Zambia Safari News -
Info on the new Wilderness Safaris camps in Zambia
Environmental update on North Island in
North Island Dive Report from
Kwando Safaris game reports.
Update on the 2006 Okavango
Monthly update from Mombo Camp in
Monthly update from Tubu Tree Camp in
Monthly update from Jao Camp in
Monthly update from Kwetsani Camp in
Monthly update from Jacana Camp in
Monthly update from 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
Safaris in Zambia - Mar 06
most of southern Africa, this
summer in Zambia has been wet.
Northern Kafue is practically
underwater and bears little resemblance
to November last year when the
earth was scorched and crying
out for moisture. By complete
contrast the Busanga Plains now
looks like the Okavango Delta
and the Lunga River is only one
of many ribbons of water.
efforts to get Lunga River Lodge,
Nkondo Trails Camp and Busanga
Bush Camp upgraded and ready
for the season are well underway
and we are gearing up to begin
building at Kapinga Bush Camp and Shumba
Bush Camp – a
process that will get going after
the imminent completion of the
operations centre in Lusaka.
We have some
space available over the coming season and this
update will hopefully help to
keep you up to speed as to our
developments there and will provide
some idea of the potential of
the area and how excited we are
about it. We have included some
aerial shots from a recent
trip and also aim to clarify
some logistical issues such as
the best combinations and timing
Kafue habitats and game viewing
The northern sector
of Kafue is what Wilderness Safaris searches for
when locating its camps. It is remote, wild and diverse
with vast tracts of pristine ‘pure wilderness’.
Our team who initially visited the area came back
raving about the wilderness aspect (‘The wildest
area I’ve ever seen’ according to Keith
Vincent) and also the diversity of the region.
Lunga River in the east is a permanent tributary
of the Kafue River and beyond its narrow strip of
riverine forest the landscape is patterned with broad-leafed
woodland, open plains, floodplains and island thickets.
In the north west of Kafue the Busanga Plains is
a vast savannah of seasonally inundated grasslands
dotted with riverine islands and areas of broad-leafed
abundant and includes many species that do not
occur elsewhere in southern Africa. Zambia’s single endemic species, Chaplin’s
Barbet, does occur, but the thrill is to be found
in the diversity and abundance with nearly 500 species
recorded and good concentrations of species such
as Wattled Crane (Zambia contains more than half
the world’s population) and various pelicans,
storks and herons. Other specials of the plains are
Locust Finch, Rosy-throated and Fülleborn’s
Longclaws, Kori and Denham’s Bustards, while
birds of the woodland and riverine areas include
Ross’s Turaco, Blue-breasted Bee-eater, Pale-billed
Hornbill, Miombo Pied Barbet and Red-capped Crombec.
equally diverse and aside from the high profile
species, such as Lion, Leopard, Elephant, Buffalo
and Cheetah, commonly seen in countries like Botswana
and Zimbabwe, a number of other species, not readily
encountered further south are often seen. Chief
among these are Puku, Defassa Waterbuck and Lichtenstein’s Hartebeest with rarer species
such as Oribi and Roan regularly encountered. A further
unusual species for those accustomed to game viewing
further south is the Tree Hyrax – a small population
of which is resident in the camp at Lunga, their
calls echoing through the camp at night.
it is the high profile species that most guests are
after and in this regard Kafue certainly delivers
the goods! Good Lion and fantastic Cheetah (some
of the best in Africa) sightings are common, Leopard
viewing is a regular highlight, Wild Dogs are occasionally
seen, Elephant and Buffalo sightings are excellent,
and there are abundant Hippo and good numbers of
plains game such as Zebra and Wildebeest.
viewing experience of Kafue is not the wooded savannah
of the South African lowveld, the woodland and floodplain
of northern Botswana, the broad-leafed woodland of
Hwange or the Albida woodlands of Mana Pools, rather
it is a combination of all of these and is well suited
to itineraries which include any of these destinations
or indeed Zambia alone.
Situation of the Kafue Camps
Logistics – Flights
to and within Zambia
to Lusaka South African Airways Flies into Lusaka
daily from Johannesburg and at some times of the
year twice daily.
Zambia Airways (operated
by Kulula) Flies into Lusaka five times a week
(Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Sunday)
Airways Flies into Lusaka three times a week
(Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday) from London.
Flies into Lusaka daily from Nairobi.
Zimbabwe Flies into Lusaka daily from Harare.
Access to Livingstone
Nationwide Flies into Livingstone from Johannesburg
South African Airways Flies into Livingstone
three times a week (Monday, Thursday and Saturday)
British Airways Flies into Livingstone
five times a week (Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday
and Sunday) from Johannesburg.
Northern Botswana: we can also
access Zambia from the Botswana / Zimbabwe circuit
ending in either Maun, Kasane or Victoria Falls
Scheduled flights, seat rates and private
charters between Lusaka / Livingstone and the WS
Kafue camps, South Luangwa (Chipata / Mfuwe) and
Lower Zambezi are operated by several local charter
and airline businesses with whom Wilderness Safaris
has formed alliances and with whom our offices will
Logistics – Itinerary
combinations for Zambian circuit
Itinerary combinations - Zambia
itineraries along the following broad suggestions
can be arranged using Wilderness Safaris’ Kafue
camps combined with camps in other key areas run
by well known safari operators such as Star of Africa,
Norman Carr, Robin Pope Safaris, Remote Africa, Bush
Camp Company and so on.:
1) Lusaka – South
Luangwa National Park - Lower Zambezi National Park – WS
Kafue camps – Lusaka / Livingstone
2) Lusaka – WS
Kafue camps – Lower Zambezi NP – South
Luangwa NP - Lusaka
3) Livingstone – WS Kafue
camps – Lower Zambezi NP – South Luangwa
NP – Lusaka / Livingstone
4) Livingstone – Lower
Zambezi NP – South Luangwa NP – WS Kafue
camps – Livingstone / Lusaka
Itinerary combinations – Botswana
Combining a Botswana safari with Zambia
is ideal and the extension is an easy one and often
complimentary. We would recommend that you combine
Busanga with either the Linyanti/Selinda region or
Hwange National Park.
Regardless of whether you combine
the Okavango, Linynati or Hwange with Busanga, a
stay in northern Kafue will enhance the itinerary
fantastically as it offers a wider game and habitat
Itinerary combinations – Malawi
Neighbouring Malawi is easily combined with Zambia
and allows access to a spectacular lake and additional
Lusaka - WS Kafue camps – Lilongwe – Mvuu
Lodge – Kaya Mawa – Lilongwe - Lusaka
is a great option!
Itinerary combinations – Kenya/Tanzania/Zanzibar
With daily flights between Nairobi and Lusaka, combining
Zambia with East African sites such as the Mara,
Serengeti and Zanzibar is easily achieved and Zambia
effectively bridges the gap between East and Southern
Seychelles / North Island
Environmental update on North Island - Mar 06 Jump
to North Island
With no sighting of a live rat on North Island since the last
helicopter bait drop in September 2005 (this despite more than
6000 trapping nights over the entire island at present), things
are looking very promising, indeed! However, this first victory
does not at all mean that we can now sit back and relax. As all
islands know only too well, getting rid of rodents is only the
start, remaining rodent-free is another challenge entirely! With
the following stringent procedures in place, we are confident that
we are doing the utmost in the given circumstances to avoid rat
reinvasion or introduction of any other unwanted invaders: 1) all
boats and barges unloading goods and people on the island, as well
as the Company's office and new storeroom on Mahe, are baited;
2) strict boat/barge unloading procedures on the beach are maintained
at all time; 3) a rodent proof trailer transports all goods and
staff luggage to a rodent proof room where all the above are checked
before further distribution. Hence the care for our island's precious
endemic wildlife has become part of our daily lives!
New staff came on board; Unels Bristol and Linda Vanherck joined
the Environment Department in October and November 2005 respectively.
Together with the Landscape Team, they work on the island's restoration.
With the go-ahead of the Ministry
of Environment & Natural
Resources in February 2006, the island embarked upon its next eradication:
Indian mynahs are being poisoned and will subsequently be shot
so as to bring their present numbers, estimated between 200 and
300, down to less dramatic levels so lowering their influence and
impact on the island's ecosystem.
In November 2005, Unels discovered
a small breeding colony of Wedge-tailed Shearwater. His vast
experience in conservation and extensive familiarity with Seychelles'
fauna have further resulted in the confirmations of the presence
of the following bird species: Seychelles Blue pigeons (4 birds
were counted on several occasions), Yellow Bittern, Black-crowned
Night Heron, Grey Heron, Marsh Sandpiper, Sanderling, Common
Greenshank, Crab & Grey Plover, Turnstones,
and Common & Jacobin Cuckoo. Tree Pipit and Common Redstart
were recorded as as vagrants on the plateau, as were 11 Amur Falcons
which arrived in November and remained for a month. Furthermore,
the pair of Seychelles Kestrels is still surviving, White-tailed
Tropic Birds were seen landing in search of suitable nesting sites,
and Great Frigate Birds have been seen flying over on several occasions.
Huge schools of sardines moving from East to West Beach attracted
large number of Common Terns feeding on them. As for the Moorhens
in the wetlands, they appeared to have bred successfully as chicks
and immature birds were noticed. In January 2006, 9 nests of Greenbacked
herons, of which 5 were active, were found in guava trees bordering
It was not just the birdlife that has kept us thrilled. In the
course of November and December 2005, as much as 870 mm of rain
was recorded. During this time, excited staff members have discovered
baby tortoises that have evidently hatched from nests on the plateau
area near the helicopter pad and staff vegetable garden. They are
undoubtedly the happy products of our adult male tortoises, Brutus
and Patrick, who continue to leave even our visiting honeymoon
couples gasping at their astounding frequency of mating! Although
North Island chooses to interfere as little as possible in the
animals' lives, an exception was made by building a pen for the
11 little tortoises so as to assure that no lawnmower would result
in their premature death.
As for the turtle life around the island ... from the end of October
until present, the environmental staff has diligently kept up measuring
tracks on the beach. In this period, 71 tracks of Hawksbills and
34 tracks of Green Turtles were recorded. Measurements were taken
of the females coming on land and they were tagged or their already
present tag numbers recorded. Guests and film crews have subsequently
also been able to watch the babies hatching and heading for the
sea, therewith getting a glimpse of the entire life cycle and being
made aware of Seychelles' turtle conservation efforts.
As for the vegetation, the Landscape Team headed by Greg Wepener,
has continued its intensive rehabilitation efforts. In the last
6 months, alien invader plants have been removed at the Grand Anse
plateau and replaced by endemic plants from the island's nursery.
With all these efforts, we are confident that North Island will
be able to harbour once more a rich endemic fauna and flora for
the future Seychellois' generation.
North Island Dive Report
- Mar 06 Jump
March has come and gone and
we have truly experienced glorious weather. The ocean temperature
has remained at a constant 29ºC
- very inviting indeed. Visibility has been consistent at 25m+,
making for very enjoyable bikini or shorts diving. True to form
in the tropics, we have had the odd cloud form and shower us with
a 5-minute downpour of rain, only to have the sun peek its head
over the clouds and warm us with heat once again.
We have found any excuse to swim, body board or snorkel. There
have been times when even the simple pleasure of swimming has not
cooled us down as the water temperature has been like a bathtub.
But we are not complaining at all; compared to others around the
world who are in thermal clothes, we are very happy with our lot
- thank you.
We continued to spend time with our orbicular batfish friends
on 'Sprat City', our white-tip reef sharks, rays, trumpetfish,
devil firefish and cowfish. We sighted two massive stone fish,
sleeping nose to nose on 'The Spot' just recently, which was a
rare sighting for us. All in all ocean-wise, it has been great
and Neptune has been very kind to us. We weren't able to complete
the bi-annual coral reef monitoring dives in March, but these are
scheduled for the end of April.
The various fish species caught this month (in our catch-and-release
fishing) were dorado, bonito, tuna and wahoo. We welcome back Debbie
Smith who is back on the island for the remainder of 2006.
Camps Update - Mar 06
Lagoon camp Jump
• 2 adult males lions we
found resting – they were well fed, while a lioness
was seen moving through the camp – she appears
to be lactating but no cub tracks found yet
several more sightings the 2 males were found hunting
actively with 2 lionesses
• The Lagoon pride
was also found hunting – 4 adult lionesses and
a young male together
• A 3:4 spot pattern
adult female leopard was found at Tsessebe pan – she
was very relaxed and was followed for some time
adult female cheetah was found together with a sub-adult
male – they were followed hunting during subsequent
game-drives for over a week but were not seen making
• Wild dogs – the Lagoon pack
now consisting of one adult female, two adult males
and are now down from five to four 6 month-old pups
were seen for weeks on end around the Lagoon airstrip,
and were followed hunting. They were seen hunting successfully
an impala, and the pups fed well.
seen frequently at dusk and dawn, also during the night
• Good numbers of both bachelor herds
and breeding herds of elephants seen daily in the mopane
and riverine forests as well as feeding on the floodplains – seen
often coming down to the river to bathe in front of
• General game good considering the
rains – sightings of roan, giraffe, impala, reedbuck,
impala, zebra, waterbuck, wildebeest and kudu as well
as lots of baboons
• Smaller game seen includes
bush-babies, African wild cats, several species of
mongooses, genets, springhares, both jackal species,
honey badger, as well as many different frog and snakes
species and flap-necked chameleons
Kwara camp Jump
• A pride of 10 lions was
seen several times, as well as 3 young males and a
lioness at the 2nd bridge, a mating pair at 4-rivers,
and 2 adult males close to the camp.
large pride of 10 was later found sleeping (mostly
in trees), and then moving off and hunting tsessebe,
the 3 young males were found feeding on a giraffe that
they has killed.
• A very relaxed female
leopard was found sleeping in a tree – she later
came down and was followed hunting. A shy male was
seen as well and followed from a distance. Later another
adult female was found resting in a tree, she then
started hunting impala but was not successful.
adult male cheetah was found resting on a termite mound – he
was well fed and spend the rest of the day sleeping.
breeding herd of elephants was encountered in the mopane
forest at night – they were a little nervous.
Several small groups of bachelors seen throughout the
concession, as well as small groups of bulls that are
seen daily around the (large) growing lake in front
of the camp
• Small groups of hyenas have
been seen hunting most evenings, also seen both species
of jackals (one seen hunting impala lambs)
of hippo around, in and out of the water during the
• General game good – red lechwe,
impala, giraffe, tsessebe, kudu, reedbuck, wildebeest,
zebra as well as a sable antelope giving birth!
drives yielded several sightings of African wild cat
(female with 2 kittens), large spotted genets as well
as a large python in a tree, a mamba on the road,
and plenty of frogs including giant bull-frogs
bird sightings, various storks and egret species, all
the kingfisher species, rollers including the broad-billed
roller, and great photographic opportunities at the
Lebala camp Jump
• A pride of 4 lionesses
and an adult male (part of the Lebala pride of 14)
were followed hunting – they spend some time
climbing trees to get a better view of their prey
over the tall grasses.
• A pride of 7 lionesses
and 2 males were followed for the better part of
a week, they were seen hunting and feeding on a wildebeest,
a zebra, a giraffe, and were found later also feeding
an another wildebeest at Twin pools
week the pride of 7 was found feeding on another
wildebeest, 2 very battered male lions were found
• After following leopard tracks
on several occasions (plenty of late night activity)
a shy male leopard was found and followed from a
distance, later a shy female leopard was found but
she moved off in to the long grass.
male cheetah were seen at Kubu pan – they were
followed hunting for most of the day but were not
• The Lagoon pack of wild dogs
was also seen – resting in the late morning.
Lebala pack of 23 wild dogs was also found north
of the camp – also resting
elephant sightings with large breeding herds of elephants
were seen in the mixed woodland , with several small
bachelor herds seen moving across the floodplains
buffalo seen apart from a couple of bulls wallowing
in a pan in the mopane woodland – as the concession
dries up the large herds of buffalo will start moving
north to the Kwando River again
are seen on almost every night drive as well as both
• Other night sightings
include African wild cats, porcupine (also a porcupine
having a confrontation, with a warthog over ownership
of a burrow), honey badgers, various frog species
(giant bullfrogs as well), and flap-necked chameleons
game includes zebra, giraffe, wildebeest, warthogs,
impala, kudu, lechwe, steenbuck, reedbuck, waterbuck,,
and plenty of hippo
• The birding has been
exceptional – juvenile bateleurs, heron, egret
and stork species, red-winged pratincoles, jacanas,
carmine bee-eaters, weaver species, pelicans, wattled
cranes, duck and goose species, ostriches, kori bustards,
vultures as well as many raptor species
sightings of different snake species – python,
olive grass snake, puff-adder, and cobras
Flood update - Mar 06
The heavy rainfalls in January and
February created an enormous amount of ground water in the Delta. 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 April 10, 2006.
Camp update - Mar 06 Jump
to Mombo Camp
The rain falls on ... clouds gather and build and relentless storms sweep
across us at night. March at Mombo has continued in the same vein as
February; thick tangles of vegetation and tall grass still abound.
Dense stands of wild lucerne embroider the muddy pools that used to
be our roads, their bright yellow flowers enchanting accessories to
the impala ears one can just make out peeping above them.
As we approach the end of March, we are experiencing clear, hot days
and early evenings resplendent with stars that we have not had the luxury
of seeing all that often lately! Deep into the night however, during
the quiet hours, when very little stirs and even the frogs are silent,
distant rumbles begin and the lashings of rain against canvas drum into
one's dreams until dawn. Miraculously, gorgeous sunrises bubble out from
the night's clouds, turning them flamingo pink and revealing the lush,
wet tangle of bush we are now accustomed to.
The water levels at Mombo are similar to those when we are in full flood,
normally between the months of April and August. The floodplain in front
of Mombo Main Camp shimmers with water, attracting pods of hippo grazing
at night, and providing profound relief to buffalo trying to escape the
infestations of flies in the area. Due to the high level of standing
water from four months of rain, the flood has arrived at Mombo much earlier
than is the norm (last year the flood arrived on about 10 April). The
crystal-clear floodwater is evident in many areas already, pushing into
the channels and across the floodplains. This in turn forces the herds
of game to congregate onto the islands - journeys of giraffe intermingled
with impala, zebra, wildebeest and warthog are a common sight, bewildering
us all with the incredible diversity one can find in a limited area.
In February we received 215mm of rain, and March being a month when rainfall
is supposed to decline dramatically, we received 196mm! Amid the many
overcast and warm days, we have seen cloudless, cobalt days with soaring
temperatures. The heat and humidity can be felt sucking against one's
skin, only to be released in walloping thunderstorms at night. One
night's deluge was just off 40mm, and it has rained at some point during
the day for a little over half the month. Temperatures have remained
fairly constant this month although with a slight downward trend. Maximum
daytime temperatures have been an average of 30°C while minimum
temperatures ranged from 15-18°C.
Lions are very clearly still the main act in the predator realm of Mombo,
and they continue to try their paws at tree climbing. It is the general
consensus that this is an attempt to avoid the many biting flies and
it seems to be working, because all of the prides are doing it! The
area north of Vultures' Baobab has been the prime territory of the
Moporota Pride and their five new cubs. Here there are abundant large
Acacia trees, primarily A. tortilis, which the pride have been using
as an escape from the flies. The Mathata Pride, still 28 of them and
still gobbling every zebra, giraffe and buffalo they can, have been
spending more time further south in the Suzie's Duck Pond and Simbira
regions of the concession where there is an profusion of prey for them.
As the water begins to rise, and influence the territories which the
different prides and nomads patrol, it will be interesting to witness
the interaction between them; these can be violent, clamorous clashes
that occasionally leave members of the prides badly wounded or dead.
The Buffalo Boys, the two young males that are regularly seen on the
floodplains in front of the camp harassing herds of buffalo, are now
being forced onto Mombo Island itself. As nomads with no real territory
of their own, they will have to tread very carefully between the Mathata
Pride males (4) and those of the Moporota Pride (2), with a short-lived
but raucous standoff between the nomads and the Mathata males one morning
in front of camp indicating the tensions simmering under the surface.
The Mathata Sub-adults (6) have been spending much time around the Mombo
Airstrip, and have shown a good success rate at hunting. Their frequently
fat bellies show their skills at hunting together as a stable pride are
improving, and the young males are beginning to resemble the powerful
adults they are about to become. It is interesting to see the sudden,
blatant contrast in size between the sexes at this stage of their development.
The interplay between the existing prides of lion and the burgeoning
clans of hyena is going to be equally fascinating. Lions generally enjoy
prime position in the predator hierarchy, while hyena come in a close
second. This is, however, a delicate balance of numbers and power; it
can be rocked. One morning in mid March, the Mathata subadults brought
down a pregnant female giraffe. Satiated from the previous day's feed
on a zebra, they only managed to eat one haunch before retiring to the
shade for a nap. All day the haunting beckon from the hyena could be
heard across the terrain as the members of the clan congregated and their
loping forms were seen heading in the direction of the carcass. Beneath
an apricot sky, the day came to its close and the hyena moved in. Within
a few hours more than 30 hyena had chased away the pride and demolished
the giraffe carcass - their fits of giggles, excited whoops and warning
growls heard from the camp as they gorged themselves happily on the lion's
This enigmatic cat is without question the highlight of many guests'
stay at Mombo, and there are few species that can create the awe one
feels on watching the slow prowl of their dappled pelt melt through
emerald grass. Sightings have been surprisingly consistent this month,
given that the lofty tendrils of abundant grass are the perfect means
of camouflage. The major advantage of plentiful rain, however, is the
fact that leopards do not enjoy walking through mud, so tend to stick
to the roads or can be found high up in trees escaping the flies.
Once again we were disappointed this month when the Far Eastern Pan
Female lost her cub(s?) to the Buffalo Boys. They discovered the cub
concealed in a bush, plucked it out and killed it. The Tortilis female
is now confirmed pregnant (again), but with her atrocious track record
we are not holding our breath for a successful litter from her. We do
live in the hope that her mothering instinct improves at some point in
time. Legadimo is faring well, and, as she enters her third year in age,
we await the day when she first mates. She has not been as active around
the actual camp as previous months, tending to spend more time around
the Hippo Hide and Old Trails Camp area where she remains beyond the
territory of her extremely territorial mother.
The male leopards appear to be
on leave. Brooks did see a new male, possibly about four years old,
close to Susie's Duckpond.
The remaining Steroid Boy is back. For the latter part of March, he has
been seen around the Moporota area where he preys predominantly on
lechwe, especially the young. He is, however, well beyond his prime
now and in terrible condition. The flies (we think) appear to have
affected his fur horribly, and it has peeled away along the back of
his neck and spine, leaving raw pink skin that is constantly irritated
by the flies. Furthermore we suspect he has been attacked by lions,
as he has a bad puncture wound on the top of his head. It is heart
wrenching to witness the demise of a being that has dominated with
such grace and skill here for so long. But it is the way. All animals
exist within this cycle designed for prey and predator, the weak and
the strong. We watch his passage with interest.
This month was a great month for rhinos. Serondela, Jack, Mogae, Kakana
(all males) and Bogale and her calf, Valentine, have been sighted regurlarly
in the Susie's Duckpond area. Nick, (aka Rhino Boy) and Poster think
Bogale is coming back into season, seeing as Valentine is 14 months
old now, and we have seen the males showing her plenty of amorous attention.
She responds with bellows and charges, however, probably to keep them
away from Valentine.
As summer reaches its end, we are about to say farewell to our migrants
once more; the plunging call of the Woodland Kingfisher is heard less
and the Wahlberg's Eagles are gone. As I write this the Blue Cheeked
Bee Eaters are gathering for their journey northwards, their distinct
chirruping rising and falling with their acrobatics. There are, however,
plenty of resident species - a pair of White-backed Vultures have made
their nest in the apex of Vultures' Baobab and we are presently observing
the progress of three tiny, cream coloured Red Billed Francolin eggs
found beneath a small acacia one game drive. Wattled Cranes, those
solemn and refined beauties of the floodplain, can be seen carefully
picking their way through the grass, or sliding past a flaming sunset
in the evenings. We are seeing them in large flocks of up to 30, which
is a spectacular sight indeed.
Camp and Guest Experience
At Mombo we not only have migratory birds, we have migratory guests as
well. Those who make their annual pilgrimage towards the Okavango to
get their fix for the year, returning home to plan their next trip
back! It is always with great joy that we welcome familiar faces back
to our home and we say "until next year" to Neil Andrews,
David and Mary Baldwin, Mike Lorentz and Billy Winter.
The rain has not managed to dampen the spirit of Mombo. The rhythm of
life here is one that hums its own unique tune, and the swell of Batswana
voices in the night air around the fire is a sound few guests will forget.
Great excitement this month - our Mombo Choir have touched so many people
who visit us that we decided to capture their amazing sound on CD and
we hope it will be available for purchase in the near future. The choir
had a festive time during the recordings, and we cannot wait to hear
the finished product!
And so, enough from us in our world of golden green and cerulean blue;
space, beauty and room to breathe. Lessons can be learned from this place,
and we hope our guests take some back with them.
Tubu Tree Camp update
- Mar 06 Jump
to Tubu Tree Camp
March coming to an end at Tubu means that the water table is rising
and isolating the island, creating a feeling of excitement as everyone
is looking forward to the added water activities and those wonderful
sundowner boat cruises.
Red lechwe have joined the herds of wildebeest on the floodplain in
front of the lodge and the elephant are once again daily visitors.
Game drives were very rewarding during March, producing sightings of
leopard, lion and elephant in abundance and not letting the bird lovers
Two mating lions decided to settle in front of the lodge during the
day, while during the nights they occupied the camp, the roar of the
male sounding at regular intervals. Our resident bushbuck were nowhere
to be seen for a few days. The lions however, showed no interest in hunting
and instead seemed intent on creating enough offspring to fill the entire
Leaves have yet to start falling and the vegetation is lush and green
as a result of the wonderful rain which sometimes lingered for a day,
falling softly and at other times came down furiously, accompanied by
thunder and lightning.
Tubu got the thumbs up, once again, from all who
visited with compliments for our guides Moa and Moyo topping the list.
To quote one guest, who has been visiting the area for the past seventeen
years and knows all about travelling in the Delta: "A beautifully
designed camp, comfort and good taste, friendly staff. A fantastic
Tubu Tree greetings,
Dave, Leigh, Moa, Moyo, Salani and the team
Jao Camp update
- Mar 06 Jump
to Jao Camp
We've had a fun-filled month in March. Occupancies have been good and
have allowed us to prepare for the busy season. With some new management
we have established a great core team which is working in sync making
the guests experience as memorable as possible. We are like one huge
family doing everything in unity and all working towards the same goal,
changing people's lives!
Simon our Executive Chef has been cooking up a
storm. His food has earned him a good reputation across the camps in
a very short while with guests. People coming from other camps say "they heard the food at Jao is
very good" and without a doubt Simon Clemmens has improved our cuisine
by 150% and not just because of his cooking but just being himself. He
is a very flamboyant man enjoying a good conversation and with some good
food making a great experience. We hope to have him around for a long
time to come.
In general the game viewing at Jao has been amazing as the guests saw
everything from lion to buffalo, elephant to hippo. The drives have been
exciting seeing hordes of game every day especially the locally common
red lechwe which is spread across the Jao floodplains like the wildebeest
in the Masai Mara. The water levels have made the drives even more interesting
as lots of it has been happening in our Green Submarines, as the guests
call them. Every now and again some big crocs were spotted right in the
The mating lions have been at it again and our resident males have been
trying their best at courting the lionesses. Our resident female leopard
and her cub disappeared early in the month and we have not seen a trace
of her. Luckily we have been seeing another female closer to Kwetsani
with two cubs! The giraffe and zebra have moved off the floodplains as
they became inundated and the elephants have also dispersed because of
all the rain.
The birding has been out of this world. We have such a great abundance
of endangered species such as the Slaty Egrets, Wattles Cranes, White-headed
Vultures, Rosy-throated Long Claw and Ground Hornbills. We are recording
the majority of these species and sending the data recorded on a monthly
basis through to BirdLife Botswana to help with their monitoring. Our
migrants the Woodland Kingfishers are still around and the Barn (European)
Swallows were falling out of the sky at one stage in the middle of the
month as we had a cold front coming through the area and killing these
small birds by the hundreds over the northern parts of the country. The
kingfishers have been very abundant having our guests seeing all 5 local
species (Pied, Malachite, Brown-hooded, Woodland and Giant) on one activity.
We have also had regular sightings of two further threatened species
- the Long-crested Eagle and the Southern Banded Snake-eagle. Fish eagles
by the dozen have entertained our guests as they try and fly off with
some bigger-than-usual catfish.
The month of March has been fantastic in general.
We have a good team and great staff and all of this making our guest
feel "at home".
A chef that cooks brilliant food and guides that show and teach our guests
all they want to see and learn. What more can we say, we are looking
forward to the next month and making our guests experience even better.
- Mar 06 Jump
to Kwetsani Camp
are no shortcuts to any place worth going."
This month Kwetsani was flooded with animals - all the young squirrels
were out and running on the decks, the juvenile vervet monkeys visited
without parental supervision and the bushbuck wandered around under the
tents and decks.
Perhaps our highlight of the month though has been a magnificent female
leopard leaving her two young cubs on Kwetsani Island while she hunts.
Twice these inquisitive youngsters have been brave enough to investigate
the confines of the camp itself and Victor even managed to get photographic
proof before they bounded away.
This is the second litter this particular female has had the confidence
to leave in the vicinity of the camp and while we are very happy that
she feels our environment to be an appropriate place of refuge for her
cubs, we are certainly not encouraging them to explore the decks!
The rain has reached just over 750mm for the year, the floods have started
moving in and we are gearing up the boats for the season. The roads are
full of water and the Fish Eagles are stuffed full with catfish. What
a magnificent time it is. As the water creeps over the floodplains the
lechwe are coming closer and closer to the camp island. Hours can be
spent sitting on your deck watching the animals on the open plains.
Many of the elephant bulls have started to move back into the NG25 concession
and they are enjoying the lush green vegetation of the islands. There
have been a few breeding herds seen with new babies which is always exciting.
Lions have also kept us busy this month; there have been numerous mating
pairs as well as a huge male serenading us to sleep at night with his
The monkeys are visiting again and often get to share in our breakfast:
Nothing like a muffin between friends!
Regards from Kwetsani
- Mar 06 Jump
to Jacana Camp
The water is still rising...
Water levels have now reached the mark we associate with the first flood
push. This is said to be mostly as a result of rainwater and not the
actual flood, but we have noticed a small increase in other areas where
the water is now flowing in to fill floodplains and roads and therefore
surmise that the flood must be here!
As a result of all the water, game viewing around the camp has been
relatively quiet. Plenty of hippo of course but fewer sightings of species
such as elephants. One bull we see regularly and which guests might remember
as 'Jack' did give us a visit a week or so ago, but has not so far returned.
Out in the open water though we have had some great sightings of sitatunga
and also increased hits on the Pel's Fishing Owl and some great views
of small concentrations of Darters and Slaty Egrets.
Game drives out on the flooded plains have been rewarded with lots of
lion sightings, including an amorous mating pair, some good leopard sightings
and the occasional elephant. The plains are teeming with birds however.
They range from egrets to a trio of Saddle-billed Storks, not to mention
Wattled Cranes and Goliath Herons.
The rainfall has sprouted serious plant growth and this has in turn
attracted a host of butterflies. Orange Tips, Little Blues and host of
real and imitation African Monarchs and many more unfamiliar species
that need some effort to identify them.
Fishing is a little quiet. We suspect that most fish species have used
the abundant water to move into shallower areas to breed. Many Bream
and Tilapia species can be seen nesting in areas of thick grass. The
patterns they create are quite interesting, reminding one of a poaching
pan or a giant colander.
The climate seems to be changing a little as the evenings are getting
colder and the mornings are covered in dew. The rain is yet to stop and
be replaced by endless sun and blue skies. Maybe things will return to
normal soon. With April arriving, we look forward to observing the continuing
flood and all the changes around the camp as animals arrive and birds
flock to our part of the world.
Vonan and Chrizelle will be looking after the island with the guides
being Jargon and George.
We wish everyone a Happy Easter.
The Jacana Management Team
DumaTau update -
Mar 06 Jump
to DumaTau Camp
And so another month has passed out here in the Linyanti Concession...
and what a fabulous month it has been! The managers in camp this month
were Fungai and Sue, Chantelle, Tebby and K.G. Guides were Cilas, Mr
T (Theba), Ban and Brian.
March-April is the change-over period for the seasons. From May we will
be truly entering Autumn/Fall. April has seen quite a bit of rain (>105
mm) and there is water lying everywhere, in puddles and pools across
the concession. The maximum temperature this month was 30°C and
the lowest 16°C. Scattered clouds appeared on most days and produced
rain on a total of 8 days, mainly in the afternoon and at night. Although
the area is wet it is not particularly humid. May should see the ceasing
of rain altogether and the slight dropping of temperatures.
As a result of all the rain, the bush is dense and camp looks like a
jungle: all the shrubs in full leaf and many bushes bedecked with trailing
creepers. Many of the small herbaceous plants have still got flowers:
yellow Wing-stem Daisies, Bur-marigolds and Wild Lucerne form in clusters,
small white Acrotomes are dotted throughout the bush, the Cat's Tails
have formed thick stands of knee-high pink drooping flowers and the grasses
are also still in flower and standing quite tall, although they are changing
colour and becoming browner. In the Savuti Channel and the surrounding
woodlands the grass is still knee height or higher. Visibility is not
at its greatest and on a few occasions this month that we have spotted
animals in the road, which, as soon as they left the road disappeared
immediately and were lost. The trees are all still in leaf and the area
is still quite green and lush.
The water levels in the lagoons and the Linyanti River are particularly
high and Osprey Lagoon has extended past the road making this area un-drivable
with Sharp-tooth Catfish swimming in the road now. The floodplains between
camp and Kubu Lagoon are also wet up to the road. Zibadianja Lagoon is
amazing! Just a year and a half ago Zibadianja Lagoon dried up at the
end of the dry season. Now the water is higher than it has been in at
least the past five years. The water from Zibadianja has pushed up the
Savuti Channel, past the hide (a pod of hippos has taken up daily residence
in front of the hide) and even over a kilometer beyond the Old Mopane
Bridge, and is still slowly pushing forward. One must remember that the
Savuti Channel last flowed in the early eighties and has since then become
an open grassland with its head at Zibadianja Lagoon and its tail at
the Savuti Marsh in Chobe National Park. Water has almost reached the
first major corner in the channel from the Zib side. The rainy season
is almost over now and we await a further potential push of water down
the channel from the rising floodwaters of the Kwando River. This rise
in water occurs every year, but if this last season's rainfall in Angola
was particularly high and the Kwando and then the Linyanti Rivers rise
high so will Zibadianja Lagoon and thus the SAvuti Channel (Zib Lagoon
is caused by the backflow from the Linyanti River as it makes a right
angle and follows the fault in the earth that caused the 90 degree turn).
Should this happen I believe that many people would book both Duma Tau
and Savuti Bush Camp just to see the river flowing again! ? But who knows?
? The African sun is harsh and the rise in water levels due to the floods
is a long way off.
Birds and birding
Many of the summer migrants are still here. We have had sightings of
Amur Falcons hovering over the grasslands of the channel, African Golden
Orioles flitting through the woodlands, Paradise Flycatchers in the
riverine forests, Barn swallows catching insects over the grasslands,
Spotted Flycatchers with their characteristic flicking their wings
as they land, Carmine bee-eaters taking advantage of the Kori Bustards
by catching a lift on their backs as they stride through the grasslands
catching insects, Woodland Kingfishers flying between the trees and
even a few sightings of Wahlberg's Eagles and Broad-billed Rollers.
With the water pushing up the channel many waterbirds
have gathered near the "Old Mopane Bridge". One morning when
we arrived there we noted that there were more than 40 Black Egrets
fishing in one spot in their characteristic umbrella-style fashion.
The water at the bridge has also drawn lots of other birds. For a while
there were over 150 Comb Ducks, numerous Little and Yellow-billed Egrets,
some Egyptian Geese, a few Spoonbills, a few Spur-winged Geese and
5 Pink-backed Pelicans. At the edges of the water we also found numerous
wading birds, including Ruff and Wood Sandpipers. One evening we were
having sundowners near Zibadianja Hide, watching an incredible sky
loaded with golden clouds upon a carmine background, when 9 African
Skimmers flew past us, in the lowering light, all with their beaks
in the water skimming the surface - awesome!
Other birding highlights this month include seeing a male Montagu's
Harrier flying up the channel one morning, a Double-banded Courser in
the open area of Cheetah Flats, regular sightings of at least five groups
of Ground Hornbills in the Savuti Channel between Duma Tau and Savuti,
endangered Wattled Cranes on at least two occasions, eight separate sightings
of Slaty Egret, a Long-crested Eagle (very scarce in these parts), and
an aerial contest between two Bateleur Eagles as they tumbled and grappled
in the air for at least half a hour in front of us. We have also had
quite a few sightings of a Lesser Moorhen and her 4 juveniles at a seasonal
pool deep in the mopane woodlands.
Because of all the water in the woodlands the elephants have spread out
and are not frequenting the river although we are still seeing herds
in the mopane woodlands and the occasional bulls striding across the
Lion sightings have been pretty good and we have
had views of these big cats on at least 20 days in March. The Savuti
Pride have been the stars this month. This pride consists of 4 adult
lionesses and four cubs (two of about 1 year, and 2 of about 8 months).
They have been seen mainly in the area of "Dish Pan Clearing" and "The Bottleneck" in
the Savuti Channel. They have, on many occasions been accompanied by
two of the Savuti Boys (part of a coalition of 4 adult male lions that
arrived in the channel in mid-2004 and have been dominant since). On
the 13th we watched as one of the females was walking in the rain along
the road. She was drenched. As she was walking she called and searched
for the other members of her pride and eventually led guides to the pride
feeding on a zebra in the nearby woodlands. On the 17th they were discovered
with the remains of a wildebeest. They were once again lying with bellies
extended. The two males were sleeping right next to the carcass in the
shade of a Feverberry, while the females and youngsters rested in the
middle of the channel. On the 21st the females and youngsters were found
to the east of Savuti Camp. Once again they had found a dead, fallen
tree and were clambering about on it. Great to watch! During the month
two lioness of the Linyanti Pride were also seen way beyond their normal
territory/range south of Savuti Camp (one lioness was easily recognisable
from a deep notch in her right hand ear).
Leopard sightings have been more difficult this
month due to the thicker vegetation and the species' natural ability
to make use of this kind of cover. We managed quite a few good sightings
though. On the night of the 9th for example a sub-adult male (Phoenix)
was found lying up in a tree near Letsumo Sign. He was very relaxed
and just lay there watching the vehicles below. He then saw some impala
nearby and climbed down the tree, but the impala had already wandered
off, so the leopard lay down in the grass and preened himself. On another
occasions (the night of the 14th) I was driving down the Transit route
when I came across a female leopard (Osprey) who was obviously taking
her young cub (maybe 10 - 12 weeks old) to a kill she had hidden somewhere.
As we approached she and the cub headed off into the bush on the side
of the road. We watched as the two disappeared into the thick vegetation.
On the 19th we were having a fabulous drive, (2 lionesses and 4 cubs;
2 cheetah) when, lo and behold, we came across a female leopard walking
down the road ahead of us. On the 28th Kanye found the Savuti/Rock-Pan
Female in the middle of the channel, to the east of "Rock Pan".
She had killed a male impala during the night and stashed its carcass
in the cover of a Feverberry Croton Tree. In the afternoon, we returned
to the site of the kill and watched as she lay up in a large Leadwood
Tree nearby where the carcass had been stashed. She was extremely relaxed
and hardly even seemed to register that we were there watching her.
We saw two different groups of Cheetahs during March. One an unidentified
group of two (seemingly a sub-adult male and adult female) and the other
the coalition of two males known as the Savuti Boys. These two males
(and a third who died tragically last year) have been famous in the area
for quite a few years. They have maintained a territory the has encompassed
the whole Savuti Channel, From Munchwe Open Area all the way to Zibadianja
Lagoon and into the Selinda and even the Kwando Concessions. The remaining
two brothers were seen to the South-east of Savuti Camp, lying in the
open grasslands, on the 18th and 19th of the month. We assume that they
headed even further to the east past Munchwe, quite a distance from Duma
There has been a conspicuous lack of sightings
of Wild Dogs this month. We had not seen any of these "Painted Predators" until
the afternoon of the 28th when three Wild Dogs came running into the
channel in front of Savuti Camp. They then disappeared into the woodlands
and shortly afterwards at least 19 other dogs came running into the
channel from the woodlands. The pack (the Duma Tau Pack) then grouped
up and headed up the road towards the airstrip. They obviously slept
somewhere en route as Cilas spotted them up again, near the airstrip,
the next morning.
As well as seeing quite a few of the larger, more well-known animals
we have also been lucky to see quite a few of the smaller, equally interesting
creatures. We have been fortunate to have a few sightings of Honey Badger,
Large- and Small-Spotted Genets, Black-backed and Side-striped Jackals,
Dwarf and Banded Mongoose, Slender Mongoose and the scarce nocturnal
Selous' Mongoose, a few Bat-eared Foxes and a porcupine and then a Caracal.
Perhaps the highlight of the month though occurred on the 17th when I
noticed a francolin and two Burchell's Glossy Starlings squawking at
something in the grass beneath them. I got out of the car and went to
investigate, expecting to find a python or a mongoose. When I approached
the area I saw a creature that was covered in a scaly body armour, and
realised that I was looking at a Pangolin hidden in the grass - only
my second sighting of a pangolin in over ten years of guiding. This one
was approximately 30 cm to the top of its back and almost a meter from
head to tail. It was hidden in the grass, feeding on ants, which were
underneath a rotting log. We all got out of the vehicle and came up closer
to take a look and it rolled itself into a ball. It was not long before
it opened up and quickly walked, on its hind legs, into the thick bushes
nearby. We then left him there. What a strange creature and what a privilege
to see it!
And that's all for this month, we, at Duma Tau are really looking forward
to what April brings.
update - Mar 06 Jump
Finally we have finished the building of our new Trails tents. Effectively
they are the same size as the previous ones, but with a lot more emphasis
on being "open air". This fits in far better with the overall
Trails experience of being surrounded by nature at all times.
At Selinda Camp building is still
going hammer & tongs! Our end
of May deadline looks to be safe... if the rain stays away. The new
units are spectacular with a few extra touches for the guest who enjoys
life's little luxuries. These will include overhead fans & beautiful
stone baths that will be the central feature of the outdoor bathrooms.
proved to be as busy as anticipated. Once again we welcomed back Alison
Maestrangelo, our oldest fan. She has been making her annual pilgrimmage
to The Selinda since 1988. Not since those early days has she seen floodwaters
like we are experiencing this year.
On that topic, the floods continue
to amaze us. The Zibalianja Lagoon has spilled over its banks & the
surrounding floodplains are becoming inundated. For the first time
in 13 years water is once again in front of Zibalianja's bar, indeed
it is overflowing into the sunken hide - jacuzzi anyone?
After their brief absence, the Selinda wild dog pack made a welcome return.
They are still 22 strong in number & it is becoming increasingly
difficult to differentiate last year's litter from the adults. The
poor impala are once again being terrorised & a number of kills
have been seen close to Zibalianja & the concession HQ.
a number of new lion cubs around, trying to find their way around in
the extremely long grass. Pride dynamics are becoming increasingly confusing & it
could be that we are witnessing a split in the Selinda pride much like
was seen about 10 years ago. This resulted in the group we now call the
Our guides reported the death of a female
cheetah, killed by lions, whose identity is uncertain at this stage.
We are all hoping that it isn't Jade (the mother of the boisterous "Sparky" amongst
others) who has entertained us for quite a number of years.
population explosion of rodents brought on by the rains, Serval have
become a fairly common sight on night drives. These striking cats are
consummate 'mousers' & hunt almost exclusively by sound - their
large ears pin-pointing the prey in long grass before launching a spectacular
Rocktail Bay Dive Newsletter - Mar 06 Jump
to Rocktail Bay Lodge
Summer is still trying
its best to remain with us, competing in a tug-of-war with
the cold fronts that have been moving up from the Cape. This month the
weather has flipped back and forth from glorious sunny days, with mirror-like
sea conditions and water temperatures still at 27°C,
to rainy days with swollen seas and a couple of thermoclines dropping
the temperature to 24°C.
Things started and ended on a big note this month. Around 8-10 metres
big, with a huge tail, white spots, tiny eyes and a huge mouth... guessed
it yet? Yep, we have been blessed with three different sightings of whaleshark!
On the 1st of March the divers had a wonderful
dive at Pineapple Reef and as they were hanging at their
5m safety stop, a curious whaleshark swam slowly past them,
entertaining everyone for much longer than the mere 3 minutes required.
Andrew (assistant manager at Rocktail) would say that the only reason
everyone saw the whaleshark was because he wasn't on the dive - some
of us seem to have that luck! Well, it seems that Andrew's luck was about
to change, as Darryl spotted another. "Whaleshark" he
whispered to Andrew, who laughed and carried on getting masks and fins
ready. "No, really, whaleshark!" Darryl replied. At which point,
in a blur, Andrew and all of the guests were in the water.
They had a wonderful time!
The third sighting was on the 25th of March at
'Regal Reef' and this time there were others who had the
luck. Maria, Alistair, Laura and Paul had been diving with
us for a couple of days, with six o'clock starts and with 2-year old
little Michaela, Laura had decided to sleep in. Maria had asked if we
could dive at 'Regal' (her favourite dive site in the whole world). We
descended into the blue water, to the beautiful maze below us: Each one
of us inside our own gully, admiring the reef around us, trails of bubbles
marking our respective positions. Alistair saw her first. As he was coming
out of a hole he looked up and saw the whaleshark swim overhead.
He motioned to Bruno, who pulled my fin, which caught Maria's
attention, and we all began to swim across the reef. Looking back quickly,
we made sure that Johan and Amilda (from Divestyle Magazine) were coming
to film the whaleshark. They were, and they got some wonderful footage
as the whaleshark turned and swam straight for the camera.
Everyone was so overcome with excitement that they started hugging and
shouting, except for Paul, who looked confused as Maria gave him a big
hug. "What?" he
signalled, "Did you see the BIG fish?" I signalled back. "No" he
shook his head. "You're joking" I laughed in bubbles. "No" he
replied. We could not believe that he had missed this 10-metre
"Thank you to Michelle and Clive for taking me to those marvellous
dive sites. Definitely deserves another trip! Thanks for your kindness." -
BB - Paris, France
Although the official turtle-nesting season came to an end on the 15th
March, we were still lucky enough to see the last baby Loggerhead on
the 23rd March. Unfortunately a ghost crab had hold of it by the head
and as we drove down the beach it dropped the little turtle in the surf.
We took it out to sea to help it along, but unfortunately it didn't survive.
An experience like this makes you really appreciate what a fight for
survival these creatures have been through when you see the adults swimming
along the reef, or sleeping under a ledge.
The following day we had a magnificent dive at 'Gogo's', where we were
very excited to be joined by the same group of threadfin mirrorfish that
were there last month! Great to see that they are still hanging around.
This was a first for all of the divers and we hovered as these silver
fish flashed past us trailing their shiny streamers behind them in the
'Solitude' is always a wonderful dive. This small dive site is covered
with life. Green tree corals, swarming with goldies; a large branched
black which is home to a tiny long nose hawkfish; honeycomb and black
cheek moray eels; sand eels; schools of soldier fish; various starfish
and pin cushion starfish; kingfish skirting the perimeter of the reef,
looking for an easy target and rays on the sand. With so much to see
and not that much time to spend at this 24m site it leaves you wanting
Our friends the bottlenose dolphins have been in a very sociable mood
this month. A pod of up to 30 dolphins, with mature males and females,
teenagers and babies were hanging out just north of 'Island Rock'. We
watched them playing in the waves, some surfing, and some making impressive
jumps right through the waves. We stayed with them for about twenty minutes,
watching them circling the boat and frolicking with each other under
the water, before deciding that it was time to head back to shore.
To Maria and Alistair (very proud grandparents), Laura and Paul (very
proud parents) and the little gem Michaela (now 2 years old) - thanks
for some very good laughs, even if they were at your expense Paul!
To Rijck and Frances, who managed to bring a flood to a desert
on their latest African safari, it was wonderful to see you both and
Darryl says you can keep the 'schnapps'!
To Mark and Greta, two very special people, always a pleasure!
Greta, you better put in for leave now, Mark has already booked his Divemaster
"Thanks for a special 9 days and a very professionally conducted
Rescue Diver Course! From the best Dive Team in South Africa." M&G,
Johannesburg, South Africa
Till then, safe diving!
Darryl, Clive, Michelle, Jen
The Rocktail Bay Dive Team
News from Rocktail Bay - Mar 06 Jump
The past five months have gone by so quickly! We can hardly
believe that the time has come when we must sum up the season
and write the final turtle report.
Similar to the research time in October, March is also a
very quiet month for sightings of turtles. We, unfortunately,
have not seen any mother turtles or signs of them this month,
and can now safely assume that they are all on their journeys,
whether it be searching the oceans for jellyfish or making
their way back to their home reef systems.
Sightings of hatchlings have also been quiet, and we saw
only a handful of them during the first fifteen days of March.
This year's hatchlings have not just had to deal with the
normal dangerous situations that all baby turtles find themselves
in, but they have also had to deal with the most horrendous
natural elements that Neptune and Mother Nature teamed up
to throw at them.
It all started on the 2nd of March, when part of a tropical
cyclone moved over our coastline, causing a chaotic change
in weather conditions. Just before everyone sat down for
dinner that evening it started pouring down in sheets of
rain. Actually, to say it was pouring would be an understatement;
it thrashed down like we have never seen it before. Needless
to say, with zero driving visibility, the turtle drive was
abandoned that evening - not even the bravest souls were
willing to endure a 120mm downpour.
This weather system moved in for the next five days, bringing
with it wind, rain and huge seas, all of which added to the
baby turtles' fight for survival, as well as making it extremely
difficult for us to spot them on the drives.
Finally, on the 7th of March, the cyclone decided to leave
Maputaland, much to the delight of Mr. and Mrs. Lacolina
who had travelled all the way to Rocktail Bay from Italy
on honeymoon. The weather was just right for them to attempt
the midnight drive, and a successful drive it was. Gugu spotted
Leatherback hatchlings making their way down to the sea across
Manzengwenya beach. This sighting was a big relief, and confirmed
that there were still some nests out there on the beaches
that were unharmed by the brutal seas of the previous week.
The 15th of March saw the very last drive of the 2005-2006
turtle nesting season. Unfortunately, there were no sightings
of turtles, but the play of the full moon's rays on the surface
of a very calm Indian Ocean, made it an unforgettable way
to end the season.
Memorable turtles of the past season
We probably say it every season, but the 2005-2006 turtle
nesting season is going down as one of the greatest in
the Rocktail history books. For the last report of the
season, we though that we would refresh your minds by giving
our own awards to the turtles that have given us the most
cherished moments over the past five months.
The award for the oldest mother turtle seen this season
goes, without a doubt, to Leatherback mother X228, who later
in the season became known as Gran, when she was lovingly
adopted by Derek and Pamela Machin. Gran was tagged an incredible
nineteen years ago - the satisfaction that we received when
we saw this old lady's tag number on the data sheet is hard
to express. Well done, Gran, we hope you keep going for another
The award for most frequently seen turtle goes to Bibi with
the famous tag number BB242. We saw her in December, January
and February and each time we saw her she laid a successful
batch of eggs. Bibi was originally tagged an equally impressive
sixteen years ago, and for the past two years has had David
and Bettina Harden as loving 'parents' - lucky lady!
The "first turtle of the season" award goes to
Jenny, the Loggerhead Turtle, who got this season into full
swing. She arrived on Lala Nek beach on the 24th of October
2005 at half past midnight. Not only was she the first turtle
of the season, but she also wins the award for first "new" Loggerhead
mother turtle of the season. Gugu, smiling from ear to ear,
tagged her with the tag number PP621. Carl and Joy Campbell
were fortunate enough to bear witness to this first sighting,
and before they departed from Rocktail, Jenny was a happily
adopted member of their family.
The first "new" Leatherback mother of the season
goes to Caroline, with the tag number PP608. Gugu spotted
her on the 10th of November 2005 at three o'clock in the
morning on Manzengwenya beach, and wasted no time in tagging
and micro-chipping her. Caroline was also seen again on the
1st of December 2005, when Mbongeni measured her enormous
1.5m long carapace. Richard Denman could not resist, and
even though he did not actually see "his" Caroline,
she was adopted and became part of his life forever.
Another award is for the largest turtle of the season award,
and it goes to Travis and Alison Cooke's Tortuga the Leatherback,
bearing tag number PP625. She measured in at a massive 1.80m
in length. In total, she was seen three times during the
season, and gave many of our guests pleasure in seeing such
an enormous specimen of the world's largest and most endangered
We could not think of a title for this award, but we wanted
to make special mention of it. Who could forget our desperate
Loggerhead mother, who came up onto Rocktail Bay beach at
half past five in the afternoon on the 5th of January 2006?
For Kevin Boyers and Karen Deller, Patrick Trebbe and Birgitt
Watts, Mr and Mrs Traube, the Perring Family, the Gunnell
Family and the Masojada Family it was an experience that
will be hard to beat in the future. Special mention must
be made, once again, to Rauri Gunnell, for bolting all the
way back to camp and reporting the exciting news to everyone.
Looking back over our turtle adoptions for this season it
is clear that it is impossible for us to award each adopter
individually. Anyone who has ever adopted a turtle will
appreciate how special it is, knowing that you have helped
save future generations of turtles along the Maputaland
coastline. However, the Rocktail Team would like to make
a special mention of thanks to Brian Malk and Nancy Heitel,
who have done more than their fair share to save the turtles.
At the end of the 2004-2005 turtle season, Brian and Nancy
adopted the remaining fifteen "orphaned" Loggerhead
turtles. Once again this season, they are doubling what
they did last year, and are adopting an astonishing thirty "orphaned" turtles.
Isn?t that unbelievable?
The Rocktail Team would like to thank all of you who have
adopted a turtle this season. As you all already know, you
have gone out of your way to help these gentle marine reptiles.
To end this season on a high, we wanted to let you know
that over the past five months in our research area we have
tagged a grand total of 74 new, untagged mothers. There are
actually no words to describe how mind-boggling this is for
us. (To give you some idea, last season we tagged 29 new
We once again want to thank all of you who have participated
in this valuable project and we hope that the next turtle
season, 2006-2007, will be as incredible as this one has
Until October 2006,
Dean, Leza, Andrew, Shannon, Simon, Gugu, Mbongeni and the
Camp (northern Kruger) Newsletter - Mar 06 Jump
Well, the seasons are certainly changing, with the days becoming
cooler and the humidity definitely dropping. The area once
again is taking on a whole new look, as the once-tall grass
is now slowly starting to dry out and some of the trees are
starting to lose their leaves as they begin changing into their
autumn colours. It's been an amazing nine months for my wife
Colleen and I as we have watched the seasons changing and the
Luvuvhu River going from completely dry to almost flooding.
We've been very fortunate to have witnessed all these happenings
right on our very own doorstep.
Here are a few of the sightings highlights from the month:
- Hundreds of Marabou Storks gathered together to feast on
- Lions mating on the Pafuri Camp access road: one young male
and two females.
- Hippo bulls fighting under Pafuri Bridge.
- Baby giant land snails hatching.
- Blind/deaf civet seen during the day at our airstrip and
who now is frequently seen in the camp.
- A large herd of buffalo frequently seen close to camp has
one white female amongst them.
- Buffalo calves being born: herds on average of about 120
individuals seen almost everyday.
- Total of four elephant sightings. But the herds are showing
signs of returning.
Leopard sightings this month were of the Mangala female and
her cub and of the Bridge male. We have had no sign of the
female with three cubs reported a couple of months back.
Lion sightings have consisted mainly of two groups: the Pafuri
Pride and a smaller group who have utilised the eastern area
of the concession around camp. We were fortunate enough to
see some interaction between the two groups and to gain a
better understanding of the local lion dynamics. The smaller
group consists of one adult lioness and a younger male and
female. The young male of this group was seen clashing with
the adult territorial male of the Pafuri Pride and this clash
has lead to the departure of this smaller group from the
concession. It has meant that the Pafuri Pride have moved
back into the area around camp and despite his wounds, the
territorial male has held his own and has been seen with
the pride since then. As if to consolidate his position in
the area he has often been heard roaring.
Sightings of the pride have ranged from all four lionesses
and their cubs and sub-adults (16 in total) to smaller fragments
of the different lionesses and their offspring.
Some of the other mammals seen this month are: Large spotted
genet, African civet, spotted hyaena, dwarf and banded mongoose,
klipspringer, nyala, impala, bushbuck, waterbuck, warthog,
zebra, porcupine, to name a few.
Birding has been very good this month with a grand total of
243 recorded species. Some of the 'specials' spotted were:
Mottled Spinetail, Pel's Fishing Owl, Freckled Night Jar,
Lesser Gallinule, and Glossy Ibis. Other sightings include:
Racket-tailed Roller, Thick-billed Cuckoo, Black-winged Stilt,
Little Sparrow Hawk, Steppe Eagle, White-backed Night-Heron
and Dwarf Bittern.
The average minimum temperature was 20°C, with the average
maximum temperature 32°C. We received 50.5mm of rainfall
in several short showers.
Newsletter - Mar 06 Jump
March...a new beginning! We have joined the Wilderness Team
down in the South at Kulala Wilderness Camp situated at the
foot of a mountain facing west. We overlook a (currently) green
grass plain and see majestic sunsets every night making for
One impression of Kulala so far has been eating breakfast
and being greeted by a Lark-like Bunting with his short 'tuc-tuc'
call, sometimes joined by the Red-headed Finch and the occasional
entrance of the Cape Sparrow to feed his youngsters down at
the swimming pool where there is a nest. Mountain Chats and
Pale-winged Starlings also hop around looking for insects to
feast on! Insects and even reptiles have become part of our
lives...having a pet spider in my room ('Floppie') or going
home and a Horned Adder making us aware of his presence as
he disappears into the grasslands or just sitting in the office
and seeing a passing Jewel Beatle take a break on the windowpane.
Around every corner is an armoured cricket lurking around and
making a 'schrrrschrr' noise for making his presence heard.
Every day has a surprise of its own. Today I saw a herd of
springbok passing by the lodge with two little ones jumping
around as if they had just discovered jumping. I have been
privileged today by also seeing two Hartmann's mountain zebra,
a mare and foal - absolutely magnificent and proof that the
desert is alive and thriving!
On our way to our neighbouring camp (Sossusvlei
Wilderness Camp), we saw a group of gemsbok (oryx) grazing
about and driving out into the Wilderness for our Nature
Drive, saw plenty of springbok, Ludwig's Bustard and Rüppell's
Korhaan - all in perfect contrast to the grassland and mountains.
Further on into the mountains we passed a site called the
Organ Pipes...they look like 1000 pencils clued together.
We finally arrived at the Viewpoint for our planned sundowner,
surrounded by nature and privileged to share this moment
In the background the sun was setting, and as we watched the
sun disappearing behind the dunes leaving behind her red, orange
and yellow colours forming Angel Rays, we felt honoured to