Wilderness Safaris News -
Info and updates from Wilderness Safaris
North Island Dive Report from
Kwando Safaris game reports.
Update on the 2006 Okavango
Monthly update from Mombo Camp in
Monthly update from Tubu Tree Camp in
Monthly update from Jao Camp in
Monthly update from Kwetsani Camp in
Monthly update from Jacana Camp in
Monthly update from Little Vumbura Camp in
Monthly update from Chitabe Camp in
Monthly update from DumaTau Camp in
report from Rocktail Bay in
Monthly update from Pafuri Camp in
Safaris - April 2006 News
Majete Elephant Translocation
Majete Elephant Translocation Project plans
to translocate 70 African elephants into
the Majete Wildlife Reserve in the Lower
Shire Valley of Malawi during July/August
2006 – where the entire elephant
population was wiped out by poaching by
Safaris has put together a unique adventure
expedition in which guests can take part
in this amazing manoeuver. In addition to
this once-in-a-lifetime experience, the funds
generated will pay for monitoring the translocated
elephants and the final fencing of the Majete
en-suite tented accommodation is provided
by Central African Wilderness Safaris (CAWS)
at the Mvuu
Wilderness Camp in the Liwonde National
Park. Accommodation at Majete will be in
en-suite tents at Thawale Camp. After the
capture operations, guests can relax for
three nights at Club Makokola, a full-service
hotel on the shores of Lake Malawi. If you
are interested in joining this ambitious
and exciting translocation project, contact
us for more details and an itinerary.
North Island wins Hideaway of the Year 2005
Wilderness Safaris’ North
Island has won the
Hideaway of the Year 2005. For the ninth time, readers
of Hideaways Magazine, which showcases the “world’s
most beautiful Hotels and Destinations,” voted
for the award, with 3500 entries received. Features
that were voted for include location, architecture,
interior design, standard of comfort, cuisine and
of course, outstanding service. A maximum of 100
points could be scored, with North Island garnering
the highest score of 89.4 percent.
New Rates Seasons for 2007
For the 2007 period, the rate seasons for Botswana,
Zimbabwe and Namibia have all changed as follows:
Botswana and Zimbabwe:
Festive Season: Dec 20 2006 - Jan 09 2007
Green Season: Dec 01 - Dec 19 2006 & Jan 10 -
Mar 31 2007
High Season: Jun 15 - Oct 31 2007
Shoulder Season: Apr 30 – 14 Jun & Nov
01 - 30 2007
Festive Season: Jan 01 - Jan 09 2007 & Dec 20
2007 - Jan 01 2008
Green Season: Jan 10 - Jun 30 2007
High Season: Jul 01 - Nov 15 2007
Low Season: Nov 16 - Dec 19 2007
Please note that for 2006, the seasons remain unchanged.
Bird Flu update
Vumbura Plains wins Design Award
The latest information on the H5N1 Bird Flu virus
in Africa is that it has been officially reported
in four countries - Nigeria, Niger, Egypt and Cameroon.
To date all infected birds have been domestic poultry
(mostly chicken and ducks) and there have been
only five cases of human infection (all in Egypt
and all as a result of close contact with infected
birds). Risks for travelers to southern Africa
remain very low given that the H5N1 virus is not
transmissible between humans and that close and
prolonged contact with infected birds or their
feces is needed in order to become infected.
|Silvio Rech and Lesley Carstens, architects and designers for Wilderness Safaris
camps such as North
Island, Mombo and Jao,
were delighted when they won one of the Elle Décor Interior Design Awards
for 2006 at the Design Indaba in Cape Town. The award was for the best bathroom
design of the year. The Vumbura
Plains collection will be featured in an annual publication entitled “World’s
Best Interior Designers.” (North Island and Jao appeared in the 2005 edition.)
Camp underwent some maintenance
at the beginning of the month and has re-opened sporting
a brand-new floor and wide deck in the front of the
lodge. A jetty has been added to make the docking
of boats much easier. A walkway has also been added
to access the pool from the front of the lodge. It
all looks really spiffy.
The 4 new
tents at Mvuu
Lodge are on schedule for completion
by mid-April and we really believe that these
will set new standards of bush luxury in
Malawi. New additions are double baths and
cool thatched roofs. The positions of each
tent have been changed slightly to ensure
total privacy for each unit. All the old
2-stroke boat engines are being replaced
with much quieter and environmentally-friendly
The new luxury
chalets on Mumbo Island (Kayak Africa - used
Great Malawian Journey) are on track
for a late 2006 opening and a new speedboat
purchased for quicker transfers between camps
Mawa: Suzie Saunders has used her extensive
knowledge and creativity to transform the
chalet décor with wonderful new
fabrics and linen, while James Lightfoot
has jazzed up the menus which now offer
wonderful variety and originality.
The pool at Chintheche
Inn has been resurfaced and
landscaped and the rooms completely refurbished with
new linen and fittings. There are brand new mountain
bikes and a new semi-rigid speedboat for water sports.
Heuglin's Lodge (Malawi):
Extensive work has been done to enlarge the outside
sitting area and we have installed fast wireless
Internet connections in every room and all rooms
have been completely refurbished - a great spot
for the first or last day of a safari.
no longer be offering hobie sailing as an activity
(for safety reasons), as flatter and more protected
waters are required for amateur sailors. In addition,
the “barefoot ritual” of
the Spa is being phased out as a stand-alone option,
and will be added on to the first treatment consultation
that guests receive with they first visit the spa.
More Malawi News
Nanthomba School - We are building a school for 300
pupils near Liwonde National Park and are actively
looking for sponsors and partners - please contact
Chris Badger at email@example.com.
The 3rd Lake of Stars Festival at Chintheche Inn
(1-3 Sept 2006)
Turtle Season ends at Rocktail
Building on the success of the first two festivals,
this year’s is looking to be bigger and better.
Great local bands already in the line-up include
Peter Mabingu and the internationally renowned Wambali
Mkandawire. The Festival is growing into an important
cross-cultural event between western and African
|A fantastic turtle
season has ended with an incredible 275
Loggerhead Turtle nests seen, compared
to last year’s 171 – a total
of 104 more nests than last year. We have
also seen 78 Leatherback nests, which is
phenomenal for the most endangered sea
turtle in the world. Out of the 353 nests
that were documented since October, 42
of those were made by previously tagged
turtles, meaning that 311 nests were made
by mothers tagged and micro-chipped for
the first time this season.
|Namibia has shared in the rainfall that has so impacted on northern Botswana
and the desert really is green. There is grass sprouting around Damaraland
Camp and in the valley below the camp, while south of Mariental, rainfall
caused an instant pan and the flowering of hundreds of lilies. Below is the
unusual sight of bright green grass covering the plains and dunes around
All this rainfall has resulted in the Aba-Huab River breaking its banks near Doro
Nawas Camp. On 26 March, Rosie was changing a flat tire in the riverbed between
the staff village and the diesel tanks when she and others heard a rushing sound.
The wheel was removed by this point and it was too late to remove the vehicle
from a flood of water which dragged the car 400m.
Seychelles / North Island
North Island Dive Report - Apr 06 Jump
to North Island
have started to change somewhat earlier this year than in the
past. During the course of April the water temperature fluctuated
between 27°C and 29°C.
This drop was mainly attributed to thermoclines underwater, which
is an abrupt transition between warm and colder water. The bizarre
thing about the thermoclines is that on a recent dive, we found
ourselves almost stationary at one point, and looking to the left
we found crystal clear water, with visibility easily reaching 25m.
When looking to the right however and still remaining in the same
place, the visibility was a discoloured 10 - 12m. One had to actually
blink at times to get the thought correct in the mind that we were
in fact not moving and yes, in fact, the visibility was different
from one shoulder to the other.
The other sign that the seasons are shifting has been the wind.
We have had beautiful windless days and then days where the wind
has been moderate in strength, a variable wind direction prevailing,
which according to the locals will continue to shift from one direction
to another until the direction becomes south-east, which will signal
the onset of the monsoon season. This is due to kick in mid- to
It is accurate to say that the first half of the month of April
produced excellent diving and excellent water clarity. We did experience
the odd rain cloud descend on us with little or no warning, only
to bask in glorious sunshine yet again after about half an hour.
Before the rain would descend, the wind would pick up steadily
and create a healthy chop on the ocean surface. We did find ourselves
out on the boat at these moments and all we could do was hang in
there until the rain had subsided, along with the wind and ocean
chop. The latter part of the month has produced unpredictable ocean
conditions, with a drop in visibility and a slight surge on the
bottom of the shallower dive sites.
We have been moving between the
dive sites of "The Spot", "Sprat
City" and "Coral Gardens". We did one deep dive
on Outside Ledge.
'The Spot' has produced excellent
activity this month, although the current has been very strong
here and it has been used for relatively experienced or comfortable
divers with strong legs. This site, for those that are not in
the know, is about 20 minutes out from Villa 11 and straight
out to sea, basically in the middle of "no man's land".
We always dive this site differently to the others in that we
never know what the current is doing here and we need to take
care that it can be dived before getting the entire dive group
to jump in, only to find that some of the group cannot get down
and drift out into the big blue. The dive leader always gets
in first and goes down to check the current strength, based on
the least experienced diver in the group's capabilities. If it
is acceptable, we have a signal that we use for the skipper and
he drops the rest of the group directly on the buoyline.
We have seen the resident massive shoals of blue banded snappers,
always a hit with photographers due to their amazing colours. This
site is in fact our landmark for diving this area as the life tends
to hang around this massive shoal of brightly coloured fish. Resident
white tip reef sharks have graced us as always with their quick
in and out visits. The little cow fish have been absent but we
constantly squint to try to find them. A rare sighting for us was
the two massive stonefish, sitting mouth to mouth inside a cave.
They are extremely camouflaged and not easy to photograph unless
you know what it is that you are looking for.
'Sprat City' has been fairly active by way of resident white tip
reef sharks but it has been relatively quiet on the whole compared
to what it becomes over the next few months, with the onset of
We have dived 'Coral Gardens' a lot this month and have been in
awe at the beauty and abundance of the good coral life. This dive
site boasts a healthy supply of gorgonian fan corals, fine table
coral, bubble corals, leafy crater coral and whip corals. It has
been heart-warming to see such an abundance of good coral life
here, both soft and hard specimens. In addition, and to the delight
of everyone underwater, we have found 3 resident regal angelfish,
adult in size. These fish are extremely colourful and are quite
shy by nature. We have been able to float quietly and watch them
coming in and out of hiding, gaining trust along the way and staying
out longer for us to marvel at their colours. We have at least
3 healthy magnificent anemones with cute clownfish (Nemos for some)
hiding away within the tentacles.
Here's a funny story. I found myself on this dive site with a
student diver recently, who was here as I had to check that he
did not have gills instead of ears (a term used to describe someone
who is relaxed and good underwater). On descent we were immediately
greeted by a juvenile remora (sucker fish). Clearly it was confused
in thinking that we could ever be a better host as opposed to sucking
up to a large ray or shark or something else other than a human
leg. It decided that I would be the host and I spent the entire
dive trying to look after my group, constantly shaking my legs
to try to shake it off me, or trying to smack it off me with my
depth gauge, which did not produce any results either. I had a
few grazes on my lower shin which it kept biting at, causing me
to do an underwater dance that looked nothing short of ridiculous.
Each time I tried in vain to move it off, it would move faster
and faster in towards me. When it briefly swam up to the next diver
and realized that the host was not me, it returned even more determined
to attach itself. And to make matters worse, I took a diver to
the surface and on my return, it was waiting once again. I was
not hugely amused I must add. No wonder some of the bigger fish
that it attaches itself to act irritated, because they nip rather
painfully. In hindsight, it is comical to say the least, but when
you are trying to be serious about guiding and looking after inexperienced
divers, the last thing needed is to be totally harassed by something
that wants to nibble you and has fiercely decided that it is you
and no one else.
Our dive to 'Outside Ledge' was great. This is a small ledge running
parallel to shore, not far from the main beach. The maximum depth
here is 28m, which was what was needed for the deep dive on our
advanced course. We saw a massive giant sleepy shark hiding under
a ledge, quite clearly fast asleep until something made it realise
that it was being stared at. This prompted an abrupt take off with
a burst of speed. We counted no less than 20 geometric moray eels,
at times 3 in one hole.
On an emotional note, we have had slightly closer encounters with
Indian Ocean bottlenose dolphins this month. On returning from
a dive off West Beach, there was a pod of 4 just playing about
on the surface. We cut the motors and watched as they moved in
closer to the boat. They came in really close and once they realised
that the boat was there they sounded and we never saw them again.
On a snorkelling trip just off main beach, a pod of dolphins swam
in, keeping their distance, but nevertheless the snorkellers were
able to get a sneak view of them.
I had the privilege of meeting up with John Nevill, who belongs
to M.C.S.S. (Marine Conservation Society Seychelles). He came to
North in 2005 to discuss sharks, sightings, research and conservation
and I contacted him again and he did a presentation for me on the
various sharks in Seychelles, the plight of these animals and what
the future has in store. We have decided to get involved with his
research and conservation programme with immediate effect. What
this entails is that we are going to document all shark sightings,
dive site location, gender, type of shark, direction of movement,
weather and ocean conditions etc. Once a month I will get this
report back to him. In addition we are going to attempt shark photography
if we can get close enough to the small sharks that we see here
to take a decent picture. As plans and proposals unfold in Seychelles,
we will keep you informed as to progress on shark conservation.
This takes our involvement in ocean research and conservation to
three projects, i.e., Coral Reef monitoring programme, Whale shark
research programme and now Shark research and conservation programme.
It is highly important to us all to put back what we can into
a realm that cannot speak for itself and that is in desperate need
of assistance and care - the ocean realm. We feel that we, as the
dive team and dive instructors, are ambassadors for the ocean and
it is up to us to educate, nurture and highlight what needs to
Camps Update - Apr 06
Lagoon camp Jump
• A Pride of 6 lionesses
and a adult male was tracked and found sleeping in
the late morning with full bellies.
• The same pride was then followed hunting on several
occasions without success.
• A pride of 2 adult males was seen around the camp for
a couple of days.
• A leopard was calling in and around the camp several
nights in a row – lots of tracks but she was
• A pair of adult male cheetah were found after quite
some tracking – they were seen over a period
of a week, last seen resting in the shade with full
• The Lagoon pack of wild dogs still being seen regularly – most
often close to the airstrip – there are still
4 pups left from the original 5 in the litter
• With the pans drying up more breeding herds of elephants
are starting to come down to the river during the day – especially
to the favourite bathing area in front of the camp,
good elephant sightings throughout the concession
• A couple of buffalo bulls were seen but made their
way off rapidly in the long grass
• General game – some zebra, lots of impala, tsessebe,
baboons, giraffe, and wildebeest as well as reedbuck,
steenbuck, warthogs, red lechwe roan antelope and kudu
• Banded, Dwarf and slender mongooses all seen
• Night sightings include hyena, genets, jackals hunting,
serval, caracal, African wild cats, white faced, pearl-spotted
and giant eagle owls and springhares
• Water levels are the highest on the Kwando River in
7 years – water lapping at the bottom of the
Kwara camp Jump
• A pride of 5 young males
and 6 lionesses seen a couple of times resting and
hunting – this pride later split up and only
5 of them were found
• A shy young female leopard was seen briefly before
moving into the long grass.
• A relaxed adult male leopard was seen having taken
his kill – a young warthog up into a tree where
he was feeding.
• An adult female cheetah would found resting in the
shade – she was well fed and was seen around
the same area for a few days
• Elephant sightings – mostly bulls that are feeding
around the marula trees on the fallen fruit, the groups
of elephant bulls still frequenting the water-hole
on front of the camp.
• Night sightings have yielded hyena and jackal sightings
(both species) as well as African wild cat with kittens,
serval a couple of times, genets, as well as various
owl species and several chameleons.
• General game – sable, tsessebe, zebra, impala,
warthogs, giraffe, baboons and plenty of hippo in the
pool in front of the camp
• Also seen – ground hornbills, wattled cranes,
black-crowned night-heron, black and slaty egrets,
guttural toads, and several different different snake
• Water-bird sightings still excellent – the water
levels around the camp high, and all the mopane bridges
throughout the concession in daily use to access flooded
Lebala camp Jump
• A mating pair of lions
at Nyari pan
• A pride of 4 lionesses found sleeping at Skimmer
pan – they hunted in the evening, chased giraffe
a few times without success.
• A male lion was found feeding on a tsessebe.
• A pride of 7 lionesses found sleeping under a baobab – the
were seen several times and followed hunting without
• A male lion was found feeding on the carcass of an
elephant bull - an adult male leopard was also seen
feeding there (when the lion was not around)
• An adult male leopard found at Twin pools, a relaxed
adult female with a cub also seen in the vicinity
• A relaxed young male leopard was followed marking
his territory at Skimmer pan, a shy female was seen
there as well – she was seen hunting lechwe
early one morning as well
• A pack of 20 wild dogs (with a few hyena in attendance)
was found, and then followed hunting – they
killed and ate a steenbuck – the next morning
they killed an adult female kudu but were robbed
• Lots of bachelor herds of elephants seen along the
floodplains – breeding herds also seen in increasing
• Night sightings – a clan of hyena feeding on
an elephant carcass, also seen – jackal – both
species, civet, genets, porcupine, African wild cat,
striped polecat, honey badger, spring-hares, bush
babies and chameleons
• Several different mongoose species seen – yellow,
banded, dwarf, and slender
• Excellent water-bird and raptor sightings as well
as several different snake species
• Water levels are the highest on the Kwando River
in 7 years – Lebala Camp is an island
Flood update - May 10, 2006
The heavy rainfalls in January and
February created an enormous amount of ground water in the Delta and it
is still prevalent throughout much of the safari camps. The
chart below shows data as of May 10, 2006.
Camp update - Apr 06 Jump
to Mombo Camp
The winter chill is slowly creeping into Mombo, bringing with it clear
nights and spectacular sunsets. Rain still falls, and we experienced
a few sporadic storms at the end of this month. The onset of winter and
the shortening of daylight have initiated increased testosterone levels
within the impala population, as males jostle for position and territory.
Impala males now spend about a quarter of their time rounding up females
paying little attention to their surroundings. On one occasion whilst
observing starlings mobbing a black mamba we watched a dominant male
run straight into the fleeing snake, and the mamba struck at the impala
as he continued to chase after his female.
snakes are rarely seen; they are ultra sensitive to vibrations
and usually move away immediately. The African rock python
is an exception to this rapid movement due to his size and
slower pace, although they can move quickly if threatened.
This python was seen moving toward the Moporota Pride's temporary
lair. Pythons can be a threat to the young cubs of species
such as lions, especially when the adults are away, but nothing
seems to have transpired in this case.
The mean temperatures recorded for the
month were min 16°C and max
29°C with a rainfall figure of 24mm. Interestingly, a few intra-African
migrants such as Woodland Kingfishers and Jacobin Cuckoos are still present
at Mombo. The late departure appears to be due to the unusual climatic
conditions we have had, the lush vegetation still houses many insects
thus limiting competition between insectivorous birds. We have had some
regular sightings of a Long-crested Eagle north of the camp as well as
a new White-backed Vulture nest close b
End of an era
is with regret that we announce the discovery at Mombo this week
of the lifeless body of the remaining male cheetah of the well
known 'Steroid Boys' coalition. It has been five months since
the death of the other member of this coalition and in the
interim we have watched with interest and emotion as the remaining
brother has managed to survive in an area of very high large
predator densities. Well beyond his prime, this male continued
to be viewed and in the latter half of March moved back into
the core of the area dominated for so long by him and his brother.
He was in poor condition - a function of both age and the fact
that a single male cheetah is much less of a match for competitors
than a strong coalition - and although he successfully hunted
young red lechwe, he was also noted to have been in some sort
of confrontation with another predator, bearing the wounds of
All of this seems to have overwhelmed
this long reigning male and his death heralds the end of an exceptional
era during which he and his brother featured on the cover of
National Geographic and were immortalised in the book "Mombo
- A Place of Plenty."
The last of
the Steroid Boy coalition was found the first week of April,
having apparently died of starvation. He was seen a few weeks
before his death passing through Mombo heading north. These two
male cheetahs ruled Chiefs Island for many years avoiding lions,
hyaenas, leopards and large packs of wild dogs, but as the years
crept up on these two cheetahs they had difficulty in avoiding
danger. The first male was mauled by lions at the end of 2005
and the second male, having relied on his brother for so long
for protection and hunting, soon diminished. While we have pictures
of this male a few days before he died, we are sure that many
people out there would like to remember the Steroid Boys as the
mighty coalition they were.
Many of the sub-surface pans
within the central part of Chiefs Island are still full due to
the heavy rains we have received, thus making it difficult in
locating rhino. Knowing that there are only a handful of rhino
in the wild within Botswana makes just a glimpse of this well-protected
beast a privilege.
Last week we sighted one of the
black rhino, a mature female, a few kilometres from camp, and
she was not alone. The six sub-adult lions from the Mathata Pride
had circled her trying their best to strategise a take-down.
An adult black rhino can obtain a weight of up to 1 ton making
them a very difficult target for any predator; it was more of
a cat-and-mouse game for both.
|The Moporota Pride has introduced
five of its seven cubs to meat after killing a buffalo north
of their lair. Generally lions are introduced to meat at three
months of age and will be weaned at about nine months. The first
introduction to a kill can be a dangerous affair for the cubs,
especially when the pride males are present, as aggression during
feeding becomes intense. We watched as all five cubs approached
the pride male while he was feeding on the buffalo, a few growls
from him and they were soon running back to their mothers for
The Mathata Pride have been frequenting
'Suzie's Duck Pond', successfully ambushing the zebra as they move
out of the surrounding acacia into the floodplains for the night. A
small harem of zebra with a ten-day-old foal were moving through 'Suzie's'
apparently aiming to join with the rest of the zebra to the south.
Unaware of the lions, the dominant female led the herd straight towards
them. One young lioness had noticed the herd and was watching intently
as they moved closer to the pride. The wind changed and immediately
the zebra were aware of the lions, slowly the herd started to backtrack
and head away from the danger. The same lioness immediately launched
herself from cover and began to chase the herd through the plains,
focusing on the foal. She chased the herd gaining on the foal and finally
capturing the zebra after about a 1-kilometre chase: Remarkable, it
was an amazing experience to witness the intuition of a predator in
its ability to detect a weakness.
|The Mombo lions are imitating
Tanzania’s (and now DumaTau’s) famous tree-climbing
lions, with February and March seeing this curious new trick
being tried out with various levels of success. We are not entirely
sure why they are doing this – possibly sand fleas – a
kind of biting insect – have driven the cats up the wall,
so to speak.
"Everyday was sensational, your staff made our stay very
"This is the most beautiful, luxurious camp that we have ever stayed
in, hence the return visit."
"Everything was perfect."
Tubu Tree Camp update
- Apr 06 Jump
to Tubu Tree Camp
The highlight at Tubu this month
has been the steady rise of the annual floodwater. Channels and floodplains
are filling up, bringing with them herds of red lechwe and many bird species,
including African Jacana, Rufous-bellied Herons, Great White Egrets, Purple
Gallinules, Slaty Egrets, Pied Kingfishers, Malachite Kingfishers, Open-billed
Storks and many more.
With the rise of the water we are doing daily mokoro (dug out canoe)
trips which are a popular way of exploring the floodplains. Being almost
silent, one gets to appreciate this traditional form of moving around
the Delta. There were good sightings of elephant, red lechwe and giraffe
from mokoro. Walking safaris have also been popular with guests learning
tracking skills from the guides and sometimes seeing the odd elephant
bull and once even a leopard while out on the walk. This is all done
with an experienced, armed guide.
The encroaching water is providing new pools for hippo and they are
moving out of the main channels and are now often seen not far from Tubu
camp. There are large pools now by the hide on Hunda Island and by the
large Fig Tree en route to the camp from the airstrip; they can often
be heard in the late afternoon and throughout the night.
The Marula trees in camp are busy dropping fruit, particularly above
the bar. The Fig trees and Jackalberry trees are also fruiting, providing
a banquet with the baboons, monkeys, elephants, impala and warthogs all
competing to get to the ripe fruit first. Guests staying in Tents 2 and
4 have spent many hours watching elephants from their decks and have
had to be collected by the guides to come through to the main lodge,
due to their rather large, obstinate roadblocks!
The lions were quite active at the beginning of the month and walked
through camp early one morning. They then found and terrorised the local
baboon troop before the female ('Brown Sugar') managed to catch one unfortunate
individual. She promptly sat down to her breakfast underneath a Sausage
Tree in which remained two young baboons that spent the next few hours
in isolated disbelief until she moved off and they were finally able
to leave the tree. The male lion, 'Monate' is now becoming more vocal
and has been found marking his territory several times; this is encouraging
as he was seen in our area for several months before he began roaring
to proclaim his presence.
This month has also brought some great spotted hyaena sightings, one
of whom took a leisurely mud bath to guests' delight before seemingly
trying to retrieve something from under the water. Spotted hyaena are
known to 'store' meat under water for retrieval at a later date, using
the pools almost as a larder. We have also been seeing small groups of
buffalo bulls that are no longer travelling with the large breeding herds.
They are fond of the marshy areas where water and good grazing are readily
available, and the floodplains provide both of these and good cover where
they can rest up when not feeding.
There is a pair of Tawny Eagles (pale form) nesting by Kalahari Pans
and the family group of 5 Ground Hornbills are often seen foraging on
the floodplains in front of camp. This group of 5 consists of 4 mature
adults and 1 chick, there is another group of 3 adults in the area, indicating
that conditions at Tubu suit these endangered birds.
We look forward to a further increase in water levels which will hopefully
mean we can begin boating next month, in May.
Anton, Carrie and the Tubu Team
Jao Camp update
- Apr 06 Jump
to Jao Camp
has been the month for leopards and the first of winter in the Jao concession.
The evenings have been filled with magnificent starlit skies. The mornings
are crisp but clear, typical of the autumn time here in the Delta: a few
mornings with low fog over the warm waters of the channel which are still
full for this time of the year. The daytime temperatures have been great,
reaching 18-24° Celsius and it has been wonderful
to enjoy the sun around the pool. The nights are around about 10-15° Celsius
which are ideal conditions for watching the skies unfolding over wonderful
starlit dinners. We have however not been without some rain, 30mm or
so. One of the storms was so spectacular that it provided a lightning
show never to be forgotten, watched from the comforts of your own bed.
The floodwaters have not arrived here yet but the water levels have been
rising and falling again.
April has been a month where activities have been greatly varied, with
wonderful nature walks led by our knowledgeable guides. Great rafts of
hippopotamus and not so many crocodiles have been seen on the boats and
it has just been a great 'Delta experience' to glide along the waterways.
Mokoros have been a real treat as the waters have provided us new and
exciting areas to be explored. The bird life was fantastic again even
though some of the summer visitors have left for warmer climates. One
of the highlights was a breeding colony of Slaty Egrets which has been
discovered and April/May time period is apparently the best time for
them to breed. A Western Banded Snake Eagle has made himself a resident
of the lodge and has killed a Black Mamba as well as a few other snakes.
After an absence of about one and half months we finally found the leopard
female and her cub, which is now about 5-6 months old. This was fantastic
news as we thought the cub had been killed by the lions who were around
when the leopard and her cub disappeared. The alarm bells were also ringing,
as we had spotted a male leopard just before we found her and the cub
in the area, he was furiously marking his territory at nearly every bush.
We had presumed that the female was now in 'oestrus' again but luckily
this was not the case and she and her cub have provided exhilarating
photographic opportunities by playing in almost every kind of tree you
can think about, yes even a baobab and of course the classical legs drooped
over the branch with youngster right next to her. She has made many kills
which some people have witnessed, ranging from steenbok to impala and
red lechwe. Unfortunately many of these were stolen from her by patient
spotted hyaenas, who were also feeding their two young pups at the den
in the nearby area (they also gave us a scare when they disappeared but
we have found the new den site in much the same area).
The coalitions of two males with their two lionesses seem to be well
established in the area now. They are still moving between the Jao and
Kwetsani floodplains and are fantastic hunters and are very well fed.
It seems they are killing red lechwe almost daily and this is interspersed
with regular mating. The one female is now looking heavily pregnant and
we are hoping for some winter cubs.
The floodplains are covered with red lechwe and it seems as thought the
floodwater are not to far away. A few herds of wildebeest, impala and
tsessebe are also the order of the day and occasionally a few buffalo
bulls lingering in the thickets. Breeding herds of elephants are moving
through the area but with all the ripe fruit of the Date Palms and the
Marula trees, the bulls have been hogging these prime locations and will
chase off any challengers, even a Land Rover or two!
Jao guides have been
assisting BirdLife Botswana in a monitoring project designed to assess
the status of several species of threatened birds in Botswana. Several
of these species occur on the Jao Concession in good numbers and NG25
has a long history of supporting Wattled Crane and Slaty Egret studies.
The guides’ support in this effort earned them an invitation to
the 4th World Congress on Hornbills held in South Africa.
In conclusion this has been a really good month here at Jao and we have
had wonderful game and bird sightings. The meals have been out of this
world and have really complemented the whole 'Jao experience'. Looking
forward to your visit!
The Jao Team
- Apr 06 Jump
to Kwetsani Camp
candle loses nothing if it is used to light another one."
Winter is pushing in its icy fingers, but with this comes the most magnificent
clear evening skies. Dinners under the stars are the flavour of month,
and a lion calling in the night is always a welcome sound.
The floods are on their way but do not appear to be too high this year,
although with all the summer rain water lying around who knows what it
will be like. Hundreds of Open-billed Storks are starting to move towards
the floodplains of the Jao concession and there is lots of ruffling of
feathers while looking for the snails that comprise the bulk of their
The two young leopards that have been hanging around Kwetsani camp have
finally been identified as two males. They still visit the area around
camp every few days and many guests are woken at night with the sawing
sound of their calls. The mother is often seen lying in a huge Marula
tree or out hunting but she is distancing herself from them and will
hopefully be mating again soon. 'Beauty' - our resident female leopard
with a territory close to the Jao airstrip - is also doing very well;
her young cub is growing by the day and becoming more adventurous: Even
stalking elephants occasionally.
There have been many sightings of male lions around camp over the last
few weeks and it would seem that one of the resident lionesses is quite
heavily pregnant - winter babies are on their way.
Herds of female and baby elephants have been seen wandering the concession,
enjoying the long grass that the constant summer rains brought us. We
received nearly double our annual rainfall this year with a late shower
just a week ago. The palm trees have sprouted their palm nuts and the
elephant bulls are on their way to shake them down. But before this happens
the baboons are enjoying endless fun tossing them down. Small herds of
buffalo bulls have also been seen from the Kwetsani room decks, moving
across the floodplains.
As the seasons change from summer to winter, Kwetsani will experience
another change - Conrad and Kerrie are moving back to the city to get
married and hopefully a baby in the near future and Ian and Alida will
be coming in to take care of the lodge. It will be sad to say good bye
to old friends made but exciting to welcome new ones in. We wish them
all the best.
- Apr 06 Jump
to Jacana Camp
April was great, fantastic weather with warm days and beautiful sunsets.
The presence of Cape Clawless Otters around camp just makes one realise
once again how healthy and unspoilt this wonderful wilderness location
Game drives, walks, power boating and magical mokoro trips were all
rewarded with memorable wildlife sightings. Leopard and lion are all
in excellent condition and on numerous outings guests found them feeding
on red lechwe, impala and common reedbuck. Elephant visits to the island
were a daily occurrence and the bull known as 'Jack' provided the entertainment
at dinner times and Boma evenings.
Birdlife continues to be an attraction at Jacana and the Pel's Fishing
Owl did not let us down this month. Seeing the elusive sitatunga and
the Pel's while on mokoro - well, what more could you ask for?
Great staff, good food and a wonderful location contributed to a fantastic
time had by all our guests during their April visit.
The Jacana Team
Little Vumbura update
- Apr 06 Jump
to Vumbura Camp
April in the Okavango saw
the end of the rainy season and the onset of winter. Having said that though,
daily high temperatures of 30°C
and above forced us to keep the roofs on the vehicles for the month.
We did have one shower of 8mm but that was it for the rain. It was quite
amazing to watch how quickly the rainwater evaporated! Our boat station,
where the vehicles park, was looking like a mudbath at the end of March,
but by mid-April all the water was gone and we were able to sort out
the parking area. We await the coming floodwaters with great expectation,
hoping for enough time to open the channel to Mbishi - the boat station
during the winter flood period. Little Vumbura island itself is already
showing signs of the coming cold. The Wild Feverberries have started
to shed their leaves, and the grass has been trampled by visiting elephants
coming to enjoy the falling Marula fruit.
Included in the month's wildlife highlights (although
rather a "lowlight")
was watching the young Kubu Pride lioness lose her cubs. She had been
lactating for a few weeks, and then catching up with the rest of the
pride to feed. Unfortunately, she was found one afternoon desperately
searching for her cubs in the Jacky's Pan area, where a leopard had been
seen earlier that day. On a brighter note, the young lioness from Big
Red's family may have given birth and seems to be lactating. The Kubu
Males have been spending more time with Big Red's family. On the day
I flew back into camp from leave, one of the Kubu Males took down a huge
buffalo cow as the herd crossed the airstrip, much to the amazement of
a large group of guests from Vumbura Plains waiting to fly out. The 2
Kubu Males enjoyed the feast for a few days and shared the catch with
the Big Red females.
The rest of the Kubu Pride is looking healthy with all the male cubs
now showing manly traits. The last day of the month saw the Big Red family
hunting at the airstrip at night, but more importantly, the Vumbura Boys
were found by our legendary guide, Madala Kay. The Vumbura Boys have
not been seen for over a year - but Kay has been guiding here for over
9 years and knows the lions exceptionally well and he is certain they
were the Vumbura Boys.
There were far fewer leopard sightings this month
compared to normal, but the number of cheetah sightings made up for
this. It was quite amazing to have so many cheetah sightings with the
grass still being fairly long. We have two new males in the area, while
the female with two juvenile males all seem to be hunting successfully!
The Old Man "Patrick" is
still dominating the area and looks fit and healthy.
We also had a wild dog sighting
early in the month. The male and female, who we see infrequently,
killed an impala and ate furiously. The female looked to be pregnant
so we are hoping they might den in the area. Thank you very much
to Conrad Henry, a guest at the time, for the photographs.
The elephants are back in numbers!
Apart from the odd bull visiting the island, we have been seeing
large breeding herds closer to the floodplain areas, having moved
back from the Mopane shrubland and pans to the north.
We only managed three sightings
of the rare Pel's Fishing Owl this month, two spotted from the
boat with one spotted while on mokoro.
On a sad note, our guide Letty was offered a job
at Vumbura Plains and decided to move on! Letty began his training
here at Little Vumbura and it has been awesome to watch him develop
into a top guide. Aside from his guiding skills, we will miss his
friendly smile, great sense of humour and his choir leadership.
Letty's place on the island has been filled by Matt Porter. Matt
has several years guiding experience in South Africa and managed
Savuti for the whole of last year.
Aside from Letty's departure it was a festive month
with an Easter egg hunt and not even the absence of Erica on leave
stopping us toasting her 30th birthday here in camp.
Managers for the month: Rohan,
Dudley and Erica.
Guides: Kay, Letty and Matt.
- Apr 06 Jump
to Chitabe Camp
The phenomenal rainy season of the past year has yet to leave us - on
the 22nd of April we had 12mm of rainfall, and as I write, we have had
19mm of rain in the first couple of days of May. This kind of precipitation
is almost unprecedented - the dry season should be well underway by now,
but Mother Nature obviously has other ideas. The entire area is still
wonderfully green, bursting with flowers and creating a real sense of
joi de vivre.
A Woodland Kingfisher is still with us in camp, taking advantage of
late summer pickings, almost two months overdue in making his journey
northwards. The Marula trees are fruiting, providing a feast for animals
large and small, from tree squirrels to baboons, people to elephants.
The island is still completely surrounded by water (which hasn't happened
since 1997), hosting a rich variety of waterbirds - herons, cormorants,
egrets, storks, kingfishers, ducks and geese. A pod of hippo have taken
up residence south of the camp in Elephant Pan - where there has been
no water in the previous ten years, and two Wattled Cranes have graced
the floodplain over the channel from Chitabe Trails.
Chitabe Trails has had a complete rebuild, and
looks fantastic. A new thatched bar/dining area below the big Marula
tree faces the water channel, and raised walkways branch out from it
to the tents. The new "loo
with a view" has drawn many admiring comments - some have said it
is large enough to throw a party in there!
Three kills have been recorded this month by the Old Chitabe cheetahs
- the mother and her two sub-adult cubs. She has been suffering an injury
to her hips for almost six months now, and it seems to be getting worse,
although she is healthy and has had a steady supply of food from her
cubs who she has trained to hunt successfully.
The highlight of April was locating our resident pack of wild dogs.
With the assistance of Dr. McNutt, who used radio telemetry to obtain
a rough fix of their relative position from the air (two of the dogs
have radio collars), we drove out to try and find them. Newman picked
up their tracks, and shortly afterward we came across the pack in the
Robin's Floodplain area. Of the seven dogs that denned on the concession
last year to produce seven puppies, four adults remain with five puppies,
now almost a year old. One adult male has a wound on his left foreleg,
but it doesn't seem to be bothering him much. We spent a magical half
hour with the pack, watching them as one adventurous adult splashed around
in the water of a small pan, before they took off deep into the Mopane
woodland on their late-afternoon hunt. With a bit of luck, they will
hopefully den upon the concession again this year, some time in June.
The lions have now come down from the trees where we had to keep looking
for them, and are once again moving over semi-dry land once again. There
have been a lot of nomadic lion coming into the concession since the
resident males moved further south. One night we had an old male lion
in the camp, wandering around as if inspecting the place; he walked from
the entrance of Main Camp, through the island, past the workshop, and
into Trails camp, roaring all the while! We found his massive tracks
in the early morning dew - a real thrill and evidence of a wild and close
encounter for our guests (some of whom hadn't slept too well!) Lazarus
found him near the airstrip mating with one of the Sandibe females, proving
that although old, he hasn't lost his touch with the ladies! On the Gomoti
Channel, the three females of that pride have had six cubs, and we have
seen two of the massive attendant males a couple of times.
Leopard sightings have been sporadic, but rewarding. Lelobu the big
Acacia woodland male was seen a couple of times, and Mosadi Mogolo was
found with her one remaining cub with kills on three occasions. A shy
male has also been spotted in the Acacia Road area a few times, but he
is nervous and usually only offers a fleeting glimpse of himself as he
melts into the thick bush like a spotted ghost.
OT saw something that warrants a mention - a slender
mongoose killing a Knob-Billed Duck - considering the difference in size,
it was quite an epic struggle, and the duck almost managed to take off
with the mongoose clinging onto it! Quite a testament to the bravery
and ferocity of this little mammal.
In the space of one day,
three lion, three cheetah, two jackal and a leopard were seen in the
vicinity of the airstrip - definitely the place to be! Shortly afterwards,
Lazarus spotted a pangolin (also called scaly anteater), one of our rarest
species! It wandered right in front of the approaching vehicle, rolled
into its characteristic defensive ball shape, and then, sensing no danger,
unfurled itself and continued along its way right in front of the delighted
Large congregations of elephant have been moving through the area, and
one afternoon Newman saw a gathering of about a hundred (it was dusk
and hard to count) milling around Aardwolf Plain. The great bodies parted
to reveal two massive bulls engaged in a duel over mating rights - the
larger of them knocked over a tree in a demonstration of strength before
briefly locking tusks with his opponent. The smaller bull realised he
was outgunned and fled - directly towards Newman's vehicle, veering off
course at the last moment when he saw the way was blocked. The Geslot
family from France came away with some excellent images once their nerves
Although early for the year, a small herd of Cape buffalo (about 30)
was also sighted, in the Gomoti area. As the dry season progresses, we
would expect to see them in their thousands coming down from the Moremi,
crossing the channel and grazing vast swathes through the sweet grasses
left in the wake of the receding flood.
The weather systems, although erratic, have started
to slowly cool down the temperatures, with average lows around 12°C, and highs around
29°C. Considering the amount of water around, some of us are predicting
a very cold winter. If you are planning a trip this winter, remember
to bring your woollies!
Regards from Chitabe
DumaTau update -
Apr 06 Jump
to DumaTau Camp
The comic sighting of the month
at DumaTau was the entire Savuti Pride (four lionesses and four cubs) desperately
attempting to escape the biting flies that are proliferating in the wet
weather. In a pseudo-yoga-turned-game-of-twister act of intricate balance
and questionable cooperation, we found all eight cats perched delicately
in a single, small, flimsy-looking fever-berry! Out of range of most of
the flies, admittedly, but looking decidedly uncomfortable - each time
one of them moved, another fell out!
Rocktail Bay Dive Newsletter - Apr 06 Jump
to Rocktail Bay Lodge
We have had yet another
month of absolutely magnificent visibility, with almost every
day being 20 metres or more of crystal clean, warm 26°C waters. The
days have however generally been overcast and perhaps that is a sign of
winter on the way. Although there are always our faithful reef residents
to keep us entertained there are also always a surprising number of new
finds or rare encounters to enchant us. Below are some of the highlights
from the month of April.
Though we frequently see large schools of spadefish, which is a member
of the batfish family, it is quite rare for us to see the orbicular,
or longfin batfish, on the Rocktail reefs. Darryl was delighted to come
across a longfin batfish under one of the ledges at 'Pineapple'. What
made it all the more special and striking was that it was a juvenile
with greatly elongated fins. It has been spotted once since and we are
on the lookout, so fingers crossed.
Anyone who has dived at 'Regal' will know how special its namesake,
our single regal angelfish, is to us, so you can imagine Clive's happiness
when he discovered two juveniles a little further south of the adult.
This is one of the most stunning of the East Coast angelfishes and we
are glad to say that we now have at least three that we know of in our
Banded pipefish and ghost pipefish have again both
been spotted. The ghost pipefish is related to true pipefish
but differs in that the females incubate their fertilised
eggs in a pouch. With true pipefish, such as the banded, the male is
the fish to become "pregnant" and incubates
the eggs in his pouch. True pipefish are therefore more closely related
to seahorses in which the male is also "pregnant."
On a larger note - about 7 metres larger - was the chance encounter
with a female whaleshark, which turned up to delight the divers behind
'Island Rock'. We are slowly coming to the end of whaleshark season,
but that can only mean the start of another season, that of the humpback
whales. Eyes will soon be fixed on the horizon looking for that distinctive
bushy blow, elongated flipper, small dorsal fin or any other sign of
our singing friends as they make their way up towards tropical Mozambique
waters to calve and breed. One of our divers was at Umkomaas over the
Easter weekend and saw a whale breaching far out to sea, so it shouldn't
be long before we start to see them here.
A porcupine ray was also spotted this month. This is certainly a rare
find and is quite distinctive, with thorn-like spines covering its back.
There have been plenty of blue spotted rays, especially on the sand patch
on 'Gogo's' where they seem to be congregating in large numbers. Another
regular feature this month have been brown or sharpnosed stingrays, often
seen travelling along with a companionable kingfish.
A juvenile clown triggerfish was found at 'Hang 10'. The books say that
the juveniles are rarely seen as they are usually found deeper than 25
metres, hiding in caves and crevices. We are therefore fortunate here
as we do encounter a fair number of these small juveniles at much shallower
depths than they would normally be seen.
Our dive at 'Solitude' on the 20th was stunning with crystal waters,
very little current and a prolific amount of life. It was great to see
that the two longnose hawkfish are still in the black coral and we are
hoping that love is in the air (or water?). The adults are just exquisite,
and it would be incredible to see the juvenile form. Also seen on the
dive was a majestic giant ignoblis patrolling slowly around the cave.
This is certainly the king of all kingfish and an extremely fierce predator.
Unfortunately it is a prized catch for anglers and spearfishermen, so
it is good to know that this reef still remains secret with only Darryl
and Clive knowing the marks.
The long weekend at the end of the month produced some wonderful dives,
with great sightings of spinner dolphins, bottlenose dolphins which swam
past the divers at their safety stop, octopus, tiny pipefish, eight paperfish
found by Clive on one dive, and a huge red frogfish!
And one last rather big surprise this month was a hippopotamus that
came down for a lovely swim and walk along the beach at 'Island Rock'.
Who knows maybe one day we might see one on SCUBA, you never can tell
We were not the only ones excited by the month's events:
"A privileged diving experience, easily the best
diving operation I have had the pleasure of using! Well done guys" -
"An amazing coastline and outstanding operation.
Thanks for very special diving. (And the longnose hawkfish!)" -
"Great place, great diving, great naps and certainly
great company! Thanks for a memorable trip!" - H&JZ, JOHANNESBERG
Congratulations to Charlotte Stewart, who qualified as a PADI Junior
Open Water diver. Well done! Look forward to diving with you again soon.
Till next month
Darryl, Clive, Michelle, Jen
The Rocktail Bay Dive Team
Camp (northern Kruger) Newsletter - Apr 06 Jump
We watched quietly as one lone, young bull elephant approached
the Luvuvhu River on the opposite side of where my wife Colleen
and I sat alongside some visitors. We were sitting at Mangala
on a beautiful Saturday afternoon when the lone bull approached
carefully, stopping every now and again to sniff the air with
his trunk twisting and turning like a snake high above his
head, making sure that the path he was using to get down to
the river was clear of any danger. Once he was satisfied that
there was no threat at all he climbed down the bank and drank
thirstily from the cool river. When his thirst was quenched
and after a quick shower he turned slowly and started walking
back the way he had come. As he reached the cluster of mopane
trees about a hundred meters back from the river he stopped
and again lifted his trunk and sniffed the air. This seemed
to be the signal that all was clear because as he turned and
once again headed back towards the river he was followed by
the rest of the herd who had been waiting patiently and feeding
on the luscious mopane leaves further back out of our view.
The breeding herd consisted of adults, sub-adults and very
young babies, about 28 individuals in all. It was a beautiful
sight as adults and babies alike played together in the water.
Some of the babies were so young that they were still trying
to figure out as to what purpose their little trunks serve.
To these little guys it must seem as though the trunk was specifically
designed to get in the way when they are drinking. Suddenly
there was a loud trumpet probably from the matriarch in charge
of the herd. The babies were quickly herded together and the
adults formed a protective circle around them. Four old bulls
appeared, out of the same cluster of mopane trees, walking
in a single file towards the river, the front one sniffing
the air with his trunk as he walked. We watched as the matriarch
let her annoyance be known to the four bulls that had rudely
interrupted her and the rest of the herd. She rushed at them
shaking her head and trumpeting loudly. The four old guys knew
they were no match for this very aggressive lady and gave her
a wide berth as they made their way to the river. Deciding
that the safest option altogether would be to cross over and
get as far away as possible from this 'mad cow', they waded
into the river and started heading in our direction. That was
when we decided to leave them so that they could get a bit
of peace and quiet. An awesome sight! And welcome back onto
the concession, guys.
Some highlights from the month of April:
1) Temminck's Courser sighted on 6th April. We now have three
coursers that have been recorded on the concession: Temmick's,
Three-banded and Bronze-winged.
2) A beautiful sighting of a Long-crested Eagle - a first for
3) A Snouted Cobra was seen succeeding in killing a young python
4) About 150 Marabou Storks sighted roosting at Banyini Pan.
5) A Gymnogene (African Harrier Hawk) seen catching Bee-eater
6) Several sightings of the uncommon Racket-tailed Roller.
7) Juvenile Thick-billed Cuckoo with a flock of Retz's Helmet-shrikes.
8) A five-minute sighting of a Bat Hawk hunting over the Luvuvhu
River at dusk.
9) Pel's Fishing Owl flying off from a stump at the bridge
with a fish.
10) A beautiful sighting of a sable antelope bull at Manqeba
The birding on the concession during the month of April has
once again been a gem. We have had 222 recorded species this
month. They also include: Allen's (Lesser) Gallinule, Little
Stint, Ruff, White-fronted Plover, African Crowned Eagle,
Lesser Grey Shrike, Black Cuckoo-Shrike, Icterine Warbler,
Garden Warbler, Red-capped (Natal) Robin-Chat, Bronze Mannikin.
Some breeding herds of up to thirty elephants are once again
being sighted. Buffalo continue to be seen in large herds
on a daily basis, one herd numbers ±400 individuals.
One lone sable bull was sighted at Manqeba Pan. Other sightings
were: Eland, nyala, giraffe, blue wildebeest, bush pig, bushbuck,
porcupine, African wildcat, aardvark, waterbuck, black-backed
jackal, and spotted hyaena to name just a few. The larger
predators were also seen on a regular basis - leopards seen
were mainly the well known 'Bridge Male' and the Mangala
Female and her year-old cub. Lion sightings were comprised
of members of the Pafuri Pride who were seen in groups of
3 to 8 strong. Two of the lionesses and their six cubs frequented
the area around camp and kept us entertained with their roaring
Average min temperature 18.5?C
Average max temperature 32.3?C.
Rainfall consisted of one slight drizzle.