Wilderness Safaris general
Monthly update from Makalolo Camp in
Kwando Safaris game reports.
Update on the construction of Kwando's new Kwara
Island Camp in
Update on the 2006 Okavango
Monthly update from Mombo Camp in
Monthly update from Xigera Camp in
Monthly update from Tubu Tree Camp in
Monthly update from Jao Camp in
Monthly update from Kwetsani Camp in
Monthly update from Jacana Camp in
Monthly update from Little Vumbura Camp in
Monthly update from Vumbura Plains in
Monthly update from DumaTau Camp in
Monthly update from Selinda Camp in
report from Rocktail Bay in
Rocktail Bay Turtle
news from KwaZulu-Natal in
Monthly update from Pafuri Camp in
Monthly update from Kulala in
Monthly update from Doro Nawas Camp in
Safaris general Safari News
Safaris News - Feb 06
new year has begun with a splash
here at Wilderness Safaris,
with several exciting projects
in the works. We’re thrilled
to announce that we will be opening
camps in Zambia this year, while
Seba Camp in Botswana and Ruckomechi
in Zimbabwe are back on board.
There are some changes to Sefofane’s
Lowveld flying route, as well
as to some of our camps, while
the Mombo Rhino Programme is
proud to announce the birth
of an eighth baby!
Wilderness Safaris in Zambia
In a thrilling
development, Wilderness Safaris is set to open several
luxury lodges and bush camps in Zambia’s Kafue
National Park. This is the start of Wilderness’ long-term
plan to establish world-class, environmentally-friendly
lodges in Zambia’s prime wildlife areas, such
as South Luangwa and Lower Zambezi National Parks.
Wilderness Safaris’ developments
will be in the northern sector of the Kafue National
Park. Lunga River Lodge, a 12-bedded lodge on the
banks of the Lunga River, and Busanga Bush Camp
are both existing camps that will be refurbished
and opened in June 2006. Nkondo Fly Camp will also
open with 3 small meru-style tents. These will
be followed in July by the opening of Shumba Bush
Camp and Kapinga Bush Camp. Finally, 2007 will
see the opening of Ntemwa, a 24-bed luxury lodge
in a private concession that overlooks the permanent
pools of the Ntemwa River, inhabited by hundreds
Activities will include walking safaris, game drives,
canoeing, river cruising, and fishing.
Kafue has incredible species diversity, with 158
mammal and 491 bird species. Leopard, wild dog, cheetah
and lion sightings are excellent, including the famous
An important part of the expansion into Zambia is
a new Explorations trip: The Great Zambian Journey.
This new itinerary will be up and running by June
this year and will take in the Victoria Falls as
well as two camps in the Busanga Plains area of Kafue
National Park, with extended stays at each camp allowing
guests to maximise an incredible wildlife experience.
Seba Camp Jump
Camp (pronounced Say-ba), set to open in June 2006,
is situated in the heart of the Okavango Delta
and offers secluded, luxurious accommodation overlooking
a lagoon teeming with animal and bird life.
The camp is named after Seba, one of the elephants
released from nearby Abu
Camp. A number of elephants
that were released back into the wild have formed
their own herd, and the interaction between these
and the wild herds in the area forms the basis for
elephant research being done in the area. Guests
can observe the researchers at work, often in close
proximity to the elephant herds. Other activities
include mokoros (depending on water levels), walks
and motor boats.
Seba has five spacious, elevated tents, designed
to blend in with the Okavango landscape. Each has
an en-suite bathroom and private deck on which to
relax and observe the passing wildlife. The dining
and bar areas are also set on a raised teak deck
with spectacular views. Seba Camp is priced at Botswana
Classic Camp rates.
Seba Camp Tents (schematics) and Site
Mana Pools, Zimbabwe
Our lease at Chikwenya
Camp is not being renewed
and we're sad to say goodbye. While we understood
that the renewal of our tenure over the site had
been agreed to, the site was put out to tender
and awarded to someone else.
All existing bookings
in Chikwenya Camp will be moved to Ruckomechi
The closure of Chikwenya will not impact on the
Canoe and Walking Trail which will end at
the same location as always. On an exciting note
we plan to completely upgrade Ruckomechi during
the early part of this year – we’ll
update you with our progress.
There are several changes to Chitabe
Walking Trails specifications:
- All walking trails bookings must have a private
vehicle booked for the duration of the trail (at
no extra cost)
- No walking trails may overlap
- The trails will operate 01 May to 30 September
only (as the wet summer months may be too hot and/or
rainy and the grass too high to walk safely)
- Maximum of 4 guests can be accommodated on these
- As before, no children under 12 years may be accommodated
Wilderness Camp will become a Premier
Camp as from 01 July 2006. The camp will be adding
an extra twin unit, which means there will now
be 10 tents:
• 1 double unit
• 1 family unit
• 1 twin (guide) tent
open for the first time for the "Green
Season" of December, January and February. Scenically,
this is one of the most dramatic times of the year
and a photographer's dream. Game viewing is rewarding
and the birdlife is at its best.
South Africa: Lowveld Flying Route
Sefofane Air Charters have terminated its scheduled
seat-rate service between Johannesburg International
Airport (JNB) and the Lowveld destinations of the
Sabi Sand and Timbavati Private Game Reserves,
as it has simply not been viable. Alternative arrangements
have been made for guests who are booked and confirmed
on this discontinued service.
With aircraft based at both Phalaborwa Airport [PHW]
and Kruger Mpumalanga International [MQP] Sefofane
continues to expand in the Lowveld however and offers:
- Private charters from Johannesburg directly to
- connecting Sefofane air transfers off scheduled
airline flights from JNB to either MQP or PHW to
Lowveld properties, including Pafuri Camp.
- Flights with Federal Air to the specific properties
that they service.
Camp: As from February 2006, Sefofane commenced
servicing Pafuri with a feeder seat rate service
from PHW to the camp. Access to Pafuri has thereby
been vastly improved. Guests are now able to fly
from JNB or CPT to PHW on (SA) Airlink.
Makalolo update - Feb 06 Jump
to Makalolo Plains Camp
Belinda attended a dangerous
drugs course earlier on in the month to become proficient in
the use of dangerous drugs for darting and immobilising animals
carrying wire snares. Whilst the animals are immobilised, these
unsightly wire snares (picked up from poachers' traps) are removed
and any inflictions are treated before injecting the animals
with a reversal antidote and sending them on their merry way!
This is all part of Wilderness Safaris' contribution to Hwange
National Park in an effort to rescue our wildlife and curb some
of the poaching going on in the areas around our concessions.
We are delighted to congratulate and announce that our Belinda
passed with astounding results and we look forward to seeing
her in action out in the field!
Early mornings are concealed by heavy drapes of rolling mist, which
gradually unfurl to reveal magical apparitions of silver cobwebs,
crystal drenched grasses and angelic giraffes floating against
the foreground of a captivated white horizon. The mornings are
warm and build up during the course of the day to allow for exquisitely
timed afternoon thundershowers during siestas.
Heart-stopping thunder pounds overhead, booming and reverberating
as claws of lightning rip through curtains of heavy grey surroundings.
The atmosphere is electric and frantic, but is eventually subdued
by the familiar monotony of steady rainfall. Another storm has
subsided and disappeared to reveal a clear washed blue sky; contorted
cloudy shadows are wiped away by smiles of an iridescent double
rainbow painted in the eastern corners of the expanse. Sunset pours
through cotton wool clouds and a fine golden glow of light spills
out across the wilderness.
Temperatures during February were
a maximum of 32°C and minimum
of 18°C. Our total rainfall for February was 169.75mm, bringing
our season total to date to 742.7mm!
Rains have eroded some of the Kalahari sands, revealing a darker
basalt soil beneath their crusty layers. This has brought life
to an abundance of grasses in the more open areas and newly exposed
soils have attracted an astounding array of butterflies and bees
are seen sipping at the moisture trapped in these soils. There
is a colourful display of flowers ensconced beneath fortresses
of grassland, including minuscule red witch weed flowers, delicate
lilac blooms of wild sweet peas, pink trumpets displayed on slender
wild sesame stems and fluffy purple pom-pom heads of Venonia. Wild
hibiscus is prevalent amongst the bush and adds a touch of sunshine
to the gloomier days. Ilala Palms are riddled with heavy clusters
of green ivory fruit hanging amidst fan-tailed branches. Once ripened,
these fruits will be perfect for many a hungry elephant.
Somavundla Pan resembles a small river, surrounded by a multitude
of sheath-like sedges and itchy upright star burr grasses. The
call of the African Fish Eagle manoeuvring over the waterhole pulls
at heart strings and adds a touch of African nostalgia, making
one proud to be at Makalolo!
Wildlife sightings for February included: Zebra, wildebeest, waterbuck,
warthog, impala, hippo, baboon; spring hare, elephant, kudu,
giraffe, black-backed jackal, buffalo, tree squirrel, sable,
steenbok, spotted hyaena, roan, red hartebeest, side-striped
jackal, scrub hare, banded mongoose, eland, bat-eared fox, vervet
monkey, lion, African wildcat, square-lipped (white) rhino, common
duiker, leopard and large spotted genet.
Zebra cleaned by the rains are distinct with chestnut manes which
are short and frizzed along the outline of their backs. Standing
amongst knee-high grasses, they swish their tails from side to
side and make huffing noises to ward off swarms of flies. They
tug at succulent shoots and grasses and are heard munching, as
they chew from side to side. Two zebra foals stand next to their
mothers; one of the little zebras is distinguished by his complete
ruddy brown forehead, whilst his counterpart is slightly smaller
and has fluffy brown stripes on his back and legs.
Hyaenas heard whooping and howling during the night had killed
a wildebeest at the fire pit in front of camp and dragged the carcass
through the grass to just in front of the dining room. They snuck
away before break of dawn, but returned the next evening to feast
upon the relics of the previous evening's meal and completely cleaned
it all up.
Our resident pride of 19 lions has been seen a few times during
the course of the month, but only for brief moments as they spent
much time in the public part of the Park. At the beginning of the
month they visited Somavundla Pan, where they relaxed on an anthill,
surreptitiously monitoring the movements of 8 giraffes who had
come to the waterhole to drink. We saw them later in the month,
as they strolled out on the plains in front of camp, but were discovered
the following day resting haphazardly in the middle of the road
just outside the boundary of Ngweshla.
Several small herds of elephant have been sighted and it seems
that they are making a come-back with their recent evening visits
to the swimming pool. This is a rather strange phenomenon, considering
the number of puddles and fresh waterholes around the concession.
Perhaps swimming pool water is a refreshing cordial for them! A
fine specimen of an elephant bull with enormous tusks was seen
at Intundla Junction having a mud bath with the rest of his bachelor
herd and a lone female with her young calf.
Herds of waterbuck and wildebeest sun themselves, as they rest
in the green grass surrounding waterholes. A young and dainty kudu
cow, alone yet confident, wanders around the water nibbling at
the ground. She wags her tufty tail and stamps her graceful hooves,
dispersing a barrage of flies and allows the oxpeckers to rest
on her back.
A conglomerate of baboons rests carelessly on a termite mound
- they search for insects and de-flea each other, whilst young
baboons playfully push each other up and down the mound, tumbling
and laughing as they fall, repeating the game over again. Bigger
baboons arrogantly swagger between mazes of tall silvery grass,
swaying their tails to and fro as older baboons, silhouetted against
the sky, sit solemnly and stare at the sinking sun - perhaps they
are contemplating life, momentarily looking on at the juveniles
who are without a care in the world.
BIRDS & BIRDING
During the month of February, we recorded 134 different bird species
The area around camp comes alive
with mocking squawks of Arrow-marked Babblers and raucous calls
of Lilac-breasted Rollers engaged in a heated debate as they
tumble through the air. A Secretarybird parades her black legs
as she struts across the plains in front of camp and shrill alarm
calls of Blacksmith Plovers shriek out from the water hole, as
the bewitching "hleka bafazis" Green
Wood-hoopoes laugh out from their perch on a Leadwood branch.
A squadron of vultures, including White-backed, Hooded, White-headed
and Lappet-faced all invaded the wildebeest carcass in front of
camp. They performed a spectacular air show, as each bird glided
in and positioned their appropriate landing gear on the proposed
A young Lesser Masked Weaver, learning to fly, left its nest a
little too early and couldn't return home. It was stranded on the
ground and eventually made its way into the camp's office. The
young fledgling called to its mother, who keenly watched her chick's
every move from the safety of a Zimbabwean Teak tree. We later
found the mother Weaver inside our office feeding her chick on
caterpillars and worms. The Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill who
has been feeding his mate and chicks in the Leadwood tree at the
front of camp was seen sitting on the rafters of the roof in the
dining room. On closer inspection we noticed that he held a centipede
in his beak. Eventually after much contemplation, he flicked the
centipede into his bill and swallowed it in one gulp and then flew
off and landed in a nearby Ordeal tree perusing the ground for
another morsel - perhaps intended for his family this time around!
We had an incredible sighting of an African Crake with four tiny
black chicks seen in a puddle around the Ngweshla area. A Swainson's
Francolin braved the confines of camp - which is quite uncommon
and out of this type of Francolin's territory. We have seen four
sub-adult Ostriches roaming the plains with their parents and are
delighted that these big birds have reached near-maturity without
falling victim to predators!
"Great place! No words will describe this experience. The
guides are extremely knowledgeable and helpful. The staff and management,
food and waiters are great!" - MS, Chicago, USA
"This was the first time in Africa, we liked it very much!
And we will certainly return! Thanks for the good times, lovely
birthday cake and the songs at the fire place!" - E&MB
and D&JK, HOLLAND
"As one innkeeper to another - you do everything sooo well!
Your passion for your animals and your country is inspiring!" -
F&CP, North Carolina, USA
If you want to experience a journey
that will change your heart forever, then Zimbabwe is the place
to be - and all we can say is "go for it!"
Until next month!
Shelley and all at Makalolo Plains
Camps Update - Feb 06
Lagoon camp Jump
• The camp re-opened with
2 new rooms doubling as a family unit (inter-leading
walkway yet still separate enough to be private), and
with a refurbished lounge and dining room.
• 2 male lions were found on the eastern side of the
airstrip, and were seen in the vicinity for a couple
of days – they met up with a lioness and some
mating activity was observed.
• A pair of cheetah were seen south of the camp several
times – followed hunting but were not seen making
• A pack of 8 wild dogs were found – the same pack
that denned so late at Lagoon camp last year – 3
adults and 5 sub-adults – good news is that all
5 pups seem to have survived.
• Elephant sightings are still good – moving deeper
in to the mopane for the good browse and wide-spread
water availability – Botswana breeding herds,
bachelor herds and solitary bulls.
• The sightings of general game good – including
giraffe, impala, reedbuck, zebra, wildebeest, lechwe,
and regular sightings of hippos out of the water in
numbers of up to eight in a group
• Night sightings include honey badger, porcupine, hyena,
jackal (both species) genet, and African wild cat
• Outstanding birding has been experienced along the
river areas especially when viewed from the top of
the double-decker boat including lesser jacana, purple
gallinule, banded martin, many different bee-eater
species, weavers and raptors
Kwara camp Jump
• The water levels in front
of the camp have risen and spread rapidly - it looks
that we will be able to run the Mekoro trips from the
front of the camp in the next short while.
• 11 members of the pride of 14 found resting, and then
followed hunting into the night.
• Another pride of 5 – 3 lionesses and a sub-adult
male and female seem a couple of times – were
• A lion and lioness were found – the lioness was
showing signs of oestrus.
• An adult male leopard was found resting in a tree – he
was followed hunting and patrolling his territory for
• A well-fed adult female leopard was found in a tree
where she’s escaped from a hyena that that had
stolen her kill – the hyena was seen finishing
off the kill below her hissing.
• An adult female cheetah was found and followed hunting
for a while but did not make a kill.
• A pack of 3 wild dogs was found hunting around the
camp but were not seen making any kills. Guides walking
around the camp did notice 2 sites where judging from
the bones the dogs appeared to have killed impala.
• A herd of up to 8 elephant bulls a frequenting the
water in front of the camp daily.
• Night sightings include hyenas, both species of jackals,
genets, African wild cats, serval as well as several
sightings of chameleons, African rock pythons, other
snakes and many different frog and toad species.
• Lots of excellent bird sightings including raptors
- all the summer visitors still in attendance including
broad-billed rollers and black coucals – the
heronry at Gudikwe still providing excellent photographic
Lebala camp Jump
• Numerous of sightings
of male lions, in pairs and on their own.
• A single male lion was found feeding on the carcass
of an adult giraffe, and was joined by another male – they
took turns feeding until heading off south into the
• An adult male leopard was found feeding on his kill
that was hoisted into a tree.
• Another adult make leopard was found feeding on an
impala ram in a leadwood tree.
• A number of other sightings of leopards seen resting
and marking their territories.
• A female cheetah and a sub-adult male were tracked
and eventually found –they were followed a
number of times over the last couple of weeks and
were seen killing impala three times.
• A pair of male cheetah were found – initially
a bit shy but relaxed and were followed hunting over
a 4 day period
• A pack of 20 wild dogs was found late last week – they
were followed hunting and chasing through the mopane.
• Good numbers of elephants, both bachelor herds and
breeding herds seen throughout the concession, often
feeding in the mixed woodlands or moving across the
• Very frequent sightings of hyena mostly at night
in small and large groups. The matriarch of the Lebala
clan appears to have been blinded, and has been seen
wondering aimlessly – her condition appears
to be deteriorating rapidly.
• General game very good – wildebeest, impala,
giraffe, zebra, reedbuck, lechwe, waterbuck, steenbuck,
kudu, and whole groups of hippo feeding and sleeping
out of the water.
• Night sightings have yielded 3 serval kittens, numerous
sighting of both jackal species, as well as African
wild cat, striped polecat, aardvark, white-tailed
mongoose (lots of other mongoose species seen during
the day as well), genets, porcupines, as well as
numerous frogs, chameleons, and a couple of sightings
of African rock pythons hunting.
• Sightings of summer migrants are excellent – also
ostriches, skimmers, wattled cranes, kori and stanleys
on Kwara Island
Camp construction - Feb 06
Aerial View of Kwara Island
Safaris' new Kwara Island Camp is scheduled
to open 05 October, 2006. Here's a
sneak peek at some of the construction progress,
as well as artist's renderings of the new
tents. Check back for further
Kwara Island Guest Tents (artist's renderings)
Flood update - Feb 06
The heavy rainfall in January continued
throughout many parts of northern Botswana, with even higher levels in
February. The heavy rains pushed ground water into
the Savuti Channel more than 200 metres past Mopane Bridge (the furthest
inflow in over 13 years). The
chart below shows data as of March 01, 2006.
Camp update - Feb 06 Jump
to Mombo Camp
February in the heart of the Okavango Delta has been a month of sudden
showers and spectacular sunsets, of stalking lions and stealthy leopards.
The Mombo area is now so lush and green that it is hard to recall the
dry golden stalks of grass rattling in the dusty October breezes, or
the dust devils dancing across the bone-dry plains.
As the song says, the grass is "as high as an elephant's eye" and
this spectacular growth has lent a whole new aspect to Mombo. It really
does look as though the flood is already in ? and yet it hasn't even
begun to reach us yet. Mombo and Little Mombo are all but surrounded
by water now, and every night we are lulled to sleep by the delighted
peeping of thousands of frogs, and the gentle splashing of buffalo as
they amble contentedly through the shallows. Further off, the air shakes
as hippo chuckle in the darkness.
The ubiquitous tall grass makes
life interesting for some of our smaller neighbours, not least the
warthogs who can now only keep track of each other by following the
tips of their "radio antenna" tails,
held proudly upright as they trot along.
The sun-baked dove-grey expanse of Suzi's Duckpond has become the most
incredible natural amphitheatre, with a cast of thousands of zebra and
impala, all sleek and healthy with so much sweet grass to graze on. The
russet and honey flanks of the impalas glow like burnished bronze in
the sunlight, but it is the multitudes of zebra that are the most striking
sight with the myriad swirls of their stripes delighting and deceiving
the eye all at once. There have probably never been this many zebra in
the area before ? and the lions certainly aren't complaining.
February has also been a month of real contrasts: days of intense action,
with the predators enjoying a glut of kills and the cover that the long
grasses provide when stalking unsuspecting prey, and days of divine tranquillity
with the rhythms of life coursing gently through the verdant scenery
and the whispers in the grass sometimes the only sounds.
Many days have been cool and overcast, with the lower temperatures prompting
even more animal activity. These are the days when we enjoy the most
intense sunsets, with the last rays of the sinking sun picking out the
billowing clouds in shades of orange and pink, and truly giving each
cloud a silver lining. Other days have been much hotter, with the sun
blazing down from clear blue skies ? skies so blue in fact that you can
lose yourself in their intense hue. The clear skies at night provide
a black velvet backdrop for the most breathtaking display of stars with
familiar constellations such as the Southern Cross and Orion almost lost
amongst countless millions of other points of light.
The amounts of rain we are receiving in northern Botswana this year continue
to surprise us, and they are certain to make a significant contribution
to this year's flood. In February we recorded 215mm (8½ inches)
of rainfall at Mombo. Much of this has been at night or, if during
the day, in the form of short, sharp showers. After the rain, the clarity
of the light is stunning ? perfect for capturing the drops of water
sent flying when a male lion indignantly shakes the rain out of his
mane. At least some rain fell on 12 days out of 28 this month.
Temperatures have been rather variable
with daytime temperatures reaching up to 33°C (96°F) and an average of 29.5°C (89°F). Night
time temperatures ranged from 20°C (70°F) down to 5°C (40°F)
and with an average of 17¼°C (64.5°F).
February has seen a curious new trick being tried out by Mombo's lions:
climbing trees. We are not entirely sure why they are doing this ?
possibly to avoid flies, or perhaps simply to keep their feet dry amidst
all this water? At least one female of the Moporota pride seems to
be seeking to avoid her maternal responsibilities. She has a litter
of month-old cubs, and their persistent, mewing demands for milk seem
to have rather exasperated her. However, and like all the other arboreal
lions we have been seeing, she seems to be somewhat lacking in grace
and poise once up in the branches. The fact that the lions are often
choosing acacia trees means that the thorns add to their evident discomfort,
and it is a strange experience to see lions, usually the monarchs of
all they survey, forced into making tentative, uncertain movements.
Down on the ground, however, the lions are more than capable of reminding
us of their hunting prowess. Guests on one drive witnessed the electrifying
stalk and killing of a young wildebeest, a hunt which was carried out
with such finesse that the hapless antelope probably never knew what
hit him until it was too late.
February has been a great month for leopard sightings, too. Mombo must
be one of the very best places to see these fascinating felines, and
to encounter leopards which are completely unconcerned by the presence
of the game drive vehicles and go about their business undistracted,
is an intense pleasure.
An evening sighting of one of our resident leopards,
the Tortilis female, has prompted speculation that she may be pregnant,
so we hope to catch up with her again over the next few days to see if
we can confirm this in better light. In the meantime this is an intriguing
and potentially joyful mystery for us to think on.
Mombo's reintroduced rhino have been making their presence felt during
February, to the delight of the many guests who have encountered them
on game drives. A group of five is currently spending a lot of time
in the superb habitat afforded them by the open acacia woodlands to
the east of Mombo Camp. This group includes a one-year-old calf, Valentine,
so named because he was seen for the first time in mid-February last
year. He is now a very impressive chap, in superb condition and just
starting to resemble Serondela, his father.
The "rhino soap opera" has
a new twist now as we have also been seeing a lone sub-adult male rhino
to the north of Mombo, and he is just reaching the age at which he
will start to try and establish his territory. Indeed we have seen
him starting to make territorial markings. So far he has kept out of
Serondela's way, but the rainfall has prematurely flooded many areas
and when the flood itself arrives, these two rhinos may well find themselves
pushed much closer together and this could result in a true clash of
the titans ? watch this space!
Rhino, it seems, enjoy gentle rain, but not heavier downpours ? on one
occasion we were watching a group of them graze in the open, seemingly
oblivious to the drizzle (as we were ? the sighting was far too absorbing
to notice a little rain). Suddenly however the rain increased in intensity
and as one, the four rhinos curled up their tails and trotted towards
the nearest trees. Appropriately enough, they were umbrella thorns.
A lot of our guests ask us if we have snakes here, and of course we do
? only we very rarely see them. They are generally so shy that they
flee as soon as they feel the vibrations of approaching feet or vehicle
wheels. The only snake we see often is the beautiful spotted bush snake,
an entirely harmless species which seems to enjoy sunbathing on the
wooden walkways in the Camp. It's a beautiful snake, with a metallic
green head with black spots, fading to silver.
This month we have had some other interesting sightings: African rock
pythons swimming; and a rhombic egg-eater near the laundry in Camp. This
is a fascinating species which can crush an egg in its jaws, swallow
the contents and spit out the flattened shell in one piece. This snake
though would do well to avoid the ever-growing clan of banded mongooses
which live under our store rooms. They don't like snakes at the best
of times, and now that they are raising yet another litter of tiny (and
impossibly cute!) youngsters are likely to be even less welcoming. Their
last litter was eaten by a honey badger which tracked their scent back
to their burrows, so we are all hoping that they are more successful
this time round.
Camp and Guest Experience
February is of course the month of love, and we weren't going to let
any minor rain shower dampen our ardour for Valentine's Day. Mombo
and Little Mombo must be among the most romantic places on earth, and
this year we really pushed the (love) boat out, by completely redesigning
the dining room to feature a succession of tables for two ? candle-lit
of course - to create the perfect ambience for an intimate tête-à-tête.
Each table was decorated with a long-stemmed red rose in a green glass
bottle (evoking the romance of being a castaway on a desert island
beach) and the flickering candlelight was reflected in the gleaming
metal of the ice buckets and refracted in the ice cubes and streams
of bubbles as the popping of corks heralded the start of a wonderful
Meanwhile we had composed a suitably corny poem to (hopefully) raise
a smile when the guests returned to their tents. Strangely enough, everyone
went to bed early that night!
As ever, we will leave the final word on Mombo and Little Mombo in February
to the guests who shared this wonderful area with us this month:
- We spent a splendid time in Little Mombo, and we enjoyed a great team!
- Thanks so much for making our 4th visit a treat. We enjoyed the staff
very much, especially Lee and Tlamelo. We are grateful for the peace
that Little Mombo offers? we go home nourished and with happy hearts.
- Many of our friends will hear about Mombo - the staff and the animals!
- We will be back to this very special place run by very special people!
- The staff were outstanding: polite, thoughtful, helpful. Malinga our
guide was amazing and we loved seeing the lion in the tree!
- Just perfect!
- Thanks for an unbelievable, indelible experience!
- The highlight was game drives with a "superguide" - Alex.
- Francis' lion spotting was amazing!
- Brooks was the perfect, sharp-eyed guide; Craig is an A1 chef!
That's all from your Mombo and Little Mombo teams for February: Taps,
Noreen, Tlamelo, Pete and Sharon, Craig, Kele, and Nick. See you next
update - Feb 06 Jump
to Xigera Camp
As the first rays of pink light stole across the eastern sky, a francolin
called and was answered by another, and together they greeted the day
that had brought in the month of February at Xigera Camp. This dawn chorus
was shattered by a hive of activity that would carry on for the first
two weeks of February. February was maintenance month for Xigera and
we busied ourselves with building a new cool room, a back-of-house office
and renovating our airstrip.
For the remaining half of the month, with guests back in camp, expectations
of good game sightings were high. Xigera did not disappoint! We had excellent
sightings of the mother leopard and cub very close the vehicle, hunting
and a lot of the time just sleeping in a Sausage tree. The afternoon
guests were treated to an awesome sighting of the mother leopard being
chased across the floodplain by three hyaena; she later returned to a
tree where her cub was safely high up in its limbs and there she continued
to feed on a young impala that had been killed in the night.
A nomadic pride of lions were often heard calling from around the airstrip
but unfortunately managed to elude our efforts to find them and have
since moved out of the area. Guests on an afternoon activity were treated
to a huge male leopard sunning himself right above a channel where the
mokoro travel and got virtually right under the leopard with out him
even batting an eyelid!
Birding at Xigera is always excellent and flocks of Wattled Cranes doing
mating dances, flocks of seven or eight Slaty Egrets in the shallows
of pools in a feeding frenzy catching tadpoles and frogs, as well as
curious Pel's Fishing Owls eyeballing passing mokoros were all seen.
An elusive migrant, the Eurasian Honey Buzzard was seen for the first
time in camp. At the time he was raiding a potter wasps' nest and failed
to see a member of staff walking past. The result of the confrontation
was a close-up view of the Buzzard as he took off, frightening the daylights
out of the member of staff in question. A pair of Long-crested Eagles
has been calling from high above the lodge and to watch them dive-bombing
each other and bobbing and weaving inches past each other was spectacular
Tubu Tree Camp update
- Feb 06 Jump
to Tubu Tree Camp
We had our annual Wilderness AGM at the beginning of the month held
at Victoria Falls. It included the staff from camps in Zimbabwe, Malawi,
South Africa, Namibia, Zambia, and Botswana and staff from the main office
in Johannesburg. It was a great get-together and when each country did
a presentation, one realised just how many good Wilderness Safaris camps
there are in some of the most beautiful areas of Southern Africa.
Back at our camp in the Delta we still received good rains in February
although much less than January. There are hundreds of colourful butterflies
at this time of year pollinating all the beautiful wildflowers.
The highlights for us this month were some very good leopard sightings.
There are two females with cubs which provided the majority of those
sightings. One female (Mopane Ridge female) has two medium-sized cubs
of about seven months old, of which one is much bolder and is already
used to the presence of the vehicle. The second one is more skittish
and will take some careful approaching from the guides before it relaxes,
although this will come with time. The mother is a beautiful young female
in top condition.
The second female (Boat Station female) was seen with only one cub but
it is still very young, estimated to be about eight weeks old. Obviously
the cub is still very nervous of the vehicle and the guides will view
from a much greater distance so as not to unnerve the cub. This female's
territory ranges from around our boat jetty in the east up along the
water channel into the north.
A lioness was found near camp with a very small cub, less than three
weeks old. The odd thing is that she was seen mating with a male three
days later. At first it was thought that it was a different female but
whisker patterns accurately identified her as the same female. This is
strange behaviour which we have not seen before. The mating went on for
several days which seems to indicate that the cub is indeed dead as she
would not leave the cub for several days without going back to suckle
it. So if the cub is dead it seems a very short time for the female to
be mating again. We shall be interested to note further sightings of
Eurasian Golden Oriole, Black Cuckoo, Black Coucal, Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters,
White-headed Vulture, Yellow-billed Oxpecker, Grey-hooded Kingfisher,
African Harrier Hawk and Fawn Coloured Lark were some of the bird species
seen recently. A Martial Eagle was seen perched in a tree next to the
road, clutching a freshly killed Rock Monitor. The Rock and Nile/Water
Monitors are a favourite prey of the martial eagle. There is a new addition
to the Ground Hornbill family that frequent the floodplains and islands
around camp. The new chick has been seen feeding with the parents, which
is great news as it means they have a successful fledgling.
There have been many snake sightings this month. From
the resident 2-ft spotted bush snake in camp (harmless) to the 7-ft snouted
cobra out in the bush (not so harmless) to an 8-ft python sunning itself
on the airstrip. One very large python was seen swimming effortlessly
in the shallow water of the floodplains (estimated at 12-ft). They will
often target water birds like Egyptian Goose which they ambush and then
constrict before swallowing head first. These large snakes are of great
ecological significance as they control populations of rats, squirrels,
hares, monkeys, juveniles crocodiles, water monitors and catfish.
Tubu Tree greetings
Anton, Carrie, Moa, Moyo, Salani and the team
Jao Camp update
- Feb 06 Jump
to Jao Camp
Do we find that our life is changed spiritually after we have gone on
a big spending shopping spree or bought that expensive car? If not, do
yourself a favour and spend a day or three on the Jao concession and
you will understand what genuine spiritual satisfaction has meant for
so many visiting us. This is a place where our guests unwind past the
point where they are worried about anything. A place so beautiful some
said it to be the eighth wonder of the world! Just joking, but it's a
beautiful and special place where architecture and nature meet so harmoniously
and mixed with the tranquillity of the natural surroundings it is simply
In this paradise our guests were met by several interesting people (like
Fred and Marianne assisted by Chris and Tara as the hosting managers)
and were lulled into a deeper wellbeing when massaged by our resident
therapist Kgabiso. They were also thoroughly entertained by our very
charming executive chef Simon, known to his friends as Tank.
Guests were taken around the area by our very well informed guides:
Maipaa is the gentle giant (even being referred to as that actor that
played in the Green Mile), David Mopadise as attentive and polite as
ever, has eyes like a hawk, Marks has recently returned to us after a
stint in mobile safaris, and Victor our head guide for the month did
a sterling job with training and field team management. Baby Jost our
comedian has been a great help as well taking care of our staff kitchen
making sure the staff diets were followed between maintenance and game
Game sightings were reduced this month as we were closed for maintenance:
varnishing, spitting and polishing the main lodge area for our busy season
coming up. During this period we found that it helped a huge amount for
the team spirit amongst all staff at Jao as we had to work as a unit
- otherwise we would not have gotten it all done.
The game viewing has been great and we had great
predator sightings. The lions were very active close to camp and were
seen every three or four days on the floodplains with a fresh red lechwe
kill. Our resident leopard "Beauty" and her cub were seen
a lot in the beginning of the month when we were actively out searching
for them and the plains game has been plentiful except for the zebra
and the giraffe that decided that we had too much rain and left the
The birding at Jao has seen another level this month, not just great
but extraordinary, seeing pelicans which were on a migration route. Slaty
Egrets that we believe are around 70 in total - when driving a certain
route we found that we might have a breeding site on the concession.
The Wattled Cranes have been seen a fair amount on the concession. The
endangered Lappet-faced Vultures have been seen on lion kills very often
as well. Just mentioning the abundance of these specific species is already
a sign that the ecosystem that we are operating in is very healthy and
a good pat on the back for the conservation efforts that David and Cathy
Kays have made in NG25 - it's hard to believe that this was a hunting
concession 7 years ago! An important fact that we tell our guests is
that David and Cathy forgo over $500 000 worth of hunting revenue every
year so we can operate as a photographic concession and not allow any
hunting. It is these efforts that make Wilderness Safaris such a great
company as well, in looking after the ecosystems in which they operate.
Looking forward to another great month. We have prepared the camp and
the staff have had their quiet time to mentally prepare themselves for
the busy season to come. Welcoming everyone to Jao we hope to see you
Jao guides help threatened birds
Birdlife Botswana, a conservation organisation affiliated to Birdlife
International, has instituted a monitoring project for several bird
species which occur in Botswana. Some of these species are habitat
specialists, and are restricted to a particular type of environment.
Their survival is thus linked to that of their environment. Examples
of wetland dependent birds in our area are: Slaty Egret, Rosy-throated
Longclaw, Wattled Crane and Rufous-bellied Heron. Some threatened species
linked to woodland in our area are: Ground Hornbill, Kori Bustard and
Currently little accurate information exists concerning population numbers
of these species in Botswana. To contribute to increasing the store of
knowledge, we log all sightings in concession NG25, and these are then
submitted to the project co-ordinator in Maun. Regular data collection
enables population trends to be monitored, thus giving early warning
of any changes in numbers.
Work on the ground
The nature of our work and the position of our camps within the concession,
means that we are able to actually participate in some worthwhile conservation
projects. Due to our commitment and close association with Birdlife
Botswana (the Jao concession has helped Birdlife Botswana in the past
in Wattled Crane and Slaty Egret surveys) we were invited by Birdlife
Botswana to attend the 4th international Hornbill conference in South
Africa in November 2005, which was an eye opener for us. We learned
a lot about Hornbills: population decline in their home ranges in the
world, threats both man-made and natural and their conservation. We
have family groups of Ground Hornbills that occur in our area and we
have recorded at least two active nests. We also learned about their
social and nesting behaviour and how to identify the different sexes
- Feb 06 Jump
to Kwetsani Camp
the confrontation between the stream and the rock, the stream always wins.
. .Not through strength, but through persistence."
February has come and gone, we have started with our maintenance period,
just a few short days to get the lodge sparkling again. No thanks to
the baboons who visit us daily to see if they can undo what we have spend
There is a male and female lion mating just in front of the swimming
pool that has caused great amusement to the staff as no one can believe
that he could have so much stamina to keep going for 4 straight days.
So if all goes well we will have winter babies.
One of the best sightings this month was a 3-4 metre python swimming
up the road in front of the vehicle, very relaxed and willing to pose
for a picture or two.
The youngster born to one of our resident female leopards is doing well.
Climbing trees and jumping all over mom are the ways she spends her days.
We have all been very fortunate to get fantastic views of both mom and
With all the rain we had during January and February the Fish Eagles
are everywhere. The highest count is 19 individuals in a stretch of water
of 100m. Some very confused catfish got caught in a shallow pond and
the Fish Eagles were having a banquet - a wonderful photo opportunity.
The lechwe are making their way back onto the Kwetsani floodplains,
and bringing with them many young as well.
On the permanent water close to camp Great White Pelicans and Woolly-necked
Storks as well as Wattled Cranes have been seen in good numbers, and
as soon as the floods reach us we will be able to mokoro from that side.
Valentine's Day crept up on us, but we had a lovely dinner with red
chocolates and gold hearts, the weather was very accommodating and only
rained after everyone had made it to bed.
For those who were with us over that period, you will be happy to know
that all the squirrel babies are growing and starting to run with the
adults, causing havoc as usual.
March is looking busy and we can?t wait to reopen the lodge and invite
all the new faces to see what we have to offer.
Come and enjoy the Kwetsani magic with us,
Conrad & Kerrie
- Feb 06 Jump
to Jacana Camp
A water wilderness and adventure wetland is the only way to describe
Jacana this February.
We have seen so much rain in the last while that it looks like we are
in flood. All the crossings to camp have filled with water, making the
drive here both slippery and mind-boggling. Who would have thought that
Land Rovers could drive bonnet-depth through water? Wet feet for drivers
have become a common affair along with the occasional wet rear end from
the water flooding over the front seat!
The water around the camp has risen steadily and is threatening to encroach
on the parking area. If it continues at this rate, we will have to start
getting boats into the water.
A big plus with the rains is the amount of new growth everywhere. The
bush is extremely lush and very green with lots and lots of wild flowers
everywhere. The camp has recovered remarkably well after the elephants
did their pruning and landscaping a few months ago.
The camp underwent some maintenance at the beginning of the month and
has re-opened sporting a brand-new floor and wide deck in the front of
the lodge. A jetty has been added to make the docking of boats much easier.
A walkway has also been added to access the pool from the front of the
lodge. It all looks really spiffy.
Visitors to Jacana were few, but great game viewing was experienced
by all. Lots of lion, leopard and cubs, as well as an unusual greater
Wattled Cranes are plentiful and can be heard regularly from camp. Big
flocks of Open-billed Storks have been spotted resting at the Jao hippo
pool during the lazy afternoons, not to mention the Pel's Fishing Owl
out on the islands. A couple of guests were very lucky to spot sitatunga
antelope while out on mokoro. This is a good sign as we normally start
spotting them later when the floods come in.
With the water levels still rising at the end of the month, we have
started clearing boat channels and preparing to do transfers to camp
on water, rather than on land. We will be monitoring the levels as they
might drop again and then we will start driving into camp again.
The Jacana Management Team
Little Vumbura update
- Feb 06 Jump
to Vumbura Camp
Vumbura had a wonderful month with a lot of great guest experiences.
Below is one of the comments from a guest that stayed here during February:
"We have enjoyed a splendid three days with you. The variety you
have to offer makes Little Vumbura a special place, with the contrast
between the peace of mokoro with lilies and the drama of driving with
big cats. The excitement of game watching has been admirable, complimented
by the warm friendliness of the staff and the excellence of the food.
No one could have done more to make this experience more pleasurable.
Emang's guiding has been first rate and we have enjoyed his company.
We thank Rohan, Dardley, Molly and all the team for giving us such a
marvellous time." - P&JG, United Kingdom
Although we have had a lot of rain in the Delta
this did not affect our game viewing at all. February has been one
of the months with spectacular wildlife highlights. Temperatures ranged
from highs of 30 to 33°C
to minimum temperatures of around 20 to 22°C. Good rains were received
and bode well for a healthy ecosystem over the coming dry months.
During February our resident herd of buffalo was seen on several occasions.
The herd's numbers approximately 200. Interestingly the presence of the
herd attracted a different pride of lions to the area. Aside from the
prides that we normally see around the Little Vumbura area of game drive,
we encountered two new prides, thought by the guides to have followed
the buffalo into the area from some distance away. Their efforts have
partly been in vain as although one of the new prides succeeded in killing
a buffalo they did not have time to feed on it before the resident pride
chased them away. The Little Vumbura Pride won this fight because they
had the biggest male of the area with them and the lionesses from the
intruder pride gave way.
The predators have taken full advantage of the
abundance of prey this month. The Kubu Pride has been located almost
every single day of the month while leopard sightings too have been
incredibly high. On one occasion, our resident male leopard, "Big Boy" killed
a female warthog, too heavy to take up a tree. However, even after
such a meal, he killed one of the warthog?s orphaned babies the following
day. Cheetah sightings have also been above average for this time of
year with the tall grass. Most of the cheetah sightings were around
the airstrip; this could be that the cheetah were taking advantage
of the open ground.
Elephants, impala, kudu and giraffe - just to mention a few - were also
seen on just about every day. Since there is a lot of food for both grazers
and browsers they were not moving very far to find food. Jack's Pan is
one of the areas in which we conduct our drives and this area has been
attracting a lot of game. On one of the drives, we saw about six species
of animals all together in one place, including zebra, impala, warthog,
tsessebe, elephant and baboons - all within a very confined area.
On the birding side the mokoros had great views of the Pel's Fishing
Owl. Most of the guests who went on the mokoros had chances of seeing
this rare bird.
Bush regards from all at Little Vumbura.
Vumbura plains update
- Feb 06 Jump
to Vumbura Camp
The floodwaters are on their way! These waters have fallen +-1300km
north of here on the Benguela plateau of Angola and are slowly creeping
towards the delta. Rumour has it that the majority of the water has fallen
on the northern sector of the plateau ultimately reducing the volume
and flow of the flood. Presently, due to our high rainfall, the floodplains
of the Kwedi Concession are as full as last year?s flood. Consequently
when the flood does arrive the waters should just flow right on through
the concession, filling fossil beds and pushing further out into the
Kalahari sandveld. We wait with bated breath to see if this will be the
It is suspected that the pregnant lioness from the Kubu Pride has possibly
given birth to her cubs in a well-hidden part of the concession. Generally
there is a high mortality rate in a lion's first few weeks up to a year
of age, especially areas of high predator densities. We suspect that
she has hidden her cubs about five kilometres north-west of Vumbura Plains,
an area that holds a large hyaena population. Hyaenas will kill and eat
lions of all ages, even adults when their numbers are right, especially
when the enemy is injured.
Good news, "Big Red," our formerly dominant
male lion, was seen this month, far north close to the veterinary cordon
fence. It's good to see that he is still alive after many months of
A large herd of buffalo graced us with their presence this month, frequenting
the eco-tone between Jacky's pans and the Mopane woodland. Worth mentioning
is the number of cheetah sightings we have had this month. Last month
I mentioned that we had seven known individuals that frequent the area.
While exploring the northern sector of our concession, however, we sighted
a further two males that have not been seen before. Both males were large
and were seen moving west along our northern boundary.
Another point for the month to remember for all those birders out there
was a sighting of 14 Slaty Egrets, this being the largest flock I have
ever seen. I have seen some large congregations of Black Egrets (herons)
at some fish traps in the delta but this was a first for me. Pel's Fishing
Owl sightings have been more complicated with changing water levels but
we have managed to get reasonably good sightings.
Tiger fish have also been caught on a catch-and-release policy this
month and we have had fun exploring the deeper channels in search of
this sought-after species.
Until next time,
DumaTau update -
Feb 06 Jump
to DumaTau Camp
The Savuti Channel isn't quite full yet, but it's trying hard - the
month's incredible 300mm of rain has pushed the water a couple of hundred
metres past Mopane Bridge (a record level in over 13 years) and hippos
are taking up residence in places that just a few weeks ago were dry
roads. The water is flowing into the Channel at a visible rate, and this
is purely the result of direct rainfall - what further impact the floodwaters
will have when they arrive down the Kwando from Angola remains to be
seen. The rising water levels have added greatly to the aesthetic beauty
of the area, and the water birds in particular are flourishing. Every
morning we watch as more than a thousand egrets make their silent daily
commute in the early light from their roosting sites along the river
down to the increasingly expansive Zibadianja Lagoon.
Sightings have interesting and varied, with one of the comic highlights
of the month being witness to the entire Savuti Pride of four lionesses
and four cubs desperately attempting to escape the biting flies that
are proliferating in the wet weather. In a pseudo-yoga-turned-game-of-twister
act of intricate balance and questionable cooperation, we found all eight
cats perched delicately in a single, small, flimsy-looking fever-berry!
Out of range of most of the flies, admittedly, but looking decidedly
uncomfortable with their chosen resting positions. Each time one of them
moved - another fell out!
On a smaller - but equally entertaining - note the camp's resident troop
of banded mongooses have been denning under the laundry, and eight tiny
pups emerged midway through the month to explore their surroundings.
Turning up everywhere from the kitchen to the workshop, they have made
themselves comfortable with every aspect of camp life and have habituated
themselves totally to human presence.
In terms of personnel, we have been sad this month to say goodbye to
Ian and Petro, who have left after a very successful year managing at
DumaTau. However, we are delighted to welcome Fungi and Sue to the team
from Zimbabwe. Their initiation to camp life in Botswana included the
unenviable task of attempting to coordinate the re-thatching of the kitchen
roof in between storms, but they rose to the challenge and are settled
in for the season. Our guides this month have been Oaitse, Cilas and
Dennis - together they have provided our guests with phenomenal sightings
of the Linyanti's wildlife.
- Feb 06 Jump
to Selinda Camp
Rain, rain and more rain. We have now had more than 700mm (29in) when
our annual average is 600mm (24in) and there are still about six weeks
of the wet season to go! Flood warnings have been put out for the Kwando
and Zambezi Rivers, so we expect the Selinda Spillway to reach levels
not seen since the late '70s and early '80s.
The building team is on site at Selinda and we will be operating at
minimum capacity for the month of March. If the weather doesn't create
any more delays and problems we hope to be at 80% capacity in April and
going full guns by May.
At Zibalianja we are anticipating a very busy March as bookings held
at Selinda have been transferred there. Not that we mind - we welcome
the prospect of being able to get out into the bush as much as possible.
The finishing touches are being done to Mokoba and Tshwene, and we can't
wait to see the look on our first guests' faces when they see where they
will be accommodated.
At Motswiri we have been astounded by the floodwater. Four months ahead
of schedule there is water in front of the camp again and it continues
to push up the channel. Is it possible that we'll witness the Selinda
Spillway as a continuous waterway in 2006?
It is with deep regret that we announce the passing away of Chris Mabure.
Chris guided at Selinda Camp for the 2005 season and was an instant hit
with his guests and colleagues alike. Our sincerest condolences go out
to his family - he will be sorely missed.
What we're seeing
The new male lions (now called the Four Beers - Castle, Hansa, Windhoek
and. . .Black Label) continue to pop up out of the long grass; the
Selinda Pride has been a bit scarce as they are wont to be at this
time of year, but a new pride of lionesses and cubs has been seen sporting
the scars of battle.
Cheetah: The "Two Boys" are still frequently
encountered, and thankfully mostly stick to the short grass or sit
on top of termite mounds.
After the brief visit by the Selinda wild dog pack in January, they
have once again gone walkabout; a small pack was seen in the vicinity
of Motswiri, but due to the length of the grass we couldn't follow them.
Leopard have been very scarce as expected with
the height of the vegetation; elephant are once again prevalent with
herds still making use of the spillway's headwaters; zebra seem to
be everywhere, many with foals in tow; birding is phenomenal with every
pan and puddle yielding up another "tick" for
Rocktail Bay Dive Newsletter - Feb 06 Jump
to Rocktail Bay Lodge
Conditions have been wonderful this month with warm waters, great viz.
and sunny skies. The highlight of this month was definitely an awesome
encounter on 'Gogos' with six threadfin mirrorfish a.k.a. pennant trevally.
This strikingly beautiful fish is quite curious and the group swam in
formation towards us a number of times, turning on each occasion at the
last moment to reveal exceptionally long dorsal and anal fins, trailing
behind them resembling silver streamers. This fish is uncommon and rarely
seen by divers, but have now been spotted twice in the same area, so
fingers crossed for future sightings!
Overall we have had a slow season for ragged tooth
sharks; seven arrived early in the season and promptly disappeared
about a week later. Sodwana didn't fare much better and we
have had reports that those at Sodwana have left on their
long migration back to the Eastern Cape where they will pup. Hopefully
next year will be a better one. We have had one very large and very expectant
female raggy this month. She made a surprise appearance on 'Elusive',
proving yet again that this is definitely the reef for seeing "big stuff." Blacktail
reef shark continue to be a regular feature, with the one
at 'Pineapple' particularly interested in divers, and each
time we see it, it tends to come in and pass us a few times for closer
inspection. Sightings of the raggy and blacktail proved to Glenda that
she doesn't actually have a built-in natural shark repellent device as
she previously believed!
Our summer friends, the rays, can be seen resting
on the sand or "flying" gracefully
overhead. Those seen this month include some very large honeycombs,
electric rays, sandshark, sharpnose stingrays, eagle rays,
blue spotted rays and round ribbontail rays.
There have been a huge number of moray eels on the dives, and on our
last dive at 'Coachmans Ledge' we spotted 4 starry morays as well as
honeycomb, geometric and blackcheek morays.
The turtle hatchlings continue to make their way down to the ocean each
evening and it is incredible to imagine the potential in each tiny hatchling.
The season for mothers laying their eggs on the beach is almost over
but there are always a few that will continue to lay eggs later than
the others and we occasionally still have Leatherback tracks in the morning
on our drive out to the launch site. We are still seeing the Green and
Loggerhead turtles on our dives, but Hawksbills have not been a regular
feature this month.
The small fish are a constant delight. There have been an unusual amount
of ghost pipefish seen gently swaying in amongst the seaweed to which
they cleverly adapt their body colouration. Ghost pipefish are of the
same order as seahorses - one species of fish that we have not found
on our reefs, but are constantly on the lookout for. The pineapplefish
at 'Aerial' and 'Hang 10' are still with us; amazingly these tiny critters
may one day grow to 17cm and eventually move off to deeper darker waters
of up to 100m deep.
A number of cobia or prodigal son have been spotted; each time we see
these fish the reflex reaction is a quick backward jerk of the head to
look upwards for whaleshark that they usually enjoy hitching a lift with.
Unfortunately none of the gentle giants have visited this month, but
we continue to look upwards in hope that the season is not yet over.
March and April should still produce the odd sighting - and last year
in March an 8m wonder arrived to delight the divers.
We are looking forward to March and April. Water
temperatures should remain a wonderful 26-27°, and viz. average
between 15 and 25 metres. Juveniles will be out in force
as a result of the summer season of love.
Till then, take care
Darryl, Clive, Michelle, Jen
The Rocktail Bay Dive Team
Turtle News from
Rocktail Bay - Feb 06 Jump
As we have always said, February is the most rewarding time
during our turtle season because of all the Leatherback and
Loggerhead hatchlings that we are able to watch take the
first steps of their lives. There have been many nights through
the month where there have been smiles shared, tears shed
and 'motherly' bonds made.
On of those special nights was on the 26th, where eight
of our lucky guests experienced a nest of over 100 Loggerhead
Turtles hatching. This group had already done the entire
drive down to Mabibi with not one turtle sighting and were
almost back at camp when, rounding the corner of Rocktail's
Bay, Mbongeni spotted the tiny tracks of one baby Loggerhead
going down to the water. Excitement stirred in the vehicle,
and before long, our eight guests were witnessing one of
the most amazing, once-in-a-lifetime experiences, right there
on Rocktail's beach. They watched and waited until each and
every mini-turtle had made it safely down into the ocean.
Completely satisfied, they arrived back in camp after 23h00,
to drift off into happy turtle-filled dreams.
In February, the season is drawing to a close, with less
and less sightings of mother turtles coming up to nest. In
comparison to last February where we tagged two new mothers,
this year we only managed to tag one new mother during the
month, but we saw three previously tagged mothers once again.
We have already seen her twice this
season, once in December and once in January, and it is
now getting to the stage, because we have seen this Leatherback
mother so frequently, that all the staff here at Rocktail
know her by name. She is none other than "Bibi" with
the tag number BB242. She came up to nest, close to Lala
Nek beach at 22H15 on the evening of the 17th of February.
The Leech family and Mr and Mrs Tolond, who were on the
drive that night, did not even drive fifteen minutes before
coming across this gentle giant - what a special experience.
The 3rd of February saw "Mama Ulwandla" return
to our beach once again. We saw and tagged this Loggerhead
for the first time on the 11th of January, and that is when
she was adopted by Craig, Linda, Jess and Ryan O' Flaherty
from Cape Town. On her recent return she nested close to
Mabibi Point at 23h00, and four lucky guests got to see her
successfully lay her eggs.
The last returnee we saw this month has unfortunately not
been given a name yet, and is waiting to be adopted. We tagged
and micro chipped this Loggerhead for the first time on the
31st of December 2005, making her one of the last turtles
that we saw in the year 2005. She came up to nest again on
the 9th of February at three o'clock in the morning. The
Colucci family braved the 02h00 departure and were justly
rewarded with an exclusive sighting of this Loggerhead mother,
whose tag number is PP454.
The new mother that graced us with
her presence this month was christened "Ngqiba" by
the Williams family. She is officially the last mother
turtle that we have seen for the season, and she nested
on the 20th of February. Mbongeni tagged this beautiful
Leatherback on Mabibi beach at midnight, whilst her adopted
family looked on. She measured an astounding 1.6m long
by 1.25m wide. Congratulations to the Williams family,
who definitely chose the right night to go on drive, and
witness the last turtle of the season come up and nest.
On the whole, it has been a fantastic turtle season, and
we have made many great memories. To date we have seen an
incredible 275 Loggerhead Turtle nests, compared to last
year's 171 - a total of 104 more nests than last year - well
done Loggerheads! We have also seen 78 Leatherback nests,
which is phenomenal for the most endangered sea turtle in
the world. Out of the 353 nests that we have documented since
October, 42 of those were made by previously tagged turtles,
which means that 311 nests were made by new mothers, or mothers
that we have tagged and micro chipped for the first time
Our turtle adoption programme is still going strong, and
we have had fourteen more adoptions for the month of February.
Heather the Loggerhead was adopted by Jean Swart - tag no.
Simon and Iona Malone adopted Iona the Loggerhead with tag
Lisa Margareta, the Loggerhead NN371 was adopted by Norman
and Nell Hardy.
Duncan Macdonald and Pieter Wessels adopted two turtles:
one Leatherback turtle who they named Atuin (tag no. NN393)
and a Loggerhead turtle who they named Dame Doreen - tag
no. is NN394.
Hugh Macdonald adopted Anna the Loggerhead, whose tag no.
Gerhard and Evey Koenig adopted Mathilda a Leatherback with
tag no. PP184.
Flounder the Loggerhead was adopted by Matt Leech, and her
tag no. is PP463.
Ansty the Loggerhead was adopted by Kitty Leech, tag no.
Alan, Lesley, Lucy, Jack, Evie and Samuel Williams adopted
Ngqiba the Leatherback, tag no. NN368.
Mr and Mrs Crosby adopted Jamie the Loggerhead, who bears
the tag PP613.
Darryl Bristow and Sue De Groot also adopted two turtles,
both Loggerheads, one with the tag no. PP469, who they christened
Sea Biscuit and the second they named Leon, tag no. NN602.
And last but not least, Alexandra McCullam adopted Gugu the
Loggerhead turtle who bears the tag LL301. When Alexandra
adopted Dory the Loggerhead in February 2005 she was the
youngest adoptive parent since the start of the project.
Well, her title still stands, and she is now the proud mother
of not just Dory, but Gugu too - congratulations Alex.
Lastly Nancy Heitel and Brian Malk have retrospectively adopted
a total of 30 turtles from the 2003-2004 season as well as
the current season! A sincere thank you to both Nancy and
This makes a total of 61 turtles that have been adopted
from the 2005?2006 turtle season. WOW! We would once again
like to thank all our adoptive parents who have supported
our project over the last four and a half months; it has
really been an incredible season.
We are starting to feel a little sad that the season is
slowly drawing to a close. Looking on the bright side, the
season is not over just yet, and we still have fifteen days
of research left, not to mention an entirely new season starting
in October this year. We look forward to reporting back to
you all on the last days of this season, and summing up all
the highlights, facts and figures.
Wishing you all a fantastic first month of a southern hemisphere
Rocktail Bay staff and turtles
Camp (northern Kruger) Newsletter - Feb 06 Jump
Despite all the rain and the tall grass along with the thick
lush vegetation at this time of the year, the month of February
has been quite remarkable for game viewing and birding. Here
are some of our special sightings:
4 February: Immature Martial Eagle raiding an Egyptian Goose
nest and taking a chick.
10 February: Lizard Buzzard repeatedly attacked a squirrel,
but no success for the buzzard.
12 February. Swarms of armoured crickets feasting on each other.
13 February: At 5pm a female leopard seen near Mangala along
the Luvuvhu. Guests viewed her grooming herself as she posed
in a Jackalberry tree for nearly two hours.
13 February: 17 lions seen at the junction of Pafuri Main Road
and Sandpad. The pride consisted of adult male and females,
sub-adults and young cubs.
15 February: 2 honey badgers seen at Makwadzi pan.
All in all this month we have had 8 separate sightings of
leopard and 13 of lion.
Other highlights included a huge herd of about 76 eland. We
are still encountering large herds of buffalo throughout the
concession (we estimate 7 separate herds) and, while the majority
of elephants have moved into neighbouring Zimbabwe, we still
managed a handful of sightings of a group of four that roamed
over much of the concession. To add to our honey badger sighting
we had three separate black-backed jackal sightings in February.
Kudu, nyala, bushbuck, waterbuck, warthog, impala, wildebeest,
and zebra were sighted regularly throughout the concession.
There have been no fewer than 220 birds recorded this month.
We had a new tick with a sighting of a Long-crested Eagle.
Other birds seen, to name just a few, were: Lesser Honey Guide,
Common (European) Cuckoo, African Finfoot, Three-banded Courser,
Eurasian Hobby, Peregrine Falcon, African Darter, African Spoonbill,
Great Reed Warbler, Groundscraper Thrush, (Eastern) Bearded
The weather was warm, averaging a minimum
of 22.9ºC and
a maximum of 36.1ºC. Rain fell to the tune of 68mm.
Thanks from Pafuri,
Newsletter - Feb 06 Jump
started off with rain in all corners of the country meaning
that we in the south are not forgotten by the Almighty at all.
All possible rivers are flowing this season even, so it is
said, those that have not flowed for the past ten years. The
desert also has its secrets: apart from the rivers it is mentioned
in some circles that even the flowers that have not been seen
for almost 30 years have been observed.
Let us see what one of our guides, Lourens Gaseb, had to say
about the wonders that the desert is providing this season.
"The desert is green; there is water in the pan overlooking
the Kulala Wilderness Camp. This made one of my guests ask
where our Tourism Office was, because, he said, "This
is too green to be a desert!" It was really funny explaining
to him and other guys and trying to convince them that this
truly is the Namib Desert, while been surrounded by green grasses
and pretty flowers. I know it is everybody's perception that
the desert is a very hot and dry place with little vegetation
and often covered in sand dunes. I have found out this is not
always the case. I got stuck in the desert mud on the 10 February
this year, and I told my guests not to lose the pictures if
they are going to tell the story.
All this and more made me think what the desert really is
and this is what I found out. The two principal things used
to describe a place to be a desert are firstly, the average
rainfall or lack of it and secondly, the average evaporation
rate of an area. This place therefore must be a paradise! I
have been guiding here for nine months and it's also my first
time to see the desert so green with so many animals. This
is also the time for most animals to plan the arrivals of the
newborn to coincide with the rains, then there's plenty to
eat and drink.
The desert is quiet, peaceful and green.
I can truly say I found peace of mind here."
Newsletter - Feb 06 Jump
February started off with hot and very humid days. The cloud
build-up gave us hope for rain but then the usual afternoon
winds came up and blew the clouds away. Towards the middle
of the month we had one rainy night and day. Since then the
temperatures have dropped and it has been a whole lot cooler
with constant cloud cover and every now and again we see a
few rays of sunshine. The afternoon wind has also not blown
for a few days.
Our guides have been driving long distances with the guests
to find the local elephants but have struggled with only a
few sightings of bulls. This is because most of the elephants
have trekked into the mountains. It seems the grass is greener
there. A herd of springbok continues to graze at the camp in
the late afternoon and on the drives guests have seen hyaena,
gemsbok, ostrich and the usual antelope that frequent the plains
and the wooded fringe.
With the rainy weather a lot of moths have surfaced and at
night they cover the walls around any source of light they
can find. Mysteriously when the sun rises they seem to disappear
only to return at night in search of light again.
All in all it has been a busy February and we look forward
to March to welcome more guests to our beautiful camp.