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AFRICAN SAFARI NEWS
November 2005

This Month:
• Dive Report from beautiful North Island in the Seychelles.
• Monthly update from Makalolo Plains in Zimbabwe.
Kwando Safaris game reports for November 2005.
• Monthly update from Mombo Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Xigera Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Tubu Tree Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Chitabe Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Savuti Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Kings Pool Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from DumaTau Camp in Botswana.

Monthly update from Rocktail Bay in South Africa.
• Monthly update from Pafuri Camp in South Africa.
• Update from The Great Namibian Journey safaris in Namibia.


North Island in the Seychelles
North Island Dive Report - Nov 05               Jump to North Island

The sea conditions for the month of November have been quite temperamental, ranging between flat, mirror-like and rough with strong shore breaks. The temperature is up to 29 degrees with the odd 30-degree mark on some days. Visibility on a few of the dives has been as good as forty metres – very very nice!

We’ve had the pleasure of seeing dolphins on almost every trip that we made this month and have snorkelled and dived with them at least six times. There has been a lot of shark activity around the island and, very surprisingly, a Whale Shark was seen at the end of the month. From what I now understand, it is not uncommon to see them at this time of the year and it is due to coral and fish spawn which is apparent towards the end of the year. Other sightings for November have included: Giant Sleepy Sharks, hundreds of juvenile Flying fish and lots of juvenile eels. The beaches around the island are shifting quite quickly now with the main beach, reasonably narrow over the past couple of months, filling up with sand daily. After two to three months the beach will extend out about forty to fifty metres!

FISH CATCH STATISTICS

TYPE QUANTITY
Bonito 7
Tuna 1
Job 9
Travelly 1


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Zimbabwe Camps
Makalolo update - Nov 05               Jump to Makalolo Camp

WEATHER
Through the month, heavily pregnant skies promised the arrival of long-awaited rains; thunder rolled and echoed across the plains and the horizon grew darker and closer, as flashes of lightning flashed in the distance. The air was still, nature holding its breath in anticipation, as temperatures fluctuated during those suffocating, lingering weeks. Rival winds roared and pushed clouds away, fighting off the brief intermittent showers which begin a true Zimbabwean rainy season! Eventually, the heavens opened, steadily at first and then unrelentingly - we welcomed the rains!

Temperatures during the month of November ranged from 18° to 40° Celsius. The highest recorded rainfall at Makalolo was 16mm on 29 November. Our total monthly rainfall for November was 69.25mm.

VEGETATION, LANDSCAPE & WATER
During the earlier part of the month, some areas of dry bush became susceptible to fiery fingers of lightning which set it ablaze. We completed a back-burning fire fighting mission and the last of the flames were eventually extinguished by light rain showers. The combination of fire and rains is always a welcome relief to the environment, allowing new plant life to germinate.

Encouraged by the rains, the bush has splashed out in a variety of lush greens, making Makalolo rather picturesque at this time of the year! Large trees are adorned in lime and emerald leaves, which are a striking contrast against the dark blue and grey overcast skies. New varieties of as-yet-unidentified colourful little succulents, plants and grasses are pushing through the surface of the Kalahari sands. Ensconced in the leafy undergrowth of False Mopane and Zimbabwe Teak woodlands, different types of fungi are bearing their mushrooming heads. The damp air is thickly scented with sweet smelling perfumes from sprays of white flowers, including white bauhinia and wild jasmines, which are entwined amongst the branches and clustered on the carpets of the forests. Splashes of colour are being sprinkled amongst the foliage, as a few of the Zimbabwean Teak trees have produced their first pink blooms and glorious gargantuan red fireball flowers emblazon the scrublands.

We have recently noticed that the termites must have predicted the wet weather, as they have re-modelled and constructed bigger and better ant-sized apartment blocks! Cicadas hang like Christmas tree decorations from branches, screeching their monotonous high-shrilled melodies, bringing back childhood memories.

Puddles of water are collecting in the roads around the concession and it is pure bliss to experience full and overflowing water holes, after a somewhat demanding dry season. If the rains continue in this manner, we are optimistic about turning our pumps off for a couple of months to allow nature to sustain our wildlife. Frogs are making the most of the abundance of water and they are having an extraordinary mating season, or so it seems!

WILDLIFE NEWS
Sightings for this month included: aardwolf, lesser bushbaby and reedbuck, caracal, leopard, white-tailed mongoose, square-lipped (white) rhino, side-striped jackal, Selous mongoose, slender mongoose, bat-eared fox, cheetah, tree squirrel, lion, banded mongoose, spotted hyaena, scrub hare, small-spotted genet, red hartebeest, vervet monkey, eland, roan, sable, giraffe, kudu, impala and baboon, Cape buffalo, common duiker, elephant, hippo, black-backed jackal, springhare, steenbok, warthog, waterbuck, wildebeest and zebra.

The big (and medium) cats have had a bit of an extravaganza at Makalolo this month! On one particular evening, caracal, cheetah and leopard were all seen on the same drive! Three adult cheetah were seen lounging around the front of Makalolo Plains for two days, and later on in the month a couple of male cheetah were seen at Little Mbiza lying in the shade of a Jackalberry tree. A pair of oblivious warthogs happened upon them, and luckily for the warthogs, the cheetahs were full and therefore uninterested in the menu!

Two adult leopards were seen at Madison Pan during “elephant happy hour.” The male leopard, being the first on the scene, delicately approached the waterhole to drink despite being watched by three game drive vehicles and being surrounded by herds of surly elephants! He slunk around the elephant gauntlet to prevent himself from getting in the way and being flattened. After pretending not to notice the hero’s fanatical feline tactics, a shy female leopard then made her way over a rise and inched her way towards the waterhole to drink. On seeing her advance, the male leopard seemed to do a double take and nobly moved forward to meet the lady. However, an unruly elephant intercepted their union and threatened the female leopard, sending her scurrying off swiftly. The male leopard stood his ground with the elephant and after defiantly staring down the brute, moved off in search of his damsel in distress!

An awesome sighting of two sub-adult caracals was had at the top of Linkwasha Vlei. They were lying in a refuge of Terminalia scrub, with only their heads and pointy little ears showing! They were seen licking each other and appeared to be very relaxed.

During early morning breakfast, two lionesses strolled across the front of camp to feed on a baby buffalo they had killed the night before. They then returned in the direction they had originally come from, settled at the foot of a termite mound and gave a few lazy groans. All too soon the lionesses were joined by an intermingled number of bouncing lions of different ages and sizes! An extraordinary pride of twenty lions majestically strode in single file across the Plains, accentuated on the yellow sand by the golden morning light. They congregated around the water outlet pipe to drink, with a rhythmic lapping of tongues. Some of the younger cubs drank their fill and then teased the hundreds of doves festooned around the water by pouncing at them playfully. The older lions dispersed slowly and signalled the start of breakfast on the buffalo with low grunting noises. The pride hungrily devoured their morning offering and then moved off into the scrubland.

Elephant sightings have not been as prolific since the arrival of the rains and the Makalolo swimming pool is chock-full of water and on a much deserved break from being elephant cocktail after months of being drained dry on a daily basis! There is the occasional surprise visitor to the pool in the evenings, but it seems that our long-nosed friends are making the most of the natural waterholes in the bush.

Timid waterbuck herds have been nibbling on new green shoots around the front of camp and warthogs come clambering out of their burrows in the late afternoon, nuzzling their snouts into the wet earth, feeding and show off their new young! Majestic herds of as many as 60 eland have been seen and their familiar clicking is heard in many areas around the concession. We had a very special sighting of a mother and baby rhino at Mbiza, as guides and guests were able to approach them on foot and watch them from a short distance away. A solitary wildebeest has been parading his territory on the Plains – a first-class screensaver for when nothing else is happening on the big screen in front of camp!

BIRDS & BIRDING
An improved total for Makalolo of 153 different bird species was seen during November! This has been due to the arrival of migrant species settling in for their summer holiday, making the most of the waterholes and puddles – Spur-winged Geese, Knob-billed Ducks and Red-billed Teals paddle around amongst Egyptian Geese and stir up a diet for Plovers, Sandpipers, Greenshanks and Black-winged Stilts! African Fish Eagles’ soothing calls currently have some competition from the ‘yarping’ sounds of a pair of Grey-crowned Cranes who seem to have returned again this year to build their nest in one of the natural waterholes near Somavundla Pan.

It has been exciting witnessing nest building, and searching for and identifying nests of the smaller and unfamiliar birds. Red-headed and Southern Masked Weavers have dominated the scene with their brilliant colours and battles for females. Their creative little nests are teeming from the branches of False Mopane and Teak trees. Our resident pair of Paradise Flycatchers has returned to build their little cup-shaped nest above the boardwalk near the kitchen, utilising an array of different materials to make it as comfortable as possible. It is near completion now and we look forward to inspecting the completed unit and eggs later on! A pair of Southern Yellow-billed Hornbills has set up home in one of the sturdy Leadwoods in front of camp. We have often seen the male flitting in and out of the tree carrying mud and juicy morsels back to his female. Kurrichane Thrushes have built their somewhat untidy nests in the forks of trees, but their humble abodes appear to be a bit washed out! We recently discovered the minute nest of a Chinspot Batis, held fast to the rough bark of a Red Syringa tree just outside the workshops.

Bird melodies start camp life every morning and keen birders can spend a few hours around the woodland in camp identifying the likes of Coqui and Red-billed Francolins, Pygmy, Grey-headed and Brown-hooded Kingfishers, African and Green Hoopoes, African Golden and Black-headed Orioles, and an array of Cuckoos, including African, Red-chested, Black, Great Spotted, Jacobin, Diederik and Klaas’s.

Finally, on the human side, we are proud to announce that Tendai Mdluli passed his proficiency exams and is now a fully-fledged Professional Guide, winning Best Guide at Proficiency 2005!

GUESTS COMMENTS
“We had a marvellous time! The weather was great – a variety of raindrops, wind and hot and still. Amazing wildlife! Thanks for everything” – BH, USA.

“What a treat it has been to experience Africa in all its glory – the landscape, the animals and the friendly people! Thanks for sharing your country with us!” – CS, USA.

There is a piece of Makalolo wanting to be touched, a memory waiting to be made – come and find it for yourself! We wish all our guests, readers, friends and colleagues a “wild” and enjoyable festive season and all our best hopes, thoughts and plans for 2006 are with you!

From Shelley and the team at Makalolo Plains

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Botswana Camps
Kwando Safari Camps Update - Nov 05

Lagoon camp               Jump to Lagoon Camp
• Several different groups of lions were seen including the Lagoon pride that has moved back from Namibia. Amongst the pride are 2 lionesses and 4 cubs. They killed an adult buffalo bull and 3 calves early in the month, as well as another buffalo, and finally in the latter part of the month pulled down a young hippo after an epic 3 hour battle (guest got to bed at 4am)
• Also seen several times were a couple of lionesses hunting as well as 2 male lions mating with 2 lionesses.
• A relaxed young male leopard was seen over a period of about 10 days in the same area – it is assumed he had a kill in the area
• A female cheetah and her 2 cubs (one make and one female) were sighted and followed a number of times through the month.
• Also seen was a shy adult male cheetah
• The pack of 3 wild dogs and 5 puppies were seen almost daily, and several times while they were followed they killed impala. Later on the month they shifted their den together with the puppies about 4 km.
• Elephants were seen in large numbers – herds up to 200 but they later dispersed into the mopani after the rains filled the numerous pans away from the river. Good numbers of buffalo were seen throughout the period - the largest was about 1500 strong.
• The general game has been quite good, including sightings of roan and sable, and impala lambs in their hundreds.
• Night sightings include hyena feeding on a young buffalo, a caracal killing a springhare on the airstrip,, porcupine, black-backed jackal, honeybadger. And a number of sightings of chameleons.
• The birding has been excellent all round, the huge carmine bee-eater colony is still very active.
• Also seen since the rain – hundreds of frogs, and several different species of snakes.

Kwara camp               Jump to Kwara Camp
• 2 male lions fed an an adult female giraffe for 3 days.
• A pride of 8 was followed hunting and chasing impala, (and springhares.)
• A pair of male lions followed while they were roaring and marking their territories
• A pride of 15 lions split into groups of 6 and 9 – both groups were followed hunting several times without success.
• 3 male lions and 2 lionesses were found feeding on a buffalo carcass with plenty of vultures and jackals in attendance.
• A very relaxed female leopard was viewed near the camp for some time
• An adult female cheetah and her 2 cubs were seen a number of times and were followed while hunting.
• A trio of adult male cheetahs was followed hunting – they pulled down and ate a tsessebe calf, and were subsequently seen in the area for a few days.
• A pack of 3 wild dogs was found – a male and 2 females – they were hunting impalas, chased but missed.
• Lots of elephant bulls were seen around the camp especially in the evenings, and were also seen frequently bathing in the channels of the delta by those on the boat-cruises. Also seen from the boat were a couple of breeding herds.
• A very large herd of buffalo between 1500-2000 was seen a number of times including at the pan in front of the camp.
• Plenty of impala lambs, tsessebe calves and other general game seen.
• Night sightings include hyenas hunting, one from a pack of 15 caught an impala lamb and ran off with it into the night. Also seen at night both species of jackal, African wild cat, serval honeybadger, large spotted genet, and aardvark.
• Plenty of different species of frogs and toads seen including banded rubber frogs, and huge bullfrogs after a heavy downpour.
• Boat trips to the heronry still producing wonderful photographic opportunities
• Also spotted by one of the trackers – a huge python coiled up in a tree.


Lebala camp               Jump to Lebala Camp
• A pride of 2 adult male lions killed a buffalo bull close to Johns Pan.
• A couple of male lions were found mating with 2 lionesses.
• A pride of 2 adult lionesses and 5 subadults were followed hunting buffalo north of half-way pan – they eventually caught and killed an injured buffalo..
• A pride of 6 lions was followed hunting – they chased baboons without success.
• 2 adult male lions killed an adult buffalo cow close to Johns pan.
• A large adult male leopard killed a young zebra and was seen feeding on it for 2 days.
• A couple of sightings of shy leopards as well a relaxed male found resting on a termite mound.
• A pack of 23 wild dogs were followed hunting and killed impala regularly (sometimes quite close to camp) throughout the month
• Large breeding herds of elephants (up to 500 strong) that were seen all over the concession at the beginning of the month started to disperse in to the mopane woodlands using the rain-filled pans after the rains
• Several herds of buffalo numbering up to several hundred strong seen all along the floodplains – they have started moving away from the river but are still frequenting the floodplains
• General game good with newly born youngsters everywhere. Also a sightings of a lone sitatunga in the floodplains
• Night sightings included African wild cats, serval, a clan of hyena feeding on a hippo carcass, a clan of hyena trying to kill a sick giraffe calf, and then feeding on it in the afternoon, side-striped jackal denning on the floodplains just north of camp
• Also seen a wide variety of snakes and frogs out since the rains, as well as excellent migratory birds species.

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Mombo Camp update - Nov 05               Jump to Mombo Camp
Climate and Weather
November has seen the start of the summer rains. After the breathless, hot anticipation of October, the heavens finally opened in the second week of the month, and we had a phenomenal deluge - 110mm (4½ inches) of rain fell in twelve hours - approximately one quarter of our average annual precipitation in just one night! Since then we have had several less dramatic rain showers, and in total now we have had a third of the rain we would expect in a typical year at Mombo. To have so much rainfall early in the summer is of course unusual, and in previous years when this has happened, we have then had a long period without significant rain, followed eventually by late rains in February and March; that is now the pattern we are expecting this year.

The rains have completely transformed Mombo. One very noticeable change this month has been a significant reduction in average temperatures, caused by the number of cooler, cloudier days we have had. Often though we experience our hottest days just after rain, when the dust has been washed out of the air, and the sun's rays reach northern Botswana in full force.

Environment and Ecology
Many parts of our concession are almost unrecognisable now; such has been the transformation that has occurred with the onset of the rains. Dry, sandy areas have turned green overnight, as though painted with sweeping strokes - countless small plants have sprouted, rejoicing in the sudden availability of water, and a verdant carpet has spread across wide areas of once bare sand.

In the acacia woodlands, pans that were dry and cracked have become oases of life as they have filled with water again. This sudden profusion of water means that animals are no longer so dependent on the channels and floodplains, and can now spread further afield. These oases are a gift to the wading and diving birds which have flocked to them, including Dabchicks and Painted Snipe - flickers of colour darting across the muddy waters.

Grasses and trees everywhere are shining with a new lustre of life. Newly washed zebras contrast beautifully with the greenery in the lush meadows, and elephants now come in three shades of grey as they wade through channels in the gentle rain - dark wet feet, dry dove-grey flanks, and medium-grey, medium wet backs.

The rains have had a reviving effect on every aspect of life at Mombo. They illustrate the synchronicity of Nature's plan for the Delta perfectly: just as the last floodwaters dry up, and the last hapless barbel are speared by Yellow-billed Storks, the clouds gather, thunder drums across the sky like the hooves of running zebras, and then the flash of forked lightning unzips the clouds and down comes the rain. This brilliantly dove-tailed change in the seasons achieves a balance and precision that no watchmaker ever could, and ensures the ongoing survival of this area as a perfect haven for wildlife and humans alike.

New Life
The onset of the rains not only revives the vegetation and animals, but it is also the signal for an incredible explosion of new life. Termites are perhaps the first to respond, as their mounds erupt with clouds of potential kings and queens, taking to the air to search for mates and then begin new termite colonies. This nuptial flight represents a bounty for birds especially (and for birdwatchers too) as Marabou Storks, Yellow-billed Kites, Bateleurs, and even Fish Eagles gather to swoop on the millions of termites. Those that aren't taken in the air must run the gauntlet of mice, jackals, and baboons, and in some parts of Botswana, humans too: the termites are fried to make a delicious protein-rich snack. Anybody hungry?!

This week we have seen the first baby tsessebe and impala, the forerunners of a great tide of new antelope life set to break over Mombo any day now. In a further demonstration of impeccable timing, thousands of baby impalas will be born as the rains begin, and all of them within just a two-week period. This inundation of babies is designed to swamp the predators - many of them will fall prey to leopards, hyaenas, and even baboons, but many more will survive. The first few babies have taken their initial uncertain steps in the world, fur still wet from the womb, following the gentle calls of their mothers as they guide them away from danger. To watch the first moments of a new life is an incredibly heart-warming, affirming experience. No matter how many times we see a brand-new impala lamb, it is impossible not to be moved by its determination to keep up with the herd and to survive.

Lions
Of course the sudden profusion of new life is something of a bonanza for the predators of Mombo, and they have been very much in evidence this month. We have been trying to establish just how many lions we have in the area, and we think the number, including new nomadic lions, is over 90 now. This includes the mighty, 27-strong Mathatha Pride, with the four territorial males known as Bob Marley and the Wailers for their matted manes. The "missing" lions known as the Old Trails Pride have now reappeared to the east of Mombo, and six of their eight cubs have survived to the age of eight or nine months old to ensure the survival of our most elusive pride.

Even in these numbers, the lions don't get everything their own way, and some of our guests spent a spell-binding morning watching interaction between the big cats and a herd of buffalo. At one point, a buffalo cow had two lions on her back, but she valiantly struggled back towards the herd who came to her rescue. The lions hung on until the last moment, before giving up and dropping off their chosen victim, who lived to fight another day - there was no kill that morning.

Cheetahs
This month has seen the end of an era for Mombo's cheetahs. In a very poignant example of predator competition, a coalition of two male cheetahs killed an impala and the noise of this kill attracted a nearby pride of lions, which attacked their much faster rivals. Caught by surprise, one of the cheetahs was badly mauled and subsequently died of his injuries. This was the end of an incredibly long-running and successful partnership between the two male cheetahs known as the "Steroid Boys." Regularly seen on game drives at Mombo for many years now, they were justly famous for their hunting prowess and had even graced the cover of National Geographic. The second brother was uninjured in this incident, but it is hard to believe that no longer will we thrill to the sight of these two grizzled, but still lightning-fast Mombo veterans, gazing out across the floodplains from a termite mound vantage point, nor racing along at breakneck speed in pursuit of a fleeing lechwe. We will all mourn the passing of this very special cat. But in the bush very few stories have absolute endings, and there have been sightings of a young female cheetah in the Moporota area, who could be a breeding prospect for the surviving Steroid Boy brother.

Leopards
Logadima's mother, the Tortillis female, produced two cubs in very late October - a very exciting event, and we had high hopes that these twins would be as successful as their big sister, now fully grown, and who seems to be taking up residence in the Bird Island area. However, at just a few days old, these tiny, defenceless cubs vanished. We saw the mother return to the place where she had hidden them while she went hunting, and heard her calling for them in an increasingly plaintive voice, until it became all too apparent that they had disappeared, possibly killed by a hyaena, although we will never know. With the exception of Logadima, the Tortillis female has lost every other cub she has had, and it seems particularly cruel that she should now suffer a further, double tragedy.

Camp and Guest Experience
Mombo is such a beautiful camp that even a rainy day cannot dampen spirits here. We have all become adept at cloud watching and picking the right days for our legendary "bush brunch" picnics, and traditional boma evenings, when guests can experience the rich musical and dance traditions of the Tswana people, and sample the delights of Botswana's traditional cooking (minus the termites, of course!).

This month we finally saw an advance copy of 'Elephant in the Kitchen' - Craig's long-awaited Mombo cookery book. Much more than a recipe book, it is the story of all his adventures (and one or two misadventures) over more than five years at Mombo, and how the natural beauty we are all marinated in every day has shaped his unique cooking style, infused with the flavours of a continent and of one very magical organic pantry - the Okavango Delta.

We invite you all to come and share in this feast with us... and here are the experiences of a few of the friends who have drunk deep from the cup of plenty with us this month in paradise... A cornucopia of delights awaits!

Guest Feedback
* The highlight was seeing a rhino, and the marvellous termite mounds!
* I will be back next year!
* The Camp itself if so beautiful, and the staff so friendly and efficient…
* Absolutely we would be happy to recommend Mombo to our friends! The friendliness, helpfulness, and care were wonderful - we loved it!
* The Little Mombo team made our trip to Africa an unforgettable experience... thank you very much...
* The traditional Botswana dancing at dinner was a real highlight!
* Our safari was fantastic!
* An incredibly memorable two days - thank you all very much!
* Brandon, Kate, Jean and the whole Mombo team treated us like royalty and we felt very special, especially with the dinner on our deck to celebrate our honeymoon!
* We have never seen so many lions together!

That's all from your November Mombo and Little Mombo teams: Brandon & Debs, Tlamelo, Craig, Pete & Sharon, Jean, Kate, Thompson, Siobhan, and Nick.

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Xigera Camp update - Nov 05               Jump to Xigera Camp
The month of November has come and gone, once more bringing another season of change here at Xigera. There has been a recent increase in elephant numbers within the concession and more and more herds are moving within the area of the main camp. The baby elephants have been fascinating to watch and to see them use their tiny trunks for the first time is an experience to behold.

We have had an incredible month birding-wise with migratory species like Great Snipes, Bar-tailed Godwits and Black Cuckoos being heard and seen at regular intervals. We had another record broken with a group of clients having seen 213 species in two days and four species counted as "lifers" by the experienced specialist guide Dave Luck, well done Dave! Skimmer Pan, at the top end of Xigera Lagoon, has at least 20 pairs of nesting African Skimmers. These birds are a protected species and at Xigera we have made a concerted effort to keep the human influence to a minimum on the breeding area as they are sensitive to outside pressure.

Guest-wise, we have had another busy season and our new honeymoon tents are beautiful. These new tents look out on the floodplain that is on the east side of the island. Guests can be woken up early and greeted by spectacular sunrises while sipping on a steaming cup of strong coffee.

Our famous footbridge and "sandpit" have yielded interesting results throughout the month. Most nights spotted hyaena and the smaller genet cross, but if you are lucky or patient you could be rewarded with sightings of our resident male leopard as well as the occasional lion pride. Our guides have found a new leopard in our concession and to our surprise we discovered that she has a small cub. We have had excellent sightings of her and her young cub and the cub has on occasion entertained by testing her nascent stalking skills on the Land Rover – disconcerting at first, then a treat to behold.

The month of November gave us our first rains for the season and on one day we had over 74mm which was much-needed by the dry islands in the area. The large Mangosteen trees are nearing the end of their cycle of producing fruit but a few trees still have fruit on the upper branches where adventurous vervet monkeys can still feed readily.

Well, best wishes for the festive season and for the new year.

Wade McKenzie & Jean Niemand
Xigera Camp

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Tubu Tree Camp update - Nov 05               Jump to Tubu Tree Camp
David and Leigh took care of Tubu this month and were lucky enough to be present for the first rains which have turned our island into a jungle paradise! The rains initiated a plethora of new life, from newborn impala lambs to hornbill chicks, and termites to young monitor lizards.

Almost 75% of impala lambs are born within three weeks of each other, flooding the ‘market’ with young animals. The predators will take a certain amount but the vast numbers mean that many should survive through their first precarious months into adulthood.

There is a herd of about eight tsessebe which are often on the floodplains in front of camp, several with young calves.

The rain has filled up many of the temporary pans, meaning that the animals are no longer restricted to areas with permanent water and appear to be more widely dispersed. All the trees are in leaf and where there was simply dust, new shoots of grass now cover the ground, providing food for all kinds of creatures.

The damp earth provides ideal conditions for termites to found new colonies. At times the air is filled with flying termites who have only limited amount of time to find a partner and dig into the earth, taking advantage of the softening effect of the rains. The termites lose their wings, and must then found their colony before the next heavy rains wash them or their partially built structures away.

The warmer temperatures and abundance of water and nutrients stimulate insects to reproduce, in turn providing food for many birds, reptiles and mammals. Reptiles are very evident, terrapins and tortoises patrolling the pans and plains respectively. We have seen many young monitor lizards in camp and think they may be recently hatched from a local nest. These creatures are incredibly interesting and often overlooked. They feed on mainly insects but devour any small creatures, eggs and the like. They are considered a delicacy by many Motswana living in rural areas but are now protected under Botswana law and will not be found on the menu at Tubu!

Another animal seen lately was the spiky porcupine. Porcupines are actually rodents, mainly nocturnal, and some guests in November were lucky enough to view one on an evening game drive.

As for birds, summer migrants such as Striped Cuckoos, Barn and Red-breasted Swallows, and Eurasian Orioles are definitely in residence, as are summer visitors such as Paradise Flycatchers, Broad-billed Rollers and Woolly-necked Storks. Moa witnessed a flock of over 40 Carmine Bee-eaters busy catching insects on the wing, preening and resting in the mopane veld to the east of the camp. He also came across a Ground Hornbill nest not far from the road, and observed a female taking food to the nest. We are keeping our distance from the nests so as not to disturb the birds. Ground Hornbills are an endangered species and have incredibly low reproductive success, partly due to the lack of suitable nest sites in old trees, as the holes need to be big enough to accommodate the birds whilst secure enough to be safe from predators, but also due to the incredibly long time it takes the birds to mature – up to nine years! We will continue to monitor the site and feel very privileged to host it.

Another spectacular sighting was of an African Fish Eagle feeding on a terrapin, probably a Helmeted or Marsh Terrapin.

Mokoros are no longer available at Tubu as the flood levels have now receded, leaving only the deepest channels with water, accompanied by the odd grumpy hippo hanging onto the last pools.

As you can see, life at Tubu is incredibly busy and every day brings something new! Come and see…

Tubu Greetings,
Anton & Carrie

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Chitabe update - Nov 05               Jump to Chitabe Camp
November is the month of transformation. The long-awaited rains finally washed away the heat and dryness of October, and the earth responded with a grateful palette of colour - green shoots appeared from what had been barren sand carpeting the ground like a billiard table, fireball lilies exploded from the earth in bright flashes of red, and innumerable other flowers popped out. We were also treated to the arrival of many migrant species of birds - a particular delight is hearing the liquid trilling call of the Woodland Kingfishers as they welcome the first rays of dawn. Some days, myriads of birds take advantage of termite appearances - everything from Francolins, Babblers and Bulbuls on the ground to Marabou Storks, Tawny Eagles, Bateleurs and Steppe Eagles swooping in the heights above.

We have had a spectacular amount of rain for the month of November. In less than three weeks we have had over 150mm of precipitation, which was way above our expectations. The landscape transformed from a dull brown to a vivid green almost overnight. The outlying pans in the woodlands have filled up with water, providing a reliable supply there for both grazers and browsers, taking pressure off the riparian edges of the channel systems. The elephants have now moved deep into these woodlands. The rain has also triggered mass births among the antelope species, so everywhere there are tiny impala, tsessebe and wildebeest - some naturally fall prey to predators while others find safety in numbers and survive.

Just before the rains came, huge herds of buffalo were seen moving through the concession. One herd numbering over a thousand came within a couple of kilometres of the camp, and some splinter herds from this wandered by right in front of the camp.

The wildlife highlight of the month was when Ebs spotted a rare sitatunga antelope along Lechwe road - the first seen here in a long time. It almost became the last, because as he and his guests watched, a male lion, up to his belly in water, was stalking the antelope. The sitatunga ram nonchalantly watched the lion approach, confident that in that depth of water that he had the advantage should evasive action be required. As soon as the lion attempted his final lunge from about 30 metres, the sitatunga leapt, effortlessly leaving the lion clumsily splashing through the water. He has since been seen a few times in the same area, and we hope that he will remain, giving us more sightings of his singular and rare beauty.

The next highlight is that Mosadi Mogolo, the Acacia Road Leopard, has given birth to two beautiful little cubs. This brings the total number of leopard cubs we know of in the area to three - Ebs found another female with a cub in the Maun Road area. For three days Mosadi Mogolo and her cubs stayed near a kill right next to Airstrip road, so often this was the first sighting people had arriving from the airstrip!

Ben and his guests had the excellent fortune of encountering a mating pair of leopards near the new hide area - a sight that few ever see. Ebs found an aardwolf near Phinley’s Pool, and subsequently it has been seen a few times again in that area.

The Chitabe pack of wild dogs has once again had a run-in with lions, this time with fatal consequences. One adult and two pups were killed, leaving six pups and six adults in the pack. Subsequently, one more adult and one more pup have gone missing. Now there are ten left. More encouraging news, however, is that after an absence of a year, Phinley came across sixteen dogs of the Mogogelo Pack east of the Maun road area, and we have reason to think that there may be more in the pack.

In the Gomoti area, a family group of four cheetah were sighted a few times, while in the Old Chitabe area one male has been operating on his own - he has left his mother and sister, who haven’t been sighted this month.

The lion vs. hyaena battle continues, with losses racking up on both sides. A male lion killed a large hyaena in front of Trails Camp one night, and the hyaenas killed six of the youngest lion cubs over the next three weeks. Two large male lions are also regularly being seen on the Gomoti channel, which has started to dry up. The pride there has also been seen feeding on hippos that were killed in territorial battles beside the dwindling river.

The weather has cooled down significantly with the advent of the rain - the average lows have been around the 20°C mark, with the highs never going above 32°, making an altogether pleasant change from the burning heat of October. All the water around has contributed to a rise in humidity, however. For December we expect very similar weather – humid and warm, with thundershowers every few days.

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Savuti Camp update - Nov 05               Jump to Savuti Camp
The Savuti Channel has gone through a major change this month, from a dry, bare and desolate sandy area which, after our first rains, has transformed into a beautiful, lush, green paradise, full of thick trees, singing birds - a time of plenty.

The start of the month was intense with the usual dry season elephant population congregating around the Savuti waterhole at the front of camp, desperate for a sip of fresh water. The end of the dry season is a testing time for the elephants, with very little vegetation left and very little water around. Animals stress levels are up and only the strong survive. Predators have taken advantage of young, weak elephants, and hyaena took advantage of those that couldn't fight the dry season any longer.

Sightings of wild dog early in the month were exciting, with a few right outside of camp. There was quite intense fighting between wild dog and hyaena near Manchwe Pan in the middle of the month, with both parties finally relenting to a more peaceful co-existence. The cheetah brothers (the Savuti Boys) were around for quite a bit of the month and both chases and kills were seen. Our female leopard and 8-month-old cub were also spotted regularly during the month, with very relaxed sightings of them resting and feeding. The Savuti Pride of lion was active towards the middle of the concession and the Linyanti River with sightings of mainly the three females and three juveniles. Small lion cubs, approx. 5 - 6 weeks old were sighted which is always delightful to see.

Right outside of camp we were witness to two young male lion giving a family of porcupine a hard time! The young males were attempting to steal a very small porcupine baby, but mom and dad were giving the lions a very difficult time, protecting their young one with all of their efforts. Luckily, the porcupines won, and the two young boys moved off, probably hoping to find slightly easier prey!

On the 11th of November, we had our first rainfall of the season, always a spectacular event to witness. The skies opened up and huge amounts of thunder and lightning stole the show. We only received approx. 32mm that afternoon, but it was enough to cool everything down and make the animals (and us!) very happy. With the rain, the elephants knew that it was time for them to move on, and slowly made their way out into the bush for better feeding areas. It was literally days after the rain that we went from having up to 200 elephants outside of camp, to nothing! It was quite an eerie feeling falling asleep to the sounds of just the bush and not trumpeting elephants.

The rains have been reasonably frequent since then, which has brought about thick, lush vegetation throughout the area - the Savuti Channel is looking like a championship golf course!

Lots of fun was had at our traditional nights, with dancing and singing - by staff and guests too! Peggy and Mike returned for their 5th visit to Savuti, and were impressed again with their game viewing. Several pairs of honeymooners enjoyed the surrounds of Savuti during the month - to all those that came, our wishes to you for a long and successful marriage – and how about a return visit for one of your anniversaries!

Average maximum temperature was 36° Celsius, with our maximum reaching a very hot 41°C! Minimum temperature was down to quite a cool 10°, with the average minimum being 15°. Rainfall for the month totalled 61mm.

The team at Savuti would like to wish all of its guests and colleagues a very happy holiday season, a safe, happy and healthy year ahead, and we hope to see you all in the near future.

Kind regards,
Tammy, Alex, Richard, Kane and the whole Savuti Team

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Kings Pool update - Nov 05               Jump to Kings Pool Camp
Greetings from all of us at Kings Pool. November has been another great month in the Linyanti!

November is the month of changes and the area is certainly changing with the return of the rains. October was an extremely hot and dusty month and the first two weeks of November were no different. On the 11th we received our first rains. This immediately cooled the area down and settled the dust. Clouds now fill the skies and the promise of more rain is in the air. Altogether we have received 97 mm of rain this month. The maximum temperature this month was 42 degrees Celsius and the minimum 19.

During this period the Linyanti River was the only source of water for many kilometres and the game was incredible! Visibility was at its peak and in the afternoons the river was crowded with elephants, buffalos and zebras, all coming for the life-sustaining waters of the river. However, many of the animals were in poor condition due to the harsh stresses of winter and because of the long walk between the last remaining foraging areas in the woodlands and the permanent waters of the river.

From the beginning of the month the clouds were building up in the sky. Big, fat, dark, pregnant clouds, showing us that the dry period was almost over. Finally on the 11th the clouds let loose and the rains began to fall. On this day we received 20 ml of rain and within a day or two we could see a green flush over the sand where the new grass was pushing up through the dry earth.

The rains have also heralded the arrival of a few of the summer flowers, and scattered throughout the riverine woodlands are patches of bright red “Fire-ball Lilies”. These flowers are quite amazing to behold. They consist of numerous small florets that are arranged in a ball-shape (about the size of a volleyball) on top of a short stalk. Near the base of the stalk a few bright green leaves appear. These lilies often occur in small patches in the woodland and it looks quite incongruous to see these bright red areas in amongst the green of the leaves and grass.

Immediately after the first rains had fallen the elephants dispersed from the river, and they are now difficult to find. A few bulls are still in the area and one cheeky bull has been seen on a few occasions in the camp. After the first rains we also saw a reduction in the numbers of zebra and buffalo. Both of these species have now started their long trek towards the Savuti Marsh, approximately 70 km to the south-east of camp. These creatures migrate towards the marsh after the first rains to take advantage of the palatable grasses that start to grow there. It is also at the Savuti Marsh that the zebra give birth to their young foals. Although most of the buffalo and zebra disappear from the Kings Pool area during the summer months we have been fortunate to have sightings of a large herd of buffalo (+-300) that seem to have remained behind after all the others have left and have been frequenting the grassy area near the airstrip. A small herd of zebra (1 male, 3 females and 1 teenage foal) have also been seen in the grasslands to the west of camp right up until the end of the month.

With the onset of the rains most of the migrant birds have returned. It feels like we are once again seeing old friends after they have come back from a long journey abroad. The Carmine Bee-eaters are all back and are busy digging holes in the river banks in which to lay their eggs. The shrill “Yip-trrrrrrrrrr” call of the Woodlands Kingfishers resounds once again from within the woodlands as they too start to look for mates and nest in holes in the dead trees.

Another hole-nesting bird that has returned from its wintering grounds in Central Africa is the Broad-billed Roller. Another stunning arrival is the Paradise Flycatcher. The cuckoos have also arrived back now and can be seen flying quickly through the woodlands in search of nests in which they can deposit their eggs, leaving them for the surrogate parents to raise.

Early one morning, while sitting at the fireplace drinking coffee, we were surprised by an adult male Pennant-winged Nightjar which flew slowly right over our heads with his beautiful long white wing-streamers fluttering behind it.

Just before and after the rains have fallen we have often seen the emergence of huge numbers of winged termites (Alates) that have come out to take part in their nuptial flights and to start new colonies.

The snakes have also started to appear and we have already had a few sightings of these reptiles. A large Banded / Snouted Cobra has been seen on a few of the game-drives. This is a particularly impressive snake with thick bands of cream interspersed between bands of black or dark-grey. We have also seen a few Rock Pythons on many a night drive towards the end of the month. These snakes can get quite large and are constrictors; suffocating their prey by wrapping coils around it and tightening the coils each time the prey exhales.

With the rains that have fallen the night sounds are dominated by the sounds of the different frog species. Banded Rubber Frogs give a high pitched trilling sound, while the Bubbling Cassinas make a loud “blooip” sound (reminiscent of bubbles bursting or water droplets falling from a height into a pool of water). Raucous Toads add to the cacophony of sounds with their loud rasping calls. At night on the road one can see numerous Bull Frogs and Tremelo Sand Frogs in the puddles. Platannas (Clawed Frogs) can also be seen after the rains, hopping in the veld.

Towards the end of the month the impalas started to give birth to their young. There are now baby impalas throughout the riverine woodlands, gathered in small crèches and extremely cute. Near the camp we have noticed a baby impala that is rather different. This particular baby has large white blotches all over its body and is partially albino (leucistic). It is quite noticeable and we hope that it will manage to survive to adulthood, even with its camouflage seriously jeopardised.

November is definitely the month of babies and we have also been seeing a tiny baby hippo wandering around in the company of its large mother in front of camp.

Predator sightings have been pretty good this month, particularly before the rains started falling. All in all we have had 22 recorded sightings of leopard this month (on 17 out of 30 days).

The Chobe 1 Female / Deadwood Female was seen on a few occasions this month, mainly in the region of Chobe 1 Road and the Weather Station. On the 6th we heard the francolins and squirrels giving warning calls in the thick bush. On investigating we found the sub-adult (Chobe 1 Female’s cub) lying up on a dead tree trunk. She then climbed down and a short way along the path, she came across a bull elephant, who took exception to her presence and gave her a warning charge. The leopard reacted quite calmly and stood her ground as the elephant towered over her. When the elephant returned to his browsing, she then carried on walking in the direction that she had been going. The elephant then decided to follow her and as he came closer she disappeared into the thick bush. The elephant then lost sight of her. The leopard then climbed up another dead tree trunk and lay there resting. We could see that the elephant had lost her and was trying to relocate her, without success. We then left her lying there, quite amused with the whole scenario that we had witnessed.

The stars this month have undoubtedly been the Boscia Female and her young cub. The cub is now approximately 8 weeks old and is extremely cute. Its eyes are still bluish in colour and its fur is still fluffy and greyish. Boscia has been hiding her cub near Waterbuck Pan and we have seen the two of them on a few occasions. One of the den sites was in a large hollow log near Purple Pod Road. On The 5th we saw the two lying nearby the log, the cub suckling, which was an amazing sight.

Lion sightings have also been reasonably good this month. We have seen lions on 16 out of 30 days. On the afternoon of the 6th we found the two Savuti Females and their three cubs resting in the shade near Chobe 1.

The two DumaTau females were seen feeding on a dead elephant near Chobe 1 on the morning of the 9th. They were with their two young cubs who were either playing with each other or suckling on one of the females (“Black-eyes”). They stayed at the carcass until the 12th, at which stage the carcass was positively ripe and smelly, yet the females were still feeding on it.

On the 18th we were called in to a sighting of the two DumaTau females and the two cubs just behind DumaTau Camp. We were watching the cubs suckling and playing when “Isis” suddenly started staring intently into the bushes to the south. Out of the bushes appeared two other females. It was the two Savuti females. They were followed by their three youngsters. The Savuti females approached the DumaTau females, rubbed heads with them and then lay down next to them. The three Savuti cubs then came running up and appeared to be quite curious of the two younger cubs, but “Black-eyes” gave them a warning growl and they seemed to realise that they were not going to be permitted to play with the younger ones. From this date on these two groups have joined up and have been walking together.

On the 30th we were on a site inspection of Savuti Camp when we were informed that Silas (a guide at DumaTau) had spotted these lions near Forest Rd. When I arrived there the lions were resting in the shade. I noticed that there were only two of the older cubs present and only one of the younger cubs. It appears that one of the older cubs and one of the younger cubs have disappeared and I assume that they have been killed. This is very sad news.

We managed to see wild dogs on only two days this month, right at the beginning. On both occasions it was sightings of the DumaTau Pack (consisting of 12 adults and 11 pups). We understand that they have spent the rest of the month outside of the concession. We have not seen the Linyanti Pack this month.

That’s all for this month
Best wishes from all of us at Kings Pool.
We wish you all a merry Christmas and a great New Year

Ciao,
Brian

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DumaTau update - Nov 05               Jump to DumaTau Camp
The month of November heralds the end of our dry season and we were all keen to move on from the hot and dry conditions of October. Although we had good cloud buildup virtually every day since the start of November, it was not until 12th that we were blessed with the first rains of the season - 31 mm. The whole area rejoiced and within days the grey dusty landscape started to rejuvenate with fresh shades of green appearing everywhere. It remains truly amazing how such vast areas of barrenness and apparent lifeless flora can transform so rapidly into beautiful lush green growth and sprouting green grasses everywhere. Interspersed among the shades of green are the beautiful round scarlet flowers of the Fire Ball Lilly (Scadoxus multiflorus).

Average min/max temperatures for the month were recorded as 22° and 34°C respectively. Total rainfall for the month amounted to 75mm. Another treat of the season is seeing the heavily pregnant impalas now starting to drop their lambs. Within days our area has come alive with the boundless energy of sprightly youngsters running around all over the place. Of course this is also prime time for the many predators in our area to grab a tasty snack.

On the opposite side of this eating scale and especially during the first part of the month, we had numerous sightings of lions feeding on young elephants. Now, with the start of our rains, the vast majority of elephants in our area have moved off into the Mopane forests as they are no longer dependant upon the permanent waters of the Linyanti river system. Notwithstanding this, we still see elephants on our drives although not in the huge numbers that we had during the dry season. Our wildlife sightings for the month included the following: elephant, wild dog, African wildcat, leopard, lion, cheetah, zebra, hyaena, wildebeest, roan antelope, black-backed jackal, hippo, crocodile, kudu, African rock python, giraffe, baboon, warthog, impala, red lechwe, steenbok, waterbuck, kudu, leopard tortoise, buffalo, Ground Hornbill, White-backed Vulture, Hooded Vulture, Marabou Stork, Wattled Crane, Giant Eagle Owl, Wood Owl, Barred Owl and numerous other bird species.

Our guests enjoyed many interesting sightings, especially those of predator interactions. The most entertaining was watching wild dogs chase a leopard up a tree after it had attempted snatching their freshly killed impala. Our sighting of the month was probably seeing the Savuti pride and their respective cubs all being together for the first time in well over a year. What an awesome sight to watch 11 lions (4 adult females, 3 sub-adults, 2 cubs, and 2 adult male lions) going about their daily routine of feeding, grooming, playing and sleeping. This pride seemingly decided to go large this month and were often found feeding on elephant and also at one stage, an adult male giraffe which they brought down.

As our rainy season is now expected to gain momentum, we often hear the much repeated call of the Black Cuckoo as he utters with monotonous frequency: “Here comes rain!“ or at least that is what it sounds like to us!

We quote below just a few of the many great compliments we had from guests this month:
“Botswana is amazing and DumaTau has the best accommodation and wildlife.“
“This was our favourite camp – we had such a wonderful time.“
“3rd time at DumaTau and it is still a gem. Great staff and a Noah’s ark full of animals!“
“Thank you very much for such a wonderful stay. This is a very special place run by very special people.“
“The past 10 days of safaris, culminating in 3 nights at DumaTau equals the finest vacation EVER. This is said after visiting and travelling 5 continents. Top stuff, DumaTau!“

Well, what more can we say!

Linyanti greetings
IAN & the DUMATAU TEAM

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South Africa camps
Rocktail Bay Newsletter - Nov 05                  Jump to Rocktail Bay Lodge
Love has certainly been in the air during this last month of spring and Rocktail has seen many honeymoon couples, anniversary couples, and to top it off an engagement on our beach.

It was the afternoon of the 9th of November, when after an incredible snorkelling excursion to Lala Nek, Rob and Landi decided to take the 5km walk back to camp along the beach. They could hardly believe their luck, when on approaching the bay, they happened upon a loggerhead turtle that had decided to come up onto the beach at 4:30 in the afternoon. They crept up to her, careful not to disturb her, and took a seat to watch this amazing creature do what her mother had done all those years ago. Right there and then, Rob decided to ask Landi for her hand in marriage! We wish you the best of luck, and we hope that you hold Rocktail dear to your hearts forever.

With all the “lovey-dovey” couples in camp through the month, the weather has been perfect. The outside temperature has risen considerably since October, as has the humidity. We have also had about 100mm of rain throughout November.

With perfect beach weather, word had seemed to have got around, and Rocktailers were astonished as well as pleasantly surprised to see their very first chacma baboon soaking up the rays and enjoying a view of the Indian Ocean. The lonely male had obviously heard via the “bush vine” about the nesting season along the coastline. If the lonely chacma is after a mate he sure is in for a big surprise heading into peak season for Leatherback nesting turtles.

Staying with primates, vervet and samango monkeys have been reaping the rewards of good rains which have brought plenty new succulent leaves and fruit for the young to feed on.

With no exception to the rule birding has been phenomenal. From beach to forest to grasslands, all have lived up to their expectations. The rich food source of the Indian Ocean has had Osprey, Fish Eagles, Palmnut Vultures and Yellow- and Black-billed Kites jostling for position in Rocktail Bay. The forest has produced some real coastal specials: topping the list has to be Narina Trogon, Grey Tit-Flycatcher, Green Twinspot, Buff-spotted Flufftail, Livingstone’s and Purple-crested Turacos and White-starred Robin - all of which were seen on forest walks and at the famous bird hide. The grasslands seemed to bring out all the colours with Pink, Orange and Yellow-throated Longclaws keeping low to the ground as Southern Banded, Black-chested and Brown Snake Eagles soared above monitoring the rolling hills for easy prey.

News Flash
On an afternoon walk through the grasslands we stumbled across what looked like a “den” of some sort with fresh jackal tracks. Realising the significance of this, with the help of the community, we decided to monitor the area for some time. Lo and behold what should we find a small family of side-striped jackals. WOW!

The distribution of these incredible mammals in Southern Africa is from the northern parts of Namibia to the extreme north of Botswana, extending eastwards into Zimbabwe and down through Mozambique and stopping in the extreme north-east corner of South Africa. Which makes Rocktail their most southern occurrence on the continent! We are hopefully going to be monitoring these jackals on a more permanent basis.

Turtle season is in full swing as the end of November marks the peak season for both Loggerhead and Leatherback Turtles. What an awe-inspiring month it has been with numbers of nesting turtles increasing with every drive! So far Loggerhead nesting females lead the way with 67 successful nests and Leatherbacks follow with 17 nests. December generally marks the month of the Leatherback Turtle and we can be sure there are many more to come. The largest Leatherback Turtle to date has had a mammoth carapace of 1.77m in length and 1.65m wide, one “mamma” of a turtle. The “adopt a turtle” programme has been a huge success so far this season. Congratulations to our new adoptive parents!

Turtle Update
Wow, what a month! The season is in full swing as good numbers of both Loggerhead and Leatherback Turtles have been recorded.

The Loggerheads have graced our beaches with an impressive 60 nests so far, this is almost on par with the same time last year. Leatherbacks on the other hand seem to have been taking it easy with 16 nests, no doubt saving their energy for their peak month of December when they will probably catch up to their smaller relatives.

The beaches have been conducive to “easy” nesting conditions with only 10 false crawls (turtles that have come up the beaches but decided not to nest) throughout the 30km stretch of coastline. Nine of these have been Loggerheads, confirming the fact that being the size that they are (+/- 1 m length) they can afford to waste excess energy levels finding suitable nesting areas.

Turtles that have migrated from foraging areas to the mating grounds here at Rocktail Bay have been seen by many divers and snorkellers.

An incredible highlight this month is a turtle who has still not been adopted, but who we at Rocktail have nicknamed “Famous Freda”. Famous Freda’s tag number is FF014; she was tagged at Rocktail Bay 11 years ago. This incredible little Loggerhead reappeared on the 28 November 2005 on a clear starry evening to once again lay a successful nest.

This past month has produced eight old hands returning to Rocktail Bay to once again show the way for the new moms making their way up our beaches. The largest turtle of the season to date has been adopted by Tobias Alexandra; she was christened “Flossy.” This inconceivable Leatherback measured a carapace length of 1.75 metres and 1.65 metres in width. What is astonishing about “Flossy” is that this is the first season that she has been sighted and tagged, her tag number is PP630. Where has she been all these years?

We at Rocktail would like to thank all those guests who have contributed to this project to date; without you it would not be possible to observe and protect these amazing reptiles that nest on our beaches. So here are the names of the generous adoptive parents we’ve had this month.

Richard & Nikki Swain from Johannesburg S.A. adopted “Nhlahla” which means Lucky
Imke & Dieter Desel from Germany adopted “Bibo”
Rob & Landi Burns from Kings Pool, Botswana adopted “Caretta”
Chris & Rosie Thompson from the U.K. adopted “Rea”
Michael, Elizabeth and Dianne Baxendine adopted “Issy”
Julien & Marion Treich from France adopted “Juliette”
The Mann Family from the USA adopted “Harriet”
“Lahleka” was adopted from Olivia Pugh by Arno & Mary Roy from Switzerland
Dustin and Shannon Ambrose from Durban, South Africa, adopted “Kusasa”
Tobias Alexandra from Johannesburg, South Africa, adopted “Flossy”
Monica Bretschneider from the USA adopted “Morning Star”

Just a few of the guests’ comments:
“I am very impressed by this Wilderness Safaris operation and how it works in co-operation with the local community. I hope it continues to be successful”. RM – USA
“Many 5-star hotels could learn a lot from you”. A & MR – Switzerland
“Our stay was awesome. The staff all went the extra mile to make an unforgettable weekend come true”. HS – South Africa
“This was an old style Wilderness Safaris experience. Great staff, lovely feeling around lodge, great food and good activities”. L & ES – Cape Town
We wait in great anticipation for what December will bring and wish you all a very prosperous up and coming festive season.

Best wishes
The Rocktail Team

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Pafuri Camp (northern Kruger) Newsletter - Nov 05                  Jump to Pafuri Camp
With a much better amount of rainfall than last month and the Luvuvhu River now flowing bank to bank, it looks like the drought we have been going through is finally breaking. The Pafuri region of the Kruger National Park is once again changing but this time definitely for the better. The once dry and dusty areas are now being transformed into bright green carpets as the new shoots of grass break through the damp ground. Most trees are now covered in thick canopies of fresh leaves; the vegetation as a whole has become a lot thicker and lusher.

But one of the most amazing sights for me this month was Crooks’ Corner. At month end my wife Colleen and I were advised by some of our senior guides to go and have a look at what was happening there. Well when we arrived we were awestruck at the sight before us. The fast-flowing waters of the Luvuvhu River were pumping onto the sands of the dry Limpopo River bed. Although the strong Luvuvhu only pushed up the dry Limpopo River bed slightly, it flowed downstream with such force that anybody below the confluence would have thought that it was the mighty Limpopo flowing once again. What an awesome sight!

Mammal sightings
Again we are getting regular sightings of large breeding herds of elephant mainly in the Fever tree forest area to the east of Pafuri Camp, and also to the west along the Luvuvhu out towards Mangala. We sat and watched two young bulls for about twenty minutes having a mud bath from a puddle of water that was lying on the Fever tree forest road. We have also had sightings of solitary bulls around the camp and out towards the airstrip west of camp, and in small groups drinking from the Luvuvhu River in front of the camp.

We still have the three old buffalo (dagga boys) hanging around camp. They seem totally unperturbed by our movements in and around the camp. Sightings of herds continue to be regular with herds ranging in size from 20 to 100 animals and seen all over the concession. One memorable sighting saw a herd of about 100 animals in the grassland fringe of Banyini Pan in the north-west of the concession.

Sightings of species such as impala (we had our first lamb on the 14th of the month), nyala, bushbuck, waterbuck, kudu, warthog, chacma baboon, vervet monkey continue to be daily, while leopard eluded us with just a handful of sightings in the area around camp. Lion on the other hand were seen very couple of days with good sightings of males, lionesses and cubs. One evening three adult lionesses strolled along the southern bank of the Luvuvhu in front of camp giving all our guests a fantastic view.

Birding
We recorded a whopping 231 species this month. But the real excitement came with our big birding day held on the 26th. Our motto for the day was “quality not quantity” and we managed to see some exceptional species in the 24-hour period allotted for the event including: Three-banded Courser, Bronze-winged Courser, Pel’s Fishing Owl, Black-throated Wattle-Eye, Meves’s Starling, Grey-headed Parrot, White-crowned Plover, Green-capped Eromomela, Dickinson’s Kestrel, Yellow-billed Oxpecker, Gorgeous Bush-shrike and Crested Guineafowl.

Climate
Lowest temperature: 19°C Highest temperature: 47°C
Average min temp: 22.3°C Average max temp: 37.7°C
Rainfall 43mm

Pafuri Camp had the privilege of hosting the Children In The Wilderness programme this month. The children, aged 10-16 were selected by the South African Police Services from various shelters in each of metropolitan centres around South Africa. During their stay the children participated in a five-day edutainment programme, combining subjects such as nutrition and HIV/AIDS education with the thrills of wildlife viewing and bird watching. The SAPS were also very involved in teaching skills such as how to survive in an urban jungle and children’s rights. It was a wonderful experience for all of us here at Pafuri Camp to be able to work with these street children. We grew very fond of them and were extremely sad to see them go when it was all over. As we were waving good bye to them with more than a few wet eyes, one of our senior staff members asked the one question that had been bugging us all since our first meeting with them: “How can anybody abandon such beautiful kids?”

Thanks
Geoff Mullen

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Namibia camps
Great Namibian Journey update - Nov 05               Jump to Great Namibian Journey
These safaris are receiving consistently good feedback which we would like to share. Below is some feedback from the guide (Gerhard Thirion) and guests who recently travelled on a Great Namibian Journey from the 06 - 18 November 2005:

On the first day of the safari while driving down to Sossusvlei Wilderness Camp, we had numerous sightings of gemsbok, springbok, ostrich and kudu. We also discovered a dead gemsbok after spotting about 12 White-backed Vultures perched in a camelthorn tree, patiently awaiting their chance to join in the meal.

Sossusvlei was quite an experience as the east wind was blowing very strongly and we experienced extremely dusty conditions while exploring the dunes. We decided to go to Sesriem where we hoped that more favourable conditions would prevail. En route we had our brunch in the welcome shade of an ancient camelthorn tree, with ground squirrels and various birds as an audience.

While travelling through the Kuiseb Canyon we encountered a German guest who was stuck in a deep culvert next to the road. I was fortunately equipped with a strong tow-rope and we managed to get him out in no time. Our lunch stop was at Mirabib overlooking the vast and desolate gravel plains of the Namib with its shimmering heat waves and mirages.

The following day we went to Swakopmund, where quad-biking was just the right activity for this group and they enjoyed it thoroughly. The next day we did the boat cruise and Sandwich Harbour trip with Mola-Mola. A young humpback whale, heaviside's and bottlenose dolphins, a mola-mola sunfish, lots of seals up close and personal and an exhilarating drive through the dunes are just a few of the highlights of the day.

On the drive northwards to Doro Nawas we encountered 3 desert-adapted elephants soon after entering the Huab River. At the camp the guests thoroughly enjoyed being able to just pull out their beds onto the veranda and sleep outside with the stars as a blanket! Six more ellies and an abundance of gemsbok and springbok were sighted the next day, after visiting the petroglyphs (ancient rock engravings) at Twyfelfontein.

Ongava Tented Camp was certainly one of the highlights as we saw seven different white rhino and two lion on just the first day. The rhino also visited the camp waterhole every night. We also discovered two young jackal pups in their den, quite close to a lion kill! Elephants galore at Olifantsbad - we must have spent over an hour observing 22 of them play, drink and interact.

Skeleton Coast also ranked high on the “favourites” list for obvious reasons. Everyone in the group was able to catch a Kabeljou, thus providing for dinner! The guests were quite competitive when we had a gemsbok-dung-spitting competition.

Excellent group dynamics, funny, keen, appreciative, interested, enthusiastic and adventurous are just a few words to describe these fabulous guests!
Gerhard Thirion

Guest feedback:
It is easily one of the best trips I have ever taken. Namibia is astonishingly diverse and beautiful. I was (most happily) surprised by the terrain, the scenery, the wildlife, plant life, etc. at every turn. The camps in which we stayed were great - I think Skeleton Coast is a favourite for its location, Ongava Tented Camp for the waterhole and wildlife we saw there (the rhino were incredible, the Olifantsbad waterhole in Etosha was amazing, and seeing a giraffe come to drink while we were having cocktails was unbeatable!), Doro Nawas for its luxury and pampering, Aonin Dune for its beautiful location and wonderful camp manager Carmen. The variety of activities, beyond just game drives, helped make this trip really special. The boat trip and dune driving from Walvis Bay down to Sandwich Bay was beautiful, and quad biking outside Swakopmund was a rush - I can understand how people get hooked on it. Our guide, Gerhard Thirion, was fantastic. He unknowingly set the tone with one of his first questions to us "Are you normal?" We knew right then that he was the guide for us. His love for Namibia and all its facets was infectious. He really seemed to enjoy showing us around, educating us, pointing out so many things that might otherwise be overlooked, and getting us to try new things (dung spitting aside). He has a great sense of humour, and his dramatic reading of our itinerary was not to be missed. I am convinced that with a guide like Gerhard, it is a mistake to fly from camp to camp when there is a driving alternative -- you see and learn so much more when driving. I look forward to the next one. M.F.

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