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AFRICAN SAFARI NEWS

October 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.
Kwando Safaris game reports.

• Monthly update from Mombo Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Chitabe Camp 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 Little Vumbura Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Palmwag Rhino Camp in Namibia.
• Monthly update from Sossusvlei Wilderness Camp in Namibia.
• 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 - October 2006

NAMIBIA NEWS
Imvelo Awards for responsible tourismDamaraland wins Imvelo Award
Damaraland Camp is a winner once again, this time at the 2006 Imvelo Responsible Tourism Awards, for Best single resource management program – Energy. The Imvelo Responsible Tourism Awards recognise operations in tourism and hospitality that make a “real, measurable and sustained contribution to responsible tourism.”

The category of which Damaraland was a winner – Best single resource management program – judges entrants on “operational efforts made to reduce and manage water, energy or waste”. Damaraland Camp uses uncontaminated water from a borehole five kilometers away, and once used, this water is disposed of in an environmentally-friendly manner. “Gray water” from showers and basins waters natural vegetation while waste water is contained in a two-chamber tank to allow for biological activity. Waste is trucked from the camp to Windhoek for proper recycling, and energy for light and hot water is obtained via solar power. Gas is used for cooking and refrigeration.


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BOTSWANA NEWS
The Duba Duma Challenge
THE DUBA DUMA WILDERNESS CHALLENGE HAS ENDED!
For six days in October, the Duba-Duma team of four intrepid guides - Tony Reumerman, Gavin McCabe, Anthony Bennet and Richard Coke - made their way across some of the wildest areas in Botswana, renowned for its swamps, crocodiles, hippo, lion and buffalo, to raise money for Children in the Wilderness. Each day, Wilderness staff throughout the region waited with bated breath to see how our "Duba-Duma boys" were getting on.

The Duba Duma Wilderness Challenge   The Duba Duma Wilderness Challenge

Unfortunately, an unexpected heat wave hit Southern Africa, making the race even more difficult and on Day 2, a severely dehydrated Gavin was airlifted to Maun for treatment. Thanks goes out to Sefofane air charters, Okavango Helicopters - Greg Potter, the Vumbura Plains management team - Grant and staff for getting Gavin back safely.

Finally, on the sixth night, the last message from the team while out in the wild: "S 18 34.579 E 23 32.562: Arrived at Savuti Channel in late afternoon and were welcomed by two different herds of elephant. After a huge thunderstorm and blistering heat we arrived at Zibalianja Lagoon with a pod of hippo to serenade us through the night."

On the last day the team set off for DumaTau Camp where a huge welcome team was ready and waiting, cheering them in on what marked the end of the most gruelling 120km walk these men have ever done.

The team managed to survive six days of the hottest and driest climate that this part of Africa experiences; extreme ground temperatures; constant exposure to the sun with many leafless trees, but most importantly, the lack of surface water for drinking and the constant interaction with wildlife and its obvious risks for this time of the year. Well done to all of them - they are a true inspiration to all of us!

As we are all committed in our various ways to guiding and conservation it means a lot to know that we are contributing towards a cause that positively alters a child's perception towards conservation and the environment. It puts meaning into this challenge that we are undertaking knowing that our goal of BWP100 000.00 will allow 32 disadvantaged children to attend camp, including a follow-up'.

"Thank you to all sponsors whom have gotten us to our goal."
The Duba-Duma Wilderness Challenge Team


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ZAMBIA NEWS
Kafue camps in National Geographic AdventureKafue features in National Geographic ADVENTURE
Wilderness Safaris' new Zambian camps in Kafue National Park were included as one of National Geographic ADVENTURE's 25 Best New Trips for 2007 in its November issue. One of National Geographic’s most popular features, this is an annual report “on innovative trips that will broaden your perspective, push your limits, and reignite your sense of possibility.”

Their report on the new camps states: "The first two days are spent on game drives, hikes, and canoe trips from Lunga's thatch-roof bungalows set in the Miombo woodland; the next three are based at Busanga in the heart of 290 square miles (751 square kilometres) of wildlife-filled wetlands reserve. Busanga's three posh tents give you front-row seats for spotting herds of puku and antelope crossing the plains in front of the camp. In the evening you'll head out on nocturnal safari drives in search of big predators that stalk the darkness."


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SEYCHELLES NEWS
North Island, SeychellesNorth Island on Green List
North Island is on Condé Nast Traveler’s Green List! Travelers today are increasingly searching for places to go that combine luxury with care for the planet, and Condé Nast Traveler’s 12th Annual Green List brings twelve top destinations that celebrate “one of the best ways to preserve the environments and cultures that make this planet worth exploring.”

The List covered destinations from every continent, where the panel of judges scored candidates on environmental initiative, contributions to local communities and quality of the guest experience.

North Island garnered a high score thanks to its “Noah’s Ark” concept of rehabilitating the Island by reintroducing native plants and animals that had been driven out by alien species, combined with “11 butler-tended villas with Robinson Crusoe privacy and five-star luxury”, as well as the Children in the Wilderness program run on the Island this year.


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CAMP / GENERAL UPDATES
ZAMBIA
We have been advised that, with immediate effect, American passport holders traveling to Zambia will have to pay a US$100 visa fee.

NAMIBIA
The bush telegraph seemed to have some gremlins in it in our previous newsletter, where we said that there were no night drives at Ongava. This is untrue: there is a night drive after the sundowner activity, where guests drive back to the Camp or Lodge after sundown, stopping along the way to view interesting nocturnal life coming out. This can take two hours or longer depending on the interest of the sightings that they come across.

Dinner is served at the Camp / Lodge upon arrival back from the Reserve activity. There is no night drive after dinner, but the earlier drives are popular and usually provide wonderful surprises, such as chameleons or, as was spotted on a recent excursion, a hedgehog!

BOTSWANA
After speculation that Jao Camp’s resident warthog’s mate might have been leopard lunch, all are pleased to see they’re both alive and well. They now share the same space under the library at the main lodge (the two warthogs, not the leopard); camp staff presume they have given up reading as they are not seen in the library any more. Yet another strange sighting was seeing some impala lie down in the shade, when a troop of banded mongoose arrived and groomed them for about half an hour – never seen before by any guide here!


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

October has been a dramatic month of the year in Kings Pool. The temperature continued to rise and at times it was very humid. The Linyanti floodwaters have been receding since last month. A light downpour was also experienced around the 20 of October. This lasted for 3 days with overcast weather.

However, the game viewing has been fantastic at Kings Pool for the whole month. Sightings of lions, leopards, African wildcat and African civet became prominent. Various lions including the Kings Pool territorial males, and border boys were seen. Nonetheless, only three males were seen mostly on the north-eastern side of the camp. Three of the males have not been seen but they were heard on the Namibian side.

Their prime prey species - hippos and elephants - have not featured in their diet this month. In sharp contrast, they continued to target large buffalo herds along the river. This has been accentuated by the fact that the palatable grasses in the woodland have collapsed. As a consequence, hippos have been reluctant to leave the river for the woodland as is normally the case when there are good grasses available. This in turn also compelled the buffalo to hang around the river in seek of fresh grasses and water.

The Selinda lioness and her two cubs were seen mostly on the south-western side of the camp. She hangs around Kings Pool airstrip and Chobe 1, mostly along the riverine woodland. She has been thrilling everyone with her hunting skills as she successfully raises her cubs alone. She has mostly settled for smaller prey species such as warthogs, impalas and baboons as no reinforcement form the rest of the pride is needed.

The Selinda female comes from a pride called Selinda which hangs around Savuti channel and Selinda concession. It seems like the female has been happy to go solo in order to raise her cubs "peacefully". One major obstacle that restricts her from rejoining the pride is that new males have taken over; therefore they might kill her five-month-old cubs. We are waiting to see when she will decide to return back to the pride - probably, when the cubs are old enough to hunt on their own or escape any threat.

Surprisingly, the female and the Savuti males get along without any friction. However, the cubs do not play with the Savuti boys.

We had a surprise sighting of two lionesses with three cubs. They belong to the Linyanti pride which we last saw six months ago.

We had frequent sightings of the following leopards; Boscia and Motopi, Thonningii female, Thonningii male and Calcrete, with Boscia and Motopi, also mother and daughter, seen most often. They hunted and shared kills together. Instances of separation were recorded but they always found each other within 24 hours. Between the 25th and 26th of October Boscia spent the whole night calling around the camp in search of her daughter. This experience was wholeheartedly appreciated by all the guests in camp. Some of the guests explained that they have been on a safari before, but had never heard a leopard call.

Another leopard, named Calcrete, showed signs that she was lactating but we haven't seen a cub as yet. We are working around the clock and hope luck doesn't elude us so that we can get a chance to see her cub.

The elephant sightings have been spectacular. More elephants showed up this month compared to last month. Although a light downpour that we had around the 20th had an impact on the elephants' movement, it is worthwhile to note that they have made a comeback. This is further exacerbated by the fact that there is still no water in the mud holes in the woodland. As a result, the only source of water is the Linyanti River.

Compared to last year, elephant numbers are fewer. However, the water level was lower last year. This October has seen more food available as compared to last year. Mopane trees have quickly bloomed and the Linyanti Concession is already green and attractive. The sound of the cicadas is the Linyanti music.

The birdlife in Linyanti has been excellent with some great views of the endangered species such as Slaty Egrets, Wattled Cranes, Ground Hornbills, and Lappet-faced Vultures. Most of the migratory birds have arrived from different corners of the world. It is common to see the following summer visitors: Barn (Eurasian) Swallow, Wahlberg's Eagle, Southern Carmine Bee-eaters, Yellow-billed Kite, Broad-billed Roller, Greater Painted Snipe, Cuckoos and the Woodland Kingfishers. The Southern Carmine Bee-eater colonies are the best in Linyanti especially the one at Cub Corner.
This combined experience of wildlife and birdlife has made Kings Pool an unbeatable place to visit. The most sought after carnivores on a safari - the wild dogs - were sighted for the whole month in Kings Pool. Wild dogs are the second most endangered carnivore in Africa. Their sightings can be very remote and unpredictable as they cover a wide area. The DumaTau pack which is made up of 10 adults and 6 pups can cover 30 km north-east of Kings Pool and an amazing 100km south-west .This explains why their sightings are a special treat.

To quote one guest "I can't wait to be back to enjoy all the wildlife sightings and see how the hippo that stays around the camp is doing. This is a true and unspoilt wilderness experience".

YOU will always have a room in Kings Pool, and it will be a pleasure to see you back.

KINGS POOL TEAM


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Savuti Camp update - October 06                Jump to Savuti Camp

Temperature averages for the month: Minimum of 10 and high of 39.
Rain: 4mm

This October was very different to previous years as we experienced many days of cloud cover and in some parts of northern Botswana substantial amounts of rainfall was recorded. The heat only really set in towards the end of the month but even still, we did not experience the temperatures we experienced last year.

Our resident leopard, also known as the DumaTau Male as his territory ranges from Savuti all the way up to DumaTau, injured his right front leg and spent most of the month in the Dish Pan, Bottleneck, Rock Pan areas, obviously not wanting to move too much as he really struggled to walk with the injury. He managed to steal a warthog kill from the two cheetah boys with his injured leg; he took the kill up into a Sausage Tree away from scavenging hyaenas. We are not sure what the cause of the injury was but when last seen he was looking healthy and walking a lot better.

DumaTau male leopard

James' note: I spoke with Tony Ruemerman, head guide trainer for Wilderness and he described what transpired when the DumaTau male was injured (Tony was guiding two guests and witnessed the following incredible drama)...

Tony and his guests were out early from camp and found some lionesses in the treeline along the Savuti channel, right near Savuti camp early one morning.  The lions had killed a zebra in the hours before sunrise, but soon after, some hyenas showed up, as they often do with their amazing sense of smell, and chased the lions off the kill. The hyenas fed a while until the sun got a bit warm and they moved off in the heat of mid-morning.

As Tony was ready to leave the sighting, a lovely leopard strolled in nonchalantly.  It was a 20-month-old female (the offspring of a resident leopard known as the "Mmantshwe female") and she began feeding on the zebra carcass. Tony and his guests took pictures and watched with anticipation to see whether the hyenas or lions might reappear.  They watched for about an hour and chatted and took lots of photos.

As they continued to admire the lovely young leopard, suddenly and with no warning, a second leopard exploded onto the scene like a blur and attacked the young female as she fed.  She was taken completely unaware and the attacking leopard was none other than the huge DumaTau male.  What ensued must have been difficult to watch as the much bigger and stronger male began killing the younger female, who was nonetheless fighting back with intense fury.  It was so quick and so shocking, that none of the group managed to photograph this part.

As one might imagine, two leopards locked in mortal combat is not a quiet affair, and the sounds of their snarls and growls attracted the lionesses from their nearby resting position and they charged into the chaos as well.  One lioness determinedly went straight for the DumaTau male and he dashed for the nearest tree, narrowly escaping the lioness.  He was so intent on his attack on the female leopard, that he almost lost his own life.

The DumaTau male looked down snarling from his perch 10 meters up the tree, while the lioness stood below watching him.  Somehow, in the commotion, none of the lions had noticed the injured female leopard lying only 10 meters away in the dirt.  The lions moved off to the periphery and head-rubbed and then lay down again, satisfied for the moment. Sadly, it became immediately apparent that the female leopard was horribly wounded.  Tony and his guests, who were extremely distressed now, watched with amazement as the DumaTau male looked down with fire in his eyes at the dying female, saliva running down from his mouth in streams.

The three sat and watched now, speechless for the next 30 minutes. After a bit, Tony looked back to check on the DumaTau male in his tree, but he was now nowhere to be seen!  What the ...?  Where was he now?  The lionesses were still in sight only 30 meters away and not sleeping either.  Had he risked a descent and escaped to fight another day?  As Tony scanned the bush, he saw a slight movement in his side mirror and, to his utter amazement, he saw the DumaTau male, creeping along the ground in a full stalk as only leopards can manage, only 10 meters behind the Land Rover and moving slowly forward toward the vehicle.  This bugger was actually stalking in for another attack on the female, who still had not moved from her position 15 meters directly in front of Tony's vehicle, and who was still unnoticed by any of the lions.

Tony said nothing to his guests, thinking that this was truly a potentially dangerous situation, with the clearly enraged, full grown male using their vehicle for cover.  For all he knew, the leopard might jump into the vehicle, as it was now lying right alongside the rear wheel of the vehicle and clearly intent on his mission, eyes still ablaze and saliva dripping from his lower lip.  Leopards can be very unpredictable and this situation was now making Tony more than a little uneasy.  He very slowly removed his long knife from its holster on his belt and held it silently in his lap, ready if needed.

Suddenly, the DumaTau male attacked again, moving so quickly it was hard to believe.  If anyone has ever watched a leopard explode from a motionless position to full sprint in attack, you will know how fast it is. There is no predator faster over the initial 25 meters than a leopard and it's something that is hard to believe, even when you witness it with your own eyes.  The female jumped up at the last instant, but her hind quarters were clearly damaged and she could only somersault head over tail, with her front quarters sprinting, but hear hear legs only flailing without effect.  The DumaTau male was once again attacking her viciously, but this time, the lions were there in an instant and he could only manage a few seconds of attack before he was forced to run for cover, into the trees and out of sight.

The lions had now seen the mortally wounded female leopard, and one of them attacked her.  As leopards will do when fighting or in full defense mode, the leopardess rolled onto her back and went to work with paws, claws and fangs.  Even without full use of her hind legs, she raked at the lioness's face with all her claws and the lioness sustained some certain damage and quickly retreated.  Tony and his guests were of course all sitting with mouths agape, especially the guests, who had not even seen the DumaTau male's approach alongside the vehicle and were caught again by surprise.

Amazingly, in the next minute, three lion cubs emerged from the bushes where the lions had been resting... no one had seen the little ones throughout all this action.  The cubs were clearly curious about the prone form of the female leopard, but after seeing what it could dish out, they would dare move no closer than about 20 meters.  Finally, after what seemed an eternity, with everyone holding their breath, a second lioness, possibly the mother of the young cubs, ran in and dispatched the young leopard without much trouble.

Well, this was now more than the two guests (both ladies) could take.  Even Tony was a bit stunned and could hardly believe all that had happened. They had been at the initial sighting now for about 5 hours and had only driven about 10 minutes out of camp.

After everyone calmed down a bit and Tony did his best to try to explain what might cause a male leopard to attack a young, but not completely immature female, they decided to drive off and see if they could relocate the DumaTau male.  So they went off-roading in the direction the leopard had run.  Eventually they found him again, lying at the base of a tree at a pan and licking a clearly injured front paw.  He had obviously sustained a bad bite from the female in their fight.  As Tony and his guests sat and watched him and talked more about the drama they had witnessed, the big leopard went to the pan for a drink and then returned to the base of the tree, where he promptly fell asleep.

Tony asked his guests if they wanted to go back to camp, as it was now into the afternoon siesta time and they had eaten all their morning snacks, as well as a lunch that the camp had driven out to them to eat on the vehicle.  As they were getting ready to leave, Tony saw one of the lionesses, the same female who had killed the already dying female leopard earlier, stalking the sleeping male leopard from the trees at the edge of the pan.  The DumaTau male slept on, completely unaware.  Hearts were again thudding and everyone grabbed their camera in anticipation and held their breath to see what would happen next.

As expected, the lioness crept in to about 30 meters and sprung then launched her attack... Tony thought, this is it, the leopard is dead for sure, but he woke up just as the lioness was nearly on him.  With almost supernatural agility, he leapt off all four paws in a straight vertical bounce, grabbed hold of the tree trunk (which he was fortunate to be lying directly beneath) and again escaped the lioness's reaching claws by what looked like mere inches, as he bounded up the tall trunk of the tree.

The whole drama was now feeling more like something more out of a dream than reality, and Tony and his guests were feeling a bit giddy as the lionesses paced beneath the tree in agitation whilst the leopard glared down at them in defiance.  I'm sure by now you're saying "Wow", as I was when Tony related this to me on the Air Botswana flight into Maun.  I had actually thought the story was over on three occasions, but he kept on saying, "Wait, there's more..."

The lions eventually walked off and all was again quiet.  The DumaTau leopard saw his chance and this time he descended his tree and quickly retreated in the opposite direction from the lions.

After another 20 minutes, the sounds of hyenas whooping and yipping could be heard back towards the spot where the initial drama had taken place. They waited as the sounds seemed to get a bit louder and to add the final bit of unreality to it all, they watched as a huge female hyena came trotting into the clearing at the pan.  She had the body of the young female leopard in her jaws and was running along with it suspended, completely off the ground, with two more hyenas trailing her and obviously wanting to take it, but not daring to do so.  All three hyenas ran by without a glance and then all was again quiet.

It was nearly 4pm.  Tony drove back to camp.

The two cheetah boys spent quite a bit of time in the Channel this month and on one afternoon came to drink from the waterhole in front of camp. The sight from camp was truly incredible with elephants drinking with the cheetah, a hyaena lying nearby keeping a close eye on the cheetah, and in the background a herd of zebra were grazing and all this could be seen from camp. This place is spectacular!

The wild dogs were seen up along the Linyanti River feeding on a female impala. It seems that the pack has split since only sixteen dogs were seen together. We all hope that this is the case and that they are doing okay. The pups are growing fast and are doing well.

The Savuti male lions provided some great sightings this month and we have had many a night where we have woken up to the roar of the lions marking their territories. On one morning all four males were seen together on Dennis Road, not far from camp. They all looked in good condition. They were on a patrol of their territory, heading east of camp. Two male lions were seen east of camp a few times this month but were very shy of the vehicles. They are impressive looking males with dark manes.

The black-backed jackal and bat-eared fox pups are all doing well and have given guests some value added viewing.

The sad point of the month was when Nick the pilot found a serval sleeping in front of his tent one afternoon. This caused great excitement in camp as we were able to get up close and get some great pictures, but then we realised there must be a problem as it is very rare to see these creatures during the day let alone be allowed to get so close. On closer inspection we noticed that the serval had an injury on his front right leg and also around his neck. He unfortunately passed away that night.

Other game seen this month: hippo, roan antelope seen along the airstrip road, Ostriches, Martial Eagle, striped polecat (zorilla) to name a few. The impala have started dropping their young and with coming rains there should be a whole lot of young antelope running around.

"Peaceful, relaxing, wonderful! Thanks for conserving our natural habitat." G&P W

"One of the most beautiful places on earth" LW

Well that's it for now; look out for next month's letter as we have had some wonderful things happen already this month and we can't wait to let you know.

Cheers
From all at Savuti


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DumaTau Camp update - October 06                Jump to DumaTau Camp

Wow! What a fantastic month!

Things have really heated up in the Linyanti now. The midday temperatures are in the region of 38°C, and that is in the shade. Even during the night the temperature has rarely dropped below 20°C. The beginning of the month was quite windy and on the afternoon of the 5th we experienced quite a dust storm along the Linyanti River. The elephants crossing the river as the sun set in a pink, dusty haze will be an image that remains etched in my memory. For the first two weeks the wind brought in the clouds and there was a sense that it could rain. Then finally on the 15th it started to rain lightly in the afternoon. The next day it drizzled again and then on the twentieth 4 mm fell. The total for the month was in the region of 9mm.

Many of the plants have reacted immediately to the few drops. In the riverine woodland all the Feverberry Crotons and quite a lot of the Knobbly Combretums have new leaves. The Mangosteens have been in full fruit in the camp this last month. The fruit is like a small apricot in shape and colour and is quite tart to the taste (if you can get to the fruit before the baboons). It has high vitamin C content and the birds, squirrels, kudu, monkeys and a wide variety of other animals are also feasting on the banquet of fallen fruits. In the Mopane woodlands the scrub remained leafless for most of the month, but now at the end there are quite a few new leaves emerging from the scraggly branches.

With the increase in temperatures and the few drops of rain that fell, the insects have popped out of their hiding places. At night one can hear the termites, busy repairing their termite heaps and gathering up the last of the dead vegetation lying around. At night we often come across at least one African Rock Python in the riverine forest nearby the river. We have started to see Leopard Tortoises again, slowly plodding along in the woodlands.

The birds this month have been spectacular. Our bird count for the month was 218 species and that was only up until the 25th of the month! Many of the migrants have now returned and on the 30th we started hearing the Woodland Kingfishers calling in the camp again. This is truly a sign that summer has arrived. Other migrants that have returned include the Carmine Bee-eaters , Ruffs, Wahlberg's Eagles, Yellow-billed Kites (we have a pair building a nest in the camp), Barn Swallows, Common Swifts, Broad-billed Rollers, Willow Warblers, Black Cuckoos to mention a few.

Ban was out on drive one evening when he saw something very strange flying in front of the vehicle over the grassland in the Savuti Channel. It had long white wing-feathers trailing behind flapping like flags blowing in the wind. It was a magnificent male Pennant-winged Nightjar. Ban was quite excited when he returned back to camp. We do not often have views of these incredible birds, as they are quite scarce summer visitors to the area.

Other rare bird sightings this month include an Osprey that was seen near Osprey Lagoon (how fitting), a Black-tailed Godwit (a rare vagrant to Southern Africa) that was seen probing in the mud in the Savuti Channel, two groups of Wattled Cranes seen foraging in the moist floodplains and a few Slaty Egrets that have been seen in shallow waters.

As the floodplains and the Savuti Channel dry up, small fish traps are being formed and numerous birds are gathering to take advantage of the easy pickings. There are quite a few egrets, herons and storks at these small pools. We are now getting very good views of Black Egrets as they go about trying to catch the small fish trapped in these puddles. These birds have a very unusual manner of fishing that is quite amusing to watch. With their bright yellow feet they disturb the mud causing the small fish to flee and seek cover. The birds then extend their wings, looking like an umbrella. The fish, mistaking the shade caused by the wings for the shade caused by water vegetation such as water lily leaves, flee into the trap only to be speared or caught by the patient egret.

Another bit of excitement this month has been caused by the resident pair of Wood Owls who have started breeding and have picked a low fork in a tree right next to the boardwalk going to Tent No 5 in which to nest. Grant was the first guide to get hit on the back of the head while doing the early morning wake-ups. We all thought this was quite amusing until Lawrence also got smacked by the protective parents. Lawrence, in fact got hit on two occasions. On the second occasion the owl managed to graze the back of his head. We then decided it would be better to do the wake-up calls and escort the guests back to the tent with an umbrella covering our heads. This has not stopped the owl from attacking, but at least protects one's head from the sharp talons. Many of the guides thought this was a bit ludicrous and the guests also seem quite amused by the fact that they need umbrellas, even on evenings with clear skies, until Ban also got hit on the back of the head. Now all the guides carry umbrellas at night and in the early morning when going down the path to tent no 5. The owls seem to be quite relaxed when the sun is up, but become very protective after dark.

Game viewing has been superb this month. Most of the seasonal waterholes in the mopane woodlands have dried up by now and a lot of animals have been coming down to the water in the heat of the day and in the afternoon. We have seen many large herds of elephants along the Linyanti River on afternoon drives. One morning we came down to the front area to find a large bull elephant flat on his side, fast asleep, right next to tent 2. We left him there resting as the rest of the camp staff worked around him and later he woke up and ambled off again. Another bull elephant was seen on many occasions right after brunch at the main lounge area, resting his head on the thatch and testing the strength of all the wooden structures. We have had to replace quite a few balustrades along the boardwalks this month, as the elephants have removed them so as to gingerly step over the boardwalks to get to the other side.

The zebra and the buffalo have started moving away from the river now, although we are still seeing a few small herds of each on the game-drives. These two species are pretty migratory in the area and will soon be heading away from the Linyanti Swamps and the Linyanti River as the rains begin to fall.

There are numerous giraffe around and the red lechwe population at Zibadianja Lagoon is doing well. We are seeing warthogs, baboons, monkeys, impala, kudu, wildebeest, elephant, hippo, crocodile and a host of smaller animals on most game drives. Special antelope sightings this month include seeing a small herd of roan antelope and a bull sable in the mopane woodlands. A pair of tsessebe was also seen near the airstrip on at least one occasion. A small herd of southern reedbuck have also been seen in the grasslands near Croc Island.

Leopard sightings have been reliable; the DumaTau Male has been especially prominent this month. On the 6th and again on the 11th he was seen lying up in a large Sausage Tree overlooking the Savuti Channel. The second time, we saw that he had a small injury on the belly and that his right front paw and leg were swollen. He attempted to move around in the tree and we could see that his paw was causing great discomfort. He was not able to put any weight on the leg. Probably because of this injury he has not been moving any considerable distances and with Kane's great skill at tracking him down we saw this cat on quite a few occasions this month. He seems to have taken a preference for large, shady Sausage Trees and has been seen mainly in the area between Dish Pan and Rock Pan (i.e. the "Bottleneck"). Although it is quite obvious that the hunting ability of this leopard is seriously jeopardised because of the injury, he is still looking in a fairly good condition. We are hoping that his injury will heal soon as he is one of the more relaxed leopards in the area and has provided some great sightings in the past.

Other leopard seen this last month include the Zib Female and her cub, the Boscia Female, The Kubu Male, the Rock Pan Female, an unidentified female near Chobe 1 and an unknown sub-adult male near Big Bend. Early in the afternoon of the 20th we were heading towards the Kings Pool Sunken Hide with the hopes of seeing the DumaTau pack of wild dog that had been reported seen in the area in the morning. It was a fairly warm afternoon and we had driven quite a way through the Mopane woodlands without having seen much in the way of animals when we came across a steenbok browsing in the scrub. We stopped to look at the small antelope and only then noticed the leopard that was stalking the steenbok using the mopane scrub as cover. It was the Boscia Female. This is a very relaxed female leopard often sighted by the Kings Pool guides. The steenbok caught wind of the leopard and took off into the bush. The leopard then climbed up a tree to try and find her prey again but obviously could not see the steenbok anymore. She then came down the tree and proceeded to chase squirrels in the woodland.

Right at the beginning of the month Zoot was walking down the pathway towards the office when he looked across and saw a large male leopard dragging a dead baboon through the camp. The leopard looked up at Zoot and immediately dropped the dead baboon and disappeared into a thicket. Zoot came down to the office with very wide eyes that morning! We returned to the carcass and saw that the leopard was not around now and decided to move the carcass out of camp. We attached a rope to the carcass and dragged it to a large tree outside of camp, where the leopard later tracked it down and ate the rest of it.

An unidentified female (possibly the Chobe 1 Female) has been seen on a few occasions this month, at night in the riverine forest near the old "Weather Station". On the evening of the 8th we were busy watching the Savuti lion pride stalking a group of 8 buffalo bulls in the Savuti Channel near Letsumo Sign. The hunt did not go well as one of the sub-adult males got a bit carried away with enthusiasm and rushed in too early. The buffalo all stampeded away and the lions were all scattered in the bush at the edge of the channel.

Lion sightings have also been good, with the Selinda female and her two cubs being the stars this month. At the end of last month she and her two cubs headed along the river towards Kings Pool and have been seen regularly in the area between the Calcrete Patch and Cheetah Flats. She and her cubs are all well. These lions are very relaxed with the vehicles and have provided some memorable sightings. She and the cubs have also been seen on one or two occasions with two large male lions (the males we know as Savuti 1 and 3). These two male lions have been seen on a few occasions this month and have travelled quite a distance. They have been seen at Dish Pan Clearing near Kings Pool and all the way down to Kubu Lagoon, a large distance to have covered.

After denning in August the DumaTau wild dog pack took their six puppies and headed out of the concession towards Selinda and Kwando. These dogs have an extremely large home range. While they were denning there were 14 or 15 adults and six tiny puppies. On the morning of the 12th we found the pack entering the concession near Zibadianja Lagoon. This time there were only ten adults and all six puppies were still alive. We assume, or hope, that the adults that are missing left in order to start up a new pack. The dogs were playing in the open floodplains near Zib Hide. They had obviously recently killed something as the adults' faces were all covered in blood. The adults rested as the pups were playing with each other nearby. Every once in a while an adult would get up and amid huge excitement from the pups the adult regurgitated for the pups, who scrambled to get as much as possible to eat. It was an awesome sighting. Because they were lying in an open area with little shade some of the adults realised that the game viewers were producing a cool shadow and came to lie right in the shade of the vehicles. They were not in the least concerned about the people who were gawking at them from above.

On the 14th the DumaTau Pack were seen near Kubu Lagoon. In the late afternoon they roused from their slumber and started trotting along the floodplains. The pups chased some hooded vultures that had landed nearby (they were feeding on the dogs' faeces). In the distance one of the adult dogs noticed some impala standing in the grasslands. He immediately gave chase and the rest of the dogs followed on behind, heading towards DumaTau Camp. In the camp Zoot was busy looking at some of the path-lights that were not working and as he looked up an impala brushed past him, followed shortly by a wild dog. Two guests were sitting having sundowners on the main deck when the impala came hurtling through the main entrance down towards the fireplace. The dog followed right behind. The dog finally caught up with the terrified impala and killed it right in front of everyone at the bar. A few seconds after the impala's expiry the rest of the pack came down to feed. Soon after the dogs had left a hyaena or two appeared to scavenge any scraps from the kill, and in the torchlight we could also see a crocodile's eyes shining back as he made his way closer to the water's edge to see if there was anything left over. For the rest of the week we had great sightings of the dogs as they made their way along the river, even once appearing near Savuti Camp.

Cheetah-wise, we saw the two Savuti Boys on two occasions this month. On the 10th the two boys appeared near Savuti Camp, where Kane found them lying on the bank overlooking the grasslands of the Savuti Channel. On the 12th they were seen resting in the shade near "the Backflow". They were quite full and nearby lay the remains of a carcass of an unfortunate warthog. Two White-headed Vultures were picking the bones clean. We did not see them again this last month and assume that they headed back towards Selinda.

One of the highlights this month was welcoming Anthony, Tony and Richard as they ended their 127-kilometre hike from Duba Plains Camp to DumaTau. This gruelling journey was undertaken to raise funds for the "Children in the Wilderness Programme" (Bana ba Naga), where under-privileged children from Botswana are brought on an educational and fun-filled camp to some of the Wilderness Safaris Lodges, where they are shown the value of tourism and conservation to the country. It is the children today that will be the custodians of the natural areas in future years. Well done to Tony, Anthony and Richard for their incredible achievement. Also well done to Gavin, who had to pull out on the second day due to medical reasons. Your spirit was with the other three and helped them complete the journey. Angela, Justin, Geoffrey, Helen, and a whole crew of journalists were also in camp to meet the three journeymen. The staff at DumaTau welcomed them with singing and dancing and then a feast was laid out for them. After eating and doing interviews with the press the guys were then flown back to Maun, obviously tired and yet exhilarated by their amazing journey through one of Africa's wildest areas.

And that's all from DumaTau. We are looking forward to see the area greening up and the rains arriving - but more of that next month.

From
Brian and all the staff at DumaTau

P.S. Some comments from the guests
Peter and Christina- "A wonderful end to a three week safari in Africa. Great hospitality and fantastic guiding."

Alison and Richard - "Our first visit to this magical country - we have seen and experienced so much more than we expected - even 2 kills! Thanks to all.

Michel - "Wonderful lodge; top end for staff and drives. Thank you very much. Bravo!"


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Kwando Safari Camps Update - October 06

Lagoon camp               Jump to Lagoon Camp
• Two pairs of lions were found mating during the week, while another two males was seen moving through the area. A single lioness was also found feeding on a elephant carcass.
• A female leopard seen twice hunting impala along the river.
• Two male cheetahs seen making their way towards Lebala. The tracks of a female cheetah with cubs found and followed but not located.
• The Lagoon wild dog pack consisting of three adults and three pups was found relaxing and hunting close to camp.
• Breeding herds of elephant now becoming a regular sighting throughout the area.
• Big herds of buffalo moving from the Mopane forest to the river almost every day.
• Good sightings of birds of prey including African Hawk eagle, Brown Snake eagle and African Fish eagle.
• Hyena found killing a newborn elephant calf.
• Regular sightings of Black backed Jackal.
• Herds of Zebra, Tsessebe and Impala as well as Roan and Sable antelope has been seen.
• Caracal and Honey badger as well as large spotted genet and Civet has been seen on the night drives

Kwara camp               Jump to Kwara Camp
• A pride of lions consisting of four adult females, two cubs and a three year old male was seen hunting. They were being followed by two one year old males.
• Female leopard with her four month old cub seen regularly. They are both very relaxed and a very good sighting of them relaxing in a dead tree was reported. She later managed to kill a reedbuck and was found feeding on the kill with her cub.
• A pack of three wild dogs passed through the area. They were well fed and therefore was unfortunately not seen hunting.
• A lot of single bulls spotted from the boat as well as a few small breeding herds on the floodplains.
• A big herd of about 200 buffalo was seen in the area and later on a even bigger herd of around 1800. This was one of the biggest herds seen in this area.
• The heronry is very active at the moment with lots of yellow billed storks, sacred ibis and many other small herons breeding. Good sightings of martial eagle, brown snake eagle and black breasted snake eagle roaming the skies.
• Lots of hyena activity around the camp every night. The guides suspect a den nearby, but yet have to locate it.
• Herds of zebra feeding on the plains, as well as small herds of wildebeest and tsessebe is seen regularly. Lots of warthogs found on almost every drive.
• Very good serval sightings both in the morning and afternoon and very relaxed African wild cat seen on the night drives.


Lebala camp               Jump to Lebala Camp
• Three young male lions were hunting in the area around camp for almost a week. They later joined up with another injured male and managed to kill a baboon. A solitary lioness was also seen hunting buffalo close to camp.
• Four female lions killed a wildebeest but ten hyenas managed to steal their kill. Two male lions were also seen following a buffalo herd while a single lioness managed to kill a warthog close to camp.
• A very shy leopard was located close to John’s pan. Another two male leopards found in different locations resting in sausage trees.
• After being gone for nearly a month, the two cheetah brothers were seen hunting impala down old Lebala road.
• Good sightings of breeding herds of elephant almost everyday, some of them very close to camp. Some solitary bulls feeding in camp at night.
• Big herds of buffalo found moving through the area and feeding on the floodplains, almost on a daily basis.
• Birding is very good at the moment with lots of the summer migrants and breeders arriving. Eight wattled cranes spotted feeding together.
• Frogs and snakes are being seen, including a boomslang and black mamba.
• Lots of hyena being seen following lions and trying to take over the kills. Black backed as well as side striped jackal being seen feeding regularly.
• A pack of wild dogs consisting of ten adults and six pups seen resting and hunting impala in the area.
• Very good general game including roan and sable antelope as well as herds of zebra, wildebeest, tsessebe and kudu bulls being seen. Herds of giraffe also frequently found feeding on the edges of the woodlands.
• Lots of sightings of African wildcats as well as a few serval being seen. A mating pair of honey badgers were also found at night. Very good mongoose sightings, with slender, yellow, dwarf and banded mongoose being seen.


Little Kwara camp
• A pride of eight lions, consisting of three males and five females were found hunting buffalo but they did not manage to kill. Two big males found feeding on a buffalo kill, while another pride consisting of two adult females, two cubs and a young male was also seen hunting buffalo.
• A female leopard and her cub was found resting in the shade of a tree. They were both very relaxed with the mother spending time grooming her cub.
• Three young male cheetah were found. They looked very well fed, but was still looking around for another possible meal.
• A few very persistent elephant bulls visiting camp to pick up the jackal berry fruits which are scattered thick on the ground this time of the year.
• A large herd of buffalo seen, with some of the bulls mating with receptive females. These buffalo herds are constantly followed and harassed by various lion prides.
• Broad billed rollers and carmine bee-eaters are back, and wattled cranes, as well as saddle billed storks has been seen.
• Lots of Hyena activity around camp. Very good sightings of black-backed as well as side-striped jackals on the drives.
• Giraffes, zebra, kudu and tsessebe were seen in abundance on the plains.
• Night drives were good, with porcupines, civet, serval and African wild cats being seen.

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Mombo Camp update - October 06                Jump to Mombo Camp

October ends as we watch Scorpio's heart dipping behind the western horizon. Summer is here, and rain has fallen, giving us 11mm for the month, interpreted by many people as early rains, little rain - well, we await. The water levels in front of Mombo have dropped, trapping many fish in shallow pools. This phenomenon of the Delta known as a fish trap ensures continuous action seen from the tents of the camp. When waking up at and looking out from your tent at the contrasting colours that fill the floodplains, the thought crosses one's mind that this must be the Garden of Eden.

Kackal puppy at Mombo

Many animals have given birth, driven by the early rains and food availability. Impala, tsessebe and warthog youngsters have been seen during this month. Interestingly, huge female crocodiles were seen guarding their nests west along Hippo Hide Channel. These crocs will be incubating a well-protected clutch of about twenty-plus eggs, hatching in three months' time. The black-backed jackal pups have provided great entertainment for photographers as they play and fight with the parents for food.

The warm nights of this month have brought us the return of many species that have been absent throughout the winter months. Leopard tortoises have come out from hibernation, followed by other reptiles and many invertebrates. Creature of many myths, the chameleon, has been seen a few times swaying slowly across the roads.

Every day, this time the of year at Mombo brings us a new migrant bird, from Black Cuckoos, Paradise Flycatchers, Carmine Bee-eaters, Yellow-billed Kites and Wahlberg's Eagles to name a few. We still await the famous Woodland Kingfisher and the fashionably late Red-backed Shrikes. One of the birding highlights for the month is definitely that of the African Skimmers. These birds have been seen gliding over the still waters of the Okavango Channel, frequently at the hippo hide.

Cheetah at Mombo camp    Vine snake at Mombo camp

Cheetah sightings at Mombo this month were spectacular and consisted of one female with three young cubs and two nomadic males that brief the concession from time to time. The mother cheetah has settled in the floodplains north of Mombo Camp. These floodplains are rich in game such as medium-sized antelope as well as a mosaic of Candlepod Acacia belts, perfect for hiding the cubs.

There were a few newcomers to the Mombo team this month, including a pack of wild dogs that have moved in from the southern part of the Okavango Delta. Presently we are curious to see how this pack is going to interact with our resident pack and what materialises from the situation.

We look forward to a good summer here in paradise.

Greetings from the Mombo Team

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Chitabe Camp update - October 06                Jump to Chitabe Camp

October is traditionally the hottest and driest month of the year here - the scorching end of the dry season, when the Delta waters recede, leaving only a memory of their passage. It is a time of waiting, of anxious looks at the sky, of a heat that sucks the moisture from the body, a stillness as if the whole earth is holding its breath in anticipation of the rains. This year they came early, an advance guard, perhaps a forerunner of the deluge to come - on the 7th, a shower produced palpable relief from the sun, and then again on the 15th, a storm blew up from the south and violently threw down 9mm in a few hours. To date, we have received 18mm for the month - unusual but a blissful panacea for the parched lands. The rain pushed up a volley of Fireball Lilies like the first firecracker fusillade of summer, and already the first newborn impala have been seen.

The clouds building up on most afternoons have provided a spectacular backdrop to the sunsets out there, and the first summer visitors from the bird kingdom have arrived - Yellow-billed Kites swoop in the heights, and the riverine forest echoes with the shrill call of the Striped Cuckoo. When the Woodland Kingfishers arrive to belt out their thrilling trills, then we will know that summer has truly arrived.

Huge concentrations of elephant have been crossing the concession towards the north, no doubt heading for the bounty of the Mopane woodlands, and one herd seen from the air numbered more than a thousand!

Cape buffalo have been here in great numbers - most likely attracted by the regrowth of grasses after the fire, and several herds have remained around the camp to feed on the succulent, nutritious new shoots, and keeping us awake at night with their plaintive lowing as the herd moves around the camp.

Looking out from the main deck one can sometimes see several species of mammal at once - a herd of waterbuck have moved in, red lechwe, warthog, reedbuck, tsessebe, bushbuck and elephants, sometimes even giraffe.

As is typical for October, a number of great game sightings have also been recorded.

At dusk one evening we watched the pack of wild dogs playfully take on a herd of cantankerous buffalo right across the channel from the camp - we could almost see grins of delight on the dogs' faces as they nimbly skipped around the buffalo before setting off again in search of impala, their more usual prey. They killed an impala in front of Trails camp one evening, and when they returned for it the next morning, a leopard had already found the carcass and placed it in a tree!

One young male cheetah has been seen a few times this month - we think he was part of the Old Chitabe Female's family, now grown and on his own. His mother and sister have not been seen for some time, and may have left the area.

Leopard sightings have once again been very good this month - OT found a pair mating on Mokutshomo island, not far from the camp, and on Acacia road Phinley found Mosadi Mogolo up a tree having been chased there by a troop of baboons. He also saw her a few days later with an impala kill, obviously unfazed by her run-in with the baboons. Apart from that, several others have been seen out there, mostly escaping the heat up in the trees.

One morning's coffee was interrupted by a large male lion walking across the floodplain in front of camp, OT found two lionesses with five cubs near the Gomoti channel, and the rest scattered around the concession. Phinley found the two new male lions with two females on a buffalo kill out near the Santantadibe, and this morning, across the eastern floodplain from camp, OT found one of the females feeding on a zebra calf and seeing off an inquisitive spotted hyaena, despite the fact that her belly was so full it practically dragged on the ground!

As mentioned before, the month has had some high temperatures, averaging about 32 degrees Celsius with the highest recorded at 37 degrees, and the average low at 19, the lowest recorded at 8 degrees. 18mm of rain thus far for the month, and hopefully November will bring us plenty more.

Regards from Chitabe

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