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May 2005

This Month:
Wilderness Safaris general Safari News.
• Dive Report from beautiful North Island in the Seychelles.
• Monthly update from Mana Canoe Trail in Zimbabwe.
Kwando Safaris game reports for May 2005.
Update on the 2005 Okavango Delta flood

• The new Kwara Island Camp is under constrcution in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Selinda in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Mombo Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Kwetsani Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Tubu Tree Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from DumaTau Camp in Botswana.

• Another great Dive Report from Rocktail Bay.
• Monthly update from Little Kulala Camp in Namibia.

Wilderness Safaris general Safari News
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 CITW website.

Air Botswana News
With 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 be reinstated.

Luggage Reminder
Luggage restrictions for Botswana
Please 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!

Pafuri Flights
Pafuri 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
Vumbura 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.

Hwange, Zimbabwe
Fantastic 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
Brown 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
A phenomenal total of 70 Loggerhead and Leatherback turtles were adopted at Rocktail Bay this past season!

Zimbabwe Camps and tourism
Wilderness 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
The 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.

Finally: Rhino arrive at Ongava
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 nicely.

Black rhino at Ongava Black rhino at Ongava
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 conservation programs.


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 29ºC.

Dive Sites
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 visitors.

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.


Zimbabwe Camps
Mana Canoe Trail update - May 05                Jump to Mana Canoe Trail
The 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 sounds.

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 sight.

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


Botswana Camps
Kwando Safari Camps Update - May 05
Lagoon camp                Jump to Lagoon Camp
(Weeks 1-2)
• 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.

(Weeks 3-4)
• 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 male cubs.
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 hunting.
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 eastern areas.
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 owls.
Bataleur/Short-tailed eagle nesting, 7 Wattled cranes, Pink/Rosy-throated long-claw.

Kwara camp                Jump to Kwara Camp
(Weeks 1-2)
• 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 grass.
The relaxed Kwara resident female was followed during a night drive as she moved through and marked her territory.
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 owls.
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.

(Weeks 3-4)
• 2 adult male lions followed on the evening – roaring and marking their territory.
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 dead (fright?)
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 to Lebala Camp
(Weeks 1-2)
• 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.

(Weeks 3-4)
• 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 game-drives.
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 cranes.


The 2005 Okavango Flood update
The 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.

Okavango Delta Flood Chart for 10-May 2005

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 isolated pools.


New Kwara Island Camp
Kwara Island camp locationKwando Safaris are currently building a new luxury tented camp - to be known as Kwara Island Camp, in the Okavango Delta.

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.

Kwara Island 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.

Kwara Island 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 Park.

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 cheetah.


Selinda update - May 05                Jump to Jao Camp
The following are highlights from Botswana's Selinda Reserve:

The waterholes are drying up rapidly and what water there is, is not appealing to the wildlife. Consequently, we are seeing the start of the dry season migration to the fresh water of the 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 of the month was the discovery of another female with 3 small cubs. This brings the number of cheetah cubs on the reserve to 7 from 3 mums.

The Selinda pack of Wild Dog has resorted to their dry season hunting tactics. This usually involves chasing panicked antelope into camp where they become disorientated & easy to pick off.  One chase, of an adult female kudu, started at sunset (in camp!) and ended, under a full moon, at 11pm (in camp) with the 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 is no different. Four magnificent, fully mature lions were seen near Zibalianja lagoon vying for the affection of one of the Selinda pride females.

The Okavango flood waters have reached the western corner of The Selinda. They are pushing hard, so we expect the 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, Wildebeest & Tsessebe enjoying the sweet grasses of the spillway!


Mombo and Little Mombo monthly update - May 05                Jump to Mombo Camp
Elephant at MomboDumela! 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 contentment.

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 Male) ¡V 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 time¡K

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 saw her.

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 in May:

„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 very much.

„X The best wildlife ¡V tranquillity and marvellous warm service¡K

„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.


Kwetsani update - May 05                Jump to Kwetsani Camp
"You 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 the yogurt.

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 to Tubu Tree Camp
The 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.

Tubu greetings
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 presence known.

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 this continues.

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 out.

All in all a great month was had at DumaTau and we look forward to June.

Until next month


South Africa camps
Rocktail Bay Dive Report - May 05                  Jump to Rocktail Bay Lodge
A 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 future.

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, United Kingdom

“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, South Africa

“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, South Africa

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.

Warm Regards,
Dean, Leza, Andrew, Shannon, Simon & the Rocking Rocktail Team.


Namibia camps
Little Kulala update - May 05                  Jump to Little Kulala Camp
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 rains.

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 Hartmann’s 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 canyon.

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 with us.


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