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AFRICAN SAFARI NEWS

December 2006
Page 1 of 2

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

• North Island Dive Report from the Seychelles.
• Monthly update from Kings Pool Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Savuti Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from DumaTau Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Zibalianja & Selinda Camps in Botswana.
Kwando Safaris game reports.
• Monthly update from Mombo Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Jack's & San Camps in Botswana.

Page 2 Updates
• Monthly update from Tubu Tree Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Kwetsani Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Duba Plains Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Vumbura Plains in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Ongava Tented Camp in Namibia.
• Monthly update from Pafuri Camp in South Africa.

Turtle news from Rocktail Bay in South Africa.

Monthly Dive report from Rocktail Bay in South Africa.


Wilderness Safaris Updates - December 2006

GENERAL UPDATES
Luggage weight AND size – A reminder!
There are strict weight and size restrictions in place on any itinerary which includes light aircraft transfers for the following reasons:
- The aircraft are designed with a maximum bodyweight and luggage weight allowance.
- Most of our airfields are over 1000 meters above sea level and are located in the tropics, and therefore the permissible passenger carrying capacity is reduced.
- The aircraft have physical space restrictions.

Some important issues must please be noted for air transfers:
1) Luggage, including camera equipment and hand luggage, is restricted per person as follows:
- 12kg/26lbs in Zimbabwe, Best of Namibia Wing Safaris and Namibia Explorations
- 20kg/44lbs in Botswana, Namibia (excluding above), South Africa and Zambia

2) Only soft bags will be accepted - no hard suitcases can be transported as they physically cannot fit into the aircraft.

3) The maximum dimensions of the soft bags which can be accommodated are as follows: 25cm/9 inches wide x 30cm/11 inches high and 62cm/24 inches long. Please bear in mind that the baggage compartments on light aircraft are only 25cm/9 inches high, so the pilots must have the ability to manipulate the bag into the compartment.

These luggage restrictions appear minimal; however please bear in mind the following:
• Most safari camps / lodges and hotels provide basic toilet amenities,
• Laundry is done on a daily basis (many camps provide this service free of charge but hotels do charge a nominal fee),
• Mainly casual clothing is required.


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ZAMBIA UPDATES
South Luangwa camps for Wilderness Safaris
In mid-2007 Wilderness Safaris will open two intimate bush camps in the South Luangwa National Park: Chinengwe Bush Camp and Kalamu Tented Camp.

Elephants in South Luangwa National Park

We have secured a superb concession in the wild and uncrowded southern sector of the Park. Unlike the busier, northern part of the South Luangwa park, where the Luangwa River forms the eastern boundary of the National Park separating the park from communal land and hunting areas, in the remote southern sector, the Luangwa River meanders westward and both banks are protected. It is here that we are building the two new camps. Both sites are on the banks of the Luangwa River in a remote and exclusive section of this exceptional Park. As always, a major factor in our design philosophy is to keep our bush camps as environmentally friendly as possible.


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SOUTH AFRICA UPDATES
Second CITW Camp at Pafuri
Children in the Wilderness took place for the second time at Pafuri Camp in the Kruger National Park during the first week of December. There was an exceptional atmosphere this year, as the young children were members of the Makuleke people, owners of the Makuleke Concession where Pafuri Camp is located.

Children in the Wilderness at Pafuri Camp

The program began with the entire Pafuri staff singing a welcome to the children, who soon were singing themselves as they went from one activity to the next. These included games, swimming, and racing, musical chairs, making their own instruments out of shoeboxes and tins – and then giving a concert with these! The “serious” aspect was built into the games and included discussions on abuse, HIV/AIDS and nutrition, to name but a few topics. The children’s favorite activities were the game drives, where they got to learn about the animals and plants around them.


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CAMP UPDATES
Abu Private Villa at Elephant Back SafarisTatler Travel Guide 2007 named Abu Private Villa at Elephant Back Safaris in Botswana as one of the top 101 Best Hotels in the World. The glittering annual Tatler Travel Guide Awards ceremony, held at The Ritz in London, saw the Abu Private Villa ranked in the ‘Owner’s Digs – Masters Quarters’ category.

 


This year children of all ages were accommodated in the Kafue camps in Zambia (Busanga Bush Camp, Lunga River Lodge, Shumba Camp and Kapinga Camp); however for the 2007 season (which starts again on 01 May), the age limit of 8 years applies for these camps. As with the new Luangwa camps, a private vehicle is NOT necessary for guests with children of 8 years and over.

Seba Camp is currently extending an existing twin to now accommodate a family of four (maximum 2 adults and 2 children). The family unit will be ready by the end of February and the second room will be en-suite with a bath/shower and an upstairs bedroom with a couch. There is a small plunge pool on the extended deck overlooking the lagoon in front and a sandpit for the children to play in. There is no discounted rate for children in this family room and it is simply to make the stay more comfortable for a family with young children, where their parents now can have them close by.

New tents at Selinda CampWithin the Selinda Concession, Selinda Camp has been refurbished and is looking exceptional. The water levels in the Selinda Spillway have been very exciting this year and bode well for an interesting year ahead.

Zibalianja tents have a different look as well, with a furniture rearrangement and décor adjustment. Since the vista from each tent is a panorama best viewed head-on, it was decided that the beds should face this, so now a guest's first view of the day is just spectacular.


Ketumetse Discoverer Camp, at the opposite end of the massive 135,000-ha Linyanti concession, is also coming into its own and as the floodwaters receded at the end of winter, this camp had amazing game viewing.

Camp closures and refurbs:
Serra Cafema is being completely revamped, but this will take place in three phases:
First closure: 14 Jan open on 29 Jan 2007
Second closure: 08 March open 15 March 2007
Third closure: 01 June open 10 June 2007

Ongava Tented Camp: Closed on 15 Feb open on 01 April 2007 - Revamping the entire Camp
Damaraland Camp: Closed on 14 Jan open 01 March 2008 - Revamping all units
Ongava Lodge: Closed on 30 Jan open 26 Feb 2008 - Revamping the Main area


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

The month of December has been a productive and interesting one, both above and under water.

We have seen an increase in the amount of wind with strong gusts at times as well as a large increase in rainfall. This is consistent with the change of seasons, but we have had a number of days where the wind has come from the south-west. This is uncharacteristic and we had also expected more rainfall for the December period compared to December 2005. This could possibly be contributed to a cyclone around the 20th of December which got as close as 40km from the Farquhar Islands in the south of Mahé and caused the shopping boat "North Point" as well as our dive boat "North Spirit" to be stuck on Mahé for 2 days, while the winds reached speeds of 60 knots around North Island and Mahé. Around Farquhar Islands, the winds reached speeds of more than 90 knots! There was also a slightly less developed cyclone off the tip of Madagascar at the end of December which had a much smaller effect on the Seychelles, as it stayed farther south.

We are using the calmest beach to launch the boats and at the moment Petit Anse is the favoured beach on most days. The sand deposits on East Beach have suddenly increased with over a metre of sand being deposited during the few days of rough weather resulting from the cyclone to the south of us. The opposite has happened on West Beach where a large amount of sand has been removed. This shift of sand is normal for the seasonal changes with the change of wind direction, but it has happened a lot faster than usual, almost at the blink of an eye and many staff have commented on the rapid change.

We have had a number of sightings of turtles coming up the beach to lay their eggs, as well as a number of sightings of hatchlings making their "dash" for the sea. Unfortunately, we have had 1 or 2 cases of turtle egg nests being uncovered due to the massive erosion of sand so rapidly from West beach. These nests were relocated to higher ground and re-buried by the Environment team, who are optimistic that these eggs will mature.

The temperature recorder was replaced at our Dive site "Sprat City". This recorder will be taken out every 3 months, so that we can monitor the water temperature around the island, in conjunction with our coral reef monitoring research project.

We have had pretty good diving conditions this month, aside from the few days of inclement weather. Generally the temperature has been a very comfortable 28°C and the visibility hovering around the 20-25 metre mark.

The juvenile lemon sharks we saw all through the month of November right on our shores have sadly left us. We still continue to see the white-tip reef and giant sleepy sharks on a regular basis on many of our dive sites. Spotted eagle rays have been very common on the dives and on a dive to a rarely-dived site called "Outer Banks" we saw 1 large round ribbontail ray followed by 8 sharp-nosed stingrays, 2 giant sleepy sharks and 2 white-tip reef sharks, all in the space of 10 minutes!

Although the action underwater has calmed down slightly, we are still seeing lots of bluefin kingfish hunting the reefs for a snack. Schools of 4 or 5 large barracuda have also been spotted regularly swimming mid-water on Coral Gardens. Great excitement recently on a dive to "Coral Gardens" was the sighting of 2 large yellowfin tuna on scuba, swimming mid-water. We have not had the privilege of regular sightings of these special fish on scuba and the size of these two was a sight to be remembered.

Looking ahead into January we should see the rain easing off towards the end of the month, with February until early May renowned for being the best diving months.

Clive Scherer

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Botswana Camps
Kings Pool Camp update - December 06                Jump to Kings Pool Camp

December at Kings Pool was basically hot and wet. Two weeks prior to New Year, a storm hit Kings Pool, bringing 128ml of rain in 90 minutes. Since then it has been raining almost every day until soon after the New Year celebrations.

Nonetheless, the game has been really good for the whole month. Sightings of lion, leopard, African wildcat and wild dog were generally common. We had excellent wild dog sightings. The DumaTau pack and Linyanti pack of wild dogs were frequently seen around the Linyanti Concession as a whole, unlike the previous months or when they were denning. The DumaTau pack comprises 10 adults and six pups, whilst the Linyanti pack consists of only five adults. Therefore, it means that they have lost two adults. The Linyanti pack denned in Chobe National Park in 2006, which made it difficult to have frequent sightings or observe and monitor their movements.

Lions that were seen included the Selinda female, the Chobe Boys, one Savuti Boy, the Kings Pool female and the LTC pride. The Selinda female with her cubs have been hanging around Kings Pool airstrip and Chobe, and she has primarily targeted warthogs. However, as soon as it started raining, she moved into the Mopane woodlands. The major reason for this is because the warthogs and other animals are drinking from the pans in the woodlands and do not need to go to the river.

Before leaving for the woodlands the female had a change from her usual warthog diet and we had a thrilling kill just in front of Room 1 at the water's edge where she killed an adult male waterbuck which must have been taken by surprise whilst drinking. Encumbered by the prey's size lying half in the water the female had to muscle up the strength to pull the carcass out of the water and to a safe distance from the crocodile who had its own ideas of taking her kill. For the next 2 ½ hours and visibly tiring from the experience the female pulled the body a foot at a time out of the water and called her cubs over to help her eat. Every few minutes we could see the crocodile show his head then submerge again and sneak up in the grass, never leaving the safety of the water, but forcing the female to defend her meal by snarling and charging the water's edge, never taking her eye off the crocodile. The female sensibly disembowelled the carcass to lighten the weight, which was a moment when the crocodile showed particular eagerness, perhaps understanding what its rival was trying to achieve and made frequent attempts to grab it - it was a fractious atmosphere between the two predators. With a final effort the female was able to pull the carcass away to safety. Later that night we found the lioness with her cubs under the bushes with their prize where they remained safely hidden from hyaena and other hopefuls in the area for three days.

The LTC prides which is composed of two females and two cubs have been seen moving with the lone Kings Pool lioness. We have discovered that they have lost one cub of the original three. They move between Kings Pool Camp and Linyanti Camp, north-east of Kings Pool, although they too have moved deeper into the Mopane woodland. As a consequence of these three lionesses joining up we anticipate the formation of a larger, more cohesive pride.

The Kings Pool territorial male lions, the Border Boys, have not been seen for the whole of December. They have crossed into Namibia and we have only heard them roaring from there. It is not surprising they have stayed across the border given the large population of buffalo that we see there from time to time.

The elephant sightings have been excellent, from early December until the 20th when it started raining continuously. Since the rain, over the past two weeks, no elephant sightings were recorded because they have all dispersed into the Mopane woodland. However, the situation will change because when it stops raining a few herds or bulls will reappear.

One thing that you cannot beat in Linyanti during the rainy season is the birdlife. The following birds of concern are seen throughout the year in Linyanti: Slaty Egret, Wattled Cranes, Ground Hornbills and Lappet-faced Vultures. Almost, all the birds that migrate to Southern Africa in summer have arrived, for example, European Bee-eaters, Carmine Bee-eaters, Cuckoos, Kingfishers, Eagles, Swallows, Ruffs, and Sandpipers.

All in all, the Linyanti Concession is very green. When it is cool or cloudy, it's not surprising to see up to 50 hippo out of the river during the day. Hippo sightings are a special treat this time in Linyanti although they tend to be noisy at night!

Most of the animals have given birth, so there are lots of young ones from different animals: warthog, impala, giraffes, and even hippo - this definitely adds another dimension to the wet season.

Guests have been enjoying the rain showers and that special feature of Africa, the thunderstorm as it races towards us! But always with rain clouds once the sun is setting it is undoubtedly the most spectacular and inspiring of sunsets only seen this time of year!

From
The Kings Pool Team

Report written by Keiditsemang Gabogolelwe - KD
Kings Pool guide


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Savuti Camp update - December 06                Jump to Savuti Camp

December proved to be a fantastic month for Savuti and filling in as relief management could not have been more of a pleasure for us. Well done to the team - you are amazing! The month ran smoothly and seemed to shoot by in the blink of an eye. Savuti is a very special place and one could not ask for a better introduction to Botswana and the paradise within than a camp situated on the famous Savuti channel.

From the beginning of the month the pan in front of the camp was a huge attraction for a multitude of animals. Buffalo were seen drinking from the pan frequently for the first half of the month until on one crisp early morning two large male lions killed a sub-adult buffalo in front of camp which provided guests with an amazing sighting and great photographic opportunities. After which the buffalo were not seen again near the camp... Who can blame them? The two male lions were a frequent feature around camp for the month, often roaring through the night until the early hours of the morning keeping most of the camp awake and alert. On one special night with full moon high and bright in the sky we were serenaded by the lions all through dinner as their large moonlit shapes stalked the open channel around the pan.

Savuti was host to a digital photography workshop, run by Dana Allan, for four nights. The workshop proved to be very successful and was of great interest to guests and staff alike. Some amazing photographs were taken as Grant Atkinson and Kane expertly guided the group to ensure that they were given the best photographic opportunities throughout their stay. During their time at Savuti they were treated to sightings of: lion, leopard, cheetah, elephant, buffalo, wild dog, hyaena, aardwolf, bat-eared fox, African wildcat as well as a vast array of herbivores including sable and roan antelope and a multitude of bird species including the unique opportunity which the channel provides to photograph Carmine Bee-eaters riding the backs of Kori Bustards.  [Note: This was the Eyes on Africa Digital Safari group.]

One of the most exciting features during the month was an aardwolf den situated less then 15 minutes away from the camp in the channel. The den housed two adults and three pups which provided some exceptional sightings for very lucky guests of such a rare species. This typically nocturnal creature was sighted on several occasions in the late afternoon and fading light after thundershowers. A pangolin was also sighted during the month - but to the disappointment of managers at camp who did not get to see it. Cheetah was sighted several times within the channel close by the camp. Most of the cheetah sightings were made up of two territorial males, known as the Savuti boys, as well as a mother and three youngsters and another large male confidently walking the land of the two brothers. This male became known as Ramolomo (Hanglip) as his lower lip drooped. It will be interesting to monitor the interaction of this invader on the brothers' territory in time to come.

At the beginning of the month elephants seemed somewhat of a rarity with the occasional visit of a breeding herd at the pan in front of camp. As the month went on and the rain fell and the grass in the channel grew, the breeding herds came out foraging in the channel regularly until by the end of the month there was seldom a moment that an elephant could not be seen from camp. Every night we were visited by an old bull who seemed attracted to all the human commotion and would look for excuses to come right up close to the deck to see what was happening. As a result we were often treated to pre-dinner drinks with a friendly giant, much to everyone's delight.

The climate during the month was variable as is the norm in Africa. The first part of the month was made up of days of scorching heat which made activities at times very challenging. Soon after, however life-giving rain started to fall and there was seldom a morning or evening that did not involve thundershowers. With the rain came the grass and the channel seemed to spring to life. Many small flowers have sprouted including the White Bauhinia, Bush Violets, Sesame Flowers, Wandering Jews and Devils Claw.

Birding at Savuti and the surrounding areas has been fantastic this month. A comprehensive list was obtained for the month of December with all the summer migrants having returned for the warm weather and heavily vegetated land. Owls around the camp have been amazing. From camp alone the following were seen: White-faced Owl, Barred Owl, Scops Owl, Pearl-spotted Owl, and Barn Owl while on drive, Marsh Owl, Wood Owl and Giant Eagle Owl were spotted.

The Christmas party was held for all the staff of the Linyanti concession on the 11th of December at Kings Pool. The staff from Savuti, DumaTau and Kings Pool were all there and ready to put their singing, dancing and acting skills. Savuti's choir was magnificent and some amazing talents emerged during the play, Savuti won the best play award! Well done Savuti, you really made us proud! The Christmas party was then moved towards the river where the staff battled it out on the sport fields. By the end it was an amazing day and Savuti made the channel and the camp proud!

Thanks to everyone for making the month such a pleasure. Savuti is a special camp and we look forward to seeing it after it reopens in March.

That's all from the Savuti team. Cheers!


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DumaTau Camp update - December 06                Jump to DumaTau Camp

Happy New Year! Summer is definitely upon us now. The rains have arrived, with over 100mm this month. The skies have been cloudy on most days and this has led to some incredible sunsets and moody days. The rains have cooled down the temperatures, although we did have one blistering afternoon of 37 degrees Celsius at the beginning of the month. The average high over the last week was in the mid-twenties and the average low was only 3 or 4 degrees lower.

The roads are very wet now, with puddles everywhere. The landscape is a brilliant green. The Mopane scrublands and the riparian woodlands have become very dense, as all the leaves have grown. Many of the smaller flowers are showing and in the Savuti Channel the grass has flourished, and it has been looking like a well-manicured golf-course! As we drive up the Channel, grasshoppers and other insects are disturbed and the Carmine Bee-eaters opportunistically fly around the vehicle catching them. It is amazing to see these bright crimson-pink and blue birds performing great aerobatic displays only a few metres away.

Lesser Black-backed Gull at Zibadianja Lagoon

The birdlife has been fantastic. This month we recorded 259 species in the DumaTau area, including all the migrants that are now back. One of the highlights was seeing a Lesser Black-backed Gull at Zibadianja Lagoon on at least three occasions. This particular species has only been seen a handful of times in Botswana and this sighting caused quite a fuss in the birding community. Since they are on occasion seen at Lake Kariba in Zimbabwe, this bird probably followed the Zambezi to the Chobe, finally ending up here in the Linyanti. Other specials this month include a few Slaty Egrets in the floodplains and a sighting of some African Skimmers at Zibadianja Lagoon, a few Wattled Cranes, Osprey along the river, a few pairs of Black Coucals in the long grassy areas near Croc Island, a Western-banded Snake Eagle at the 1st Corner in the Channel, a Booted Eagle flying above the floodplains, White Storks and Abdim's Storks foraging, a female Pennant-winged Nightjar one night near "the Backflow" and a Denham's Bustard walking in the open area near Dish Pan Clearing.

Owl at DumaTau

Other interesting sightings include watching Black Herons fishing in their unusual parasol mantling style near Zib Hide. As Kori Bustards move about they also disturb the insects, which allows the bee-eaters to catch them. These bee-eaters have learned that they need not waste energy by following the bustards around, but rather catch a ride on the bustard's backs and then only chase the insects when they are disturbed. This is quite an unusual sighting to see one bird taking advantage of another in this manner.

With all of the rain many of the creepy crawlies have emerged. One night as we were having dinner we had a slight plague of flying termites (alates) that were gathering around the lights. We moved all the lights away from the dinner table and ate the rest of the meal in the dark. These termites are bred to start new colonies and are thus winged and fattened up for the occasion. They are a great source of protein for many animals in the area (including people).

The reptiles have also made an appearance again and we have seen quite a few snakes whilst out on the game-drives. These have included: African Rock Pythons, at least one sighting of a Mozambique Spitting Cobra, Puff Adders, Stripe-bellied Sand Snakes, Spotted Bush Snakes, a juvenile Mole Snake, Snouted Cobras, Black Mamba, Stiletto Snake and a single sighting of a Cape Wolf Snake.

One night as we were walking guests to their tents after game-drive we came across the most extraordinary scene. Right next the pathway were two large snakes - a Snouted Cobra and Puff Adder tangled together. It seems that the cobra was in the process of feeding on the Puff Adder.

On the 25th Ban discovered a dead hippo in the water in front of Zibadianja Hide, probably killed by another male in a territorial dispute. Over the next few days crocodiles appeared and started devouring the carcass. It was amazing to see them grab hold of chunks of meat and flesh and roll their bodies to tear it off the carcass, then throwing the meat up and swallowing it in a gulp. At one point, we could see at least 58 individuals.

The water in the Savuti Channel, at the beginning of the month, had dried up quite a bit and the end of the water was just west of the Old Mopane Bridge. With all the rain that we've had the regression of the water in the channel has stopped and it even appears that the water may be rising slightly again (from all the rains). The floodplains are marshy once again and the lagoons are full. In the mopane woodlands the seasonal pools are now filling up and the larger pans are already holding quite a bit of water.

Up until halfway through the month we were still seeing small buffalo herds near Kubu Lagoon and Zibadianja, but these now seem to have headed deeper into the woodlands. The zebra have also moved from the river, but we are still seeing fair numbers of them. The elephants have dispersed into the woodlands and we are seeing herds scattered in the mopane and in the grassy, open plains near Dish Pan. One afternoon, a gathering of over 100 elephant came down to drink near Kubu Lagoon. Behind the herd we noticed a female and her tiny calf come slowly towards the water. The baby was extremely small and pink, and was very unsteady on its feet. It tripped over a few times and each time the mother turned and guided the baby up again. Eventually they got to the water, where the mother wet the baby with mud and held the infant up as it fell down again. It appeared that the baby was only a few hours old. What a privilege to see this interaction between a mother and her newborn.

The general game is still fairly good and we are still seeing numerous giraffe, impala (with all their babies), kudu, red lechwe, blue wildebeest, warthogs (often with tiny, cute piglets), chacma baboons and vervet monkeys. Other antelope that have been seen fairly regularly this month include steenbok, waterbuck and a small family of southern reedbuck. Two rarer species of antelope that have been seen are a single tsessebe and two or three sightings of small herds of roan antelope.

Aardwolf at DumaTau

At the beginning of the month the grass was still short in the Savuti Channel and we saw a few of the smaller mammals, including bat-eared foxes, black-backed jackals and an aardwolf family of two adults and at least three pups. These are normally quite elusive nocturnal animals and we always count ourselves lucky if we see one. One afternoon we were extremely lucky to find another elusive, strange creature - a lizard-like creature on the embankment. At the top of the embankment, walking on its hind legs was a pangolin, a very rare find. It is not only an endangered species, but is also a highly nocturnal creature and is not seen very often. We followed it and it headed to a thicket where it proceeded to feed on some ants that were nesting under a fallen log.

Selous mongoose and Snouted Cobra at DumaTau camp

One night we were returning back to the camp when we spotted a Selous mongoose in the floodplains, an uncommon, solitary, nocturnal animal. We noticed that it was attacking something and was jumping backwards with its back arched and hackles raised. We approached and saw that it was indeed attacking a large Snouted Cobra. Every time the mongoose came forward the Cobra would strike at the mongoose and it would leap out of the way. We watched this until the mongoose decided that the prey was not worth the hassle and left the snake alone. What a sighting!

Predator sightings have also been fairly good considering the thick bush and the availability of water throughout the concession.

Cheetahs were sighted on five days this month. Three of these sightings were of a single male known as "No 11 - Droplip". He is an adult male who is quite distinguishable due to his hanging lower lip. One morning the two "Savuti Boys", the territory holders for quite a few years now, appeared in the grasslands of Dish Pan Clearing. They chased some impala unsuccessfully, and then headed up to a prominent termite heap overlooking the plains, where they rested. On the evening drive, these two cheetah were sighted at Giraffe Bones, a distance of at least 10 kilometres from where they were seen in the morning.

Due to the thicker bush and poorer visibility, we have not seen as many leopard this month as we did last month. These elusive cats were spotted on 6 days this month - not bad at all. The DumaTau Male was spotted on the 15th, walking in the Savuti Channel near Letsumo Sign. He was still limping, but otherwise was looking fine. The Kubu Male was also seen at the beginning of the month near the Zib Mangosteens. On the last evening of November we spotted him lying in the floodplains. He led us to a carcass of a female impala stashed up in a tree. We then found a young baby fawn impala bleating nearby. It was probably its mother in the tree. The leopard looked interested in the fawn but then left it alone in the dark and he headed off into the woodland. The next morning we went to the carcass to see what had happened during the night, but could not find the leopard or the fawn. The kill was still stashed in the tree and a fair portion of it had been eaten. As we were exiting the forest after looking for the leopard we heard screaming and barking and witnessed him running across the floodplains to the taller grass, with a large troop of aggressive baboons after him. This leopard was reportedly seen by Relax, later in the month, near the Big Jackalberry. He was quite skittish and quickly headed into the thick bush.

On the afternoon of the 19th we spotted the young leopard known as the Zib Cub. The youngster was quite interested in the vehicles and came closer and lay down a few metres away from us watching us watching him. He then saw a squirrel running nearby and gave chase, climbing small trees and bushes and chasing the squirrel around for a while before he gave up and rested. This young leopard's mother, the "Zib Female", was spotted at the 1st Corner on the evening of the 28th, resting under a Feverberry Croton. A pair of giraffes had spotted her and were staring in her direction. The leopard then got up and crossed the channel and headed into the woodlands where she spray-marked trees.

Lion sightings have been pretty good considering the time of year, seen on at least 19 days this month. Most of these sightings were of the Savuti Males, the Savuti Pride and the Selinda Female and her two cubs.

Savuti boys on a termite mound

The two Savuti Males have mainly been walking between the River near Kings Pool, the airstrip and Savuti Area. On the 10th they were seen feeding on an already ripe young elephant carcass in the Mopane woodlands near Chobe Airstrip. On the 27th Ban had just been watching a baby zebra in the Savuti Channel near the "Boscia Tree" and had only driven a short way from it when he heard a loud scream from that area. He returned to the place and found the two male lions killing the baby zebra. The two males then fed and rested nearby.

On the 8th Chantelle found one of the smaller sub-adults of the Savuti Pride drinking water in a puddle in the Savuti Channel and followed the youngster as it headed south into the woodlands, calling softly; it led us to a few more of the members of the Savuti Pride, all with full bellies. Nearby we found three hyaenas that seemed to be waiting for the lions to leave and then we found a buffalo carcass.

Lionesses at DumaTau

One morning the Selinda Female was spotted walking in the floodplains on the eastern side of Cheetah Flats / Strangler Fig. She lay down for a while before spotting some warthogs coming out into the grasslands ahead. Oaites had already anticipated the hunt and placed himself on the other side of the warthogs. The lioness charged and caught one of the warthogs quite close to the vehicle. Towards the middle of the month two male lions from the Border-brother coalition crossed the river to the Kings Pool side and the lioness took her two cubs deeper into the Mopane, where they are more difficult to find. They have remained in this area since then.

Wild dogs were seen on two days this month, both sightings of the DumaTau Pack. This pack consists of 10 adults and 6 youngsters. On the 23rd they were spotted running in the woodlands near Green Pan. The next day they were reported near Savuti Camp and then heading towards Kings Pool area where they remained until the 30th when they came past the camp area, chasing impala. They killed an impala in the riparian woodlands to the north of the Staff Village. The next afternoon they were seen running across the channel towards Shumba Pan and back towards Selinda - another fleeting visit.

And that's all from all of us at DumaTau
We wish you all the best for the year ahead.

P.S. A few comments from the Guest Book:
Yedda - "Very memorable and beautiful experience! Thank you!"
Barbara and Peter - "When you don't wear a watch and don't know the date you know you are having a good time - wonderful experience."
Klara - "A dream come true."
Greta - "Great memories here! Amazing people! Amazing place!"
Mandy and Stephen - "Absolutely spectacular! A truly special place - postcard memories... We shall definitely return time and again! Thank you to all the staff!"


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Zibalianja & Selinda Camps update - December 06            Jump to Zibalianja Camp           Jump to Selinda Camp

As the season draws to a close we start preparing for the big rebuild of Selinda's main area. With an aim to bring our guests up to the view and not tucked away in the back, we have elected to build a complete new structure. The old structure will remain with the upstairs serving as a gallery and parlour. The downstairs area will be remodelled into a large curio shop and a temperature controlled wine cellar! Please remember that Selinda Camp will be closing for the building on January 10th. We will reopen - hopefully to much fanfare - on the 1st of March. Zibalianja remains operational throughout and they are ready to welcome guests.

New furniture in the offing? After 11 years it is time to replace the furniture of Zib's tents. We are currently sourcing something slightly different and will, with luck, have the new items early in the New Year.

Sightings
Sighting of the month! Honey-badgers are not considered a common animal, so seeing one is special. Seeing one giving a display of their legendary ferocity is even rarer. After being harassed by a yellow mongoose, a fairly large spitting cobra become the target of some "badgering", eventually ending up as the main course for the feisty animal.

The Selinda wild dog pack made numerous appearances through the month and treated us to possibly their most spectacular conquest of 2006. After an extended chase they brought down a huge kudu bull. Such a large kill by wild dog has been recorded only one other time by us in the last 11 years, and that was also a kudu bull.

Cubs are back on the viewing menu! Our female leopard Amber has been showing off her charge quite frequently. At 8 months old the youngster is getting quite big and has a very inquisitive, adventurous nature - must be mum's genes. There are also a number of lion cubs about and at least two lionesses who are due any day now.

After reporting on all the cute babies that are about, we are now watching their inevitable decimation. The sweet little "warthoglets" are a favourite lion snack at this time of year and it is amazing how much effort they will put in to catch what amounts to just a couple of mouthfuls. The gangly wildebeest calves are providing ample sustenance to the local hyaena clan and the impala lambs are a wild dog staple at present.

Another viewing boom that comes about with the rains is the emergence of snakes, particularly python, of which quite a number have been seen recently. Forced out from burrows and other hidey holes that become flooded after a downpour, these magnificent creatures - sometimes up to 5m in length - are generally happy to "pose" for the camera.

With the onset of the rains, particularly after the first major downpour, comes the seemingly magical, overnight arrival of a whole host of summer migrant birds - Waders, Kingfishers, Cuckoos, Storks, Shrikes, Bee-eaters etc. All brighten up the bush. Many of these gorge themselves to repletion on another magical phenomenon - termite emergences or "flying ants". This is the bush version of a Christmas feast - it happens once a year and there seems to be no end to the food.

The HQ camp once again became the catching net for the wild dogs' hunting efforts. On two separate occasions they caught and killed impala at the staff kitchen. The frequency of these kills indicates that the strategy of chasing their prey into a confusing environment is intentional.

A lone buffalo cow fell victim to lions, with the whole chase and kill taking place within sight of Zibalianja's viewing deck. Over the next two days, the waterhole in front of camp provided much excitement as the big cats came to drink.


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Kwando Safari Camps Update - December 06

Lagoon camp               Jump to Lagoon Camp
(weeks 1-2)
• A coalition of four male lions was seen patrolling the area between the camp and John’s pan over the last two weeks. They were also seen feeding on a baby elephant carcass for a couple of days. No females were seen during this time.
• Two leopards were seen during the last two weeks, one of them a male who was spotted far north, on the upper Kwando and the other a well fed female, closer to camp.
• Our well known, “two brother” cheetahs were seen moving North towards the camp. They did not stay long though as the four male lions in the area posed a threat to them. They were last seen moving back South, towards Lebala camp.
• The Lagoon pack of dogs, consisting of the three adults and three young ones, were seen everyday for 15 days straight hunting and resting in the area. They seem to enjoy being close to Lagoon the camp.
• Small breeding herds of fifteen to twenty elephant are still being seen, mostly at night drinking from the river. Some lone bulls were also still seen on the game drives.
• Breeding herds of buffalo continue to be seen almost every day. The herds are now moving away from the river towards the Mopane forest as the water holes are filling up with rainwater.
• Three relaxed black mambas have been seen on the game drives. The birding continues to be excellent with all the summer residents now accounted for.
• Springhares are seen on every night drive. Hyena and jackal have also been seen at the lion kill. The hyena kept their distance from the kill, but the black backed jackals managed to steal titbits from the kill.
• Lots of giraffe, tsessebe, impala, wildebeest, lechwe, reedbuck and baboons are being seen on the drives. Sable and roan antelope had also been seen, although very briefly.
• Porcupine, African Wild Cat and dwarf mongoose had been seen as well as the tracks of an aardvark.

(weeks 3-4)
• A single lioness was found sleeping on the road, close to John’s pan. The coalition of four males, were not seen again after they finished their elephant calf kill.
• The two male cheetahs was seen several times hunting during the last two weeks. They were slowly making their way south towards Lebala.
• The Lagoon pack of dogs, consisting of the three adults and three young ones, managed to kill an impala close to the airstrip. They then moved towards the camp and spent a full day resting on a termite mound in front of the camp.
• Breeding herds of elephant have been coming back to the floodplains from the Mopane forests and from Namibia. This might be because of low rainfall in the area.
• Small herds of buffalo continue to roam the flood plains between Lebala and Lagoon camps.
• Birding continues to be very good, with some pelicans also being seen. Most of the summer migrants are now nesting as well.
• Very good sightings of side striped and black backed jackal have been reported. Hyena is found on almost every night drive. Chameleon sightings have also been very good.
• General game sightings continue to very good, with lots of zebra, wildebeest, and giraffe being found. Good sightings of roan antelope were also reported.
• Mongoose sightings were excellent, with slender mongoose, dwarf mongoose, banded mongoose and yellow mongoose being found. Porcupine and honey badgers was also sighted on some of the drives. African wildcat and serval were seen on the night drives.

Kwara & Little Kwara camps               Jump to Kwara & Little Kwara camps
(weeks 1-2)
• Three different lion prides were seen in the Kwara area during the last couple of weeks. The first pride consisted of 3 females, 2 big males and one young male. They were seen resting on a termite mound. The next pride had one big male and seven females and was followed while they were out hunting on the Tsum-Tsum plains. The third pride was seen at third bridge, moving towards Splash camp and consisted of one male, two females, one male cub and one female cub. One of the prides killed a hippo, close to the airstrip. Another pride moved in on the kill and in the resulting battle one of the cubs was killed.
• The regularly seen female leopard and her now eight month old cub, created quite a spectacle, when they walked on to two reedbuck and mom managed to kill one of the reedbucks in full view of the game drives. She dragged her kill for almost 2km to her preferred feeding place and was observed feeding on the kill with her cub.
• The three cheetah brothers managed to get separated and one was heard franticly calling his brothers. He managed to locate his two brothers and was later seen relaxing with them on a termite mound.
• An unknown pack of 14 wild dogs have been seen over the last couple of months. They were followed on the afternoon game drive and managed to kill two impala, 5 minutes apart. They managed to feed on both the kills uninterrupted.
• Elephant sightings have been very good on the boat cruise, with breeding herds as well as small bachelor herds seen crossing the channel.
• A small herd of about 100 buffalo was seen feeding on the plains.
• Hyena, continue to be seen on almost every night drive. A clan of 6 hyena was seen in one morning and followed while heading towards Mothusi’s crossing.
• General game sightings continue to be very good, with zebra, giraffe, impala, baboon, kudu, tsessebe, reedbuck, wildebeest, waterbuck, red lechwe and sable antelope being seen.
• Two relaxed porcupine were seen moving around on one of the night drives. Serval and African Wild Cat as well as two shy honey badgers were also spotted on the drives. The lions have also been very active around camp at night, so guests had to be driven instead of walked to their tents.
• The birding, continues to be good, with the heronry being very active. Ground hornbills, wattle cranes, slaty egrets and goliath heron also put in an appearance.

(weeks 3-4)
• Lion sightings continue to be brilliant, the pride consisting of the seven females and one big male were seen and followed while trying to hunt zebra and tsessebe. One of the females came in to oestrus and the male was seen mating with her.
• The female leopard and her cub were seen several times during the last two weeks. They went hungry for a while until she managed to kill a warthog, which they fed on for two days.
• A female cheetah was found walking on the Kugana main road. The three brothers were found with very full bellies resting on a termite mound.
• The pack of fourteen wild dogs were followed while they were hunting. They managed to catch and kill an impala next to the game drive vehicles. A different pack consisting of two dogs were also seen hunting, although unsuccessfully.
• Small breeding herds of elephant continue to be seen feeding on the floodplains. The odd bull elephant is still found crossing the channels or bathing in the river.
• Small groups of old bull buffalo were seen, normally resting in the shade of some trees during the last two weeks.
• Very good sightings of spotted hyena as they were following the lions around. Black backed and side striped jackals were seen on the drives. Good sightings of chameleon were also reported.
• Big herds of zebra, some of them up to a couple of hundred in the herd were seen grazing on the plains. Baboons, impala, wildebeest, tsessebe, kudu, and warthog were also seen in abundance. A magnificent Sable antelope bull rounded of the very good general game sightings list.
• Banded and dwarf mongoose were seen on some of the drives. African wild cats, serval, large spotted genet and a civet were seen on the night drives.
• Excellent sightings of birds of prey were reported, with brown snake eagle, martial eagle, and crested eagle being some of them. Giant eagle owl and pearl spotted owl were also seen. Woolly necked stork, saddle billed stork, wattled cranes, goliath heron, and purple herons were some of the many other species of birds that make this area a birding paradise at the moment.


Lebala camp               Jump to Lebala Camp
(weeks 1-2)
• A pride of two male and three female lions have been seen on several occasions during the last two weeks. They were seen hunting, but were unfortunately not successful. A coalition of four males was also seen at John’s pan.
• A rare sighting of two adult leopards together was reported. The male was very relaxed while the female was a little nervous.
• A nervous male cheetah was seen on one of the drives. The same male was again seen the next day, he was more relaxed and managed to successfully hunt and kill a wildebeest calf. The two brother cheetahs also came in to the area later in the week and they stayed for a couple of days.
• The pack of 16 wild dogs created a lot of excitement, when they appeared in the area. They killed an impala and then lost the kill to a clan of hyena. They moved off and managed to kill a young tsessebe. The hyeana followed them and after a viscous fight they lost this kill as well.
• Because of the rains, fewer breeding herds of elephant have been seen. Lone bulls and small bachelor groups still feed on the floodplains though.
Small herds of buffalo continue to be seen on the game drives.
• Jackals, civet, and serval had been seen quite often. A rare sighting of an African Wild Cat hunting a scrub hare was also reported; however it did not manage to kill the hare.
• General game sightings continue to be very good, with lots of zebra, impala, wildebeest, warthogs, tsessebe, waterbuck and even some roan antelope being seen.
• Honey badgers, serval and mongoose were seen regularly on the drives.
• A couple of black mamba, cobra and python sightings have been reported. The birding continues to be excellent with lots of birds of prey and summer migrants being seen.

(weeks 3-4)
• Three different lion prides visited the area over the last two weeks. One of the groups was four young males, they were well fed and spent most of their time resting. The next group consisted of three lionesses were seen hunting and killing a young wildebeest. The last pride was made up of three females and two big males; they were seen hunting but were not successful.
• Leopard sightings were very good, with three different leopards being seen. Two of them were male leopards and both were seen hunting but they were not successful. The third leopard was a female and she was found resting and very relaxed.
• The same shy male cheetah that was seen previously is still hanging around in the area. He looks well fed and is still very shy. The two brothers moved into the area overnight from Lagoon. They were seen hunting a couple of times but were not successful.
• Wild dog tracks were found on Mokhutsum road. They were tracked for four hours and eventually six wild dogs were found resting at Giraffe pan.
• Small breeding herds as well as solitary bull elephants were found on the edges of the mopane forest. They were mostly relaxed and some were seen having mud baths in the muddy pans.
• Small bachelor herds of buffalo were found resting.
• A hyena den was discovered in the mixed woodland area not to far away from camp. The den is very active with six young ones ranging from six weeks to six months old being seen. The hyena have also being very active around camp.
• General game sightings continue to be very good, with lots of zebra, impala, wildebeest, warthogs, tsessebe, waterbuck and giraffe being seen.
Four porcupines and a very elusive aardvark were seen one night during a rainstorm. A serval was seen hunting mice and managed to catch one next to the game drive vehicle. Lots of different types of mongoose were also seen.
• The African skimmers have arrived and can be seen at their usual spot at skimmers pan. The birding continues to be very good with all the summer migrants being present. Spotted bush snakes as well as cobras and black mambas were seen on the drives and an African rock python was found guarding the entrance to the guide’s accommodation.

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Mombo Camp update - December 06                Jump to Mombo Camp

Another magical month at Mombo!

We have had some great rains this month in the form of spectacular thundershowers. These storms have been scattered throughout the island only filling a few of the sub-surface pans within the interior. Many of the plains game has started to head back into the interior of the island adding to the productivity of the Acacia belts. The total rainfall for the month was 44mm.

Mombo hyena

The new growth on the Acacia trees is a magnet for the browsers, providing us with good sightings of elephant, giraffe and kudu. We are seeing many giraffe calves now; their mothers gather to calve in the dense Acacia, which is ideal for hiding their young. One of the daily highlights is the abundance of game to be seen right in front of the camp; at times one can very easily seemingly count more than a thousand animals and a variety of birds. The lions of Mombo know this too and almost daily these cats can be seen in front of the camp. Christmas Eve had the Mathata Pride kill a red lechwe and one buffalo, 50 feet from the dinner table.

The good rains have brought out many interesting creatures such as the velvet mites, bullfrogs and a few more termite eruptions. These winged delicacies from the mounds provide a good meal for many species and it is always good fun watching the primates trying to catch these delicious creatures. Birding this month included many of the endangered birds of Botswana, which were sighted throughout the island, including regular sightings of Wattled Cranes, Lappet-faced Vultures and Kori Bustards.

Female leopard at Mombo

A new female leopard has moved into the area, frequenting Baobab Bob and the airstrip. She killed an impala close to the airstrip and provided us with three days of spectacular sightings. On one occasion, she dropped her kill but managed to steal it back from the hyaenas, very brave. The last afternoon five wild dogs arrived at the scene, with her peering down on them from the safety of her tree.

A leopard killed our resident female cheetah's last remaining cub - the cub was found hoisted in a tree south of Mombo. We watched the large male cheetah kill an impala close to the camp earlier in the month; he is in good condition marking his territory at regular intervals as he passes though the area.

Lioness chasing warthog at Mombo camp

Mathata Pride still totals 26 lions including the pride males. Some of the females are splitting away from the pride with their cubs, driven by hunger. They have realised that it is far easier to satisfy yourself when splitting off from the pride. The only disadvantage is that there is no protection from the hyaenas, which is necessary with the number of hyaenas we have at Mombo.

The Moporota Pride has lost two of their cubs this month. We are unsure of the cause of death but the ever-increasing competition within the pride may be the cause. Interestingly the Moporota Pride is starting move back south again towards the Moporota floodplains. This movement may cause conflicts between the nomadic males that have taken up residency since their absence. These nomadic males have been mating repetitively with two females from the west.

Warthog with babies at Mombo

Feedback
The vast amount of animals and their immediate availability - the guides are also great and all the staff and management. The food is top and the rooms are top. There is nothing missing!

Our surprise picnics with the hippos, New Year's celebration, Linda, Thompson, Mavis, Jane who made it feel like we were part of the family.

Christmas Eve dinner with the singing and dancing, not to mention the lion and buffalo kill - the entire evening was one we will never forget

Everything was spectacular and special! We will never forget seeing the lions mating, the swarms of termites after the rain, the hyaena family and so many more things on the drives. We made some great new friends and enjoyed the Sabbath service on Friday night. The staff was exceptional.

This report was compiled by Matt Copham, guide at Mombo.

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Jack's & San Camps update - December 06                Jump to Jack's & San Camps

Christmas in the Kalahari

On Christmas day the rains finally arrived. As if on cue, the zebra have begun their migration and we have started seeing them in ever-increasing numbers from the national park to within a few kilometres of camp.

Drawn to the waterhole, Red-billed Queleas in their thousands have made Jack's Camp their home. Though tiny, their sheer numbers make them seem like a swarm of large insects and when they take flight, the sound is not unlike an engine starting up. The Lanner Falcons are having a field day and can be seen swooping and diving through the swarms, spoiled for choice.

There is also a pair of brown hyaenas that have been frequenting the Jack's Camp waterhole, just outside the mess tent, and although the rains have made the old den site inaccessible, our guides tell us that there is another one at Crescent Pan.

With the pans now holding water, many of the great wading birds are returning and we have seen Teals and Blacksmith Plovers starting to return in ever greater numbers. Along with them of course are the birds of prey: Tawny Eagles, Harriers and Falcons.

Guests have been treated to sightings of gemsbok and wildebeest, whilst zebra are massing in their thousands, ready to make their way back into the Makgadikgadi. Most excitingly though, fresh elephant tracks have been seen heading into the park!

Kgao, one of the Bushmen Guides currently at Jack's Camp, is believed to be one of the greatest Bushmen healers in all of Botswana, and at over 70 years of age he is still tracking aardvark, and if the Christmas party is anything to go by, a very accomplished dancer.

Average High Temperature: 39°
Average Low Temperature: 17°
Rainfall: 140 mm

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