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Page 1 Updates
Info and updates from Wilderness Safaris.
North Island Dive Report from
Monthly update from Kalamu Camp in
Monthly update from Shumba Camp in
Monthly update from DumaTau Camp in
Monthly update from Kings Pool Camp in
Monthly update from Savuti Camp in
Kwando Safaris game reports.
Monthly update from Mombo
Camp in Botswana.
Monthly update from Xigera
Camp in Botswana.
Monthly update from Chitabe
Camp in Botswana.
Monthly update from Kwetsani Camp in
Monthly update from Jao
Camp in Botswana.
Monthly update from Tubu Tree Camp in
Monthly update from Jacana Camp in
Monthly update from Duba Plains in
Monthly update from Little Vumbura in
Monthly update from Mana Canoe Trails in
Monthly update from Makalolo Plains in
Monthly Dive report from Rocktail
Bay in South Africa.
Monthly update from Pafuri Camp in
Monthly update from Ongava Tented Camp in
Monthly update from Damaraland Camp in
Safaris Updates - August 2007
The DumaTau Leopard - Botswana
The leopard known as the DumaTau male was seen sneaking up on a pack of wild dogs feeding on an impala they had killed. The leopard had obviously heard the commotion and watched closely as the dogs began to leave and head off towards their den, until there was only one dog left. The dog sensed that he was now alone and that the rest of his pack had headed off and decided to leave the remains of the carcass behind – just in time! The leopard approached the carcass, scavenging from what was left, but some hyenas arrived and drove him off.
Rhinos at Ongava - Namibia
Some great sightings have also been produced at Ongava, including a newborn white rhino calf, a male born in the first week of August (below with mom). As well as this new arrival a total of four black rhino have been born on the reserve since May, underlining Ongava’s importance to rhino conservation in Namibia and Africa! Day trips into Etosha have also been productive with regular sightings of lion and cheetah as well as elephant – including one morning where Rosta Janik saw a total of 74 elephants!.
The new and exciting Exploration, Kafue’s Plains and Rivers, offers the very best of the Kafue National Park. This incredible journey offers terrific variety in experiences traveling between the river and game viewing experience of Lufupa, the plains of Musanza and the river and woodland experience of Lunga.
Musanza Camp is now complete and open for Explorations business. It has been built to a Discoverer standard at the edge of the Plains and each tent has a private toilet and bucket shower. The shade of the woodland shelters the camp while views are out onto the Busanga Plains and a nearby natural waterhole.
Victoria Falls Custom Tour
As we get to that time of the year where the water level of the Falls on the Zambian side is very low, Wilderness Safaris Zambia have put together a new product that provides a very convenient trip across the border to visit the Falls on the Zimbabwean side – either a morning or afternoon tour.
Guests will only have to pay direct single entry visas into Zimbabwe and bottled water will be provided throughout the tour.
The tours are offered from the 1st of September to the 30th of November 2007:
AM Half-Day Custom Tour to Victoria Falls (Scheduled Daily)
• Ex Royal Livingstone & Zambezi Sun at 07h30 to Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe
• Tour of the Falls, Living Village and 3-course set menu lunch at Victoria Falls Hotel
• Guests will return to Royal and Zambezi Sun by approx. 14h00
PM Half-Day Custom Tour to Victoria Falls (Scheduled Daily)
• Ex Royal Livingstone & Zambezi Sun at 13h00 to Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe
• Tour of the Falls and then High Tea at the Victoria Falls Hotel
• Guests will return to Royal and Zambezi Sun by approx 17h30
Excluding Visas and drinks at lunch.
Zibadianja Camp - Botswana
There’s a very subtle name change in the Selinda, with Zibalianja Camp becoming Zibadianja Camp. The camp has always been named after the nearby Zibadianja Lagoon, just with a slight difference based on historical variation in the name. With Zibadianja now the widely accepted spelling, it has been decided to be consistent and align the two, the name change coinciding with the imminent rebuild and upgrade of the camp to Premier standard.
Zambia Camps - Dates of Operation
For 2007 season
• 16 November – Kalamu closes
• 01 December – Kapinga, Busanga Bush Camp, Lunga close
• 04 January – Shumba closes
For 2008 season:
• 01 May – Shumba, Kalamu open
• 01 June – Busanga Bush Camp, Kapinga, Lunga open
• 16 November – Kalamu closes
• 01 December – Kapinga, Busanga Bush Camp, Lunga close
• 04 Jan – Shumba closes
Kings Pool Camp - Botswana
Kings Pool will be closed for annual maintenance from 04 Jan to 29 Feb 2008.
Jao-Hunda Channel - Botswana
The Jao-Hunda Channel has closed due to the level of the water. Boat and road transfers between Jacana, Kwetsani, Jao and Tubu are therefore not possible at this point, which will also affect Hunda day trips for Jao and Kwetsani guests. (Although Jack the elephant resident of Jacana seems to have no trouble!).
Lions at Makalolo - Zimbabwe
As always the dry winter months have produced some spectacular game viewing at Makalolo Plains with the plains area in front of camp regularly playing host to hundreds of elephants, over 1 500 buffalo, good concentrations of zebra, wildebeest, waterbuck and giraffe, as well as the less commonly seen roan, sable and eland. The local lion population is back up to the peaks of recent years with a substantial male coalition ensuring that the prides are stable enough to be recruiting more to their number. The interestingly named ‘Spice Girls’ currently have two sets of cubs making for some wonderful sightings.
/ North Island
North Island Dive Report
- August 07 Jump
August has seen some lovely weather and relatively calm diving conditions. We have had some great dives on our local reefs which are only 5 minutes off the island itself. Although the action from our best reef which you may have read about in last month's review has calmed down a little bit, there has been action of a different kind this month. We have managed to locate 2 Stonefish as well as a Paperfish which seem to have become residents. These are very rare species and very difficult to spot because of their excellent camouflage.
We have however found something even more scarce in this part of the world: On an exploratory dive, Donna Rogers, one of our instructors, came across a very bizarre looking eel. Fortunately she had her camera and took a photo which we sent to various authorities to try and identify the species. It appears that this was a Many-eyed Snake Eel and has never been spotted in the Seychelles before!
We have also had some great sightings of Ribbontail Rays and quite a number of small White-tip Reef Sharks. At times we have seen as many as 9 white-tips on a dive! A large Green Turtle made her way up the beach to look for a good spot to lay her eggs and a few other turtle tracks have been spotted as well.
On the fishing side, there have been many sightings of Sailfish and we have caught and released four this month. A number of other Sailfish have been sighted and we have also lost a few. This is very encouraging to see, as we haven't had many sightings of these fish the whole year.
We are looking forward to September as spring has sprung and the weather should start calming down even more as we head into the calmer summer months. We expect the Hawksbill Turtles to start arriving soon as they are very prominent in October and November when they do their annual migration north to come and lay their eggs. Exciting times ahead!
Camp update - August 07
The dusk and dust has settled on another month at Kalamu and the camp is beginning to be accepted as a part of South Luangwa. Elephant and lion have walked right through the camp and leopard continue to taunt us at night with their rasping calls just out of reach of a spotlight. It's already the second month of operation but we are still being surprised by new species turning up on our doorstep. It feels somewhat like we are explorers not knowing what is out there, facing the challenges of remoteness and being rewarded with the illusion of new discoveries.
On the list of discoveries we can now put Crawshay's zebra and oribi. Both of these animals have been seen infrequently but we hope that as the water and food supplies further from the river dry up, we might encounter them more often. The former is a subspecies of the plains zebra that lacks completely the shadow stripes of its more southerly counterpart, the Burchell's. In the camp, sun squirrels have been seen a number of times. They are a charming relative of the more common tree squirrel but noticeably bigger and sporting bands of lighter and darker colour down the length of their tails.
The ground in many places is littered with a thick blanket of leaf litter as many of the deciduous trees finally admit defeat and let go of the leaves they have clung to throughout winter. The Mopane woodlands are looking particularly sparse and the taller grasses have all succumbed to the wind or the trampling hooves of buffalo and other antelope. Yet all this makes for improved visibility and the bush must give up some of its secret places for a short time before the spring brings a new flush of growth and the summer rains a camouflaging blanket of grass.
The temperature continues to climb in the valley and by the end of August it was starting to feel decidedly hot in the early afternoon. Nonetheless, brand new room fans help ease the midday heat in the rooms and a remarkable mist-spraying fan is a welcome addition to the lodge furniture. The swimming pool remains popular!
Mornings can still have a slight nip, encouraging perhaps a single layer and evenings are balmy to cool. All in all temperatures remain perfect for morning and afternoon activities. Skies are generally clear, but the early morning and late afternoon air often has a hazy feel to it - probably the result of a number of fires that have been burning some distance from the camp. There is seldom any wind but occasional blasts have us holding onto our hats and watching for falling branches.
Lions, which were pretty scarce last month, have put in a bold appearance this month. A pride of 11 has been seen on a number of occasions and on one of these a leopard climbed down a tree while everyone was watching the lions and sauntered across the scene as if to say 'hey, look at me, I'm here too!' A second group which constitutes at least five animals has been seen west of the camp. Two of the members of this group are less than six month old cubs and we look forward to watching them grow up.
Elephant are seen regularly and a herd of at least twenty was seen near Luamfwa Lagoon. While this is not a particularly big herd in many areas, it constitutes a rarity in a reserve where these animals are famed for their small groupings and particularly in this area where even our game scout, long present in the area, said he had never seen such a big herd.
The buffalo herds have settled down considerably and while we still cannot get very close, they are letting us watch them for a little longer and even coming to drink at the waterhole near camp in the middle of the day. Good sightings of Thornicroft's giraffe continue to charm and the incorrigible yellow baboons continue to amuse.
Leopard sightings have been good, particularly towards the end of the month when leopard were spotted on three separate occasions during just two night drives.
A puku seems to have taken up guard duty in front of the guest tents and a large elephant bull has been alarming sleeping guests by sauntering into camp and rattling the Ilala palms for their fruit. He has been making a habit of this activity, occasionally wandering into camp in the middle of the day just to check if any more fruit have fallen.
On the birding front, numerous migrants are putting in an appearance, almost on a daily basis. Carmine Bee-eaters, Yellow-billed Kites, Greenshanks and Lesser Striped Swallows have all been seen around camp. A Western Banded Snake-Eagle has been seen a number of times in the area and Böhm's Spinetails have been seen in the evenings, raking up aerial plankton over the river and lagoons.
All in all, the area continues to surprise us and the animals are rapidly accepting our presence in the area.
· 'The selection of this property is exceptional for seeing the great variety of animals, birds and plant life (trees)' - GS & JW
· 'The simple elegance was truly appreciated - the nature of the accommodation suitable to the environment - just the right balance between reality and comfort.' - SU & AB
Dave, Cathy, Luckson and the Kalamu Team
Camp update - August 07 Jump
It's been non-stop action here this month at Shumba, and to even say that it was exciting or riveting would be a total understatement. Cheetah, leopard, lion, cubs, pups and piglets are what it's all been about this month.
Out of all the special and unique sightings that we had this month, two seem to stick out in our minds the most, so we shall begin by telling you a little tale about a sleek and slender mother and her brood.
It was the 12th of August, and it was one of the first times that we had been able to cross the Lushimba channel to get to the tree line, which is west of Shumba. Idos, who was guiding that morning, spotted some tracks of a smaller feline, and followed them until he found what he was looking for: A female cheetah was staring out at them through the grass, from where she was resting up during the hot morning sun. After a while of watching and admiring her, Idos noticed some movement coming from behind her. The first thought was to pass it over as some grass swaying in the wind in the back ground, but bush instinct took over, and he took a closer look through his binoculars. He could not believe what he was seeing, not one, not two, not three or even four or five, but six newly born cheetah cubs! The guests were beside themselves, as was Idos, who had never seen cheetah cubs so young. Their eyes were still greyish blue, their coat had not developed their characteristic spots yet, and the best of all was their inquisitiveness as to what this large object was in front of them. We have been so fortunate to have had many more unforgettable experiences like this one during the course of the month, thrilling our guests and just generally bringing out the maternal instinct in everyone. We will be sure to let you know next month how the litter is getting on.
Ten days later was definitely a game drive to remember. On afternoon game drive, Idos and Lexon travelled north from Shumba towards Kapinga Junction. It was action-packed to say the least, with close-up viewing of both lion and two cheetah males. As if that was not enough, who should come running out of the tree line, but a pack of African wild dogs. We are sure that Idos, Lexon and their guests nearly fell out of the vehicle when the four adults and six puppies made their appearance. After watching them and trying to keep up with them, the game drive decided to move on. Later in the evening, before heading back to camp, they went past where they had seen the pack of canines, and discovered that they had in fact made a kill in the short space of time that they were gone. We saw them again, the very next day, almost in the same spot. It is by no means an everyday occurrence to see these highly rare and endangered species, considering that there is only an estimated population of about five thousand individuals left in the wild.
In addition to these unparalleled encounters, we also saw cheetah hunting and taking down a warthog south of Shumba, one of the resident male lions chasing and killing a red lechwe right in front of camp, a lioness who took down an adult roan antelope all on her own, a male leopard sleeping in a tree and to top it off a male lion cub who decided to take a nap in the grass just next to tent number two!
The predators have not been the only ones who have been entertaining our guests. The herds of plains game are really coming in fast and furiously. We had our first sighting of zebra on the 9th, an event which caused much excitement amongst the guides in the Busanga plains. In addition to the striped horses which arrive on the plains at around this time every year, we have seen large herds of roan antelope at least thirty strong, groups of wildebeest, reedbuck, puku and red lechwe. Some of our guests were also fortunate to see four female oribi prancing around one lucky male. A lone bushpig was also another highlight this month; seen on an evening game drive near Kapinga Camp. Buffalo have also been seen.
Overall, we must say, that the best part about August has been the fact that spring has arrived early. Cubs, puppies, calves, chicks, foals and piglets are running rampant over the Busanga Plains. Almost everywhere you find an adult warthog there is a single line of piglets following closely in tow. The first wildebeest calves were seen on the 28th of the month, and there are also plenty of roan calves, which just look so out of place with their huge donkey-like ears. The huge mixed herd of red lechwe and puku that are always in front of camp are always entertaining. There are so many calves within the herds, leaping and bounding all over the floodplain - makes for much amusement.
We have a new resident who likes to perch on the sycomore fig tree above Tent 5. This majestic Martial Eagle has frequented camp though the month, much to the disgust of the other members of the feathered family. A pair of Yellow-Billed Kites especially doesn't like the eagle being around; they swoop at it and try to chase it away at every chance they get. Birding in general has been marvellous; Crowned Cranes in flocks of up to fifty, Wattled Cranes, Open-Billed Storks in groups of up to 200, Secretarybirds, African Fish Eagles and Marsh Harriers to name but a few. We are definitely looking forward to all of our summer migrants returning, which should be in the next month.
August was an outstanding month at Shumba and on the Busanga plains, and it can only get better from here. We thought that we would leave you with some of the guest comments for the month, and as a final thought a brilliant photograph of a lioness taken by Michael Lorentz just outside Tent 5.
"Everything was perfect, cheetah, lions and one leopard. Beautiful landscape. Shumba is a fantastic camp. Thanks a lot to all the staff, and specially our friend Idos, he is the best" - Mr & Mrs F - Nice, France
"Thanks for all you have done for our honeymoon. It was a dream. Great team, staff and guide. Thank-you very much" - Mr & Mrs J - Paris, France
"Thanks for another great stay in the wilderness. Loved the new camp and great staff. Idos has the Midas touch to find the lions" - L.A.B - Florida, U.S.A
"What an amazing and very luxurious stay, with exceptional game viewing" - The F Family - London, U.K
"We will be back? it's a promise. Thank you to all the wonderful staff! An unforgettable stay!" - CM & BG - Roma, Italy
"Excellent sightings, outstanding hospitality. We promise to come back. Thank you Shumba Team" - S.W - Hamburg, Germany
We hope you all have a great first month of spring,
Andrew, Shannon, Idos, Essie and The Shumba Team
update - August 07 Jump
August started off with a bang at DumaTau! How much luckier can one get than seeing three leopards and 1 pangolin on a morning drive? It was just a taste of the month to come!
Weather & Vegetation
The temperatures are slowly warming up and we have had a few hot days: the mercury rising to 30°C on one or two occasions, but the average maximum temperature for the month in the region of 27°. The lowest temperature recorded this month was 8°C.
It is very dry and dusty and the vegetation in general is much thinner now which far greater visibility. The mopane branches are bare and stick out of the sand like gravestones in a cemetery. Fallen trees can be seen scattered throughout the woodlands, testimony to the number of elephants in the area. In the riverine woodlands a few of the more evergreen trees, like the Jackalberries and the Mangosteens, still have their leaves and these trees are like green sentinels standing out in a wall of brown, bare limbs. The mangosteens have in fact come into flower this month and as one drives along the fault-line, particularly during the late evenings and early mornings, the sweet perfume of the blooms wafts about in the forests and is very pleasant to smell.
The rise in the water levels in the floodplains and river has continued this month and the water that is pushing up the Savute Channel has just turned the first corner, the head of the river now extending 3km from its source at Zibadianja Lagoon. Although the rise in the water levels is not really dramatic (as compared to the Okavango flood), it is certainly noticed by the animals. The floodplains are becoming wet in many places and, with the shallow water stretching across the parched earth, are attracting quite a few water birds - we are starting to see Slaty Egrets again.
In the woodlands the seasonal pools are now all dry and will remain so at least until the rain comes sometime in November. In these woodlands we are now encountering small herds of roan antelope. These stunning, large, brown antelope, with scimitar-like horns are a very uncommon species and during the dry months are forced closer to the river when we appreciate the regular sightings we have of them. Zebra are still being seen in large numbers in the channel around the three waterholes, as are wildebeest. Large numbers of elephants make use of the waterholes, particularly from approximately 10h00 in the morning throughout the afternoon. It is not uncommon to witness more than 50 elephants at each of the waterholes during the heat of the day.
August started off with a bang at DumaTau! How much luckier can one get than seeing three leopards and 1 pangolin on a morning drive? It was just a taste of the month to come!
Although we are not seeing as many reptiles as we do in summer, we were on a few occasions alerted to the presence of a large Puff-Adder in Camp. In each case the squirrels and starlings were all alarming at the sight of the snake. It is amazing to watch all the small creatures banding together to chase away the danger. The squirrels are particularly cheeky and often approach to just outside of striking distance, chirping and flicking their tails to show all the others in the area where the snake is. We are still seeing crocodiles on many of the game drives. Their smaller cousins, the Rock Monitors and the Water Monitors are still being seen either in the bush or along the river, respectively.
Birds & birding
Bird numbers are starting to increase again as spring is approaching and already some of the migrants have returned. This month we have seen in the region of 189 species in the DumaTau area. Along the river beautiful cerise Carmine Bee-eaters can be seen gathering in the dead trees at sunset. They only arrived back in the last week of August and will still increase in numbers as they return to breed here in southern Africa. During the summer months there are usually up to four colonies, of a few hundred birds each, that breed along the Linyanti River.
We are also seeing small flocks of Ruff on the mud flats along the river and at the edges of the lagoons. One of the guides at Savuti Camp reported seeing the first Yellow-billed Kite for the season. Since the interior is still very dry we are seeing quite a few "dry-land" birds and Red-eyed Bulbuls are common in camp now, as are Chestnut-vented Tit-babblers. One afternoon we were driving near Kubu Lagoon when we got a view of a flash of scarlet in the Bluebushes just off the floodplains. Upon investigating the bright colour we came across a pair of Crimson-breasted Shrikes who were foraging for insects in the leaf matter. These birds are not particularly common in this area, as they prefer a drier, thornier habitat.
Viewing of general game is fantastic at the moment. In a short (5km) afternoon trip from camp to Zibadianja Lagoon one can see impala, warthog, giraffe, zebra, red lechwe, vervet monkey, chacma baboon, elephant, kudu, hippo, crocodile and sometimes even buffalo. Banded, slender and dwarf mongooses are all seen on a regular basis. Other antelope seen this month include tsessebe, waterbuck, steenbok, blue wildebeest, roan, and on one occasion even a common duiker (very uncommon in this area). The night drives are also quite productive currently due to good visibility. On most nights we are seeing springhares, scrub hares, various species of owls, lesser bushbabies and either large or small-spotted genets. On occasion we are also seeing white-tailed mongoose, Selous' mongoose, porcupine and honey badgers. In camp there is a family of five honey badgers that can often be seen when walking guests back to their rooms after dinner.
Elephant numbers are at their peak. We are seeing these magnificent creatures on almost every drive. During the night and in the early hours of the mornings most of the elephants feed in the mopane woodlands. As the day progresses the matriarchs lead their herds towards the water points or the river. They walk in trains, single file, with the matriarch near the front and often a large cow near the rear of the caravan. It is a sight to see them walking in straight lines, across the desolate dry woodlands. It is amazing how silent a group of massive creatures can be while on the move. This month "George" (a very old bull elephant, with distinctive breaks on the tusks and a scar on the forehead) has been a regular in the camp. This bull elephant was probably using this patch of forest as his winter home even before the camp was built and has been returning each year for many years now.
We have had regular sightings of all the big predators (i.e. lion, leopard, cheetah, wild dog and spotted hyaena) this month with lion seen on 20 days, leopard on 15 and cheetah on 12 days.
The Savuti Boys
The 4-male coalition that control the territory in which DumaTau game drive area falls are known as the 'Savuti Boys'. They have been the territory-holders since 2003, when they came across from Namibia. They associate with lionesses from several prides and move in the area along the Savute Channel, through the intervening mopane woodland and up to the Linyanti river front. They are now at least 8 years old and are usually seen in regular groups of 2 although on the 20th of this month we did see all 4 males together on a giraffe carcass which was probably killed by the two lionesses from the Savuti Pride. Just over a week later, on the morning of the 29th, a dead elephant was found near Bluebush Open Area, on the way to Kings Pool. Two of the males were feeding on the carcass, with a Linyanti lioness. They remained at the carcass for another day before leaving it.
The Savuti Pride
These have been the most regularly viewed lions this month. This 8-strong pride presently consists of two adult lionesses ("Savuti Female 2" and "Isis"), 2 sub-adult males, 2 sub-adult females and two younger lions (+-1 year old). After seeing them hungry and evidently unsuccessfully in their hunting for several consecutive days at the beginning of the month we lost them for a few days. On the 11th they had come back to the floodplains however and managed to kill and feed on a young zebra. On the 20th they managed to kill an adult female giraffe. This carcass was stolen from them by the males, who pushed them away.
The Selinda Female
This lioness originally came from Selinda and brought her 3 young cubs across into our area to escape the two new males that had taken over the area in which the Selinda Pride reside. During the period that she was in our area she lost one of the three cubs, but did an excellent job in raising the other two. Over the past few months she has moved mainly in Namibia and has not been seen often. She was seen on only one occasion this month resting in the shade of some Bluebushes on the Namibian side of the river.
The DumaTau Male
This large male leopard is dominant over the majority of the area used for DumaTau game drives. Within his territory are the territories of at least four different females. One morning he was found in the woodlands between Rock Pan and Dish Pan resting and in the company of the Zib Female. A few days later he was seen to the south of Dish Pan in the company of the Rock Pan Female and her youngster. They had an impala carcass in a tree and were taking turns in feeding on it. All three remained there until the next morning when the carcass was basically finished and hyaena were taking the scraps below the tree. On the 19th he was nearby and was again with the Zib Female on both this day and the following morning. These two are possibly mating or ready to mate.
The independent offspring of the Zib Female, "Mosetsana", is at the age where she is attempting to establish herself and has been moving widely. At the beginning of the month she was seen in the area that she was brought up, near Croc Island Floodplains and Ele Valley Rd and looked thin and hungry. She was seen a few days running and then on the 9th she was seen at Mokwepa Rd and had started moving away from her mother's territory. On the 12th she had already passed Rock Pan and Dish Pan, on her way east along the Savute Channel even visiting the waterhole in front of Savuti Camp. She was found resting on a termite heap on Long-Island West, just west of Savuti Camp. She was now way outside of her area. She was still looking fine, although hungry. We wonder where she will go from here and whether we will see her for much longer.
The Rock Pan female and her cub were seen only once this month, but are looking healthy. We also saw an unidentified leopard along the Linyanti on one occasion and had a tentative ID of the Kubu Male on one other occasion. Of interest was a sighting of a male leopard seen south of Dish Pan clearing. He had killed a large male kudu and was feeding on it. In the afternoon he returned and carried on feeding until the hyaena started arriving and drove him off. We were not sure which leopard this was and after comparing a photo taken to those in our ID Kits we discovered that it was actually the cub of the Muntswe female ("No 13 Muntswe C03 M"), who had been born in late 2003 on the Eastern side of Savuti Camp. We have not seen this male in a few years now.
The only cheetah seen this month were the two stalwart males known as the "Savuti Boys". They have a massive territory, stretching all the way from Muntswe Clearing, east of Savuti Camp, all the way down the Savuti Channel to Zibadianja Lagoon and then beyond through the Selinda Concession and into the Kwando Area. They have held this territory for many years. They are both in good condition and are fit, although they are very old now. On the afternoon of the 16th the two boys were seen walking in the floodplains near DumaTau. They were thin and hungry. On the 23rd they were seen near the Backflow in the Savute Channel, resting in the shade. They were obviously headed back towards Savuti Camp. The next day they were found quite close to where they were last seen, this time feeding on an ostrich that they had killed. Later in the month they were seen feeding on a young warthog that they had killed.
We are extremely lucky to have had the DumaTau Pack denning nearby Letsumo Sign this month. Wild dogs normally den once a year, usually in the month of July. This pack, however, denned late this year, and in the same location as they did last year. The Alpha Female, "Skewtooth", gave birth to only three pups this year. This makes the pack now 14 individuals i.e. 11 adults and 3 pups). The pups are mighty cute, though. We have watched them as the month has progressed and seen with our own eyes how they have rapidly grown in size.
Now at the end of the month the pups are almost big enough for the adults to start taking them out and away from the den, encouraging them to follow. Up until now the adults have generally left the Alpha Female and possibly a babysitter behind at the den to look after the pups while the rest are out hunting. Upon their return the adults regurgitate meat for the ones that remained behind. It is an amazing affair to watch. These are extremely social animals and are very family-orientated, and to watch them greeting each other after being separated or after having woken up, accompanied by much chittering and yapping and lots of excitement is a most incredible sight. The pups are now quite mobile around the den site and the adults are taking them further and further away. They will soon leave the denning area altogether, a dangerous time for the three pups. It has been seen at other dens in the past that this is the age that the mortality rate is at a high. The pups are still quite small and could fall prey to a number of predators. We wish them the best in the future.
We also wish you all out there a pleasant September ahead.
Regards from all at DumaTau Camp, Linyanti, Botswana
Camp update - August 07 Jump
to Kings Pool
The winds of change are blowing through the Linyanti. The bleak midwinter is behind us now and we are advancing inexorably into the southern hemisphere summer. The last surviving yellowed fever-berry and leadwood leaves are dancing across the dusty ground as the zephyrs curl around the tree trunks, and the mercury in the thermometer nudges a little higher each day.
Borne on these breezes come the first of our summer visitors, migrant birds winging their way south, following the line of the Rift Valley and arriving with news of the Sahel and the Sahara and the Red Sea, and all the many wonders they have seen on their epic flights. The rising temperatures have brought an abundance of food for them, and the brilliant scarlet and aquamarine darts of the carmine bee-eaters are now a regular sight each evening, cavorting over Kings Pool as they pursue their prey.
In the mopane forest, the female impalas are starting to look a little thicker now as new life grows inside them, babies that were conceived in the melee of the May rut. The night chorus of painted reed frogs is now being echoed in the heat of the day by the first cicadas, the real heralds of summer.
Summer in the Linyanti is a time of radical change ? For now, however, we wait, straining for the smell of saving rains in the air, and feeling the tension begin to mount, the anticipation building. For now the wind brings the first undeniable signs of summer: towering, swaying columns of grey dust siphoned up into the sky by rising air currents, and the heady, intoxicating scent of the first tree blossoms. The creeping bushwillow and now the craggy old knobthorn trees are bursting into flower, their scents mingling with a more insidious aroma - the smoke from bush fires across the river.
In the last few days we have been keeping an anxious eye on the smouldering fires over the water, and monitoring the wind direction - especially when the orange flames leap above the papyrus beds and the smoke blackens as the vegetable oils ignite. Fortunately the winds turned back on themselves, and the fire starved and died amongst its own embers - leaving a deep layer of nutrient-rich ash to return to the soil, just in time for the aestival rains - promising an explosion of green shoots, themselves just in time for the first few wobbling steps of the impala fawns which will be born in late November and early December.
Further sightings this month of the magnificent black-maned Border Boys, the male lions whose territory disdains the lines mere humans draw on maps, have unfortunately not yet confirmed for us what we were so desperately hoping - that the male who had become entangled in a poacher's snare on one of his forays into the Caprivi Strip has managed to shed the evil coil of wire around his neck. The only way we can be sure is to dart the lion to examine him, and if necessary cut away the wire and treat the wound. The problem in this scenario is to find him in one place for long enough to be able to conduct such an operation.
The Kings Pool pride meanwhile has been enjoying more frequent encounters with a large herd of buffalo which has been passing through the concession. Guests out on an early-morning game drive had an incredible sighting, as they were witnesses to a miraculous escape by a young buffalo calf.
The calf had already been singled out by the lionesses, and cut off from the herd. Wounded and down, it appeared that the game was up for this young ruminant. The pride had however reckoned without the legendary, even reckless courage that buffalo cows show when defending their offspring. Hell hath no fury like a buffalo mother, and this one was no exception. Fearlessly she charged back at the lionesses, buying her calf enough time to struggle to its feet and begin the long walk to freedom. Its ordeal was not yet over, however, and a single lioness closed with it again, raking her claws down its flank and struggling for a death grip on its throat.
Perhaps unnerved by the proximity of the mother, however, the lioness became unsure of herself and missed the mark, giving the buffalo calf the time it needed to reach the safety of the herd.
Other buffalo of course have been less fortunate, but they had a respite for a few days while the lions fed on the massive carcass of an old elephant bull, who had lain down and died in the shallow waters of the Linyanti, waters that had no doubt nurtured him many times in his six decades of wanderings around northern Botswana and which had now become his final resting place. His eternal slumbers were however soon disturbed by the biting, twisting crocodiles, and the slicing carnassial shear of the lions as they sawed their way through the ancient, wrinkled grey hide.
Perhaps the only experience more wonderful than watching one female leopard playfully running up and down the branches of a sycamore fig tree in perfect late afternoon light, would be two leopards playing together in the same way. And that's exactly the experience some of our guests had just last week, when a little patience waiting for a patch of spotted fur to unfurl into a leopard was very richly rewarded when she bounded across the clearing and launched herself up the tree trunk.
Often the very best sightings result from just that little extra bit of waiting. Sure enough, moments later the first female leopard was followed by her daughter, distinguishable only by a lingering fluffiness in her coat, and a little more white fur; Otherwise, every bit as beautiful - and as agile - as her mother. Not content with chasing their own tails, these two frolicking felines chased each other along branches and up and down tree trunks, making time of course to pose, perfectly poised, for photographs. There seemed to be some more serious intent behind their play, however - the cub frequently ambushed her mother and seemed to be pitting her strength and wits against her. So, a new little mystery for us from these most inscrutable of cats, spectral in their stealth and secrecy: Perhaps there was a kill nearby that they were sharing - or not, or this was the first rumblings of mutiny in the mother's territory, or perhaps a male in the area had stirred up hormones in even an immature leopardess? More simply, it may just have been the sheer exuberance of a family reunion.
On other occasions we witnessed a leopard pursue and kill a tree squirrel, an activity which many young leopards in particular seem to indulge in, as much to hone their arboreal agility as to snag a snack.
Leopards being the elusive characters they are, we sometimes also find their unmistakeable calling cards even if we do not see the predator itself ? Like the time this month when we found a heavily-stuffed hyaena tugging half-heartedly at a kudu carcass, but at the same time glancing nervously around it as though alert to a higher presence nearby. As the hyaena moved off, the squadrons of hunched vultures silhouetted in the trees above launched into a flurry of wings and descended to dance on the ribs of the unfortunate antelope, with the tall, murderous marabous stalking amongst them ? Still later, we found the spare ribs stashed in the fork of a tree, a sure sign that a passing leopard had seized the spoils.
The Linyanti Concession and Kings Pool itself is above all a place of elephants and never more so than this year, what with the rains being so scarce this summer and this season's precipitation still perhaps two months away. The lumbering grey giants wend their way down to the life-giving waters of the river in ever-increasing numbers, drawn magnetically along trails etched in their DNA down the generations. The strain is starting to show as the reeds retreat before the advancing feet, the elephants jostling for position at favoured watering spots or waiting patiently in patches of shade for their turn to slake their thirst.
This is likely to be a very difficult time for the massed elephants of northern Botswana, as water and food become scarcer by the day. The debate about elephant numbers and what, if anything we need to do about it, rumbles on, just as the elephants themselves rumble their discontent and anxieties to each other. Weaker, sick, or very old or young elephants may well not survive this seasonal drought as Nature resolves the dilemma in her own harsh but fair way, ensuring that the elephant population emerges from this time of thirst stronger and healthier than ever.
We have had a great time this month, thinking up new ways to delight and surprise our guests, from a table by the river set with white linen and sporting a glass jug of Pimm's and lemonade, the chinking of the ice mingling with the tinkling sounds of the frogs as the sun goes down, to the surprise and wonder of our sunken hide picnics.
Imagine the scene - your guide opens the door to a cool subterranean blind from where you can watch mighty elephants at very close quarters as they come to drink at one of the very few surviving waterholes, often so close that you get some surreal perspectives, gazing down an elephant's throat or up its trunk, or dodging as it sprays its belly with mud to keep cool. You'd be forgiven in all this for not noticing the gourmet picnic spread laid out for you - but it is there of course, along with a bottle or two of white wine on ice, so that you can share a drink with the elephants.
Another magical experience we have been able to conjure up is our bush dinners, whereby we simply move the elegance of our dining room out into the wilderness, and dine in the centre of a circle of paraffin lamps while wistful hyaenas slaver over the delicious aromas of lamb shank or Cape salmon ?
But don't take our word for it - here are the experiences of some of the guests who visited Kings Pool this month and joined us in watching the rhythm of the seasons play out, and the myriad changes unfold.
· The rooms are very beautiful, very spacious, inviting and social. Our guide Moses was absolutely a dream
· Everything was great
· Traditional dinner outside with the staff singing and dancing was a wonderful send-off
· Guides are excellent! Scenery and noises are unmatched
· The whole entire staff was wonderful. Thank you for the memorable experience
· The game viewing was fantastic! Our private dinner on our last night was a real highlight
· Any recommendations? None - everything was perfect.
· Everything here is so beautiful and the lovely people are happy with beautiful smiles
· Keep it up - thank you for an out of this world experience
· Khan (our guide)'s persistence in finding interesting game and his knowledge and enthusiasm made the game drives really fun and interesting
· We thought the elephant hide and sleeping next to the hippos was absolutely wonderful
That's all folks from your August Kings Pool team: Nick & Kerry, Richard, Eddie & Penny, Dave, Gideon, and Noko.
Camp update - August 07 Jump
Amazing how quickly a month passes, yet all the events of this exciting August seem to have happened yesterday. August has to be the best month of the year. I used to think it was October and I'm sure October will produce spectacular sightings; however, this August has been most eventful.
Imagine a pair of cheetah making a kill four days in succession, then another after a day's break. First an ostrich, followed by warthog, kudu, warthog and lastly another warthog.
Yup, the warthog community took a knock this month. The most spectacular sighting right outside the camp watched by all our guests was of the DumaTau male leopard who was seen taking it easy up in the shade of the beautiful Bird Plum tree within sight of camp. A family of warthogs en route to the pan passed beneath the tree attracting the attention of the leopard who came down, put in a spectacular charge and successfully caught the mother. One of the babies kept coming back within metres of the leopard with its mother seemingly trying to urge her to get away. One of the guests who had been taking copious amounts of pictures did not take any of this event - he was in a state of despair over the warthog. The following days saw the complete cycle of the kill ending with the vultures, eagles and not to forget, the ants.
Our best sighting, however, occurred one evening when the guests had retired. The distress call of an impala in front of Tent 1 got us running to see our wild dogs killing the impala with five hyaena and four jackals coming in to join the foray. Having alerted a couple of the guests who arrived in various states of undress to capture magnificent video footage and we all had a good late night laugh at the dress code of the moment, those guests on their tenth safari!
The pan has been pretty active and sightings of our lion, leopard and cheetah drinking, have been memorable. It's not all about the cats though, and a notable highlight was the very unexpected pleasure of a large bull eland drinking in front of camp; the first in the Linyanti for most of us. Other unusual species have been aardvark (seen almost on a daily basis) and aardwolf.
The summer-visiting Carmine Bee-eaters arrived on the 28th, a beautiful sight to behold; providing an aerial escort next to the Land Rovers before swooping in front to collect an insect, then circling round to line up behind the other birds behind the vehicle and patiently wait for their next turn. Whilst on birds the migrant Yellow-billed Kites have been seen and before we know it the shrill trill of the Woodland Kingfisher will confirm the reason why we are sweating profusely - summer will definitely have arrived.
It's already over 30°C at midday but there is still a nip in the early morning air. Our swimming pool was used for the first time this season, one of the guests breaking the ice, so to speak.
Well there we go? into September and all's well on the Savute Channel.
If you are visiting, make it at least three nights as you will be disappointed with any time less than that. There is far too much to see and comprehend.
Camps Update - August 07
Lagoon camp Jump
• The coalition of four, young male lions is still operating between Lagoon and Lebala. They are still following the buffalo herds around and have been seen twice on buffalo kills. A young male was seen North of the camp, but he did not stay for very long. The four males have been regular visitors to the camp at night and they were very vocal whilst moving through.
• Leopard sightings were again very good during this month. A female leopard was seen hunting and killing an Impala. A young male was also seen hunting a couple of times and he was also found feeding on an Impala carcass. A very good sighting of a one and a half year old male and female were reported. They were walking together, very relaxed and made for some excellent photographic opportunities.
• A single female cheetah was seen a couple of times during the month. She was very relaxed and made for good close up viewing.
• The Lagoon pack of 6 dogs and their 9 pups continue to do well. This month have seen them leaving the first den site for another den, not far away from the original site. They only stayed at the new den for about two weeks before they upped and moved in to the mopane forest. They continue to appear on a regular basis and were followed hunting on numerous occasions. The pups are now participating in some of the hunts.
• Big groups of elephants, breeding herds as well as bachelor groups, continue to be seen on the floodplains and on the riverbanks. Some of the single bulls have also been visiting the camp during the nights. Some bulls were also seen mating with the females.
• Big mixed herds of buffalo, some of them with 1500 and more buffalo in the herds have been seen grazing on the flood plains.
• Night drives during this month delivered both species of jackal, small and large spotted genets a couple of chameleons and a civet.
• General game during this month was again very good with both roan and sable antelope being found. Big herds of zebra and large journeys of giraffe were also seen. Wildebeest, steenbok, lechwe, and impala made up some of the many other species of general game that were sighted.
• Very good sightings of honey badgers were reported throughout the month. A single porcupine was also seen as well as a caracal. Banded and dwarf mongoose also appeared on a regular basis.
• Birding was excellent during the month, with purple gallinule, lapped faced vulture, osprey and giant eagle owls being seen. Yellow billed storks and pink backed pelicans added some colour to the birding scene.
Kwara & Little Kwara camps Jump
& Little Kwara camps
• Lions sightings were very good throughout the month. A pride of seven females, who no one has seen before, moved through the area. They were shy and did not stay very long. The pride of four females and one young male were found feeding on a zebra kill. Later on they were spotted resting high up in a tree. The two big males seem to be trying to take over the area. They were also seen feeding on a buffalo kill. Seven hyena managed to steal a buffalo calf kill from a young male lion.
• The mother leopard and her now sub adult female cub was seen on a regular basis throughout the month. The cub made her first impala kill in Kwara camp, next to tent one. They were also seen in a tree with a reedbuck kill and managed to kill a cerval close to the boat station.
• A female cheetah and her three cubs visited the area during this month. She managed to kill several impala and a reedbuck. During one of the hunts, she decided that it was time to teach the youngsters how to kill. She brought an impala down but did not kill it. She then left it to the cubs to bring down. They tried hard to impress mum, but it took them a while before they managed to kill the impala. The guides and trackers also found tracks of three cheetah. They tracked them for more than two hours and eventually found three male cheetah, resting on a termite mound.
• Two wild dogs made an appearance in the area. They did not stay for long, but managed to kill an impala during their visit.
• Some bachelor herds and single bull elephant were seen feeding on the flood plains during this month. A couple of breeding herds also passed through the area.
• Big herds of buffalo, some of them up to two thousand are still found in the Kwara area. One of these herds was home to a big old bull with a broken leg. The lions very quickly picked him out and he became food for the lions.
• Hyena were very active during this month due to the lions making so many kills. Black backed and side striped jackal were also seen on most of the night drives. Giant eagle owls were also seen regularly.
• General game sightings continue to be very good. Giraffe, zebra, tsessebe, warthog, kudu and some sable antelope were seen.
• Good sightings of Civet, Serval and African Wild Cat have been reported. The game drives have found numerous active Aardvark holes but animals have been eluding the drives up to now.
• Birding continues to be good in the area. Wattled cranes, saddle billed storks, fish eagles and many species of herons and storks. The heronry has become very active as a lot of the storks and herons had started breeding.
Lebala camp Jump
• Lion sightings have been excellent throughout the month. The two dominant males and the rest of their pride consisting of three adult females and their eight cubs spent a lot of time in the area. They made four buffalo kills in the open areas around the camp. The two males also managed to kill an old hippo bull about a kilometre away from camp and they fed on the kill for almost a week. A single lioness joined them on the kill. The four young males also moved in to the area and were heard having a roaring competition with the dominant males. They quickly retreated when on of the big males moved closer to see who the intruders were.
• A total of six different leopards were seen in the Lebala area during this month. Some of them were seen on more than one occasion. The older resident female leopard was seen hunting guinea fowl up in the trees and she managed to kill one in front of the guests. A big male, extremely relaxed walked right past the workshop in camp and paid little attention to the staff working there. Two younger males were found together on old Lebala road, they were skittish at first but the guides approached them very carefully and they eventually relaxed. Another young but relaxed male was found hunting north of Lebala. A very unusual sighting of two different leopards feeding on an elephant carcass was reported. They came to feed on different times and one of them was seen patiently waiting for a hyena to move away before he approached.
• The now considered resident female cheetah was seen on numerous occasions. She was followed for a couple of days and was eventually seen killing an impala. The two brothers also put in their monthly appearance. One of them had swollen eye and left side of the face. The guides suspect that a zebra might have kicked him in the face.
.• Big breeding herds, bachelor herds and some single bull elephants are a common sighting on the flood plains. These herds are now moving out of the Mopane forests onto the floodplains since all the water holes have dried up.
• Big herds of buffalo, some ranging between five hundred and a thousand animals were found along various plains. They were mostly seen mating and drinking with some of the bulls fighting for females.
• Lots of hyena activity was reported during this month. They were very busy cleaning up all the kills that were made by the lion pride. Both black backed and sided striped jackal were also seen on a regular basis.
• Excellent general game with many large journeys of giraffe, impala, waterbuck, Tsessebe, Wildebeest, Steenbok zebra, red lechwe and kudu. Sable and roan antelope were also seen on some of the drives.
• Birding was very good during this month. The first sightings of the carmine bee-eaters were reported. This is a true indication that summer has arrived. Marabou storks as well as wattled cranes were also seen. Hundreds of guttural toads and bell frogs could also be heard during the night.
• A very brief sighting of an elusive aardvark was reported on one of the night drives. Cerval, civet and honey badgers were common sightings during the night drives.
Camp update - August 07 Jump
Great weather blessed us this month with a low of 7.6°C recorded in the 17th and a high of 33.6°C on the 29th. Not too hot, not too cold and we even managed comfortable game drives in the middle of the day.
Most trees have shed their leaves, although the sausage trees have new shoots already. Except for the grasses in the damp floodplains, everything else has turned brown in coloration since it is now very dry in most areas. Water levels have in fact dropped markedly this month and most floodplains, including that in front of camp, are drying. Ironically the Jika Jika Channel has only now started flowing and while we are not sure we imagine that this water is being released by a now cleared blockage on one of the tributaries or distributaries of the Ngoga or Mboronga Rivers to the north. Ity will be fascinating to see how this situation influences the animal movement towards the north and the north eastern side of the island in the coming month.
The floodplain in front of camp has been really productive for hippo sightings in the evenings - a rare treat when you consider that hippo need the deeper water for their day time refuges and are not commonly seen in the shallow floodplains. Good numbers of crocodiles were also seen frequenting this floodplain as well. We have also enjoyed the presence of significant numbers of elephants this past month. Large herds were seen around the 'Old Mombo' site and around the current camp and we felt the presence of this largest land mammal in the form of uprooted trees and abundant feeding sign. As a result of moving into areas inaccessible to the game drives because of the water levels, buffalo were not viewed as frequently as they normally are this month. The sightings we did have were impressive however. One of the herds which normally frequents the area around Jiga-Jiga Channel area, and Goss's and Dereck's Crossings and the dry hippo pool area is estimated at 1000 animals.
Lion have been really active and in 26 days of sightings this month (the Moporota and Mathata Prides) were viewed taking down a baby giraffe and warthog. Perhaps the highlight of this month occurred when the lions killed a warthog and ended up sharing it with hyenas. The famous Mathata Pride appears to have lost its matriarch (the Mathata female for whom the pride is named).She was found in bad shape, intestines hanging out, at a buffalo kill by Suzie's Duck Pond. The Maporota Pride seem to have extended their territory from the boma areas north east of the camp all the way up to Serondela, Wheatfield and the 92 Dog Den. This pride seem to be faring well except for the absence of 3 of the 13 sub-adults normally present.
Over the course of August we recorded 8 cheetah sightings, with the overwhelming majority being of the two brothers who had settled in so well around the high lion and hyeana density Mombo Island. However one of the brothers has struggled with a badly swollen leg for more than two months. He is now deceased and died in the process of bringing down an impala which was dispatched by the healthier brother. This latter male not realizing that his brother had died in the process then called incessantly for his partner to join him at the kill, but now seems to have accepted his absence and is being seen on his own, his chances of thriving in this environment now much reduced. Leopard sightings were of the Far Eastern Pan Female, the famous Legadima and a new male (seen consorting with Legadima and thought to be the sire of her cub) who seems to be relaxed.
Most exciting however has been the return after several months of the wild dog pack. They were seen fairly close to the camp on the 29th of August. This is one of the month's highlight and the dogs had their young ones with them and they seemed comfortable. We hope to be seeing a lot more of them over the months to come and hope that this heralds a new era of wild dog residency in the area.
We were lucky to enjoy a few sightings of black and white rhino this month - mostly in areas some distance from the camp. Six regularly seen white rhino were tracked most often, among them the territorial bull Serondela. We also managed to locate the largely resident black rhino cow. On one occasion she was even found with Serondela.
Between Mombo and Little Mombo camp this month we had about 25 bush lunches, these picnics set in some of the most beautiful locations on the island: Thompson's Crossing and the Hippo Hide (facing a perennial water channel with a small lagoon renowned for its hippos and crocs). We also had a range of animals coming through to have a drink while we were having our lunch. The day I will never forget is when we had a lioness crossing the water while we were busy setting up brunch out at Hippo Hide. She went all the way into the thickets and we were all convinced that she was gone until she re-emerged and walked straight towards the lagoon in front of the hide. She swam back to where she had come from and then chased a herd of red lechwe managing to catch a youngster, right in plain view of the guests who by this stage had arrived at the picnic site. We regularly saw herds of elephants as well.
Some of our guest comments:
Our guide was a delight, as well as the beautiful game drives. We loved our surprise romantic pool side dinner too, thanks
Simon was delightful and everyone of the staff were friendly and helpful
Wonderful and unique game viewing-warm and friendly service - unusual and very comfortable rooms and accommodations.
Fixing delightful food for my special diet, the room service was excellent.
Everything was fantastic! The staff are so lovely, the food and accommodation were wonderful. We loved every minute of Mombo
Our guide, my son says he is a crazy good guide-beautiful camp and wildlife
Friendliness of everyone who works here.
Seeing a pride of lion - two cheetahs, baby hyena with parents and the lions killing at brunch. Wilderness store was excellent.
Everyone here was wonderful, we could not have asked for mere extraordinary experience. Our drives and days were made that much better by our guide. He not only showed us some of the best sightings, but was also patient, kind and generous with all of us.
Seeing the huge variety of animals mingling with each other ? too many highlights
Hearing the male lion calling for the rest of the pride while we were having lunch at hippo hide
Everything was fantastic ? so much so that I couldn't name a highlight.
Rhinos and Simon's food
Outstanding meals, guide and staff
Mangers who were in camp:
Mombo: Taps, Lizzy, Jeremy (front of house) Sharon, Pete (back of house)
Little Mombo: Eva, Camilla and Francis (Guide manager)
Camp update - August 07 Jump
Well, August has come to an end and with more than half its days characterised by an unsteady atmosphere it has once again stayed true to its reputation of being the comparatively windy month ? much to dislike of Janice who has desperately tried to keep the curio shop clean and dust-free! Summer is creeping in and we recorded a high of 32?C this month. In terms of mean temperatures, we averaged a low of 13?C and a high of 26?C. Relatively mild, this is true, but we can assure you that when that wind-chill kicks in, it is mighty cold out here ? those of you who have been here will no doubt agree, especially when whistling through the Delta channels on the motor boat!
The water level has continued to drop steadily and under the bridge the level has dropped by another 12cm this month. The road to the airstrip is now completely dry and it is difficult to believe that only 2 months ago the water reached a good distance up the Land Rover doors when the guides drove through those 'puddles'. Although the dropping water level means we will not be able to boat up to Chief's island anymore, it does mean that alternative areas on Xigera Island will become more accessible by vehicle and so our game driving options are improving. However, before coming to a halt, the Chief's Island day trip picnics rewarded our guests and guides with two spectacular sightings this month. On the 4th of August an astonishing herd of approximately 200 red lechwe were seen close to Chief's Island. Seeing a herd of this size was breathtaking! The second was when Teko and his guests witnessed a leopard stalk a troop of baboons close to Chiefs Island. An intense chase was followed by absolute chaos as the baboons screamed and fled for their lives. The leopard was unsuccessful and retreated, but in the mayhem the baboons didn't notice the leopard was gone and they spent a few minutes attacking one another before they realised they were safe and ran off. Humorous to say the least!
Xigera Island has surprised us with some unusual but fascinating species this past month. A single honey badger was seen on two occasions on the road to the airstrip. On both occasions the honey badger was rather shy and skittish and so it did not hang around for long once it had been spotted. The second surprise was seeing an African Wild Cat. The cat was seen whilst out on game drive just before it got dark, stalking and skulking through the grass, stopping every few paces and trying desperately to go unnoticed. Simon watched him for a couple of minutes before he had to leave the scene to head back to camp. Since both of these species are predominantly nocturnal, we don't often get the opportunity to see these animals ? all the more reason why these sightings were such a treat!
The birdlife at Xigera has been exceptionally exciting this month! As the water levels drop, many of the sandbanks that were submerged during the flood have become exposed. These areas are highly sought after as nesting sites for many bird species and so activity is at a peak. Numerous species have been seen courting one another and mating. As spring continues to approach, we are expecting some serious combat as birds start to look for prime nesting sites in which to raise their young. The Okavango Delta is one of the most pristine areas in the world and thus the birdlife population (especially water birds around Xigera) flourishes.
On that note, some of the guides and managers at Xigera have taken part in a bird count on the Boro Channel that runs between Xigera and Chiefs Island. The results were extremely rewarding and our assumptions were rights ? we literally did see hundreds of birds. The bird count took place on two consecutive mornings over the same distance and area and lasted approximately and hour and a half each. On one morning, we recorded an unbelievable 247 African Jacana; 147 Squacco Heron and 85 Pygmy Goose! Not to mention the other 19 water bird species that were also seen that morning.
With all of this going on, we all agree that the birding highlight of the month has got to be the discovery of a juvenile Pels Fishing Owl! The little fluff ball made its debut to the guides Teko and Oscar on the 13th of this month. Its home is a large hole in the trunk of a Sycamore Fig Tree. A nest we have known about for a long time and have been watching closely in the hope of a baby Pels ? and our patience has been rewarded. This is the second attempt by the resident pair in the past year. In March the guides noticed that the female Pels was sitting on her nest and we highly doubt this was just because she enjoyed the view from there! Unfortunately, a four day downpour towards the end of that month must have destroyed either the eggs or the juveniles as the pair left their nest shortly after these rains. So needless to say, all at Xigera are ecstatic that the pair have managed to get it right this time and we hope the little beauty will continue to do as well as it has been!
Well guys, that's a wrap from us this month. Bring on the summer!
The Xigera Team
Camp update - August 07 Jump
The beginning of August saw the floodwaters of the Okavango arrive in the Chitabe area. Day by day, little by little, they have crept further into runnels and gullies, floodplain and channel alike. The Lediba (open waterhole) in front of the newly renamed Chitabe Lediba (formerly Trails) Camp has provided a daily parade of wildlife as they venture to the water to drink. In one view, warthog, zebra, kudu, impala, baboon and elephant can be seen, with occasional herds of Cape buffalo and even a large male leopard, who came down to drink one evening.
Although the floodwaters have arrived, the area is very dry, giving the sunrise and sunset a spectacular red glow as it streams through the dusty haze that hangs over the earth.
We have lost one of the lionesses from the local pride in somewhat mysterious circumstances - her body was found lying under a bush about 100m from a zebra that had been killed by the pride. We assume a lucky kick from the desperate animal had resulted in a fatal injury to the lion. The other lioness and her three young cubs are still alive and doing well however, as are the two males who hold the territory.
Another very large solitary female was found by OT in the Gomoti area, after she had killed a buffalo on her own. Shortly afterward a clan of hyaena arrived and robbed her of the kill.
We have also located a spotted hyaena den near Fossil Road, and have observed at least 4 cubs outside the den amusing themselves while their elders are away hunting.
We have had a lot of leopard sightings this month, and the population of these amazing cats seems to have increased significantly in the last year. We estimate at least ten of them holding territories within a few kilometres from the camp. Mosadi Mogolo has been seen a few times, as well as her two new cubs. We found her adult daughter in the Balance Plant area with her own cub, and she had a large gash on her back, presumed to be the result of a clash with a troop of baboons. It didn't seem to be bothering her very much, however, and we expect her to make a full recovery.
August has had several cheetah sightings as well - on two occasions, solitary males have been found, as well as a female with a litter of 4 cubs, probably around 8 months old. We have had several sightings of serval this month as well - Celine even spotted one of these rare cats from the walkway in the camp one night.
Herds of buffalo have also been moving through the concession in varying numbers - the lions were keeping them under close watch and on one morning their vigilance was rewarded with the capture of a wandering calf. A herd of seven "dagga boys" (the older bulls) have also been lurking in the riverine forest of Mukutshumo Island.
Other mammals seen in the area have included many herds of giraffe, sometimes in dozens, gazing out over the bush in their inscrutable manner. Wildebeest, tsessebe and zebra are also in abundance, as well as many herds of greater kudu. Many herds of elephant are being seen now as the outlying bush becomes drier, and they move towards the main channels of the Santantadibe River. Often the island is full of the sound of them feeding, both bulls and breeding herds alike. The sound of shaking palm trees and falling nuts is almost constant as they harvest the bounty of the Ilala Palms. Jackalberry trees are also fruiting and provide a welcome feast for many species from monkeys and birds to elephants.
With the warmer weather, a lot of reptile activity has been observed - there was an interesting love-triangle between three monitor lizards in a sausage tree next to the walkway that went on for a few days. A large male was vying for the attention of an equally large female, while a much smaller, but certainly persistent, young male kept getting in the way!
The water around the camp has become a focal point for a lot of birdlife, and a pair of Saddle-billed Storks are nesting somewhere close to the camp. We saw one of the Storks catch a large Sharp-Toothed Catfish, and struggle for some time to subdue and consume it. Other birds seen in this wetland area this month were Hamerkop, Slaty Egret, Pied Kingfishers, African Fish Eagle and a pair of African Hawk Eagles. One afternoon we came across a Bateleur Eagle and two White-backed Vultures all wading in a shallow flooded area together, like a family at the beach. The Hooded Vultures on the island are now incubating on their nest, and we will be keeping them under close observation to see how they develop.
The temperatures are starting to climb with the advent of spring - the hottest days recorded thus far have been 35°C, with a minimum average around 12°C. The next couple of months are going to get hotter and drier until the rains arrive.
For the month of September, guides in camp will be Newman, Phinley, Ebs, Lazarus and Luke. Dawson, Ryan, Celine will be at Main Camp, with Josephine and Kenny at Lediba.
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