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Page 1 Updates
Info and updates from Wilderness Safaris.
North Island Dive Report from
Monthly update from DumaTau Camp in
Monthly update from Selinda & Zibalianja Camps in
Kwando Safaris game reports
Monthly update from Mombo
Camp in Botswana.
Monthly update from Chitabe
Camp in Botswana.
Monthly update from Tubu Tree Camp in
Monthly update from Kwetsani Camp in
Monthly update from Jao
Camp in Botswana.
Monthly update from Little Vumbura in
Monthly update from Vumbura Plains in
Monthly update from Jacana Plains in
Monthly update from Mvuu in
Monthly update from Pafuri Camp in
Monthly Dive report from Rocktail
Bay in South Africa.
Safaris Updates - April 2007
Prosopis - a tree for all reasons
Prosopis glandulosa, commonly known as the mesquite or honey locust, is a common and plentiful tree in Namibia, so abundant that many think that it is indigenous. However, mesquite comes at a huge cost to the natural flora and is in fact a highly aggressive alien invasive. The tree favours water courses, disturbed soil around water points and farmsteads, roadsides and moist areas around natural fountains. In these areas the tree out-competes natural fauna and in central Namibia it displaces especially the camelthorn (Acacia erioloba) and sweetthorn (Acacia karoo).
Despite its devastating invasive nature, this tree has an array of features that make it rather useful: It grows extremely rapidly, has very dense shade, produces seed pods in great abundance that are eaten by animals and humans alike and because of its rapid growth produces a lot of wood that to date has been used primarily for firewood.
However, the extreme downside of this tree is that it literally strangles other plants out of existence. River courses in the central highlands and those linear river systems carving through the Namib become choked with Prosopis at huge expense to old growth trees like the camelthorn. The seeds that are ingested by almost all wildlife in the area are deposited around natural seeps and there new Prosopis growth literally sucks the seeps dry within a few months. In the Khan and Swakop rivers, this fact has changed the natural ecology of the dry water courses and resulted in a shift of wildlife populations.
Mesquite does however have one other positive feature. Its wood is extremely stable, relatively hard and very attractive when cut. All this would explain why it makes such good firewood with coals that rival any acacia. Large mesquite trees, many probably the ancestors of the original alien invasion, also have large enough trunks and branches that planks can be cut from them and herein lies probably the best use for this tree. Wilderness Safaris Namibia is now using these attractive planks for decking at their camps. In so doing, Wilderness Safaris is laying decks that are not only extremely eco-friendly, but also providing a strong incentive to others to seek alternates for floors and decking other than the traditional hardwoods harvested from diminishing forests around the world. Prosopis decking underfoot can be traversed with a clear ecological conscience, promoting the use of a destructive alien and sparing the demand for other woods. Its durability is also likely to exceed that of traditional decking wood which means that replacement intervals will be longer allowing rather for new deck construction at other camps.
It is a small start but with decking demanding so much wood, it is the perfect solution to raise the demand for the wood of this aggressive invasive tree. Prosopis could become a major provider for select lodges and in so doing save the demand for the destruction of many thousands of other trees that the planet so desperately needs.
Turtle Conservation Drive in Namibia
Wilderness Safaris has launched a conservation initiative in Namibia and Angola, aiming to secure nesting beaches in southern Angola to monitor the feeding and development of loggerhead and leatherback turtles in Namibian waters. The initiative was decided upon after several dead leatherbacks washed up on the Namibian coastline after ingesting items that obstructed their digestive systems.
So far one beach has been secured in southern Angola and information on sea turtles in Namibian waters has been consolidated. The next drive will see the use of Sefofane aircraft for the sighting and recording of turtles on regular scenic flights to identify nesting beaches in the area. Aside from the turtles themselves, they are important indicators of ocean health and are rapid indicators of change in the ocean environment. For these reasons it becomes increasingly important that we take more notice of these creatures, and where possible, include their monitoring in our daily business.
Amazing sighting at Tubu Tree Jump
to Tubu Tree Camp
A great sighting for Tubu Tree this month has been that of head guide Victor Horatius who spotted an African rock python squeezing the life out of a four-month-old impala lamb. Just as the python had it in a proper grip Victor saw a leopard approaching through the grass and knew that this was going to turn into an amazing spectacle.
The leopard came out of the bush, smelled and checked, and was presumably looking for the head of the snake because as soon as it found it, it grabbed the python by the head and crushed it with one forceful bite. The leopard dragged the impala from the dead python only to realize that it was not dead yet – at which point she swiftly dispatched the lamb and shared it with her two sub-adult cubs.
There are several enhancements in the works for Explorations 2008. Aside from the exciting new Explorations – Kafue’s Rivers and Plains beginning this year in Zambia, and The Parched Kalahari in 2008 in Botswana – the Explorations to be discontinued are: The Great Botswana Journey, Untamed Lands, Botswana Namibia Epic and The Great Zambia Journey.
The Great Wilderness Journey will be shortened by one night to run over 10 nights/11 days, with an extra night at Jacana (with land-based activities on the one day) and San Camp being removed. An exciting addition to this Exploration is the “Flight of Angels” air transfer between Kasane and Livingstone over the Victoria Falls! Migration Routes will be extended by one night to run over 9 nights/10 days, spending the extra night at Lechwe Island Camp along the unique Selinda Spillway.
Explorations in Malawi have been preparing for an increase in guest numbers in this “warm heart of Africa.” New arrivals that will enhance these experiences are two brand new, superbly modified Land Cruisers which arrived in Lilongwe to join the fleet. The enlarged rear and side windows of these vehicles provide “stupendous visibility” according to Chris Badger.
New Land Rovers have arrived at Jao with four for Kings Pool and six for Mombo expected in the coming weeks. These new Premier Camp vehicles feature three rows of two bucket seats each with a centre console between each seat that provides space for field guides, cameras and binoculars when out on game drive.
Palmwag Rhino Camp now has its own airstrip which is located about 45 minutes drive from the camp. All types of aircraft from 210 to Caravans can land here, and it will be used by both Sefofane and private charter companies.
Speaking of transport, our people are getting around on the waterlogged Busanga Plains by means of boats with a motor known as a “Go Devil”. Contrary to its name, it has been a Godsend with regards to freight logistics, as it is most effective in about a foot of water covering light grass and vegetation! The motor is a 34 HP and powers a 5.4 meter, flat-bottomed, aliboat / swamp cruiser with a maximum load of around 700kg at a top speed of about 15 km per hour. Its impact on the environment is negligible, as it is used on the existing road network and deeper channels.
Another general reminder and clarification regarding luggage restrictions as it seems that sometimes the soft bags, despite weighing the requisite 20kg/44lbs, are too full or too high to manoeuver into the luggage compartment of the 206 aircraft. The dimensions of the soft bags to be accommodated are as follows: 25cm/9 inches wide x 30cm/11 inches high and 62cm/24 inches long. Please bear in mind that the baggage compartments on light aircraft are only 25cm/9 inches high, so the pilots must have the ability to manipulate the bag into the compartment. When bags are overstuffed this becomes difficult and when it cannot be done results in frustration and embarrassment all round, not to mention delays at the airstrip while bags are repacked.
/ North Island
North Island Dive Report
- April 07 Jump
April has been a great diving month with the weather conditions being very calm, resulting in pancake-flat seas and 30-metre visibility on most days. Generally the sea has been a very balmy 30 degrees Celsius all the way down to 20 metres in depth!
The great weather gave us the opportunity to go out and do two night dives and on each dive we were rewarded with sightings of a giant hawksbill turtle and some wonderful sunsets. We have also had a couple of dolphin sightings, with one group of divers particularly lucky to be in the water with them while they were diving. This is quite a rare occurrence and of course a very memorable experience, especially in their case, as this was their first dive ever in the ocean!
Everyone made the most of these conditions and we had many people trying out diving for the first time and three people even went on to complete their entire PADI Open Water Course with us. From North Island, congratulations to Gloria, Jamie and Carola, and we wish you a lifetime of memorable diving.
Unfortunately we have also had sightings of huge schools of Humphead Parrotfish. Although it is a very impressive sight to see around 50 of these fish each between 50cm and 1 metre long, their strong beaks do cause a large amount of destruction to the hard corals. The damage has been evident on some of our dive sites and although not totally devastated, you can see the marks left by these creatures.
On a positive note, we did some coral reef monitoring dives in early April as we do every 6 months and had some positive results. Generally the coral is coming back steadily after the major warming of the oceans around 1998 which caused massive coral bleaching across the globe. There is plenty of healthy coral around and it is encouraging to see the fish life, corals and crustaceans at quite a healthy level.
We still have the baby Lemon Sharks hanging around the main beach as well as the juvenile Eagle Rays playing just a little further out. These Lemon Sharks are only about a foot long and hang around right on the shore away from any bigger animals that would hunt them as prey.
Fishing has been reasonably good this month with our first Sailfish for this year being caught. This specimen was around 30kg and, true to our principles, was released back into the ocean after a quick photo shoot.
update - April 07 Jump
Another month at DumaTau in the Linyanti Wildlife Reserve and what an amazing month it has been!
The temperatures are still very hot, even though we are at least halfway through autumn. The average minimum temperature this month was 19 degrees Celsius and the maximum was a very high 34 degrees. On the last two days of the month a cold front blew through and the minimum temperature dropped down to 9 degrees. It was very chilly, a forewarning as to what to expect as winter approaches.
The woodlands are drying out very quickly now and few of the seasonal pools in the mopane have any water. Most of the smaller pans are bone-dry already. The water in the Savuti Channel has also all but disappeared and it has now receded all the way back to the Old Mopane Bridge. The floodplains are changing from marshy fen back to grasslands. Osprey, Kubu and Zibadianja Lagoons are all still full to the brim though, and the water is still full in front of Zib Hide. It is a great place to watch hippo at the moment as quite a few pods reside there at the mouth of the Savuti Channel.
Not many species of plants were in flower this month, but this has been the time of the water lilies. At Zibadianja Lagoon and in many pools in the Linyanti River there was a profusion of these beautiful flowers towards the beginning and the middle of the month, which carpeted the water surface in large stands. African Jacanas walked about balancing on the saucer-like leaves that lay on the water, while pairs of Pygmy Geese and small flocks of White-faced Ducks blended in well with the pale flowers. In the mopane woodlands the succulent-like Kalanchoe has been in bloom, in small isolated patches in the shade of the scrub, with bright orange crowns atop knee-high stalks. Some of the mistletoes have also been in flower. These parasitic plants can be found growing high up in the Knobthorn trees and produce quite a lot of nectar, which in turn attracts the extremely pretty White-bellied Sunbirds.
Because of the warmer weather we are still seeing snakes. A mating pair of puffadders was seen one afternoon, right next to the boardwalk. These highly venomous, large, sluggish-looking snakes are beautifully and intricately patterned so as to be extremely well camouflaged, and they blend in perfectly with all the fallen leaves and branches that lie about on the ground underneath the bushes and trees. In this case we were alerted to their presence by the squirrels and francolins that were giving alarm calls and clustering just out of reach. We have also seen a few African rock pythons and even a few black mambas while out on game drive this month.
As winter approaches, most of the bird migrants have now left our area on their northwards journey. 207 species were seen this last month - proving this place is incredible for birds: the mixture of habitats in the area supports a great diversity of both animal and bird species. We regularly see open grassland specials such as Ostriches, Kori Bustards, Ground Hornbills and Secretarybirds in the plains. Coqui Francolins are seen occasionally in the scrublands and we've had great sightings of a Wattled Crane that has been foraging in the moist floodplains near Croc Island and at the edge of the water near Zib Hide. We wonder why it is alone as these birds are usually seen in pairs.
As the floodplains have been drying up over the month there have been a few small fish traps that have formed and gatherings of birds such as Black Egrets, Spoonbills, Little Egrets and Sacred Ibis were witnessed fishing out the shallow pools. The mopane woodlands support populations of specials including Arnot's Chat and Purple Roller. At night the Bronze-winged Coursers call out mournful trumpet that seems to echo through the mopane trees. They have just returned and are calling for mates so as to begin nesting. The Lesser-striped Swallows are also starting to build new mud nests on the underside of large horizontal branches in the riverine woodlands, as they are also winter breeders. An exciting discovery this month was of a pair of Mosque Swallows nesting in a hole in the underside of a large Leadwood Tree on the edge of a dried up pan in the woodlands to the west of Savuti Camp. These birds are not often seen and this is possibly one of only a few nesting records for the species in Botswana (possibly even the first!).
April and May are the months of the impala rut and the male impala are 'strutting their stuff' now. The prime males have set up territories and are chasing all other males out of the area and herding the females in; he then chases them around to ascertain whether they are ready for mating yet. It is hard work for these males and with all the fighting with other males and the constant running around they lose condition quickly over this period. With their lack of concentration at this time of the year and because they advertise their positions aloud the males are often taken by predators.
The general game has been fantastic and is only going to get better as the woodlands dry up and the animals return to the Linyanti River and the lagoons. The elephant numbers are increasing dramatically again. We are seeing elephants on almost all the game drives and there are many breeding herds with females and babies in the area. We have on a few occasions this month seen herds in excess of 100 elephants coming down to drink, particularly in the late mornings.
One morning saw an amazing sight in Osprey Lagoon. There were many herds of elephants along the bank of the lagoon, some playing in the water, others dust-bathing in the sand on the bank, some crossing the lagoon, some mud-wallowing and others just having a great time in the water. There were elephants all over the lagoon and we counted over 200 individuals. We turned off the boat engine and drifted for a while watching all the elephant antics. What a pleasure and a treat. Because of the lack of water in the woodlands we are expecting huge numbers of elephants this dry season.
On most days we are seeing impala, giraffe, kudu, warthog, vervet monkeys, chacma baboons, red lechwe, Burchell's zebra, blue wildebeest and hippo (even quite a few grazing out of the water during the day. There is one particular hippo that likes to feed on the short grass near the staff village and has become reasonably relaxed with the game drive vehicles and has allowed us to get some great photos of him). The zebra have arrived in fairly good numbers in the Savuti Channel on their return journey to the Linyanti River. Although the buffalo have not really arrived yet we are seeing signs of small groups moving through the mopane woodlands and have even had two sightings of these huge bovids this last month. From next month the herds should start arriving back at the river, having spent the summer in the area near the Savuti Marsh (approximately 70km away)
One of the most amazing sightings occurred right in camp on the morning of the 7th. Chantelle, Brian and Zoot were busy in the office when there, on the gum pole, was an adult male vervet monkey busy mating with a female chacma baboon that was obviously in oestrous. She allowed him to mount her and even gave off the characteristic call with the upturned eyes after he dismounted. We were all quite astonished at what we had just seen - inter-species sex! - then we quickly rushed around to find a camera so that we could record it if it happened again. The monkey and the baboon then parted ways and we were left with a very strange story but unfortunately no pictures. If the baboon did conceive from this mating it would be interesting to see how the baby turned out. We will have to watch carefully in the future when the infants are born.
With the bush starting to thin out and the grass beginning to die back we are starting to see some of the smaller mammals again. Banded, dwarf and slender mongooses are seen on a regular basis and we have had a few sightings of yellow mongoose in the sandy areas. Selous mongooses have been seen on a few occasions during the night in the open floodplains and we have even had one or two good sightings of white-tailed mongooses in the Savuti Channel. Night drives also tend to produce one or two African wildcats as they go about their business hunting mice, many springhares ("African Kangaroos"), scrub hares, lesser bushbabies and even the occasional bat-eared fox, side-striped and black-backed jackal. Ban was lucky enough to find a relaxed caracal on a late night drive. Another magnificent small cat that has been seen on a few occasions is the serval and one or two African civets were also spotted this month.
We have had a great month of predator sightings, with lion seen on at least 17 days.
The Savuti Pride has been seen on a regular basis this month, often in the company of two mature males (Sav M 2 and Sav M 4). This pride has been moving quite a bit in the mopane woodlands between Savuti and DumaTau. Towards the end of last month the Savuti Pride met up with a lone female (Sel F 18), who has been a regular in the area since she moved over from the Selinda Concession with her two cubs a year ago, and a clash ensued. Although there were no serious injuries Isis did sustain a deep cut behind one of her eyes and the Selinda Female left with an open wound on her hindquarters.
On the morning of the 22nd Ollie found the pride near a series of large pans in the mopane woodlands feeding on the remains of a large male kudu. The two big males were with them and it appeared that Sav M 4 was paying particular attention to one of the two lionesses (Sav F 2). The next day, when the pride moved away from the pans Sav M 2 left with them. The couple (Sav F 2 & Sav M 4) remained behind. The rest of the pride was quite playful and as they headed east into the mopane they chased each other and climbed fallen trees. Sav M 2 followed on behind the pride, spray-marking as he walked and constantly looking back for his brother - he looked quite dejected. The next morning, we found Sav M 2 quite close to DumaTau. He had been roaring loudly nearby the camp in the early hours of the morning. Sav M 4 was not with him. In fact, the Savuti Pride and a single male (probably Sav M 4) were found near the Boscia Tree on the eastern side of Dish Pan Clearing (at least 12 km away). One of the females had just caught a warthog and the large male usurped the catch and selfishly 'hogged' it, constantly growling and warning the rest of the pride not to come near him.
The Selinda Female (Sel F 18) and her two cubs are still well and fit. After last month's encounter with the Savuti Pride, quite close to DumaTau, this female took her two cubs and headed down the river towards Kings Pool. She had sustained minor injuries from the clash with the pride. For the last year, since she left the Selinda area with her cubs for fear of two new males that had just taken over the territory, she has moved up and down the river between Kings Pool and DumaTau Camps. We believe that one of the Savuti Boys is the father to the young cubs and even though she has moved away from her pride's territory she is still within the territory of the Savuti Boys. She, therefore, does not have to worry about these males killing her cubs and the Savuti Boys will even drive away any other male that may enter into the area and cause harm to the cubs. She has, successfully managed to take care of both herself and the remaining two cubs in a foreign area for quite some time now. What a mom! For most of the month she has been seen in the area between Calcrete Patch and Kings Pool Airstrip. On the afternoon of the 9th she was seen at Cheetah Flats, with her two cubs, feeding on an adult warthog. As the month is coming to its end she has moved back up the river towards DumaTau.
Leopards were seen on at least 14 days this last month. On the 30th Ban was driving on Forest Road when he saw the footprints of a large male leopard and followed them, only to come across the DumaTau Male. He was walking in the woodlands to the north of the channel, spray-marking as he went. We watched as he climbed up a fallen tree and lay there watching a giraffe. The giraffe stared back. The leopard then spotted two warthogs in the distance and quickly climbed down the tree and headed in their direction. They saw him coming and quickly raised tails and fled. He carried on walking and marking territory when a large male baboon spotted him. The baboon gave warning calls and the leopard then decided to head across to the other side of the channel. We watched as he crossed the large open grassland. Approximately 20-30 meters behind him was the baboon. He followed right across the channel and then the baboon climbed up a tall tree and started barking warning calls. The leopard then headed deeper into the woodlands and we left him there.
At the beginning of the month, a sub-adult female leopard was found in the riverine woodlands near "Deadwood". The next evening we saw it again in the same area. We managed to identify it as the sub-adult cub of the Osprey Female. Any movement of the vehicles caused it to hide in the thick bluebushes, but when the movement ceased she became curious and came out to look. After a short while she became more relaxed and started to hunt squirrels. She managed to catch one and quickly guzzled it up. On the afternoon of the 24th Ban was watching elephants at Osprey Lagoon when he heard a leopard calling in the riverine forest nearby. The leopard turned out to be the Osprey Female walking quickly through the thick undergrowth, calling constantly and spray-marking. We think that she may be in oestrous.
The Rock Pan Female leopard has also been seen a few times this last month. She is one of the most relaxed leopards in the concession and is quite easily recognised by a nick in her right ear. She presently has a cub that is 5-6 months old who seems quite relaxed with vehicles. On the evening of the 8th Oaites was driving past Savuti Camp when he came across the Rock Pan Female dragging a large male impala across the channel. It was heavy and she had to stop and rest every few steps. She was trying to drag it towards the base of a tree that was on top of a termite heap, when a spotted hyaena appeared and stole the kill from her. She quickly climbed up into the tree that she was headed towards, where she was safe. We felt sorry for her, as it must have been a lot of work killing the impala and dragging it halfway across the channel.
Cheetah were seen on 5 days this month. The Savuti Boys (the territorial males in the area), a coalition of two male cheetah, were seen on a few occasions. On the 8th they were seen in the area near the Sausage Tree to the east of Savuti Camp feeding on a large warthog.
This has been an awesome month for wild dog viewing at DumaTau, as they were seen on at least 16 days. All of the sightings this month were of the pack known as the DumaTau Pack. There are 16 dogs in the pack, of which six were born in July 2006. Of the 16 there are only three dogs that were in the pack in 2003. These three include Skewtooth - the Alpha Female, Merlin - the Alpha Male and Elrond - the Beta Male. Typically in dog society only the alpha pair mate and all the dogs in the pack assist with the raising of the pups. This month the alpha couple were mating, slowing the pack down considerably. On one or two occasions Elrond (the Beta Male) was also seen mating with Skewtooth.
On the 18th the wild dogs were at the old mopane bridge when they had a bit of a confrontation with some spotted hyaenas that had been following the pack, hoping for scraps. On the morning of the 20th the dogs killed a warthog near Bundu Island in the Savuti Channel. Some hyaenas had been following the dogs and had tried to steal some of the carcass but were attacked by the dogs which drove the hyaenas away. On the 23rd they were seen near the Transit Rd. They had killed an impala and the hyaenas again tried to steal the carcass. The dogs fought them off and after feeding rested in the shade.
On the 30th we found the dogs resting at a place in the Savuti Channel known as Bones. A few dogs got up and headed into the bush on the northern bank. They returned a bit later and one of the dogs was carrying a dead francolin in its mouth. The youngsters used the dead bird as a tag game and chased each other and tried to grab the carcass. Eventually one of the youngsters took the dead bird and ate the mangled remains. In the afternoon, after they had all greeted each other after the midday rest, the dogs headed south along the Savuti Channel. They came across some zebra and harassed them trying to bite at their ankles. The dogs then saw some impala further up the channel and quickly gave chase. The chase carried on into the thick vegetation on the south-western bank and we left them as the sun was setting in the western sky, glowing with bright orange light.
And that's all for the month.
Best greetings from
The DumaTau Team
Selinda & Zibalianja
Camps update - April 07 Jump
to Zibalianja Camp
WHAT'S GOING ON IN THE CAMPS
It is with very heavy hearts that we start this month sharing with you the sad news of the passing of Kuda Gaba who lost her battle with cancer. Kuda was our reservations guru and had been with the company for nearly 7 years. She leaves a massive hole and her efficiency, humour and unwavering loyalty is going to be sorely missed. I am sure you all join us in wishing fortitude and strength to her family during this period.
Selinda Camp's refurb and new main area have been put to good use already and the comments from the first guests of the season have us wondering why we hadn't done this before.
All the camps are now using the newly configured game drive vehicles. The two rows of three seats have now been replaced by two rows of two seats and a back row of three. This configuration allows all our guests to have the so-called "window seat" as well as having enough room to manoeuvre their camera equipment into the best position to get that shot.
Zibalianja Camp was treated to one of the most incredible - and saddest - dramas we have ever witnessed. The great excitement of seeing a female giraffe giving birth outside camp was short-lived as it became evident that the calf was breached. A long and arduous labour eventually resulted in the death of both mother and calf. Needless to say their demise wasn't a total waste and the predator viewing thereafter was outstanding.
The Okavango floodwaters have arrived at Motswiri! Flow measurements of the river continue to indicate that we are in for another good wetting. This means that we will be building river crossings and causeways to ensure access around Motswiri isn't as limited as last year.
On a similar subject, a pontoon has been launched on the spillway not far from Selinda Camp. This will ease the time required to do transfers to and from camp and the airstrip.
A pack of five wild dogs burst onto the scene before morning tea at Motswiri recently, hot on the flying heels of an impala. They brought their quarry to ground near Tent 1 and were content to devour it under the scrutiny of our guests.
We have had a slight management reshuffle. It is a teary farewell to Delmaine and Naushina who have been with us for two years. Their place will be filled by Ishmael and Julia who joined the company recently on a relief basis, but will now move into Selinda Camp permanently.
The western area of the reserve seems to be where it's happening at the moment and our Motswiri guests have been spoilt with exceptional sightings of lion. A buffalo cow fell prey to the big cats and two big males have been seen on several occasions whilst out and about.
Motswiri has also been the site for a couple of encounters with a coalition of two male cheetah. We hope they stick around as the area is not well known for cheetah viewing and these guys are really relaxed and accommodating.
On the eastern end of The Selinda it has been a great month as well. The giraffe birth drama aside, it was business as usual. The Selinda pack of wild dog made an appearance and seem to have picked up a couple of strangers. Normally 16 in number, the pack has swelled to 18. These new additions could well be immigrants from a neighbouring pack and is nature's way of mixing the gene pool, thereby preventing inbreeding within the pack.
The lions are scattered as per usual at this time of year and seem to be exclusively on a diet of pork! The poor warthogs and their young are taking a hammering at present. Two more females are showing signs of lactating, so more lion cubs must be hiding somewhere.
The two cheetah brothers have been fairly conspicuous of late, though no kills were seen this month. Again we think the poor piglets are getting snacked on and we are finding little evidence of kills.
The elephant herds were gathering in good numbers up until the arrival of some late season showers which seem to have sent them back into the woodlands and off the floodplains.
The guides have been doing a number of post-dinner game drives and as a result have been encountering a wide variety of nocturnal wildlife. The large number of serval, caracal and African wildcats is testimony to the good supply of rodents and insects that form the basis of their diets. Two sightings of the elusive aardvark had guides and guests excited, whilst the strange and comical porcupine also made numerous appearances.
New Zibalianja Camp thoughts Jump
to Zibalianja Camp
From Dereck and Beverly:
I think that in many ways we have almost lost the sense of 'safari' in most parts of African tourism today. Lodges in many parts of Africa are getting more and more 'solid', like homes of canvas and wood, just one step away from brick and thatch from home.
What we are kicking around in the broadest concept at the new Zibalianja is a return to the elegant safari under canvas, but with the ultimate style of what many early travellers pioneered, only better. What we plan at Zibalianja is an ultra-exclusive (in the truest sense of the word; where you are alone) and ultra-personal experience in the old style luxury safari, but taken to a new level. It will be a camp which a family or a small group of friends can book out for that ultimate private experience in a remote and beautiful part of Africa.
The wildlife at Zibalianja is stunning: wild dogs den there, lions chase hippos, and there are elephants everywhere... so we are building a camp that can complement the wildlife and have our guests enjoy and savour every moment of this. We started thinking about the real value of the safari experience and how lucky we are in Botswana and in particular in the Selinda Reserve, where we have 120 000 hectares (300 000 acres) of wild, wild land. This camp must embellish and complement this privilege.
The style will embody the age of exploration and adventure that nearly lost the sense of being first and living on the edge, but doing it elegantly, almost decadently. There will be three tents with telescopes to sweep the plains, maps and books to plan and plot out the direction of roars heard during the night over a pre-dawn coffee as we trace the map and pinpoint possible islands for that leopard call heard at 4am.
At the same time the new camp will (behind the scenes) have every bit of the latest green technology to make it entirely environmentally friendly. It will be that ideal meeting place between great wildlife, interesting and luxurious but authentic safari accommodation and perfect service.
What we want to create is a camp where people will want to stay for a month.
Camps Update - April 07
Lagoon camp Jump
• Two unknown and very skittish male lions were found in the water cut area. They were very nervous and would not let the game drive vehicles get close to them. They were later seen heading south through the area. Another single male and female were seen following a herd of buffalo. The male was nervous, whilst the female was very relaxed.
• A single female cheetah was seen on water cut. She was very relaxed, so the game drives got a good look at her. She was also seen hunting impala, but did not manage to make a kill.
• As usual, the lagoon pack of 6 wild dogs was seen on a regular basis and was followed on numerous hunts. The Alpha female is now two and a half months pregnant, so everyone is hoping to see new pups soon.
• Night drives were very successful, with many side-striped jackal, black backed jackal and hyena being seen. Two side-striped jackal were spotted trying to turn an African rock python into their supper. The python, it seems, did not take kindly to their idea and put up quite a bit of resistance.
• Big herds of elephant, bulls as well as breeding herds have moved back in to the area. They can be seen almost every evening, playing fighting and quenching their thirst on the riverfront.
• The buffalo herds have also moved back in to the area after months of grazing in the mopane forests. This includes breeding herds and bachelor groups.
• General game is very good with Tsetsebee, warthog, wildebeest, steenbok, lechwe, zebra seen on most drives. Giraffe and baboons as well as ostriches were also seen. Sightings of crocodiles, sunning themselves on the riverbanks have also increased as the evening and mornings became colder.
• Several honey badgers, porcupines, civets and serval have been seen on the night drives.
• Birding continues to be good, especially the birds of prey, with Martial eagle, Black breasted snake eagle, Giant eagle owl, barn owl and pearl spotted owls being seen. Spoonbill storks and wattled cranes were also seen.
Kwara & Little Kwara camps Jump
& Little Kwara camps
• The pride of 5 lions, consisting of 2 females, with the three one-year cubs was seen often during the month. On one occasion they were seen hunting and bringing down a big male warthog. Another group of 4 lionesses were seen fishing in an almost dry pond. They ate too much fish and got sick afterwards. One of the big males was seen mating with one of the females of the pride of five.
• Our resident female leopard is now leaving the famous leopard cub, alone for longer periods of time. She has been seen twice, trying to hunt impala but was not successful. The female was seen in Kwara camp, late one afternoon. She strolled through camp, unworried by the presence of the manager and staff. A big male leopard was also seen, but he was rather shy.
• A female, cheetah with her two cubs were seen regularly. She was seen hunting twice, but missed on both occasions. The three brothers were also seen hunting and they also missed.
• Two packs of wild dogs, one pack of 13 dogs and another of only 2 dogs, visited the area very briefly.
• Very good sightings of bull elephants have been reported. They moved in to the area to feed on the marula fruits, which are now ripening up and falling from the trees.
• A group of 5 old bachelor buffalo’s were seen in the distance by guests, out on the boat cruise.
• On one of the nights a unique sighting, of three-spotted hyena, fighting a female giraffe for her stillborn calf were reported. After about an hour the giraffe gave up and the hyena feasted on the dead calf. Genet, serval and African wild cats, were also seen regularly.
• General game sightings continue to be very good. Giraffe, zebra, tsessebe, kudu and some sable antelope were seen. Rutting season has started, so there are lots of excitement in the impala herds, with the males competing for the attention of the females.
• Birding continues to be good. Pairs of wattled cranes, saddle billed storks, yellow-billed storks, marabou storks and some ground hornbills have been seen. There were also lots of reptile sightings, with black mamba, puff adders and African rock pythons being seen. Some guests also got good photographs of painted reed frogs while out on the mekoro.
Lebala camp Jump
• Three female and two big male lions have been visiting the Lebala area. One of the females is heavily pregnant and one of the other females is lactating, which indicate that there might be some cubs around. Another younger male was spotted following some buffalo around.
• A young male leopard was seen stalking impala near wild dog pan, two nights in a row. He was not successful in his hunt, as the impala’s smelled him and took off.
• After being absent for almost a month, the two-brother cheetahs were seen West of python pan. They were in very good condition. They were seen several times more during the month, every time with full bellies.
• The Lagoon pack of 6 wild dogs ventured closer to Lebala and were seen resting near John’s pan.
• Big herds of elephants are moving on to the flood plains; this is due to the water pans in the mopane forest drying up. Some of the breeding herds had very small babies with them. One old bull came in to camp and started feeding on the grasses under the bird hide, in full view of the guests who were busy having tea.
• Big herds of buffalo have also moved back on to the flood plains, for the same reason as the elephants. The herds are scattered all over the area and are in very good condition with lots of young calves in the herds.
• The hyena clans have been very active throughout the month. One group were seen feeding on a carcass that they stole from a leopard. Some black backed jackals were seen, pushing last year’s litter of pups out of the territory. The young jackals were very distressed by their parent’s behaviour. Several genet sightings were also reported, one of them a mother with her tree kittens playing on the lounge deck, early one morning.
• Excellent general game with many large journeys of giraffe, impala, waterbuck, Tsessebe, Wildebeest, Steenbok zebra, red lechwe and kudu. A brief sighting of roan antelope were also reported. A full on territorial fight between 2 wildebeest bulls were seen by some guests out on the morning game drive.
• Several species of mongoose were seen on numerous game drives. A very relaxed serval was seen hunting on the flood plains South of camp and there was also a brief sighting of a caracal on main road.
• Eleven wattled cranes were found together at Kubu pans. Many different eagles, including Martial eagle and Walberg’s eagle were seen. Most of the summer residents have now left, except for some little bee-eaters who are still hanging around. A very unusual sighting of a snouted cobra, swallowing a frog, in front of the camp was also reported .
Camp update - April 07 Jump
The month of April went very fast since it was packed with amazing sightings, and wonderful events. The weather was great - very mild in the day and the nights were nice and cool. The mornings were similar and we recorded an average of 19°C with average of about 30.5°C in the day. The days are a little shorter now that we are in our winter transitional month. We hardly had drops of rain this month though most vegetation is still very green from the 100mm of rain we recorded at the end of March. All of the pans were also filled by this rainfall which also added to the floodwater inundation of the floodplains. This year's flood has been recorded as one of the bigger ones of recent years.
The 2 big prides of lion resident in the Mombo area (Moporota 22; Mathata 24) have contributed to the wonderful experiences at Mombo this month. We recorded both prides on almost every drive conducted in Mombo this month. Those who have witnessed these lion cubs growing up will be pleased to know that both the Moporota and Mathata Prides have managed to raise all their cubs to the sub-adult stage.
Legadima, the famous Mombo leopard, did not reveal herself that much over the past month since she was first seen with her first cub. She was so elusive at this sensitive early stage in her cub's life that we only recorded her three times the whole month. This might be because she was trying to hide her cub from all the natural enemies - such as baboons, hyaena and lions. However in all the sightings, including one close to the Mombo airstrip where she was viewed at length with a kill in a tree, there was really no proof that the cub is still alive; her teats did not show that she was nursing at all, and the three sightings were in such widely placed locations that the youngster could not have been moving with her. Time will tell.
With Legadima unusually elusive, the guides concentrated on the Western Pan Female who was viewed in her usual territory including on one occasion with a baboon kill. In the same area, the guides also spotted a new male leopard which was pretty nervous and was not identified.
The cheetah in the area appear to have adapted to crepuscular behaviour, a possible result of pressure from other larger predators, most notably lion and spotted hyaena. Six sightings were recorded, the majority of which were of a known male ('the bad eye male') who was twice found on impala kills. Currently this male seems to prefer the eastern side of the camp around Lions Island joining Suzi's Pans all the way up to the '92 wild dog den, and occasionally moving all the way up to Goss's and the Jika Jika Channel area The guides have also recorded an unknown and heavily pregnant female in the plain in the north-eastern parts of Mombo and around the Honeymoon Pan area, making us hopeful for cubs in the coming month. While we suspect that cheetah numbers in the area are healthy the pressure of very high lion and hyaena populations causes cheetah to be elusive.
Over the summer many of the locally resident white rhino have dispersed out of the main game drive areas at Mombo. Nonetheless the guides have put in considerable effort to track down those animals still in the area and have produced a number of white rhino sightings and even a single black rhino sighting at Honeymoon Pan near the airstrip in the third week of April. White rhino sightings included a well known group of five with 2-year old calf Valentine, as well as three of the known adult bulls in the area. Good sightings are expected over the winter months as the pans in the woodland dry up and drive the rhino towards the floodwaters and the remaining grazing on the floodplains around Mombo.
There has been a noticeable increase in the numbers of giraffe found in the area and the guides and our guests have encountered journeys of up to 50 giraffe in open areas and in the rich acacia areas. Impalas are also seen almost everywhere in the area and zebra, wildebeest and hippo have been abundant with beautiful kudu bulls being seen in the woodland areas.
The hyaena is one of Nature's true survivors and Mombo is a stronghold for the species and an excellent place to see them go about their work as ecosystem engineers who make sure that the area is kept clean at all the time. It is seldom that you see untouched carcasses at Mombo. Recent news is that old hyaena den is active again with 2 young cubs which are still feeding only on milk. They are very relaxed beautiful little creatures quite unlike the image created by years of bad press. In the same area sub-adult cubs are still hanging around the den. The resident hyaena clans seem to concentrate their activities along the border between the territories of the large Mathata and Moporota Prides. This gives them access to both prides' highways, but also a refuge in a no-man's-land between the two prides' centres of activity. Our sightings of hyaena during April were excellent and they were seen as often as we saw lion.
It has been an interesting month also for all the birders who stayed with us at Mombo. Raptors like the Martial Eagle and owls such as the Giant Eagle Owl have been recorded on snake kills, mongooses' hunts and chasing after other prey. Lappet-faced Vultures, a 'bird of concern' in Botswana due to its endangered status, were recorded on lion kills.
Highlights: "Seeing a rhino (black) and seeing a leopard eating a monkey."
Highlights: "Our guide was wonderful and excellent, his extensive knowledge of the animals and wildlife - the great location and setting of the lodge. Every aspect of our stay, the delicious food and the staff were very friendly and helpful".
Highlights: "Lions at the buffalo carcass, with all the food chain players in attendance".
Highlights: "The stunningly beautiful camp and the Boma night with singing and dancing. Lunch at hippo blind and a leopard feeding on an impala."
Sighting: Zebra attack Blue Wildebeest foal
Location: Mombo, Moremi Game Reserve, Botswana
Date: April 2007
Observer: Matt Copham
Aggressive and powerful with formidable incisors, zebra are quite capable of chasing leopards up trees, sending wild dogs fleeing, keeping hyaenas at bay and even at times shaking off a lion attack. Zebra, especially the younger, competing stallions, are known for another kind of aggression as well. It has been documented on a number of occasions over the past decade that under certain circumstances, and for reasons yet to receive adequate explanation, zebra have killed abandoned zebra foals, and even wildebeest calves accompanied by their herd. I have personally seen a stallion kill his own offspring.
Mombo, where the zebra population density is currently very high, makes an ideal place for observation of the species and the photographs in the below sequence were taken north-west of the Moporota floodplains. Three young zebra stallions had isolated a very young wildebeest calf. Their aggressive intentions were abundantly clear and they repeatedly isolated and attacked the calf. The calf was part of a herd and very close to his mother thus giving the zebra no apparent reason for the attack or strange confusion of the young herbivore as some sort of predator. No noise was made by the calf that might have sparked any aggression in the zebra males. As seen in the photographs the mother tried to protect the calf at some stage but was chased off by the determined zebra.
After biting the calf repetitively, one particular zebra practically ran over the young wildebeest, galloping and kicking as he moved over the calf. Feigning death and paralysis, or possibly due to shock and exhaustion, the calf lay flat on the ground. The zebra then moved off and once the coast was clear the wildebeest calf jumped up again and ran for two kilometres to join up with his herd - after a very lucky escape.
Camp update - April 07 Jump
At this time of year, all talk in the Delta is of the coming flood - when it will arrive, how big it will be, and where it will go. The predictions for this year have been for a very large amount of water coming down from the Angolan highlands, and this has turned out to be true, certainly in the northern reaches of the Okavango. Here in the Chitabe area, the waters have been slow to arrive, but arrive they certainly must, and at time of writing, a trickle has appeared in the channel to the south of camp. The Moremi end of the Gomoti channel is filled from bank to bank, but further down to the south, it remains dry, although the water has started to push downward.
There are still many pans in the Mopane woodland which are holding water from the couple of heavy rainstorms last month however. These provide drinking resources for the browsers that utilise the area - elephant in particular. Large herds of them have been seen moving through the concession, and one afternoon we watched a bachelor herd of twelve bulls, ranging from a young teenager up to two massive old boys with magnificent splayed tusks, drinking and bathing in front of Chitabe Trails. Many breeding herds have also been seen, and in the space of a few hours we counted in excess of 150 of these magnificent animals in separate herds.
Our highlight of the month came from Lazarus, who came across Mosadi Mogolo ('the old lady') our "film star" leopard, with two tiny cubs, who couldn't have been more than a week old. We haven't seen them again as she will keep them very well concealed, but will keep you updated as to their progress. The other leopards in the concession have also been seen quite often, and OT saw four on a kill in one sighting, which is very unusual to say the least.
After a long absence, a female cheetah was seen on a kill near Chitabe Trails, and hopes are to see her again in the area.
After an absence of two months, our pack of seven African wild dogs has been seen in the area again. The first sighting of the pack was in the late afternoon, deep in the mopane woodland of our Southern Boundary area, and involved some very skilled tracking and "bushwhacking" by Newman and Dave. Assisted by a location fix taken from the air by Dr. McNutt, we were able to find them in an almost impenetrable thicket, and managed to keep up with them by a combination of luck, sharp eyes, and occasionally smell! Andrea found them again the following morning in the Acacia road area, after they had covered approximately 20km on a hunt by the light of the full moon. Good news is that the Alpha female is obviously pregnant, and by our calculations will give birth in the next three weeks. They would be looking for a suitable den site now, and with any luck, it might be in our concession. We'll keep you posted.
The new pride of lions in Chitabe is doing well - the one surviving cub is around six months old, attended by two lionesses originally from the Sandibe area, and sired by one of the two males from the west who have stamped their dominance over the area. They were all seen together on a zebra kill in the eastern floodplain adjacent to the camp one morning.
Two records of uncommon cat sightings seen this month have been a female caracal hunting near the Gomoti River, and a serval seen at night on the floodplains adjacent to the camp.
OT saw two kills of an altogether different nature, although extremely interesting nonetheless - both of slender mongooses killing a Red-billed Hornbill, and a Red-billed Francolin respectively.
Two herds of Cape buffalo have been seen near the Gomoti this month, and as the season progresses, we would expect more to move down into the concession. One morning we watched the two male lions following one of the herds, numbering about a hundred, but the herd bulls were quick to spot them and present a solid defensive phalanx of horn and muscle. The lions appeared to lose interest, and when we returned later that afternoon, the buffalo had moved on, leaving the lions behind.
The temperatures have started to dip as we move into autumn, and an early cold front that moved through had everyone bundling themselves up in the chilly mornings and evenings. The lows are sitting around the 12°C mark, and the midday highs are around 29-30°C.
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