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AFRICAN SAFARI NEWS
September 2005

This Month:
• Dive Report from beautiful North Island in the Seychelles.
• Monthly update from Linkwasha in Zimbabwe.
• Monthly update from Makalolo Plains in Zimbabwe.
Kwando Safaris game reports for September 2005.
• Monthly update from Chief's Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Selinda Camps in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Tubu Tree Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Vumbura in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Savuti Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Chitabe Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from DumaTau Camps 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 Spirit of the Namib Safari in Namibia.
• Monthly update from Ongava Tented Camp in Namibia.


North Island in the Seychelles
North Island Dive Report - Sep 05               Jump to North Island
North Island shore

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 up!

All the best,
Steve Gouws


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Zimbabwe Camps
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 by then.

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.

GUEST COMMENTS
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. Thank you'!

That is it for this month,
Regards
Willem and Trish


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Makalolo update - Sep 05               Jump to Makalolo Camp
September 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 bath.

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 and splashing!

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 leftovers!

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!

GUEST COMMENTS
"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

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

(Weeks 3-4)
• 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 the area.
• 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 a buffalo.
• Huge numbers of elephants seen daily, including all throughout the day drinking and bathing in front of the camp.
• 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
(Weeks 1-2)
• 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 buffalo.
• A pair of young male lions and 3 adult females have split from the pride of 10, and were followed hunting several times.
• An adult female leopard was found at night in the process of stalking a herd of impala but was not successful.
• A group of 3 male cheetah was followed – they tried to catch a rather aggressive adult male warthog but were routed.
• 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 civet sightings.
• 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 migration northwards.

(Weeks 3-4)
• 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 mongoose.
• 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 ibis.
• Early summer migrants – Carmine bee-eaters, western red-footed kestrel, ruff, sandpiper, and both pratincole species.


Lebala camp               Jump to Lebala Camp
(Weeks 1-2)
• 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 impala.
• A pack of 3 wild dogs were followed hunting, chased a steenbok and missed and then ran off into the darkening evening.
• Excellent numbers of elephants – more than 1000 seen in one stretch of riverbank south of Lebala camp.
• Herds of 500 – 1000 buffalo seen visiting the river areas to drink daily – most often in the late afternoon.
• 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.

(Weeks 3-4)
• 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 heavily pregnant.
• 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 days.
• 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 bull.
• 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 strong.


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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 once recycled.

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.


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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 litter.

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 sightings.

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 year.

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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 Egrets.

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 or jackal.

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.

Tubu Greetings!
Anton and Carrie


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Vumbura 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 are biting!

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 Land Rovers.

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

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Savuti Camp update - Sep 05               Jump 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 waterhole.

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!

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Chitabe update - Sep 05               Jump 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 their activities.

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 luck!

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

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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.

Cheers
The DumaTau Team


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Jack's and San Camps update - Sep 05               Jump to Jack's and San Camps
The 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.

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South Africa camps
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

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Pafuri Camp (northern Kruger) Newsletter - Sep 05                  Jump to Pafuri Camp
My, 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.’

Birding
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.

Game viewing
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 area.

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.

Thanks
Geoff Mullen.


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Namibia camps
Spirit of the Namib Safaris - Sep 05               Jump to Spirit of the Namib Safari
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.

Desert Elephant at Damaraland

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.

Desert Elephant at Damaraland

En 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 Daddy’. 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, Canada

Regards
Kobus Pienaar


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Ongava Tented Camp update - Sep 05               Jump to Ongava Tented Camp
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 Rollers.

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.

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