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Wilderness Safaris News -
Info and updates from Wilderness Safaris
Monthly update from Kings Pool Camp in
Monthly update from Savuti Camp in
Monthly update from DumaTau Camp in
Kwando Safaris game reports.
Monthly update from Mombo Camp in
update from Chitabe Camp in Botswana.
Page 2 Updates
Monthly update from Tubu Tree Camp in
Monthly update from Jao Camp in
Monthly update from Jacana Camp in
Monthly update from Kwetsani Camp in
Monthly update from Duba Plains Camp in
Monthly update from Vumbura Plains in
Monthly update from Little Vumbura Camp in
Monthly update from Palmwag Rhino Camp in
Monthly update from Sossusvlei Wilderness
Monthly update from Pafuri Camp in
Turtle news from Rocktail
Bay in South Africa.
Monthly Dive report from Rocktail
Bay in South Africa.
Tree Camp update - October 06 Jump
to Tubu Tree
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
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.
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.
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.
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!
Anton, Carrie, Moa, Moyo, Salani and the Tubu Team
Jao Camp update
- October 06 Jump
to Jao Camp
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
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
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
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
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
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." -
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!
The Jao team
Jacana Camp update
- October 06 Jump
to Jacana Camp
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
Peter, Vashti, Jargon, George, Wago and the Jacana Team
- 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!
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.
Plains Camp update - October 06 Jump
to Duba Plains
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Little Vumbura Camp
update - October 06 Jump
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.
I will leave the "great campfire
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.
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, 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.
Elephants 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.
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
Palmwag Rhino Newsletter - October 06 Jump
to Palmwag Rhino
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
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.
"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." -
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
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.
Camp Newsletter - October 06 Jump
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
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.
Average minimum temperature 22°C
Average maximum temperature 38°C
Bay Turtle News - October 06 Jump
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
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!
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!)
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
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
Bay Dive Newsletter - October 06 Jump
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
"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
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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