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Info and updates from Wilderness Safaris
North Island Dive Report from
Kwando Safaris game reports.
Update on the 2006 Okavango
Monthly update from Mombo Camp in
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Monthly update from Jao Camp in
Monthly update from Kwetsani Camp in
Monthly update from Jacana Camp in
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Great Namibian Journey newsletter.
report from Rocktail Bay in South
from Rocktail Bay in
Monthly update from Pafuri Camp in
Safaris Updates - May 2006
|Congratulations to Gerhard
Thirion (Wilderness Safaris Namibia Explorations)
who was nominated by UK travel magazine ‘Wanderlust’ for
the Paul Morrison Guide Award as “one
of the world’s best guides” who “enriches
our travels, highlights the qualities
of a top guide and encourages others
to seek out these special people.”
exceptional sighting in Namibia recently was
that of an endemic black-faced impala which
was seen by Rudi and Kallie from Skeleton
Coast about 10km west of Purros and way out of normal
range. The ram nonchalantly walked across the
road 25m in front of them.
Hoanib River Camp is now open,
the main area at Damaraland
Camp has been
rethatched and a pool installed (see photo
Kulala has been refurbished and
transformed into a premier camp with
interiors reminiscent of North
Island and Vumbura
Plains. In addition to the
refurbishment, the camp has also added
an extra twin unit, which means the
will now be 11 tents. The
breakdown of units is now 8 twin-bedded
units, 1 double unit, 1 family unit and
a twin (guide) tent.
canvas-and-thatch villas merge impeccably
into the timeless desert landscape,
with exquisite fittings and fixtures,
and innovative bleached decks each
with a private plunge pool. The extensive
use of neutral colors, gorgeous textures
and natural light reproduce the soothing
pastel tones of the desert.
Other camps undergoing refurbishment
in 2006 include Serra Cafema which will be
adding an additional unit to bring the total
to 9 (including a family unit sleeping four).
The Nature of the Beast, Graham Boynton
“Before our encounter in the Savuti blind
we’d spent a couple of days watching elephants
from a distance in a place that is the antithesis
of Botswana’s wilderness: the seemingly
endless desert of Namibia, home to no more than
eight hundred elephants – desert elephants
to be precise – in an area that covers
31,000 square miles. There are but 1.9
million citizens in this beautiful country that
has established one of the more progressive and
successful wildlife conservation programs on
Which is why Christiaan Bakkes
came to live and work here. He is a longhaired
heavy metal fan who, after a horrific crocodile
attack in South Africa’s Kruger National
Park in 1994, took to the road to find himself
and ended up finding the Damaraland Desert. What
is so seductive about the desert, Bakkes says,
is that huge animals such as rhinos and elephants
are dwarfed by the landscape. “You
can live here for a lifetime,” he explains, “and
there will always be a hill unclimbed and a valley
unexplored. You can travel through this
ecosystem forever without feeling the presence
Bakkes works as a guide and
conservationist for Wilderness Safaris…see
the full article here
New Exploration: Botswana and Namibia Epic
unique and contrasting combination of two
of the most beautiful countries in the
world, this Exploration lives up to its
name. It explores the wide open spaces
of Namibia, taking in the awe-inspiring
dunes of Sossusvlei and the Namib Desert,
the stark beauty of Damaraland and the
wildlife-rich area of Ongava Game Reserve.
Then enter another world:
the waterways and lush green of Xigera
in the Okavango Delta, the ephemeral
Selinda Spillway linking the Delta and
Linyanti, and the Linyanti area itself,
famed for its prolific wildlife in a
variety of vastly differing habitats.
A night at The River Club on the banks
of the Zambezi River is a fitting end to
a true voyage of exploration.
New Exploration: Great Zambia
Great Zambia Journey, an excellent means
of seeing the best of Kafue National Park,
will be up and running by July 2006 and will
take in the Victoria Falls as well as two
camps in Kafue - on the Busanga Plains and
on the Lunga River.
An extended stay
at each camp allows guests to maximize
an incredible wildlife experience. Kafue,
combined with the cascading waters of the
thundering Victoria Falls (one of the Seven
Natural Wonders of the World), creates a
short diverse itinerary that perfectly fits
with tailored add-on extensions Cape Town,
Botswana, Luangwa and Malawi.
New Exploration: Desert
Rhino and Elephant Walking Expedition Jump
Desert Rhino & Elephant Expedition
On an original and exciting Exploration in the
remote and rugged 450,000-hectare Palmwag Concession
of Namibia, guests join the "ships of the desert"
on a great adventure: An eight-day walk
across the oldest desert in the world, where
a camel train and a team of Save the Rhino trackers
take you deep into the heart of the Namib Desert
in search of the rare and endangered black rhino. Another
amazing sight is that of the uniquely adapted
desert elephant. This safari focuses on
both these animals in some of the most remote
and inaccessible regions of the concession.
A portion of the revenues generated
by this venture are channelled into the critically
important conservation of the rhino population
of the area through the Save
the Rhino Trust.
After four nights accompanying
the rhino trackers across the concession, guests
bid their camels farewell and spend the final
two nights at the Haonib River Camp enjoying
game drives and walks in search of the desert
elephants and taking in the spectacular scenery. This
area makes for one of Africa's most spectacular
Pafuri Wilderness Trails
For those looking
for a wilder experience complementing our
Pafuri Camp in the Makuleke Concession of
the Kruger National Park, the Pafuri Wilderness
Trails have been launched. With its rugged
and varied topography, and enormous botanical
and habitat diversity, the 24,000-hectare
concession lends itself perfectly to walking
safaris, adding an overwhelming element of
remoteness. Led by an experienced and knowledgeable
guide and tracker, there is the opportunity
of discovering little known freshwater springs,
Stone Age sites, enormous baobab trees and
even San rock art. Encounters with both large
and small game – from the four-toed
elephant shrew and the Sharpe's grysbok to
large, dry-season elephant concentrations,
multiple buffalo herds and a small but growing
resident white rhino population – are
a feature of these trails. As a Mecca for
birders, searches for Pel's Fishing Owl,
Grey-headed Parrot, Racket-tailed Rollers
and other specials are also an important
part of the three-night trails.
Accommodation is in comfortable,
en-suite thatched tents and meals are cooked
on the open fire, accompanied by the evocative
night sounds of the bush. Trails take a maximum
of 8 people and are sold on a set departure
basis. For the duration of 2006, anyone booking
a walking trail will be able to book consecutive
nights at Pafuri Camp at the same nightly rate
as for the trail.
Pafuri Camp: As
from February 2006, Sefofane commenced servicing
Camp with a feeder seat rate service
from Phalaborwa Airport (PHW) to the camp. The
cost of access to Pafuri has thereby been vastly
are now able to fly from Johannesburg or Cape
Town to PHW on (SA) Airlink.
Rocktail Bay: There is
a new air transfer to Rocktail
Bay Lodge from
Richards Bay on the camps own Cessna 206, which
is based at the Lodge. Guests can now
fly from Johannesburg or Cape Town to Richards
Bay, from where they will connect onto the
air transfer to Rocktail Bay.
Seba Camp Jump
Camp, set to open in June 2006, offers
five spacious, slevated tents with en-suite
bathrooms and overlooking a lagoon teeming
with bird life. The camp is named
after 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 is the basis for research being performed
in the area with Bristol University. Guests
can observe the researchers at work, often
in close proximity to the elephant herds. Other
activities include mokoring (seasonal),
walks and motor boats. Rates for
Seba Camp are the same as other Wilderness
Safaris Classic Camps in Botswana.
Abu Private Villa Jump
Private Villa (formerly the Elephant Suite)
is a separate and private unit on the opposite
side of the lagoon from Abu Camp. The
Villa has two large bedrooms with en-suite
facilities and a spacious sitting room,
all on a raised teak deck beneath shady
trees. Most meals are enjoyed outside,
overlooking the lagoon, but the lounge
and dining room are sheltered by an Afro-Bedouin-styled
tent. The Villa includes a pool and
resident butler and is designed for 4 guests
or a small family. The emphasis here
is on privacy and luxury in the African
Baby Rhino #8 Jump
Pafuri Baby Rhino
Pafuri Camp is proud to announce that during
January, one of the white rhino cows (relocated
from further south in July 2005) gave birth and
both mother and calf are doing well. The
last birth os a white rhino in the Pafuri region
of Kruger National Park probably took place between
110 and 115 years ago.
At the end of November,
the Mombo monitoring team set out to
look for a female who had not been seen
since parting company with her regular
companion a few days earlier. Often
this is a sign of an impending birth
and this, in combination with her vast
girth and general lethargy when last
seen, suggested that another calf was
on the way. The clincher was seeing
a white stork in the road on the way,
a beautiful bird hailing from southern
Europe, storm-tossed across the sea and
blown across deserts en-route. Folklore
has it that these birds deliver human
babies, so why not a rhino baby?
Sure enough, that day
the female rhino was spotted with a tiny
male calf, born just four or five days
earlier and cute as could be! This
was the eighth rhino birth resulting
from the Wilderness Safaris / SANParks
/ Botswana Government reintroduction
programme. To date almost one-quarter
of the white rhinos have been wild born
in the area - a great achievement.
Elephant Pepper Project Jump
The River Club in Zambia is involved in
one of the most innovative ideas yet, whereby
farmers in Zambia are being encouraged
to plant a chili patch around their food
crops. The chilies
are used to both prevent elephants from destroying
crops (dried chilies mixed with dung to burn
at night and with grease to make a "chili fence")
and also to earn the farmer extra cash (chilies
are sold at $1 per kg). This program is
run by the Elephant Pepper Development Trust,
which also advises farmers on natural resources
and sustainable utilization of such resources
in relation to the management of conflict with
Private Guides Development
Guiding has always been at the core of
the Wilderness Safaris experience, where
the passion, knowledge and enthusiasm of
the guide has created an unforgettable
safari and seamless experience. Now, with
large tracts of wilderness complemented
by fantastic facilities, a new breed of regional
specialist guide has emerged in each of the
countries that we operate. These people are
dedicated, competent and experienced individuals
within their country. Traveling with and personally
guiding the guest, they have the ability to
bring out and complement each area and camp.
They add consistency and a wealth of knowledge,
as well as concentrating on the guests’ preferred
interests and needs, to create a unique experience.
The new Private Guiding structure
is divided into three sections – Wilderness Regional
Specialists, Wilderness Pilot Guides and Independent
Specialist Guides – and headed by Gregg
Hughes in Cape Town. Gregg has worked
in Botswana for the past five years and says, “Working
for Wilderness Safaris in these unrivalled wilderness
areas has fulfilled everything I am about. And
best of all, you are gaining immense satisfaction
from sharing and realizing people's dreams, discoveries
and most of all perspectives every time they
step out into Africa with you. This is where
you have to be...”
The Mombo Cookbook
long-awaited Elephant in the Kitchen cookbook
has finally been published and is now
available. A joint venture between
Mombo Camp's acclaimed chef, Craig Higgins,
and internationally renowned wildlife
photographers and filmmakers, Dereck & Beverly
Joubert, this is more than just a cookbook
-- it is a journey through what it takes
to produce world-class fare in a truly
The book is also a guide
to producing some of these delicious
meals. Elephant in the Kitchen also
includes beautiful photos and tales
about life at Mombo, one of Africa's
finest wildlife refuges located in
the heart of Botswana's Okavango delta.
Rainfall in much of southern Africa has been
well above average (double in some areas)
in January and February 2006. This
has led to exciting conditions and interesting
dynamics in many safari regions. In
Namibia the rain has changed the color of
the desert from brown to green - in fact,
Camp is virtually unrecognizable
in its new setting.
Meanwhile, the Hoarusib River
(in the northern part of the Skeleton Coast
concession) has flooded for the second time
this season, while Skeleton
Coast Camp had
the highly unusual event of rain on three consecutive
nights. Currently this area is exceptional
for photography. Furthest
north in the Hartmann's Valley at Serra
Cafema Camp, the area was like
a golf course in February and it attracted
all the gemsbok, springbok and mountain zebra
to the rich grazing.
Northern Botswana is also enjoying
an above-average year of rains, creating a
very different environment and thus an unusual
safari experience from that of typical years. The
Okavango Delta has benefited immensely from
these rains, with most areas looking the way
they do during the flood season. Rivers,
channels and floodplains are inundated. At
the time of writing, we await the arrival of
the main flood waters and are curious to see
the tandem effects of rain and flood waters
Mumbo Island & Domwe
Mumbo Island and Domwe
Island camps, the two most exquisite
camps in the south of Lake Malawi, joined Mvuu
Lodge and Kaya
Mawa as part of Wilderness Safaris
in late 2005. Established in 1995
by Kayak Africa, these camps are each
situated on two uninhabited islands in
Lake Malawi National Park, surrounded
by pristine forest and unsurpassed beauty.
Both Mumbo and Domwe Island
camps offer an exceptional wilderness
experience and a wide range of activities. Just
a short scenic drive from Liwonde National
Park, the camps form a great travel combination
with Mvuu Lodge and cater for both action
junkies and for those simply wanting
to relax in one of Africa's most magical
Chikwenya and Ruckomechi,
As a result of Wilderness Safaris' lease with
Zimbabwe National Parks not being renewed, we
are sad to bid farewell to Chikwenya
is was understood that the renewal of the tenure
over the site had been agreed to, this in fact
was not the case. All existing bookings
at Chikwenya Camp will be moved to Ruckomechi
Camp, which will be completely upgraded during
the year. Developments have been slightly
delayed due to the heaviest rains of the last
decade this summer, but they are still on track
to open five fully refurbished rooms at Ruckomechi
A new camp with 7 rooms, built
on a separate site within the concession, is
planned for later in the year and this new
camp will be built along the same standard
as Chikwenya, a Classic camp. Please
also note that the closure of Chikwenya will
have no impact on the Mana
Canoe and Walking Trail as the trail will end at the same location
Seychelles / North Island
North Island Dive Report - May 06 Jump
to North Island
Overall, May has been a brilliant month in the ocean. In our
opinion, south-east monsoon wind season (trade winds) has started
earlier than expected, as it is usually due mid to late May. No
sooner had the winds started than they dropped right off and produced
good ocean conditions once again. And then, just when we thought
we had a bit of a reprieve from the expected windy season, it started
to blow once again and has since stuck with us.
Prior to the winds, we had exceptional diving and fishing conditions.
We have been visiting 'Coral Gardens' dive site a lot this month,
with a record of 12 visits to this site, as opposed to 10 visits
to 'Sprat City'. The reason for so many visits to 'Coral Gardens'
is that the coral life is so good here and with the exceptional
visibility, which has been ranging from 15m-25m, it has made this
site a relaxing, easy, educational dive site on which to spend
time. We have also visited 'Twin Anchors' off Silhouette and 'North
East Point', the latter taking up the rear in site visits.
The ocean temperature has dropped
slightly to that of last month and is hovering around the 27°C mark, with the odd thermocline
drop of 1°C or so from time to time. For those of you that
are not familiar with the word thermocline, it is an abrupt transition
from warm water to cold water and is usually found when the ocean
is unsettled or when there has been a rough sea or perhaps a change
in water movement.
On 'Coral Gardens', we have managed to see no fewer than seven
regal (royal) angelfish cruising happily across the corals. We
also spotted round ribbontail rays, porcupine rays, giant moray
eels, a large shoal of golden pompano, and our ever-friendly friends,
the orbicular batfish, who are becoming even more tame as the days
fly by, a courting pair of octopus, one of the largest lobsters
that I have yet encountered, totally camouflaged craggy scorpionfish
varying in size and colours, which have made trying to spot them
hugely exciting, perfect murex (rock) shells. Also, to our delight,
we have come close to numerous white-tip reef sharks - this has
allowed us to identify their gender for the new shark research
programme in which we are involved.
We are looking forward to the month
of June as it heralds the start of whale shark season in Seychelles.
Ironically it coincides with the windy season, but this is when
the ocean is filled with plankton, which is an important source
of food for our whale sharks. Talking about these gentle giants
of the ocean, MCSS (Marine Conservation Society of Seychelles)
has an adoption programme each year whereby one can adopt a whale
shark for a year, at a cost of SR 250.00, the funds being utilized
for ongoing research work, the cost of a micro light for the
season and of course the various tagging equipment that is used
for this programme. To date we have 7 "parents" who
have signed adoption papers. There is nothing more exhilarating
than to make a difference and to know that whatever donation you
have given will aid ongoing research and education for generations
Camps Update - May 06
|Update May 10
The rains have finished (we think) - last rains were last week. Kwando river
water levels very high but the flow has peaked. The Okavango river
flow measured in the panhandle also appears to be very normal and stabilizing – the
local Geo-hydrologist’s from the Oppenheimer Research Institute prediction
for the delta is that the flood will be above average because of saturated
groundwater in the delta.
Lagoon camp Jump
• Two pairs of mating lions
found. One lioness was very shy, running & hiding
with the male pushing her. The other lioness (with
a radio collar) was more relaxed and was mounted 5
times in an hour.
• One male lion (with a bad left eye) found on a wildebeest
kill, where he stayed for 3 days, only leaving it briefly
• A male lion was found at Zebra pan, heading
north, while 2 lionesses and 2 males were found sleeping
just north of water-cut.
• A female leopard (in excellent condition) was seen
drinking at a waterhole.
• Another female (4 spot) very relaxed was followed
marking her territory and hunting.
• A male leopard seen resting in the shade at midday,
but was quite shy & disappeared back into the bush.
• 2 male cheetah were found at water cut, and
then were followed hunting for the next 4 days.
• The Lagoon pack of wild dogs have been sleeping around
the camp and also hunting in the area. No kills were
seen, but great play activity & grooming behaviour
observed. There are still 3 pups that have survived
from last years litter of 5 together with the 3 adults.
• Bull elephants seen regularly along the water, with
the breeding herds starting to come out of the Mopane
• A herd of about 100 buffalo was seen heading towards
one of the waterholes.
• Later larger herds were seen all along the Kwando
• General game – some zebra, lots of impala, tsessebe,
baboons, giraffe, and wildebeest as well as reedbuck,
steenbuck, warthogs, red lechwe roan antelope and kudu
• Banded, Dwarf and slender mongooses all seen.
• Common Night Adder seen in the area & lots of other
snake tracks. Also a couple of pythons were seen, one
of which was being fed on by vultures.
• Martial Eagle, Gymnogene (lots of other eagles) & Wattled
• Night sightings include hyena feeding on giraffe carcass
(possibly killed by hyena), genets, serval, 3 porcupines
and 4 honey badgers, side striped & black-backed
jackals as well as regular African Wild Cat sightings.
• Damara Mole Rat seen outside its burrow. This is not
• Also saw Tropical Platanna (frog) walking along the
• Two Male Lions were found feeding on a bull elephant.
• Another two large male lions with full black manes were seen in the day (very
shy), but seemed far bolder at night. These males are new to the area & are
presumed to have come from the southern areas.
• Two lionesses (one with collar) were seen regularly.
Another pride of four (2 lion & 2 lionesses) seen frequently.
• A very relaxed female leopard was seen on the cut line heading south.
She was actively scent marking her territory and appeared to be heavily pregnant.
• Two male cheetah found along road to Lebala sunning & grooming themselves
on top of a termite mound. They were followed the whole day & eventually
seen killing a Roan antelope calf.
• Tracks of a female cheetah & cubs also seen in the area.
• Pack of 6 wild dogs (2 male, 1 female, 3 pups) seen at the airstrip hunting & killing
Report of another 3 wild dogs on the way to Lianshulu.
• Increasing elephant activity around the camp, occasionally keeping
guests trapped in their tents as they continuously feed on Marula trees shading
them. Many young elephant calves accompanying females in the large breeding
• As the waterholes in the woodlands start drying up large herds of buffalo move
up to the river, with bulls fighting & one cow giving birth.
• Two separate herds of buffalo approximately 1000 seen.
• Two Southern African rock Python sighted.
• Spotted hyena seen around camp.
• Chameleons & both species of jackal found at night.
• Excellent general game in the area.
• Porcupine & 2 honey badgers seen along the Old Lebala Road.
Kwara camp Jump
• A pride of 4 lioness & 1
young male were seen trying to hunt giraffe, but were
unsuccessful. This pride was seen a number of times
• Another pride of 8 (5 males, 3 females) also seen resting.
• One young male and a lioness were found sleeping and
then followed as they tried to relocate the rest of
• A very well-fed and relaxed adult female leopard
was found sleeping in a tree – guides at Kwara
suspect she may have lost her cubs that were last soon
2 months ago.
• A single wild dog was seen from one of the boats
out on the river.
• Four bachelor herds of elephant have been seen
within the camp, including 5 individual bulls. They
are sighted in and around the camp on a daily basis.
• A large breeding herd of at least 100 individuals
was seen and followed along Tsum Tsum plains.
• A couple of rather skittish buffalo bulls was seen – they
will form into larger groups as the season dries out.
• Night sightings have included hyena in the camp and
side striped jackal as well as many chameleons.
• A serval & 2 African wild cats seen as well as
a genet hunting.
• General game – giraffe, tsessebe, waterbuck,
kudu, warthogs, baboons, Vervet monkeys, steenbuck,
reedbuck, lechwe, zebra, wildebeest, hippo and crocodiles.
• The impala mating or rutting season is in full swing
and providing plenty of excitement.
• Also seen – Wattled cranes, ground hornbills,
Martial eagles, Brown snake eagle, Red-necked falcon,
Gabar goshawk, black egrets, Giant eagle & Scops
owls. Striped cuckoo, woodland kingfishers & black
coucals still around as well as plenty of water birds.
• Pride of 2 large male joined 4 lionesses found on their zebra kill.
Another pride of 8 lionesses seen hunting at night, but were unsuccessful.
• Pride of 10 seen feeding on giraffe between the airstrip & the
boat station. On the same day another pride of 6 were seen at the airstrip
resting in the shade.
• Three brief leopard sightings this week, possibly due to prevalence of lion
activity in the area.
• Three male cheetah seen making contact calls and eventually joining another
one in the area.
• Same coalition of male cheetah seen resting at the Bat-eared fox den and later
found with full stomachs.
• Brief sighting of some wild dog at night, which then moved into the Mopane
• Several bull elephants seen at various pans including right in front of the
camp for most of the day.
• Numbers of hippo at the pan in front of camp – they seem to like
basking in the sun daily from mid-morning to mid-afternoon.
• Bradfield's Hornbill, Malachite kingfisher, wattled cranes, saddle-billed storks,
Bateleur eagles among the bird sightings.
• A rare sighting of an aardwolf along Cheetah Rd.
• Hyenas seen at night as well as genets and African wild cat.
• Abundant herds of tsessebe, as well as wildebeest, zebra, lechwe, warthogs
impala & giraffe.
Lebala camp Jump
• This has been a
fantastic week with the lions with the two
big brothers (male lions) mating, which caused
a split in the pride. One of the males spent
a while feeding on a Lechwe ram. The previous
day they were observed hunting warthogs.
• Three lionesses killed an impala ram and guests watched
until the carcass was finished. The following
morning they were chasing hyenas.
• Also, another pride of 7 lionesses seen sleeping
on the road, a single lioness feeding on
a warthog north of Motswiri pan – several other lion
sightings as well
• Very relaxed adult male leopard found hunting red
lechwe in a swampy area.
• Another relaxed male leopard killed an impala and
was feeding on it close to where the lioness
was feeding on the warthog
• A young male also seen along the Main Road, very
relaxed, a male and female leopard were found
together and followed for some time
• Leopard with a limp followed along the river road,
hunting spring hares & mice.
• Tracks of cheetah found at Half-way pan, there were
found feeding on a warthog – seen again
later in the week.
• Few sightings of the wild dogs chasing impala around
the Twin Pools area.
• Wild dogs have been displaced by all the lion activity
• A lot of breeding herds of elephant have arrived
this week, even numbers increasing in the
camp area at night.
• 2 herds of 100 buffalo seen near johns pan seen daily
• Night sightings – 6 lionesses & 6 hyena
seen feeding on the same young wildebeest
carcass, hyena were also seen feeding on an elephant carcass,
a lot of chameleons, both species of jackal,
also 8 hyena on giraffe carcass, serval hunting, African
• Several different mongoose species seen – yellow,
banded, dwarf, and slender
• Excellent water-bird species around the drying up
pans also frequent ostrich sightings
• A 3 meter python was seen basking in the sun at Nare
pan, also black mamba seen
• Two lionesses were hunting on the boundary road & in the evening
were seen eating a baboon.
• Lion & lioness located along the vlei road. The male was trying to mate,
but the female wasn’t interested.
• Four lionesses found at Skimmer pan resting one night.
Same lionesses found north of the camp hunting & killing a full grown warthog.
Two days later they followed the buffalo herd & killed a calf.
• Very relaxed young female leopard found along the river road hunting at night.
• Large breeding herds of elephant (approx.1000) found at the Twin Pools area.
• A few aggressive elephant bulls in musth also seen.
• Three different herds of buffalo, also approximately 1000 each, coming into
• Clan of hyena were feeding on elephant carcass around 10km Pan.
• Chameleon seen basking in the warm morning sun.
• Pair of mating warthogs found on Flea road.
• Saddle-billed storks, wattled cranes, plovers & sandpipers.
• Pearl-spotted, giant eagle & Barn owls seen on night drives.
• Snouted Cobra & Black mamba found on separate occasions sunning
• Night sightings include hyenas, civet, porcupine, genets and African
Flood update - June 10, 2006
The heavy rainfalls in January and
February created an enormous amount of ground water in the Delta. Although
the flood is now decreasing as is expected by this time, the water present
on the ground is still far above average due to the above-average rainwater
combining with the floods. The chart below shows data as of June
Camp update - May 06 Jump
to Mombo Camp
unveils the gathering of thousands of red-billed queleas who arrive on
Chiefs Island daily from the reed beds of the Boro, and thus depart again
with the afternoon sunset. This is surely a spectacular phenomenon for
all; one can easily become mesmerized whilst watching them dance with their
mimicry" There is an estimated five billion of these birds in Africa,
and their swarms can build up to millions upon millions. Two years ago,
at Lake Ngami, there were swarms estimating over fourteen million birds!
On the subject of gatherings a definite
mention, witnessed on the 7th May, was the congregation of a huge number
of giraffe. They were all seen feeding and socializing two clicks from
the airstrip. I counted; wait for it, a total of 67 giraffe at this
Daily the floodwaters are creeping closer
to the edges of Chiefs Island, almost lapping on its sides, then a
few moments later it is dispersed elsewhere filling the flat horizons
of the delta. We all hold thumbs now, hoping that the water will once
again fill the old floodplains such as Suzie's and Drift Molapo.
Many butterflies still splash Mombo with
color; these are the last of the adult morphs before winter sets in
for good. The days are never over in May until one has glanced upon
the rings of Saturn, moons of Jupiter or just looked at the endless
night skies that circulate through the delta.
famous Mathata's Pride still reigns supreme over the south of
the Mombo concession. Seen here feeding on a zebra, their favoured
prey, competition is rife as they fight over the last pieces
of meat. Many of the "cubs" have now reached sub-adult
status and thus need to eat a lot more than usual.
pride is still doing amazingly well in the sense that no cubs
have disappeared yet. Researchers from many areas predict that
there is a 50% mortality rate for lion cubs in their first year
of life; the Moporota Pride still have all twelve of their original
Since the death of the last remaining Steroid Boy, we have identified
two new male cheetah, both solitary, plus an unidentified female.
The Tortilis female has given birth to three
cubs and were found +- 3km from Mombo Camp. At present she is
using a fallen tree as her den sight, the perfect place for protection
against hyenas and baboons.
The longer a specific predator is present at one den sight, the
more prominent their scent becomes, attracting unwanted attention.
Many elephants have blessed us with their presence, providing
us with some entertaining sightings. These young elephants were
discovering each other for a good while before their hunger got
the better of them.
With these breeding herds come the musth bulls who weave between
herds looking for females in oestrus. The smell of a cow's urine
will change two weeks before she ready to be mated with, an invitation
for these mature testosterone-filled bulls.
Tubu Tree Camp update
- May 06 Jump
to Tubu Tree Camp
The floodwater is still rising and the floodplain in front of camp is
now completely covered in water with lots of White-faced Ducks, Egyptian
Geese, Little and Great White Egrets, Slaty Egrets, Jacanas and Fish
Eagles seen every day from the deck.
Several sightings of porcupine, civet, large and small spotted genet,
and aardwolf have spiced up the night drives. Tsessebe, common reedbuck,
large herds of giraffe and also herds of Cape buffalo have been seen
regularly in our area. There has also been a lot of spotted hyaena activity
this past month, and we suspect that the local clan must be denning close
to camp as we hear their calls in the evenings and their tracks are seen
in camp. They have even tried their luck at breaking into the kitchen
and made off with a loaf of bread and a dozen eggs! We have had to make
provisions to stop them getting in again; we seem to have been successful
Whilst having coffee on the deck
early one morning before setting out on game drive we watched a big
female hyaena run past the front of camp with half a red lechwe carcass
in her jaws, she was followed soon thereafter by a second hyaena and
finally a big male leopard. We speculated that the hyaena had probably
stolen the kill from the leopard with the help of other hyenas and
made her escape. Other hyenas were seen in the vicinity of camp that
morning. Hyenas often steal kills from leopards (especially smaller
females) if their kills are left on the ground, and this piracy is
the main reason that leopards often hoist their kills into trees if
weight and time permits.
Guests were also lucky enough to see a leopard while out on a mokoro
activity. They were heading down the channel then heard the leopard making
a territorial call; they quietly and slowly approached the area until
they spotted the leopard walking on a small island. It looked at them
but they were far enough away so as not to be of concern, so they were
able to watch it for about ten minutes as it sat and washed itself. Leopards
are usually seen from vehicles (to which they are accustomed) so seeing
it from a mokoro was a unique experience.
Another interesting sighting this
past month has been some strange behaviour from one of the young bull
elephants in the local breeding herds. On encountering people he approaches
the vehicle, giving a head shake for the sake of intimidation, but
then raises himself up onto his back legs, like a horse rearing, shaking
his head as he comes down again. It is a very funny sight and still
a puzzle as to where he learnt this 'trick'. Also of interest lately
have been the thousands of Red-billed Queleas presently feeding on
the plentiful grass seeds. They must consume huge quantities because
their numbers are staggering. It is quite a sight to see the sky turn
black with the huge flocks flying around, making a noise as if a strong
wind had appeared from nowhere.
Terrestrial Bulbuls, Red-billed Helmetshrikes, Black-winged Stilts,
Saddle-billed Storks and African Golden Orioles have been seen around
camp. One small flock of Hartlaub's Babblers were seen accompanied by
what appeared to be a juvenile Striped Cuckoo. Striped Cuckoos are brood
parasites and lay one egg in the nest of another bird species, in this
case Hartlaub's Babbler. After hatching the cuckoo will kick out the
Babbler's eggs to reduce competition for food and will grow much bigger
than his hosts in no time. Interestingly he picks up the behaviour of
his host, begging for food in the same manner as the Babbler chicks would.
Temperatures have dropped to lows of 6°C at night (about 40° Fahrenheit)
and it is even colder in the mornings when the wind chill factor of driving
in an open vehicle really begins to tell. The days turn out to be lovely
with clear skies, no rain and moderate temperatures of 26° C (about
Looking forward to seeing you at Tubu Tree Camp!
From Anton, Carrie, Moa, Moyo, Salani and the Team
Jao Camp update
- May 06 Jump
to Jao Camp
have dropped over the past month as we head into winter. Luckily it has
warmed up quite a lot since a cold spell in mid-May and the mornings
are crisp and clear which make for beautiful sunrises. Jao has transformed
into a small island paradise again with the floods coming into the area
and pushing up water levels. The floodwater this year is said to not
be as high as previous years, but with plentiful rain over the summer
we expect the flood levels to be reasonably high anyway.
May was a month of guests from
all corners of the globe that came to share this piece of paradise
with us and be exposed to an intimate undiluted wilderness experience.
I would like to mention some of the guests that religiously read this
report before they traveled to Jao, telling everyone about Botswana,
thank you Ken and Myra.
As a result of the annual flooding, much of the plains game has moved
onto the drier western side of the concession where we did half and full
day activities with guides Maipaa and Jost first guiding the guests by
boat to Hunda Island and once there in Land Rovers. Hunda Island is currently
playing host to big groups of giraffe, breeding herds of elephant, kudu,
zebra and warthogs to mention a few species.
The arrival of the flood has brought Jao into its own, however, and
we highlighted our water activities like the motor boats we took through
some pristine Delta wetland looking for those big crocodiles, searching
for pods of hippo and then also the shy aquatic bird life like the Pel's
Fishing Owl and the Slaty Egrets. Then there was the seldom-seen Sitatunga
which has adapted to spending its life in the swamps and is spotted more
frequently when the water levels start rising as they do at this time
of the year. The mokoros (dug out canoes) with our polers Bee, Isaac
and Ptero were an essential part of the Jao experience and catered for
those who were looking for the romantic quiet paddle through the waterways
just taking in the beauty of the landscape and learning about the 101
uses of a palm tree, seeing the small reed frogs hanging from the grasses
and searching for Jacana nests to look at their beautifully patterned
Land Rover-based game drives remained popular and productive and OK,
one the guides, managed to track down lion and leopard on a regular basis.
The resident female leopard, Beauty, and her seven-month-old cub, Tumo,
were seen on a regular basis. A big bonus for us has been three additions
to the lion family being sighted close to one of our sister camps in
a thick palm island with mom being one of our resident female lions.
The general game in the area of camp during the last month has consisted
of huge numbers of red lechwe, as well as impala, steenbok, reedbuck
and the occasional kudu.
The guides have been doing a lot more walks in the last month which
was also a nice activity we offered to those who wanted to get closer
to the game and get some exercise as well. These were very informative
having the guides teaching our guests about the different dung, grasses,
plant uses and making bracelets and necklaces from the natural materials
found in the area.
As you can see, we had an action-packed programme for all guests that
visited us and we are looking forward to meeting all our new guests'
expectations. The staff at Jao are like one big family and we are looking
forward to having you as a guests in our home, safe travels until next
month and see you soon!
- May 06 Jump
to Kwetsani Camp
like it hot, some like it cold..."
The waters of the floods have finally reached our doorsteps, literally.
The floods have not come with different surges of water and peaks, but
have just consistently filled the areas and the flood has turned out
to be a pretty good one. The floodplains are completely covered as far
as the eye can see, and are dotted with the normal seasonal concentrations
of red lechwe as well as an abundance of birdlife following the water's
new edge and feeding on whatever morsel pops its head up.
With the arrival of the floodwaters have come the
icy winter conditions. The evenings and the mornings can be as cold
as 8°C but averaged
about 14°C over the course of the month. The days are fantastic however
and reach the upper 20s, so grab a chair and choose your spot in the
sun but don't worry there is plenty to go around.
Our Land Rovers, the "green submarines",
offer a very unique experience as you move through the waters, which
sometimes cover the bonnet and force you to pick up your feet as the
water rushes in onto the bottom of the Land Rover. Usually though we
use motor boats through the deeper waters and are able to glide up
the channels again. The floodplains are so full that you are able to
mokoro all over the place to see the hippos and even right in between
the red lechwe which are grazing in the open grass plains.
The camps decks and chairs have not been re-visited by our leopard friends;
the leopardess and her 2 cubs have only made two very brief appearances.
They are growing up very quickly and have been moving around elusively
from island to island and we hope that they will not be pushed out too
far away from our island. The leopard male has been heard and every now
and again the monkeys and baboons will let off their alarm calls which
alert us to his presence but he is rarely seen.
'Beauty' the Jao leopardess and her cub are still doing very well. The
little one is so playful and mom has to be very patient but these are
skills that are being learnt for the future. The young one is gaining
in confidence all the time, now reaching the highest points of the tree
The dinners under the beautiful starlit skies are spectacular, although
we have had to run with drinks and dessert in hand as the male lion roared
right behind us. The two males and two females are using the Kwetsani
floodplains as their core territory and they are vocal almost every night.
The females have been really successful in catching red lechwe and we
have been lucky to see two kills right in front of the lodge, but there
have been many attempts made which have resulted only in tired and wet
Great news is that the one lioness has been keeping a very big secret
from all of us. She has recently brought forward three cubs that seem
to be about two and a half months old. It was only a very quick glimpse
but hopefully we will be able to see them more and more over the next
couple of months. So all the mating that we have seen has produced a
great result and we are hoping that this will bring about more stability
within the pride. The other female also looks like she is heavily pregnant.
The breeding herds of elephant have come back into the area and can
be seen feeding, bathing or the young ones just trying to stand on their
heads with both feet in the air. Back in camp you might not get all the
sleep that you would like, as the big bulls and their 'askaris' are back
and around camp breaking and feeding on the vegetation. If you are very
unlucky they may be sleeping right outside your room - and snoring.
Looking forward to a great season and we hope to see you soon...
Thanks from the Kwetsani Team
- May 06 Jump
to Jacana Camp
Rain storms during the early stages
of the month gave the impression that winter was not yet ready to make
its presence felt but a sudden cold spell in mid-month set the record straight.
The chilly mornings and cool evenings made sure everyone appreciated the
cozy evening (and early morning) fires in our boma area. However, with
very good game sightings during all activities, nobody lingered and all
were ready to set off before sun-up.
Water levels are still rising, making more areas accessible by boat
and guests are enjoying exciting boat cruises along narrow channels and
having sundowners while watching elephant crossing the lagoons, sometimes
completely submerged, with only their trunks breaking the surface. Birding
has been fantastic and kept everybody occupied during long game drives
through submerged roads or while tracking lion and leopard on the high
Extended activities with picnic-type teas and lunches with no fear of
rain interrupting were very popular and the added bush time and great
sightings made for enthusiastic dinner conversation. Clear skies and
a very knowledgeable Naturetrek guide made stargazing a pleasant and
informative experience to end off a wonderful cultural meal and entertainment
provided by our friendly staff.
Compliments rained on our chef Selinah during May, with numerous requests
Our guides Jargon, George and Wago were in top form as usual and guests
enjoyed almost daily sightings of lion, leopard, hippo and of course
the Pel's Fishing Owl.
Jacana once again produced all the elements of a wonderful Delta experience
this month and guests departed with hearty promises of a speedy return
David and Leigh
Little Vumbura update
- May 06 Jump
to Vumbura Camp
Wow, I know May only has 31 days but it feels like so much has happened
in that time. We thought the rain had gone but Mother Nature gave us
one more taste, 8mm on the 2nd. The amazing cheetah sightings from last
month were replaced by lion and leopard this month, with only the occasional
sighting of cheetah.
The Vumbura concession was stunned at the news
that our dominant male leopard, "Big Boy" was thought to have died. This was proved
wrong, when our legendary guide, "Madala" Kay found "Big
Boy" a few evenings later. We do not know which leopard was found
dead, but it would seem that he had been killed by baboons or a warthog.
Just shows you how dangerous hunting is even for these majestic cats.
"Selonyana", the 14th-month-old female
leopard cub has been seen frequently this month, but always on her
own. It would seem that she has been left to independence by her mother.
She is killing successfully (mostly Francolins) but is even trying
impalas - not yet successfully though.
It would seem that our Kubu Pride female did indeed
lose her cubs (possibly killed by "Selonyana"). The Kubu
Pride was hardly seen this month - we assume they were following the
buffalo herds to the north and east - but they returned in style, right
on the heels of the returning buffalo herds. The three lionesses -
aided by the four sub-adults and one of the Kubu males started chasing
the herd. Although the buffalo fended off the lions and gave the sub-adults
a tough time, a baby calf of less than a few hours was trampled to
death during the fleeing. The Kubu male fed selfishly.
Another great find by Matt was one of the "Big Red" females
hiding in thick bush, with the distinctive cries of cubs coming from
inside. The cubs were seen three days later, eyes still closed, but at
least Matt could confirm the number, three little balls of fur being
fed by mom. Both 'Big Red' females are together and looking healthy.
The Kubu males spent most of the month with these lionesses, mating with
the daughter during the first week of the month. The Vumbura Boys, large
adult males seen here frequently over a year ago, were sighted once.
We also had sightings of two unknown females, one thought to be a lioness
from the old Kwedi pride, the other possibly a lioness that was moving
through the area from our neighbors, Duba Plains, to the west.
Various buffalo herds were seen over the course of the month. Herds
between 20 and 250 passed through the area, signs that the seasonal pans
to the north are slowly starting to dry up. Our waters are drawing them
nearer. The flood has finally arrived and our water levels have slowly
There have been numerous sable sightings this month which highlights
the great diversity in this area. At least 4 different sable herds have
been sighted over the course of the month, one of which is being sighted
on an almost daily basis.
Other interesting sightings included: Two porcupines seen on two different
occasions; a caracal walking through the water; African wildcat and civet.
There were also numerous sightings of the endangered Ground Hornbills,
Wattled Cranes and even a White-headed Vulture. No sightings of Pel's
Fishing Owl this month unfortunately...
The Little Vumbura traditional Kgotla (Boma) was
extremely popular with our guests this month. After very successful "traditional
Monday nights in the Kgotla, we decided to add a new feature - the Friday
night "Braai" or BBQ. Nothing beats the smell of our chefs'
preparing steaks and boerewors (sausage) over hot coals, while we enjoy
our starter in this fantastic setting.
Managers for the month: Rohan,
Dudley and Erica.
Guides: Kay, Letty and Matt.
- May 06 Jump
to Chitabe Camp
May was a month of unusual weather. The rainy season finally left us
but not before a series of thunderstorms early in the month, bringing
with them rain that caused some consternation - nobody can remember the
last time it had rained here this late in the year. This was followed
almost immediately by a ferocious cold front that left frost on the grass
and had everybody scuttling for extra layers to keep warm.
The Kalahari winter arrived with
an unprecedented haste, coloring the grasslands with autumnal hues
of red, ochre and lion-stalked duns. The gold-streaked sunsets glittering
off vagrant clouds suddenly took on their wintry mantle of crisp colors
striping across the horizon, pinks and yellows giving way to a deep
star-studded purple, a cathedral echoing to the mournful hymns of the
As the flood starts to push south in the northern part of the delta,
the water levels in our region (a result of heavy rainfall earlier in
the year) have started to recede slightly, almost as if in anticipation
of another deluge to come. The Gomoti River is still bursting its banks,
spilling out over the adjacent floodplains and hosting an incredible
variety of life, from Pelicans, Herons, Darters, Ducks, Egrets and Storks
to Hippo, Red Lechwe and the ubiquitous Crocodiles which crowd the banks
with their sinister basking forms.
The camp is still completely surrounded
by water, and we have even built two new bridges in preparation for
the flood to come. These have already been colonized by Pied Kingfishers,
Hamerkops, Green-backed and Squacco Herons as a useful vantage from
which to survey their prey flashing through the glittering water below.
Huge flocks of Red-billed Quelea are also taking advantage of the heavy
seed load in the grasses brought on by the rains, and are seen tracing
swirling aleo-mimetic arabesques against the sky as they move along
the channels and across the plains.
The male lions of the Chitabe coalition have been up to their old tricks
again, and were seen feeding on a large giraffe bull that they had killed.
One of them was also seen carrying a dead cub across the airstrip - probably
the result of a clash with the females of the Gomoti Pride, that OT had
seen a couple of weeks before out hunting with their cubs. Dawson also
saw the females of this pride swim across the Gomoti Channel into the
Moremi. Newman found the old nomadic male who has been moving around
the area mating with a female from the Sandibe Pride.
OT has had a good run this month, and was lucky enough to see three
cheetah bring down an Impala near the Gomoti, and then see three others
chasing Tsessebe (unsuccessfully) near Aardwolf Plain. The match of the
fastest antelope vs. the fastest predator left the jury undecided! Lazarus
also found two male Cheetah feeding on an Ostrich, although the circumstances
of how, or if, they caught it were unclear.
On Lion Road, OT came across a pair of leopard mating, a sight few are
privileged to see. Phinley found two female leopard hunting together,
and Mosadi Mogolo and her cub have been performing for the cameras frequently.
Dawson found them one morning watching a large male who had robbed them
of their kill in the New Hide area. When his vehicle approached, the
strange male was spooked and left, leaving the stolen kill for its rightful
The wild dogs were only seen twice this month, and the Alpha female
has only the slightest swelling to indicate her pregnancy, while the
other eight are strong and doing well. With a bit of luck we should be
able to discover where they will choose a den site in the next month,
and hopefully it will be on our concession!
Although still early in the year, a few herds of Cape buffalo have been
seen moving through the concession, some numbering about thirty animals,
and others fifty-plus and one herd held at least a hundred individuals.
Phinley watched two lionesses stalking a herd of about two hundred on
the Gomoti channel, and as the dry season progresses, we would expect
to see herds much larger than this, some in excess of a thousand.
As one would expect as we move towards the winter solstice, temperatures
are starting to drop, and evenings and early mornings are chilly enough
to make the fire pit a popular spot to take a warming breakfast to the
trilling birdsong of the dawn chorus, or to wind down the day under a
dazzling spray of starlight as the owls send their prayers into the night.
Daytime temperatures are pleasantly mild, in the mid-twenties centigrade,
but the swimming pool is not getting much use! For anyone planning to
visit us in the next couple of months, a woolly hat and gloves are this
season's fashion must-have!
Great Namibian Journey Newsletter - May 06 Jump
to Great Namibian
I've just returned from an amazing 13-day Great Namibian Journey with
six guests from Germany, Switzerland and the US. The whole trip went
smoothly and the weather throughout the trip was very comfortable. We
experienced some cold weather in Swakopmund and Damaraland Camp. The
rest of the areas we visited were very pleasant. In Swakopmund we had
rain on the last evening which lasted throughout the night.
All the regions we visited were
just so beautiful with tall grass thick with new seeds after the summer
rain. There were still lots of beautiful desert flowers in most areas.
The guests developed a big interest in these and we ended up stopping
regularly to photograph and identify the colorful flowers along the
road. In parts of Damaraland and Kaokoland, the Elephant's Foot (Adenia
pechuelli) was particularly beautiful with swollen bases and bright
green stalks. Ongava was beautiful with the Purple Pod Terminalia (Terminalia
prunoides) in full seed.
On the Kulala
Wilderness Reserve we encountered lovely flocks of Ostriches with more
that 80 chicks altogether! The guests loved these but couldn't think
that one female Ostrich can lay so many eggs... It took some time to
explain how the breeding cycle of the Ostrich functions! There were
plenty of springbok and gemsbok along the whole journey. In the dunes
of Sandwich Harbour we encountered a BIG Puff Adder with beautiful yellow
markings. We encountered masses of Hartmann's mountain zebra in the Palmwag
and Purros regions. They turned out to be one of the highlights as far
as game sightings go! We got to see a black rhino cow and calf from quite
some distance in Rhino Camp, as the wind was not favorable... But it
was still exciting to be out there on foot!
On the way from Rhino Camp to Palmwag, we encountered
4 lions on a dead zebra. It was a male, female and two sub-adult cubs
from different ages. They were quite relaxed and we managed to get
some amazing views and pictures. The male was all bloody and mean looking!
In Ongava we encountered one white rhino in the evening after sundowners
in the bush. We spent our last evening in the Hide at the Lodge waterhole.
Two black rhinos showed up. One was a big adult bull, the other a young
cow. They engaged in some light "flirting" with plenty of
horn rubbing, sniffing, snorting, and following each other around the
waterhole. To think we were only a few metres away while all this happened!
It was my best experience with rhinos in the hide ever! The guests
got lots of video footage as well as some pictures (without using flash).
In Purros area, we encountered several elephant drinking in the heat
of the day. We were having some tea, coffee and koeksisters under a big
tree, when a young elephant cow showed up from out of the thickets about
40 metres away. She was very calm and I kept my guests close and we quietly
watched her picking up Acacia seed pods and chewing on them with relish
before moving on. Later in the day we encountered a BIG bull drinking
his fill at a spring and he allowed us to come closer with the vehicle
to about 30 metres. He had a good mud packing session as well! Throughout
the trip, game was plentiful and made for good photography.
We went out onto a lookout point in Skeleton Coast one evening after
dinner. The aim: STARS. We did a 2-hour star chat and guests were pleased
to see the Southern Cross, Scorpio, planets and several shooting stars.
We had our chairs out and even took some coffee and tea along and enjoyed
the lonely silence out in the desert. There was no fog during any of
the nights and it made for great stargazing. The guests walked from the
grave of Mathias Koraseb to Rocky Point - they loved stretching their
legs for a change!
The whole trip was a great success with many new Namibia fans!
Rocktail Bay Dive Newsletter - May 06 Jump
to Rocktail Bay Lodge
May is a wonderful time of year, with winter starting to make its chilly
entrance at night and early in the mornings, before the rising sun brings
with it wonderful sunny days and blue cloudless skies. Cold fronts move
up from the Cape, bringing with them strong south-westerly winds which
die down quickly and we are left with four to five days of beautiful
calm weather and sea conditions before the next cold front.
Along with these winds come the
Antarctic birds, they glide effortlessly, cutting through
the wind with their wings as they roll and dive, putting on an acrobatic
show. We have seen our first Black-browed Albatross, which is the forerunner
of a number of Antarctic species of sea birds that spend
the winter season here. There have also been a lot of Cape Gannets.
Juveniles are distinguished by their drab brown color, which changes
into brilliant black and white as they mature. These birds are plunge
divers, diving from up to 100 feet, straight down into the water to
catch small bait fish, such as scads and garfish.
It is not
only the birds that eat these fish from the surface but also bigger
fish that feast on them from below. The sea shows patches of shimmering
water as the bait fish huddle together for protection; splashes
and lots of fish jumping out of the water, trying in vain to get away
from whichever fish is chasing. We have even seen anchovies, stranded
on the beach three days in a row. Whilst on a dive you sometimes feel
as if you are in the middle of a high-speed car chase, as schools of
scads rush past, followed by big blacktip kingfish.
of these birds is a sure sign for us that it is time for
the Humpback Whales to visit. They also leave Antarctica
during the winter months and travel northwards, all the way up to Mozambique.
We see them for approximately three months as they travel
up and another three months as they return home. The first whales of
the season have been sighted! On the 25th May, a sunny, wonderful day
at the beach, Robert and Fiona Rattray, from Scotland, were snorkeling
at Lala Nek when they saw the whales. The whales were just
behind the breaking waves, and they watched as the whales slapped their
tails and languished in the warm water. That made them decide to come
for a snorkeling trip on the boat, just in case - you never know your
luck! Well, no humpback whales that day, but wonderful schools of fusiliers,
a spotted eagle ray and a blue spotted ray, lots of big unicorn
fish, parrot fish, two green turtles and plenty more were seen. They
loved it so much that they are considering doing a diving course. Let
us know when you are coming back to dive!
have provided us with lots of sightings of bottlenose dolphins
this month. They have been very playful, swimming in circles
around the snorkelers, on one occasion two split from their
group and stayed with the snorkelers for a while, enjoying
the attention. The most memorable sighting of bottlenose dolphins was
during a dive at 'Pineapple Reef'. Five curious dolphins came to have
a look at the divers but they had competition. As you would expect,
the potato bass were not impressed with someone else moving into their
space, and tried to chase the dolphins off the reef. The dolphins were
not intimidated and with smiling faces, they continued to
swim around the divers for a while.
has some strange looking inhabitants and we certainly get excited to
see them. This month we have seen two crocodile fish. The correct name
is actually Bartail Flathead (Platycephalus indicus). These fish are
flat, with much flattened heads (as their name implies), muddy coloured
to blend into their environment; and have big mouths. They are ambush
hunters and wiggle themselves down into the sand, until just their
eyes are sticking out. They feed on prawns, crabs, worms and small
fish such as gobies. They are commonly seen in estuaries, especially
the juveniles, where they can easily sink into the silt and wait for
prey before heading back out to the inshore reefs at low tide. Their
'body prints' are clearly seen in the silt in the estuaries. These
fish spawn from July to November.
been a lot of octopus around this month. They decorate
the entrance to their homes with an arrangement of stones and shells,
each one carefully selected and positioned. On one occasion a small
one was seen swimming across the reef, as soon as he realized that
he had been spotted, he made a dash for his hole. Towards the beginning
of the month Darryl found a plastic bucket floating out at sea. Inside
the bucket was a minute octopus, approximately one centimeter in size.
Octopus females lay their eggs on the reef and look after them meticulously
until they hatch. These females literally guard their young
with their lives. They do not leave the nest, not even to search for
food and once the eggs have hatched the female has done her duty and
dies. The young are on their own, drifting till they can find somewhere
to call home. The tiny octopus in the plastic bucket needed to get
to a reef. We took it to the rock pools and placed it in a deep enough
hole from which it would not be washed out. Here it will get a chance
to grow and then perhaps move on to a bigger reef.
Last month we were very excited when Clive found two juvenile regal
angelfish. This month he has seen up to 2 adults and 2 juveniles, so
it looks like the family is growing!
Darryl has just returned from the beach after some early morning fishing
and I have to tell you what he said: As he was fishing, he looked out
over the flat, blue sea, with cloudless skies. The trees behind him supported
vervet monkeys in the branches, as they sunned themselves in the early
morning sun. Along the beach two red duikers played in the sand dunes
as a fish eagle hunted for fish in the small shore break. In front of
him was a pod of bottlenose dolphins surfing in the waves. What a special
place to live and work in!
Until next month,
Darryl, Clive, Michelle
The Rocktail Bay Dive Team
Rocktail Bay Newsletter
- May 06 Jump
this coastline, May has always been known as the "picture
perfect" month, and this last month of autumn 2006 has
been no exception. Mother Nature and Neptune have delivered
the finest weather and tranquil seas, not to mention some
of the most memorable and special sightings that we have
The early morning and evening temperatures
have dropped considerably since last month. Rocktailers
have been waking up to a blanket of mist hanging low over
the coastal forest, only dissipating once the sun is high
in the sky. On the other hand, the midday temperatures
have remained in the late twenties to early thirties -
the perfect balmy conditions for a dip in the Indian Ocean.
Even though the evenings have been cool, it has not deterred
anyone from gazing at the awesome night sky. Sagittarius,
Gemini and Scorpio have been the prominent constellations
throughout the month, creating flawless lighting for an
after-dinner beach walk. The lodge fireplace has also become
extremely popular this month, and many a good conversation
accompanied by a great bottle of red wine have happened
around its glowing warmth. As one of our guests said, "There
is nothing more like Africa, than a wood fire burning at
The first Humpback Whale of the
season has been spotted from Lala Nek beach!
It was one of those
May days... perfect for the beach and perfect for a snorkel.
The recently wed Rob and Fiona Rattray joined Mbongeni
for a snorkeling excursion to Lala Nek. As they were walking
down the beach access pathway, Mbongeni looked ahead to
the calm blue water, only to be surprised by a 40-ton mammal
leaping clear of the ocean's surface. Flabbergasted, Mbongeni,
Rob and Fiona stood and watched the spectacular leaps for
at least fifteen minutes, before the whale, perhaps tired,
sailed north towards Rocktail Bay. Mbongeni, Rob and Fiona
were astounded to say the least, especially since the Humpbacks
do not usually arrive until mid-June or even July.
The migration of the southern hemisphere
Humpback Whales has been described as the longest migration
of any mammal on earth. According to Thomas Peschak, the
author of "Currents
of Contrast", some estimated 5 000 whales make their
way from the cold waters of the Antarctic up to their breeding
grounds off the Mozambique coast and northern Madagascar.
This incredible journey is a distance of almost 16 000 km.
Fortunately for land dwellers, these whales are easily seen
from the land, due to the spectacular breaching and lobtailing
displays that they perform. There is something quite enchanting
about seeing one of these creatures launch themselves clear
out of the water - all we can say is you have it come and
see it for yourself.
Maputaland has also been a birder's
paradise this month, both in the forest and on the beach.
We have to say that the most incredible, as well as unexpected,
sighting of the month, was the lone African Black Oystercatcher
(Haematopus moquini) on the beach in front of the lodge.
The last time we had a confirmed sighting was in January
2004, so as you can imagine, camp was buzzing. According
Birds of Southern Africa", they are very rare visitors
to KwaZulu-Natal, and especially this far north, as they
prefer the cooler beaches of the Cape. This sighting will
definitely not be forgotten for a long time, and we hope
that we can report some more in the months ahead.
Another not-so-common sighting that
we had this month was a small flock of Greater Flamingos
(Phoenicopterus rubber), flying low over the surface of
the ocean. Their light pink plumage made them unmistakable
against the indigo ocean in the late afternoon light -
spectacular! Staying on the beach, one of our local pairs
of White-fronted Plovers (Charadrius marginatus) has decided
to breed early this year. We have seen the floating "cotton wool" balls
running up into the vegetation on the dune, escorted by
their mother. Father keeps an attentive eye on his family
from the beach, ready to lure any potential predators his
way. Once the coast is clear, the family rejoins and continues
their foraging along the high tide line.
Birding around camp has been just as productive, with Green
Malkohas, Eastern Nicators, White-Starred Robins, African
Dusky Flycatchers and Black-collared Barbets making up some
of the list. Another bird that was added to our list, and
a special one at that, was an Orange-breasted Bush Shrike.
They are not often seen in the coastal forest, but when they
have been seen, it has normally coincided with the hatching
of different species of caterpillar, which is their favourite
food. Once again, they have arrived at the right time, as
we have been seeing many hairy caterpillars in the trees
around camp this month - Mother Nature never ceases to amaze.
We added yet another special species to our list this month,
which is none other than a pair of Black-throated Wattle-eyes,
spotted in the lodge bird hide. We think that it is the same
pair that we saw in March, with their fledglings near the
lodge pool. Hopefully, they have made themselves resident,
and we will be able to report many more sightings.
May has also been one of those months where there has just
been so much to celebrate. Whether it has been newlyweds
on honeymoon, birthdays or anniversaries - we have had them
all. We would like to share some of the comments that we
received from our visitors through the month:
"The real five! Wild Ocean, beach of beauty, tranquil
forest, caring community and staff who really care! True,
natural peace! Thank you all!" - G,S&ZdK - Johannesburg,
"The most beautiful, unspoilt place we have ever been
to" - G&AA - Johannesburg, South Africa
"Fantastic place, we don't want to leave" - R&FR
- Edinburgh, Scotland
"A wonderful and remote experience" -
CG - London, United Kingdom
"We have found paradise here at Rocktail Bay...This
is the warmest South African welcome we have had, thanks
for the excellent time here" - G&MdM - Paris, France
Well, winter 2006 has dawned on us, and we have many things
to look forward to in the coming month of June. One of the
highlights is definitely going to be the Humpback Whale migration
getting into full swing, and we hope that we will have many
stories to report from this natural spectacle next month.
Dean, Leza, Andrew, Shannon, Simon and the Rocktail Bay Team
Camp (northern Kruger) Newsletter - May 06 Jump
It was just getting towards dusk as I turned onto Pafuri Main
from the northern part of the airstrip. I was heading back
towards the camp when I noticed something sitting on the side
of the road. At first I did not pay much attention to it as
it was a place where I had seen baboons sitting many times
before. But as I got closer it caught my eye again, as it stood
up and moved to the middle of the road. I couldn't believe
my luck! I stopped the vehicle and turned off the engine. It
looked at me curiously and then turned so that its back was
towards me and lay down on the road not more than about 5 or
6 metres away. It then rolled over onto its back and stretched
its legs into the air wriggling like a worm as it scratched
its back on the road, lifting its head every now and again
to look at the vehicle. I called on the radio to find out if
any of the game drives would be interested. And although none
of them were in the area and would not be able to make it back
in time I decided to sit back and enjoy.
This was probably one of the best sightings of a leopard I
have ever had. And this particular one was a young male and
he seemed very relaxed as he rolled over onto his stomach and
lay there for a short while looking around. He then stood up
and headed towards the Pafuri Bridge. I followed him for a
short while and watched until he eventually turned and casually
walked away into the bush. An excellent sighting - when you're
in the bush you never know what's around the next corner.
Here are some more special sightings and highlights that occurred
during the month. May had some exciting action, the highlight
perhaps being a sable bull seen on foot by Mark McGill while
scouting the area of the just-launched walking trails. Other
* 18 crocodiles eating a male waterbuck in the Luvuvhu River
near the Thulamela look out.
* Lioness chasing an impala along the Luvuvhu floodplain near
* Black-backed jackal hunting a steenbok a mere 10 metres away
from an evening drinks stop.
* 11 elephant bulls bathing in the Luvuvhu River which provided
entertainment for no less than 2 hours.
* 8-week-old lion cubs seen near Makwadzi Pan on the Limpopo
* Crocodiles eating a buffalo calf in the Luvuvhu River near
camp while on a walk.
* Three new lion cubs of about 9 weeks old were sighted east
of the camp in the thickets of the Luvuvhu River.
The elephant herds have moved back into the concession and
we are having more frequent sightings of them. The buffalo
herds continue to be sighted regularly - the average herd
size being 100+, although there are two or three herds of
up to 300. Black-backed jackal is now seen more regularly
on the concession. Also seen by Simon was an aardwolf; aardvark
have been seen twice and a bush pig was seen on a morning
walk. Other more regular sightings were of species, such
as nyala, impala, kudu, bushbuck, blue wildebeest, eland,
warthog, porcupine, large spotted genet, African civet, chacma
baboon and vervet monkey.
The total bird sightings for the month of May were 178 species
including: Brown-headed Parrot, Grey-headed Parrot, Whiskered
Terns, Ovambo Sparrowhawk, Verreaux's Eagle, Martial Eagle,
White-backed Night Heron, Black Cuckoo Shrike, Arnott's Chat,
Cinnamon-breasted Rock Bunting. Woodland Kingfisher, Red-backed
Shrikes, Yellow-billed Kites, and European Rollers, among
others, have all started the migration back north.
Average minimum temperature. 9.5°C; average maximum temperature.