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AFRICAN SAFARI NEWS

November 2006
Page 2 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.


Tubu Tree Camp update - November 06                Jump to Tubu Tree Camp

Traditionally November is the month that brings our rain, but rain has been conspicuously absent this month, with only 4mm in the beginning of the month. The result is felt in the temperatures during day time, hovering in the mid-thirties during midday and twenty degrees Celsius in the early mornings. We have however had a daily display of the most impressive lightning and thunder displays almost every sunset. This also makes for spectacular sunsets, with colours ranging from azure blue to deep reds and purples. Beautiful!

Our guests loved the game drive sundowners, and the sightings were unbeatable during November, with a pride of 13 lions and one big, dominant male lion spending time on our paradise island. The pride has 10 cubs of varying ages, and playing with mom's tail is the order of the day. Some of the more daring cubs even stalked, ambushed and made their first "kill" on the dominant male, who took it in his stride and played along: All this was viewed from the safety of the Land Rover game drive vehicle by our guests.

Our general game is looking good, and lots of new impala lambs were born during this month, forming little crèche herds and playing the whole day. Some of our guests were lucky enough to view the birth of a little blue wildebeest (gnu), and were astounded at how quickly it happened.

Wild Dogs at Tubu Tree    Baboon and Wild Dog at Tubu Tree

The African wild dog pack that was around camp at the beginning of the month has returned with a vengeance, and the baby impala and gnu are in for a rude awakening in "survival of the fittest". On the first day of their return our guests witnessed all the action these animals are famed for, seeing four "kills" in 30 minutes. As they say, "things just seem to happen around these African predators".

The summer migrant birds have paired off and started breeding, so within a few weeks we will start seeing all the new chicks and then later the juvenile birds trying their flying technique on brand new wings, which will be a "birder's paradise". Broad-billed Rollers, Black Kites and Paradise Flycatchers, White-headed Vulture, Long-billed Crombec, Violet-eared Waxbill, Red-headed Weaver, Chinspot Batis, Willow Warblers and many more were seen out on game drive.

Leopard sightings abound, even as many as four different leopards sighted in one drive, including females with cubs. These absolutely magnificent leopard sightings and interaction with other game has been a definite highlight this month with all of our guests. From witnessing leopard kills during daytime to a troop of chacma baboons chasing off a young female on a hunt (impala), these cats have seen to the extraordinary bush entertainment of our guests for this month.

The small bachelor herd of around 14 buffalo "dagga boys" seem ready to pick a fight with all comers, even the big lion pride of 13, who so far have not taken the buffalo up on their challenge, but this battle is surely coming. These dagga boys are hanging around the Tubu hide and as far north and east as the Tubu Boat station, and are probably eagerly awaiting the coming of the big herds, for some female company of course! We are looking forward to seeing these herds ourselves.

As someone has said, "it is as if you took a paintbrush and let your wildest imaginations run free, with colour everywhere, as far as the eye can see". Our guests visiting during the coming months will be privy to these beautiful sights and sounds of Mother Nature waking from her deep winter slumber. Enjoy!

Always having fun out here!

Tubu Greetings,
Peter, Moa and the Tubu team


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Jao Camp update - November 06                Jump to Jao Camp
November has been wonderful but not nearly as much rain has fallen as normally expected. It has been a relatively dry month only 18mm of rain recorded. The temperatures have gone up to maximum of around 35°C and a warm low of around 19°C. The water levels have dropped substantially and the boats have been taken out of the water until next year round mid-April. However, we still have a huge amount of wading birds around and even more so than when the water was high.

The total drop in water levels and minimal rain has brought very interesting sightings in November. The most amazing probably was the lions taking the number one spot with a tsessebe kill. The guides arrived at the sight of a tsessebe female standing in the middle of a floodplain alone just staring ahead of her, then the guides realised that she was standing there for a reason: she had a calf! We had two vehicles driving towards the scene from different directions, the one stopped close to the calf, because the mother had already moved away from the calf and as the other car came around a tsaro (palm) bush they realised the lions were lying under it about 50 metres away from the calf now standing all alone. The guests said it was so instinctive that as soon as the females got the first whiff of the little calf they were up pounced and got it, it all happened in seconds.

Our resident elephants have been around keeping our guests entertained as always. The strangest thing happened round the middle of the month when we arrived at the lodge one morning. We found one of the big trees that had been part of our entrance feature flat on the ground! Very strange was the fact that this tree was dead, very dead and has been for a couple of years so we do not understand why this elephant had done this? We never go through a day in the bush without being baffled with some kind of animal behaviour.

Sleeping elephant at Jao

Our resident leopard Beauty has lost her cub Tumo to two lions on the Jao floodplain. Somehow she was caught in the open flood plain by the lions and she got mauled to bits and was found the next day. This was a very sad day for us as we got very used to having her around, but such is life and it has to go on! The mother has started to mate again with the resident male. She and the male - who is said to be the father of the cub that died - have been hanging around the camp and airstrip area for some time this last month. We even found them walking over the bridge coming into camp on several occasions.

Leopard pouncing

The two male lions are still at each other, with us seldom seeing both of them together with the cubs and females we have around. The two males got into a big fight about four months ago and since then have not been enjoying each other's company. The females chose to stay with one specific male for some unexplained reason although the other member of the coalition comes to visit every now and again! The cubs are doing very well and we have not really had any cub of any kind survive the harsh environment of Jao for several years, so it will be good if they can see it through to the next batch of cubs which should come in early January! The two Broken Tail lionesses have also moved back into the area. We had not seen them for the whole flood season as the guides believe that they were trapped in a flooded area.

The hyaenas are back as we have been seeing huge amounts of tracks and we are thinking that the same kind of scenario has happened as they moved their den further away from the camp in the beginning of the year when the water came in and that they were isolated from the camp by the water and only now that it has dried up are they able to get back onto the Island and the surrounding areas.

There is a huge baby boom with the antelope especially impala, tsessebe and wildebeest. Lots of babies around and in conjunction with the elephants and the cat sightings have made Jao a pleasurable game viewing destination this month. Our resident bushbuck are still around in camp as well as the banded mongoose which are going to have even more babies soon, can you believe it, there are about 100 of them already. Our warthogs have left the Island - whether in the stomach of a predator or on their own accord we do not know.

The birding has been excellent, seeing lots of Broad-billed Rollers and also having spotted the Whimbrel which is very rare in this area (more typically found in coastal areas). Lots of Woodland and Pied Kingfishers, all kinds of Herons (i.e. Goliath, Green-backed, Squacco and Purple) and Wattled Cranes have all been filling up the dry floodplains with a mix of Saddle-billed Storks and Egrets.

Jao sunset

With the rains come beautiful sunsets and at the moment the guests really enjoy ending a day in the Delta with a nice drink and some friends, which is what makes Africa special this time of the year.

Some of our guests' comments:
The personal attention. Thank you so very much for making the last day of our honeymoon memorable. We had an amazing time here at Jao. The staff is incredible. - Megan and Chris
The overall experience, the food the staff the animals all exceptional. The friendliness and professionalism was evident throughout. - Mike and Mary
We would put Jao very high on our list of places to go. The lodge itself is jaw dropping. The food was fantastic. The Jao team is very welcoming and has a great spirit. The massage was wonderful. It has been a privilege to stay with you. - Derek and Martha.
Our highlight has been the tent and its location. The game drives. The general level of hospitality and friendliness. - Henning and Renate

Lovely month, excellent guests, great weather what else can we say? Till next year, hope all who read this newsletter will have a wonderful Christmas and a happy new year. Thanks for all who have read this year's newsletters religiously and hope to see you next time with some more exciting news from the Botswana bush, Pula!

Regards
The Jao team

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Jacana Camp update - November 06                Jump to Jacana Camp
What a busy first month back to Jacana! We have had the pleasure of sharing some amazing scenes of changing climate and animal behaviour with some great guests and also opened Jacana to the Children in the Wilderness programme.

The weather is hot and humid as expected for this time of year with the average temperatures ranging between 21-33 degrees Celsius, 40 degrees being the highest.

We have enjoyed a rest from the heat with some spectacular lightening storms, which on one occasion rocked our little island and the dramatic sights of lightening flashes surrounding us were a highlight for our guests. Such storms blessed us with 35.5 mm of rain this month which has noticeably brightened the bush and announced the start of the calving season. We have since enjoyed the views of newborn lechwe in front of camp, and close-by impala lambs and zebra foals often sheltered by their protective mothers.

This rain however has not held back the receding water which surrounds camp and with the level now very shallow in parts we have decided to remove our motor boats from the water. We now make the journey from Jao floodplains to Jacana by vehicle instead.

Guests have really enjoyed this overland adventure, spotting game along the way and commenting on the strength of the vehicles as they plough through the water crossings which are still reasonably deep in parts.

This hasn't stopped our water activities and mokoro is still a favourite excursion for all our guests, viewing this Delta paradise from a different perspective, so quite, so peaceful...

Jack our well-known elephant bull has been missing for some time now and we are all itching for him to visit our island once more. Musimane has been a frequent visitor as usual, walking through the boma and interrupting dinner time with his much loved presence.

A new breeding herd of elephant has also been sighted very close to Jacana, a young herd with many calves walking in the shadows of their mothers. An overwhelming experience and always a highlight for guests.

Sadly this month we lost our leopard cub to a lion attack. Tumo, who was approaching one year old, was crossing a very open floodplain perhaps shadowing her mother's movements and sadly lost a confrontation with our resident lion pride. Mane hair was found in her claws so we are sure she fought back but could not compete for size or strength against a male lion. The calls of the leopard's mother could be heard throughout the night as well as the calls of lion; we now know the female was searching for her cub. A very sad loss for staff and guests but this incident reminds us all the unpredictable and intricate relationships which exist in nature and this Delta environment.

We were concerned for the female leopard's whereabouts following this loss but thankfully we are now sighting her safe and well in the presence of a male leopard. As nature takes its course and with the loss of one young we hope the sightings of these two leopards already mating will bring a successful gestation and new arrival of leopard cubs in NG25.

Lion, as predicted, have followed the antelope closer to Jacana with the low water levels and two lionesses have been sighted walking through camp on several occasions this month.

At night it is possible to hear the herds of lechwe darting through the water, sounding the 'snorting' alarm, due to the lion activity although we are yet to see a successful kill.

One reptile I feel must be mentioned is a very large crocodile sighted at Jacana Bridge just before camp. This crocodile was approximately 3 metres long and in very good condition, a very welcome surprise and change from the 0.5-metre juvenile crocs which we regularly see.

Towards the end of the month we were closed to guests and welcomed the 'Children in the Wilderness' programme to Jacana. This is a non-profit making organisation which aims at educating and offering a Delta experience to children from the local communities. We have witnessed these children grow during their six-day stay with us as they were taught life skills, and educated about the environment, the Delta, and healthy living.

George and Jargon our guides have enjoyed their activities with these children, taking them on mokoro, bush walks and game drives. We are sure their knowledge of the bush has been tested with the constant questions of these very inquisitive children. A great experience for all which we are sure the local children will benefit from immensely.

Looking forward to December we are still very much involved with CITW and of course are very excited about the Christmas season and the gifts the bush will have in store for us!

Jacana Greetings,
Conrad, Katie & Team

- Bruce & Linda Bancroft: 'We loved our time here. Conrad & Katie were perfect host and hostess. The visit here was truly memorable.
This was our first trip to Africa. We ended our 3 week trip at this camp. It was the highlight of a great trip. We have no criticism'.
- Birdie McClean: 'A paradise, such friendly staff, a big thank you!'
- Claudio & Slyie Frateschi: 'For our 11th Wilderness camp we must say great camp and great people! Thank you!'
- Bruno & Suzzana Walther: 'We come as a stranger, we went as a friend.'
- Dr Franz Boehm: 'We had a fantastic time and enjoyed every minute of our stay! Management and staff: AAAAA++'.

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Kwetsani update - November 06                Jump to Kwetsani Camp
Firstly thank you to all the guests and friends that passed through Kwetsani this month, hosting part of your adventure was a pleasure for us at Kwetsani.

What a month for the weatherman, and for those who were here. The August wind played a trick on us by blowing some gale forces through this month as well. The winter days have definitely gone, the temperature reaching a high 42°C (115F). The pool has been a big hit this month, with guests drinking wine and enjoying the beautiful views from the pool. Although the days are extremely hot, the African skies threaten us with rain, and have produced some amazing lighting shows along with the sounds of long, deep, rolling thunder. Still the Okavango Delta gives us the most breathtaking mornings and untamed sunsets.

Sunset at Kwetsani    Vervet monkeys at Kwetsani

The water levels have dropped below the boating level, but mokoros are still on the move and enjoyed by all, getting close to nature and its peace and tranquillity. There are large numbers and a vast range of birds this time of year in the Delta, both migratory and resident. Many nests can be seen around camp and in the floodplains on mokoro. The beautiful colours and sounds of the Woodlands Kingfisher keep every birdwatcher in awe. The open floodplain in front of Kwetsani brings large numbers of Wattled Crane and Ground Hornbills, which are both endangered in Botswana. The bushbuck in camp has produced a young male; bringing the island count to two.

Our python has played hide-and-seek with us, and has only been spotted twice this month. We had a rare sighting of a honey badger out in the floodplains, heading towards camp and scavenging with the side-striped jackals. The new rains have brought new life to the Delta. A good number of newborn zebra, tsessebe, elephant and warthogs of which Kwetsani has seven piglets have been seen. Baboons and our favourite, the vervet monkey babies, can be seen foraging for food.

As nature has it, with new life comes predators, and the Northern Kwetsani lion pride have made themselves visible. They too have two cubs, but are shy in front of the vehicles still, and seem to creep into the thicket on approach. As for our NG25 Pride, the cubs are growing and enjoying life to its fullest. They have made their home for the moment in the Jao floodplains and are keeping bellies full with young tsessebe. This has been top of the list for guest highlights this month, with a number of full-length kills sighted.

Elephants at Kwetsani    Hippo at Kwetsani camp

The elephants have caused some goose flesh with guests. On the evening of the 22nd, we had sundowners around the pool area watching more than 100 elephant pass by, with at least 20 little ones, a sight one does not get to experience every day.

With the water drying up and the pools for the hippos getting smaller, pods are forced to congregate together, the males displaying their teeth sizes to each other.

Our sad news for this month was the death of our leopard cub, Tumo, on the Jao floodplains. She unfortunately came across the NG25 Pride of lions on the floodplains with no place to take cover and did not make it home. She will be missed by all.

From all of us here at Kwetsani, we wish YOU and your family BEST WISHES for this festive season, wherever you are.

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Duba Plains Camp update - November 06               Jump to Duba Plains Camp

30 October - 12 November
November is the month of the first substantial rains here in northern Botswana, their arrival easing the unbearable heat of October. The wildlife enjoys the cool late afternoon thunderstorms and so do we. These last two weeks have provided moments of pure beauty and sheer power combined.

Last night we had an unexpected visit of our two most famous lions - "the Duba boys". Coming back from the afternoon safari, we found them walking just outside camp before disappearing into the night where we couldn't follow any longer. Aged a suspected fifteen years, one of them still looks in his prime while his brother appears to be starting a slow decline. Unable to keep pace with his brother, he is hampered by a limping hind leg and obliged through pain to stop and regularly slake his thirst. It seems that after a decade of stability and absolute dominance of the Duba Boys, the local dynamics may be about to change? we'll keep you all posted.

Lions at Duba Plains

On this theme, one day this week we were driving along Sausage Point Island where in the distance we spotted two male lions lying in the open. As we drew closer we realised that the two lions were two of the young males from the Skimmer Pride, looking very relaxed way inside the Tsaro Pride territory. Our surprise was even greater when we saw few yards away a large lioness from the Tsaro pride lying flat and constantly keeping an eye on those two challenging young males. As we watched one of the young males stood up and cautiously walked toward the thick island covered by Tsaro palm trees close to where the female was lying. He sniffed the ground and scanned the area for danger, after few minutes displaying flehmen (typical behaviour in male lions when testing the sexual receptiveness of a female of the same species). James moved the vehicle to provide a better perspective and it was only then that we realised the whole situation. The entire Tsaro Pride, barring 'Silver Eye' and one of the Duba Boys, lay on the same palm-covered island. The Duba Boy present was mating with one of the twin lionesses, while her sister played with her two adorable 3-month-old cubs. Another female was busy with her own litter of three cubs of about the same age, cute little creatures jumping on their mother's back, trying to catch the irresistible black tail tip and fearlessly bite it, playing hide and seek amongst the adults, and finally grabbing their share of milk in a noisy frenzy.

Male lion at Duba

The rest of the lionesses of the pride lay scattered around the palm trees, carefully watching the two young intruders, making sure that they did not approach too closely and threaten the cubs. Although he was preoccupied and did not notice the proximity of the two youngsters, when the two young males realised the presence of the Duba Boy, they slowly turned around and made their way towards the buffalo herd peacefully grazing in the distance and, as always, accompanied by massive flocks of Cattle Egrets and Wattled Starlings. Their time will come but they'll have to be patient?

With the thunderstorms building up in the distance, the migrant birds have arrived on the Plains: flocks of Carmine Bee-eaters nesting on the sand banks, Yellow-billed Kites floating across the grassland and the Woodland Kingfisher bringing the woodland alive with his strident and repetitive call. Night drives are still having regular sightings of the denning aardwolves and two adorable young as well as a bat-eared fox family and their pups also seen at the den site.

Francois Savigny


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Vumbura Plains update - November 06               Jump to Vumbura Camp
The Vumbura Concession sighed with relief as the first thunderstorm hit, and a week later new growth was pushing through transforming the area into a lush Eden. Grazing conditions have become optimal this month providing antelope and elephant with full bellies. The meat eaters have also been successful this month, leading to some fantastic sightings.

It is the time of the year for babies! Most herbivores have given birth by now, making the Vumbura Concession look like a huge wildlife crèche filled with over energetic little figures exploring their new world.

WILD DOGS
The wild dogs were sighted by only made one appearance in November. 13 wild dogs were spotted not far from Vumbura Plains. They were actively hunting until they managed to take down two impala. After they had completed their meal they took the rest of the day off and napped under some Apple Leaf Trees for the afternoon. The next morning they disappeared without a trace.

LIONS
The lions have also given birth to cute little bundles of joy. We have seen the females on many occasions carrying the cubs tenderly between their jaws. It's amazing to think that these jaws can help in taking down large prey, but are also used to tenderly carry their offspring. Nature is amazing; One day we found the lions on a tsessebe kill, quite an achievement, considering that they are the fastest antelope in Africa.

HYAENA
Regular sightings at the den site are still very good. The pups are getting bigger by the day but they are still as playful as ever. Hyaena sightings around camp are a daily occurrence, as they seek any morsel the kitchen has failed to nail down to the floor. One particular individual seems to have become addicted to candles!

CHEETAH
Great month for cheetah, sightings average around 4 per week. The old male still roams the area patrolling his territory. A female and her two sub-adult cubs have also been spotted regularly. But we are not the only creatures interested in cheetah. One afternoon we found a male cheetah resting on a termite mound being carefully watched by a large African Rock Python. A highly unlikely pair!

LEOPARD
Once again these creatures have not let us down. We had great sightings throughout the month, with kills up trees and hunting scenes taking place. These animals appear to completely ignore the game drive vehicles and carry on with their daily routine, providing us with fantastic insights on their daily lives. It is great to have them this relaxed but yet still not crossing the boundary between us and them in nature.

GENERAL GAME
Sable antelope are seen in large numbers, one herd numbering 17 individuals. Bat-eared foxes and aardwolves have been spotted this month as well. It is the time of plenty and all animals are well-fed and in great condition. Most of the rainwater pans are full, providing the water fowls with an aquatic heaven in which to frolic.

Regards,
Vumbura Plains

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South Africa camps
Pafuri Camp Newsletter - November 06                  Jump to Pafuri Camp
Although we had 89mm of rain during the month of November (including a half hour cloud burst that delivered 28mm), the Makuleke region of Kruger National Park is still very dry and in desperate need of more strong showers, especially the northern and central areas of the concession. The good news however is that this year - in contrast to 2005 - no matter how high the temperatures have risen, the Luvuvhu River has continued to flow and some of the areas along its banks have remained quite lush and green attracting various herbivores. The main access road to camp for example frequently hosts herds of zebra, waterbuck, kudu, and nyala feeding peacefully around camp.

Oh! I nearly forgot the impala ewes and their brand new lambs. These little guys are starting to pop up everywhere now and I find it quite entertaining just sitting quietly and watching them from a distance running around on their spindly little legs. The other good news is that the Limpopo has started flowing again and is already way past Crooks Corner. This area where the Luvuvhu meets the Limpopo is looking stunning. It's great as well to have the woodland kingfisher back once again. His beautiful call can be heard almost constantly throughout the concession.

Racket-tailed Roller at Pafuri    Male lion at Pafuri

2/11. Our guests were treated to a fantastic sighting of a cheetah kill on Pafuri Main.
08/11. New male lion mating with a female on our airstrip.
11/11. An eastern tiger snake was sighted at the entrance to the lodge.
13/11. We had a sighting of a red backed shrike on the camp access road.
22/11. Can you believe this? We had 6 sightings of the rare three-banded courser in one day.
25/11. Ground hornbill sighted flying on the southern side of the Luvuvhu. The sighting was from the main deck of the camp.
29/11. Our guests that day were treated to an excellent sighting of a python killing a baby impala.
29/11. Birders were treated to a sighting of a racket-tailed roller nest.
29/11. Kenny (our Head Chef/Kitchen Manager) and I had an excellent sighting of an old male lion marking his territory on the Pafuri Camp access road.

Mammals
As mentioned above mammal sightings continued to be good this month. We continued to see elephant although in lesser numbers than the dry months of September and October, the various buffalo herds remain resident and aside from the more commonly encountered species such as zebra, wildebeest, common duiker, steenbok, kudu, nyala and so on, we also enjoyed sightings of some rarer species: Sharpe's grysbok, eland, and cheetah.

Birds
We recorded 227 species this month. Highlights and returning migrants included: Woodland Kingfisher, Racket-tailed Roller, Red-backed Shrike, Three-banded Courser, Ground Hornbill, Common House Martin, Narina Trogon, European Bee-eater, Blue-cheeked Bee-eater, Black Cuckoo, Red-chested Cuckoo, European Honey Buzzard, Black-breasted Snake Eagle, Martial Eagle, Black-headed Oriole, Crimson-breasted Shrike, Gorgeous Bush-Shrike. The well known birding team from the Kruger Park - The Four Gauls - completed their twentieth consecutive Big Birding Day in the general area and managed to equal their best result of 255 species in a 24-hour period.

Climate
Average minimum temp: 21°C. Average maximum temp: 37°C. Rainfall 89mm.

Thanks
Geoff Mullen

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Rocktail Bay Turtle News - November 06                  Jump to Rocktail Bay Lodge

If you thought October was a great month for turtle sightings, you won't believe what November had in store for us. From the first moment of the first drive, we were not disappointed.

The drive on the 1st of November departed at 17H30, in the early evening. Andrew, who was guiding the research drive that night, had the Dyjas family from Russia, and Mr. and Mrs. Baines as well, as Mr. and Mrs. Everitt on his vehicle. Well, it was their lucky night! Exactly at pole 100, which is at the very end of the research area at Mabibi, a little loggerhead emerged from the ocean. As Andrew tagged her with tag number ZA RR508, our guests looked on in total awe of this amazing occurrence happening before their eyes. After Andrew finished tagging her, he took her measurements, which were 81cm long by 69cm wide - a real little lady. Mr. and Mrs. Baines and Mr. and Mrs. Everitt, who have been lifelong friends, decided to adopt her to remind them of their experience on the beach that night, and now this little loggerhead goes by the name Eleanor.

Guests at Rocktail Bay on a Turtle outing    Leatherback Turtle at Rocktail Bay

On the 6th of November, we had our first leatherback turtle sighting, and of a turtle that we have seen many times before. This leatherback was originally tagged on the 6th of December 2002. She once again came back to nest last season, on the 3rd of November 2005, where Gugu got to tag her with number PP622. Incredibly, she has returned this year, although without a tag. Mbongeni identified her via the microchip and then re-tagged her with the tag number ZA RR506. Seeing this turtle has made us realise how important the microchips are in the research that we do at Rocktail. If we did not have that little bit of information, we would never have known this particular turtle's history, therefore losing out on important information. This is what research is all about!

On the 21st of November, we had another very special Leatherback come up onto the beach. The reason we say she is special, is because of the tag number, ZA YT057, which she has attached to her, not because she has been adopted (yet!). For those of you that don't know, from the 1st of March 2006 until the 28th of February 2007, is the Year of the Turtle. Countries bordering the Indian Ocean have made an agreement called The Indian Ocean South East Asian Memorandum of Understanding for the conservation of marine turtles and their habitats. There are over 25 countries involved in the agreement, South Africa being one of them. The theme of this project is to cooperate to conserve marine turtles - our ocean's ambassadors. So, this particular tag number is the marking of the Year of the Turtle, therefore being a turtle that nested in the 2006-2007 turtle nesting season, and only a handful of tags have been made with the letters ZA YT. For more information on this special year please visit www.ioseaturtles.org/yot2006

We also had a very old visitor come back and visit us again this month. She was one of the first loggerhead turtles to be adopted, in the 2002-2003 turtle nesting season, and she goes by the name Kimberley. Her tag number is BB471, which means she was tagged in 1991, which is almost 15 years ago. We cannot tell you what a wonderful feeling it is, seeing a turtle of this age come back again and successfully nest. She looks in great health, and she measured 87cm in length and 79cm wide.

The largest leatherback of the month has to go to the newly adopted turtle named Kimi, who was adopted by Brian and Colleen Roberts. She was seen successfully nesting on the 25th of November 2006, on Lala Nek beach just after midnight. Gugu tagged her with the tag number ZA RR537, and also took her measurements, which are an amazing 1.7m in length, and 1.2m wide. That's one big "Mamma!"

Rocktail Bay coast line

The busiest nights out of the month were those of the 28th and the 29th of November. We documented over 30 different turtle tracks over those two nights. Unfortunately, not so many sightings, but the turtles had already been up, nested and gone back down to the water.

Well, as you can see, we have had another fantastic month. It can only get better, as December is the busiest time for mother turtles and is renowned for the large number of turtles seen.

Wishing you all a peaceful and blessed festive season,
Andrew, Shannon, Simon, Steve, Glenda, Gugu, Mbongeni and the Rocktail Bay Lodge Team


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Rocktail Bay Dive Newsletter - November 06                  Jump to Rocktail Bay Lodge
Another month of great diving has gone by with a range of different weather and sea conditions. It began with sunny weather and flat seas, followed by alternating cloudy and rainy days with more sunny days. We had three days of 1.5 to 2m swells but after that the conditions improved dramatically. Sea temperatures were fairly constant throughout the month at 23 to 25 degrees Celsius with only two days of 21 degrees. The viz. this month has varied from an average of 12 to 18m and up to a wonderful 25 to 30m.

Clive and Darryl explored a new, small reef inshore of the northern end of Aerial. It is a thin ledge at a maximum depth of 8m. There was a potato bass, a lot of eels and a couple of honeycomb rays scattered around the ledge on the sand. The whole reef was covered in small sweepers and sprats, with lots of tomato rockcod guarding them from marauding blue spotted kingfish. It is a perfect reef for new divers and those who have not dived in a while.

On the same day we had a great sighting of a tiger shark approximately 3.5m in length. All the divers were engrossed by a huge honeycomb eel and were unaware that the shark was watching them. It was only when the shark realised it had been spotted that it slowly moved off. This sort of sighting is a reminder to have a good look around you while diving and not just focus on the reef - we could have missed seeing a spectacular shark. The tiger shark wasn't the only shark we spotted this month. The month began with a beautiful leopard shark, lying on the sand, at Elusive and later in the month we saw a scalloped hammerhead swimming on the surface. The first raggie of the season also arrived at the cave behind Island Rock! Hopefully the forerunner of many more!

"Great snorkelling, turtle, dolphins and raggie." Malcolm, U.K.

Humpback season is just about over but the sightings continue, whales breaching out at sea and groups with moms and babies still heading south.

We've have had wonderful sightings of Loggerhead, Hawksbill and Green turtles. Some were seen swimming off into the distance, others fast asleep on the reef and then there are the ones that swim right up to you to investigate. These tend to be the males, as they seem to get much more inquisitive at this time of year because they are waiting to mate with the females before they come in to lay their eggs!

Summer brings the big rays and this month we have seen huge honeycomb rays at Pineapple Reef which seems to be their favourite reef at the moment. Elusive has produced sightings of spotted eagle rays and on one particular dive we looked up from the reef and saw four devil rays swimming overhead in formation. These are often mistaken for baby manta rays because their cephalic fins or 'horns' protrude in front of their open mouths and their silhouette when seen from below looks the same. They are seen somersaulting out of the water and there are many theories regarding this behaviour, some believe that they use this technique for hunting or for removing parasites from their skin - perhaps they are just jumping for joy!

There have also been a lot of moray eels; huge honeycomb eels seen swimming out in the open; much smaller geometric, starry and black cheek eels peering out of holes and ledges in the reef. At Brewers Garden we saw a snowflake eel sharing a hole with a smaller geometric eel.

For those that like to look for the little fish, a visit to Aerial is always worthwhile: a variety of paperfish, in various shades of camouflage; green, yellow and white; tiny ghost pipefish as well as blue banded pipefish; and the highlight on this reef - pineapple fish. There are currently two of them, one approximately 5mm in length and the other 2.5cm.

Last but not least, we have the month's dolphin sightings. On the one day we snorkelled with a group of 40 to 50 bottlenose dolphins. Duncan's holiday was made when he got to snorkel with these dolphins twice. On a separate occasion we came across a group of 15 to 20 bottlenose dolphins playing in the waves. They came right up to us to investigate and play with us even though the boat wasn't there. One in particular kept coming back to circle with Michelle and Karin as they swam down to the reef below.

"Four fantastic dives, swam with dolphins, excellent! Will be back for more!" Pierre, Adele, Willem and Debra, Pretoria.

Wishing you all a wonderful festive season,
Yours in diving,
Darryl, Clive, Michelle and Karin
The Rocktail Bay Dive Team

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