breeding activity.
• Very relaxed serval, porcupine, bush-baby and civet found nightly, as well
as dwarf mongoose, banded mongoose and the rarely seen water mongoose.
• On another evening drive guests watched a serval stalk and kill 5 mice in a
row, another serval was viewed catching fish at Tsessebe pan. Also a group
of 3 porcupines seen in the near vicinity, sightings of genet and a civet was
watched killing a mouse.
• Lots of hyena around the camp, seen following the mother cheetah and her cubs
a couple of times, also both types of jackal seen on the game-drives.
Good eagle sightings, water-birds and a flock of 10 and another of 13 wattled
The 2005 Okavango Flood
measurement of the flow of the Okavango at Mohembo on
10-May indicates that we are past the peak. The flow
has dropped considerably. It will still take some time
before the effects of this water are felt at our camps
below the panhandle, but at this stage this is already
significant water (and water activities) at camps like
Kwetsani, Jao, Jacana, Tubu Tree and Xigera.
The flood has yet to reach some areas east of Chief's Island and at Chitabe,
the Gomoti Channel (on the eastern side of the concession) has been reduced to
New Kwara Island Camp
Kwando Safaris are currently building a new luxury tented
camp - to be known as Kwara Island Camp, in the Okavango
The camp is expected to be open for guests in October
2005 and will consist of only 4 guest tents. The camp
is located on an island in the permanent Delta on the
border of the Moremi Game Reserve in the private Kwara
concession of 175 000 ha.
Camp will offer an intimate setting, in a private
area, with personal service – vintage
Africa. While the camp will share a name with the well
known, 16-bed Kwara camp, operated by Kwando Safaris
since 2000, Island Camp is a 1-hour drive from Kwara.
As you can see in the image
at left, it is a large island with an area that
will be seasonally flooded. Access will be
by boat from the channel coming from under the
plane's wing in the photo.
Camp will offer the following game activities:
mekoro trips year round, double deck boat cruises,
island walks and game drives both off road and
at night. The game drives will take place on the “mainland” by
crossing via pontoon to the vehicles.
To put the concession
area into context – 175
000ha is just under 10% of the area of Kruger National
The Kwara area is notable for its deep
sands and lovely grasslands with good general game.
It also has good birding, especially from September
when the migrants arrive.
James' Comment: Nicky
and I stayed at Kwara last year and saw amazing leopards;
in fact, just about every time I've been to Kwara going
back to 1996 when it was a Wilderness Safaris camp,
I have seen exceptional leopard interactions in this
area. Recently Kwara it has also been very good for
Selinda update -
May 05 Jump
The following are highlights
from Botswana's Selinda Reserve:
The waterholes are drying
up rapidly and what
is, is not appealing to the wildlife. Consequently, we are
the start of the dry season migration to the fresh water of
Zibalianja Lagoon & Selinda Spillway, particularly elephant.
There has been a lot of cheetah
activity in May. The “3
Boys” are as conspicuous as usual, but the highlight
month was the discovery of another female with 3 small
This brings the number of cheetah cubs on the reserve
to 7 from
The Selinda pack of Wild
Dog has resorted to their dry
season hunting tactics. This usually involves chasing
antelope into camp where they become disorientated & easy
pick off. One chase, of an adult female kudu, started
at sunset (in
camp!) and ended, under a full moon, at 11pm (in camp)
poor beast succumbing next to one of the staff houses.
More exciting Wild Dog news is the advanced
state of the
Alpha female’s pregnancy! Usually this pack dens
in early June
with first sighting of the pups in the first week of
July. Watch this
space for more news.
Lion dynamics are in a state
of flux at present. Each
month we report on new males in the area and this month
different. Four magnificent, fully mature lions were
Zibalianja lagoon vying for the affection of one of the
The Okavango flood waters have reached the
corner of The Selinda. They are pushing hard, so we expect
spillway to flood some way past Motswiri Camp again.
Recent sightings at
Motswiri include 2 lionesses, a
cheetah family, plenty of elephant, a number of Roan and
Sable herds, and an increase in the number of Zebra,
Tsessebe enjoying the sweet grasses of the spillway!
Mombo and Little Mombo monthly update
- May 05 Jump
Dumela! Here's all the latest news from Mombo and Little Mombo
for May 2005.
It really is impossible to say when
this incredible area looks its best, but it is almost
impossible to describe its beauty now that significant
amounts of water from the annual flood have flowed as far
as Mombo. Water that fell as rain in Angola's Benguela highlands
during the hot, wet summer snaked its way through rivers
and channels, across Namibia's Caprivi Strip, and down
the Panhandle, to enter the Okavango Delta and be filtered
through countless miles of papyrus reed beds, and be
diverted along channels created by hippos, until it finally ¡V
imperceptibly at first, and then ever faster, spills
onto the floodplains which surround us here at Mombo.
The view from the front of Camp is stunning: silver sheets
of water with an explosion of bright green grass, and contented
buffalo and lechwe grazing in the shallows. The water is
now creeping around behind Camp too, and we may soon be a
real island, surrounded on all sides by the waters of the
Delta, glittering and sparkling in the sunlight. And what
a place to be marooned!
There is a magical quality to African sunsets, and nowhere
more so than here. The glowing red ball of the sun drops
like a stone below the horizon, lighting the sky a fantastic
array of burnt oranges and roseate shades. You can almost
hear the hiss as the fiery red sun slips into the water!
We are very much into the southern
hemisphere winter now, and in northern Botswana at
least, that means an end to the rains ¡V not one drop fell on Mombo during May. Temperatures
have continued to drop steadily, with evenings being very
pleasantly mild and a wonderfully invigorating freshness
in the early morning area. However, some unusually warm days
have held up overall average temperatures, with daytime temperatures
of between 26„aC (82„aF) and 33„aC (96„aF).
Overnight temperatures were very similar to last month, and
we recorded temperatures ranging from 13„aC (56„aF)
and 19„aC (68„aF). It actually seemed cooler
than this on many occasions, due to the contrast with
the much warmer days.
One of the joys of Mombo, and one of the main reasons that
it is such an ecological paradise, is that we have water
(and hence food) year round, whether from the rains in summer,
or the inrush of floodwater in the winter. This assures us
of phenomenal year-round game viewing, and makes the question,
when is the best time to visit Mombo and Little Mombo impossible
to answer. Every day is the best time to be here!
Sometimes it is hard not to feel spoilt. Especially now,
with the vivid green of the floodplains contrasting wonderfully
with the golden grasses on the islands switching in the breeze
like a lion's tail, the Mombo area provides an incredible
backdrop for moments of high drama, humour, and pure, unsullied
Mombo at this time of year is a place of contrasts, between
wet and dry, green and golden, and something of this contrast
has been reflected in the varying fortunes of some of our
best-loved animals here.
The Mathatha Pride of lions ¡V one of our most successful ¡V
has been having runaway success with raising cubs. Until
a few days ago, we thought they were doing very well
with fifteen cubs, but we have now discovered another four,
taking the total to nineteen and assuring the future of
our alpha predator for generations to come.
With so many cubs in one pride, the opportunities to watch
lions' fascinating social behaviour and the playful antics
of the cubs are almost unlimited. The cubs range in age from
the youngest, who we have just seen for the first time, aged
around two months, to much larger cubs of approximately seven
months old. All are incredibly curious about the wonderful
world they have been born into, and their play conceals a
deadly purpose, as it helps them develop the skills they
will need to stalk and kill prey in the years ahead.
And these are skills that need honing ¡V
we recently watched a breakaway group of four sub-adult
males, and two sub-adult females, attempt to ambush
a giraffe and its baby. A very clumsy attempt, and the giraffes
easily got away when the lions in their eagerness broke
cover too soon. But with every botched attempt, they become
better and better hunters, and the next giraffe may not
be so lucky!
One of our resident female leopards, the Far Eastern female,
has had a much tougher time of it this month. She returned
to where she had hidden her new cub one evening, but the
tiny youngster failed to respond to her soft calls. She became
agitated, calling more and more loudly as she approached
the hollow under a fallen tree where she had left the cub
so that she could hunt.
Eventually she went into the hollow
and emerged with the cub in her jaws. Excitement soon
turned to dismay on the part of the guests who were watching
this, spellbound, when they realised that the cub was dead¡K We will never
know the cause of its death ¡V snakebite perhaps? ¡V
but the poignancy of the moment was almost unbearable.
What happened next may seem callous or brutal, but in the
harsh, red-clawed world of the African bush, no meal can
be wasted, whatever it may be, and the mother proceeded to
eat her own cub. This sort of behaviour has been recorded
in leopards before, but it is very rare to see it.
Some of the other leopards in this area have also been puzzling
us recently with their behaviour. Just last night we had
the unique sight of our territorial male leopard, the huge
and grizzled Burnt Ebony Male, walking along a road and calling,
in company with his son, the now fully-grown Far Eastern
Pan Male, who he would normally chase off as a rival for
dominance in this area.
And then this morning, another sighting
of the younger male, this time in a tree with Logadima,
his half-sister (both were sired by the Burnt Ebony
also an extremely unusual sighting, as adult leopards
are not usually so tolerant of each other.
This month the trees have echoed the
grunting, roaring challenges of male impalas as they
challenge each other for breeding rights in the harems
of females, and on many occasions we have seen the impala
rams lock horns in earnest, each trying to prove himself
worthy of being lord of one of the ever-growing breeding
herds, some of which number up to 200 strong now. Impalas
which are conceived now will be born in six months' time,
in late November and early December ¡V perfectly
synchronised with the onset of the summer rains and a
profusion of new vegetation.
Meanwhile the tranquillity of Little
Mombo in particular has been shattered by the roaring
of lions, often right in the Camp. Little Mombo sits exactly
on the boundaries of several lion territories, and
so this spot is frequently patrolled by male lions, calling
out their reverberating warning to other males: whose land
is this? Mine ¡V
mine ¡V mine! A warning that it is as well to heed!
Breakfast at Little Mombo has also
several times had the drama of buffalo and lion interaction
happening right in the front of Camp. As the serpentine
channel which makes its way past the Camp has overflowed
its banks, it has created a water meadow which seems
irresistible to the herds of buffaloes which pass by, and
wherever there are buffaloes, it's a fair bet that there
will be lions not far behind¡K
But then it is not hard to feel magnetically
drawn to Mombo, and this month we were very happy to
welcome back some of our many repeat guests, who have become
more like family over the years, and it is always a pleasure
to see them back in a place that they can call home.
So Chris, this newsletter is for you, and hoping you will
be back soon to get a picture of the elusive genet,
and the never-sits-still long enough crested barbet! Next
Mombo and Little Mombo have been open
on this site for almost five years now, and it is fascinating
to hear tales of Old Mombo and see how this area has
evolved and changed over the years, as the cycles of Nature
slowly revolve and the seasons come and go¡K Well-known animals live out their
lives unaware of their "celebrity" status,
and new stars are born and stake out their own places
in our hearts.
We were able to celebrate another anniversary
this month, with the first birthday of the first of
our white rhino calves to be born. Maitibolo, which appropriately
enough means "first-born" became
the first wild rhino to be born in the wild in Botswana
in perhaps fifteen years, when she appeared last May.
We don't know her exact birthday, but she is certainly
a year old now, and much larger than when we first
Since she was born, we have had another four rhino calves
born: Dimpho, Lebogang, Valentine (guess when he was born!)
and Lesego. The ultimate seal of approval from the re-introduced
rhinos on the project we have been working on with the Department
of Wildlife and National Parks here at Mombo for some three
and a half years.
So there is always something to celebrate at Mombo, and
we certainly do it in style, from romantic candle-lit dinners
to al fresco dining at bush picnics, under the shade of the
spreading branches of umbrella thorn trees. You are all invited
to join us!
We're now able to offer game flights
and inter-Camp transfers by helicopter, for the ultimate
aerial experience over the Delta. The structure and
workings of the Delta really come alive when seen from above,
and in a helicopter you can really get up close and personal,
as you skim over flooded plains and hover over tiny
wooded islands ¡V not to mention
great opportunities to photograph hippos, giant crocodiles,
and occasionally, the rare sitatunga antelope.
As usual, we will leave the last word on Mombo and Little
Mombo to the guests who shared this magical place with us
„X Just the best! Can't wait to come back again ¡V
the staff is great!
„X Game drives were wonderful ¡V thank you to
Alex! Hospitality fantastic. Thank you for our personal anniversary
dinner ¡V we will remember this experience always!!
„X The highlights were the friendliness of management
and staff ¡V friendliness and ability. Outstanding
service! And it was wonderful to have everything included ¡V
from laundry to cocktails. We enjoyed our guide Thompson
„X The best wildlife ¡V tranquillity and marvellous
„X Lee (our guide) is amazingly skilled and gracious ¡V
our game drives were the highlight¡K
„X Wonderful friendly people made this place so special;
we loved the dances and songs. Being called by name was special.
Alex was a great guide¡K exceptional.
„X Absolutely we would be happy to recommend a journey
to Mombo to family and friends! The entire visit was beyond
our expectations ¡V we will be back!! Alex (our guide)
was superb ¡V that continuous smile and upbeat
attitude. The room was gorgeous and the food excellent!
We look forward to welcoming you here
to this unspoilt African paradise¡K
For now, that's all from your May Mombo team ¡V
until next month.
- May 05 Jump
cannot discover new oceans, unless you have the courage to
lose sight of the shore"
As the sun rises over the ever-increasing waters of the
floodplains we again share our view with three very interested
monkeys. They are forever hoping to distract us long enough
to help themselves to a muffin or two, and let me let you
in on a little secret; the other morning they were successful!
But only with the help of one huge bull elephant, whom we
have employed as the local landscaper and a lioness who was
calling for her male to catch up. While we were on the deck
watching all this going on the monkeys were laughing at us
as they were sampling the fruit and dipping their hands into
Over the last few weeks we have been very privileged to
have a heavily pregnant lioness around and a pretty beaten-up
male serenading us at night. We have also been doing some
redesigning of the trees close to the camp as well and almost
re-routing the walkways with the help of our elephant friends.
Room 2 has been designated the ‘honeymoon suite’,
as we had a magnificent male leopard hanging around Kwetsani
Island and then next thing we saw him with a beautiful
female and they were mating under Room 2! So hopefully
in a few months we will have baby leopards around.
We have seen some magnificent birds around the camp, the
best so far being a Little Sparrowhawk, perched perfectly
on a tree stump. Three tiny Brown Firefinches have been successfully
raised by a very busy mother and have now flown into the
great big Delta.
The sightings on Hunda Island have been great, giraffe everywhere
as well as elephant families and many lion. It does appear
however, that one of the females has lost her cubs to a new
dominant male in the area.
We have had some fantastic dancing and singing from the
staff as well as one or two songs from the guests. Dancing
was on the books for everyone as we all needed a little exercise
after the delicious food our kitchen has been delivering.
The weather keeps threatening us with winter but just as
we get out the winter woollies the sun comes out. The temperatures
have been getting into the lower teens at night and the fires
are getting larger around which we warm ourselves. But the
days still bless us with 25 degrees Celsius or more. The
flood is coming with its second push so boating has become
easier and the water is almost up to the swimming pool area.
Another wonderful day in Africa!
Tubu Tree update - May 05 Jump
second push of water has arrived, and it’s been more
than we expected. Last year's unusually large flood opened
channels that would not normally have seen water, this has
given us many new areas to explore on mokoro.
Birding has been wonderful: Whiskered Terns, Black Egret,
Dickinson's Kestrel, Crimson-breasted Shrike, Meyer's Parrot,
and Burchell's Sandgrouse were seen on activities. Swamp
Boubou, Pearl-spotted Owl, Golden Weaver, Hartlaub's Babbler,
Heuglin's Robin, Bleating Warblers and the ubiquitous Red-billed
Francolin can be seen in camp. Guests spotted a Verraux's
(Giant) Eagle Owl perched in a dead tree with a fairly large
kill. They stopped to investigate and were as astonished
as the guide to identify the kill as a large spotted genet.
The tail was hanging down making it easy to identify.
Guests were also lucky enough to witness a kill from mokoro.
They were keen birders and were staying out later in the
morning to make the most of the birding. The polers spotted
the lion first, two lionesses with six cubs resting on an
island. After a short time a herd of red lechwe walked past
the island, the lions chased and killed one in the shallow
water not more than sixty metres from, but posing absolutely
no threat to, the thrilled observers.
There has been a lot of lion activity this month, the game
drives have seen at least 4 different prides with several
new animals entering the area. The two lionesses with cubs
walked through camp one evening just before dinner, and a
larger pride killed a wildebeest just south of the camp.
Aquatic zebra seem to be the norm of the day, we have witnessed
them wading and grazing in water chest-deep, from the main
deck. Other surprises were warthog and buffalo that entered
the water to graze. Even our local troop of baboons can be
seen foraging in the shallow floodplains in front of camp,
all making for interesting photographic opportunities.
This is a good time of year for guided morning walks, as
it is getting cooler. You can learn some of the secrets of
tracking and being on foot gives you a different perspective
of the wilderness.
We look forward to seeing you here.
Anton & Carrie
DumaTau update - May 05 Jump
to DumaTau Camp
May has certainly been a
great month at DumaTau. The animal sightings were out of
this world. The elephants are back in the area in numbers,
leopards have been sighted on a daily basis and the four
male lions that have taken over the area have made their
Winter has arrived – well, so we thought. The daytime
temperatures have been pretty hot for this time of year with
temperatures reaching 34 degrees Celsius and the evenings
cooling down quite a bit to 12 degrees. Let’s hope
The number of leopards that were sighted this month was
amazing. One group of guests saw seven different leopards
in the three nights that they spent at DumaTau!
The alpha female in the wild dog pack is pregnant and heavily
so. We all hope that they den in the area again this year.
With the waterholes drying up in the interior the big herds
of elephants are back and game drives along the Linyanti
River and the lagoon system are packed with elephants coming
down to drink. The afternoon boat cruise on the lagoon is
always a hit at this time of year, with elephant herds crossing
the river and drinking along the lagoon a daily sight, crocodiles
sunning themselves on the banks and of course the many hippo
are just some of the game to be seen on the boat cruise.
George the elephant is back in camp and is keeping us entertained.
He arrives in camp at this time of year, each year, and remains
for months on end. The zebra have begun their annual migration
up the Savuti Channel and herds of up to a hundred or so
have been sighted near Dish Pan and Rock Pan. This mini-migration
starts in the Savute Marsh in Chobe National Park and makes
its way up the Savuti Channel through our concession to the
permanent water of the Linyanti Swamps.
We have started doing sleep outs at Zibadianja hide which
overlooks the source of the Savuti Channel and have received
rave reviews from the guests that have experienced the sleep
All in all a great month was had at DumaTau and we look
forward to June.
Until next month
Rocktail Bay Dive Report - May 05 Jump
cosy winter’s welcome from everyone here at Rocktail Bay.
May has certainly lived up to its expectations as a calm
and cool month with temperatures averaging around 25°C. The rainfall has been minimal with
only about 10mm for the month. However, on this coastline, autumn is renowned
for its dampness and the morning dew could probably account for another few
millimetres on our rain charts. In fact, towards the end of the month, Rocktailers
have woken up to a blanket of mist covering Maputaland. On one particular morning
the mist was so thick that we found it difficult to make out where the sea
was – it reminded everyone of a scene from the movie “Gorillas
in the Mist” but instead of the great apes, it was our very own vervet
monkeys that were the stars of this show. They were all huddled in the
high reaches of the forest canopy, waiting for the sun to burn off the
layer of mist. A truly magical start to the day…
The Indian Ocean has also been typical of May, blue, calm and crystal clear.
We have to make a special mention of thanks to Neptune for those gentle easterly
breezes that he has been sending our way, making the ideal conditions to entice
our guests to go diving, snorkelling or just relax beneath one of our palm
shelters on the beach.
With a good movement of sand during the March and April months, many rocks
have been exposed in our bay, making snorkelling right here in Rocktail Bay
fantastic. We have seen unbelievably large schools of fish: thousands of Moonies,
Flagtails, Kingfish, Flat-Headed Mullet and many more. Another great spectacle
in the bay has been the three large Green Turtles that seem to frequent the
shallow waters, as well as our resident, but rarely seen Hawksbill Turtle.
Our sea-kayakers have had no problems braving the surf,
in search of the deeper waters off our coastline and the opportunity
to snorkel our rocky reefs about 500m offshore. On one of May’s many peaceful days, Dean and Andrew took
some guests paddling towards Black Rock, where they were welcomed by a pod
of twenty Bottlenose Dolphins. They swam alongside, underneath, around and
even poked their noses out the water to have a better look at the weird beings
on the bright yellow “raft” The pod stayed with them for quite
some time before heading toward the turquoise surf, giving a few leaps through
the waves and then disappearing. As one of our guests said on arrival back
at the lodge, “How fantastic is that!”
On the 16th and 17th of May all the staff here at Rocktail were treated to
a day out at sea with our team from the Dive Centre. There was intense excitement
in the air and smiles from ear to ear as each boatload of 10 staff members
raced through the surf toward Island Rock and then out to sea. On the last
trip out on the 17th, some of the staff were lucky enough to have a pod of
dolphins approach the boat, an event that everyone still talks about and probably
will do for many months to come. It truly was a wonderful two days for all
of us here at Rocktail.
Just south of Rocktail at Lala Nek our guests have been
treated to flat and warm seas accompanied by large and colourful schools
of fish. The Painted Moray Eels are still a delight and we don’t think they’ll be moving off
anytime soon, not with all the attention they’ve been getting in
their little rock pools.
Birding and mammal sightings have also been brilliant. Some of the special
birds that we have seen this month include: Olive Bush-shrike, Hamerkop (on
the rocks in the bay), Green Coucal (a first at the Lodge bird hide), African
Goshawk (who has become a resident), as well as a rarely seen oceanic bird,
the Subantarctic Skua. The latter was seen floating on the water, right beside
the dive boat and is very similar in appearance to a small Albatross, although
brown in colour. This species spends most of its time at sea, flying on the
prevailing winds, and hunting for fish, and they very rarely come close inshore,
so it was a great treat.
Dean and Andrew once again had another lucky sighting. What is small, lives
underground, has extremely big front teeth, and is almost blind? Yeah, you
have guessed it; they spotted a Common Molerat out of his burrow, and in full
view of everyone. It is unusual to see these little bundles of fur above ground.
They have an incredible system of underground tunnels, and the only signs of
them are large mounds of sand along the pathways around the lodge. Their eyesight
is also very poor, and we are still wondering why he was scampering around
on the surface.
On a very different topic, the 28th of the month brought
every reason to celebrate. The theme for the day was white and pink,
and love was all around. At three o’ clock in the afternoon, just in
front of our beach access, a wedding was held!
Rick Guthke and Kim Klitz travelled all the way from
Boulder, Colorado to be wed on the Maputaland coastline. The ceremony
was nothing short of spectacular, and the bridal couple looked absolutely perfect
for each other, as they stood and said their vows on one of the most
secluded beaches in the world. After the ceremony, Mr and Mrs Guthke and their
guests were entertained by a group of local Zulu dancers, while sipping champagne,
as the sun set over the Indian Ocean. A feast was held in the camp that
night, and everyone was invited. During dinner, Wilderness Safari’s
very own Conrad Henning, who was the best man, entertained us with a speech
about the newlyweds. It was truly a perfect ending to a perfect month.
The Rocktail Team, once again, wishes to congratulate Mr and Mrs Guthke on
their marriage, and we hope to see you back at Rocktail in the not-too-distant
We’d like to end off with some comments from our
guests during the month:
“Vielen dank, fur die wunderschonen 6 tage bei euch. Wir haben uns wie
zu hause gefuhlt.” HS & SS – Berlin, Germany
“Thank you for your great hospitality. Very relaxing and exciting!” MC – London,
“The food was lovely. A big thank you to James for taking us snorkelling
and climbing the Black Rock! This is the best place ever! I would love to come
here again! Thank you very much Rocktail Bay!” AD – Matubatuba,
“We loved the tour of the village; the boat ride was also exciting,
the friendliness of the staff and the peacefulness of the lodge was fantastic.” CY &JK – Los
Angeles, California, U.S.A
“The quality of the client service was fantastic.” BL & MC – Johannesburg,
We are still waiting in anticipation for our huge marine
mammals – the
Humpback Whales - to grace us with their presence. With the full arrival
of winter, we hopefully will not have to wait any longer.
Dean, Leza, Andrew, Shannon, Simon & the Rocking Rocktail Team.
May 05 Jump
The plains are green and
looking lush from the good rains we received during the month,
the springbok are happily pronking over the endless plains while
the gemsbok are lazily grazing alongside and the black-backed
jackal is watching the happenings from the far side. In some
places there are beautiful yellow flowers on the green carpet
of devil-thorns (Tribulus sp.) to be seen.
For the moment we can hear the laughing of the spotted hyaena during the night
and during the day we also see their tracks in the wet sand of the dunes where
they have been looking for something to scavenge on. The small animals like
the bat-eared fox and black-tailed tree rat have a lot to eat because of the
Apart from the resident Sociable Weavers nesting
at the camp waterhole, taking a walk from the camp into the
nearby Aub River birds like Spotted Eagle Owl, Red-necked
Falcon, Pale Chanting Goshawk, Scaly-feathered Finches, Black-chested
Prinia, Namaqua Sandgrouse and Namaqua Doves can be seen.
During the drier months of the year Namaqua Sandgrouse are
also drinking at the camp waterhole. On the open plains Ludwig’s
Bustard and Grey-backed Sparrow Larks are common.
The Tsauxab River was in flood and our guides
reported that the Sesriem Canyon was full of water, which
means that during the dry months there will be enough for the
mountain zebra, gemsbok, and springbok to drink. Birds like
Rock Pigeons, Red-eyed Bulbuls, Familiar Chats, swifts and
swallows will also find a safe haven in the cliffs of the
Visits to the Sossusvlei and the Deadvlei have been great. None of these areas
are flooded and are easy accessible to our guests. Come and enjoy your stay