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AFRICAN SAFARI NEWS

August 2007

(Page 2 of 2)

Page 1 Updates
Wilderness Safaris News - Info and updates from Wilderness Safaris.
• North Island Dive Report from the Seychelles.
• Monthly update from Kalamu Camp in Zambia.
• Monthly update from Shumba Camp in Zambia.
• Monthly update from DumaTau Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Kings Pool Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Savuti Camp in Botswana.
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.

Page 2 Updates
• Monthly update from Kwetsani Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Jao Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Tubu Tree Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Jacana Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Duba Plains in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Little Vumbura in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Mana Canoe Trails in Zimbabwe.
• Monthly update from Makalolo Plains in Zimbabwe.

Monthly Dive report from Rocktail Bay in South Africa.
• Monthly update from Pafuri Camp in South Africa.
• Monthly update from Ongava Tented Camp in Namibia.
• Monthly update from Damaraland Camp in Namibia.


Kwetsani update - August 07                Jump to Kwetsani Camp

Spring is around the corner and the jewel of the desert is drying up, shrinking from 18 000km² to a mere hippo pool of 15 000km². Kwetsani's evening air is filled with the tranquil sounds of frogs trilling and lions roaring as they rule the night, here in the world's natural phenomena - the Okavango Delta. As all of this happens the days are getting longer and the nights shorter, temperatures are warming, the winds are changing and the summer rains are on their way.

Remarkable is the only word to describe guests this month. The most remarkable would be a Swiss father and his son who flew all the way from Switzerland in an Ultralite (twin seated) airplane, a journey to Kwetsani that took them 38 days! Many families also passed through Kwetsani this month having loads of fun here in Africa. With the warm days we've been having, everyone has taken advantage of picnics at Hunda Island and we have had an early start to the swimming season with guests in the pool already.

It has also been the month for birders from around the world. They seem to have timed it perfectly: warmer days and lower water levels mean more water birds. The concession is at its best with birding at the moment. Over a three-night stay two of our guests managed to see 170 different species, the highlight of which was a sighting of three rare Black-tailed Godwits, an unusual migrant species.

Malachite Kingfisher

There are water birds by the thousands at the moment: from the small Malachite and Pied Kingfishers, to the large Saddle-billed Stork and plenty of other waterfowl feeding on frogs and small fish as the water recedes. The Open-billed Storks are also heading into the area, feeding in front of Kwetsani on the snails left behind after the water. They also have a roosting tree on the edge of Hunda Island. The evening boat cruises have a remarkable ending, as when returning to Kwetsani there are about 2000 Storks that fly over head to their roosting site for the night.

'Broken Nose', the lioness with the new cub, seems to be managing well and the little guy/gal seems to be getting bigger by the day. The two of them are frequenting the area around Jao airstrip and Jacana jetty; they have caused a few delayed planes and arrivals this month.

Lioness and cub at Kwetsani Camp

The Kwetsani pride is still going strong, with the little female and young male growing fast. They have been seen hunting with the lionesses on a few occasions this month; they are in training, so patience is the key to the adult's hunting.

Leopard sightings this month have also been extraordinary with sightings of three at a time on many an occasion. Sightings of this species on their hoisted kills have been regular while on one occasion guests also witnessed the sequence of an actual kill on Hunda Island during game drive.

Leopards at Kwetsani Camp

Most exciting of all however was a sighting involving one of the region's larger herbivores. On the morning of the 14th of August while on game drive on Hunda Island we were surprised to see giraffes jumping up and down in what looked like a giraffe celebration. Then all our questions were answered, when out from one of the bushes popped the smallest giraffe we have ever seen, a newborn baby. It could walk under the mother's stomach and was a first for everyone at the sighting. Camera memory cards were filled in minutes and video cameras were rolling - it was amazing. Africa can produce memories today, and tomorrow it can hide them from us just as quickly, this is the mystery of Africa.

So as the environment changes with the approach of spring we end off yet another amazing month at Kwetsani Camp in the Jao concession. From the beauty of the birds, animals and everything that makes it, we thank Mother Nature for everything she has given us.

 

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Jao Camp update - August 07               Jump to Jao Camp

August has been a month full of surprises, some pleasant and others startling but all in all, undeniably fascinating.

The weather has kept us all on our toes. We have all been caught up amongst a continual battle between winter and summer. Just as we all kick off our boots and woolly socks for the welcome warmth, winter makes a u-turn and blows back into Jao with a sudden chill. The temperatures rose to a balmy 29°C and then dropped dramatically to a breezy 7°C. The winds kept the cold lingering at times but the sun pacified the goose-bumps. It was hard to keep up!

The floods are tucking themselves away for another year. The water levels have been dropping dramatically limiting the channels used for motor boating. This, however, makes it possible to host the mokoro rides from the front of camp as it is quite shallow now and is perfect for such a peaceful trip.

Yellow-billed Stork at Jao

Small pools of water on the island have encouraged the Yellow-Billed Storks to gather, adding a splash of colour to the rich green backdrop of the Mopane trees. Also, further out of camp the endangered Slaty Egrets have been congregating in numbers of up to forty. Spur-winged Geese and Marabou Storks have also been flocking through into the rapidly drying floodplains.

Martial Eagle with a Steenbok      Martial Eagle with a Steenbok

Further with the winged warriors, a new life was spotted in a Martial Eagle's nest. A single chick was visible from the top of a Knobthorn tree. Meanwhile, mother Martial eagle had herself a hearty meal. In a spectacular display of her impressive power and accuracy she had grabbed a steenbok. This was a true expression of how precise and forceful these fearless raptors are. This particular eagle has been brave enough to swoop down on our local female leopard. The two cross paths quite often as they both try to stake out their territory.

Further on our female leopard: she has unfortunately recently lost her two cubs. The Delta is truly a difficult place to raise young. She is however ready to move on as she has been calling every night looking for a mate.

Alongside the leopardess calling, on one tuneful evening we had an orchestra composing an African symphony of feline voices. A pride of lions crossed the Jao Bridge and wandered around the island for one glorious evening, singing lullabies for hours. The sands were painted with paw-prints the next morning convincing us all that we were not just sweetly dreaming the night before. Broken Nose, a resident female lion, has been a proud mother as she parades about the floodplains with her small female cub along her side.

"Broken-Nose" the lioness, with her cub

A male and female sitatunga have been regularly sighted at the Jao Bridge. Elusive and secretive, we are lucky to have such a sight of these antelope at all.

It's the time of year again when the elephants march through camp being frustratingly, yet, amusingly destructive to our walkways and local fauna. The palm trees are the main attraction as they are full of palm nuts which make a tasty snack for a grumbling stomach. There is nothing quite like watching the towering palm trees swaying back and forth as they are rocked with might by these magnificent creatures; a shower of nuts toppling to the ground. And, after a busy day eating they settle down behind the Jao office for a well deserved rest.

Elephant pushing a Palm Tree at Jao

Our guests have come from all over the world again, however, one evening we had a full camp of New Yorkers. Jao was definitely a home away from home as everyone found their six degrees of separation.

Guest comments:
'We had a fantastic time and have been thoroughly spoilt by your caring and attention. Leaving with fond memories and we do hope to come back some day! - M, K& S (Singapore)
'We truly felt like part of the JAO family. Thank you so much!' - M family (Mexico)
'We had such a wonderful stay at your beautiful camp. Thanks to all the Jao staff. Outstanding guide and great hosts.' - R family (UK)
'Fantastic! We had the most wonderful time. Everyone was so friendly and our experience was the best! Thanks a million!' - K, Mary, K & B (USA)
'The place is fantastic, but the people of Jao are the best. Thank you all for everything. P.S. And the animals are very special, too." - S family (USA)
'Thank you for an incredible three days! Everything was perfect." - E & J (USA)

Black Egret

It has been a wonderfully busy month with endless wildlife entertainment and exciting people to meet. Put another tick on the travel checklist and visit the African Delta.

Kindest regards and biggest smiles,
The Jao Team


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Tubu Tree Camp update - August 07               Jump to Tubu Tree Camp

The weather has been warming up nicely during August, and the water has receded to a point where it is nearly possible to do a completely dry game drive on Hunda Island, on which Tubu Tree Camp is situated! This is the time of year that provides an abundance of birdlife, with isolated stretches of water becoming shallower and making a feast of trapped water dwellers available to our feathered friends.

In camp the Ilala palm fruits are now ripe, and elephant visits to camp have become a daily occurrence. The heavy rustling of the palm trees as they get shaken and bumped by the elephants to let the fruit fall down, can be heard from all directions in camp. It is quite a sight watching the elephants lowering their heads and closing their eyes when the fruits start falling, because judging from the puffs of dust on their heads as the falling missiles hit them, it is truly an uncomfortable way of obtaining your food!

It is not only the elephants that are benefiting from these palm trees however. All over camp there are monkeys and baboons munching away on the delicious offerings from above. Most of the time of course they wait for the elephants to do all the hard work, and just pick it off the ground, but they are also often seen high up in the palm trees doing their reaping for themselves. It could of course also be that they are hesitant to be caught up on the top of a palm tree when the elephant starts with his "shaking the palm tree" exercise!

The squirrels, of which there are many in camp, are also of course joining in for the feast. They are truly amazing little animals to watch - busy, fast, agile. And with an attitude that doesn't give an inch!

The floodplain in front of the camp has provided an amazing spectacle to watch and to listen to, and all from the comfort of the best safari vehicle in the delta - our sausage tree bar! It took a lioness nearly four hours to stalk a group of red lechwe through the water and long grass on the floodplain, with guests and staff alike sitting and standing around, watching the whole drama unfold in anticipation! The stalking that started at 12h30, ended in success at 16h00 when, soaking wet, she got her meal and dragged the lechwe onto a palm island on the floodplain. And that was not the end of it! We then watched her wondering off, to return an hour later with her cub, and both disappeared into the island. Later that evening, just before dessert was served, the drama continued with four hyaenas attacking the lions, robbing them of their prey, growling and whooping so loudly that everybody jumped up from the table to stand and listen with eyes piercing into the darkness to try and see something. Unfortunately the cub perished during the fight and we could see the mother lion coming back to search for it for three days afterwards - unsuccessfully.

At Tubu we live close to nature.

Tubu greetings
Christo, Alene and the rest of the staff


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Jacana Camp update - August 07               Jump to Jacana Camp

Once again, another month has passed on our tropical island paradise. Winter is slowly releasing its grip and the days are warming up nicely. The floodwaters are still receding, revealing more dry land and shallow floodplains, bringing the wildlife ever closer to the camp. The nights are often filled with the roar of lion and leopard. The frogs are also adding to the night chorus as the temperatures increase.

Not only have the lion and leopard been heard, but they are being seen on a regular basis. The lion have been very prolific, especially the lioness with her small cub. They are both in great condition and she has been very successful making kills to feed herself and her cub. The elephant are still visiting the camp on an almost daily basis, still in search of the fruit from the palm trees.

Birdlife is outstanding as usual. The receding flood is revealing a lot of food for the birds, with great numbers of African Darters, Sacred Ibis, Pied Kingfishers, Slaty Egrets and Squacco Herons being seen in very concentrated areas. Saddle-billed Storks are also often seen around the camp. Even some of the summer visitors like the Yellow-billed Kite are already being seen.

Saddle-billed Stork at Jacana Camp

August was unusual in that there were two full moons in the month (a 'blue moon'). Dining on the open deck with the full moon rising over the water is a truly wonderful dining experience.

We look forward to the warmer month of September as spring is in the air. Different but familiar seasonal smells of plants and grasses linger in the air as the temperature warms up.

We hope to see you here and that you can experience our paradise island with us.

Regards, the Jacana Team
"Two eyes are not enough to see and enjoy all these wonderful things. One heart is not enough to thank you all" - B

· "Magical - one of our favourite places. A water garden?endless. The food was the best ever. Sunset cocktail, bird identification and Jack the Ellie (a crowd pleaser)" - I&CM
· "Staff and wildlife. A wonderful physical facility. We really enjoyed it all." - G&T
· "Wonderful staff and food. Truly a fantasy island." J&A
· "Dream like. So absolutely serene." - S&S
· "Being on the water surrounded by shining scenery. Rooms, food, service are all excellent. Relaxing, friendly and informative atmosphere." - J


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Duba Plains Camp update - August 07               Jump to Duba Plains Camp

Managers: Moalosi, Francois and Bonang
Guides: James007, ST and Dennis

As usual, August has been a very busy month and slightly different from July in temperature. The first three weeks were fairly warm (both during day and night) and the warmer weather was immediately noticeable in the behaviour of the hippo that now seemed reluctant to bask out in the sun in front of the camp. It was also noticeable in the behaviour of our guests who now no longer seemed as excited with the prospect of cuddling a hot water bottle both in bed and on early morning game drives! There was only a sudden change of temperature in the last week of the month when very strong cold wind came through one morning when everyone was at breakfast.

Bridge and crossing at Duba Plains

SIGHTINGS
The buffalo herd is still in good condition despite the dryness of the grass. In August, as a result of the buffalo herd spending most of the time in our prime game drive this month, the interaction between the Tsaro Pride and the buffalo herd seemed to have dominated most sightings. We have also been able to cover most of the area as the water has receded a lot. The area along Tswene Road west of the bridge has not been accessed in the last four months due to the water level being very high for example. Recently the Tsaro Pride led the game drive vehicles on this road following the herd (the lioness posing for the picture is the Silver Eyed Female about five minutes before taking down a buffalo cow on the edge of this floodplain).

Lions and Buffalos at Duba Plains

The Tsaro pride has been very successful this month. We have been seeing more interaction, resulting in 7 buffalo kills witnessed over the month. We are very proud to announce that 'Junior' (the sub-adult male in the Tsaro Pride) has recently proved his worth in the pride. This happened after full five hours of following the Tsaro pride hunting buffalo when we were delighted to watch Junior sneaking through the grass with full concentration to target an older buffalo. After a chase of several metres, he jumped on the back of the cow and brought it down to the ground without any assistance from the adults. After a long time of desperation to do it the right way, eventually he has done it!

Not only Junior has been doing us proud - James 007 was also surprised recently, when watching two of the Tsaro females taking down a cow, to see the small female cub (about 8 months old) swiftly leaping over the buffalo trying to reach the throat for suffocation! She did it a little bit early and was nearly taken by the swinging horn of the cow. She must have learnt a lesson there as she did stay back for a while until the cow was dead. As we mentioned in last month's report, we are still convinced the female cub will make it to the next stage of sub-adulthood. She is also growing at a tremendous rate which is evident by her size versus her age. The other cub of which we reported last month was sadly seen recently badly injured on her back. The cub could not walk with its hind legs, but rather was just dragging them, a sure sign of a back injury. We feel this has been caused by one of the females and she has been seen following her mother almost everywhere she goes. This has made her very easy to track as she leaves a significant trail behind from dragging the hind legs.

Young Lion at Duba

The Skimmer Pride still consists of three females and is still very elusive. They were seen only once in August on a buffalo kill on the northern side of the camp. The adult Skimmer male has also been seen once along Molapo Road recently, which is the boundary line between Tsaro and Skimmer Pride territories. The aging Duba Boys are still strong and very confident of protecting the Tsaro Pride and their territory, and still fight viciously for dominance when it comes to feeding and mating.

Male Sitatunga

When the lion and the buffalo are not the main focus, our guides always focus on the smaller things that actually contribute a lot to making the bush so interesting. They have recently been witnessing some sporadic sightings, e.g. a male bushbuck was photographed recently comfortably walking across the floodplain to the next island. Birding has become tremendous as the water recedes and a myriad birds have been seen foraging on the drying muddy plains. The trio of Wattled Cranes above were caught in the camera foraging on the plains.

Wattled Cranes

Report by T.L Moalosi @ Duba Plains


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Little Vumbura update - August 07               Jump to Little Vumbura Camp

The water level has dropped considerably and we are starting to see a lot of birdlife on the fringes of the water ways as food sources are becoming concentrated. Flocks of Egrets and Spur-winged Geese are abundant at the moment and a Fish Eagle is seen hunting most days at the causeway at Mbishi 1 making for great photographic opportunities. Also on the birding front we have a Cape Wagtail pair nesting in our utility boat's footwell, meaning that the boat has been docked until the little ones head off! Pel's Fishing Owls also are visiting the island frequently and are heard feeding at night in the trees around the guest tents.

The game drives have been very productive too. Even the game drive transfer from the airstrip regularly presents viewing of at least 10 mammal species: kudu, zebra, baboon, elephant, impala, warthog, giraffe, tsessebe, vervet monkey and hippo are seen on most days. Giraffe are currently in abundance at Vumbura Paradise with groups of up to 18 being seen, Sable are being seen almost daily, African wildcat have provided good viewing and the camp's resident chacma baboon troop seem to think that the roofs were created especially for them.

The lion prides are showing themselves often and on one occasion were seen feeding on a young sable. They have been actively following the large herd of buffalo though and the last time the herd came close to the island a kill was made, offering excitement and also the opportunity of opportunistic lion viewing en route to the airstrip; a nice farewell gift for our guests. We actually had three prides in the area at one time a few weeks back. The additional activity inspired the two territorial males to put on a roaring display close to the boat station, with hippo snorting in the background while guests were on the fire deck sipping away: Africa at its best!

Elephants are happy out here with water and food all over. They graced the camp last week with an entire herd of eleven (including little guys) passing between back of house and front of house. Our waiters were not happy with this as you can imagine. The elephants spent an hour on the island causing us to do some detours with the guests coming to dinner. They were actually quite comfortable with the lights and movement during that time, not often one sees the herds relaxed in camp; on foot!

A big herd of approximately 50 were seen close to the airstrip two weeks back.

Leopard sightings have been increasing recently with two different males being seen in the last week! A nice bonus together with the male cheetah who has shown himself a lot lately!

Spring is in full bloom, the Sausage Trees have their new velvet leaves and the scent of blooming Wooly Caper Bushes is in the air. Come on, summer!


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Zimbabwe camps
Mana Canoe Trails update - August 07               Jump to Mana Canoe Trail

STAFF ON CANOE TRAILS
Matthew and Brian have continued to canoe almost daily through July and August. The busy season is in full swing and both guides and back-up crew have been pulling together to ensure a unique safari to all who join us.

WEATHER
The last two months have been the luck of the draw in terms of wind. Some guests have arrived to calm waters and had the perfect paddling weather for the rest of their trip and some have had to battle choppy waters for the first part of the day. Temperatures in July and early August remained very comfortable around 28-29°C. It seems that someone has started stoking the coals however and the end of August saw the start of a roaring hot summer with temperatures creeping up into the early thirties.

VEGETATION, LANDSCAPE AND THE ZAMBEZI RIVER
As always the winding channels are still green with vegetation, creating an illusion of what lies up and beyond the high banks of the river. The early morning and afternoon walks on the canoe trails will reveal a dusty landscape, the last of the small shrubs crackling debris under your feet. In the evening the dust and the haze, blended with a cold drink makes for the perfect sundown. At night the Zambian escarpment comes alive with dancing dragons, fires that have been burning for months. Their incessant smoke concealing some of the night sky, but fortunately nothing can completely dull the awe inspiring African Milky Way. The Southern Cross and Scorpio have been most prominent and are easily identified by the guests. If you are a keen fisherman, you will be happy to know that both tiger fish and bream have come on the bite. We have regularly enjoyed a plate of fresh bream snacks on our last evening. Our notorious chef, Bob, whips them up in a batter, fried on an open fire and garnished with freshly squeezed lemon. Simply DELICIOUS!

WILDLIFE NEWS
Panthera leo has been making its presence felt all down the Zambezi River. Their powerful roar can be heard from many kilometres but the last two months we have regularly had them calling very close to our camping spots. One particularly mischievous cat took a little bit too much interest in the guides' shower. The young male pulled down the canvas bucket and was dragging it into the bushes, helped along by its five siblings. There was much surprise from the guide when he looked out his tent expecting to see hyaena and finding something a little more daunting. That very same day, the guests were canoeing down the river towards Illala Camp and witnessed a lioness come down to the river's edge to drink. Just to make matters even more interesting, the same guests on the same evening saw another lioness with her 4 cubs on a game drive. Some people just have the most amazing luck!

We also had a visitor one evening at Vundu Camp. A friendly elephant came wandering up to the fire and inspected the bar just to make sure there was enough liquor there to last the trip and then sauntered out the back of camp, leaving the guests a bit breathless at the close encounter. Some other lucky guests canoed past a herd of elephants in the water giving themselves a shower. This always makes for the most amazing photography if you can catch the water droplets in mid-spray from their trunks. Another interesting sighting worthy of special attention was that of a male nyala that was seen dashing off into the thicket near Chikwenya airstrip. These are very shy and quite rare animals and are not often seen.

In the Zambezi Valley, it is easy to judge how much water is left inland by the amount of game along the river shoreline. It is now guaranteed that you will see herds of kudu and eland either canoeing or on the walks. A sign that things are really drying out inland is the increase in buffalo herds - our guides and guests canoed past five herds in one day. Things must be getting really desperate out there.

The guides also had to operate on a bat that had been caught on the radio aerial of the vehicle. It had tried to fly away and in the process entangled its flimsy wing around the aerial. The guides could do nothing but make a thin slice through its wing so that they could set it free. Fortunately it was still able to fly when they let it go. Never a dull moment in the bush!

BIRDS AND BIRDING
Of course we have to immediately mention the return of the famous Carmine Bee-eaters which are now being sighted in their large colonies along the river. Canoeists are wowed by the beauty of their deep pink feathers and birders come from far and wide at this time of year purely to enjoy their presence. We were also lucky enough to get a rare peek at a flock of Crested Guineafowl on the way to the Chikwenya airstrip. These birds hide in the thick brush and are not often seen but very distinguishable from the Helmeted Guineafowl. The Bat Hawk has been spotted again, hunting bats in the evening at Illala Camp. There is also a resident barred owl that lives in the tree above the kitchen at Vundu Camp. He is lovely to look at if you catch him in the early morning or evening, and he is always calling to make his presence felt. An Arnott's Chat was also seen flitting about in the mopane woodland near the Nyamatusi Channel.

COMMENTS/HIGHLIGHTS
· "Lunch in the middle of the river was a real novelty. The combination of canoeing and walking was great. Arriving at the camp sites was a treat. The adrenaline rush when hippos got stroppy!"
· "Mastering the art of dodging hippos, the river and scenery are spellbinding - beautiful sunrises, moon rises and sunsets. Guides were experts."
· "Everything was done to perfection. We loved the variety - hikes, game drives, fishing, tea and learning about the Zambezi was fabulous."


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Makalolo Plains update - August 07               Jump to Makalolo Camps

Staff at Makalolo:
Guides: Dickson Dube, Hupu Dube, Lawrence Yohane, Godfrey Khunzi, Raymond Ndlovu.
Hostess and Host: Charmaine Sawyer and Bekie Ncube
Management: Amon Johnson

Weather
The beginning of summer has finally arrived. The afternoons have been warm although the early morning and late evening still find us gathered round the fire for a little extra heat. With this warm weather comes the need to keep cool - the birds are now more frequent visitors around the bird baths in the mid-mornings to early afternoons. To prove the change in the seasons our temperatures have now increased to a minimum of 9°C and a maximum of 32°C. The wind is still a frequent visitor as it whispers through the camp and to our surprise it bought along a few clouds towards the end of the month. There was a distinct rain smell in the air but luckily hopes were not too high as they would have been greatly disappointed as it is a little early still for the rains.

Vegetation, Landscape and Water
The majority of the trees stand naked as they have lost their leaves to the strong winds that August is best known for. Despite this there is however a rose amongst the thorns as various False Mopane and Zimbabwean Teak trees maintain their evergreen leaves and spice up the bronze landscape! The vegetation has changed drastically since the rains left it thick and green, we now have no problem finding wildlife as the bush is no longer dense and lush, making game viewing phenomenal. Water is a vital resource especially at this time of the year when we are almost at the peak of the dry season. Animals are seen in huge numbers congregating at all of the waterholes waiting their turn to quench their thirst. Water is being pumped 24/7 to ensure that all animals get to survive this harsh time.

Wildlife News
Sightings for August were as follows: caracal, lesser bushbaby, leopard, slender mongoose, yellow mongoose, African wildcat, aardwolf, bat-eared fox, eland, lion, banded mongoose, white rhino, roan antelope, common duiker, scrub hare, impala, vervet monkey, spotted hyaena, baboon, buffalo, elephant, giraffe, hippo, black-backed jackal, kudu, sable, springhare, steenbok, warthog, waterbuck, wildebeest, and zebra.

We have to admit the wildlife this month has been most exciting! Our white rhino sightings just keep improving since their release last month. Much to our delight, it looks as though this spectacular beast will be here to stay! Buffalo seem to roam the plains in their hundreds and we see these herds on a regular basis. At the end of this month we witnessed a magnificent herd of what we estimated to be a thousand healthy looking buffalo. We all sat at the table unable to continue with brunch as we watched in amazement as they never seemed to stop arriving to quench their thirst. The elephant numbers have increased as we witness them taking turns to peacefully consume the fresh water provided not only by the boreholes but the swimming pool too. They are becoming regulars at the bar these days and we are convinced that they not only drink the pool water but use it more to wash their trunks out.

The lions have moved in around the camp over the last month and lately there is not a night that goes by where they do not leave their mighty roars to linger in the stillness of the night. The females that have had nine cubs are finally leaving the security of hiding places as we have had more sightings of the little ones. On one occasion the cubs were even inquisitive enough to venture toward the vehicle as they investigated the strange obstacle. We were also fortunate to witness the thrill of the chase as two male lions stalked and hunted a buffalo with spectacular success. Another lion highlight were a pride of 15 lions feasting on a giraffe for about 5 days.

Birds and Birding
A total of 90 different bird species were recorded this month.

We have had a few surprises this month in the form of unusual visitors. The Yellow-billed Kite was seen on the 9th of August which is surprising as it appears to be two months early - maybe this bird has heard of the saying "the early bird gets the worm" (or the frogs in their case who have also seemed a little confused but keeping our waterholes alive with conversation).

We had a fantastic sighting of a Shikra (Little Banded Goshawk). We observed the bird perched on a branch, looking for prey, a Kurrichane Thrush came into the open and an attack was launched, but unfortunately for the hungry Shikra the Thrush overpowered it and it got away, leaving the Shikra dumfounded. A Feral Pigeon with identifying bands on its legs landed on our kitchen fence, rather confused and possibly tired and lost, it has taken residence at the camp and seems quite content with its new surroundings. Black-Eyed Bulbuls and Red-eyed Bulbuls were seen together bathing in the same bird bath.

Guest Comments
"It was perfect - exciting game viewing, warm atmosphere, everything was done to make our stay comfortable and enjoyable" - C&D, USA
"The uniqueness of the camp; our accommodation; meals by candlelight; bonfires and great food. Seeing a lot of animals; the male lion and lioness with cubs on a giraffe kill, awesome. Great Guides and staff" - L&L, USA
"Great ambience, wonderful staff, very knowledgeable guides. You have a great place" - J&B, USA
Thanks for all those joining us this lively month.

Regards from all at Makalolo!


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South Africa camps
Rocktail Bay Dive Newsletter - August 07                  Jump to Rocktail Bay Lodge

August is traditionally a windy month with the north-easterly blowing one day followed by the south-westerly the next. This makes sea conditions fluctuate regularly throughout the month. The north-easterly can cause choppy top conditions, which do not really affect bottom conditions but the south-west causes swells which can stir up the sand off the reef making the visibility drop. However, the lull between the two battling winds produces wonderful flat, calm seas. Visibility ranges from 5-8 metres when it is really surging to an average of 15m right up to 18-20 metres when the sea is calm. Water temperatures are still around 21-23°C.

This month has been really good for sighting the bigger fish and some of the first summer visitors are starting to arrive, the big rays! Karin had a wonderful time snorkelling with a manta ray, all on her own. The two of them dancing together, turning and twisting, in their water ballet.

A thrilling dive at 'Elusive' saw a squadron of 10-15 devil rays pass by us mid-water, as we were descending. These rays are often mistaken for small manta rays at first glance. During another wonderful dive at 'Elusive', just minutes before we were going to ascend, we noticed a small blue spotted ray sitting on the sand. As we turned to get a better look we saw a huge sharpnose ray, then another, then another. There were five of these rays sitting in a circle around the edge of the reef. Pineapple produced a couple of sightings of the beautiful honeycomb rays.

We have been spoilt with three different whaleshark sightings this month. The first two were seen on the same day, one on the way to the first dive and the second on our way back from that dive. This was the first time that any of the four divers had seen and then snorkelled with a whaleshark, never mind two in one day! To really spoil them, the following day the ocean produced the third whaleshark! This one swam right over our heads while we were diving at Yellowfin Drop. We were at a depth of 14-15m and as we looked up we saw its massive tail above our heads. We swam like crazy to try and follow this gentle giant but alas could only keep up for a short while. It must have been watching us while we were looking down at the reef!

The other ocean giants, the humpback whales, have not been as plentiful this month. This is expected, as we watch them move past our area, heading northwards, towards Madagascar and then there seems to be a slight lull before we see them on their return journey southwards, back home to the Antarctic. We have however been hearing their whale songs during dives, sometimes so loud, you think that if you turn around the whale will be right behind you, you turn and nothing but then you hear it again and you look to your buddy to see if they are hearing the same thing, a smile and the dive continues.

"Loved the turtles and the Humpback Whale calls, fantastic. Best diving in the world, ever. So much life! Felt like they were our own reefs!" - Niki & Georg Sullivan, Norfolk, England

Congratulations go to Molly and Hannah Smith on completing their PADI Open Water diver certifications - well done, wishing you many more special diving holidays.

Next month marks the beginning of spring and a change of seasons. We look forward to an increase in turtle numbers as they arrive before the official start to nesting season in October. Also to warmer, sunnier early morning dives!

All the best, yours in diving,
The Rocktail Bay Dive Team
Darryl, Clive, Michelle, Karin

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Pafuri Camp update - August 07               Jump to Pafuri Camp

August was arguably our best game-viewing month since the camp opened in July 2005. The highlight of the month was probably the fact that we had 17 separate leopard sightings. Of these 17 sightings, one was of a female and two 6-month old cubs feeding on an impala and another was of 2 sub-adults together. Added to this, we have had fantastic sightings of elephants, with them making practically daily appearances in the cool waters of the Luvuvhu River in front of camp. There have also been regular sightings of large herds of buffalo, and a lion and lioness have taken to patrolling up and down the Luvuvhu River, often moving through camp during the night.

The bush is not just about the big game though and during the month, we have all been amazed at some of the fascinating things that have occurred here. One would expect that at this time, food would be hard to come by, but on close inspection, nature always seems to provide an answer. Numerous plants are flowering and serving as food sources for a multitude of creatures. The baboons have taken to feeding on the waxy, protective covering of the Mopane psyllids. The wind has been blowing during the month and at first glance it appears to be a nuisance, but on closer analysis we see how important it is both in terms of wind pollination (see the list below of what's flowering) and also as a means of providing food. On windy days we have seen large numbers of impala, nyala and bushbuck below the Sausage Trees and Fever Trees feeding on the fallen leaves and flowers respectively.

From a game viewing point of view, the month was full of sightings that can only be described as special.

The lions and leopards on the concession have gathered around the riverine habitat where they have taken to hunting Nyala, Bushbuck and Impala in particular. On the leopard side, the highlights were finding 2 sub-adults near Lanner Gorge and the sighting of a mother and 2 cubs on the Luvuvhu River floodplain. We had regular sightings of a lion and lioness together and on one occasion they were observed mating. This pair did not wander far from the Luvuvhu River and the stillness of the night was regularly broken by the roars of these lions.

During the month of August, we saw two mammals that we had not seen since the camp opened in July 2005. The first was a Roan Antelope (the last recorded Roan in the Pafuri triangle was seen in 1987). The second was the sighting of a Selous' Mongose (as far as we know there has only been one prior record of a Selous' Mongoose in the Kruger National Park and this was a road-kill in 1986). These sightings just go to show the diversity of Pafuri and how important this area is as a conservation area.

Roan Antelopes at Pafuri     Selous' Mongoose at Pafuri Camp

Other interesting sightings during the month include the following:
2 Separate sightings of Cape Clawless Otter. One of which was viewed from Lanner Gorge where a pair were seen mobbing a Crocodile.
5 Separate sightings of Honey Badgers.
A Crocodile leapt out of the water from in front of camp in an attempt to catch a Martial Eagle that was perched low down on a dead log. The attempt was unsuccessful.
On two separate occasions, Yellow-bellied Greenbuls were seen sitting on Nyala and feeding on them in the same way that oxpeckers do.
A crocodile was seen catching a male bushbuck. We later watched the crocodile swallow the head of the bushbuck, horns and all.
2 Verreaux's Eagles were seen killing a Yellow-spotted Rock Hyrax.
A nyala lamb was killed and eaten by a troop of baboons in camp.
2 Lesser bushbabies were observed mating.

On the birding front, we recorded 232 different species during the month. Below is a list of some of the special birds that were seen.
African Crowned Eagle; Black-throated Wattle Eye; Böhm's Spinetail; Chestnut-vented Titbabbler; Common Quail; Dickinson's Kestrel; Eastern Nicator; Gorgeous Bush-shrike; Grey-headed Parrot; Grey-rumped Swallow; Horus Swift; A flock of approximately 150 Lesser flamingoes; Meve's Starling; Meyer's Parrot; Mottled Spinetail; Narina Trogon; Pel's Fishing Owl; Scaly-throated Honeyguide; Senegal Coucal; Southern Pochard; Stierling's Wren-Warbler; Striped Pipit; Tropical Boubou; Violet-eared Waxbill; White-breasted Cuckooshrike; White-backed Night Heron.
Returning migrants recorded this month were: Barn Swallow; Blue-cheeked Bee-eater; Lesser-striped Swallow; Wahlberg's Eagle; Yellow-billed kite.

Weather
Average minimum temperature: 10.3°C
Average maximum temperature: 29.5°C
Rainfall: None

Simon Stobbs


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Namibia camps
Ongava Tented Camp Newsletter - August 07                  Jump to Ongava Tented Camp

Management and Guides: Cameron & Wendy Wilson, Ingenesia Kambaku, Alfonso Langbooi
Guides: Rio Eibeb, Elaine Hattan, Binius Kamerica, Rudi Haibeb.

The soft hues of the winter season have disappeared. The late winter breezes have stripped the trees of the last of their leaves, leaving branches barren and open to the sun's rays, scorching them to grey and black. Along the river courses, diehard mopane trees still maintain vestiges of green and brown foliage. The cold nip in the air has been replaced by the tepid annual August winds, lifting the fine talcum powder like white limestone dust, smothering everything in its wake. Cream coloured grasses bend in the wind.

The Acacia newbronii trees have come into blossom with their vibrant yellow pom-pom type flowers breaking the bleak landscape of the Etosha Pan. Giraffe and springbok gather round in numbers gently picking off the blooms amongst the sharp thorns. The Pachypodium lealii trees (bottle tree) are coming into bloom heralding the arrival of spring. Their white blossoms contrasts the barren trees on the kopjes on the Reserve.

Plains animals abound at the waterholes, riveting everyone by their sheer numbers and the antics of the "swimming" springbok as they wade into the water past their bellies in search of cleaner water. The natural waterholes and dams have completely dried up forcing the animals to scatter in search of better grazing and consistent water. Rhino, both black and white, are frequenting the waterholes in and around the camp, making the guides' jobs so much easier in looking for them. The frequent roar of the lion leaves a reminder that their food source is closer and easier to prey on. Stompie, one of our notorious lionesses known for her aggressive nature, together with her two-week-old cubs keeps everyone captivated as they frequent the waterhole opposite our lapa for their nightly drink before heading off. Leopards have been seen in camp and numerous brown hyena sightings. A rare sighting was seeing a waterbuck cow chasing two brown hyaenas down the dry stream bed in front of the lapa.

Black-chested Snake Eagles, Tawny Eagles and Pale Chanting Goshawks, easy to spot as they perch in the bare mopane branches, seeking out some unsuspecting reptile. Sparrow Weavers are enthusiastically building new nests indicating spring is just around the corner. The colourful Swallow-tailed Bee-eaters beautify the bare trees as do the Lilac-breasted Rollers.

The dust in the air reminds one of a smoggy day in London but lends itself to providing a red orb as the sun sets in the west framed by barren branches. Absolutely stunning.

The campfire lit, smoke wafting through the barren trees as the Double-banded Sandgrouse call to each other ends another perfect month in paradise - Ongava.

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Damaraland Camp update - August 07               Jump to Damaraland Camp

"Regulars" seems to be a word used often in Wilderness Safaris. We're receiving more and more repeat guests to our camps and also our country and every time we say goodbye to our special "first time guests" who visit us we get a sense that they too will become "regulars" and will return in the future.

But there's another type of "regular" that we have in our Camps. The furry, scaly, feathery types that frequently visit the Wilderness Safaris Camps. Some of them big, some of them small, some of them real characters and others go unnoticed, but when you take the time, sit back and observe, you begin to notice that the common brown House Sparrow that you see every morning is actually the same one that comes in every morning and that little hopping bird becomes a personality and a "regular".

At Damaraland Camp we have a few visitors who are becoming noticed, some of them are very permanent fixtures at the Camp, and others frequent visitors, but all seem to have routines that mesh in with ours and when you watch them you start to wonder who's actually watching whom?

One of these regulars is our ground squirrel. Although generally a social species, this boy seems to be a loner. He's not very commonly seen as he tends to hang around the staff quarters and only really comes out when things are quiet. We will suddenly come around a corner and he'll be making a dash from the kitchen to a bush. He does appear to be getting calmer about things now and his mad dashes are more like leisurely saunters.

In the valley below Camp there's an inhabitant that because seen daily doesn't get that much attention but does get pointed out every day. We must pay tribute to him because he's the first large mammal seen by our guests upon their arrival at Damaraland Camp. When you drive over the rise leading to the camp you can generally see him grazing close by, and early in the mornings his solitary and quiet figure can be observed quiet close to Camp. This is our residential territorial male springbok. Recently however this old man has attracted a small group of females and he's quiet obviously very proud of himself. Soon we could have a few new additions to this herd as spring approaches.

Throughout the day we have frequent feathery visitors. One notorious (and sometimes rather annoying) visitor is the Pied Crow. Well known opportunists, these birds won't be sighted anywhere in our vast wilderness spaces, but the moment there's an inkling of human habitation they appear from nowhere. They seem very awkward and clumsy looking birds and throughout the day they mainly just hang out in trees in what could only be described as "gangs" where they seem to just sit around and "shout" at each other. They are known to mob any birds of prey coming into the area and when you see a sudden burst of activity there's usually a predatory bird looking very annoyed.

Another bird with similar antics would be our Pale-Winged Starlings. These are much smaller birds but just as opportunistic. They are keener than the Crows and more agile. Smart birds, they have realised that unattended breakfast buffets are perfect hunting grounds and staff are usually dashing around attempting to chase off the birds as well as serve bacon and eggs. Sometimes we win, sometimes we lose. Martha (one of our waitresses) is often seen standing next to the scones, bread and muffins with feather duster in hand on high alert with several Starlings above her waiting for her to just look away long enough for them to get in. Soon, we believe, these birds will develop diversions or serious tactics to win their meal at the end of the day. As they get smarter, our buffet defences will have to develop too.

Along with many others we also have the Mountain and Common Chats who are in and out of the Camp, they are regularly seen hopping amongst the rocks and stones around the Pool and Lounge and every morning we have two Cape Buntings who forage around the fireplace as guests enjoy breakfast.

Seen like clockwork is our residential group of Guineafowl. Noisy birds the size of chickens they forage around the camp in a small group. They roost in the rock cliffs behind Camp at a "waterfall" which only flows after heavy rains and are seen coming to and from their roost at dawn and sunset. Other ground-dwelling birds include the sandgrouse we see: they are all over but not noticed as much as their camouflage is so good and they freeze the moment someone comes down the paths.

And in the evening as the sun starts setting we hear a croaking sound amongst the rocks, when you look closely you will notice that the noise is not coming from a frog, but instead a rather large ground dwelling bird called the Rüppell's Korhaan. We have a family of four who frequent our camp and are often seen around the Work Shop as well as in between the tents.

And last but not least we must mention our nocturnal residents. Just below Camp we have a residential pair of black-backed jackals and on most nights when there's a sudden break in the conversation around our family dinner table you can hear the eerie call of the jackals. In the early mornings they can sometimes be seen amongst the Euphorbia with our solitary springbok grazing nearby. At night when they're on the hunt for small vertebrates and whatever else is good to munch on you can hear them calling too.

That's just a few of the "regulars" we have paying us visits every now and then in our immediate vicinity. Not to mention the abundant fauna and flora Damaraland has to offer. It's a land of drastic scenery, ever-changing colours and vast wide open spaces. So when visiting our Camp, don't forget to take the time to see if you can recognise any of these regulars.

That's all for now folks.
Best Regards,

Nadja le Roux and DMC Staff


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