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AFRICAN SAFARI NEWS

October 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.
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.


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

We had our first big rains bringing 7mm of rain for October with temperatures averaging minimum 20 and maximum 32 degrees Celsius.

The new pride of lions was seen again this month in the south of our concession. Initially we saw three lionesses with six cubs, although at the final count there were ten cubs! The lionesses got up to start the evening hunt, and slowly each cub appeared out of the bush and followed behind. These females are obviously doing very well to raise ten cubs. There are a number of different litters with the oldest cubs being 10-12 months old. Mortality is very high among lions especially when the cubs are still small. There are various factors for this including starvation, infanticide and predation by other competing predators.

Ostriches at Tubu Tree   Warthog killing an ostrich chick

A pair of Ostriches experienced predation of a different kind when they lost several of their brood to a warthog! Salani called us out to witness this strange event but when we got there it was all over. The warthog had obviously seen an opportunity; maybe the Ostrich parents had momentarily let their guard down and the warthog succeeded in killing four chicks before they could chase it off. These were four very small ostrich chicks that were not very mobile. When the parents moved off the warthog came back and ate one of the chicks. He could only manage one and left the other three for any other takers to grab an easy meal. By the next morning they were all gone. Judging by the tracks at least one was taken by the local genet.

Warthog eating an ostrich chick

Warthogs are of course primarily herbivorous and feed on the shorter grass shoots and rhizomes. Like bushpigs and other members of the pig family however they are opportunistic and also feed on items such as the fallen fruit of fig trees and marulas (even rooting in the dung of elephants to retrieve undigested marula fruit) as well as tree bark and berries. Warthogs have also regularly been recorded feeding on scavenged carcasses and even more astoundingly interacting with wild dog packs and cheetah families over kills. Records of actual predation by warthogs are less common, but they are known to have killed and eaten snakes and rodent litters. This sighting at Tubu Tree therefore really does contribute to a broader understanding of what warthogs are capable of.

For the birders we have had summer migrants arriving at Tubu, such as the Broad-billed Rollers, Black Kites and Paradise Flycatchers. Ground Hornbills are a common sight in front of camp and there are another two family groups that we know of on Hunda. White-headed Vulture, Long-billed Crombec, Violet-eared Waxbill, Red-headed Weaver, Chinspot Batis, Kurrichane Button-Quail, Willow Warblers and many more were seen out on game drive.

Undoubtedly the highlight of this month was the arrival of four cheetah. Moa found them on a floodplain near Dan's hippo pool on the third of October. Three large sub-adults with their mother have been utilising the floodplains which stretch from in front of camp south to Tubu Corner. They killed four impala in six days as they moved slowly north along the channel. They eventually ended up in front of camp one afternoon but did not hang around for long before moving north where they killed a red lechwe at the airstrip. Interestingly it was the young female that made the kill after a lengthy chase and not the mother.

Cheetahs at Tubu Tree

Cats and dogs - we had a couple of days of great game viewing around camp starting with a lioness stalking a herd of zebra on the floodplain in front of camp one morning. She got quite close to them but they spotted her and she gave up the stalk to rest in the shade of a palm scrub. The next morning we had cheetah chasing impala right past the pool area. They missed the impala and rested under the palm island in front of camp the whole afternoon.

Later that same afternoon five wild dogs made a brief appearance past tent one, they were on the hunt and moving quickly in their familiar trotting motion, stopping every now and then to listen out for game, but were soon gone again. The next morning we spotted a male lion on the floodplain across from camp. He was sniffing around where the lioness had been two days before. A herd of zebra all staring and snorting in the same direction alerted us to him. We drove out and found him following the scent of the lioness; he is a young nomadic male that we have seen before.

We found the wild dogs again a few days later. All were resting with full bellies in the shade of a fallen Knobthorn tree. We keep track of both the cheetah and wild dogs that are seen in the area because they are both endangered species, their individual identity shots get sent to their relevant conservation organisations where they are kept on record.

Looking forward to seeing you out here!
Tubu Greetings,
Anton, Carrie, Moa, Moyo, Salani and the Tubu Team


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Jao Camp update - October 06                Jump to Jao Camp
This October, unlike in years past, had started off very mildly with temperatures as low as 16°C but towards the end of the month the heat was on, with no cloud cover for days, barring one short shower. The humidity rose sharply this month as the rains are building for the months to come - recorded at 36%. We have been very lucky this past season without any fires, and we are all praying for the rains to come. This change in temperature also brought a very rapid drop in water levels and we will stop the boating activities at the end of this month as it is too low for motor boats but the mokoros are still operating year round as usual.

This drop in water levels has brought a whole new perspective to the game viewing in Jao. We have been seeing up to four breeding herds of elephant at one time around the camp browsing the trees and shrubs carrying fruits. The Jackalberry, Sycamore Fig and the African Mangosteen trees are all full of fruit at this time of year. Not only has it brought the big pachyderms to our area but also a huge array of birds as well as baboons and monkeys. This also keeps them in close proximity to the guest areas so there is a lot of interaction here and some great photos have been snapped.

We had lots of sightings of our resident elephants around the camp environment. Onion-boy and the Old Bull have made Jao their home this last month. Onion-boy kept us busy as ever breaking the same railing at our public toilet and the Spa. Hopefully this will come to an end if the rain arrives as the elephants will move away till the next winter.

Our resident leopard Beauty has not been seen very often this month. She and her cub Tumo have gone their separate ways as the cub has reached maturity now at around 12 months old. Tumo on the other hand has been seen very often close to and mostly on the Island. One night this silly leopard was spotted stalking two hippo! She has grown very accustomed to the area and living alone now and we hope to have some wonderful seasons to come.

The male leopard has also been spotted very often this month close to camp but he is very shy and only glimpses of him were seen before he ducked into the bushes only to hide. The guides seem to believe that this is Tumo's father and somehow he is always around especially when the lions are in close proximity, maybe he is just keeping an eye on her?

The lion pride are moving all over the concession between Jao and Kwetsani, making kills every three to four days. Their diet at the moment consists entirely of red lechwe. The cubs have moved with Freddy, one of the resident males, and their mother most of the time this month, joining Vee, the other male and the other pride female every now and again. They have been spending a lot of time in the area at the hide as it is open across the floodplain which has totally dried up now. The two brothers are still not friends and it looks as though this family tie is not going to be rekindled soon. Although there is a lot of bad blood between these two they are formidable contenders when it comes to any other lions visiting this area, as the guides saw this month when we had a nomadic pride coming through but leaving very soon as they did not want to face the consequences.

Some of the managers have been blessed with seeing a pangolin this month for the very first time in six years. This was when guests were out on a night drive and they found it near the manager's house on the Island. To top it all we had a French group in camp towards the end of the month and when one of the ladies came to tea on the day of arrival (this was in the middle of the afternoon) and asked if we know what type of animal she has recorded on her video camera, and guess what, a PANGOLIN! Unfortunately we could not get a photo of this very rare and amazing creature, hopefully we will see it again!

The bushbuck has not been seen again, but we have had some male red lechwe start grazing in front of the camp as the water levels have dropped considerably. We have also seen some reedbuck and hippo feeding a lot closer to camp than usual. Our resident elephants are still creating a nice afternoon sighting as they visit the areas in front of the rooms, picking the fruit off all the trees or eating what has dropped to the ground. The banded mongoose are still with us and the group just gets bigger and bigger by the month; we are finding it difficult to count them now, there are just too many!

Our birding has been great with regular sightings of the Yellow-billed Kites swooping down on anything small that moves. The Woodland Kingfisher is a beautiful bird that we have only heard and seen a few times this month, but sure enough it has rained every time we heard them. There are a lot of birds nesting and some that have hatched already. The Barbets (Crested and Black-collared) and Starlings are still nesting, but on the other hand the Francolins are all running around after mommy like little chickens. One of the most exciting things to see this month was the African Skimmers closer to Hippo pools; Victor one of our guide/Managers got an amazing photo of one skimming the water which is a rare treat in itself.

Some of our visitor's comments:
"From the moment we set foot in camp, it was a series of delights, highlights and pleasant surprises." - J & Aurore LD

"From the moment I put foot in Jao I realised the word paradise. But even more memorable are the people along the way. The traditional dancing and the dinner were very special and the voices of the singing will remain in my heart forever. Besides the spectacular lodge and surroundings you are operating, one of the treasures is the staff. I am very sad to be leaving today but I hope to see you all again soon." - M-BS

"Excellent management, excellent reception and friendly staff." - M&MH

Thanks once again for sharing our wonderful highlights of the month and we encourage you with all the news and excitement to come and visit our beautiful country, rich in culture and filled with a variety of animals too many to mention. Until next month!

Regards
The Jao team

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Jacana Camp update - October 06                Jump to Jacana Camp
This has been an interesting month at Jacana camp, ranging in "happenings" from elephant bulls in musth visiting this island paradise to Pel's Fishing Owl sightings. As a guest so eloquently quoted "I have been travelling through Africa as an avid amateur birding photographer, but never have I been able to see, experience and photograph these rarely seen birds and so many other of Africa's wonderful wildlife" - DH.

The weather this month was playing its role in having a memorable month not only in game sightings but in the enjoyment of our guests on all other activities as well. It has been mostly warm, with temperatures ranging in the mid-20 degree Celsius in the mornings to late 30s in the afternoons. Good weather for an Okavango Delta safari experience. We had some rain, about 4mm, this month, and the weather promising for a while now that this could be a good raining season, normally starting around November month. These rains will make the Okavango Delta seem like a fresh painting, with lush greens and colourful flowers and birds everywhere. Like someone once said "visiting the Delta in summer is like living in a painting".

This month at Jacana the game sightings surpassed even our wildest dreams, with leopards seen almost every other day, including a mother and cub playing around while she teaches it to hunt - an absolute joy to watch. Our resident pride of lions are also getting closer to camp as the water levels recede, and will soon be visiting our little island, as the herds of red lechwe are returning and grazing the fresh new grass outside our main deck; this can be viewed from the comfort of the pool deckchairs while sipping on a G&T. The plains game are getting nice and fat on all the new grasses, and even the giraffe are starting to look snobbishly down their long noses at passing guests on walking safaris.

Our guests enjoyed the fishing activity immensely, and most of the times even beat the guides with the biggest catch of Tiger Fish and Bream. All of these activities just enhanced the pleasure of going out in mokoros for an afternoon of unsurpassed bird and game viewing, in the tranquillity one finds only in the Okavango Delta.

We have found a rarely seen and very rare, beautiful African Rock Python who has made Jacana his home, and guests enjoyed watching this slow moving reptile making his way all over the island.

Crocodiles and hippo are also seen more regularly now as the water levels recede. We have a new baby hippo in the large pools to the south of our camp, and at night their resonant calls can be heard for miles.

We are looking forward to having you join us here on our wild island paradise, and showing you all the wonderful sights and sounds of the Okavango Delta.

Jacana greetings,
Peter, Vashti, Jargon, George, Wago and the Jacana Team

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Kwetsani update - October 06                Jump to Kwetsani Camp
Forget about spring, its summer, summer, and just for a change, a little more summer! This has been a really hot and dry month, with only the threat and promise of rain, just a few raindrops to wet the ground. The ground which was completely saturated and covered in water just a few months ago is now completely dry.

The days have been really hot at about 32 degrees Celsius (90F) and a maximum of 35 (95F). The early part of the evening is still warm but it averages out at about 20 degrees Celsius (68F) so that you can sleep well, the only exception being if you can't sleep through the roaring of the lions. What a great African sound!

Lions at Kwetsani

The lions in the area are doing really well. The two females and the two cubs, which are now about seven months old, seem to be moving all over the place. The young ones are highly mobile now and are going on all the hunts, but stay in the distance to watch the professionals do the work. They are not seen around camp so much anymore but still come around the area for a bit of hunting and just to check that their territory is still intact. We have seen them as far as Jao Camp's bridge near to the airstrip but they are normally in the floodplain areas preying on red lechwe. The males have been staying and moving around with the family a bit more and they seem to have sorted out their differences. All six of the lions are healthy and the males have a few more scars but are looking and walking much better now. The cubs have sorted out the pecking order when the food has been caught but are still able to steal an extra piece from the males, when they are not watching. We have not seen too much of the pride to the north again but it did look as if one of the females was lactating heavily, so she may have given birth to some young. The pride seems to be avoiding the family of 6 and moved even further north as the water levels dropped.

The water levels are very low now and we are not able to do much boating; it is very limited at the moment and soon to be none. The mokoro trips are still available and offer a great Okavango Delta experience. We have been seeing many hippos around and sometimes even out of the water at night. With more and more land becoming available we have been doing more night drives. It is more just the experience of getting out at night to see what goes on after dark but you do find some nocturnal animals like civet, porcupine, honey badger and even a genet.

In the camp we have been really lucky to find civet, porcupine and the bushbuck in the evenings next to the walkways on the way back to the rooms. The highlight was to discover how the Jackalberry tree got is name: We have seen a pair of side-striped jackal feeding for a couple of nights on the fruits of the tree, which had been knocked down by the baboons and monkeys.

It has been about a year since the beautiful 3.5m African Rock Python was seen on the termite mound sunning itself but only for one day. Must have been the call of the summer and she is on the move already around the camp, probably in search of the first meal of the season.

Leopards have been quite elusive this month but we have had a few sightings of the leopardess and her now very large cub. We think that the cub is making its own kills already and is doing very well. He has reached a good age to probably survive but the big shy male has also been seen in the same area as the female again. Their territories obviously overlap but this could be a telltale sign that the cub might start to be pushed out of the female's area but only time will tell.

Hope that you have enjoyed the time here in our home this month and may the African dust settle on your shoes forever, never to be brushed off again?may there be many more new faces in the coming time.

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

06-22 October
Once again Duba is an exceptional place to learn more about the lives of lion and buffalo. In our last report we mentioned that one of the females of the Tsaro Pride had introduced her three cubs to the pride. Over the weeks we have witnessed the beauty of this large lioness and her siblings interacting with one another in a warm atmosphere, making this a thrilling highlight for all our guests. Sadly, we learned once more that the high mortality rate of the cubs is a brutal reality: first the male cub disappeared and has not been seen again, only to be followed by his two sisters.

Nevertheless, the vast open plains of Duba provided us with another exciting sighting. In the immediate surrounding of an island named Postcard, probably because of its stunning beauty, a large flock of White-backed and Hooded Vultures were perched on the highest branches of a Jackalberry tree, indicating the presence of a kill. After a long search in the tall grass, one game drive vehicle found three lionesses on a fresh buffalo kill. While "Silver eye" (also known as the cub-killer) and her two relatives were feeding, and the guests caught sight of two adorable 3- or 4-month-old cubs appearing from under a Tsaro palm to join the party.

Lions hunting buffalos at Duba Plains   Lions hunting buffalos at Duba Plains

Hopefully, if they survive, these cubs will one day take part in the phenomenal interaction we witnessed later in the month near Kabule Pan. The other main lion pride of Duba, the Skimmer Pride, were following and harassing the herd of buffalo. Our guests were patiently waiting for some action when they found themselves surrounded by hundreds of hoofed, powerful horned buffalo as the lions launched their first attack on an isolated cow. In a split second three lionesses jumped on her back attempting to bring her down, immediately helped by six more lions. The panicked herd tried to escape in a big cloud of dust. While the Skimmer coalition managed to bring her down, one female grabbed the buffalo around the throat to strangle her.

The fleeing herd immediately turned around and decided to face their enemy. The massive buffalo bulls formed a sentinel attack, followed by the reorganised herd and charged the lions. They managed to rescue the injured cow which rapidly stood back on her feet and sought cover in the middle of the herd. One lioness got tossed up in the air by the massive horns of a bull. This sudden attack made the lions pause, then scatter in every direction. However, the cats were reluctant to abandon their prey and turned back, loudly growling at the nearby bulls. Both lion and buffalo stood their ground, moving backwards and forwards? and the time froze for our guests for several minutes in the middle of this wild animal battlefield. Finally, the lions withdrew to the nearest shade, exhausted and unsuccessful! But we know this is not for long; after all, this is Duba Plains?.

Aside from lion and buffalo sightings, we've had regular sightings of bat-eared foxes and their adorable pups and as well as the active den of the rare and elusive aardwolf to the south of Kudu Road.

With the drying up of the Delta floodwaters, a great number of birds such as Black Herons, White Pelicans, Great Egrets, colourful Saddle-billed Storks and Marabou Storks are gathering around the vanishing waters in a frenzy feeding.

Normally October in the Delta is the hottest month but for the last week we had unexpected rain, thunderstorms building huge cumulonimbus clouds in the sky adding dramatic patterns to the stunning landscape of Duba.

Francois Savigny


22-29 October
Another week passed by in the "Plains of Duba" and once again a phenomenal action sighting struck our guests. This weekly report will be a special diary in the life of the lion king. I purposely mention the famous "Disney cartoon" because what happened on that particular day seemed like it has been inspired by the movie itself - strategy, ambush, chase, competition for food and victory were the motto driving the two prides of lions, Tsaro & Skimmer.

At 4:30 pm a game drive vehicle near Buffalo Point found 7 Tsaro Pride lionesses and "junior" the only sub-adult male (12 months old), resting in the shade of a big sausage tree. One of the females started to stare at something that caught her eyes. Using our binoculars, we aimed at that same direction, desperately trying to find what she was looking at - nothing! Lions have this extremely accurate vision that allow them to spot the slightest move in the far distance. Within few minutes all the lionesses aimed at the same far away spot and one by one stood up and walked towards it. The open plains provide very little cover and we could witness a strategic move taking place. The lionesses fanned out all over the place, using different termite mounts as vantage points, positioning themselves in an almost military action.

But what for? Was this the prelude of a buffalo hunt? We couldn't tell.

Our guides, Lebo and Ruben decided to investigate and while driving ahead of them, we finally found out what it was all about - the Skimmer pride. "The intruders" - 8 hungry lions - sat on a mount watching the buffalo herd in the distance and were unaware of the approaching Tsaro Pride.

Then the next hour was a pure magical moment for every wildlife enthusiast!

Unnoticed and appearing from the opposite direction one of the magnificent "Duba Boys" took the lead of the Tsaro pride, growling loudly to reaffirm his dominance. The outnumbered Skimmer Pride, realising the ambush decided to withdraw towards their territory. When the powerful male made himself visible, the "intruders" ran straight towards the Tsaro lionesses who had enough time to finalize their ambush. Then within a split second the Tsaro sentinels charged them, inevitably resulting in complete chaos of the Skimmer Pride.

While the first interaction was happening, and extremely confident as a result of the presence of one of the Duba Boys, the Tsaro contingent started to growl and roar loudly, thus reinforcing their right to the territory. Imagine being surrounded by 17 lions tangled in a frantic chase for territory and survival. The Skimmer Pride tried in vain to hide in the tall grass but finally ran away, crossing various water channels in giving way to the Tsaro Pride.

We could feel the tension amongst all the other animals; red lechwe scattered in every direction seeking the sanctuary of inundated vegetation, elephant herds were united in an impressive wall of tusks and trunks surrounding their calves, and the buffalo herd charged off in a massive dust cloud with flocks of white egrets hovering over them. When finally the Skimmer Pride disappeared from sight, the Tsaro lionesses regrouped on a beautiful islet, grooming and roaring to celebrate their victory and to strengthen bonds within the pride -- and all this happening to the backdrop of a spectacular sunset. What a memorable afternoon for all of us.

After dark during this week we continued to have sightings of our resident aardwolf and 2 adorable cubs walking along "Kudu road" and on several occasions, a serval has been sighted hunting in the long grass next to camp.

Francois Savigny


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Vumbura Plains update - October 06               Jump to Vumbura Camp
The past month has been rather dynamic in terms of animal movements, weather and vegetation change. In the first instance we received the first rains of the season in the middle of the month which offset most circadian rhythms of fauna and flora alike. The month of October, usually associated with very high, uncomfortable day temperatures and long hot sticky nights, was overall very mild with the occasional warm wave.

Weather
The mean maximum for the month was 32°C, with the lowest being 25°C and the highest 38°C. The mean minimum temperature for the month was 18°C, with the lowest in the range at 15°C and the highest with 23°C. The first spring rains were two days after the highest minimum temperature and lasted from 05h20 to 09h00 delivering 23mm of rain. Collectively so far for the season we have received 27mm. It is uncertain if we are now fully into the rain season or if we will still have a few hot days left.

Flora
The Jackalberry trees had an extremely heavy fruiting season that lasted right up until around the 20th from midway through September. The reason for such an excessive fruit season was possibly related to the amount of soil moisture still available from the previous season's above-normal rainfall. This could also be linked to the fact that we experienced much less intense photoperiods. The fall of Jackalberry and Knobthorn leaves was also particularly heavy, with the tress dropping up to 70% of their leaves over a 3-week period. The Crotons, and Mopane started budding around the same time about 3 weeks ago and are almost fully foliaged now. It is not just these species, but they seem to show the most progress.

The grass on the floodplains is now only starting to germinate whereas the non-hydrophytic grasses like Cynodon are already halfway through to maturity and we are expecting inflorescence by the end of November.

Mammals
Two elephant herds spent most of the month in camp feeding on the Jackalberries. As the fruit became scarcer the first rains came down and in turn the elephants moved out into the northern and north-eastern corner of the concession after the Mopane and Appleleaf trees. Other herds came down to the lagoon in front of camp to drink, but never hung around. At one stage early in the month there were numerous breeding herds in and around the more popular traversing areas, some of which were not very used to vehicles and kept the guides on their toes.

Buffalo have also been somewhat scarce with one large herd of approximately 300 moving from south to north and then on into the west. Small breeding herds were spotted from time to time but the sightings were haphazard. Lion kills made on the buffalo were mostly during the day.

The lions have been providing some excitement, with members of the Kubu Pride coming through North Camp on four occasions on Monday evenings, just as the guests settled in the boma for traditional "Boma evening." There was consistently one female missing and the reason for this is now quite obvious, as she has produced a cub, first seen on the 27th. The Xugana males from the east were present on a number of mornings at the North Lagoon; we believe that they are interested in extending their range. The Big Red or North-western females have been seen regularly up to four times weekly, one of which has two tiny cubs.

Leopard sightings have been fewer, with the juvenile female that frequents the Mbishi area making up most the sightings this month. No new information has been recorded on recent additions or departures. A large male (unidentified) was moving through North Camp around the middle of the month; talk of a new male close to Kaparota is not yet confirmed.

Cheetah have also been absent for most of the month with a large male sighted on a few occasions around Vumbura Paradise and the airstrip. A female with a juvenile in company was sighted on four occasions this month

The hyaena den is very popular with the guests at the moment. There are three dark young cubs and four cubs starting to get their spots. It seems that there is no dedicated 'nanny' for the den, but random females of the clan that came in on intervals to inspect the den site and maintain peace.

We have started noticing the first of the new antelope appearing: mostly tsessebe and impala. The young impala are being taken by large male baboons on a regular basis and few make it through one week. Young zebra have also been spotted. Sable are sighted with uniform regularity and here again a few youngsters are around; they seem to fare better than the other antelope as the herd fight for the young. A large herd of 34 was sighted early in the month, but these large herds spend their time in the north-east.

Birds
Vumbura is a hive of activity for the more scarce waterfowl including African Skimmers, Black-winged Pratincoles and Slaty Egrets. Wattled Cranes have been seen in gatherings of up to six around the main pan. Yellow-billed Kites are now quite numerous and a group of Ground Hornbills visit the North Camp lagoon about twice weekly. The birds are also deep into the love season, with Green Pigeons, Paradise Flycatcher, Red-billed Francolin, Kurrichane Thrush and Black-headed Oriole nesting within camp confines.

General
The floodplains are mostly dry now and these areas are drawing large numbers of grazers making beautiful vistas for the guests. A number of large fish traps were formed with the ebbing waters, making for spectacular birding. The lights around camp swarm with thousands of mayflies at night and in the late afternoon at the time of the hatch the fish activity in front of the camp is quite spectacular. Gatherings of up to 100 dragonflies frequent the North Camp main area deck in the afternoon and then move down to the water to lay. Numerous flies get taken by the bream who exhibit spectacular aerial manoeuvres to achieve this. The bream are actively constructing their neat little bowls for breeding and depositing eggs and nesting fry. The nests are very close to the bank, possibly to avoid predation from barbell but in the process exposing them to possible damage from wading elephants.

The fish in the bigger channels have also become very active, both in feeding and movement. The barbel are slapping the water after baitfish and tigerfish seem to be moving up close to Pipi Island. The pike are in a bit of a lull at the moment and don't seem to be very active. Large-mouth Bream are exceptionally active now making up a large percentage of the catch.

Shifting seasons, particularly from winter through spring and into summer is always a very intriguing, interesting time as there is a lot of new life and a lot of changes across all eco-spheres. We are still in a dynamic part the year and we look forward to experiencing the jewels of life the Delta has to offer.

G.C. Corbett

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Little Vumbura Camp update - October 06                Jump to Little Vumbura Camp

The last 3 monthly reports have started along the same theme, and this month is no different - "what strange weather we are having!" October is usually the hottest month of the year with temperatures well into the 40s. October 2006 will be remembered for the wind, clouds and a little rain. Sure we had some scorching days, but nothing like we are used to. The weather certainly didn't scare any of the guests or animals away - well except the buffalo. October 20th marked the unofficial start of summer in the Vumbura area, with the return of the Woodland Kingfishers.

The small amount of rain (1mm) did help to spark off some green growth which coincided with the first births of the season - baby tsessebe born on October 10. A few more have been born as well as the first impala of the season.

Lion cubs at VumburaI will leave the "great campfire stories" to our guide Matt, but there were some real special ones for me too: Having lost one of our wild dog pups to a lion in September, we still had sightings of the rest of the pack during the course of October. The lions have been a bit more subdued with three probable mothers: the Big Red female has two cubs that are doing well at about eight weeks old. It was confirmed this week that one of the Kubu females has also given birth but only one cub has been seen. The other Kubu female looks to be lactating but no cubs have been seen yet. We try to avoid disturbing these mothers until they bring their cubs out into the open, so sightings have been kept to a minimal.

Little Vumbura now has its own hide. Well actually, it's the guest loo, but a great place for photographing elephants, especially when they decide to sleep in the middle of the day. Quite bizarrely, a large bull elephant spent two afternoons flat out on the ground sleeping in the shade between room 1 and the guest loo. It was only my second time seeing a sleeping elephant, but during the middle of the day this was bemusing to all the guests and staff. He even decided to visit the bar in the evening for a gin and tonic.

Lions at Vumbura

Here's the news from the bush from Matt:
It has been a great month from a guiding point of view, with new additions being seen on an almost daily basis: lion cubs, elephant calves, tsessebe calves and even a very early impala lamb.

It was early on in the month that we located one of the Kubu male lions resting on a termite mound. He looked as if he recently eaten and as it was still quite cool we decided to wait and see if we could see any vultures starting to fly or roost which would indicate the sight of the kill to us. It was not long before the first vulture was seen and we moved in that direction, where we found the Big Red lionesses and the other Kubu male around the remains of a large buffalo bull. This was a great sighting but the highlight was that the younger lioness had brought her new cubs to the kill and we were able to see them for the first time: two very tubby but healthy male cubs.

Selonyana, a female leopard at VumburaSelonyana, the young female leopard from the area, has provided some great entertainment this month and Emang was lucky enough to watch her stalking and killing Guineafowl late one morning. Later that evening I was able to find her as she climbed into a large Sausage tree. She was definitely moving with purpose and as we watched she moved to the top of tree where she flushed another group of Guineafowl that were roosting - managing to kill one as it flew off!! This leopard is one of our stars and just being able to watch her moving through her territory is a highlight of any drive.

Elephant at Little VumburaElephants have been plentiful with large herds being seen daily in the concession. There are a large number of calves and watching the little ones learning how to use their trunks is a treat. The large bull that Rohan mentioned has provided us with some great sightings; we have seen him a number of times feeding in the channel as well as resting and sleeping.

The Kubu pride has been seen a number of times and with the two lionesses away giving birth the five remaining members have been moving throughout their territory. The four sub-adult males are growing quickly and if they stay together will be a very strong coalition. We have seen them on two small kills - both warthog.

The cheetah male has been in the concession area for the majority of the month and we have seen him on numerous occasions surveying his territory from a lofty perch on a termite mound.

Cheetah at Little Vumbura

As for birding, we have seen the return of most of the migrant species: Carmine Bee-eaters, European Bee-eaters, Broad-billed Rollers, Ruffs, Woodland Kingfishers and Yellow-billed Kites are common sightings. The Yellow-billed Kites in camp have provided us with some great sightings: watching them work together to hunt fruit bats was a definite highlight. One bird would fly in under the trees and flush the bats while one or two birds would wait and hawk the bats as soon as they flew out from the cover of the trees.

Fishing has also been very good with a number of guests managing to hook into some Tigerfish as well as some very good Nembwe (Yellow-throated Bream) being caught further down the channel.

Last but certainly not least, it was a great privilege for us to witness and support our top guides and guide trainers who walked from Duba Plains to DumaTau. Tony Reumerman, Anthony Bennett, Gavin McCabe and Richard Coke chose to walk a distance of 120km over 6 days between these two Wilderness camps to raise money and awareness for the Children in the Wilderness campaign. Gavin unfortunately had to be helicoptered out after suffering from dehydration but the others successfully reached DumaTau on the 31st.

In closing, I would like to welcome Chief back to Little Vumbura. Chief left the island 2 years ago to go and work at Duba but now he is back to join the team.

Bush regards from,
Rohan, Molly, Eva, Dardley and the whole Little Vumbura family


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Namibia camps
Palmwag Rhino Newsletter - October 06               Jump to Palmwag Rhino Camp
The winds during the month of October were very inconsistent and some days we had our "Hair dryer" (East Wind) on during very early hours (before sunrise) until lunch time when the "Hair dryer" went off, followed by "Our African Air-con" (Prevailing South-westerly Wind), which we had regularly every day in this time of the year and we switched it off around dinner time.

Our evenings here in Rhino Camp are still very cool, while the days were very hot and sometimes on our rhino tracking we were almost baked from the hot African sun during the long distance walking.

With the winds we saw many birds of prey (the Eagles are back with the rain) using air pockets for soaring and gliding in the crystal clear blue skies. On a few occasions we had "little shower" pouring around 2-5 mm each time and we were very thankful and excited for these showers in this time of the year.

Some local species of grass managed to come out and immediately attracted huge numbers of zebra, springbok, gemsbok and other animals and birds. When the African sun slowly disappears behind the horizon we had a collection of colours on the sky that even Picasso would not have been able to mix together with his brush. Sometimes the clouds gave an extra special feeling during the sunsets and made the Damaraland the best place to be. In the evening, around the campfire before or after dinner we had a great look at the "Diamonds on a Black Velvet Sky" where the stars are sometimes so close that you feel as though you can touch them at all times. Our temperatures for October were during the night around 14 and during the day around 35 °C.

Many local species of grass and bush began to flower after the rain we received.

On our morning and afternoon drives we had excellent and absolutely amazing rhino sightings in the vicinity of Rhino Camp. On one afternoon drive we came across a beautiful family of black-backed jackal - mum, dad and four pups and spent time with them on their afternoon "scavenge and search" walk just a few km from our camp. Lions were seen on a couple of occasions in different areas near to a spring, proving to us that they do cover long distances to keep up with the seasonal movements of the game. Two lionesses and one cub were seen only just a week ago and they came back to the same spring after a month of being absent! At the other spring we had pride a of seven lions together on a zebra kill staying there for a few days, using huge Salvadora bushes to find refuge from the heat of the day. We also had magnificent sightings of leopard and cheetah as well during the month.

Springbok, gemsbok, kudu, steenbok, klipspringer, Hartmann's mountain zebra, giraffe, elephant, scrub hare, suricate, ground squirrel and black-backed jackal are seen regularly on our drives.

Birdwise, we saw Kestrels, Falcons, and Eagles usually high in the sky or perching on the Shepherd's or Mopane trees. Tawny Eagles are back in the area along with the rain. Several clutches of Namaqua Sandgrouses were seen throughout the month of October in the area of the camp and on our drives. During October we had great sightings of birds such as Crows, Doves, Plovers, Bokmakieries, Martins, Coursers, Sparrows, Shrikes, Sangrouses, Larks, Sunbirds, Swallows, Chats, Starlings, Finchlarks, Guineafowls, Titbabblers, Weavers, Bulbuls, Finches, Hornbills, Mousebirds and regular endemics - Ruppell's Korhaan and Benguela Long-billed Lark and rare Orange-river Francolin for this area of the Namib Desert.

GUEST COMMENTS
"What a wonderful couple of days with such warm and friendly people. We look forward to further visits." PF, England
"Thank you very much indeed to all for a really fantastic stay. Thank you, in particular, to Chris for an excellent and interesting Rhino day. This is an extremely worthwhile project." M&L, England
"There are two things we will never forget from our stay in Rhino Camp: 1. The rhino and her calf, how amazing it was to see these wild animals tracked in the proper old traditional way, massive thank you to the trackers. 2. The fantastic hospitality, friendly staff made our stay perfect, we felt very welcome and we will come back sometime. Rosta, thank you so much for being such a fantastic guide, best yet, very knowledgeable on everything and enthusiastic on everything, thank you so much." - O&K, England

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Sossusvlei Wilderness Camp update - October 06                Jump to Sossusvlei Camp

Winter is gone and the appearance of Spring's flora announces the arrival of the new season. With each day there comes a difference in weather, lead by the soft white coverings of summer cloud. The sightings are amazing! Big herds of springbok and oryx take shelter under blooming acacia trees as temperatures soar through the forties. The smelly shepherd trees are the most recognizable of the desert's inhabitants with their familiar pungent odour.

Human minds are blown away, thinking of the harsh conditions of the living Namib Desert. The thoughts of game being exposed to extreme day temperatures and their continual quest for water bring to the forefront their specialized and adaptive ways of surviving in this most unforgiving of climates.

I took a walk over the Pre-Namib plains just before the sunset where I eyed a different life style. Wow! An aardwolf scent marking its territory. What an interesting walk! Very excited I kept on exploring and believe it or not six Bat-eared Foxes shown up. After two and a half kilometers walk I was welcomed by a Cape Fox lying outside the den, that's when I realized I wasn't all by myself. The Namaqua Sandgrouse were flocking away from the waterhole as the Double-banded Sandgrouse were descending. As the sun set the echoes of the Barking Geckos filled the plains of the Pre-Namib. That's the most searched bird after sunset, but never found (Barking geckos).

Morning temperatures very much mild but, midday sun shows no mercy. Some mornings are misty or really windy while middays get multi directional winds meaning prevailing west and east wind. Common game are coming to artificial watering holes like Oryx, springbok, ostrich, black-backed jackal and rarely spotted hyenas and mountain zebras. The game roams freely over twenty one thousand hectares. Bird watching is incredible with two secretary birds nesting and a Striped Cuckoo seen several times in the Aub riverbed. Can you believe it, at Elim dune while we were enjoying the brunch we were disturbed by a howling hyena. We hoped to see the hyaena, but were entertained instead by tok-tokkie beetles, thermal dancing lizards, Yellow mongoose and hovering Dune Larks. What a blessed day of sightings!

On night drives the aardwolves are the most seen nocturnal creatures as well as bat-eared foxes and quite common on early morning excursions to Sossusvlei too. One would think nothing could survive in The Namib's sand sea, but once we have familiarized ourselves to the living desert, it's fascinating to see the way the small animals have adapted. The headstand behavior of the tok-tokkie beetles are mostly observed on dune crests on foggy mornings, while collecting fog condensation. It's also interesting to see how these animals are dealing with the extreme day temperatures. Shovel-Snouted Desert Lizards are doing the thermal dance or sand diving to escape the surface temperatures on the dunes. Early morning walks on the lee side of the dunes reveal the first edition of the Bushmen newspaper informing us of all the previous night's goings on. The dead plant and animal material (detritus) provides the main food source of the Namib's small creatures. I would say that planet Namib is a truly unique and indescribable place riddled with sand dunes that are recorded to be amongst the highest in the world.

Climbing Big daddy or the Crazy dune offers a view that speaks a thousand words. I host visitors from all over the world to enjoy the peace and tranquility that the dunes offer. Many leave with fond memories, and promises of returning while others leave with no promises but a genuine appreciation of the time they have spent with me. I am always intrigued by the change in mood that a climb up Big Daddy can produce: The cheerful chatter and laughter that marks the initial climb up the ridge ends with the deftly silence that accompanies the awestruck faces as they marvel at the inspiring view that unfolds around them from the summit. "Incredible!", "unbelievable!", "Wow!" periodically puncture the silence. Mother Namib has the power to seduce all those who survey her and occupy a little piece of everyone's heart. The next sounds I hear are invariably the roar and trembling, as the guests run down the dune, enjoying themselves. After some minutes the voices died away and the typical desert sounds prevailed once again in The Namib.

Dios Hoeseb


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South Africa camps
Pafuri Camp Newsletter - October 06                  Jump to Pafuri Camp
About halfway through the month we experienced 38mm of rain in half an hour. It saturated the area filling up pans and leaving large pools of water on all the roads. It bought great relief to the wildlife; not only from the searing heat but also allowing the vegetation to recover slightly enough for them to have a little bit of nutritional grazing. The area is however already starting to dry out as the temperatures once again climb into the 40s.

One of the sightings to remember for the month was of a leopard on the opposite side of the Luvuvhu just lying in the sun. The sighting was from the main deck of the Lodge while all of the guests (some of them new arrivals) were having afternoon tea. The other sightings highlight of the month occurred when a group of guests on a walk near the Hutwini Gorge witnessed a large baboon kill a juvenile bushbuck. The mother of the bushbuck tried in vain to save her young offspring, but to no avail.

Mammals seen included: Honey badger, hippo, blue wildebeest, eland, waterbuck, spotted hyaena, large spotted genet, African civet, black-backed jackal, Burchell's zebra, elephant, large herds of buffalo, some great sightings of kudu especially some of the old males with their impressive looking horns, reedbuck have been seen twice around the Manqeba Pan area. A large herd of eland are still seen regularly at Mangala.

Predator sightings were good this month with better than usual spotted hyaena sightings and the return of cheetah to the concession, which had been absent for 6 weeks or so. An adult male was the animal seen this month on a couple of occasions. Leopard were seen only slightly more often with the best sighting that mentioned above. Lion were viewed frequently however and were seen on 16 days this month. The most regularly viewed animals were the two adult lionesses of the Pafuri Pride who currently have six cubs between them. A sub-adult male and female also moved into the area around camp and their totally relaxed natures made for spectacular viewing. The old Pafuri male was seen mating with two different lionesses.

There have been a total of 222 bird species sighted this month, these included returning migrants like Thick-billed Cuckoo, European Bee-eater, Plum-Coloured Starling, European Swallow, Red-chested Cuckoo, African Cuckoo, Broad-billed Roller, and Carmine Bee-eater. An exciting find was an African Black Duck and Pel's Fishing Owl and other local specials were seen regularly.

Climate
Average minimum temperature 22°C
Average maximum temperature 38°C
Rainfall 38mm

Thanks
Geoff Mullen

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

TURTLE SEASONS GREETINGS TO ALL TURTLE LOVERS!

We cannot believe that this time of year has rolled around again. Winter has come and gone, and Rocktail's turtles have arrived again.

This season has got off to the most incredible start. Never before, have we experienced an opening drive as we did this season. For the first time in Rocktail's turtle research history we saw a turtle nesting on the very first drive. Everyone on the drive that night knew that the chances of seeing a turtle were slim, but wanted to experience and be a part of the first drive down the beach. Already having gone to Mabibi, turning around, and just passing Lala Nek and into the home stretch, Mbongeni could not believe what he saw in front of his spotlights: the very distinct tracks of Loggerhead Turtle making her way up from the sea to lay her eggs.

Mbongeni and all the guests waited patiently for her to dig her nest, and once she started dropping her eggs, Mbongeni tagged her with tag number ZA RR525. She also measured in at a large 99.5cm in length. Naturally, she was snatched up quickly for adoption, and she is now known as Wendy the Loggerhead turtle, and her new parents, Rob and Lynn, are absolutely delighted. Congratulations to the parents!

Lily the Loggerhead turtle

After the sighting of Wendy, we went through a couple of nights without seeing any turtles or tracks, but by the 22nd of October, our luck was in again. Justin and Tatum spent three nights with us at Rocktail - Obviously DIE-HARD turtle fans, they did not miss a drive. On the night of the 22nd they were the only couple brave enough to endure a little wind and drizzle on the research drive. Well, this certainly paid off for them, as they were rounding the corner, just before Mabibi, they saw the tracks of a Leatherback turtle that had just come up to lay her eggs. This first Leatherback of the season was already adopted by Eicke from Germany, in July this year. She was tagged with tag number ZA RR524 and now goes by the name Goa. Unfortunately for Justin and Tatum, Goa was already adopted, but this did not stop them from adopting a turtle that was still waiting to be adopted from three seasons ago. They adopted a Leatherback turtle, with the tag number KK062, and she now goes by the name Miss Muffitt.

For anyone who partook in any of the drives on the 25th and 27th of October, it was truly a night to remember. On both these drives, both a Leatherback and a Loggerhead was seen. All four of them were also new mothers, and Gugu tagged all four of them. The Loggerhead seen on the night of the 25th, which now has the tag number ZA RR507 was adopted by Jim, Angela, Lily and Jack, and has been christened Lily, as Lily got to watch her lay her eggs on the beach that night.

The Leatherback also seen on the 25th is now known as Uthando, which means 'love' in Zulu. She has the tag number ZA RR523, and was adopted by Sean and Dawn from the U.S.A, who actually started their honeymoon at Rocktail. (What a way to start off!)

Uthando the Leatherback turtle

The Leatherback seen on the drive on the 27th was quickly adopted by Eddy and Leone, who witnessed her huge bulk nesting on the beach at midnight. Gugu tagged her with the tag number ZA RR505, and Leone christened her Mother Bear, after herself, as all her children and grandchildren call her that. Mother bear measured in at a massive 1.6 metres long, and an equally impressive 1.45 metres wide.

The Loggerhead also seen on the 27th was tagged with the tag number ZA RR503, and was also quickly snatched up to join the Thomas family from England. Sam, Alice and Isabel dozed off to sleep on the beach while Chris and Katrina (mum and dad), kept a watchful eye, ready to wake them up when Gugu gave the go-ahead. When ready, they all watched her drop her ping-pong ball-sized eggs into the nest, cover and disguise her nest, and make her way back down to her safe haven, the ocean. Now, coming up with a name for this Loggerhead was quite a task for the Thomas family, and finally mum and dad gave in to all three of their children's favourite names. This Loggerhead is now known Lettuce Coral-Flipper!

Besides all our new turtles that we have seen this season being adopted, a host of other turtles from previous seasons who were waiting to be adopted, now have loving families. Since June this year and up until the end of October, we have had an incredible 39 turtles adopted.

The support for this project has been incredible, and if this opening month is anything to go by, we are going to have many, many more adoptions on the cards. We obviously have many, many interesting nights ahead of us in the coming month of November - and believe us when we say we cannot WAIT!

Until next month,
Andrew, Shannon, Simon, Gugu, Mbongeni and the Rocktail Team


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Rocktail Bay Dive Newsletter - October 06                  Jump to Rocktail Bay Lodge
At the beginning of the month we experienced average weather and sea conditions for this time of year with water temperatures sitting at 21 degrees Celsius and the viz hovering around the 12-18 metre range. Then, as if the final battle between winter and summer was being waged, winter produced an icy drop in temperature, down to 19 degrees and the viz was an unbelievably green 2 metres! These conditions only held for three days and by the end of the month summer had certainly won the battle producing sea temperatures of 24-25 degrees and wonderful viz of between 20-25 metres!

Clive's rare Mauritius scorpionfish was seen at Elusive again, great to know that it is still around. It was seen stalking a small paperfish. The paperfish was pressed up against a piece of seaweed, making full use of its camouflage technique, while the scorpionfish was making full use of its patience, just waiting for the slightest sign that the paperfish was tiring.

Turtle nesting season "officially" started on the 15th October, with the first evening turtle drive. What an opening night, the star was a female Loggerhead turtle, who held the audience captive, as they watched her entire performance: Beginning with the long climb up the beach, to the perfectly executed digging of a hole and the laying of her eggs, to her slow return to the waves, followed by her graceful glide back into the water. All were in awe.

There have been a lot of male Loggerhead turtles and true to form they have been more curious at this time of year than normal! This makes for great sightings as they swim right between divers, allowing everyone a close-up look. During a dive at Pineapple we had a great opportunity to watch one of these turtles for a while. He swam past us and settled between some rocks on the reef, before sticking his head down and scratching his cheek, then twisting around and giving his front flippers a rub - ah, what a good scratch!

The return of summer marks the return of the blacktip sharks (gray reef sharks). We had a wonderful sighting of one at Elusive, with 20m viz we could see right across the reef. The shark came in from the distance until it was about 3-5m away from us and it stayed with us for a while, turning away and coming back a couple of times.

Other shark sightings this month include a 4-5m tiger shark. As we were launching, we saw a huge black shape right up against Island Rock, with its dorsal and tail fin sticking out of the water. At first it looked like a whale shark but on closer inspection we saw that it was a big tiger shark - obviously hunting turtles in the shallow water.

A separate occasion saw another big black shape at Island Rock, this time it was definitely a whale shark, and we all had a wonderful time snorkelling with it. We have had a total of five whale shark sightings this month, three of which were seen on one dive trip, and none of the divers on board had ever seen a whale shark before - let alone three in one day!

"Two great dives. Swam with 3 Whale sharks!" P & U M, U.K.

"You are the best dive team we have dived with. Truly! Thank you for keeping me calm and helping me swim with whale sharks, 3 times!" - J & K, U.S.A

Another beautiful summer giant was seen during a dive at Pineapple Reef. As we descended onto the sand, at the edge of the reef, a big remora (sucker fish) swam in and around the divers. Everyone looked around to see what it might be accompanying, but nothing was spotted. We began our dive - the potato bass swam alongside us; we saw 3 Spanish mackerel swimming mid-water; a big Loggerhead turtle; electric rays in the sand; a porcupinefish hunting; schools of fusiliers and white kingfish darted in and out. Then it glided in, a manta ray with a wingspan of about 3m! It swam slowly alongside us then turned across, in front of us; we watched it swimming head on, and then it turned again and eventually swam out to sea. A first for Wendy and Glynn!

Glynn also spotted a tiny cuttlefish, hovering just above a piece of coral, trying to hide. We watched it for ages, as it flashed its stripes, then blended into the coral again; then darted a short distance away, before blending in again - we were mesmerised by its wonderful display.

Although the humpback whales are on their way home and it is nearly the end of the season for us, we have still had a lot of wonderful sightings. Adrian, who is not a scuba diver, but had come along for a boat ride and snorkelling trip, certainly had the most memorable encounter. First we saw humpback whales from the boat as we were driving to our dive site. Then we saw hundreds of spinner dolphins. Then, while we were diving, Adrian got the chance to see a mother and baby humpback whale from the boat, just her and the whales - can't get more special than that!

On the smaller side of the scale - or is it the not so small side of the scale? Mark found a huge Spanish dancer! It was approximately 40-45cm in length - a giant-sized nudibranch! It was pink and peach, with yellow edging and rhinopores - it looked like a huge fluffy marshmallow! These nudibranches are called Spanish dancers because of the way they look when they swim - just like the flowing skirts of the Spanish flamenco dancers. Mark has been completing his PADI Divemaster Course, here at Rocktail Bay Dive Centre. Well done Mark!

"Spent an intense 3 weeks doing my Divemaster Course. It is indeed a special privilege to be taught by such a professional team! Many thanks!" - Mark P, S.A.

Yours in diving,
Darryl, Clive, Michelle and Karen
The Rocktail Bay Dive Team

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