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North Island in the Seychelles
North Island Dive Report - Sep 05 Jump
to North Island
This time of the year is so interesting in that a clear change
in weather and sea conditions is seen around North Island. The
south-east winds seem to be coming to an end, which of course means
clear, calm seas for us. Low tide at West Beach has exposed some
interesting formations (see below) and the leaves of the wild almonds
(Badamiers) have turned a deep pink colour, lending an autumnal
air to our tropical island.
Life on the reefs is already looking different with the sprats
gone and various other types of fish now seen. All the rays have
literally grown up and left as well, so, now, when we do see them
from time to time, they will be quite a bit bigger and more impressive!
The Annerdale Wreck is proving to be more and more interesting.
Three Brindle Bass fish of approximately 200kg were seen there
on the last dive. They seem to be quite curious, following the
divers around throughout their dive. The wreck has been down at
the bottom of the sea for about 35 years, providing a huge artificial
reef. Different types of shark are sighted there on most dives,
proving that this is a very healthy marine environment!
All in all, we’re learning
a lot. We have lots to look forward to in the busy season coming
All the best,
Linkwasha update - Sep 05 Jump
to Linkwasha Camp
September has been a change from the more comfortable temperatures we
have been used to, with it being, to put it mildly 'RATHER WARM'. Temperatures
have been high and midday has been a time to remain out of the sun and
cool off in the plunge pool! Evenings have been pleasant, cooling down
towards the early hours of the morning. It has been very windy on some
days, especially in the later part of the month, which has made keeping
guestrooms clean very difficult, as sandstorms swept into camp. On the
occasional morning, there has been some cloud, but these were burnt away
and vanished by midmorning by the scorching sun.
While we hold out much hope for this rainy season – and the signs
are there – currently the grass and ground cover in the wooded
areas has thinned out tremendously mainly because there is none left
on the plains. Animals are now resorting to eating more of the unpalatable
grasses. Many of the False Mopane trees are still nice and green and
are very welcome for the shade they provide. Animals must now venture
further and further into the wooded areas in search of food during the
day. On one occasion around the beginning of the month, we sat with lumps
in our throats when a herd of +- 500 buffalo came to drink at the front
pan - only to find mud as the elephant had drained it the night before.
But generally we are managing to keep up with the pumping of water for
the animals at the pans, for which we are so thankful!
September has been another good month for game viewing; we have had
loads of interesting and exciting experiences. The month started on a
high note when we discovered that one of three lionesses that we knew
were in the area had had three cubs and was seen at Scott's Pan one morning.
We were so excited, as these are the first little cubs that have been
recorded for this season! They seem to be doing very well and also looked
very well looked after. We have had some wonderful experiences with them,
spending many a game drive solely with them with a lot of good humour
with their playfulness. We are sure that they have been sired by one
of the four 'Ngamo Boys' as they had been seen mating on several occasions.
In general this month has been excellent all round and variety has been
a highlight. Quality sightings have been very good as far as the cats
go. We have had good sightings of almost all the cats: lion, leopard,
cheetah and African wildcat. One of the most memorable sightings was
when a leopard had been found that had killed a female ostrich that had
7 chicks. These were also the first ostrich chicks for the season and
although we felt for the ostrich family, the nights belong to the cats
and especially this time of the year survival is what counts. It got
even more interesting when two other leopard arrived hoping to get some
of the kill. It was also not long before some hyaena came along and with
their laughing voices and shady looks, took over and the leopard looked
on knowing it was best not to take on the hyaena which outnumbered them
White rhino sightings were rare as usual but were seen on one occasion.
There was also one sighting of a warthog that clearly had a run in with
a porcupine as it had some quills stuck in its stomach and other places
better not to mention! I think it is safe to say that they probably had
the same burrow in mind for spending the night...
It is still elephants galore here at Linkwasha, large numbers still
flocking to the waterholes and more than a hundred can still be seen
at a time. It has been a good month and we have had so much fun with
awesome sightings and all the guests that have visited here this month
have once again experienced this wonderful part of the world at its best.
On our best day we saw 24 different species.
This month we have had some of the summer visitors arrive such as the
Yellow-billed Kites and we are expecting quite a few of the others to
start coming in soon. We have had good sightings and this month has also
been the first for the ostrich chicks (there were initially about 12
chicks seen then later had gone down to 7 and then later still unfortunately
the mother was killed by a leopard and their numbers are currently down
to 3). We have also had some keen birders here this month and as with
most of our guests they develop a keen interest while on safari. Our
total bird count for this month was 115 species.
B & JS, U.S.A - 'This is a very special place! Big herds of animals
in one place. Best food, excellent lodge and great people, great fun'.
B & PA, U.S.A - 'Beautiful lodge, setting, animals, birds, you have
it all. Thank you so much for your kind hospitality'.
F & CD, U.S.A - 'Wonderful spot and fabulous animals, great hosts,
attentive staff and memories for a lifetime'
JB, U.S.A - 'Fantastic memories to take home and share with my family.
That is it for this month,
Willem and Trish
Makalolo update - Sep
to Makalolo Camp
started out with a strangely overcast afternoon, followed by a delicate
rain shower that barely dampened the ground. From then onwards, the days
progressively became warmer, searing to maximum temperatures of 38° Celsius.
Large clouds of suffocating smoke and thick-set haze obliterated views
across the plains and electrified the already static, dry air. In the evenings,
a smouldering glow from distant veld fires blazed and steadily crept across
the night sky horizon. Tumultuous dust devils wreaked havoc on the parched
surroundings - coiling fingers of unforgiving dehydrated air would snatch,
tumble, twist and spin scorched leaves, grasses, seed pods and sand along
their uncharted course. The aftermath was like that of a war-torn air invasion
- everything strewn haphazardly, covered in thick layers of sticky brown
dust and crushed debris!
Despite there not being a substantial amount of water available during
the dry season months, it seems that a metamorphosis has occurred, almost
overnight amongst the trees! Sprays of new green leaves have sprouted,
giving a lush appearance to Zimbabwe Teak, Ordeal, Silver Terminalia,
Ochna pulchra, Large False Mopane, Kudu-berry and Red Syringa trees.
Ordeal trees hang languidly; their branches are heavy with thick, sweet-smelling
cat-tail-like flowers. Silver Terminalia are also in bloom; their aroma
of sweaty socks blossoms waft in on the evening breezes. Remnants of
winter lie gathered at the feet of trees, like fallen heroes - the tousled,
crackling leaves provide a canopy of protection to nurture the new generation
in the hopes that they will emerge at the onset of the rainy season.
Waterholes are being pumped daily; our main aim is to try and keep up
with the supply and demand for the thirsty array of wildlife. The present
harsh and arid environment is taking its toll on the animals, and as
a result, they are becoming more reliant on our pumped water resources.
After a large elephant or buffalo herd calls in at a pan to drink, the
waterhole can end up looking like nothing other than a recuperating mud
This water has drawn an assortment of wildlife
to drink together at a pan and it is not surprising to see different
species congregated around a waterhole. This was the scenario at Ngweshla
- elephant, buffalo, zebra, giraffe, sable, roan, kudu and baboon were
all taking their turns at drinking, when a zebra happened to intercept
a grouchy old buffalo from moving into a vacant "cocktail space".
The angry buffalo flung the zebra, lifting if off the ground and for
a moment, it appeared as though the zebra was riding on the buffalo's
head! The zebra was then hurled into the air but landed safely on all
four hooves with a thud!
Swimming pools at both Makalolo and Little Makalolo are being used by
elephants as drinking troughs on a daily basis, resulting in our having
to refill the pools everyday. Herds of buffalo and sable have been seen,
their muzzles raised towards the elevated swimming pool, trying to catch
a whiff of unseen water, knowing it is beyond their reach. This heart-sore
sight encouraged staff to fill the empty fire pit below the swimming
pool with buckets of water in the hopes that some of these animals could
drink. The plan worked, but rather disappointingly for a troop of baboons!
Since then, the baboons have been courageous enough to venture onto the
steps of the swimming pool and help themselves!
In our Giraffe Springs concession, water is a limited resource and as
a result, many of the animals have left that area. It just so happened
that on a visit to the old camp, there was a young sable bull frequenting
the dry waterhole in front of camp. On witnessing the sable's predicament,
a clay flower pot was filled with bottled water and the attentive sable
was summoned and actually came to drink after being called in by whistling
Three large male lions have been making use of their newfound territory
at Makalolo. On one particular morning, we witnessed a rather dismal
scene that brought tears to our eyes. A sick elephant cow wandering alone
with her +/- 2-year-old calf had been seen supporting herself against
a tree. The lions had stumbled upon the elephant's misfortune and in
so doing, attacked her calf. They ripped off the little elephant's trunk
near the mouth and gouged out one of his eyes. His helpless mother fell
to the ground and died on her side. After feeding on the young elephant's
trunk, the lions rested in the shade of the Large False Mopane trees,
whilst the frightened elephant calf circled around his mother's dead
body, nudging at her with both his front and back feet in an attempt
to wake her up. He managed to eventually escape from the lions and was
seen the next day walking amongst a buffalo herd on his own. The following
day, we found the young elephant drowned in Little Somavundla pan. His
body was removed from the waterhole by our guides using ropes and a tractor;
thus saving the animals' drinking water from contamination. We left the
elephant carcass in an open area for the vultures to feed on.
On a happier note, leopard sightings have most
definitely topped the charts this month! A dead duiker was seen hanging
in a tree at Somavundla, but the shy leopard who'd intended to start
breakfast moved off rather quickly and didn't allow onlookers much
time to see him. The following day, three leopards were seen in the
same area – two of the leopards
who appeared to be a pair, were moving up and down a Leadwood tree, on
which they were hanging two duikers that they had killed earlier - one
of the leopards appeared to be very skittish indeed! The third leopard
seen that very same night was sprawled out on a branch of a Leadwood
tree, stretching and showing itself off to four game drive vehicles that
were able to see it clearly. Two days later, the Makalolo concession
boasted another four different leopard sightings: two were seen in the
morning running across the plains, with a black-backed jackal in hot
pursuit of them! That same evening, a leopard was seen at Little Mak
Pan and within that same time period, another leopard was seen drinking
at Madison Pan.
A total of 104 different bird species was seen in September. The change
of seasons is most apparent amongst the birds, as colourful arrays of
feathers flitter in bird baths and water sprays around the living area
of camp - Kurrichane Thrush, Green Woodhoopoe, Greater Honeyguide, Fork-tailed
Drongo, African Golden Oriole, Eastern Black-headed Oriole, Black-eyed
Bulbul, Bleating Warbler, White Helmetshrike, Violet-backed Starling,
Cape Glossy Starling, Amethyst Sunbird, Golden-breasted Bunting, Red-headed
Weaver and the occasional Little Banded Goshawk are the most frequently
seen birds in camp.
Some of our migratory birds have returned early - a pair of Hottentot
Teals was seen in the pan at Little Somavundla and later on in the month,
a White Stork was seen at Madison Pan.
The summery night sounds of White-faced Scops Owl, Pearl-spotted Owlets
and Fiery-necked Nightjars give us a touch of African bush nostalgia.
The waterholes have been inundated by Cape Turtle, Laughing, Namaqua
and Emerald-spotted Wood Doves - all wetting their beaks with a fair
share of sustenance!
A new entry on our bird sightings list this month was that of a Red-Necked
Falcon. On a drive at Little Somavundla, a dove hit the front of a game
drive vehicle and all of a sudden, a Red-Necked Falcon appeared from
seemingly nowhere, landing about 2 metres away from the vehicle! The
dove recovered and flew off, but the beady-eyed falcon pursued it and
eventually caught the helpless little bird in flight! Whilst still in
the air, the falcon carried its take-away, eating at the same time (nothing
quite like good food on the go). The falcon landed in a tree, dropped
the dove and flew off. Moments later, a Tawny Eagle flew in and ate the
And to end on another story of take-aways, a Martial Eagle was seen
bursting out of the branches of a Large False Mopane Tree near Little
Mak, clasping a springhare!
"What a wonderful camp to be at for our very first African safari.
The game was wonderful, the staff were kind and responsive, the experience
was more than we had wished" - M & CP, CANADA
"This was not only our group's last camp, but the crowning glory
of the whole trip for me. Thank you to the staff, cook and especially
the guides" - ES, USA
"We had a wonderful, relaxing time. The staff were excellent, friendly
and really made this place what it is. Our 5 year old, Audrey, was treated
especially well. She enjoyed sitting on the edge of the pool watching
the elephants drink from the other side" - G, M & A, USA
A new season is about to begin - and Makalolo awaits you
Until next month, take care!
Shelley and the Makalolo Menagerie
Camps Update - Sep 05
to Lagoon Camp
• A pride of 2 adult
male lions and 2 lionesses have been spending some
time together – they
killed a buffalo calf and were seen hunting a herd
of Tsessebe without success.
• The large pride of 12 was seen on an island in the
Kwando River looking starving – they had spent
some time across the river in the north but have returned
as of 2 days ago.
• A young male leopard was found at Second Lagoon resting
on a termite mound – he
was found later in the day drinking at the lagoon. A young
female leopard was also found resting next to the road.
• An adult female leopard was found hunting francolin at night, as well as
a large adult male sunning himself in the late afternoon.
• A pair of male cheetah were found a few minutes after they
had killed an adult impala ram – they dragged their
kill into the shade of some trees and fed at their leisure.
• The same pair were followed hunting later – they chased and killed
a young warthog – they were followed again a couple
of times and were seen chasing impala without success.
• Large numbers of breeding herds of elephants were seen
throughout the day coming to drink next to the camp – they
are widespread throughout the concession visiting the river
to drink day and night.
• A very large herd of buffalo – 1500 - 2000 strong
has been seen most days south of the camp as well as a
bachelor herd of 35 spending most of their time close to
the boat station.
• A group of 3 side-striped jackal were seen following a
lioness that was hunting – also a couple of sightings
of black-backed jackal as well.
• General game still very good – zebra, giraffe, tsessebe,
impala, reedbuck, lechwe, waterbuck, and wildebeest as
well as sightings of both roan and roan antelope.
• A couple of porcupines seen together at night,
3 honey-badgers seen together as well, a very relaxed caracal
and a few genet sightings.
• Also seen during the day – yellow mongoose,
slender, banded and dwarf mongoose.
• A pair of male lions have
made their presence felt over the last short while
they were seen much of the time, roaring, marking their
territory – they were later found feeding on
a warthog together with a pair of lionesses.
• A different pair of males has also been seen patrolling
• Two different mating pairs of lions was seen – hopefully
we’ll see the results around Christmas time.
• The team of researchers from APCRO (African Predator
Conservation Research Organisation) altogether darted
and got date and blood samples from 7 different male
lions in the last 3 weeks in the Lagoon area, as well
10 lionesses, and a number of hyena.
• A number of different male and female leopards were
seen around the Lagoon area, including an adult male
feeding on a kill in a tree.
• On the evening of the 21st Sept four different
leopards were seen by guests on night drive.
• A single very relaxed male cheetah was followed for
some time – but was not successful making a kill.
• A pack of 23 wild dogs were seen a number of
times, and eventually moved off south towards Lebala.
• The pack of 3 was seen again but moved west into thick
mopane woodland after a day.
• A clan of 14 hyena was found early one morning killing
• Huge numbers of elephants seen daily, including all
throughout the day drinking and bathing in front of
• Large herds of buffalo are seen daily regularly spaced
along the rived – largest herd is estimated to
be 1000 strong.
• Both side-striped and black-backed jackals seen regularly – both
at night and at dusk/dawn.
• Other smaller game located include honey-badger,
yellow, dwarf and slender mongoose, African wild cat,
porcupine, genets, bush-babies (lesser Galago), also
a number of chameleons spotted.
• General game include sable, road, giraffe,
impala, reedbuck, red lechwe, kudu, and Steenbuck.
Kwara camp Jump
to Kwara Camp
• 3 different prides have
been seen almost daily over the last period – 3
male lions caught and killed a buffalo which they fed
for 4 days.
• Another 2 male lions were also found feeding on a different
• A pair of young male lions and 3 adult females
have split from the pride of 10, and were followed hunting
• An adult female leopard was found at night in
the process of stalking a herd of impala but was not
• A group of 3 male cheetah was followed – they tried
to catch a rather aggressive adult male warthog but were
• The pack of 4 adult wild dogs and 6 youngsters has been
reduced to 3 adults and 1 youngster, they was seen for
several days at times close to the camp – at the
end of the week the last puppy was not with the group
any more though. They chased and killed an impala just
behind the camp.
• A trio of elephant bulls have been coming into
the camp to feed most nights, and a group of 10-15 bulls
seen on the floodplain daily.
• A group of 8 elephant were seen on a Mekoro trip bathing
and swimming in the river.
• A herd of 1500-2000 buffalo were seen around the area
for some time – they moved off in response to attention
received from the lions in the area.
• Both black-backed and side-striped jackals were
seen almost every day, a group of 3 black-backed jackal
were found feeding on a dead buffalo calf.
• The guides have found a hyena den with some 3-4week old
youngsters providing good entertainment.
• Good herds of zebra, tsessebe and impala as well as warthogs
and reedbuck seen in front of the camp – especially
since the floodwaters have started refilling the lagoon
in front of the camp.
• Serval seen most nights hunting, a couple of
genets in a tree, African wild cat as well as several
• The heronry has started to become active with
yellow-billed storks, marabou storks and various egrets
starting to nest, also the yellow-billed kited arrived
back in the delta a week or two ago back from their winter
• An adult male lion was
found feeding on a hippo carcass – he was later
joined by 3 sub-adult males and 5 lionesses. They were
all chased off by 2 adult male lions. Various lions
eventually fed on the hippo carcass for 10 days.
• 3 male lions were found hunting buffalo – they
pulled down a big bull and were later joined in feeding
by 7 lionesses.
• 2 different hyena dens each with 2 cubs, a pair of
black-backed jackal have their den close to one of
the hyena dens with 4 puppies.
• A clan of 5 hyena was seen finishing off the remains
of the hippo carcass.
• A female leopard was seen close to the camp in the
throes of killing an impala, she was later joined by
her cub and the were seen feeding on the carcass for
the next few days.
• A pregnant female cheetah was seen close to the camp.
• An adult female cheetah and her 3 month-old cubs were
found and followed, she eventually chased and killed
a female impala.
• Another group of cheetah – in this case a coalition
of 3 full-bellied males was also found.
• 3 adult African wild dogs were found resting – they
were seen running across the floodplains. They were
followed later and killed an impala close to the camp
in the evening.
• More breeding herds of 10-20 elephant are being
seen as well as a herd of 20 bulls moving into the
woodland surrounding the camp at night.
• A herd of 600-700 buffalo moved through and around
the camp as was seen on and off throughout the period – moving
off in response to harassment from the lion population.
• Good general game – especially on the floodplains – up
to 300 zebra, 120 wildebeest, sable antelope, lechwe,
kudu, impala, tsessebe, reedbuck and baboons.
• Night sightings include a couple of caracal, civet,
both species of genets and jackals, aardvark, wildcat,
serval, honey-badger, spring-hare, bush-baby, and white-tailed
• The heronry at Gudikwe – more birds are coming
in, and activity is increasing – some early breeders
are on eggs including yellow-billed egrets, Marabou
storks, little and cattle egrets, scared and glossy
• Early summer migrants – Carmine bee-eaters, western
red-footed kestrel, ruff, sandpiper, and both pratincole
Lebala camp Jump
to Lebala Camp
• 3 lionesses caught and
killed a warthog close to Tsessebe island – they
were chased off their kill by a pack of hyena. The
same lionesses went on the next morning to kill a buffalo
after a battle that raged some 45 minutes until they
were assisted by an adult male lion that came in to
investigate the commotion.
• The same pride was seen over the next week chasing impala – they
later killed another buffalo along the Kwando River.
• A large male leopard was found marking his territory
along the road; the resident female around the Motswiri
pan was seen also marking.
• An adult female leopard caught and killed a springhare – she
was chased by hyena but managed to get up a tree with
her kill – she was seen all through the next week – a
couple of other leopards (shy) were also seen.
• 2 cheetah were seen throughout the period several times – they
killed twice – first a young kudu and then an
• A pack of 3 wild dogs were followed hunting, chased a
steenbok and missed and then ran off into the darkening
• Excellent numbers of elephants – more than
1000 seen in one stretch of riverbank south of Lebala
• Herds of 500 – 1000 buffalo seen visiting the river
areas to drink daily – most often in the late
• 2 different clans of hyena were seen fighting over a
dead buffalo near Tsessebe Island – good numbers
of hyena seen daily around the concession.
• General game has been excellent, roan and sable
antelope (up to 20 in a herd) have been seen daily,
as well as the usual zebra, giraffe, wildebeest, reedbuck,
lechwe and impala.
• Night drives have yielded porcupine (including
a mother and youngster together), both species of genets,
African wild cats, chameleons, and a shy civet.
• Very good sightings of Carmine bee-eaters that
have started nesting now in large numbers both east
and west of Elephant Gulch.
• A skinny lioness was
found close to the airstrip digging a warthog out of
its burrow. Another sighting of 2 lionesses feeding
on a warthog close to Twin pools.
• A mating pair of lions was found – the
lioness had come from a pride of 4 lionesses that has
been operating just south and around the camp for the
last short while.
• 3 different nomadic males were seen in all,
one of them was followed harassing a herd of 700 buffalo.
• Another pride of 6 lionesses were found moving quickly
away from a male lion – one of the females looked
• The little resident female leopard has been seen regularly
close to camp, and was followed several times hunting.
• Another adult female was followed hunting springhares – she
made a kill and then moved off into thick mopane. An
adult male leopard caught and killed a baboon – he
was seen feeding in a tree over a period of several
• Another big male leopard was seen close to John’s
pan being chased by a lion – there was a buffalo
carcass in the vicinity.
• A single male cheetah was found – he was observed
making several unsuccessful attempts on a herd of kudu.
• A pack of 23 wild dogs – 12 adults and 11 puppies
was seen – the adults were followed hunting – they
killed an impala and then returned to feed the youngsters.
They were seen several times having made kills and
then being robbed by the hyena in the area.
• A clan of 7 hyena was found hunting buffalo bull – other
hyena joined in - it took them most of the night to
kill it and had fully consumed the carcass in 12 hours.
• Daily excellent sightings of breeding herds of elephants
scattered throughout the concession, also a few excellent
photographic encounters with a couple of musth bulls.
• Several herds of buffalo seen daily north, south and
in the camp (up to 800 strong) giving the guides a
few frights especially during the early wake-up calls.
• Excellent general game throughout, especially along
the floodplains, several sightings of roan and sable,
including a herd of 21 sable antelope led by a huge
• Night sightings include a couple of aardvarks,
caracal, genets, springhares, white-tailed mongoose,
honey badger, wild cats as well as a striped pole-cat.
• Excellent bird sightings – pelicans, black egrets,
wattled cranes, ground hornbills, and the brilliant
Carmine bee-eater colony numbering well over a thousand
Chief's Camp upgrades
- Sep 05 Jump
to Chief's Camp
A decision to completely rebuild the
accommodation units at Chief’s
Camp has been made as they enter the seventh year of operation. The refurbishment
of these units has been designed in line with the recent refurbishment
of the main area of the camp in June 2005 .
The internal area of the units will increase from 39 to 50 square meters and
will incorporate a spacious seating area while all tentage will be replaced with
a new double-skin insulated tentage. New carpets, bed throws and linen will be
integrated into the units, which will also include a gas heater, overhead fans,
a generous mosquito net, two wardrobes, a mini bar, a book shelf and a
comfortable writing desk. Three units will boast king size beds while nine units
will have twin beds. Lighting, electrical points, as well as power generators
and electrical systems will also be upgraded to meet the demands of the new upgrades.
The canvas tented roofs will be replaced with thatched roofs, while the front
section of the units leading to the deck will boast a large gauze segment with
roll down blinds. New outdoor decks will be incorporated into the front of each
unit and will include lovely hammocks and deck chairs. A revitalising outdoor
shower, accessed through the raised timber bathroom, will be incorporated into
the structure with the bathroom interiors receiving a fresh coat of paint and
new canvas for the exterior. A new sewerage system, including a recycle plant,
will be installed, which will allow water to be utilised for gardening purposes
All work will commence on site from 01 November 2005, with the first set of 3
rooms scheduled to be completed by December 2005 while the remaining 9 units
should be completed by June 2006. Since there is extensive work to be done, the
construction team will endeavour to minimise disturbances to guests.
Selinda update - Sep 05 Jump
to Selinda Camp
The Selinda pack of Wild Dog has become mobile! The 11 pups are all
healthy and are now running with the pack! The next three months are
possibly the most dangerous for the pups; with the constant attentions
of hyaena, the possibility of lions arriving at a kill and the distances
that the pack covers, the adults will be stretched to protect the whole
In Africa, life and death are side by side. With the loss of one of
the male cheetahs last month, everyone was a bit glum. However, this
was offset by the arrival of a new female with the cubs. A little nervous
at first, she and her charges have settled down and produced some excellent
Every year we say the leopard viewing just gets
better and better – and
2005 is no exception. There are now four individuals giving us some excellent
sightings. Amber remains our star performer and this month produced an
unusual kill – a banded mongoose. Her mother and two males continue
to be seen regularly.
The lion coalition of five males that featured
in our reports last month seems to be well and truly "at home".
Their claim on the vacant territory seems complete and we hope to hear
their nightly roars for some time to come.
By all accounts the new canoes at Motswiri Camp have been a huge success!
Those guests that have been out on them have sent rave comments. It is
a pity that the floodwaters are seasonal, but keep the option of this
activity in mind when booking a safari between June and September next
Tubu Tree Camp update - Sep 05 Jump
to Tubu Tree Camp
There was great excitement in camp on the 26th of September when one
of our guides, Moa, spotted two white rhino not far from the airstrip
while out on morning drive. We still don't know who was more surprised,
the guests or Moa. They were skittish at first but later relaxed with
the vehicle. They stayed in that area for the rest of the day, which
also gave the camp staff an opportunity to go out and see them. This
was a first sighting for most of them so there were big smiles and cheers
when they returned to camp. Rhino have been absent from this area for
decades so these sightings are a highlight in Tubu's history. We just
hope they like it here and stay permanently.
Large numbers of zebra are moving in from the south, as the water is
drying up and the wildebeest are following behind. We witnessed one string
of zebra of more than 500 crossing the plain in front of camp with a
long dust trail hanging in the air. There are also two large herds of
several hundred buffalo in the area accompanied by the ever-present Cattle
There have been excellent sightings of the smaller carnivores such as
caracal still stalking around in the early morning. This cat with its
red coat resembles a lynx and is quite shy.
Another interesting occurrence was of a side-striped jackal hunting
the large Spur-winged Geese that frequent the water's edge. Both are
in the same weight class of about 10 kilograms. The jackal was seen feeding
on a freshly killed goose early one morning; it must have ambushed the
goose under the cover of darkness. The previous day a White-backed Vulture
was seen sunning itself on the ground in exactly the same area. The jackal
approached and then harassed the vulture for a long time, lunging at
it from different directions. The vulture spread its wings every time
to make itself look bigger and swatted at the jackal in return. It seemed
as if the jackal was testing the endurance of the vulture but eventually
gave up, as the powerful bird was more than a match for it.
The local representatives of the world’s
largest bird, the Ostrich, have had chicks. A pair was seen recently
with ten small chicks running along beside them. The chicks rely on
camouflage and their parent's aggressive kicks for protection, but
only a few will survive falling prey to smaller predators such as caracal
Other bird sightings include a male Paradise Flycatcher in camp, a Pink-
(Rosy-) throated Longclaw out on the northern floodplain, Carmine Bee-eaters
and Wattled Cranes in good numbers. Guests witnessed a Pearl-spotted
Owlet feeding a chick and we have been having regular sightings of a
Scops Owl hiding in a hole in a tree trunk. Marsh Owl, Rufous-bellied
Heron, Black Egret, Whiskered Tern, Squacco Heron, Pied Kingfisher and
African Fish Eagle and thousands of Open-billed Storks featured prominently
near the water.
We have had several good sightings of a female leopard near camp, she
made a baboon kill and fed off it for two days. Her teats are swollen
and she is lactating, we think for at least four to six weeks now. She
did not bring the cubs to the kill, but they may yet be too young to
eat meat. She has kept them well hidden but we look forward to catching
a glimpse of these elusive kittens.
One of the Overland groups came across vultures one morning, feeding
off what appeared to be the placenta from a new-born elephant. Their
suspicions were confirmed the following morning by a brand-new tiny elephant
seen feeding with its mother and family herd. The elephants were particularly
relaxed especially with such a young charge and the guests were able
to view the baby from a distance as it began to discover its new world.
We also look forward to having you folks here with us at Tubu.
Anton and Carrie
update - Sep 05 Jump
to Vumbura Plains Camp
A purple haze covers the horizon north-east of the lodge, fading southwards
to the typical September horizon over the delta wetlands. It is caused
by the blossoms of the Kalahari Apple Leaf tree which dominates the sandveld
in that area.
September has been another incredible month for game sightings.
The most important, depending on your point of view of course, is the
return of many species of migrant birds. Just the arrival of the Carmine
Bee-eater will bring to life the images of this beautiful bird gliding
next to the vehicle before diving in front of it as an insect jumps out
of the way. With many birds seemingly arriving early, the older experts
are of the opinion that the rain is coming early and will be plentiful!
Another really important activity to
some fanatics, such as Steve Bury and Neal Salomon, fly fishermen of
note, is fishing for Tigerfish. Currently we do not normally offer
fishing for these fish as an activity; however, after much pressure
to send them out there, or they would not be able to face their fellow
fly fishermen friends back home again, we capitulated. A day trip was
planned out to the junction of two channels a couple of hours from
the boat station. A Tiger estimated (in fisherman terms) at about 7
kg was caught but on its first breach, whilst out of the water managed
to spit out the fly. Neal's catch took the line and disappeared. A
bream was also caught. So it’s that time of the year - the Tigers
Our Kubu lion pride, two males, three
females and four male cubs, (imagine the coalition of those guys in
a few years) have done well with their buffalo hunting and provided
our guests with many amazing images of the lions' hunting tactics and
skills. At times the cubs, whilst on the hunt, have lost the plot and
started to play with each other at critical times, only to receive
the brunt of their mother’s paw for ruining many
hours of concentration and preparation.
This month saw the visit of two pairs
of males coming from the east of the camp. The one pair came in, attacked
a buffalo calf, but were distracted by an attempt from its mother to
protect it. The lions turned on her, killing her, and the calf survived:
the supreme sacrifice in the animal kingdom. Seemingly safe, the lions
started to feed until ‘Big
Red’ (the resident dominant male) appeared and chased off these
intruders, leaving the carcass to him. The two then retreated close to
the camp. For three nights these lions roared throughout the night, mostly
next to Room 1 and 2 keeping the guests under the bed clothes all night!
Leopard sightings have again been great, the best of which was the sighting
of mother, father, cub and impala kill in a tree with a hyaena below
feeding on the falling scraps. The mother seems to have started the process
of abandoning the young female leopard, having successfully taught her
to care for herself.
Can you begin to imagine a herd of 2
000 buffalo? Imagine driving through a never ending, heaving, nervous
black mass under a cloud of dust with a rich sweet smell of the dung
in your nostrils. As you emerge, ‘Big
Red’ is sitting calmly with his family waiting for a weakness in
the wall so that they can attack. What an awesome drive the guests experienced.
Two of our guests arrived from outside
Botswana, having been on safari for fourteen days. “We have only seen one lioness and no leopard,” they
lamented. That evening on the drive, nine lion, two leopard and three
wild dog were seen. Needless to say the couple were ecstatic.
The flood of 2005 has virtually disappeared,
allowing easy access into areas that were "vehicle traps" whilst under water. The sun
is moving south at an alarming rate. At the beginning of September we
moved to our summer times which are a little earlier than winter for
the morning activity and later for the evening ones. It’s getting
warm during the day and more guests are utilising their plunge pools
to cool off.
October is about to arrive, promising to be hot, dry and with little
food for the herbivores. The animals will be under pressure to make it
through to the rain, which normally arrives at the end of October, or
if the gurus are correct, maybe earlier. Until then it will be a predator's
paradise in this area and another fantastic time for the voyeurs on the
It isn’t the end of the month yet,
so I have to include this story about seven Kubu lions attacking a
big buffalo bull. Did he give up? Not a chance! He fought his way to
the safety of the water bellowing for assistance from the herd who
responded in force, chasing the pride away. Maybe mortally injured,
we will see tomorrow when the game drives arrive in the area.
Today the temperature is 40° Celsius.
We have the first clouds in the sky since the winter started. Traditionally,
so to speak, we have our first rain shower on the 30th September, Botswana
Independence Day and the way the clouds are building up, it seems that
the promise of rain may well come about.
News Flash – 28 September 2005
We are sad to tell you that tonight the Troeger family from Germany
with our guide Dux watched the painful ordeal of our legendary lion,
Big Red, being beaten into submission with near fatal injuries at Acacia
Island. The two Kubu Males picked up the scent of Big Red who had been
relaxing with part of his pride near Hippo Pools. Seemingly, Big Red
moved away from the family, possibly knowing that the Kubu brothers were
in the area. On contact he had a running battle with one of the Kubu
brothers, before the other attacked from behind, inflicting a serious
wound to his back right leg, which disabled Big Red, his paw hanging
limp. Despite the injury from which blood flowed profusely, Big Red fought
on, keeping his two opponents in front of him. Eventually the Kubu males
left the fight allowing Big Red to live, for now. Tonight, however, will
be the test as hyaena will harass him and loss of blood may weaken his
resolve to fight on.
Needless to say, tomorrow morning's game drive will beat a path to his
'door' and we hope to find him alive. Our guests were so totally absorbed
by the action that few pictures were taken.
Roger and the Vumbura Plains team
Savuti Camp update - Sep
to Savuti Camp
Heat hazes and dust devils rise off the parched landscape around Savuti
every day. The waterhole is a focal point of all animal life in the channel.
With the large amount of animals drinking in the early morning there
is no need to actually go on game drive and many of our guests have opted
to stay in camp and spend the morning watching the parade down to the
We had a month full of “spots,” with
all our guests seeing at least one leopard during their respective
stays at Savuti. We started the month off with the resident Manchwe
female and her 8-month-old cub on a warthog kill. This is a very large
female and she has been an excellent mother to the little one, who
is as curious and energetic as any young kitten. They were seen over
a period of three or four days in or close to the tree in which the
warthog was stashed. The female then moved off early one morning and
was found later that afternoon trying to regain an impala kill that
had been stolen by hyaena; unbelievable to think that she had just
finished a warthog carcass and had hunted almost immediately.
Later on in the month we were fortunate enough to see four different
leopards on a single afternoon drive. The first was a young female that
has been frequenting the area of Chobe 1, while the second happened to
be a large male that was drinking at the river close to the Kwando confluence.
The third and fourth leopards were together in the same Leadwood tree,
arguing over the remains of an impala carcass. A really incredible drive
when you consider that we saw most of the territorial leopards in the
area that we utilise for game drive.
The same evening one of the other game drives managed to find a large
male leopard with two kills. One was a baboon, which is a normal prey
species that we see leopards feeding on. The other animal cached in a
tree was a lion cub! The cub was one of four that were born into the
Savuti pride, who had been seen a day before in the same area. The cub
must have been a straggler or had got separated from the pride and the
leopard, not being a fussy eater, had taken the opportunity for an easy
meal. It was unbelievable to watch one predator eat another.
The Savuti pride has been concentrating its movements along the river
front with a lot of activity being centred around the Osprey Lagoon area,
where one of the pride lionesses is denned up with two very new lion
cubs. These little bundles of fur were found when they were approximately
a week old! The pride is doing well and although they have sadly lost
two of the older cubs, the remaining three are fat and healthy.
Elephant numbers are reaching a peak now and we
at times are seeing 500 – 600 elephants of all sizes utilising the waterhole. Herds
spend the entire day resting in the shade of the trees that surround
the waterhole and move in “shifts” - one herd drinks while
another moves away. The daily confrontations between elephant and other
game species trying to drink is quite amusing with the elephants jealously
guarding the water supply, chasing zebra, wildebeest, warthog and kudu
whenever these animals venture to close to the waterhole.
We also have had some great cheetah viewing, with the a female cheetah
and her two sub-adult cubs spending a long time in the Dish Pan area
which is just west of Savuti Camp. These youngsters are at the stage
where they are attempting to hunt and are continually learning from their
mother. They have been seen chasing impala from over 500 metres! They
do have a good teacher who has been very patient in her training of the
youngsters in the special art of hunting.
October is almost here and we are in store for very hot days, with lots
of elephant activity around the water. Come and see what we all talk
about when we say that Savuti is elephant heaven!
Chitabe update - Sep
to Chitabe Camp
September was the month of the predator. As the vegetation started to
feel the ravaging dryness and heat of the sun and the floodwaters started
to recede, the animals have become more reliant on the water in the permanent
channels in the west and east of our concession. With the prey being
concentrated in relatively small areas, the predators have likewise focused
The Chitabe lion pride, now numbering 18 (3 males, 6 females and 9 cubs),
have been devouring buffalo at least once a week, as at this time of
year they move through the concession in large numbers. One herd numbering
at least 1000 came down from the Moremi, did a circuit of the area and
headed north again, while several smaller herds came and went as well.
The lion cubs are learning vital hunting skills from the adults, and
we even saw one very precocious youngster attempting to stalk a buffalo
bull on his own!
One day we were sitting at the brunch table when
we saw the pride that had been resting in the shade across the channel
leap up and ambush a herd of impala. They caught one, and quickly devoured
it as we watched from the deck! A few days later they caught and killed
a warthog right in front of Chitabe Trails, which has become their
favourite hangout, much to the irritation of the many herds of elephant
that come to drink from the channel. On several occasion the lions
have had to make a run for it as angrily squealing and trumpeting breeding
herds pursued them. "King
of the jungle" indeed!
The wild dog pack has now left their den site for good and all 8 puppies
are still going strong. The pups are still not old enough to join the
hunt, but they are running with the pack now - the adults leave them
in a safe place until they have killed before going back to fetch them.
The last sighting we had of them was on the Gomoti Channel, 12km away
from where they had denned. The Gomoti area is rich in game, particularly
impala, their chief prey, and also a good distance away from where the
Chitabe lions have been most active. Since their last run-in with the
lions - where one of the dogs lost his ear - they have been careful to
avoid their greatest enemies.
One evening on the way back to camp, Relax came across a honey badger
furiously digging into a springhare burrow until he triumphantly emerged
with the occupant in his jaws. Relax and his guests were again in the
right place at the right time one morning to watch a female cheetah spot,
stalk, run down and kill an impala - an event some people spend a lifetime
waiting to see. The Valeks, two first-time visitors, were lucky enough
to have been there, and we accredited their good fortune to beginner's
The resident male leopard whose territory encompasses our island had
a nice surprise in store for us - one night he killed a young impala
ram and hoisted it into the Knobthorn tree right outside Tent no. 5.
For several nights he must have returned to his meal, as by the time
we noticed the carcass it was all but finished - just another example
of the supreme stealth of this magnificent, secretive cat.
We have also begun to receive our first summer
migrants – Yellow-billed
Kites were the first to arrive, followed by Carmine Bee-eaters and Paradise
Flycatchers. The Red-headed Weaver that nests near the kitchen every
year is sporting his breeding plumage, and we will know that summer has
truly arrived when we hear the trilling call of the Woodland Kingfisher.
On a more dramatic note, we had a very large bush fire, which came to
within a mile of the camp before we managed to put it out with the assistance
of a team we flew in from Maun. For two days it was all hands on deck
as we fought the flames - luck was on our side as the wind was blowing
against the direction of the fire, but due to its magnitude we had quite
a battle. At its greatest size, the fire was about 5km wide as it bore
down on the camp. Luckily, no animals were killed by the slow-moving
fire - the burrowing species were unharmed, and others were able to move
away in time. The flames also provided a rich bounty for birds that swooped
through the smoke to snatch insects escaping the fire. Already the grasses
have begun to regenerate in the burnt areas, which will provide nutrient-rich
grazing in the coming months.
The temperatures have started to climb with the
advent of summer - the average daytime maximum was 34°C, dipping to an average low of 15°C
at night. October is going to be a long, sweltering month as we await
the advent of the rain.
Regards from Chitabe
DumaTau update - Sep 05 Jump
to DumaTau Camp
DumaTau never ceases to amaze. Whatever time of the year it is, the
Linyanti and DumaTau in particular are unbelievable places to be in.
The animal sightings were out of this world this month: leopard, lion,
cheetah, and elephant, to name a few.
The resident female leopard was at it again with the baboons that roost
in the Mangosteen trees in camp. Almost every night she would come into
camp and hunt baboons and nine times out of ten prove to be very successful.
Later on during the month a male leopard joined her, so hopefully we
should be seeing leopard cubs in the next few months.
The arrival of two new lion cubs was one of the
highlights of the month. A lioness gave birth to two cubs and hid them
away under a large Feverberry tree near Osprey Lagoon, giving guests
hours of good viewing before she decided to move them to a new site.
There was probably a lot of disturbance from passing elephants as she
was on an "elephant highway."
The five lion cubs born a few months back have
had a tough time. Only three cubs remain. One morning on drive the
guides spotted a leopard up a tree and on closer inspection found that
the male leopard had killed one of the lion cubs. We hope that the
remaining three stay out of harm’s
way and make it through to adulthood.
DumaTau continues to live up to its name with lions roaring around camp
on most nights. Two females chose to seek shade next to the staff village
for a few days giving us great sightings.
The female cheetah and her two sub-adult cubs have been doing very well.
They were seen for the most part of the month and on most occasions seen
hunting impala and proving to be very successful. The two cheetah brothers
spent most of the month in the Selinda area and were seen toward the
end of the month in the Savuti Channel.
The wild dogs were seen very briefly near Rock Pan with eleven puppies,
which was very exciting for all as we had not seen them for a very long
time. They had denned in the Selinda area and then moved across into
the Linyanti. Tracks have been seen on the airstrip road so we think
that they have found a new den in the area and obviously we are holding
thumbs, hoping to see them again soon.
We have had elephants in camp every day of the
month and they have kept us busy repairing walkways and fixing water
pipes. One elephant in particular takes great pleasure in pulling up
a water pipe and then running off with his tail in the air, waving
his trunk around as if to say, “See
what I can do!” We have left a section of the hand rails off the
walkway as the elephants have taken to climbing over the walkway to feed
on the Feverberries. They have given us much entertainment during most
meal times around the dining room area, much to the delight of our guests.
September has been a great month and we are looking
forward to October – here’s
hoping for a bit of rain to see us through this very hot and dry time
of the year.
The DumaTau Team
Jack's and San Camps
update - Sep 05 Jump
to Jack's and San Camps
last day in August saw the bright flash of the first water-acacia buds,
and the sudden realisation that winter really would come to an end! September
always brings exciting “firsts” - From “first” clouds
to the possibility of first summer migrants. The warmer temperatures
are enjoyed by all, from the meerkats whose foraging day lengthens to
the guests and staff at Jack’s! This was a warm September, and
temperatures averaged around the high twenties and occasional mid-thirties
during the day and a comfortable 8 – 15 degrees at night.
Hilary was managing camp, with back of house support provided by Cyrus
and Kitty doing an admirable job front of house. Jack Bousfield’s
grandson, John, continued to help out wherever he was needed in camp,
keeping everyone amused with his youthful exuberance. With September
as busy as it was, we had all guides alternating between Jack’s
and San – Super often guiding groups on request, and second-year
guides Pete and Graham putting their experience to good use. Danny led
the “new” guides, and she and Kaelo made a formidable team.
Will left mid-season, to pursue a post PhD academic career, and while
we do miss “Uberbirder” we all wish him the best of luck.
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-breasted
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 remains 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 we are lucky enough to have access to.
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 km2 of pristine pan and grassland we are fortunate
enough to have on our doorstep.
Rocktail Bay Dive Report - Sep 05 Jump
to Rocktail Bay Lodge
With August winds behind us, we still get the odd cold front in September
but generally this month is the first time we feel like summer is truly
upon us. Early morning drives to the dive centre are highlighted with
spectacular sunrises and the days are hot and sunny. Sea temperatures
have risen a degree or two and sit around the 23-degree Celsius mark.
This time of year spoils us with a mixture of winter visitors that are
still here and summer visitors that are starting to arrive.
The humpback whales are on their way home to the Antarctic
and we have been blessed with many wonderful sightings throughout
the month. There are mothers with babies and last season’s teenagers,
and they seem to be travelling in close proximity to one another. There
have been many days where we see three or four groups like this travelling
behind one another and on occasion circling while waiting for other groups
to catch up. The babies are wonderful to watch as they play, slapping
their tails on the water and performing little head slaps as they try
to jump forward. It is wonderful to see the babies that have perfected
breaching and some perform ‘little’ 360 degree turns before
crashing down again. Of course the mothers perform spectacular leaps
out of the water as they show the little ones how it’s done!Summer brings the return of big rays and sharks. The smaller rays such
as the blue spotted ray and the marbled electric ray are found here year
round but the huge honeycomb, black ribbontail and sharpnose begin to
arrive now. Elusive is traditionally one of the first reefs for early
season shark spotting and it is living up to its reputation. Leza lead
a very active dive here on the 16th where she spotted the first blacktip
/ grey reef shark of the season. These sharks are curious and come to
have a look at the divers, they are however shy and once they realise
they have been spotted they swim away quickly. The divers also saw a
big honeycomb ray on the sand, as well as a couple of marbled electric
rays. They enjoyed watching a huge honeycomb eel swim past them and loved
swimming in amongst the big school of bluebanded snappers.This time of year also sees a marked increase of
male loggerhead turtles. They tend to be more predominant
just before the start of turtle nesting season, which is
officially next month. The males can be distinguished by the fact that
they have a much longer ‘tail’ than
the females. The males tend to become more curious, almost
aggressive towards scuba divers, coming in really close,
and judging from the glint in their eyes it looks as if they are hoping
that the diver is a willing female turtle! The females mate with various
males during the season to ensure the best gene pool for the following
generation. They then fertilise the eggs as required.
The females then come onto the beach to lay their eggs about
ten times in a season, laying approximately 100 eggs each time.A wonderful sighting this month confirms that summer
is here – a
10 meter long Whaleshark! We were watching the humpback whales from the
one side of the boat and Clive turned and saw the unmistakeable fin sticking
out of the water. "Whaleshark" he shouted and we quickly forgot
all about the whales. The whaleshark was right next to the
boat and swimming along slowly. Clive managed to snorkel
next to her and got some lovely footage of her with his underwater
video camera. Those of you who have dived with Clive know just
how good he is as finding the ‘little critters’. Well, he has done it again – he
has discovered another summer surprise in the form of a Pineapple
Fish! He has now found one on Aerial Reef, living under a
ledge. These fish are an extremely rare sighting and are
very secretive. They are small, perhaps the size of the old R1.00 coin
and look like miniature pineapples, spikes and all! Well done Clive!As for other ‘little critters’, we have been seeing lots
of nudibranchs, little sole or flounder hiding on the sand in cleaning
stations that are active with cleaner shrimps and humpback shrimps, nicknamed ‘Durban
Dancing Shrimps’ because of the way they move! Sightings of blue
banded and red-scribbled pipefish, which are part of the
seahorse family! These tiny creatures are extremely well
camouflaged and they tend to live in pairs. Reproduction
is unique in that the male incubates the eggs in a pouch, the same way
that the seahorses do.Also wonderful to look at is the anemone. This
creature plays host to the usual suspects, namely the clown
fish and dominoes, but there are smaller creatures that are
often not noticed. Porcelain crabs live in the anemone’s tentacles for protection and they put out little
webbed ‘mits’ to catch passing plankton, which they eat.
There are also tiny, almost invisible shrimps that enjoy
the protection of living together. Eggshell cowries are striking
with their black and orange mantle covering their brilliant
white shell inside.Another summer visitor will be the pregnant, female, raggedtooth shark.
We first expect to see a few males on various reefs, before the females
start arriving in full force. The males will stay until the water becomes
uncomfortably warm for them, when they head back to the Eastern Cape
and cooler climes. The females however, will be with us from December
through to March, when they will also head back to give birth to their
pups in the Eastern Cape."Beautiful whale sightings. Great coral and rays. Friendly team!" David & Sarina
Clinch, Tokyo, Japan
Looking forward to next months diving!
The Rocktail Bay Dive Team
Darryl, Clive, Michelle
Camp (northern Kruger) Newsletter - Sep 05 Jump
to Pafuri Camp
how the time has flown as we come to the end of another unforgettable
month here at Pafuri Camp in the Makuleke region of the Kruger
National Park. It’s been an exciting month
both for birding and for game viewing. If this wild life report
compiled by Fraser Gear, who headed up our guiding section
for the month, doesn’t whet the appetite of the most
avid nature lover, then as the saying goes ‘I’ll
eat my hat.’
September is a really exciting month for birding as we await
the first return of the migrant species. First to return,
the Wahlberg’s Eagles are now seen throughout the concession
at their breeding sites. Other returning raptors include
Yellow-billed Kites and an unconfirmed sighting of Lesser-spotted
Eagle. We had our first Woodland Kingfisher on the 20th of
September. The first returning migrant Bee-eaters in the
form of a flock of Europeans was seen on the 27th of the
month.The Pafuri specials are very evident
in our monthly list, with absolutely crippling views of Three-banded
Courser being my personal highlight. Our first views of the
Coursers came after visiting guide, Hamish Rodgers, returned
breathless and excited from a staff drive. Once he managed
to get the words "three-banded" out
he was promptly loaded back into his vehicle to guide us back
to the site. The coursers put on a great show, calling and
even hanging around long enough for some scope views! Since
our initial sighting the Three-banded Courser has been heard
and seen regularly.
When a visiting group of South
African birders mentioned Pel’s
fishing Owl at our first afternoon tea, I don’t think
anyone thought it could be so easy! On returning from the first
drive we watched a Pel’s from the main deck. If this
was not enough, it then caught a fish in front of our eyes
and consumed it casually over the following hour.Our Yellow-billed Oxpecker project is going well, we have
now recorded the birds on buffalo, nyala, warthog and eland.
The largest numbers being a flock of thirteen seen on a small
herd of buffalo.We look set to have around 225 confirmed species on our September
list. October will be a cracker month for birds as migrants
continue to swell the numbers of birds in the region. We continue
to search for a few outstanding specials such as the Southern
Hyliota and Variable Sunbird.
As the concession is so dry, most of our game viewing has taken
place in and around the Luvuvhu River. Elephant viewing is
sensational. The thirsty ellies dig for water in the riverbed
in front of camp each afternoon. The resulting wells attract
an array of opportunistic drinkers and we normally see buffalo,
waterbuck, impala, bushbuck, nyala, kudu, baboon and vervet
monkey at afternoon tea!Now that the river has stopped flowing,
the aquatic life is finding itself jammed into ever smaller
pools. Hundreds of crocodiles are competing for a string
of muddy pools towards Crook’s Corner. Our first walk
into the area produced no fewer than 200 crocodiles! The
crocs ranged in size from youngsters barely a metre long
to some impressive four or more metre beasts! The easy fishing
in the receding pools is keeping the smaller crocs happy.
Judging by the extremely cautious approaches of the nyala
that drink in these pools, the big crocs are most probably
taking full advantage of their increased ambush possibilities.
The diversity of mammal species
seen on drives continues to improve as the resident wildlife
becomes accustomed to the game drive vehicles. Our best day
this month recorded confirmed sightings of 31 mammal species
excluding small rodents and bats. Lion sightings are stable;
our highlights with lion this month included an exhilarating
view of a lioness with three cubs on a kill. We had walked
into the riverbed to investigate the agitated chattering
of a troop of monkeys. By sneaking around carefully on the
opposite bank we managed to watch the cubs playing in the
cool riverbed sand without the lioness being aware of our
presence. On another occasion, the three Pafuri Pride Lionesses
and the Makuleke male spent the hot part of the afternoon
snoozing under the Ana trees opposite camp in front of Room
4. The same pride was seen again on the 29th stalking a bush
buck without success in the riverbed in front of the main
The much-loved Makuleke rhinos
seem to be settling in well. The group of five have already
established some good rhino paths between their favoured
springs and grazing areas. It is an incredible experience
to walk along these trails, complete with middens and rubbing
posts, in the knowledge that only two months ago no rhino
had walked those paths for over a hundred years! The sixth
rhino, or Bull No 4, has been very busy. This bull’s wonderings
have taken him the length and breadth of the concession and
out of it at times! We hope that he will soon settle down
and busy himself with matters territorial and reproductive.
On the night of the 27th we
thought the dry period was finally coming to an end. We could
see the rain clouds forming thick and heavy towards late
afternoon. By early evening, just after dark, a strong wind
had started howling through the camp and the night sky came
alive with sheet lightening. With the fresh smell of rain
in the air we had all the staff members help us to batten
down the hatches as we prepared our defence against the oncoming
storm. The wind and lightning continued till late into the
night, but unfortunately by the early hours of the following
morning the threat of the storm had died away completely,
hardly sparing a drop of water to our parched land.
Climate figures for the month of September
averaged a daily minimum of 18°C and an average daily maximum of 31°C.
The lowest recorded temperature was 10°C and the highest
38°C. No rainfall was recorded.
Spirit of the Namib Safaris - Sep 05 Jump
to Spirit of the Namib
Our first afternoon at the Ongava Homestead south of Etosha started
well and we saw 5 white rhino and enjoyed sundowners with the company
of another three! On the way home from our afternoon drive we saw a brown
hyaena, and while having dinner under the big mopane tree with a campfire
going, 2 rhino and plenty of eland came down to drink. We spent the following
day in Etosha National Park and were rewarded with three male lion next
to the road, a honey badger digging for food, and a herd of elephant
crossing the road in front of us.
Departing Ongava for Palmwag, I decided to explore
a little more of Namibia… after all it was an Adventurer Exploration!
So we visited the Gamkarab Caves north of Outjo, where there was a
challenging climb down for 50m to some interesting sights down at the
bottom and a welcoming pool to cool off in. This was a big highlight
(although only recommended for the younger and fitter), but perhaps
exceeded the following morning at Palmwag when I gave the guests a
wake-up call with desert-adapted elephant in front of their tents.
After breakfast we tracked black rhino on foot and managed to successfully
find a big bull.
Having relaxed with a well deserved lunch after
our efforts we headed to Warmquelle Ongongo Falls for a swim – the
best swimming pool in the world! On the way back to Palmwag a sight
of 5 cheetah surprised us, and we drank in the sighting in combination
with celebratory sundowners.
Heading south to Twyfelfontein and Damaraland Camp the following day,
we once again tracked desert elephant and were rewarded in the late afternoon
with a herd of 21. We had a very good outdoor dinner at the boma that
night and the next morning headed south towards Swakopmund, finding more
desert elephant while driving through the most beautiful landscape of
Namibia from the Huab River to the Ugab River.
In Swakopmund we enjoyed our sea kayaking
(with plenty of dolphins and seals) off Pelican Point. At Aonin Dune
Camp that afternoon we did some dune driving and the next day enjoyed
an excursion to the legendary Sandwich Harbour.
route to Sossusvlei the following day we stopped at the Kuiseb River
and hiked down to the shelter of Hermann Korn and Henno Martin (their
hiding place for 2 years during the Second World War). More walking
was in store the next day when strong winds ensured we were the only
people who climbed the dune of ‘Big
We also had Sesriem Canyon to ourselves and walked its length before
heading back to camp and catching a good sighting of an aardwolf. This was just an unbelievable safari for me and for the guests. Here
is a quote from two of them:"It's almost impossible to encapsulate
in a few words our Spirit of the Namib. Each day brought new and exciting
discoveries and adventures! We experienced the spectacular beauty and
remoteness of Namibia on peaceful deserted roads, dry riverbeds, mountain
passes, off-road trails and towering sand dunes. The wildlife and birds
sightings were numerous and extraordinary! The luxurious Wilderness camps offered us a unique, tranquil environment
in remote and beautiful locations where we woke to a desert elephant
in front of our tent in Palmwag, ate delicious meals around a campfire
and slept under a gorgeous night sky at Kulala.With an incredibly knowledge and skilled
guide by our side and friendly and accommodating staff at every camp,
our journey across Namibia could not have been more perfect - Thank
you for a true experience of a life time!" TP & JM - Toronto,
Camp update - Sep 05 Jump
to Ongava Tented
The changes are so subtle. Purple Pod Terminalia trees as well as a
host of Acacias are all starting to bud, indicating that winter is past.
The birds are heralding the coming of spring with renewed vigour and
their cacophony of chirps, squawks and screeches seem to take on a new
meaning. The vestiges of winter remain as the Mopane trees still cast
their bare branches into the blue skies. Cream-coloured grasses dance
in the warm breezes as the temperatures start reaching the mid-30s during
the day, forcing animals and guests alike to look for the nearest shade,
or swimming pool. Moths announce their presence as they scorch themselves
flying through the candle flames or attempting to reach the flames of
the paraffin lamps.
The annual summer time change has taken place,
resulting in longer daylight hours in the afternoon, affording more
time to watch rhino and other animals at the waterholes. The last of
the natural dams have dried up, forcing the animals to migrate to other
sections of the Reserve where the man-made waterholes give a constant
supply of fresh water. The camp’s
waterhole is starting to provide great excitement as brown and spotted
hyaena whoop their way around the waterhole The Acacia newbronii trees are blossoming, their vibrant yellow pom-pom
type flowers breaking the bleak landscape of the Etosha Pan. Giraffe
and springbok gather around in numbers, delicately picking off the blooms
between the sharp thorns. Plains animals abound at the waterholes, riveting
everyone by their sheer numbers and the antics of the “swimming” springbok
as they wade into the water past their bellies in search of cleaner water.
Rhino, both black and white, are frequenting the waterholes in and around
the camp, making the guides’ jobs that much easier! The frequent
roar of the lions is a reminder that their food source is closer and
easier on which to prey. Stompie (one of our notorious lionesses known
for her aggressive nature), together with her pride, keeps everyone captivated
as they frequent the waterhole opposite our lapa for their nightly drink
before heading off. Leopard have been seen in camp and two cheetah were
observed on the way to the airfield chasing a scrub hare before being
thwarted at the last moment. Black-chested Snake Eagles, Tawny Eagles and Pale Chanting Goshawks
are currently easy to spot as they perch in the bare Mopane branches,
keeping an eye out for an unsuspecting reptile. Sparrow Weavers are enthusiastically
building new nests indicating spring is just around the corner. The colourful
Swallow-tailed Bee-eaters beautify the bare trees as do the Lilac-breasted
The dust in the air lends itself to providing a red orb as the sun sets
in the west framed by barren branches. Absolutely stunning.
The campfire lit, smoke wafting through bare branches, as the crickets
start their evensong ends another perfect month in paradise in Ongava.