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AFRICAN SAFARI NEWS

August 2006
Page 1 of 2

Page 1 Updates
Wilderness Safaris News - Info and updates from Wilderness Safaris

• North Island Dive Report from the Seychelles.
Linyanti Explorations updates from Botswana.

Kwando Safaris game reports.

• Update on the 2006 Okavango Delta flood

• Monthly update from Mombo Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Tubu Tree Camp in Botswana.

Page 2 Updates
• Monthly update from Jao Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Kwetsani Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Duba Plains Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Vumbura Plains Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Little Vumbura Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from DumaTau Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Doro Nawas Camp in Namibia.
• Monthly update from Pafuri Camp in South Africa.


Wilderness Safaris Updates - August 2006
CHILDREN IN THE WILDERNESS NEWS
Earlier this year, Children in the Wilderness Botswana hosted its first follow-up program in Maun. The pilot session got off to a bright and cheery start with the children that visited Jacana Camp in December 2005. These children were selected by the North West District Council, Social and community development office in Maun.

The bi-monthly follow-up visits build on the learning experience of the initial camp session; providing mentoring and support through regular contact; and allowing us to evaluate the impact of the program. Each follow-up visit has a theme, the first one being “Who Am I?” The culmination of the day’s activities involved focusing on the children’s vision of their own future and the attainment of their personal goals.

In May, Children in the Wilderness Namibia hosted a Follow-up Camp for 30 youngsters in Palmwag Rhino Camp. The program was aimed at older participants, as it focused on job opportunities and preparing for the challenges that they will face when they leave school.


SEYCHELLES - NORTH ISLAND NEWS
North Island tern, SeychellesThe North Island environmental program is beginning to bear fruit. It has been eight months since the successful eradication of invasive European rats and the results can already be seen. Sightings of endemic bird species like the Seychelles Blue Pigeon are becoming regular, vegetation rehabilitation is proceeding apace and North Island is contributing to more and more environmental projects throughout the Seychelles, such as a new shark research program. Another recent landmark is the imminent reintroduction of a small population of Seychelles White-Eyes, an endangered endemic species.

North Island has long been recognized for its exceptional hospitality and luxury, but was recently praised for its contribution to conservation at the launch of the national plant conservation strategy when a member of the organisation implementing the plan singled North Island out for its role in combining conservation and tourism!


ZAMBIA CAMPS UPDATE
Kapinga Camp, Kafue National Park, ZambiaBoth Kapinga (image at left) and Shumba Camps are now open and look amazing! The first visitors are already praising the camp and the wildlife that they have seen – from puku and buffalo to lion and cheetah.

The Moshi airstrip is also complete, and the two-hour transfer from the airstrip to Kapinga, Shumba and Busanga camps makes for a great drive up the Lafupa River to the camps, with good game en route. Lunga airstrip is now used mainly for Lunga River Lodge.

Game viewing at Busanga Bush Camp has also been good over the last month, with good lion sightings in and around camp, as well as relaxed roan antelope, 300 buffalo and a cheetah!


CAMP UPDATES
Doro Nawas Head Guide Rosalia Haraes has recently been employed as an Explorations guide to be based in Windhoek. Rosie began as a member of Damaraland Camp’s cleaning staff and worked her way through the ranks to become a guide with Wilderness for the past ten years, finally becoming head guide at Doro Nawas. She is motivated, always passionate about nature and loves her work. She is a great example of how Wilderness Safaris Namibia is changing the face of the workforce in that country and we wish Rosie all the best in her new job and in her future.

Little Mombo and main Mombo Camps will be undergoing renovations from 8th of January to end March 2007. Only a few rooms will be renovated at a time and only during hours that guests are on activities, thus having no impact on guests at all. However, during this time, whether guests will be accommodated at Little Mombo or main Mombo will depend on which rooms are being refurbished at the time.

Savuti and DumaTau are also closing for refurbishments next year as follows: Savuti - 11 Jan 7 to 14 February inclusive and DumaTau - 18 January to 3 February inclusive.

A reminder about Abu Camp elephant activities: As a result of Abu's elephant release policy there are currently only four elephants that are able to be ridden. Two people can ride each elephant at a time, meaning that only eight people can ride at any one time. The remaining guests walk along next to the elephants and enjoy the experience from that point of view or do something entirely different on that day such as mokoro or game drives. Every guest does get the opportunity to ride the elephants during their stay and the experience is not compromised in any way.

Those elephants that have been released into the wild are currently the focus of a PhD study based out of Seba Camp with the guests here able to be gain exposure to an in-depth and cutting-edge research project and the principal researcher. One of the released cows, Nandipa, was recently discovered with a newborn calf, indicating the success of this project.


WILDLIFE
Linyanti Wild Dogs
Wild Dogs in the LinyantiBoth the Linyanti Pack of five wild dogs and the DumaTau Pack of sixteen have been visibly active. The dominant female of the latter group when last seen was heavily pregnant, and is now thought to have given birth.

In an incredible sighting at the beginning of the month, one of our guides recorded how he watched with guests as the dogs killed an impala, only to have it snatched from them by an opportunistic spotted hyena. Not to be deprived of their hard-earned prey for long, the dogs promptly hassled the scavenger until it surrendered the impala back to them!


Namibia

Cheetahs being seen in Namibia
There was a very exciting sighting at Doro Nawas recently when two cheetah made their way up the plain towards the small hill on which the camp is situated. The two animals walked past Rooms 16 and 17 before passing the staff accommodation and continuing on their way. As new guide Rosta Janik said: “Oh my goodness… I am happy to be here!”

Nearby Palmwag Rhino Camp has also been enjoying good cheetah sightings lately. The good summer rains have meant a sea of grass across the Concession and an abundance of plains game “hundreds of mountain zebra, thousands of springbok and plenty of gemsbok” and occasional sightings of lions which have colonized the area. Desert specials like the horned adder have been seen.

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Seychelles / North Island
North Island Dive Report - August 06               Jump to North Island

August has seen quite a bit of unseasonal rain; on one particular day we had a downpour of 50mm within a short space of time. Not that we are complaining as it has been exceptionally dry in Seychelles, with parts of the mainland Mahé on water restrictions.

Fishing has been relatively quiet for us with catch records low. Ocean conditions have ranged from calm, unsettled, choppy to rough over the month. Visibility has ranged between 7m - 15m and this variance has had very little to do with ocean conditions but more to do with currents and then reverse currents where the wind has been blowing from the south-east and the bottom current has been going in a reverse fashion heading south. What has remained a constant is the water temperature, which has remained at 25°C. The changes in wind speed have been largely attributed to spring tides and the full and new moon. We have noticed that over the full and new moon phases, the weather has turned sour with rain squalls coming through, which in turn has seen an increase in wind speed and ocean chop all linked together. Once the rain has passed, the wind dies down and the chop decreases. Within a short period of time the sun is out and it becomes a beautiful day once more. We have also experienced a lot of overcast weather during the month without rainfall. In a nutshell it can be said that the weather has been unpredictable!

From a sighting point of view, we have really enjoyed everything about 'Sprat City' dive site, yet again. We have unashamedly taken the bulk of our dive trips to Sprat because there has been a guarantee of seeing good sightings with loads of action. The baby sprats are no longer that small and some spectacular fish chases have taken place, with the blue spot kingfish and fulvie kingfish almost appearing to hug the reef so as not to be detected but at the same time using spectacular speed at the last minute to totally unnerve these "bait balls" of young fish. Divers have been totally ignored in this hunting game and have floated in one spot, taking in all of this incredible hunting action and predatory behaviour. Fish have circled us or dashed past and through us in an effort to hunt or to hide from being hunted and we have felt almost invisible to them as they have not blinked an eye at our presence (even if they could). Even the trumpetfish have been hovering upside down, waiting to prey on these little fish, also totally ignoring our presence. The spectacular lionfish have been hovering above the reef, often in groups of 4 to 5 in one place and no doubt these fish have also been waiting for an easy meal on the sprats. So as you can see, everything that can hunt has been preying on the sprat "bait balls". We were even graced with the presence of a good size guitar shark moving purposefully across the sand.

Eastern tuna have darted about mid-water at such speed that unless you are looking around for things mid-water, you will not even catch a glimpse of these speedy little game fish. Why would we be looking around mid-water you may ask? Well first off, you often miss out on amazing sightings if you do not look around constantly and secondly, it is whale shark season at the moment in Seychelles, so you just never know what you may see mid-water or on the surface. We have not seen any whale sharks around the island, but it would appear that there has been a bit of activity between Praslin and La Digue islands.

At the time of this report, the people that do the annual whale shark tagging and research have had their microlight pilot on the ground most of the time as there has been little action on Mahe. In the last week however, many have been spotted in the southern regions of Mahe. An exciting find has been that of several 8-metre female whale sharks, which is apparently unusual as the area traditionally gets visits by the 3.5m males. All of these sightings have produced untagged whale sharks. The researcher that usually does the tagging on Mahe has been able to identify at least two animals of late by previous identifying marks taken. This is a healthy signal that these animals have returned to the same area as 2005. The season is still relatively young and we are still expecting sightings. As you know, we are involved in the whale shark research programme and the chance of spending time with this gentle giant of the ocean is always an exciting thought. We are also encouraging the adoption of whale sharks for the season as these funds are used to purchase tagging equipment and pay for microlight fees. The cost of adopting a whale shark for the season is SCR 250.00 per animal.

We mentioned that we had started to work on shark research, together with the authorities on Mahe and members of the Marine Conservation Society of Seychelles. In a nutshell, what has transpired here is that the government has been informed by independent researchers about shark stock depletions here in Seychelles, about overfishing of sharks for meat and fin export. The Seychelles has traditionally (since the early 1900s and prior) had a very healthy shark stock in their waters. In addition, they have also enjoyed a healthy swordfish population, which was an important export. Upon testing the swordfish exports internationally, it was found that the cadmium levels in these swordfish were high and the demand dropped substantially. As the local fishermen had government grants to purchase their fishing outfits and to pay wages, they were forced to turn to an industry where supply was as good as the demand, i.e. sharks. There are two types of operators here at the moment, the first being those that take the entire shark, use the fins and export the meat. The second is those that take the fins and dump the shark, which clearly dies. One of the main elements behind this new research is that dive centres, researchers and officials are talking to the fishing communities in an effort to assist to bring stocks back to Seychelles. This is a new project for the Seychelles and we requested to be fully involved from the start. Our involvement is both photographic identification of individual species/animals, and documenting sightings of the various species. We have been submitting our monthly sighting reports and have been focusing on trying to identify individual sharks whilst on a dive, if we can. We managed to single out two white tip reef sharks, both females, on Sprat City. No easy feat I can tell you because they rest on the sand and appear to be sleeping until you approach closer and then they move off. We subsequently took a group of divers to "Sprat City" a few days after the identifying dive with the purpose of trying to see if these females were still around. Right at the end of the dive and further away from where they were first spotted, we found one of the two females again. This time she was not resting on the bottom but was swimming around, agitatedly, as a remora was trying to attach itself to her and she was not that interested in it! She is larger than the others sighted and upon surfacing I asked the two guest divers that had accompanied me to give her a name and "Domino" was chosen: the identifying features on her are two large black spots that no other individual appears to have. One is below the dorsal fin and slightly to the right and the other is below the 2nd dorsal fin; whether these prove to be ongoing identifying marks remains to be seen. A good identifying feature would be if the tail fin or dorsal fin are chopped or deformed or less than perfect, but these specimens appear to be in a healthy state and it has been hard to single out something different.

Due to the "bait ball" sprats, we have had no fewer than five whitetip reef sharks sighted on a single dive, which has been exciting for the divers. The giant sleepy sharks have disappeared and we have not had a single sighting throughout the entire month of August.

We are thus fully involved in the three research programmes: Coral Reef monitoring, Whale Shark research and now Shark research. We are committed to the ocean and to educating our guests on the importance of all of these animals remaining there so as not to upset the fragile equilibrium in the ocean realm. All of these animals have a role to play in the ecosystem and if we can pass this message on to but one person, a difference will have been made. It is through education, conservation and research that we can understand the role that everything has to play in the ocean and thus ensure that it remains intact for future generations.

Not forgetting the small critters, we have spotted our first rockmover wrasse, which is highly camouflaged in colour, almost resembling seaweed. Quite a few nudibranches have also been sighted and many raggy scorpionfish have been spotted on each dive. The resident regal angelfish have been swimming about on Coral Gardens as well as some very colourful emperor angel fish, adults and juveniles alike.

Debbie Smith


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Botswana Camps
Linyanti Explorations Update - August 06                Jump to Selinda Camp                Jump to Zibalianja Camps

• The western spillway (fed from the Okavango) has now flooded so far along its length that it is less than 26km from the headwaters of the eastern spillway (fed from the Kwando). The eastern spillway has also started to creep west again as the lower reaches of the Kwando River swell from the Angolan rains.
 
• The wild dogs have been extremely active this month and we have almost lost count of the number of kills they've made. One particular happy story is the survival of a kudu cow. She had been hounded and bitten by the pack in a protracted chase before seeking refuge outside the CMU office. Visibly shaken & tired, she managed to avoid further harassment and after recovering wandered off back into the woodland.

• Although we await confirmation, it seems that at long last Amber, our star leopard, has had her first litter of cubs. A very relaxed female was seen with two little cubs in tow right in the middle of Amber's core territory. She was seen again on an impala kill with a fleeting glimpse of a cub.

• On the subject of cubs, it looks like there may be more lion cubs in hiding. Two lactating lionesses of the Selinda pride seem to be confined to an area between Zibalianja Camp and the airstrip. We suspect they have their charges safely tucked away somewhere in the area.

• We are more than happy to announce that, after all the delays and hiccups, our "Phase 1" revamp of Selinda Camp is complete. A skeleton crew of builders will remain behind to iron out the last few gremlins. "Phase 2" will commence in January and the camp will close for this from 10-Jan to 28-Feb 2007.

• How's this for an hour's night drive? A fight between a Jackal and an African Wild Cat as she defended the lives of her three kittens; an Aardwolf sauntering along; an Aardvark diving for cover in its burrow and finally, a half hour with a male leopard as he called and marked territory.

• One of our maintenance crew had a problem fixing a puncture recently whilst on an airstrip errand. He was about to get out of the vehicle to attend to the flat when a lioness came charging out the sage bush in hot pursuit of a zebra! She caught and killed it right in front of the vehicle!

• Of all the rarer animal species on The Selinda, the most sought after by guides is the "giant artichoke" or pangolin. A fine specimen was seen twice recently - once as it casually walked through Zib camp!


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Kwando Safari Camps Update - August 06

Lagoon camp               Jump to Lagoon Camp
• The Lagoon pride was found finishing off the remain of an impala, and later were seen feeding on a buffalo in the upper Kwando area – they crossed north into the Caprivi for a while and were found again on an island in the Kwando river last week.
• 2 lionesses (one with the APCRO collar) were found feeding on a buffalo, and were seen regularly subsequently. They were later seen pulling down a buffalo.
• A new pride, the Masalela pride, was found just north of the camp – very exciting for the Lagoon guides.
• 2 very shy adult male lions were found, and seen from a distance before they ran off, another male lion was seen pulling down a buffalo bull one morning, while an adult male lion and lioness pair were seen mating.
• Several leopard sightings including an adult male leopard with a full belly was followed marking his territory for some time, a female was found and followed hunting for a while – she did not make a kill, a relaxed male was also followed through the mopane for some time.
• A pair of male cheetah were found resting in the shade on top of a termite mound – they were seen regularly over the last period favoring the open floodplains of the Water-Cut areas.
• The Lagoon pack of dogs was seen regularly – initially without the Alpha female – and later with her showing signs of lactating - they killed an impala, and ate for a short while before being robbed by hyenas. The guides saw them kill again several times, and then finally about 10 days ago they saw 3 puppies moving with the adults close to the camp – they killed another impala right next to the camp. They were seen hunting around the Broken Baobab area (killed another impala), and were last seen a couple of days ago chasing tsessebe.
• Big numbers of elephants in the Lagoon area, both breeding herds and bachelor herds providing excellent sightings all day long.
• Excellent buffalo sightings both north and south of the camp – the largest herd est.2000 strong – most herds between 500 and 1000 – fighting and mating witnessed as well.
• General game good – zebra, giraffe, impala, tsessebe, kudu, reedbuck as well as sable and roan antelope.
• Night sightings include hyenas, porcupines, 2 sightings of pangolin, African wild cats – one with 4 kittens, side-striped and black backed jackals (including a pair of black-backed jackals chasing and fighting with a side-striped jackal), servals, genets and one incredible sighting of 5 honey-badgers together! Also a caracal seen regularly close to the camp and chameleons seen most nights as well.

Kwara camp               Jump to Kwara Camp
• A pride of 3 lionesses were found accompanied by an adult male as well as a sub-adult male – they were well fed.
• A mating pair of lions were seen romancing for 4 days, while 2 old male lions were seen feeding on an elephant carcass.
• 3 lionesses were found with 3 four-month old cubs.
• A pride of 3 males and 7 lionesses pulled down a buffalo.
• Another pride made up of an adult male, a sub-adult male, 4 lionesses and 2 cubs were twice seen killing buffalo.
• An adult female leopard (lactating) and her 6 week old cub were seen regularly, she was seen hunting reedbuck without initial success but was later found feeding on reedbuck. More recently she was found feeding on an impala with her cub.
• Another adult female leopard with 2 eight-week old cubs – they were found feeding on a young reedbuck.
• A female cheetah with 3 cubs was found feeding on impala on three different occasions.
• A coalition of 3 male cheetah was found resting in the shade on a termite mound.
• A pack of 3 adult wild dogs was followed hunting – there was no sign of the 8 puppies seen earlier in the season.
• Elephant sightings mostly consist of individual bulls and bachelor herds often seen in the vicinity of the camp – a few bulls were seen swimming across the new extensive lagoon in front of the camp. Also several sightings of bulls swimming across the channels seen while guests were out on the delta channels.
• A couple breeding herds that came south out of the mopane woodland was seen as well.
• Several herds of buffalo were seen – often with lions nearly – the largest herd was c.500 strong – most of them numbering about 200.
• General game including warthogs, zebra, tsessebe, impala, kudu, sable, wildebeest, red lechwe, giraffe, baboons, vervet monkeys, and various mongoose species.
• Night sightings include African wild cats, servals (one with its kitten), Selous mongoose, civets, genets, an aardvark, honey badgers, lots of springhares and one Aardwolf!
• Other interesting sightings include various frog and snake species including mole snake and a mamba, yellow-billed storks, marabou’s and sacred ibis @ the heronry, a long-crested eagle, martial eagle, wattled cranes, ground hornbills, slaty and black egrets, pelicans and 3 different Ibis species.


Lebala camp               Jump to Lebala Camp
• A pair of male lions and 2 lionesses were found feeding on a wildebeest. Another pride was found feeding on an impala.
• The four lionesses with Lebala at the core of their territory were seen killing a buffalo calf on Lechwe Island.
• A pair of lionesses (one with a collar) found on Tsessebe Island managed to isolate and kill a buffalo calf – they later lost their kill to hyenas.
• A single lioness was followed hunting on her own – she also managed to kill a buffalo calf and ended up sharing her kill feeding at the same time as a couple of hyenas. She was followed for several days hunting, tailed by a male lion. She chased after some warthogs but was unsuccessful.
• A nomadic pair of adult male lions were seen ranging all over the concession – they were found sharing a wildebeest kill with a lioness.
• A young male lion was followed hunting buffalo for 3 days with no success.
• An adult male and and adult female leopard were sighted in camp while the guests were having dinner – guests hopped on the vehicle and followed them for a while.
• A large male leopard was seen swimming across a channel onto an island.
• A shy leopard was sighted trying to hunt impala from the top of a termite mound, a couple of other leopards were seen and followed hunting and patrolling their territories.
• An adult female cheetah was followed for a few days before guests saw her stalk and kill an impala.
• A pair of male cheetah have been seen regularly north of the camp over the last couple of weeks.
• An adult female cheetah was found on a termite mound in the early morning – as it warmed up she started hunting and killed an adult male impala but was robbed by hyenas.
• A pair of wild dogs were followed hunting for a whole day without success.
• Large breeding herds of elephants have been seen throughout the Lebala concession both day and night – seen daily crossing the floodplains to the river – very young calves in attendance as well as small bachelor herds following females in oestrus.
• Large herds of buffalo spread all over the concession – largest estimated @ 1500 strong – moving between the river and the floodplains daily.
• General game has been good with good numbers of Red lechwe, impala, zebra, wildebeest, giraffe and tsessebe. Also seen were reedbuck, kudu, steenbuck as well as roan antelope.
• Night sightings include good serval viewing, hyenas which relieved a pair of lionesses of their kill, both jackal species, caracal, aardvark, civets, African wild cat and honey badgers.
• Various snakes were seen including a large python at a water-hole, also mambas, cobras, a grass snake.
• Bird sightings have also been good – huge flocks of queleas seen moving to and from water morning and late afternoon – the carmine bee-eater colony is active.


Little Kwara camp
• Two lionesses and a sub-adult lion were found resting – they were joined by a pair of adult male lions that chased the youngster off, one of the males then mated with one of the lioness! Another pair of male lions was found harassing a buffalo herd – they were later seen pulling down a buffalo cow.
• A pride of 8 lions were found stalking a herd of buffalo, a young male lion and two lionesses killed a buffalo calf while another pride was found hunting impala in the camp.
• Three black-maned lions were found feeding on a buffalo together with six lionesses.
• Guests watched a pride of 6 hunts and kill a buffalo. A lioness was found feeding on a tsessebe, and a male lions were found feeding on a lechwe they had presumably robbed from a lioness who was still trying to snatch a few bites.
• A couple of different leopard sightings including a female with her 2 one-month old cubs – she was later found with just one cub and the guides found plenty of hyena tracks in the area – she later killed an impala and had dragged it into some thick brush to feed – this pair are seen regularly now.
• A coalition of three male cheetah were found hunting but were not seen making a kill – they were found later resting in the shade with full bellies.
• Guides found a female cheetah with 3 very young cubs – they later saw her feeding on an impala.
• Guests had a short sighting of a pack of 3 wild dogs hunting in the Splash Hippo pools area.
• Most elephant sightings are single and bachelor herds – bull often seen in and around the camp as well as seen crossing the channels by guests out on the boats – one breeding herd was seen feeding on the floodplains.
• Several herds of buffalo were seen – averaging at around 300ea – guests witnesses both fighting and mating activity in the herds.
• Other interesting sightings include puff-adders, (one removed from the camp area), a couple of python sightings as well as many excellent bird sightings including plenty of storks and egrets – the heronry is active and providing excellent photographic opportunities, and a flock of “thousands” of white-faced ducks inhabiting the lagoon in front of the camp.
• The general game good especially on the recently burnt floodplains, and include giraffe, impala, tsessebe, kudu, lechwe, some zebra, warthogs as well a troops of baboons with numerous youngsters.
• Night sightings include both jackal species, hyenas, African wild cats, servals, small-spotted genets, porcupines, aardvarks, lots of springhares, honey-badger, bat-eared foxes, civets.

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Okavango Flood update - July 30, 2006
After the heavy rains, which occured throughout northern Botswana in 2006, the water levels in the Delta are presently far above average.  This is because the flood water arriving from Angola has supplemented the above average rains over the Delta.  The result is that pans and channels which would typically have dried by now, still have water.

As always, the Okavango Delta is truly a dynamic ecosystem and this year's rains have made it a very interesting place indeed.  The Savuti Channel actually "flowed" for the first time in over 20 years (over 6 kilometers down the channel).

This is the last flood update until next year.

Okavango flood chart - July 30, 2006

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Mombo Camp update - August 06                Jump to Mombo Camp

One by one, species by species, initiated by the arrival of summer the migrant birds are returning. These arrivals include Whalbergs eagles, yellow-billed kites, Ruffs, who come as far a field as Siberia (18,000 kms), sandpipers and common redshanks to name a few. It seems that the volume of the morning chorus has been turned up three notches as birds compete for nesting sights, display for mates and compete for territories.

The acacia trees now bloom with scent and life, a magnet to both insects and birds. At first the smell of knob-thorns dominated the Okavango, but now their scent mixes with the remainder of the acacia species. Among the flowering trees is the sausage trees, Kegila Africana, who create a carpet of red beneath their canopies. These nectar rich flowers fall onto the ground due the nightly activities of the fruit bats, the trees pollinators. Every morning impala investigate each tree licking at the sweet nutrients the flowers provide, but they need be aware of the ever opportunistic leopards that wait within the trees' foliage.

Impalas at Mombo
Impala feed on the sausage flowers as the leopard waits above in a Marula tree
Leopard and Impalas at Mombo
Leopard launches herself out of the Marula tree
Leopard making a kill at Mombo
Success


Rhino sightings are up; it’s always a special treat to see these prehistoric beasts amongst the palms of the Okavango delta.

A black rhino bull has been successfully relocated to the Khama Rhino sanctuary in central Botswana from Zimbabwe. We a wait with some urgency of the relocation of more black rhino from Zimbabwe, these rhinos are threatened by poaching and are under serious pressure. Once we have established a viable breeding population of black rhino within Botswana, the population will increase naturally. Did you know that there was an estimated population of 1 million black rhino in South Africa 80 years ago and that by 1992, the world-wide population of black rhino had crashed to 2,200…

August has seen some interesting changes within our leopard population. Our territorial male leopards reign seems to have come to an end due to both age and an injured paw. His injury has become infected making hunting and protecting his territory against nomadic males very difficult. We sighted a large nomadic male leopard a few weeks back and have not seen the Burnt Ebony Male leopard since.

Burnt Ebony male leopard at Mombo
Notice his front left paw.
Far-eastern Pan female and her cub at MomboFar-eastern Pan female and her cub.


Bad news about the Mombo wilddogs, the alpha female has given birth but none of the pups have survived. We had not seen the dogs for about a week; this is when she had obviously given birth. When having pups the alpha female will stay back at the den in order to protect the pups and not move around with the pack, her teats also seemed that they had not been suckled on. We are not sure what happened to the pups but can only guess that they may have succumbed to hyenas.

Mombo Wild Dog


The Mattata pride are missing two of their cubs from the pride, its unknown what happened to the first that disappeared but the second I found wandering around on his own miles away from the pride. He may have lost the pride whilst finishing off a meal, not knowing that the pride had started moving again.

Two new males have established themselves, between the territory of the Mattata pride and the Moporota pride. These males have been present at Mombo previously and may again head back out west again as the water levels drop.

Other highlights and happenings at Mombo this month included this very light colored bull giraffe, who seemed to be a favorite with the cows.

An elephant died of natural causes a few miles west of Mombo camp, this feast provided us and our guests with some interesting predator interactions. Within a week only the bones remained thanks to the help of hundreds of vultures and hyenas.

Elephant carcass at Mombo

We look forward to another great month at Mombo in September, and hope to see you all again soon in this perfect paradise.
Greetings from the Mombo Team


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Tubu Tree Camp update - August 06                Jump to Tubu Tree Camp

Spring has sprung! The Knobthorn and Sausage trees are in full flower with the Wild Sage starting to follow suit. The floodwater is starting to recede on the floodplains so things are slowly changing in our part of the delta. We are still able to do the mokoro (dug-out canoe) and boat trips around Tubu but our game drive areas are increasing again as the roads dry up.

As the waters recede the red lechwe are beginning to move out of the floodplains back towards the main channel. We have seen a couple of old buffalo bulls ('dagga boys') in the papyrus beds in front of camp, along with numerous bull elephants in the early afternoons.

The zebra herds are moving onto Hunda Island in great numbers, bringing with them several tiny stripy foals - which seem to have endless amounts of energy, running in and out of the herds as they move.

Zebras at Tubu Tree Camp, Botswana

Bird sightings have been great as the weather begins to warm up; the insects are becoming more active and providing an increasing food source for many birds.

The African Snipe is a prominent visitor on the edge of small pools. According to the camp elders, the increased presence of this bird is a definitive sign that the water is receding. They feed on insects, worms, molluscs and crustaceans in the drying puddles. A pair of Little Bitterns was spotted while out on mokoro, as well as flocks of up to forty Wattle Cranes. Other highlights were an African Hawk Eagle attacking and eating a Cape Turtle Dove, as well as sightings of Common Greenshank, Pied Avocet, Greater Painted Snipe, Lesser Moorhen and Fulvous Duck.

There are huge flocks of White-faced Ducks along the water channel and also hundreds of African Openbills (Open-billed Stork) which cash in on the freshwater snails being exposed by the receding water. We saw one bold Fish Eagle fly into a big flock of feeding Openbills and grab one by the wing, but the stork managed to break free and take off with the Fish Eagle in hot pursuit. This aerial chase went on in circles as the Stork had received serious damage to the one wing but eventually the Stork flew into a dense reed bed and hid out of sight of the Eagle, who went in search of easier prey.

Another interesting bird sighting was a Lilac-breasted Roller that caught a rather large mouse. The mouse was not dead, so the Roller proceeded to beat the mouse repeatedly against a branch before finally dropping it in dense undergrowth and flying off.

The specialist rodent hunters, our African wildcats, have been seen regularly on the night drives. The most seen in one night drive was eight wildcats, six of which were actively hunting gerbils and mice on the edge of the airstrip.

Aardvark was again spotted this month; we think this one may have been a female as she was smaller than the one seen last month; she was quite skittish and dashed off into the bushes after a brief view. Aardwolf, honey badger and civet have also all been seen on the night drives as well as the regular genets and bushbabies.

A large troop of banded mongoose have moved into the camp area and are occasionally seen digging noisily in the undergrowth for grubs and insects.

Guests were again fortunate to see leopard from mokoro one afternoon in front of camp! A young female leopard was resting in a big fig tree outside Tent 3; on closer inspection the guides were able to see a carcass of a big impala ram on the ground next to the tree. She remained on her branch and watched them with mutual interest, seemingly unconcerned about her spectators. We saw her again the following day, joined by her mother, the Mopane Ridge female and her sister. These sub-adult cubs must now be about 18mths old and will soon be completely independent of their mother. We had several sightings of her from the pool deck and from Tent 3, and even saw her walking out to the floodplain to drink water at night.

Leopard at Tubu Tree Camp, Botswana

The guides came across a leopard feeding on a zebra carcass one evening. The adult zebra was really too large for the leopard to have killed it, so it is likely that it had may have died of natural causes and the leopard found a free meal. The leopard's good fortune was short-lived however, as a lone lioness came across the carcass and chased the leopard off before settling down for her share of the prize. By morning there was little left of the zebra and the lioness had moved on, leaving the Vultures to fight over the scraps.

Lion at Tubu Tree Camp, Botswana

One night while sitting around the fire on our "beach" after an evening of traditional singing and dancing we were treated to a very special experience. A big male lion roared from less than a hundred metres away on the floodplain, taking us all by surprise. We sat very quietly and listened as he approached the camp. Using a flashlight we were able to watch breathlessly, as he walked passed the dinner table, about fifteen metres from where we were all sitting. He was clearly on a mission and walked purposely past; calling again once he had passed camp. This was the highlight of the trip for all those guests around the fire and for the staff present!

Looking forward to some warmer weather, Regards Anton, Carrie, Moa, Moyo, Salani and the Tubu Team

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