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November 2006
Page 1 of 2

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

• Monthly update from Kings Pool Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Savuti Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from DumaTau Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Zibalianja & Selinda Camps in Botswana.
Kwando Safaris game reports.

• Monthly update from Mombo Camp in Botswana.

• Monthly update from Jack's Camp in Botswana.

• Interesting sighting on a Migration Routes Safari in Botswana.

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

Turtle news from Rocktail Bay in South Africa.

Monthly Dive report from Rocktail Bay in South Africa.

Wilderness Safaris Updates - November 2006

A Turtle Tale from North Island
My name is Unels and I work on North Island as a nature conservation officer. Nature is my passion and my first introduction to turtles was in St Anne Marine Park a long time ago. In spite of having worked with turtles for 15 years, seeing a turtle on the beach still brings great joy in my heart. So let me tell you one of my challenging encounters with a female green turtle....

On the 7th of July, I was watching the World Cup on the big screen at the staff canteen, but after the first half I had an intuition that I shoud go on a night turtle patrol on one of our most frequently visited beach by turtles, Grand Anse or better known as West Beach. Bonnet Caré, named after the Baringtonia or Bonnet Caré trees along the beach, also referred to as Honeymoon Beach, is separated by West Beach by big granitic boulders. During the green turtle season from January to September, I kept seeing lots of tracks during the day, but so far I managed to only see four green turtles at night. By consulting the tide table and the moon cycle and comparing this with the times of the already made tracks, I slowly learned to guess the emerging times of the green turtles. I realised that this area of the beach was very busy at night at certain times.

This particular night was special. I had a feeling that the West Beach was calling me. It was three days before full moon. It was quite windy and the sea was rough but the tide was low and the moon was out in the west and very bright. I went to get the office's big Maglite torch which is not practical for fieldwork, but one of our workers had already borrowed the torch! So I had no light to go out with and it was getting quite late to knock on people's doors. It was about one o'clock in the morning when I tried several houses for a torch. Finally someone gave me a Maglite hand torch but warned me that the chargeable batteries can completely die. I was not worried at this point as I was rather enthusiastic to go on the beach and the torch was shining very well. So I packed my turtle gear, consisting of a measure tape, turtle tags and pliers for tagging and a waterproof notebook, and headed on to West Beach.

Green Turtle at North Island, Seychelles

It was a quiet morning, completely dark as I left on the east side and the moon was about to set on the other side of the island. So minimising the torch use as I was biking to the west was not a good idea as I was on one occasion biking off the road, and on the another occasion I fell completely off the bike and I had to search for the torch in complete darkness. I was lucky enough to find it again, so I rode down with the light. I was amazed when I reached the beach: it was full of fresh turtle tracks and it looked like I had missed the action again. With my torch off, I carefully scanned the edge of the beach. But I could not see any. So I walked further on the beach toward the sea. As it was low tide, quiet and bright, something shiny caught my eye where the waves were breaking on the reef and this led me further toward the sea. Suddenly, my light picked up a huge green turtle sideways in the coral rock. So I grabbed my little digital camera and took some snapshots fearing that she might get scared and move away. But I soon realised that she was truly stuck.

And at this point, my torch died completely. The moon was still on the horizon going to sleep, but I had to work fast before it disappeared. As one flipper was free, I felt it was a good idea to put a tag on her. So I gave her the tag with inscription SEY 7686 on the right flipper. Not long ago, I had written a note on the dangers of the Bluebottle jellyfish or Portuguese Man-o'-War on our beach and tonight it would be my turn to feel how much this animal stings! With the shiny moon and the cold water I braced myself and jumped in the school of Portuguese Man-o'-War. The waves were beating hard against the rocks and on occasion the green turtle was completely submerged and my left leg was about numb with jellyfish stings. But my eagerness to free the turtle was stronger than the pain. With a couple of pushes and pulls I managed to free her at last without her getting seriously cut on the sharp coral rock.

It was such a great relief to see SEY 7686 swimming towards the ocean in the last rays of the shining moon. It was three o'clock in the morning when the moon finally disappeared down the horizon and everything turned completely dark. With no torch, miserably cold and jellyfish stings all over my slowly numbing leg, I walked back to the shore and packed my equipment and pushed the bike all the way back home, where I started putting ice on my stings. My legs were sore for 5 days but it was one of my great memorable adventures motivating me even stronger to fight for animal rights.

Unels Bristol


Baboon troop preys on newborn bushbuck
Location: Makuleke Concession, Pafuri Camp
In October while tracking white rhino on foot across the Luvuvhu floodplain towards the mouth of the Hutwini Gorge, we were alerted to a commotion to our east with a baboon troop loudly alarm barking and several nyala joining in with their low frequency alarm bark. As we stood and listened we noticed the baboon troop moving excitedly up the rocky slope at the edge of the floodplain. As they did so, we saw a large male baboon with the dangling body of a very young (days old) bushbuck fawn in his jaws. The bushbuck doe approached him, nervously but persistently lowering her head as she feinted an advance in an attempt to get the baboon to release her fawn. His reaction was impassive and he simply sat and watched her before then moving further up the slope, the fawn still bleating, leaving the mother bereft.

Baboon with bushbuck kill at Pafuri

As the male climbed the slope the rest of the troop moved in and attempted to steal some of the spoils, but he successfully defended the carcass and managed to move into an area away from the troop where he proceed to dismember and feed on the bushbuck.

Baboons are classed as omnivores and a significant part of their diet includes insects that are foraged opportunistically. Fruit, leaves and flowers are also eaten. They are huge opportunists however and in their frequent association with species like nyala, impala and bushbuck it is not uncommon for a large male to snatch a newborn lamb or fawn from under the nose of the mother.

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

Changing seasons ... New growth ... Great viewing ...
Not a lot of rain yet, but it looks set to be a good season. Lots of afternoon cloud build-up and so far we've had three reasonable showers over Kings Pool, totaling 28mm. We have, however, enjoyed watching numerous other storms taking place in the distance all around us, which has been enough to spark off new growth in the vegetation and the region has once again been transformed into an emerald oasis. As is usual for this time of the year it has been quite muggy at times; the average midday temperatures settling in at around 35°C, with the early part of the mornings coming in at 21°C. The maximum temperature recorded at Kings Pool for the month being 39°C. The wind has kept us on our toes on the odd occasion too - waiting until the kitchen has set up their beautifully presented afternoon tea then threatening to turn the whole lot upside down!

Flame Ball Lily at Kings Pool

Green is the name of the game here: the trees are sporting new shoots and leaves, there is a carpet of grass sprouting all over and it's hard to believe that just four weeks ago everything was mostly shades of brown, dusty and dry. In bright contrast, Flame Ball Lilies have pushed up through the carpet of last season's dried leaves to proudly add their splash of colour to the environment.

With the rain comes a changing of the guard, so as to speak. Having become accustomed to their presence and familiar sounds, it absolutely fascinates us how quickly the elephant disappear after the first rains, no longer requiring the thirst-quenching waters of the Linyanti River, as there is now sufficient water in numerous pans amongst the Mopane woodland. They seemingly "float off" venturing out on the odd occasion to remind you that they are still around and when the time is right they will be back in numbers.

While we're talking large animals, the hippopotamus around camp have provided us with some great photo opportunities. Usually you only get to see two lumps and a set of eyes peering at you, but whenever it has been overcast enough for them this past month they've ventured out onto the banks to graze in the broad daylight. They're a lot larger than imagined!

A time of rain also means a time of plenty... and plenty of baby impala and warthog we have right now. Almost as if by prior agreement the impala mums have dropped their young, flooding the woodlands and in so doing have ensured that a good number of them will escape the attention of the predators and thereby ensure survival of the species. Nature's miracle and success in numbers. The warthog too have their hands full, keeping one eye on feisty young piglets and the other on their surrounds and potential danger
- and "potential danger" comes in many forms.

At the moment for the warthogs and their young it is in the form of the Selinda lioness and her two cubs. She has taken up residence next to our airstrip and is methodically picking off the piglets, as well as the odd grown-up when the opportunity presents itself. She moved into our area a short while back and it would appear that, as long as the new male lions that moved into her old stomping ground remain, she'll be avoiding returning home. She's proving to be a fantastic mum and is taking really good care of her little ones. Also taking care of two little ones is the Calcrete Female (leopard). She was observed to be lactating last month and finally after what felt like an eternity her cubs were seen a week or so ago, albeit briefly. Other big cats seen this month include lion - the Kings Pool pride of three lionesses plus their three young - and leopard - the Boscia female, her 18-month-old cub, Mopipi and Bigboy, a rather large male. Small cats include quite a few large spotted genet and African wildcat, one mum with two cute little bundles of fluff.

The wild dogs have been a bit scarce, but we were fortunate to find the Linyanti pack of five dogs towards the end of the month. They even graced us with a brief visit to the back of camp to torment the baboons that hang out there. No matter how brief, they still remain very special and it will always be a delight to spend any amount of time with them.

Impala swallowing a baby Impala at Kings Pool

That's not all on the predator front: caught on camera was this African rock python busy swallowing a baby impala.

The bird life has been awesome too ... Bateleur, Tawny, Long-crested, Walhberg's and Martial representing the Eagles, as well as Secretarybird and Lappet-faced Vulture worthy of a mention for the birds of prey. As is the norm for this time of the year the Knob-billed Duck, Spur-winged Geese, White-faced Duck and a myriad other waterbirds are plentiful. It's also good to regularly be seeing Ground Hornbill too. In fact the surrounding bushveld is alive with the sights and sounds of birds of every description.

Finally, but definitely not last in this case if there is any doubt that summer has truly arrived - there is the constant chip-chirrrrrrrr of the Woodlands Kingfishers. A sound that one doesn't realise was missing, until once again heard filling the air all around us -comforting... peaceful... Kings Pool!

Until next time, have a wonderful December, a merry Christmas and may the New Year be everything you wish it to be.

Management: Cristeen, Keya, Luca and Dave
Guides: Copper, OD and Ezi
And the whole Kings Pool Team


Savuti Camp update - November 06                Jump to Savuti Camp

Average temperatures: Min 20 and Max 34
Rainfall for the month: 42.5ml

The month started off with great excitement in camp with a baby elephant being born close to tent number 7. We first noticed the vultures circling above camp and when Kane went to investigate he came upon a very aggressive breeding herd of elephants protecting the newborn calf. That afternoon we were all lucky to see the elephant calf at the waterhole in front of camp, still very clumsy and with the umbilical cord attached to it.

The two cheetah boys were very prominent in the channel this month and gave our guests some great sightings. On a number of occasions they came and drank from the waterhole in front of camp giving all in camp good sightings of them. The dominant brother spent quite a bit of time with a lone female and we believe that they were mating. We all hope that this is the case and in a few months time we will have cheetah cubs running around.

The lions were pretty active with the TFC Pride moving well into the Savuti Pride's territory. They were seen not far from camp and one evening just after the guests arrived back from the afternoon game drive Ronald found a lioness walking through camp towards the waterhole. We turned on the spotlight and found two lionesses drinking from the waterhole. They later moved off behind camp and into the Mopane heading east back into their territory.

The Savuti Pride was seen in the channel between Hippo Bones and Rock Pan. Two of the four males were seen at Rock Pan and Letsomo towards the end of the month. One of the Savuti males was seen mating with one of the TFC females near the Bottleneck. The Selinda female has moved her two remaining cubs up to Kings Pool airstrip, were she is picking off the baby warthogs left, right and centre. One morning while doing a drop-off at the airstrip we were all standing around the aircraft when suddenly she burst out of the bush and caught a baby warthog. She quickly ran off with it in her mouth to feed her waiting cubs. She is feeding on warthogs on a daily basis.

The resident male leopard who injured his front right leg a few months ago is recovering well. He was last seen mating with the Manchwe female. He is also managing to hunt with great success.

We had a nice herd of buffalo come and drink at the camp waterhole along with a big herd of zebra and impala with all their young few days back. It was a wonderful sight to see this all in front of camp. All the green grass has certainly changed the look of the channel!

The night drives are proving very fruitful. Ronald took his guests out after dinner one night and saw the following: three aardwolf pups, white-tailed mongoose, serval, five hyaenas, porcupine, scrub hare and spring hare all in one drive!

All the migrant birds are back and daily, guests are seeing Tawny Eagle, Wahlberg's Eagle, Bateleur, Martial Eagle to name but a few. Ground Hornbills have also been seen regularly in the channel in front of camp and around Dish Pan clearing.

We would like to thank Karen for helping us out over the last month and we wish her well for the future. We wish everyone happy holidays and all the best for the New Year.
"Wilderness Safaris has thought of everything! The game drives and staff have been spectacular." Jo-ann and Holly


DumaTau Camp update - November 06                Jump to DumaTau Camp

What an awesome month we've all had here at DumaTau!

Summer is certainly in the air now. This month we have had approximately 40mm of rain, in the form of thunder showers. On one occasion we were returning from the airstrip in the middle of the day, when one of the vehicles got stuck in the thick, loose sand. A second vehicle was also heading back from the airstrip, having picked up new arrivals, and had stopped to help the unfortunate guide who had got stuck. In the process of trying to help the original vehicle the second vehicle also got stuck...nd that's when the heavens opened up. In a matter of 20 minutes over 23mm of rain fell. Everyone was drenched and we called the camp to send out another vehicle to come and rescue all the guests. When everyone was transferred to the other vehicle it too succumbed to the thick sand and became stuck. By this time the first vehicle had gotten mobile and everyone was once again transferred to the original vehicle, which then hastily returned to camp. Shortly afterwards the guides managed to free the other two vehicles and everyone returned back to camp in time for the afternoon game drive. What an adventure!

With the arrival of the rain the temperatures have cooled down a bit from last month. The maximum temperature this month was 35 degrees (Celsius) and minimum was 19 degrees.

The change in seasons has had a remarkable effect on the vegetation. Most of the trees have new leaves. In the Mopane woodlands the leaves are a bright golden-pink and green in colour and the woodlands are now (in my opinion) at their prettiest.

The Mangosteen trees have all been in full fruit this month. These fruits look similar to ripe apricots and are quite pleasant (although quite tart) to taste. The Mangosteen trees in camp have been attracting quite a lot of attention from various creatures, and are filled with birds, squirrels, baboons and monkeys; where the fruits have fallen to the ground we have even witnessed kudu and warthog feeding on the delicacies.

Elephant at DumaTau

Dennis, a regular elephant in camp, has caused quite a bit of trouble this month. In his search for the ripe fruit lying on the ground he has pulled off many a banister from the boardwalks and on one occasion even destroyed the raised walkway by walking right through it. Luckily for us Lesh, the carpenter, was in camp at the time and he managed to sort out the problem and rebuild the walkway before the guests came back from their morning drive.

With the arrival of the rains and the warm temperatures the small creatures have started emerging now. It's amazing how much life there is out here! At night the frogs and other creatures play their symphonies from the reed beds and waterholes. The painted reed frogs utter their high pitched chimes, intermingled with the bass played the toads and the hippos, and the rhythm is set by the fruit bats that gather to feed in the large trees.

The birdlife has been spectacular and our monthly species count is way over 230 species. The Savuti channel in particular is great for Eagles during the summer months, when the termites emerge for their nuptial flights. We have had quite a few birding highlights this month, including an Osprey, Bat Hawks, Wattled Cranes, Martial Eagle, Black Egrets and Woodlands Kingfishers.

The limited pools have formed fish/frog traps and are attracting the attention of numerous waterbirds including 20 Great White Pelicans, approximately 10 Pink-backed Pelicans, +-30 Yellow-billed Storks and the same number of Marabou Storks, +- 20 Woolly-necked Storks, over 150 Red-billed Teals, a few egrets and herons, and numerous waders including Painted Snipe, Greenshank, Ruff and Wood Sandpipers. Pied Kingfishers, Black-winged Stilts, Reed cormorants and even a pair of Fish Eagles were there.

Python killing an impala lamb at DumaTau

Even though the rainy season has arrived now, and the pools and puddles in the woodlands are starting to get wet, we are still seeing good general game. This is the month of the impala lambs and from the beginning of the month the impala ewes started giving birth to their tiny, adorable babies. Impalas typically all give birth within a very short space of time (usually a few weeks only) and from the beginning of the month until now we have literally seen hundreds of impala babies. They are particularly vulnerable at this age and almost all of the carnivorous creatures are feasting now. Lawrence reported seeing a few Tawny Eagles feeding on a new born lamb and we also had a sighting of a python that was in the process of killing another impala lamb. The mother impala stood by and snorted and stared at the snake as it wrapped itself around the young antelope.

Most of the zebra and the buffalo have headed away from the river now, although we have still been seeing small groups of each on the game drives. The elephants have also dispersed into the woodlands now, with the onset of the rains. General game is still fairly abundant and we are still having regular sightings of kudu, giraffe, hippo, warthog, baboons, monkeys, red lechwe and blue wildebeest, amongst others.

The smaller, nocturnal creatures are still being sighted on the night-drives, as the grass in the Savuti channel has only just started growing, including African wildcat, serval and even honey badgers.

This last month we have had some awesome predator sightings. The stars were definitely the two Savuti Boys. These two male cheetahs were seen on at least 13 days this month. They are the dominant male cheetah in the area and have a massive territory. This last month the two remaining brothers spent a fair time in the Linyanti Concession, mainly in the open area around Dish Pan, in the Savuti Channel. On the 1st of the month the two boys (Alpha and Bravo) were seen entering the area near Rock Pan where they spotted a warthog, quickly gave chase and killed the unfortunate pig. A large male leopard (the DumaTau Male), unbeknown to the cheetah, had been resting in a large Sausage Tree overlooking the open plains area in which the cheetah had been hunting. He immediately ran down the tree and rushed at the two cheetah, who gave way. He then took the warthog kill and headed back to the woodlands at the edge of the Savuti Channel, where he stashed it in a large Leadwood Tree... and that was the just the start of the month! A day or two later Herbert and Gary saw the two boys again take down a warthog. This time they managed to keep the kill.

The lions have also been pretty good to us this month and we have seen these large tawny cats on at least 24 days. The Savuti guides found a skittish pride of lions close to Savuti Camp. All in all there were three females, two cubs and one male. By the time the DumaTau guides arrived in the area the male, one of the females and the two cubs had disappeared into the scrublands to the south of the Savuti Channel. We saw the two remaining lionesses lying in the shade of an apple-leaf scrub. They were both quite wary of the vehicles and had obviously not seen any cars in quite a while. One of the females had extensive scarring all over her face. The Savuti guides were calling this new pride the "TFC Pride". Upon returning to camp we looked at past lion photos and found that the two lionesses were from a pride called the "LTC" pride, and that they were last seen a few years back in the area around Linyanti Tented Camp (which is at least 30 kilometres to the north-east of the area that they were now in). On the 20th one of these two females (14 LTC F8) was seen walking in the grasslands at the eastern side of Phuduhudu Rd. She was calling softly and was obviously looking for other lions. The next day we saw her in the company of the Savuti Male (Sav M3) at the Bottleneck, where they remained for a few days before they split up.

Lioness at DumaTau

The other Savuti Males (Sav M2 and Sav M4) were positively identified on only two occasions this month, in the area of Letsumo Sign and Giraffe Bones. The Savuti Pride has been conspicuous in their absence this month, seen on only two occasions.

The Selinda Female and her two cubs are still all looking healthy and have been seen on at least 6 occasions this month, mainly along the Linyanti River and Kings Pool Airstrip. On the morning of the 21st we saw her and the two cubs near Cheetah Flats, where she unsuccessfully tracked a warthog - who managed to escape.

Leopard sightings have dropped this month, possibly due to the thicker vegetation, the fact that there is water readily available throughout the woodlands now and the abundant easily-catchable prey-source in the form of baby impalas. This means that the leopards have had no reason to move large distances and we have therefore not been able to find their tracks in order to find them. The DumaTau Male was witnessed stealing a warthog carcass from two male cheetahs and on the second he was again seen in the tree in which he had stashed the stolen prey.

On the 23rd we had an incredible leopard sighting. Herbert and Gary had spotted two leopards close to Rock Pan. As they followed the two leopards the female leopard (The Rock Pan Female) discovered an African wildcat and quickly killed it. She then fed upon it, refusing to allow the male (the DumaTau Male) to have any of it. Then they mated right in front of the vehicles. It is unusual to see mating leopards, but what was even more interesting was that we were under the impression that this female had tiny cubs hidden away somewhere in the woodlands, as she looked like she was still lactating. Maybe she had only recently lost her new cubs and had again come into oestrous?

Other leopards seen this month include the Chobe 1 female who was seen on at least three occasions this month mainly in the thick riverine vegetation near Chobe 1, the Zib female (who was seen at the beginning of the month with her cub near Zibadianja Lagoon), The Zib cub (who was seen on its own lying up in a large Jackalberry Tree near Elephant Valley towards the middle of the month) and the Boscia Cub (who was seen towards the end of the month quite close to Kings Pool Camp).

The wild dogs have been quite scarce this month only seeing them on 5 days. At the beginning of the month the big pack of dogs (DumaTau Pack) was seen on three consecutive days, before they headed out of the Concession towards Selinda. We heard that they then headed towards the Kwando Concession, where they spent the rest of the month.

All in all we have had another awesome month here at DumaTau. With the sun sinking in the sky and lighting up the brooding summer storm clouds in bright fiery colours we hereby send our best greetings from all the staff at DumaTau!

Signing off, until next month
The DumaTau Team


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

It seems that all the camps are having their fair share of elephant invasion! However, at Selinda "DJ" is practically a constant and is seen on the pathways, between the tents, at the dining room etc. Completely unfazed by human activity, it appears that nothing will stop his desire for "camp cuisine" - not even a solid pole fence that he casually flattened recently!

At Tshwene Trails Camp, an elephant bull awakened Chris and Joanne as he browsed on the trees alongside Tent #1. Watching him at arm's length (literally) from the safety of the tent was quite an experience, particularly as the tents are at ellie-eye level on their raised decks.

Zibalianja's waterhole continues to bring in surprises. A pride of eight lions visited twice, and the two cheetah brothers have resumed their old habit of drinking here.

Zibalianja tents have a different look! We have done a furniture re-arrangement and décor adjustment. Since the vista from each tent is a panorama best viewed head-on, we decided that the beds should face this, so now a guest's first view of the day is "MAMBA" - Miles and Miles of Beautiful Africa.

At Motswiri Camp, the waters have started to recede, but we expect enough water to remain until the rains arrive and the spillway is replenished. With the recession, floodplains have become exposed and this is attracting zebra, wildebeest and tsessebe to the prime grazing.

The Selinda pack of wild dog is now very mobile and more erratic in gracing us with their presence. However, the six pups are all doing well and are growing like weeds.

Once again lions formed the bulk of our predator action this month. The two males (one with the blind eye) seem to have settled well and an unknown, but relaxed, pride of eight made an appearance. We hope they stick around.

What has made the lion viewing even more exciting are the interactions with the huge buffalo herd. With about 3000 of these bovines moving over the plains, it is like bees to honey. One lone lioness managed to walk into the herd and create a stampede. When the dust settled she had caught and killed a calf.

The two cheetah brothers have been hanging around as more and more of their hunting grounds dry out. Impala, tsessebe, kudu and an ostrich have all fallen prey to their appetites. Never shy to show off, they have provided many classic photo opportunities as they clamber up termite mounds and trees to scan the plains.

As is usual for this time of year, elephants dominate the big game viewing. There is seldom a moment in the day where one or many, many more are not visible from practically anywhere. Driven by their pursuit of fresh water they are never far away from this sought-after resource.

Although scorching hot, this time of year is in fact Botswana's spring. With it comes the arrival of new life and plenty of romance. The tsessebe have dropped their calves, and the wildebeest are not far behind with all the cows looking incredibly distended. The ground birds are all displaying and mating - including the ostrich. These giant birds have a courtship that is a theatrical performance bar none.

Drama comes in many forms in the bush and sometimes the smaller creatures provide the best shows. When a slender mongoose ambushed and killed a Francolin outside its burrow, it discovered that the bird was too big to fit through the entrance. The ensuing struggle to get the meal into the safe haven of the mongoose's pantry was as enthralling as it was amusing.


Kwando Safari Camps Update - November 06

Lagoon camp               Jump to Lagoon Camp
(weeks 1-2)
• This month has been an interesting one with respect to new lions trying to establish territory. Two males, accompanied by two females were also seen resting. Another two males were found on a buffalo kill.
• The lagoon pack of six wild dogs spent three days hunting in the area.
• A small breeding herd of about fifteen elephant as well as some lone bulls was seen.
• The big herds of buffalo are still seen regularly and continue to provide meals for the lions in the area.
• Good sightings of birds of prey including African Hawk eagle, Brown Snake eagle and African Fish eagle.
• A very relaxed caracal was seen on one of the evening drives. A black backed jackal den, with two very small pups was found and lots of jackal have been seen on the night drives.
• A herd of giraffe and a troop of baboons were seen feeding on the edge of the tree line, while impala, tsessebe and zebras continue to be seen on the plains.
• Three species of mongoose, dwarf, yellow and banded mongoose was seen. A very shy African wild cat was also followed for a while.

(weeks 3-4)
• This week started of very well with two lionesses killing a buffalo calf, south of Mokhutsomo pan. There was also a female hyena seen at the kill. One of these lionesses was later in the week found dead due to snakebite. Two shy young males were spotted near water-cut, marking the territory.
• A four-month-old leopard cub was seen in a tree with an impala kill. The cub was very relaxed, so the guides suspected that the mother must have been nearby, although she was not seen.
• A very relaxed and pregnant looking female cheetah was seen twice in the water-cut area.
• The resident lagoon pack of six wild dogs spent some time hunting in and around the camp. They managed to make several kills, mainly young impalas. The big pack consisting of sixteen dogs also showed up at John’s pan. They were busy fighting hyena at the carcass of a young kudu that they managed to kill.
• After receiving the first proper rains, the elephants disappeared for a while. They were forced back to the floodplains and river systems though, as the waterholes do not have enough water yet. The usual couple of old bulls were also spotted on the floodplains.
• The large herds of buffalo are leaving the floodplains heading west. The lions seem to have decided not to follow them at this stage.
• A snouted cobra was seen basking near its burrow but it disappeared very quickly when the vehicle got closer. Two big mambas were also seen near Kwena Lagoon. Lots of the summer resident birds also seen.
• The same, relaxed caracal was seen twice hunting, near Zebra pan during the week. Ten hyena was seen fighting with the wild dogs at John’s pan. One of the hyena managed to steal a kudu leg from the dogs kill. A pair of side-striped jackal, with a litter of four pups, is seen regularly near the plateau.
• The general game has been excellent throughout the week. Zebra, lechwe, reedbuck, sable and roan antelope has been seen. Lots of tsessebe and impala with calves and a swarm of locusts were also seen.
• Two shy porcupines were briefly spotted near the airstrip. A pair of honey badgers was seen running on the road south of camp, but the pick of the week was a good sighting of a very rare pangolin.

Kwara camp               Jump to Kwara Camp
(weeks 1-2)
• A male and six female lions managed to kill two baboons and were seen feeding on their kills.
• A female leopard with her five-month-old cub was seen walking along the Kwara main road.
• A very good sighting of a female cheetah resting on top of a termite mound was reported.
• A large breeding herd of elephant with lots of young calves was seen moving through the area.
• Big herds of buffalo are still moving through. A herd of about three hundred buffalo was seen grazing along the river.
• Summer is now officially here with the first sightings of woodland kingfishers being reported. Lots of the summer visitors, including carmine bee-eaters and yellow-billed storks are being seen regularly.
• An excellent sighting of a pride of lions hunting a tsessebe was reported. A clan of hyena as well as side striped jackal were seen during the night drives.
• The November rains – while not heavy have precipitated the annual birthing of impala and newborn are everywhere. Good sightings of zebra, kudu, and giraffes also reported.
• Honey badgers, banded mongoose and civet were also seen during the week.

(weeks 3-4)
• A fantastic thirty minutes was spent with a pride of lion, watching them stalking and trying to ambush a warthog. The pride consisted of two males, two females and two cubs. Unfortunately for them they did not manage to kill the warthog, but they did manage to successfully hunt and kill a buffalo later in the week.
• The now well-known female leopard and her cub were seen walking across the Kwara plains. She made a half-hearted attempt at hunting but became lazy and lied down for a rest instead. The next morning she was found again, this time feeding on a reedbuck kill. A big male leopard was also seen resting in a sausage tree the same afternoon.
• Three male cheetahs were seen hunting in the morning on the Tshamotshamo plains. In the afternoon vultures were spotted in the same area, feeding on the left over of an impala kill. Tracks were followed, which led to three cheetahs with very full bellies. A lone female cheetah was also seen resting on a termite mound.
• A herd of four bull elephants came to drink water right in front of camp at the lagoon and provided everyone with some good entertainment.
• A very big herd of around a thousand buffalo was seen on the plains.
• The birding is fantastic this time of the year, with the woodland king fishers and carmine bee-eater adding magnificent colour to the surroundings. Painted reed frogs are also seen regularly on the mekoro excursions.
• Side striped jackal as well as black backed jackal was seen foraging. Four hyena were spotted moving towards camp.
• General game sightings were very good, with water- buck, kudu, impala, giraffe and baboon being seen.
• A serval was seen hunting and killing a mouse on the night drive and a civet was spotted at honeymoon pan. African wildcat was also seen on the drive.
• A good sighting of a puff adder moving through the grass was reported as well as a beautiful African rock python sunning it self on a termite mound.

Lebala camp               Jump to Lebala Camp
(weeks 1-2)
• A pride of two males and four females managed to kill two buffalos. They stayed with the kills until all was finished and then moved on to kill a zebra.
• A female cheetah was located South of Skimmer pan, hunting. The two brothers who are still seen in the area spotted her. They showed interest in her, but she was not happy when they tried to approach her and moved off on her own.
• The early arrival of the rains saw some of the breeding herds of elephant move in to the mopane forest but there were still good sightings of herds of up to one hundred animals. Lots of single bulls and small bachelor groups are also to be found on the floodplains.
• Three herds of buffalo, each containing around four hundred animals were seen during the week.
• Birding is still very good with grey backed shrikes; red backed shrikes and yellow billed as well as black kites being seen. The reed frogs are expressing themselves vocally all night long.
• Good sightings of well fed spotted hyena almost every night, with both black backed and side-striped jackal also present in the area. Two black backed jackals dens were located, one den had four and the other six pups.
• General game sightings are still very good, with wildebeest, zebras, impalas, giraffe, red lechwe and reedbucks being seen. A very interesting sighting of a wildebeest cow giving birth was noted. It took the calf ten minutes before it could walk and another five minutes to start suckling.
• An African wild cat was seen stalking a mouse and it managed to kill right next to the vehicle. Dwarf, slender, banded and yellow mongoose have also been seen on a regular basis.

(weeks 3-4)
• A single lioness with two cubs was seen on several occasions. She was also seen feeding on a buffalo calf. Two more lionesses were also found; one was feeding on her leopard tortoise kill and the other feeding on a wildebeest calf.
• A very relaxed male leopard was located at Motswiri pan on the night drive. He was followed for a while, whilst hunting.
• One female cheetah was seen resting at water-cut. She was very relaxed, and the vehicles managed to get close enough for very good photographic opportunities. The two brothers also spent some time in the area, relaxing and sent marking.
• Two wild dog sightings in the lagoon area were reported. On one of the evening drives, all the vehicles were searching for dog tracks in the Motswiri pan area. The vehicles spread out and soon two vehicles had the tracks. One vehicle trailing behind was just at Twin pools, when an Impala, running for its life, flashed by only to be followed by tree dogs. The remainder of the 16 strong pack soon appeared at the scene but decided to sit and wait it out until the other dogs called for them. All of the vehicles enjoyed the best part of an hour with these 13 dogs but also noticed two hyena circling in the background. While listening intently for the other dogs to call, they were delighted when the other dogs appeared back, and then started to regurgitate the kill for the pups. The couple of hyeana tried to even get the regurgitated meat and so the pack moved off. The vehicles all followed onto an open plain where the dogs led them to the impala carcass, which had not been finished. Within a minute, over seven hyena were on the scene and a large fight ensued with one of the hyena hiding under one of the vehicles! The fight went on for over 40 minutes all around the vehicles with the hyena eventually making off with what was left of the impala.
• Very few breeding herds were seen because of the good rains that fell in the area. Excellent sighting of bull elephant is still reported though.
• A couple of buffalo herds were still seen in the area. The bulls were seen fighting with each other and mating with the cows.
• Birding has been great with the summer migrants, like woodland kingfishers, European cuckoo and paradise flycatchers being seen. Snakes are also starting to put in more regular appearances; with black mamba as well a cobra’s being spotted.
• Lots of hyena is seen on almost every night drive. Jackals also seem to be very active during the evenings as well as a couple of good chameleon sightings being reported.
• General game sightings have been great, with lots of zebra, wildebeest, giraffe, impala, kudus and warthogs everywhere.
• Good sightings of serval and genets have been reported on the night drives. Honey badgers and mongooses were also very active during the week.

Little Kwara camp
(weeks 1-2)
• Three prides of lions were seen this week. One of the prides, made up of eight females and one male killed a warthog while another pride with one male, two females and two four month old cubs was found on an impala carcass. A third pride had three females and two six-month-old cubs with them.
• A female leopard was seen hunting on four different occasions during the course of the week. This is the female with the four-month-old cub and she was heard calling the cub to follow her on some occasions.
• Three male cheetahs with very full bellies were found after they had killed and feasted on an impala kill.
• The Kwara pack of three wild dogs were located resting in the shade of a tree after they had killed and fed on an impala.
• Small bachelor herds of elephant are still found in the area, with a nice sighting of three bulls swimming across the channel, also reported.
• A big herd of buffalo is still roaming around the area. They have been seen splitting up in to smaller groups and then joining up again.
• The boat trips to the heronry are providing great sightings with the chicks hatching. Good sightings of black crowned night herons, purple herons, yellow billed storks and painted reed frogs.
• Hyena, side striped jackal, serval, civet and a chameleon have been seen on the night drives.
• Lots of impala and tsessebe with newborn lambs being seen on the plains at the moment. Giraffes, wildebeest, zebra, warthog and red lechwe also spotted in abundance.
• Two honey badgers as well as dwarf and banded mongoose were also seen on the drives.

(weeks 3-4)
• Two adult male lions were found feeding on a buffalo carcass. In the afternoon they were seen again, this time they were surrounded by vultures, which wanted to share their meal. One sub-adult male, accompanied by a full grown male, was seen resting in the shade of a tree.
• The well-known female leopard and her cub were seen interacting while feeding on a tsessebe calf that she killed.
• One nervous female cheetah was spotted on one of the drives. After the game drive spent a bit of time with her, she became relaxed.
• The Kwara pack of three wild dogs were located resting in the shade of a tree after they had killed and fed on an impala.
• Small bachelor herds of elephant were seen while doing the mokoro rides, walking and boat cruises.
• The big herd of buffalo estimated at around a thousand five hundred buffalo has now split into two groups and is still seen in the area.
• The bonus of this week was the sighting of a very relaxed aardwolf. Side striped jackal and chameleon was also seen on the night drives.
• Impala and tsessebe as well as wildebeest, with newborn lambs being seen on the plains at the moment. Giraffes, zebra, warthog and red lechwe also spotted in abundance.
• Four African wild cats were seen in different areas. Two very relaxed serval and two honey badgers were also seen.
• Water as well as rock monitors have been seen in camp. Crocodiles have also started to become more active in the heat of summer.
• Good birding is also reported with black and yellow egrets, marabou storks and slaty egrets being seen.


Mombo Camp update - November 06                Jump to Mombo Camp

November has been a month of new life due to the birth of many species. The acacias are in bloom and the grasses have broken through the Kalahari sand. Electrical storms have started, giving us a total of 55.5mm of rain for the month, cooling the warm days of November. The floodplains in front of camp are continuously full of zebra, buffalo, many birds, giraffe, lechwe and the interesting interactions that occur between the species.

Zebra and wildebeest at Mombo    Zebra and wildebeest at Mombo

November was filled with some amazing and unusual sightings starting with an interesting interaction between three zebra stallions and a herd of wildebeest. The young stallions attacked the wildebeest herd, which contained three calves. The zebra singled out one particular calve, possibly because this was the youngest and began to run it down. The adult wildebeest tried to protect the calf but found it difficult to combat the zebras' aggressive nature. Within minutes the calf was trampled, kicked and immobilised by the zebra, who afterwards licked and stood over the calf. After about fifteen minutes, the gauntlet began. The calf stood up and began to run aimlessly through the zebra herds where every dominant mare and stallion tried to attack him; even a red lechwe joined the chase. Miraculously and deservingly the calf dodged all the zebra and found his herd once again.

Leopard and warthog at Mombo    Leopard and warthog at Mombo

Whilst having tea one afternoon at Mombo we were interrupted by the call of mating leopards. We spotted the leopards on the edge of a palm island about 1km away, tea was cut short and we were off to get a closer look. On entering the edge of the floodplain, we found the female under an acacia with a young warthog. Interestingly the warthog was still alive and became a toy for the leopard. The constant call of the warthog attracted the male leopard although he was soon chased away by an aggressive Legidima. She played with this warthog for about an hour before eating it, sharing none with her partner.

The arrival of African Skimmers on the exposed sandbanks of the drying channels is the ultimate highlight. One can spend hours admiring the manoeuvrability and charm of these endangered birds. Other highlights include fighting rollers, both the Broad-billed and the Lilac-breasted, Red-necked Falcons protecting their kill from melanistic Gabars and the massive action within the fish traps.

Legadima seems to have taken over her mother's territory and is passing through camp regularly, up to her usual antics. We had a sighting of her killing a young impala, which she hoisted immediately, seconds before the hyaena's arrival.

Legadima, a Mombo leopard  Legadima, a Mombo leopard  Legadima, a Mombo leopard

November presented us with a great sighting of the Far-Eastern Pan female and her cub. She seems to have been frequenting the floodplains east of Chiefs Island, which are inaccessible to vehicles. We found her draped over the branch of a Sausage Tree, guarding her kills, which consisted of two impala.

Far-Eastern Pan female at Mombo  Far-Eastern Pan female at Mombo  Far-Eastern Pan female at Mombo

Towards the end of November, we were privileged to have another interesting sighting of the Far-Eastern Pan female and her cub. She had killed two impala and had decided not to hoist any of her kills, a big risk of getting them stolen by the hyaenas and this is what happened. A lone hyaena had followed the vultures to the kill and moved in, immediately reacting to the impala's scent. These pictures depict a fascinating interaction between the cub and the hyaena.

Leopard / Hyena interaction at Mombo  Leopard / Hyena interaction at Mombo  Leopard / Hyena interaction at Mombo

Bad news and good news, regarding our cheetah sightings: Good news is that we have had record sightings of cheetah at Mombo this month. These sightings include that of three individual males and a female that originally had three cubs at the beginning of the month. Bad news is that this particular female has only one cub left now; two were killed by the Moporota pride, the sacrifice of living in close proximity with larger carnivores.
These pictures depict the difficulty a lesser carnivore has in keeping its kills and the continuous threat the cubs are under. Here the cheetah is overpowering a female impala that was giving birth, later to be chased off by a hyaena.

Cheetah with impala at Mombo   Lioness steals cheetah kill

The "silver eyed" female stands over the dead cheetah cubs.

Moporota female stands over the dead cheetah cub

A once-in-a-lifetime photo opportunity, the Mathata pride quenches their thirst in front of the Sambira Baobab. The Mathata still reign supreme through the Mombo concession. There have not been many changes within the pride, seven females, 15 cubs and the four dominant males.

Mathata's pride at Mombo

One cub has been lost from the 15 original cubs of this pride, which now totals 23 lions. Noticeably the competition is becoming intense as the cubs mature; some are already weaned and need more food for their growing bodies. The lost cub could have been killed by his father during a feeding frenzy. As usual, the Moporota Boys have been frequenting the north-east of our concession, joining up with two younger females this month. Interestingly one of the females mated with both of the Moporota Boys.

Mathata's pride on a kill

We had average sightings of rhino this month - the majority of the sightings took place up north.

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Jack's Camp update - November 06                Jump to Jack's Camp

Waiting for the Rains

November ushered in the start of summer and some truly hot weather. While everything else seemed to be withering under the summer heat, the Jack's Camp guides were delighted to report that the meerkats have again added to their numbers, this time with not one, but two litters, bringing the total number of new pups to six.

Chapman's Baobab suddenly bloomed bringing an explosion of colour to the ancient tree. In anticipation of the imminent rains, grasses are sending up new shoots; hartebeest, wildebeest, zebra and even gemsbok have been spotted wandering from pan to pan looking for the water that they know should arrive any day. In fact, thousands of zebra have been seen massing on the border of the park ready to start their migration as soon as there is enough water to sustain them.

Of course with the grazers come the predators and some guests were treated to a lion on a fresh kill just within the national park boundary.

On the 19th of November the heat finally broke and the season's first heavy downpour arrived. With water now available, migratory birds like Wattled Cranes, Terns and Pallid Harriers are returning to the pans around camp.

The rains have also signalled the evening hatchings of literally billions of winged termites. This glut of food means that sightings of aardwolf, caracal, porcupine, jackals and even the elusive aardvark have been especially good in the evenings.

The coming wet season promises to be a spectacular one and the transformation of the Makgadikgadi from arid savannah to lush wetland is always a remarkable transformation.

Average High Temperature: 38°
Average Low Temperature: 16°
Rainfall: 19.5mm


Migration Routes update - November 06                Jump to Migration Routes Safari

While on an afternoon game drive in the north eastern parts of the Linyanti Concession during a Migration Routes Exploration, guide Thuto Moutloatse spotted a female leopard moving through the dry mopane. As they watched her she proceeded to stalk and unsuccessfully chase a tree squirrel. She was lactating - indicating cubs left in a lair somewhere - and was clearly hungry (from the obviously gaunt appearance and her behaviour in opportunistically stalking small prey).

Leopard - Migration Routes safari    Leopard - Migration Routes safari

The leopard then spotted a troop of baboons foraging in a strung out line as they too moved through the mopane woodland. She managed to stalk within distance of the rearguard of the troop and then rushed at the young baboon brining up the rear which she killed. As Thuto moved the vehicle forward to re-establish a view, they discovered the entire baboon troop of around 30 animals had absolutely overwhelmed the leopard and were in the process of attempting to rescue the attacked member of the troop and kill the leopard which was invisible at the bottom of the pile. The noise was incredible and the chaos and aggression of the attack bewildering. The young baboon lay lifeless to one side and as the vehicle rounded the corner part of the baboon troop backed off a little, leaving a clearly injured leopard lying still in the grass.

Over the next two and a half hours the baboon troop surrounded the leopard and continued to harass it, the charge being lead by the large males and several smaller pretenders to the throne. Amazingly, the leopard lay prone almost shamming death although visibly still alive. Having lost the momentum of the initial attack first one baboon would rush in and scuff the prone predator and then another would take the advantage of attacking from the other side.

Baboons attacking a leopard - Migration Routes safari

Eventually the bulk of the troop moved off leaving just one large male and a smaller subordinate female. Although it appeared as if the leopard was by this stage mortally wounded, and this was certainly the perception by those watching spellbound from the vehicle, the larger baboon was cautious in his approach of the leopard while the female simply watched from a safe distance. Curiosity or thoughts of revenge got the better of the larger baboon however and he eventually did approach what he thought was a dying leopard. Before he could scuff her again however, the leopard sprung onto its hind legs and attacked the baboon, forcing both the male and female to flee. Having achieved this, the leopard then picked up the carcass of the baboon killed before the skirmish erupted, shook it and walked off carrying the carcass in its jaws as if nothing untoward had happened at all. As Thuto commented: "The most incredible thing about his sighting for me was to see the leopard play dead for about 2 ½ hours as the baboons harassed her - she knew that if she retaliated the whole troop would kill her."

While the adrenalin, action and excitement made this a spectacular sighting, it is also of interest since baboons do not feature high on the list of leopard prey. In areas where medium- and small-sized ungulates are common, these are the preferred prey and baboons make up only a very low percentage of kills. Even in areas where this ungulate prey class is at a low density, baboons do not make up an important portion of leopard prey and alternative species such as dassies are taken instead. The reasons for this of course are the social structure of baboon troops and the powerful and aggressive nature of the male baboons in the troop. Most attacks on baboons by leopard take place in low light conditions when the leopard can take refuge from the response of the troop. Attacks in daylight end in mobbing behaviour of the kind witnessed here, or even leopard fatalities at the hands of baboons that have been recorded all over Africa.

On this occasion, this specific female took a huge risk that had it turned out differently could easily have left her unable to fend for her cubs.

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