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AFRICAN SAFARI NEWS
October 2005

This Month:
• Dive Report from beautiful North Island in the Seychelles.
Mumbo and Domwe Islands join Wilderness Safaris in Malawi.
• Monthly update from Chikwenya in Zimbabwe.
• Monthly update from Makalolo Plains in Zimbabwe.
Kwando Safaris game reports for October 2005.
• Monthly update from Mombo Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Duba Plains Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Tubu Tree Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Jacana Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Chitabe Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Savuti Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Kwetsani Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Kings Pool Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from DumaTau Camp in Botswana.

• Monthly update from Jack's and San Camps in Botswana.

• Dive Report from Rocktail Bay in South Africa.

• Monthly update from Pafuri Camp in South Africa.
• Monthly update from Palmwag Rhino Camp in Namibia.
• Monthly update from Ongava Tented Camp in Namibia.


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

It’s an amazing thing when a bunch of guys get together and start planning a bit of adventure. Decisions are made very fast and, before you know it, out come charts and instruments to plot courses and plan distances.

All this happened at the beginning of October and, to cut a long story short, the Activities Team at North Island, against all odds and perils, found Bird Island in the north-west! Just two hours away, the island’s positioning is the closest we get to the “Drop Offs” in the inner Seychelles Islands. For a diver, this is just about as good as it gets! Underwater cliffs like mountainsides descend to unbelievable depths and, of course, life is bigger here!

Needless to say, the dive was spectacular and the fishing is good too! A very large Marlin decided to come and play a little, struck a few times, was even raised to the surface but, after some time, let itself go. Surfing, I was told, is also very good there and, after seeing a little footage taken around the island, I believe it. Waves about two to three metres high with perfect “point breaks” could be seen out on some of the shallower reefs. After having a bite to eat on the island, the guys made their two-hour trip back north. After this recce (reconnaissance) we will return in future months – this time with guests!

Other exciting sightings for the month of October included that of a Bull Shark, which swam in close enough for four snorkellers to see, and an impressive number of Grey Reef sharks, seen off the south side of North Island on three dives. Then there were the turtles! There is a dramatic increase in turtle numbers all around the island with tracks being seen almost every day.

A new dive site off the north-east point of North Island has officially been added to our dive site list and is well positioned for long drift dives. Various kinds of reef rays are always seen there, as it is quite flat on the bottom with large gaps of pure white coral sand. Further on, huge coral heads scatter the seabed, attracting interesting creatures. Some of these corals measure three to four metres high and are home to many different kinds of reef fish, eels, softer corals and small sharks.


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Malawi News
Mumbo and Domwe Islands - Oct 05               Jump to The Great Malawian Journey

Mumbo Island and Domwe Island join the Wilderness portfolio
Mumbo and Domwe Island camps, the two most exquisite camps in the south of Lake Malawi, have just joined Mvuu Lodge and Kaya Mawa as part of the Wilderness Safaris Group. Established in 1995 by Kayak Africa, these camps are each situated on two uninhabited islands within Lake Malawi National Park, surrounded by pristine forest and unsurpassed beauty.

Both have just five tents situated on wooden platforms overlooking the clear waters of Lake Malawi. Planned for Mumbo Island for late 2006 are three new luxury chalets, each recessed subtly into the rocky contours of the island.

Both Mumbo and Domwe Island camps offer an exceptional wilderness experience and a wide range of activity options. Just a short, scenic drive from Liwonde National Park, the camps form a great travel combination with Mvuu Lodge and cater both for action junkies and for those simply wanting to relax in one of Africa's most magical settings.


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Zimbabwe Camps
Chikwenya update - Oct 05               Jump to Chikwenya Camp
It's October! As predicted in previous newsletters it is hot, dry and food is scarce. In the words of one of our guides, “devastation has hit the Zambezi Valley like a ton of cobblestones.” Weak animals pass away in the night, leaving the hyaenas and vultures to feast. Within days, the carcasses are entirely consumed. For months we predicted that October would be a trying time, but no one thought it would be this trying. Amongst those who struggle are impala, hippo, buffalo and baby elephant.

As difficult as it is to describe these graphic scenes without becoming emotional, one has to bear in mind that this is a fact of life. Mother Nature can't always be fair and the harsh reality is that the weak are sifted out, leaving the stronger animals with good genes and the ability to survive the tough season and produce healthy young in the rains. We watch “survival of the fittest” happen right before our eyes and those that die ensure that there is an ecosystem that remains in place to sustain those who survive.

The predators of course revel in times like these. Food is in abundance, inadvertently resulting in excellent sightings for guests. The glut of sightings has ensured that the animals become more and more accustomed to the vehicle and our presence and guests are often astounded at the lack of impact of a vehicle at a sighting has on a predator like lion or leopard.

We took full advantage of this phenomenon and informed Norman Monks (the senior warden and lion researcher of Mana Pools) about our relaxed lions. He has been waiting for months to dart one of the young males in our area in order to place a telemetry collar on him, thus enabling Norman to study the pride’s movements. He jumped at the opportunity to spend a night at Chikwenya and kindly invited staff and guests to witness a "once-in-a-lifetime" event. Nobody hesitated and we all piled into our vehicles and ventured out eagerly to find a suitable candidate for a collar.

Once in position, Norman sent the dart home and ten minutes later, the young lion had a "three o'clock in the morning" stagger before he peacefully dropped off to sleep. Once he was down, our small team set to work measuring and recording (paws, teeth, and head to tail), taking blood samples and fitting the collar. When an animal is darted, two types of drug are injected. The first sedates the animal while the second is a drug that causes some degree of amnesia. In other words the creature will not remember a thing. This latter effect was immediately obvious once the lion began to come round: his nose had started twitching and gradually he began to waken and immediately began feeding on a fresh piece of meat, almost as if he had simply nodded off in front of this good food and now he was hungry. It was a great experience and one we will never forget.

Also exciting has been the realisation that one of the lionesses in the local pride has separated herself from her pride mates and, as is evident from the signs of lactation, has given birth to an unknown number of cubs. She is keeping them well hidden and we do not expect to see the cubs until the end of November, at about which time it is likely that she will introduce them to the pride. The pride has been taking advantage of the weakened animals and our frequent sightings of them over October more often than not found the lions almost dragging their stomachs on the floor as they gorged themselves. Occasionally we have had the opportunity to watch them hunt or stalk species like kudu, warthog and buffalo and even, as graphic as it sounds, elephant.

The end of September brought a very light shower through late evening and early morning which thankfully dampened the road and settled the dust. It has been dry since then, although the rains are due in less than a month and the transformation will be spectacular.

The lack of rain has meant a hot month though and in the heat of the day everything stands still. The occasional patch of Hyacinth drifts aimlessly down the river past a pod of lazy hippos, baboons listlessly sift though elephant droppings on the floodplain looking for any undigested nutrient rich seeds, and a warm breeze serves no purpose in cooling anything down at all. The pool at camp has become the guests’ best friend, as they spend siesta wallowing in it and keeping cool. Any fantasies of a quick dunk in the exotic Zambezi River are rapidly banished as a large Nile crocodile spies a waterbuck innocently feeding on the banks. There is a huge splash and within seconds the powerful beast lunges forward and snatches the startled antelope. There is no struggle, no fight, the antelope has disappeared, and the crocodile too - all that remains are the few ripples in the water as they stretch out and splash up against the banks.

A single wild dog was found feeding on a fresh impala carcass in the sun's early morning rays. Although we didn't see the mottled creature hunting, we are confident that he brought down the animal by himself and we watched him struggle as he tore though the tough skin and ripped at the flesh beneath. He was completely unfazed by our presence and continued feeding as we drove away.

During the month of October an annual, private fishing competition is held by a group of Zimbabweans. They stay at Chikwenya and fish, almost solidly, though the heat of the day. This tradition has continued for seven years and this year they had something huge to celebrate. The winner of the tournament caught himself a record Tigerfish weighing 8,22kg (18,2lbs). This is the biggest fish ever caught at Chikwenya (that we know of) and of course, because we have a strict catch-and-release policy, the fish was revived and placed back in the water for someone else to catch!

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Makalolo update - Oct 05               Jump to Makalolo Camp
October has lived up to its name of "suicide month", with temperatures sitting consistently around 37° Celsius with a maximum for the month of 40° Celsius. We have however been blessed with a little respite during the nights with temperatures dropping down to around 19° Celsius, and for this we have been very grateful.

Towards the end of the month the clouds have been building up in the afternoons, teasing us with the promise of rain. However not until the 26th October did our first rains come - to much jubilation. It was a spectacular sight to witness, the afternoon game drives were sitting at the Front Pan, the guides having just successfully pulled an adult female sable out of the mud. First we smelt the enticing smell of rain, and then it came racing towards us from the east. It was a great relief, even if it was only 1mm - just enough to settle the dust. We have great hopes for the rains to come next month and put the animals out of their misery.

With the lack of rain this month it is obvious that the trees and shrubs rely on day length as opposed to water levels to start producing their new leaves. The Ordeal trees add much respite to the dry bush with their splashes of inviting green - just a pity they are unpalatable to most of the fauna. The Jackalberries are just starting to push out their striking new red leaves. The Large-leaved False Mopane trees are dropping their seeds, leaving a red carpet on the ground; we wonder why the baboons are not capitalising more on this cache of food.

The waterholes are struggling to keep up with the incessant demand for water. The elephants are monopolising the inlet pipes - just putting their trunks right over the ends of the pipe so the water is not getting to the pans and they are rapidly drying up. This has forced guides to take a new approach to game drives, one of which is to park the vehicle right over the inlet pipe to discourage the elephants from drinking there and give the other game a chance to get a drink. This has led to some very close-up viewing - mostly of elephant, as the youngsters are completely undeterred and come right up to the vehicles, practically placing their trunks under the vehicle to get at the water.

A couple of game drives have been hands-on experience for our guests, including pulling the sable out of the mud as described earlier. Then a couple of days after that we had to pull a sub-adult female giraffe out the mud that had also got stuck in the Front Pan. After a few false starts we eventually managed to get her out, and she stood up to find a ring of guides with their hands in the air, trying to prevent her from going back into the mud. Certainly the closest any of our guides have ever been to a giraffe and it's a good thing the giraffe did not decide to kick out! Having successfully convinced the giraffe to head for dry land, she then galloped off, clearly relieved. We were just celebrating our good work, when we looked up to see a very angry male buffalo or "dagga-boy" chasing that same giraffe across the plain at top speed. It was very amusing to watch, but what an ordeal for the poor giraffe, who fortunately managed to keep out of the buffalo's way. A memorable comment from one of our guests: "But buffalo don't even eat meat!"

WILDLIFE NEWS
The dry season is certainly taking its toll out there and as a result the concentration of game at the waterholes is just staggering. With this we are witnessing interactions among species that would not usually interact at all. Similar to last month’s zebra and buffalo episode, the other day we witnessed another awesome sight - a male sable was drinking from the trough, unable to believe his luck that he finally had something other than mud to drink, when this very grumpy male buffalo came up and gave the sable a left hook - the sable went flying into the air and for a little while was stuck on top of the buffalo's head. Poor thing, he eventually came off, but limped off looking very sore and forlorn. Fortunately he had not been gored, but no doubt was pretty bruised.

We have been seeing many newborn elephants around the pans. It is a delight to witness these pink, 120kg-babies with snow-white feet taking their first few unsteady steps, trying to find the right end of their mother to suckle from, and to watch them experiencing a mud bath for the first time.

We have been incredibly fortunate this month, with cheetah and leopard sightings topping the charts. On one occasion, two separate game drives were watching three cheetahs at different waterholes, only 5km apart from each other. The guides were incredulous "six different cheetah in one day!" A pair of leopards has taken up residence on the Makalolo Plain, much to the delight of a few lucky guests who got to see them. However the duiker population is probably not quite so ecstatic, as they definitely seem to be the preferred food on the leopard's menu at present. The female leopard is still very shy and takes off immediately on seeing a vehicle, but the male is slowly starting to relax. On a night drive the male leopard was seen on the bunker and the guide drove forward for a closer look. On arriving at the bunker the guide could not see the leopard anywhere, until she looked inside the bunker (the door had not been closed), and there the leopard was cowering at the bottom. Anxious that in the next instant there may have been a rather unwelcome visitor in the vehicle, she had to quickly leave the scene. Walking safaris have gained enormously in popularity since Dickson and his three French guests spotted a leopard on their morning walk.

The "Spice Girls" are back and the pride now numbers 20. The four adult lionesses have joined forces again, and have 16 cubs between them, varying in age from five to fourteen months. One morning two game drives came across the pride lying next to a waterhole, feeding on the last remnants of four duikers that they had killed the previous night. The lions looked very relaxed and seemed to have settled in for the day. Then, one lioness got up and arrogantly moved over towards the waterhole and seconds later she had brought down a sub-adult male sable. The lions soon discovered that snacking on the edge of a busy waterhole is not the best place as they were constantly being chased off by elephant and buffalo coming to drink. A couple of days later we woke up to find the "Spice pride" feeding on a female eland that they had killed right in front of the camp. We are thrilled to have them back on the Makalolo Plains again.

BIRDS & BIRDING
A total of 113 different bird species were seen in October. The most productive birding spot is right alongside the dining room, and guests at brunch-time are often treated to a stunning array of colourful birds playing in the birdbaths.

It is always with great excitement that we see the first summer migrants for the season: Paradise Flycatcher, Pygmy Kingfisher, Eurasian Bee-eater, Broad-billed Roller, African Cuckoo and Abdim's Stork have all arrived.

Some of the birds have been capitalising on the lack of water. The large pan in front of camp is drying up fast, resulting in a seething mass of catfish trying to wriggle back under the mud to escape the harsh, drying sun. Early one morning we watched our resident Saddle-billed Stork leisurely help himself to one of these catfish. No sooner had he got its bounty in his large bill when an African Fish Eagle flew up and snatched it from him. However before the Fish Eagle was able to fly off to safety with his stolen meal, a Marabou Stork stole the fish from him, only to be pursued by five other Marabou Storks. To end the saga, a second Fish Eagle flew up, stole the fish and made of with it. I'm still convinced that it would have been a whole lot easier for the birds just to get their own dinner as the Pan was literally boiling with catfish!

GUESTS COMMENTS
"One of the most interesting places I have ever visited and I have been travelling the world the past 50 years." - SL, USA.
"WOW! It's been magical. Wonderful staff and guides. An animal kingdom! Thanks for making it so special! P.S. And great food too!" - KD, USA.

"Sometimes when you look forward to a dream for several months, the "real thing" does not meet your expectations. That is not the case at Makalolo. You have more than met my expectations, - you have surpassed them. The night we slept in the tree house afforded a magnificent view of the stars and our guide Tendai ensured our safety by posting himself under the next tree. What fun! You will always be in my heart!" - ML, USA

"What an enriching experience - being here during a dry spell - watching scenes of desolation, survival, but great beauty also. Thanks to Belinda for being a partner to us in our Zimbabwe experience, and most of all - dream for RAIN! Thanks also to Laura for being a constant welcoming presence." - JB & MH, San Francisco, USA.

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Botswana Camps
Kwando Safari Camps Update - Oct 05

Lagoon camp               Jump to Lagoon Camp
(October 04-24)
• BREAKING NEWS – the female African Wild Dog that guide OB though was pregnant.......was found late last week deep into the mopane.......at her den with FIVE x 6-week old puppies. This is 3-4 months later in the season than normal, and after last years decimation they have chosen an area far away from lion concentrations.
• The other pack of 24 wild dogs was also seen moving around and hunting – they were last seen moving at pace west into the mopane.
• A couple of male lions killed a buffalo bull, a week later they killed another bull with the assistance of a lioness but were robbed by the dominant pair of male lions.
• The dominant pair of males was found a few days later on another buffalo kill. Several other sightings of lions in the area over the period as well, including 2 adult male lions feeding on the carcass of an adult elephant bull.
• A couple of leopard sightings over the last while including a relaxed adult female leopard hunting impala.
• The coalition of 2 male cheetah has been seen again and were followed hunting – they killed a young kudu, and later in the week killed a lechwe. They moved north and were later found with full bellies resting close to room 6.
• Large numbers of elephants seen all throughout each day moving to and from the river – largest herd counted at about 200 strong.
• Several herds of buffalo varying from small bachelor herds to a breeding herd of 1500 seen daily.
• A clan of 6 hyena were found feeding on the remains of a kill.
• General game including zebra, kudu, sable (herd of 12) and roan antelope, giraffe, tsessebe, impala, reedbuck and steenbuck.
• Smaller game includes both jackal species, porcupines, a family of 12 banded mongooses, yellow and dwarf mongoose, wild cats, honey badger, civet and caracal.
• Various excellent bird seen as well as a rare sighting of a juvenile cuckoo-hawk

Kwara camp               Jump to Kwara Camp
(October 04-24)
• A pride of 23 lions was seen several times - they pulled down and killed a buffalo bull – 2 days later they killed an adult giraffe bull which they finished off in 2 days.
• A number of other lion sightings – coalition of 2 males, another group of 3, and a group of 3 males with a lioness - she was showing signs of coming into season.
• A couple of leopard sightings including a female with her male cub feeding on an impala in a tree.
• A lactating female cheetah was seen several times – eventually her two 6 week old cubs were seen but were a little shy – they were later seen interacting with a trio of very aggressive male cheetah, the guides later reported one of the cubs to be missing.
• The coalition of 3 male cheetah was seen hunting a few times – once unsuccessfully chasing warthogs.
• A single female wild dogs was found limping – there was no sign of any other dogs near her.
• A few sightings of breeding herds of elephants in the north, most elephant sightings are bachelor herds all around the concession, seen daily bathing in the channels and coming into the camp at night to feed.
• Large herds of buffalo are seen daily –up to 800 strong, and occasionally being followed by male lions.
• Lots of hyena have been seen around the camp – a prolonged interaction between a clan and a couple of male lions was witnessed around the lagoon in front of camp late one night.
• One of the hyena dens moved to a new site possibly due to lion density.
• Good general game often seen at the front of the camp – tsessebe, zebra, giraffe, impala, baboon, reedbuck, kudu and wildebeest.
• Smaller game seen includes slender, banded, dwarf and yellow mongoose, caracal (including one sighting of a pair), serval, civet, honeybadger,, African wild cat, both species of jackal and genet.
• The heronry continues to be productive – the yellow-billed stork and sacred ibis chicks now about 2 weeks old


Lebala camp               Jump to Lebala Camp
(October 04-24)
• A nomadic lioness robbed a leopard of its impala kill in the early hours of one evening
• A pride of 4 lionesses killed and fed on a buffalo bull – they were robbed of their kill by a clan of hyena, and then tried to bring down another buffalo amongst a herd of 2000 just north of the camp.
• A pride of 2 lionesses and 2 males caught and killed buffalo calves on two different occasions, several days later they were found feeding on an adult buffalo carcass.
• A number of other lion sightings during the period as well.
• Plenty of leopard activity – a number of sightings of leopards during the day found resting in sausage trees escaping the heat, and followed A female leopard with 2 cubs, an adult male killed a young kudu cow, but lost it to hyena.
• A female cheetah with a pair of sub-adult cubs, a pair of male cheetah and a female cheetah on her own all seen during the last short while. The adult female with the 2 cubs killed an impala and fed for an hour before being robbed by a clan of seven hyena; the 2 male cheetah caught and killed a young male kudu near water-cut, the single female was found feeding on an impala a few days ago.
• A pack of 23 wild dogs (11 puppies) was found resting – later followed and made 2 kills with the hyenas scrambling for the leftovers.
• The same pack close to camp chased and killed an impala, the other impala ran into the water but was taken by a huge croc, the third impala was caught and killed by a pair of cheetah that were then robbed by hyenas! (this amazing episode is taken verbatim from Lebala guide SteveK)
• An active hyena den with 5 pups was found as well
• Large herds of elephant seen throughout the area – up to 1000 elephant seen both north and south of the camp on a gamedrive.
• Large herds of buffalo seen throughout the concession on virtually every gamedrive – moving to and from the river daily.
• Good general game – roan and sable herds seen frequently, tsessebe, giraffe and zebra
other sightings include aardvark, several different species of mongoose, honeybadger, African wildcats, genets, caracal, serval and a 2,5 metre African Rock python

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Mombo Camp update - Oct 05               Jump to Mombo Camp
Summer has roared in like a lion at Mombo this year. The heat is stalking the dry and dusty plains and only the spectral promise of rain borne on the mild winds whirling through the still air offers any chance of relief. We have yet to have our first summer rains here, but with the thunder rolling across the parched savannah and the gasping floodplains each afternoon, it can only be a matter of time. There is an incredible air of expectancy everywhere, in the hopeful glances we all cast at the clouds to the resolve of the zebras trudging towards the few channels which still have water. These last emerald jewels in the dust have a magnetic draw on all the animals here, a pull which they must obey, or perish.

But the Okavango has a way of defying death in the sheer exuberance of life here. Even as the last grasses of winter wither and curl up under the acacia trees, the promise of rebirth is everywhere, from the swelling curves of the bellies of the female impalas, who will begin to give birth in just a few weeks, to the exploding green leaf buds on Baobab Bob. As he prepares to come into leaf and to stand guardian over another of the countless hundreds of summers he has lived through, Bob is providing shelter to a brood of young Meyer's Parrots, who themselves will go on to propagate other trees as they drop seeds during feeding.

The concentrations of game around the major channels, particularly in the Simbira and Moporota areas, are quite outstanding, with the stripes of hundreds, even thousands of zebra shimmering in the heat waves, and the massive shapes of elephant herds appearing like mirages of lost cities as they follow the ancient paths that only they know to the water.

As channels dry up into disconnected pools, like a diamond necklace snapped and spilled on the ground, the hapless barbel and other fish that did not manage to escape are pursued mercilessly by many birds, which systematically clear each fish trap of its besieged residents. Most spectacular among the birds are the giant, unwieldy pelicans, which retire to roost each evening in the Mokolwane Palm trees, lending a prehistoric aspect to the timeless Delta sunsets with their hunched pterodactyl-like silhouettes.

October is hot, and there's no denying it. However there are many ways of coping with and enjoying the summer heat - many of which we have learnt from observing nature around us. While we haven't yet tried wallowing in mud, hippo-style, we know how refreshing a dip in the cool plunge pool can be, and we have taught many guests the trick with the wet kikoi, which makes for a very relaxing mid-afternoon siesta.

As November's temperatures are often reduced by the eventual onset of the rains, October is perhaps our hottest month. Daytime temperatures reached from 35°C to 39°C (100°F to 108°F) while nights were warm, from 13°C to 22°C (56°F to 74°F). Despite the recent timpani sounds of thunder - answered by echoing applause from us - we did not experience any rainfall at Mombo in October. Watch this space, though.

Wildlife
In every sense Mombo is an oasis away from the cares and worries of the worlds, and the lush green grasses on the floodplains surrounding Little Mombo in particular have played host to several breeding herds of elephant; it is easy to be lulled into a state of extreme relaxation watching the gentle swishing of their trunks as they pluck bunches of grass and then slap it against their legs to shake off any sand (so that it doesn't cause wear on their teeth). Some of the herds have tiny calves - on a game drive at the very beginning of the month we just missed seeing the miracle of birth but got to see a calf's first teetering steps into the world outside the womb.

Mombo is of course a fantastic place to be born an elephant, but even here there are serpents in the grass, hidden dangers about which a young elephant knows nothing. One evening the air was rent by the distressed trumpeting of a female elephant, and then shattered by the diabolical giggling of hyaena - a noise usually heard when they are excited at a kill or in danger. We only learned the true, terrible story the next day: a cow elephant had left the herd to give birth, and had then become separated from them. Her newborn calf was seized by several hyaena and she was unable to chase them all away.

Thankfully the merciful cloak of night hid this event from us - it would have been a very harrowing scene to witness. Elephants are one of the few animals thought to grieve in a similar way to us, so we could see the sadness of the mother who had lost her calf for days afterwards.

The elephants have shared the Mombo floodplains with a great many zebra, lechwe, and occasionally, huge herds of buffalo. Sometimes in the evenings a stately parade of giraffes will leave the shade of an island treeline, and make their graceful progress down to the water to drink. As the sun sets, our resident porcupine emerges from his palm island to gorge on palm fruits, and perhaps a nervous herd of impala too, spooked by the real or imagined shape of a hyaena. And over their heads, the rhythmic swoosh as Spur-winged Geese flap their way to their roosts, and the occasional soft whistle when one of them is missing a feather.

So much game of course means a real concentration of predators at Mombo. Mombo's legendary cheetah coalition, the two grizzled brothers known as the Steroid Boys, have been much in evidence again this month. Although they range over huge areas of Chief's Island in the heart of the Moremi Game Reserve, they return time and again to this one special corner of the reserve, drawn here by the prevalence of their preferred prey, impala.

Their sudden transformation from being stationary - although watchful - on a termite mound into a blur of spots streaking across the tawny savannah never fails to thrill anyone who has the privilege of watching these speed merchants in action. The Steroid Boys have long been known for unusual behaviour, and they have rewritten the rulebooks several times - not least when they mastered the technique of chasing red lechwe into water, and drowning them.

Confrontations between leopard and cheetah are rare, which is probably a good thing for the slighter cheetah, as they invariably come off second-best and are forced to rely on their speed to keep them out of trouble. This month however we watched a fascinating episode when they succeeded in chasing off a male leopard which was attempting to pirate their kill. The leopard beat an ignominious retreat into the nearest tree, and to the victors the spoils - the two brothers were then able to continue feeding on the impala carcass.

We are watching every development with our new pack of wild dogs with bated breath, as it seems they may be on the verge of establishing themselves in this area again. Perhaps this may be the start of a return to the dog days of the late 1990s when wild dogs were one of the most visible predators at Mombo. The three adults we have been seeing all year had three puppies which began accompanying them on their hunts, although during this month one of the half-grown puppies has disappeared.

Despite this tragedy, and their reduction in strength, these champion survivors have clung onto their foothold at Mombo undaunted, and we have had some fantastic sightings of the pack this month. One of the best was actually from the deck of Camp, late one afternoon when they came trotting across the floodplain, their multi-coloured coats striking fear into the hearts of the antelope, and their brilliant white tail tips streaming out behind them in the rosy evening light. One of those African moments that remains with you always.

The wild dogs too have had to dispute with leopards over kills on at least one occasion, and even our fearless young Far Eastern Pan Male, was obliged to jump into a tree to escape the snapping jaws of the indignant dogs. Nearby, a much larger leopard in a Jackalberry watched the incident with perhaps a measure of interest - this was the young male's father, the wily old Burnt Ebony Male.

Lion
As their roars echo through the Camp, the Mombo lions are very difficult to ignore. Whether it is the young cubs, growing up fast and getting into new mischief each day, or the old male who has formed a coalition with two younger, nomadic males, the lions here are a constant source of awe and excitement.

The evening meal is always a highlight of the safari day: great food and excellent wines to accompany reliving the day's adventures, but sometimes even highlights have to be postponed. As we were collecting the guests from their tents for dinner one evening, the sharp ears of one of our guides, Francis, picked up the distinctive sounds of lions arguing over a kill, and we soon realised that one of the guest tents offered the best vantage point, so we all trooped onto the deck to watch an impala kill change hands, from the six young lions who had killed it, to the coalition of three males.

The strongest of the three took, well, the lion's share and refused to let his companions join him as he crunched through the ribs just a few metres below us. No honour among thieves! We watched the whole drama, spellbound, and when it was all over, and the disappointed hyaenas had slipped away into the darkness, we finally returned to the dining room. I think a lot of our guests ordered the vegetarian option that night!

Rhino
October is in many ways a month of waiting: waiting for new leaves to sprout, for new impala lambs to take their first ungainly steps, for the first scarlet flash of a Carmine Bee-eater swooping alongside the vehicle to snap up an unfortunate grasshopper. Some animals just can't seem to wait, however, and with a gestation period of sixteen months, you can understand a white rhino female getting impatient to give birth.

And so it was this month that we found yet another new white rhino calf - our seventh since we started our joint rhino reintroduction project with the Botswana government just four years ago. This was the smallest calf we have yet found on our monitoring patrols - only three or four days old and still too small for us to know if it is a male or a female. The mother is Kabelo, one of the first rhinos to be released at Mombo in November 2001. In fact, by a happy coincidence, we discovered this latest calf on October 19th, the fourth anniversary of rhino returning to Mombo after an absence of perhaps two decades: a perfect way to celebrate this conservation milestone.

Guest Experience
In addition to cool, wet kikois, we've been helping our guests cool off with iced drinks around the pool, and to make the most of sunny days in the bush with picnics under shady umbrella trees - featuring Craig's infamous chocolate Amarula sauce pancakes. We’ve been sampling the dishes on the new summer menu with delight - everything from Jerusalem artichoke soup with extra virgin olive oil, through yellow fin tuna tartare with avocado and tomato salsa and fresh lime and ginger dressing, to mango-yogurt ice cream with wild berry syrup. A glass of homemade lemonade to wash it all down and waiting for the first rain shower of summer really isn't too arduous at all!

Guest Feedback
As always, we will leave the last word on the wonders of Mombo and Little Mombo in October to the guests who shared them with us:
- Our guide Brooks was outstanding - as was the hospitality!
- Lee was an extremely intelligent and sensitive guide
- All was fantastic and the staff were excellent
- Lee, Tlamelo, and the rest of the staff were phenomenal. We can't forget Caitlin either - she was terrific!
- The best safari Camp in Botswana!
- The highlight was the lions and leopards up close and personal!
- It is the experience of a lifetime and we especially hope our daughters get to enjoy it - we will spread the word! We would not change a thing!
- Keep up the good work - you do not need to change a thing!

That's all from your Mombo and Little Mombo team for October: Steve & Caitlin, Pete & Sharon, Noreen, One, Craig, Siobhan, and Nick. Oh, except that we had a real moment of bush romance at Little Mombo this month, when Lee the guide proposed to his (unsuspecting) girlfriend, who we had flown in specially. Did she accept? Well, you'll just have to read this newsletter next month, or better yet, visit us here and find out in person!

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Duba Plains update - Oct 05               Jump to Duba Plains Camp
Weather-wise, strong winds normally experienced in August/September, have kept the temperature below average for this time of year, though the last few days have been sweltering with daytime temperatures in excess of 40°C (110°F) in the shade. Cumulus clouds, sporadic for most of the month, are becoming larger and building rapidly into Cumulonimbus clouds that herald the initial onset of thunderstorms. Meteorologists are predicting above average rainfall this year in Angola and Botswana as El Nino reaches a more neutral phase. If this does happen, we could be in for a flood similar to that of 2004.

Game viewing
General game over the last couple of months has been outstanding. Elephant herds continue to move into the area as they search for greener aquatic vegetation in the swamp areas that border the southern and western fringes of our concession. Out on the Duba plains, herds in excess of seventy browse the Tsaro Palm islands and kick up tufts of couch grass to eat. At this time of year, Duba is the ideal place to see elephants as an abundance of water leads to lower stress levels and greater ease in the vicinity of game drive vehicles. During the heat of the day, breeding herds bathe in the muddy pool in front of camp providing plenty of entertainment for guests. We saw our first tsessebe calf on October 19th, a sighting that usually indicates the imminent arrival of the first rains. The annual wildebeest migration also took place at the end of the month, when ten females ran across the floodplain in front of camp and crossed the channel. As a spectacle, it doesn’t quite rival the Serengeti migration, but it’s wonderful to watch the same animals, year after year returning to their favourite breeding area. Giraffe have also journeyed across to Duba from the east as the floodwaters recede and have been seen browsing near the airstrip. If they can brave the channel crossing to the south of camp, giraffe could become a year-round feature in the acacia islands near to Shade Pan. Large herds of kudu are to be found browsing on the islands close to camp. These wonderful antelope, in particular the males which are normally skittish, have provided great close-up viewing.

As the floodwaters evaporate we will start to explore the northern part of our concession over the coming months. From the air, the area is teeming with good plains game, zebra, tsessebe, wildebeest and sable antelope. This area is also home to a second big herd of buffalo that split from our herd a few years ago.

Night-drives have been very exciting, particularly for bat-eared fox lovers. These small jackal-like creatures with huge ears are producing pups and we have found six different dens around the concession. They seem relaxed around our vehicles as they forage for harvester termites, their favourite food. Some of the pups are so small that they resemble chicks following a mother hen! Another feeder on harvester termites, the aardwolf has been seen near Molokowne Island. Other sightings include serval, African civet and African wildcat kittens. However, the “sighting of the month award” goes to Chief for spotting a Temminck’s pangolin near Shade Pan. This is only the second sighting in twelve months and a good one as, instead of rolling into a ball as pangolins tend to do when threatened, it moved around on its hind legs searching for ants and termites.

Birding
Birding remains tremendous as summer migrants, including the colourful Carmine Bee-eaters, return for the summer. Yellow-billed Kites fly low around the camp collecting nesting material. Moporo Crossing still has water and plays host to Saddle-billed and Yellow-billed Storks, Black-crowned Night Herons, Rufous-bellied and Squacco Herons, Sacred, Glossy and Hadeda Ibises, Pied and Malachite Kingfishers, Little, Great White, Cattle and Slaty Egrets. The rare Rosy-throated Longclaw has been seen regularly at Acacia Island and African Skimmers rest on the sandbanks at Eden.

Duba’s buffalo and lions
The buffalo herd, in good shape despite the dryness of the grass, now numbers around 800, having split last month. Possibly in response to pressure from the Tsaro pride, the buffalo seem to have changed their feeding behaviour and stay lying down in an open area of the floodplain until mid-morning before moving off to feed and drink, by which time the lions are too hot to hunt unless extremely hungry.

Duba’s lions remain a big attraction for guests and we’ve seen them on most days since June. The Tsaro Pride has provided much entertainment and bewilderment. As of June this year, nine cubs had died after the loss of all 22 last year. Since then another nine cubs have disappeared, five in the last month, bringing total losses this year to 18. After such a high cub success rate of 85% from 2000 – 2003, losing 40 cubs in two years is dramatic reversal of fortunes. Part of this year’s loss had been attributed to one young adult female in the pride that is intolerant and aggressive towards the cubs. It now appears that two females, “Milky Eye,” an older female and this young female are responsible for killing most of the cubs. After observation we reckon that last year’s heavy losses are not solely attributable to hyaena predation exacerbated by high flood levels but also a result of the behaviour we are currently witnessing. One distressing event took place when we found the pride close to Python Island keeping an eye on the sleeping herd of buffalo. As the buffalo started to get up, Milky Eye hid her cub so she could get ready to hunt and then moved off with the rest of the pride. However, the younger female held back and as soon as the others were a distance away she chased the cub into the open and with one swipe of her paw broke its back. Milky Eye and the Duba Boys both rushed in to defend the cub but when it couldn’t get up abandoned it. The poor cub, still alive though unable to move in the sun, died of heat exhaustion a few hours later.

Why this is happening is pure speculation and could be a combination of factors. One possible theory is that continued mating with the Duba Boys, especially by their daughters, is producing deformities in the cubs caused by genetic imperfections. The Duba Boys have been dominant for more than six years, a very long time. However, this doesn’t explain why all the cubs are dying as only five of the nine females are daughters to these males. Another theory revolves around the size of the pride and its ability to hunt successfully. One adult buffalo is a quick meal for nine adult female and two male lions with little else to go round. Following the eviction of the five Tsaro males and the increasing adeptness of the buffalo in self defence, it’s possible that self preservation is a greater priority than pride growth. This may explain why many of the cub kills that we have witnessed have taken place whilst feeding on a buffalo kill. Two females are currently lactating and we expect new cubs to be introduced into the pride shortly. What chances of survival these cubs have is anyone’s guess but recent events don’t make us optimistic.

October was an unusually quiet month for lion/buffalo interaction with only three kills (all by the Tasro Pride) witnessed. Unfortunately the buffalo spent some time in the marshy area to the south of Buffalo Point, a region we affectionately call “never-never land” after some epic drives spent digging ourselves out of holes. The Tsaro Pride also spent time there and we presume that they hunted successfully having seen them on a number of occasions with full bellies. A feature of this year is the abundance of red lechwe in the Eden area (Tsaro Pride territory). If chased through muddy water, young lechwe can get stuck and make easy pickings for hungry lions. Whilst watching the Tsaro Pride near the buffalo one morning, we saw all the lions lift their heads and turn east on full alert. They then ran nearly two kilometres before killing a lechwe that had a broken leg. The lions must have heard the distress call which was enough to abandon the buffalo watch. Three more lechwe kills have been seen since September.

The Skimmer Pride has been seen only occasionally since September as the buffalo have stayed mainly to the east of its territory. The pride is healthy though, and consists of four adult females, three sub-adult females and five sub-adult males. These sub-adults males are over two years old and should soon start to play a very active role in hunting. However, because of infrequent visits by the main buffalo herd to the Paradise area, the Skimmer Pride are adapting their hunting strategy and have been seen feeding regularly on hippopotamus. Groups of “Dagga Boys” also frequent this area.

The Pantry Pride still survives, albeit with three members, two adult females and a sub-adult male. We saw the tracks of the two females back in September and they have been heard calling to the north of camp. The sub-adult male has been sighted regularly in Tsaro territory attempting to feed with the Tsaro pride by making a very submissive display and then moving onto the carcass. This provoked an angry response from the females and he bears a big scar across his back as a result. The Duba Boys, one of them being his father, are more accepting though it seems unlikely that this young male will stay around for long.

Dereck and Beverly Joubert have now finished an exciting two-year project documenting the lions and buffalo at Duba. They feel that the forthcoming book and film encapsulate the most thrilling lion viewing and filming they have experienced in their time studying, filming and photographing lions. They have this to say: “It is a rare opportunity that comes at a moment in time when lions are slowly losing ground in the larger game of life. We have fewer lions today than ever before. We hope that their magnificence and their iconic symbolism come through in these projects, enough to reinforce the need for us to take lion conservation extremely seriously.”
To order the book and DVD, please contact Lorna, e-mail lornagib@absamail.co.za. For further information go to www.wildlifeconservationfilms.com

I leave you with some comments from recent visitors. Come and visit us at Duba soon!

Fantastic experience, great staff, food and entertainment, especially Danny Boy! Watching the lions chase the buffalo was almost as good as watching the buffalo chase the lions! SG, UK

What joy to experience such wildlife and such joyous singing. We will be back! J & PP, USA

The overall quality of game viewing, guide, staff, tent AND … our lovely impromptu engagement party. Keep up the great work! BA & SR, USA

Chief our guide was my “all-time” favourite of all the camps. He is very knowledgeable about conservation and has a wonderful way of expressing himself. His enthusiasm is catching. KM, GERMANY

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Tubu Tree Camp update - Oct 05               Jump to Tubu Tree Camp
The first promise of rain came at the end of October with impressive storm clouds, thunder and even lightning but only a few drops fell and the rain passed us by. Not having had rain for almost eight months, we were excited at the prospect of a shower.

Tubu’s average minimum and maximum temperatures for October were 22° and 35°C respectively. It is traditionally the hottest month and the swimming pool was often filled with guests at midday. Cold outdoor showers, room fans and copious amounts of iced tea have helped us through the month.

The night drives have produced some very interesting sightings, such as Marsh Owls, civets and Selous’ mongoose. This is only the second time this species has been recorded at Tubu. A serval was seen hunting rodents on the edge of a rapidly drying pan; the serval uses its oversized ears to locate its prey and then pounces from heights of a metre. Rodents make up the majority of its diet along with invertebrates and small lizards.

Guests standing on the deck of Tent 2 before breakfast one morning, looking out over the floodplain, were lucky enough to notice a pair of aardvark disappearing into a palm island. It seemed to be a mother and her young judging by the size difference between the two animals. This is one of the hardest animals to see due to their secretive habits and the unsociable hours they keep, often only beginning a night’s foraging around 22h00 or 23h00.

Another great sighting was the congregation of more than a thousand zebra on a floodplain south of camp, accompanied by wildebeest and tsessebe. The first zebra foals have been seen among the herds, staying very close to their mothers, apart from when the excitement of four new legs becomes too much.

For the birders we had many exciting events this month, with “fishing parties” at the top of the list. As the floodwaters recede, many fish are trapped in small pools providing an easy meal for many bird species. The small pool creates a feeding frenzy as many bird species, including Pink-backed and White Pelicans, Marabou, Saddle-billed and Yellow-billed Storks chase the fish into the shallows, squabbling and fighting over their catches. Great photographic opportunities!

The first summer migrants have arrived and none more noticeable than the Woodland Kingfisher. This beautiful turquoise kingfisher, which eats small frogs and insects, not fish, inhabits the woodland where it can be heard making its unmistakable call. Other colourful migrants making their first appearances are European and Carmine Bee-eaters, Wahlberg’s Eagles and Yellow-billed Kites. Recent sightings include Marico Sunbirds, Palm Swifts, Broad-billed Rollers, Scaly-feathered Finches and, along the water’s edge, White-browed and Black Coucals, Slaty Egrets and Black-crowned Night Herons.

Six new lions arrived in the area this week – great news for Moa’s Lion Monitoring Programme. Whisker patterns are used to identify individuals, and comparisons with animals on records confirmed that these lions had never been seen before at Tubu. The first pride of three females - one adult and two sub-adults - were found sleeping one morning in the southern part of the concession; later that night they brought down a young wildebeest. The excited guests watched in fascination as a male lion appeared out of the darkness followed by two adult females. The late arrivals chased off the three females, the male declaring his rights to the kill with loud roars. We hope to see more of these lions in the months to come.

We look forward to having you here with us at Tubu.
Tubu Greetings!
Anton and Carrie

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Jacana Camp update - Oct 05               Jump to Jacana Camp
Water, water…still everywhere, but boats cannot be driven. The floodwaters have receded rapidly this month, with the effect that within the first week, all the motorised boats have had to be taken out. The water was at that stage where boating is not possible and driving is difficult. The crossings over to Jacana have now settled and we are no longer ‘submarining’ our Land Rovers to get there. Luckily no-one got stuck as lots of sand has filtered into the deeper spots.

Mokoro trips are of course still very busy, with hundreds of birds moving into the ever-increasing shallows around camp. A large flock of Spur-winged Geese has been camping in front of the lodge and can be seen feeding madly in the shallows. On one occasion, an African Fish Eagle almost collided with one as he tried to swoop down and catch a fish, much to the fright of the goose! A couple of Striped Kingfishers and lots of Little Bee-eaters are hanging around as well. A treat for now is the sighting of sitatunga on several occasions. This will be more frequent as the water drops and they become more mobile. Pel's Fishing Owl is also around and has been sighted right here in camp a few times.

Elephants are ever frequent in camp, but it seems Jack has moved south to better food. He did eat everything here after all. A few new chaps are hanging around. One little guy is really cheeky and snapped off a Tikki Lantern at ground level, right in front of us. He did it out of pure mischief.

Lions have been seen sleeping, mating, sleeping, mating, and more sleeping. Two new big males have been camping on the Jao and Kwetsani floodplains. The more dominant one has enjoyed the attentions of the lady that frequents the area. This must be very tiring, as he is mostly seen sleeping. Leopard have been calling near to camp and have been seen occasionally out on drive. One female seems to be heavy with milk and quite possibly has cubs hidden in a thicket. A very special cat sighting was that of an African wildcat carrying a kitten in broad daylight to a more secluded spot. She obviously thought the helicopter landing area was a little close for comfort.

Out on the plains, the numbers of lechwe are diminishing as they follow the water. Many are arriving at Jacana and will provide awesome viewing in the next months. A few giraffe are ambling about and more and more big buffalo bulls are wallowing in the muddy areas or grazing in the shallows. The usual residents: zebra, wildebeest, tsessebe and impala can be seen lazily grazing and herding on the plains

Temperatures are soaring up to 40° Celsius and the humidity is increasing slightly. The last week has delighted everybody with a few clouds sprouting up in the afternoon sky.

November is here and we look forward to Bana Ba Naga (Children in the Wilderness) at the end of the month.

Cheers,
Vonan & Chez
The Jacana Management Team

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Chitabe update - Oct 05               Jump to Chitabe Camp
In October the landscapes alter dramatically as you traverse the concession - the woodlands to the east are tinder dry, the gnarled branches of the Acacias lifted to the sky as if in supplication for rain. In contrast, Marula, Sausage and Knobthorn trees are starting to show new leaves in anticipation of summer. To the west nearer the Santantadibe River, a greener picture emerges, as the waters have not fully retreated. In the area that burned last month, a vast swathe of new grass shoots spreads out towards the channel.

As to be expected, there was a lot of animal activity on the fringes of the retreating channel systems - the only place where water is available, although it is fast dwindling.

The pools of water in the channel west of the camp have been a focal point for thirsty elephants, and every day we saw dozens of them coming down to drink, bathe and have a dust bath before setting off in their eternal quest to satisfy their enormous appetites. The plunge pool in the camp has been a favourite watering hole for our resident baboon troop, and their antics have been extremely amusing to watch in the afternoons, as the youngsters tussle amongst each other, carefully watched by their mothers and the large male guardians.

Seven female lions and their nine cubs killed an impala ram close to the camp one night, and then a couple of nights later killed a zebra on the open area within sight of Chitabe Trails. Ebs had anticipated them ambushing a herd of zebra heading for the water, and true to form, it happened right in front of him and his guests.

We also had some wonderful wild dog sightings - one afternoon they caught and killed an impala, and while their attention was diverted as they called their cubs to the kill, a hyaena arrived on the scene to try his luck. When confronting a large but lone opponent like a hyaena, the dogs use their superior speed and numbers to harass the intruder - biting at the hindquarters and keeping up the chase until it eventually gives up - in this case, across a water channel. In another instance, the wild dogs were relaxing after a morning hunt when a male lion picked up their scent. He burst out of the woodland where he had been lying and ran after the pack, but fortunately they had heard his approach and made off at top speed with no injuries sustained. They must still remember their last run-in with the lions that left two of them injured - one without an ear.

Out in the dry Acacia woodland on the way to the Gomoti Channel, a dead elephant was the scene of many other interactions between two prides of lions, a clan of hyaena and of course jackals and vultures.

One afternoon, Ben found a leopard in a compromising position up a skinny tree as a herd of elephants browsed casually around it. The leopard had rushed up the nearest tree to avoid the elephants - unfortunately it wasn't the sturdiest tree, and as the giant pachyderms obliviously browsed away, the cat struggled to maintain a dignified position above them! Ebs found a shy male leopard with a kill in the Maun Road area - and we believe he is a newcomer to the territory. Phinley found a leopard female on an impala kill, and we have the feeling that she might be hiding a cub somewhere in the Maun road area.

Cheetah sightings have been scarce this month, considering the extreme dryness and lack of vegetation, but Phinley found a family group of four one morning, hunting near the Gomoti. Closer in from there, Ebs found two in the Balance Plant area. At the beginning of the month, Relax and his guests were fortunate enough to observe an entire hunt, from stalk to kill, as a female cheetah brought down an Impala in a cloud of dust … the only actual kill sequence seen over the course of the month.

The weather has been typical for October, which is extremely hot and dry, although the maximum temperatures recorded were not as high as in previous years. The average highs stayed around 35°C, while the lows hovered around the 21° mark. On some days we had cloud cover bringing welcome relief from the heat, and some clouds even appeared to be bearing rain, although this must have been deposited elsewhere.

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Savuti Camp update - Oct 05               Jump to Savuti Camp
Hot, dry and dusty is the best description for Savuti this month. Temperatures have soared and the average maximum has been around the 40°C mark. The pool has been a very popular spot during the afternoon siesta period.

Game however has been unbelievable with sightings of all the predators being regularly recorded and elephant numbers still as abundant as usual. The waterhole has provided some spectacular sundowner opportunities in the hide, when gin and tonics are shared with hundreds of elephants drinking, bathing and splashing within a stone’s throw.

Well over 1000 elephants are drinking at the waterhole during the course of the day at the moment. We have been lucky enough to have had an elephant birth near Tent # 6, and the young calf was seen stumbling around following its mother near the waterhole. We have also had a number of visits from our blind elephant bull “Ray Charles”, who keeps us all busy by utilising any plumbing pipe that he can find for his watering needs!

The elephants have also been watched by other animals in the Savuti area and we have been witness to three elephant calves that have been killed by spotted hyaena in the last month. The first sighting was on the first of the month when the Camp Clan pulled down a small elephant calf in the early hours of the morning, at the camp waterhole.

One of the most dramatic sightings this month was the rescue of an elephant calf by a herd after it was attacked by a hyaena clan numbering around 20. The guides found a lone elephant cow trying to protect her calf which was being held down by the hyaenas. The elephant cow could not make any headway, because as she would chase one away there would be another to come in and take hold of the calf. During this incident the noise levels were astounding with the elephant cow screaming and trumpeting in anger and the little calf squealing with fear. As the guides watched, a herd, attracted by the commotion, approached; then as a unit they ran in chasing off the hyaenas. The cow and calf were then kept protected in the middle of the group as they all moved into the woodland away from the scene. The guests and guides sat there amazed at the how the herd had come in and saved the calf from certain death and had done so, so quickly.

The leopard sightings this month have been amazing. The most common sightings have been of the Manchwe Female and her 7-month-old cub, who have their territory centred around Savuti Camp. During the month the only large trees that have had a good leaf covering have been the Sausage Trees (Kigelia africana). This has also been the tree around which we have the majority of our sightings: the female leopard utilises the tree as hunting platform. With the dark red flowers falling to the ground and attracting impala she patiently waits while the prey come to her, before dropping out of the tree onto the selected victim. The hunting method seems to be one that is employed all over the Delta, with reports from other camps of leopards doing the same thing. We have also been seeing the Rock Pan Female to the east of camp and the Chobe 1 Female and cub up near the river.

The Savuti lion pride has been concentrating its activities along the Linyanti River with the best sighting being of the pride feeding on a giraffe that they chased into the water. The three cubs are all still healthy and the females taking good care of them. We also had a sighting of two new males who killed a buffalo calf just north of the airstrip, one of them being very nervous and moving off almost immediately.

The wild dog packs have also been a regular sighting this month with the Savuti trio being seen around the camp and waterhole quite regularly, often entertaining guests in the hide when they come to drink in the late afternoon. The larger pack has been seen patrolling the riverine area and they seem to be doing very well, being seen on a number of kills ranging from warthog to impala and red lechwe. They have managed to keep all the pups for the month and the pack now numbers 23, with twelve adult dogs and eleven pups.

General game has been fantastic with large herds of zebra visiting the waterhole in the morning along with kudu, wildebeest, impala, warthog and baboon. We have also been lucky enough to have had regular sightings of the herd of roan antelope which frequent the road from the airstrip. Early one morning the guests were treated to a small herd of eland, which are the largest antelope species in Botswana, come down to drink at the waterhole. These antelope are not often seen in the Savuti area but the dry season has forced them to come in search of water.

Birding is always good and a large number of raptors are being seen in the Channel. We have also had some new arrivals with the Ostrich pairs all running around with clutches of new chicks. There has also been the return of some of the migratory species with sightings of Broad-billed Roller, European Bee-eater, Wahlberg’s Eagle and the stunning Carmine Bee-eaters.

Well, we have seen the first traces of the rainy season approaching, with huge cloud banks building up on the eastern horizon and all of us at Savuti waiting expectantly for the first big drops of rain to signal the end of a long hot dry season and the beginning of summer.

Regards,
Thuto, Kane and Emmanuel, Matthew, Cristeen, Thuto and Canius.

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Kwetsani update - Oct 05               Jump to Kwetsani Camp
This month at Kwetsani we received the most amazing guest. She did not arrive for a visit - it seems she intends to stay. She has made her home in a termite mound under the walkways, and on really hot days we get to see her basking her body at the entrance to the hole. Yes you have guessed correctly we have a beautiful Southern African Python living on the camp island.

The resident lioness seems to have settled down with the two brother lions that have moved into the territory. She has been mating with both but seems to favour the larger one. The slightly smaller male has taken quite a beating from his brother and carries some impressive battle scars. If the mating was a success then we should hopefully see lion cubs around beginning of February. Let’s hope that the males hang around and these babies may have a chance to survive.

Other notable mammal happenings have been very good sightings of a particularity beautiful female leopard around the Jao floodplains and tracks of a male have been seen close to Kwetsani Island. The big herds of zebra are returning to the area, as well as the wildebeest, providing some fantastic photo opportunities. We have also been fortunate to see buffalo on many of the night drives; they are moving around the outskirts of Kwetsani Island. Giraffe sightings have also been good, with a baby as well.

In the fig tree above the Kwetsani camp deck, two Meyer’s Parrots have settled and look like they will be nesting in one of the cavities here. The male weavers are in full swing getting their nests ready for the females. The only time they stop for a break is to steal the bread from the brunch buffet table.

Many of the baboons have very small babies at the moment and we never tire of seeing the small ones learning how to feed, climb and play with the other babies. The 1-year-old youngsters, born last year, are having a hard time as some of the older males in the troop are teaching them baboon manners and their mothers are not around to protect them any more. They have learned how to open the taps in the outdoor showers and visit regularly for a cool drink of water. They unfortunately do not know how to switch the taps off…

As far as temperatures are concerned, we are hitting the low 40°C (early 100s Fahrenheit) and many hours are spent in the swimming pool. At the end of the month we had our first few drops of much-needed rain. Great excitement!

The staff at Kwetsani are in full practice for the Christmas party that is coming up at the end of November; we have our costumes for the choir competition. We are also practicing every afternoon for the soccer game and are sure that we will win the match. Will let you know how it goes…

Regards from Kwetsani pool!

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Kings Pool update - Oct 05               Jump to Kings Pool Camp
October is traditionally the hottest month of the year but also one of the best for game viewing. The reason is not that the temperatures are higher than the other summer months, but that we don't have the clouds and rain relief that is experienced later in the summer. Consider that we are now at our driest and then add in the heat, you will understand that the wildlife starts to experience difficulties with regards to finding enough food and relief from the heat. This results in the animals concentrating closer to the water and not venturing as far afield during cooler days.

Seeing a mature elephant lying down is fairly unusual in most parts of their range but up here in the Linyanti, at this time of the year, it is a daily event. When returning from the morning game drives you will see these huge animals clustered together in the shade of trees, with some in the horizontal position!

There also seems to be an increase in the amount of elephant births taking place, with one being witnessed by a very fortunate group of guests. Unfortunately with the added burden of feeding their young, some of the female elephants are not coping and as quickly as some of the babies are entering the world they are departing. However sad this may seem, it is providing the predators and scavengers with easy meals.

Whether there is a link or not, I am not sure, but we are also seeing an increase in young from the predators and for example, on one game drive, the Kings Pool guests were treated to lions with cubs, a cheetah and cub, as well as a leopard with her cub. While on the subject of elephants and predators there have been some unusual sightings, such as when a mature bull elephant died in the river and we witnessed as many as 20 crocodiles, some in excess of 16 feet, make short work of the carcass. There was also a young elephant that died near the sunken hide and, instead of the guests watching elephants coming down to drink, they watched eight hyaena clean up the carcass to the point where all that was left was a dark stain on the ground. Another indicator of the heat is seeing up to 12 hyaena wallowing in the pan at the sunken hide, during the middle of the day.

We have been very fortunate this month as far as sightings of the high profile animals are concerned with totals of 45 lion sightings, 42 sightings of leopard (sometime 3 different leopards seen on a single game drive) and 14 sightings of wild dogs, all occurring between the 25th of September and the 25th of October. One of the special leopard sightings was on the 24th of this month when a female leopard, known as the Boscia Female, introduced her new cub to us and our guests.

The 23rd of October was a big day for us as we had our first raindrops fall from the heavens. It was not enough to wet the ground but it certainly was a hint of the relief and rejuvenation to come. The next report will HOPEFULLY be about the good rains that we in the Linyanti are experiencing.

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DumaTau update - Oct 05               Jump to DumaTau Camp
Although we were bracing ourselves for the hottest and driest month of the year, the heat was somewhat less than what we expected with an average max/min of 37°C and 20°C. However, the dryness is relentless with the last rains having fallen in April this year and even at the time of writing - early November - we still eagerly await our first rains. However nature continues her course and even without any rains, the Mopane scrub that looked like it would never grow again has just started sprouting its new leaves.

Of course the dry conditions have resulted in some awesome game viewing, with wildlife concentrated around the permanent waters of the Linyanti river/lagoon system situated in front of our camp. The species diversity of our wildlife sightings remain spectacular and for the month have included the following: lion, leopard, cheetah, caracal, African wildcat, wild dogs, spotted hyaena, elephant, buffalo, zebra, giraffe, blue wildebeest, roan antelope, sable, black-backed jackal, bat-eared fox, aardwolf, porcupine, greater kudu, red lechwe, impala, crocodile, warthog, eland, ostrich, baboon, tsessebe, Wattled Crane, Martial Eagle, Giant Eagle Owl, Kori Bustard, vervet monkey, lesser bushbaby, southern African python, snouted cobra, black mamba, and variegated bush snake.

The sheer number of elephant in our area remain awesome and their stress levels are clearly visible as a result of their depleted food resources, however the rains are expected any day now, upon which the breeding herds would head out into the Mopane forests, no longer dependant upon the permanent Linyanti waters as the rains will bring long awaited relief in the form of surface water to the many pans in the area.

During October, we enjoyed spectacular and numerous wild dog sightings of the now awesome pack of 23 dogs (12 adults and 11 pups). The pups are now old enough to actively participate in the hunt and with such a large pack, they often kill twice a day, providing for a feast of sightings for our overwhelmed guests. Probably the wildlife sighting for the month was seeing the dogs in camp during early morning breakfast chasing an impala, which ran underneath the boardwalk of our dinning room with the dogs in hot pursuit. The impala was then chased into the lagoon in front of our camp and whilst the dogs were pondering their next move on the bank, two crocodiles suddenly appeared out of nowhere to grab and drown the rather unfortunate antelope before devouring it. The dogs were not at all impressed but our guests were totally amazed - what an incredible sighting. Our guests have also witnessed some very interesting interactions between wild dogs and hyaena as well as wild dogs and leopard - all competing for the same tasty food resource of usually impala or kudu.

The three remaining lion cubs are doing well and are regularly seen together with the two lionesses taking care of them (two of the cubs perished with one being taken by a leopard). The four dominant male lions in our area might soon face a tough challenge with the news that a coalition of 6 young males has just entered our area. A major showdown is therefore imminent. The fantastic and well known brotherhood of two cheetah (the 3rd perished some months ago of suspected snake bite) are looking awesome and are also regularly seen in our area. Our leopard sightings for the month have also been phenomenal with good sightings virtually every day.

As we now anxiously await the coming rains, the familiar and most beautiful sound of the Woodland Kingfisher has again suddenly arrived - a sure sign of the changing seasons at DumaTau. Regardless of season, this truly remains an amazing place to be.

Linyanti Greetings
IAN & THE DUMATAU TEAM

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Jack's and San Camps update - Oct 05               Jump to Jack's and San Camps
October is sky-watching month - not the usual night star-watch, but daytime cloud watch! Soaring temperatures and a parched earth make us all look forward to the first thunderstorms, and the rumbles of thunder, although threatening, are so welcome.

Mid?month and the seriously nocturnal witnessed an exciting battle between a lioness and a porcupine in our kitchen! While we can only speculate as to what actually happened, the scattered quills tell a tale of a wounded lion. We suspect the tracks belong to the lioness regularly seen at the Jack's waterhole during the latter part of September and early October. During the month on more than one occasion guides met up with cattle post owners looking for lion. Armed and accompanied by tracker dogs, the cattle post owners are understandably irate at the loss of their cows, and intent on shooting the culprit. While fences in Botswana remain an emotive topic, we hope that the thoughtful positioning of the fence around the Makgadikgadi will prevent this sort of thing happening, and satisfy both the cattle owners and those of us interested in the preservation of wildlife and the environment. For unexplained reasons the case against the person accused of gin-trapping and killing two lionesses with cubs in July was dropped and his gin traps returned to him. Not only two reproductive females, but the cubs, too young to survive on their own, are now no longer part of the already small Makgadikgadi lion population.

Glyn Maude, busy with a brown hyaena project in the Makgadikgadi, estimates that at least 5 browns are caught for every lion - a serious impact on two carnivore populations already challenged by the harsh environment. This month saw an exciting first for Glyn ? Randall Moore of Elephant Back Safaris very generously allowed Hal Bowker to fly his light aircraft to the Makgadikgadi and Hal and Glyn did the first moonlight flights tracking browns! The reflection at full moon being so luminous off the pans, the two took off at around 11pm and flew till the early hours of the morning, both of them just blown away by the experience!

No rain yet, although the cloud build-up is promising.

Raptor sightings in September were very good ? Martial Eagles, Pale and Dark Chanting Goshawks and Black-shouldered Kites were regularly sighted, and the birding guests at Jack?s at the time shared our excitement at the first Yellow-billed Kites of the season. The spectacular flight of the Bateleur Eagle is a sight that has thrilled many, and this September, it was as though the species had arranged an air show in front of our mess tent. Graham had an excellent sighting of a Black-chested Snake Eagle ? the still-bare trees enabling really good photographs. It is always gratifying when guests return from a game drive with good shots, and particularly now that digital enables them to share with those of us in camp.

Quad biking remained a very popular activity and it always gains a special position in our guiding as we realise the first clouds signify the season drawing to a close. As Jack?s has become busier, we have had to become even more conscious of the need to preserve the incredibly fragile environment to which we are lucky enough to have access. With the onset of the rains, as we have to stop quadding, the pans can have a well-earned rest. However, as with so many things, new possibilities appear on the horizon and our thoughts turn to zebras and the Makgadikgadi National Park - 4 900 square kilometres of pristine pan and grassland we are fortunate enough to have on our doorstep.

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South Africa camps
Rocktail Bay Dive Report - Oct 05                  Jump to Rocktail Bay Lodge
The first ragged tooth sharks of the season have been sighted! On the morning of the 2nd October, Maria and Alistair were enjoying a wonderful dive at Regal Reef when they briefly spotted the first raggie, although there was much debate over breakfast as to whether it was a raggie or not. The second dive of the day was at Pineapple Reef and we all gathered to watch the potato bass. I pulled on the buoy line, making a sharp noise, which gets these curious fish very interested in what is happening. We were watching a couple of bass on one side and as I turned to my right I saw a big smile looking right at me – it was the unmistakable smile of a raggie! I stopped pulling the line and we all hovered motionless as she slowly swam past. There was then a flurry of excited “shark” hand signals exchanged between us all. Alistair was right, after seeing this raggie up close and personal, he confirmed that they had seen a raggie on the first dive!

Another first of the season – a leatherback nest! While we were diving at Aerial, Darryl saw the tracks on the shore from the boat and when we got back to the beach we went to have a closer look. These turtles can grow up to 2 metres in length and can weigh up to 1 ton. This female was definitely a good size judging by the width of her tracks on the beach. We saw her nest site on the morning of the 15th October, which is the ‘official’ start of the nesting season. The following day was also very exciting as we saw a leatherback turtle swimming on the surface; this does not happen often as they are very secretive and normally live at depths of up to 1000 metres, only coming back to the same beach to lay their eggs. Could it be the same female whose nest we had seen the day before?

The female loggerhead turtles also lay their eggs on these beaches. As predicted, the male turtles start to become more interested in females at this time of year – they don’t even seem to mind if the females are not of the turtle variety! Leza had a very close encounter midmonth. She had surfaced with a diver and still had a lot of time left to dive, so decided to descend and join the rest of the dive group. As she was making her way down the reef she got that feeling that something was behind her, she turned and sure enough there was a very large loggerhead turtle. She stopped and watched it come closer and closer, quite intrigued she started to stroke its shell, and then advanced to tickling its neck as it snuggled in closer seeming to love the attention. Leza then noticed that it was a male and upon seeing the glint in his eyes, was suddenly not so sure of his intentions! The turtle then did its best to get behind her, as she did her best to keep him at bay! An awkward situation was avoided as the rest of the divers interrupted their romantic interlude! Leza … no more stroking the male turtles!

The potato bass also try to get as much attention as possible - especially the gang at Pineapple Reef. The Naeser family were all doing their PADI Advanced Course and had split up into teams to do their navigation, where part of the training is to ensure that one can follow a compass bearing. Wendy had her eyes down on the compass and Glynn was looking ahead for any obstacles. Little did he realise that a potato bass could become an obstacle - they certainly can! Not wanting to be left out of the fun and games, one of the middle-sized potato bass had decided to join in! We kept swimming forward as he back-pedalled, trying to see what Wendy was watching so intently on her wrist! Very well done to Glynn, Wendy, Alice, Devon and Claude for completing your Advanced course, despite the obstacles! Congratulations also go out to Wayee and Ethan, who completed their PADI Open Water course here at Rocktail, with the same crazy potato bass!

The 22nd October was a day not to be forgotten. The first dive site was Yellowfin Drop. We saw a big school of blue banded snappers, huge painted crayfish, anemones, potato bass and a big green turtle sleeping under a ledge. Kate and Steven ascended first and got a special treat. Darryl had seen a whale shark and told them to get fins and masks on. Steven had never seen a whale shark before and after hearing that they are harmless, plankton feeders, he bravely got in to snorkel with this 8-metre giant. As more of the divers ascended and heard the news, the excitement grew. The last divers up were Andrew and Clive, who had just seen a blacktip shark at the end of the dive. On hearing that there was a whale shark around, they quickly clambered on the boat, getting ready for the chance to snorkel with it. We drove a short distance when Darryl signalled for everyone to get ready. In we went and everyone got the chance to see the whale shark! Back on the boat we realised that it was not the same one Steven had seen as this one had a big bite out of the top of its caudal (tail) fin.

The second dive was at Elusive where we got to watch a green turtle munching away on seaweed, without even taking notice of us; we hovered for ages watching it. There were also honeycomb eels, devil firefish, scorpion fish, clown triggerfish, paperfish and Homer, the potato bass to keep everyone enthused. Upon surfacing Clive told us that he had seen yet another whale shark – that’s 3 in one day! But he had also been watching humpback whales and we had the chance to see them as well. As we were heading back towards Island Rock we could see the splashes of white water. We stopped the boat and watched in awe as 3 humpback whales put on a performance of note. The biggest of the three was tail-slapping the water and performing ‘backward breaches’ if one can call them that. It would flick its tail out of the water, followed by half its body, flinging itself sideways before crashing down. In amongst all of this we also saw a pod of bottlenose dolphins, which seemed to be hanging around the whales. What a day! Everyone joked and wondered what else they could see to top such an incredible day - perhaps a couple of rays would be nice! Well, surprise, surprise, the following day delivered exactly that! The morning dive at Regal Reef produced countless rays and to round off another special day a dive at Pineapple Reef gave all the divers the chance to see a beautiful leopard shark.

“ABSOLUTELY AMAZING. Thanks to all for the great holiday. Great skipper, great crew, great diving. Thanks.” -Andrew, Steven, Kate and 2 Dive Di!

We wonder what next month will bring!
Till then, kindest regards,
The Rocktail Bay Dive Team
Darryl, Clive, Michelle

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Pafuri Camp (northern Kruger) Newsletter - Oct 05                  Jump to Pafuri Camp
Although October has been a very hot and mainly dry month, it has also been a very exciting one. Over the last two months we have all watched with bated breath as the Luvuvhu River slowly diminished, until in front of camp it had completely disappeared, leaving only small shallow pools here and there along its course and leaving the wildlife it supports in despair. But that all changed on the 26th of the month. We awoke to a cold overcast day with lots of drizzle in the air and the beautiful Luvuvhu River flowing once again. Apparently it had rained non-stop for two days in the Soutpansberg Mountains and the Makhado area, bringing in the cooler weather and allowing the waters of the Luvuvhu to flow our way. The atmosphere was unbelievable as everything suddenly seemed to come back to life. From the main deck we watched a breeding pair of Fish Eagles calling excitedly as they hunted for the fish that came down with the river. Nyala, impala, bushbuck and kudu drank peacefully from the river bank. Two or three ellies couldn’t resist getting into the river and spraying water over themselves.

Mammal sightings
Large breeding herds of elephant have moved back into the area and are seen regularly in the Fever tree forest and to the west of camp along the Luvuvhu. One breeding herd was estimated at about 110 altogether including young bulls and some very young babies. Breeding herds of buffalo are also seen regularly throughout the region. A large herd of up to 300 animals was recorded as well as some smaller ones ranging from about 60 to a 100 individuals in the herds.
We had three sightings of eland herds this month, one a herd about 25 animals which were seen near Lanner Gorge. The second sighting was of just two animals and in the third, 17 animals were recorded.

The day-to-day sightings include large groups of nyala, impala, kudu, waterbuck, chacma baboon and vervet monkey, as well as bushbuck and warthog. Regular sightings of Burchell’s zebra and blue wildebeest are being had away from the river.

Spotted hyaena were surprisingly recorded only twice in the area this month and a much less common carnivore in the Kruger, the aardwolf, was also seen on two separate occasions. African civet, large and small spotted genet, were seen regularly throughout the area. Leopard sightings were also scarce with just two individuals seen, although the presence of tracks indicate the activities of a female with cub to the west of the camp and another female to the east.

We were pleased to keep tabs on the local lion population this month and had 13 sightings of lion. The largest pride seen was west of the camp along the Luvuvhu River and consisted of nine individuals: 2 males, 2 females, and 5 cubs (3 of four months and 2 of six months). My wife, Colleen and I had an unusual sighting when waking one morning to find a large lioness and her three cubs lying not far from our bedroom window.

Bird sightings
Once again birding throughout the area has been exceptional. We recorded 217 different species this month. Those seen for the first time this month are: Barn Swallow, Ayres’ and Booted Eagle, Black-crowned Night-Heron, Black Sparrowhawk, Lesser Moorhen, African Finfoot, Black-winged Stilt, White-fronted Plover, Jacobin Cuckoo, as well as Red-chested and Great-spotted Cuckoos, Southern Carmine Bee-eater, Coqui Francolin and Spur-winged Goose.

We have also had some excellent sightings of Pels’ Fishing Owls and other regional specials this month.

Climate
Min average temperature: 21.3°C (lowest 18°C)
Max average temperature: 42.8°C (highest 45°C)
Rain: 0.5mm which fell on one day of overcast weather on the 26th with lots of drizzle in the air.

Geoff Mullen

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Namibia camps
Palmwag Rhino Camp update - Oct 05               Jump to Palmwag Rhino Camp
This month, things have heated up a bit, so the vegetation is drying out rapidly. The general game is diminishing around camp as the last grass is drying up and blowing away. Game sightings are still good as the zebra, gemsbok and springbok are concentrating around the nearby Salvadora Spring, the Camp Spring as well as Zebra Spring.

A pride of lions settled around Groot Achab Spring for two weeks, and were seen regularly in the mornings and afternoons. There were at least three males and two females. A cub of three months and a cub of three weeks were also seen one evening, at the edge of a Tamarisk thicket at the same (Groot Achab) spring.

Lion sightings and a leopard sighting were also had at Salvadora spring. One cheetah sighting was made by Ernest Machengete, our temporary Zimbabwean guide.

Rhino sightings remained good. ‘Tina’ and her calf were seen regularly around Wereldsend spring as well as a young bull called ‘Micro’. ‘Dyana’ and her calf were often encountered north-west of the Groot Achab spring. The dominant black rhino bull ‘Ben’ was seen at both Groot Achab, Koabes springs and the plains north-west of Rhino Camp. ‘Speedy’ the bull was seen high up in the hills between camp and Koabes Spring. And don’t worry, the old bull was seen east of Wereldsend spring. One sighting was made of the Uniab bull, also known as ‘Getaway’, at Groen Fontein.

Some elephant bulls were seen sporadically. There was the occasional sighting of the broken-eared, one-eyed cow and her offspring at Koabes Spring and Uniab River. The Koabes bull and the one tusker was also seen. The Koabes bull, now teamed up with a young askari, was moving up and down the Achab River. The bigger breeding herds were only seen once or twice at Two Palms.

By Chris Bakkes

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Ongava Tented Camp update - Oct 05               Jump to Ongava Tented Camp
WOW, spring is here! The changes are magnificent. The Mopane trees have burst into leaf, casting off their drab winter look and changing the veld into a virtual garden overnight. The grasses remain unchanged creating a gold coloured lawn under the beautiful green Mopane trees. Time will come in January when the big rains commence, when the grasses will change the landscape into an English country garden (well, almost…).

The birds herald spring with song and ensure that no one can get a late lie-in in the mornings. The hyraxes seem to be full of vigour climbing the trees to get at the new, fresh, succulent buds and leaves, gorging themselves until they resemble their distant cousins, the elephants.

Big, puffy, cotton wool white-grey clouds start filling the blue skies hinting that the first “small” rains are on their way. Temperatures are soaring well into the 40s making the swimming pool the place to be. Consumption of the local brews escalates as the cold liquid bites the back of the throat in an attempt to quench one’s thirst. Hot stuff this.

The waterhole in camp keeps surprising us all with the amount of animals coming in to drink. Brown and spotted hyaenas have made their appearances as have leopard and cheetah. ‘Stompie’, our resident lioness and her pride made a kill of a waterbuck cow in front of the waterhole before dinner one evening, scattering all the guests as the cow, attempting to outrun the lioness, almost ploughed into the barrier in front of the lapa where they were standing. The cow was eventually ambushed by another lioness, two metres in front of Tent 7, putting an end to the chase. Dinner was cold but the memories will linger on.

Cheetahs with their kills on the plains outside of camp keep one and all captivated: Truly magnificent animals and excellent sightings indeed as they are rarely seen on Ongava. In Etosha itself plains animals still abound at the waterholes in their hundreds, only to be chased off by large herds of elephant in search of relief from the unrelenting heat and thirst. Mud baths and mud splashing change the elephants’ colour from grey to white as the limestone mud dries on their wrinkled skin, creating an eerie ghostly atmosphere as they silently move off in search of food and shade, thirst slaked. A pride of lions near the Newbronni waterhole have made two road culverts their den, only to come out in the early evening to hunt and to retreat again by mid-morning to escape the heat of the day: Shade, plenty food on the hoof and fresh water within 100 metres. Tough life indeed!

Marabou Storks, White-backed and Lappet-faced Vultures circle the updrafts, eyeing out the latest feline kill. Martial Eagles perch in the trees seeking out some unsuspecting prey as the Black Eagles soar above the kopjes waiting for a hyrax to drop its vigilance before swooping down. White-browed Sparrow Weavers are fervently building new nests; previous year’s nests now hang dull brown and derelict. Melba Finches hop amongst the grass whilst the Harvester ants collect grass seeds, discarding the chaff outside of their nest. Insects abound as the warmth heralds a new season. Truly magnificent.

The campfire crackles; smoke wafting through the budding trees as the Double-banded Sandgrouse take their last drink in the twilight of the evening ends another perfect month in paradise … Ongava.

Some guest comments on our camp:
Excellent food, superb and friendly management team, top class guides, very high standard, feels like home, dealt with our dietary needs creatively, personal service excellent, we want to come back, we do not want to leave, activities are very good with lots of interesting little activities in between, wonderful camp food don’t know how you can do it…

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