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AFRICAN SAFARI NEWS

December 2007

(Page 1 of 2)

Page 1 Updates
General Safaris News - General information and updates from our partners in Africa.
• North Island Dive Report from the Seychelles.
• Monthly update from Shumba Camp in Zambia.
• Monthly update from DumaTau Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Kings Pool Camp in Botswana.
Kwando Safaris game reports.
• Monthly update from Mombo Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Chitabe Lediba 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 Duba Plains in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Vumbura Plains in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Pafuri Camp in South Africa.

• Monthly update from Damaraland Camp in Namibia.
• Monthly update from Skeleton Coast Camp in Namibia.
• Trip Report from Spirit of the Namib Safari in Namibia.
• Trip Report from Great Namibian Journey Safari in Namibia.


General Safaris Updates - December 2007

GENERAL UPDATES
Abolishment of Zambian visa waivers
The Government of the Republic of Zambia has with immediate effect abolished the visa waiver facility. This development came in over the weekend on the 25th of January 2008 at 00h00 without any advance notice. At the same time there also has been an increment in visa fees for some countries i.e. Americans used to pay US $100; they now pay US$ 135.
 
As far as we know, most lodges, hotels and border officials carried on over the weekend with the visa waivers but from today all foreign guests arriving from anywhere and for any length of stay (even in transit) are having to pay the fees as attached.
 
Although this has been enforced already it has apparently not been approved by parliament and it is important that all visitors to Zambia are advised that we expect the tourism industry to lobby this decision but that a final approval of the visa waiver decision is probably only going to happen at the end of February. So in the meantime we have to expect that all guests will have to pay the visa fees, and they will need to carry sufficient funds with them.
 
Please also note that any guests coming into the country and going out of Zambia on a day trip, for example Chobe Day Trip or a trip to Zimbabwe to see the Falls should request for a double entry visa on arrival otherwise they will get charged on return into the country if they have a single entry.


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WILDLIFE NEWS
African rock python consumes Impala lamb
Location: Jao Camp, NG25
Date: 20 December 2007
Observers: Noeline Geyser & Victor Horatius

On the afternoon of the 20th December at around 17h15 Vic Horatius was on his way to the office in the back of house area at Jao Camp when he heard the alarm call of an impala. Knowing the local leopard female is often on the island on which the camp is situated Vic had a suspicion that she may have either made a kill or attempted one. Vic decided to investigate and came across an approximately two metre African rock python wrapped around a three week old impala. Vic immediately called the office to notify the staff so off we went to take a look. We sat with the python for about 30 minutes whilst the impala ewe was anxiously calling for her little one. With emotions high all we could do was sit and watch helplessly as the snake's constricting grip tightened and the last breath was taken from the helpless baby. When the other game viewing vehicles arrived at this sighting, the python's grip loosened - possibly as he was starting to feel a little threatened, and quickly retreated to the safety of a hole. We immediately moved out of the area to allow the python to resume its meal. The debate then started if he would be able to swallow it as the impala looked a little too large for him.

Python swallowing an impala     Python swallowing an impala at Jao

Later on in the evening at around 21h00 my curiosity got the better of me and I wanted to know if the python had abandoned the impala or if he had tried to swallow it. To our surprise there he was with his catch half swallowed. We stayed with the python for about 15 minutes. He was having great difficulty swallowing the impala. We let him be as we didn't want him to regurgitate his catch again.

Later on in the evening Vic went to have a look and all that was left were the legs. The next day we went looking for the python. He had moved off into the thickets where he lay motionless digesting with his full belly. What an incredible sighting and experience.


The Fallen Hero: 1992 to 2007

With sorrow and sadness, we would like to announce the death of one of the legendary 'Duba Boys'. He died after a long sickness that was caused by an attack from the elegant male from the neighboring territory - the 'Skimmer Male'. This happened at the end of the first week of November 2007. The Skimmer Male had always challenged the Duba Boys, but had always been circumspect and cautious in terms of timing and location. On this occasion however he pushed home his attack. The Duba Boy was found by the guides the next morning and had a badly injured eye. Later, the Skimmer Male was located in the area and brazenly stayed in the vicinity area for the following two weeks mating with the 'Tsaro Pride' lionesses. This was not the first time it had happened, but was the longest he had ever stayed in the area. In addition he also attacked the second Duba Boy about five days later, on this occasion not inflicting any serious wounds but clearly winning the conflict over one of the sexually receptive Tsaro lionesses. He then continued to enjoy the Duba Boys territory and mating rights for a further week with no attempt to eject him made by the Duba Boys.

One of the Duba Boys at Duba Plains Camp

During this period the two Duba Boys gave the Skimmer Male and the Tsaro Pride a wide berth, especially the injured male who in fact became very elusive. The fact that he did not associate with the pride and did not hunt for himself as a result of his injuries caused a rapid decline in condition and deterioration in health. He completely lost the healthy and intimidating physique he had became known for.

On the 28th of December, this male was seen by the guides out on game drive. Most of the guides and guests, including multi-repeat guest Iva Spitzer, agreed that it was likely that if he did not feed during the night that he would breathe his last. This turned out to be true.

James was on game drive on the morning of the 29th when he saw some vultures soaring along Letlalo Road. As usual he investigated and was devastated to find the late Duba Boy. It is fitting that he was killed by the buffalos he had hunted for most of his adult life. The area looked like a battle field. The bush was trashed, the grass was trampled and the dead Duba Boy had a gash from the chest down to the belly from the horn of his final adversary.

History
The Duba Boys have been in the area since the year 1996, when Duba Plains opened. They were the sons to a male lion called 'Stick', who was dominant in the area at that time. He was then chased out of his territory by another male called 'Squinty' towards the end of 1996. Squinty became dominant in the area up until 1999 when the two Duba Boys proved mature enough for dominancy and usurped his position, ruling over this area since this time. It remains to be seen how long the remaining brother will be able to hold onto the prize.


Courtship dance of Red-crested Korhaan
Location: Pafuri Camp, Makuleke Concession, Kruger National Park
Date: January 2008
Observers: Callum Sargent

The Red-crested Korhaan (Eupodotis ruficrista) is a cryptically marked ground-dwelling bird commonly encountered in South Africa's bushveld savannah areas. The male's summer aerial display flight is certainly a true marvel of nature. All in an effort to advertise undisputed control over his territory and to attract the opposite sex as a result, the male starts vocalizing on the ground with an ascending piping call. All of a sudden and as the call reaches a crescendo it then flies vertically up into the sky. On reaching a certain height the korhaan merely folds its wings, and plummets back down towards terra firma, body seemingly prone - almost as if having been shot in mid-air. Shortly before hitting the ground, it opens its wings for a soft, elegant landing. Rather impressive and the reason it is sometimes called the suicide bird.

Red-crested Korhaan

Still it does not explain the reason for the seemingly inappropriate name. After all this is clearly a bird in which camouflage is important as a means of avoiding predation. Surely if it had a bright red crest it would be vulnerable to certain predators and unable to skulk into the background and avoid detection?

This is certainly the case, but as is pretty typical of birds the male, in order to attract a mate, needs some sort of physical plumage feature to spark interest in potential partners; Hence another display in the species - this time a terrestrial courtship ritual rather than the more obvious aerial territorial display. This is not often seen and even more rarely photographed and entails the following.

Red-crested Korhaan - male courtship display     Red-crested Korhaan - male courtship display

Having attracted a female through his territorial display the male then approaches her and bobbing up and down on stiff legs with a hunched appearance, displays his white shoulder patches and raises his red crest (from which the bird gets its common name) into a halo like headdress. He makes a sharp clacking noise with his beak and together the result is a truly elaborate display that reaches a crescendo as the female moves all closer.


Birding rarities and other exciting wildlife at Pafuri Camp
Location: Pafuri Camp, Makuleke Concession, Kruger National Park
Date: 20 January 2008
Observers: Walter Jubber, Godfrey Baloyi, Warren Ozorio, Enos Mngomezulu, Callum Sargent, Alweet Hlungwane

Due to the high summer rainfall, the birding in the Makuleke concession, Kruger National Park, has been phenomenal this season. The rain has resulted in all the floodplain pans being inundated with a resultant influx of interesting species - African Pygmy-Goose (recorded for the first time in three years), African Crake, Lesser Moorhen, Dwarf Bittern and a host of other waterfowl and wader species. Green Sandpiper, Thrush Nightingale and River Warbler have all been recorded along the Limpopo River floodplain. Mega rarities have been the sighting of a Golden Pipit (only a handful of records for the sub-region) and Striped Crake, the latter observed at several localities. Other great records of uncommon migratory or wandering species include Dusky Lark, Olive-tree Warbler, Harlequin Quail and Grey-hooded Kingfisher.

Golden Pipit

A number of other sightings have piqued our interest: Although White-fronted Bee-eater is a common resident at Pafuri, a very unusual yellow colour morph of this species was photographed. African Emerald Cuckoo has also been heard calling in the area, which is a first since Wilderness Safaris has been operating in this concession.

Yellow morph White-fronted Bee-eater

Tricky-to-find resident species like Arnott's Chat, Racket-tailed Roller, Mosque Swallow, Three-banded Courser, Gorgeous Bush-Shrike, Senegal Coucal, Grey-headed Parrot, Mottled & Bohm's Spinetail, the mega-sought-after Pel's Fishing-Owl and Lemon-breasted Canary are also still seen often.

It's not just all birding at Pafuri Camp though. Good mammal sightings recently include eland, African civet, large buffalo herds, white rhino, a leucistic grey duiker, young lion coalition and pregnant spotted hyaena.

Another spin-off of the inundated pans have been the abundance of frogs; literally thousands breeding and vocalising - a true wildlife cacophony. The species diversity has been brilliant; red-legged kassina, bubbling kassina, eastern olive toads, African bullfrogs, plain grass frog, brown-backed tree frog and never forgetting the 'soprano' - the banded rubber frog.

Golden Pipit image courtesy of Albert Froneman
Yellow morph White-fronted Bee-eater courtesy of Callum Sargent


Summer in the Jao Concession
Location: Jao Camp, NG25 Concession, Okavango
Date: 15 January 2008
Observers: Martin Kays & Victor Horatius

This summer green season (with abundant rains this year) in the Jao Concession, has certainly been a time of plenty. There have been many memorable sightings as these first class images taken by Martin Kays and Victor Horatius attest.

With the high rainfall, a multitude of frog species are calling and breeding. Pictured is a painted reed frog, Hyperolius marmoratus. This species is a characteristic and abundant reed frog here, with a very distinctive call ? a chorus sounding like small bells or xylophones. This frog has been noted to sit exposed in the glaring sun, even in the dry season. Their skin is almost waterproof thanks to a thin layer of dried mucus, and the young are able to tolerate a water loss of up to one-half their body weight.

Painted Reed Frog

Other great sightings have been that of a Damara molerat, and many butterfly species, including the Yellow Pansy.

Damara Molerat     Yellow Pansy Butterfly

Birding is always good in summer. Rufous-naped Larks are very vocal right now - a beautiful song that resounds all around you when out on game drives. This species is normally silent and quite cryptic in the winter months.

Rufous-naped Lark displaying

The Greater Painted-Snipe is a tricky bird to spot, let alone photographed like this! Pictured is the more colourful female. This species displays reversed sexual dimorphism whereby the female is the more colourful of the two. This is quite unusual in the bird world, with other local examples being button-quails. These images really show in some detail the intricate colouration of this species.

Greater Painted-Snipe


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CAMP UPDATES
Activity updates: Rocktail Bay Lodge & Rocktail Beach Camp, South Africa
Great news is that the Rocktail Dive Centre now has two dive boats, each seating ten guests, so we can accommodate double the amount of divers per day now between the two Rocktail camps.

Rocktail Bay, South Africa

The cost of the turtle drives at Rocktail Bay Lodge are increasing from 01 January 2008 to R150 per adult and R100 per child 14 years and younger. As always these are booked and paid for at the lodge only.

Please note that the activities at Rocktail Bay Lodge and at Rocktail Beach Camp tend to be slightly different due to their different localities (Beach Camp is 11km further south along the coast).

Rocktail Bay Lodge scheduled activities include:
Guided: forest walks, snorkeling at Lala Neck, excursions to Gugulesizwe Community Adventure Centre and to Black Rock. Gugulesizwe ('Pride of the Nation') is part of a groundbreaking partnership between the local community, Wilderness Safaris, and GTZ.
Self-guided: the beach, bird watching, surf/rock fishing (tackle provided) and swimming. Extra activities: Scuba diving and turtle drives (which operate in the summer months only).

Rocktail Beach Camp scheduled activities include:
Guided: forest walks, snorkeling at Lala Neck, excursions to nearby Gugulesizwe Community Adventure Centre and to Lake Sibaya.
Self-guided: the beach, bird watching, surf/rock fishing (no tackle provided) and swimming. Extra activities: Scuba diving and excursions to Black Rock (please note that Black Rock is a 1 hour 30 minute drive each way from the camp). Unfortunately turtle drives are not on offer at Rocktail Beach Camp.

For both Rocktail Camps, extra activities are also offered at Gugulesizwe including horse riding, Sangoma visits, Zulu dancing, quad biking and star gazing. Gugulesizwe is a joint venture between Wilderness Safaris and the community and all of the activities there are priced, booked and paid only at the Rocktail camps.

Camp refurbs and closures
Ruckomechi Camp is currently being rebuilt to open mid 2008 (comprising 1 double and 4 twin-bedded units). The new site, shaded by an extensive grove of characteristic albida trees, is situated 2.5km upstream from the existing camp and overlooks a floodplain of the Zambezi River on which waterbuck, impala and hippo are regular grazers and which attracts myriad water birds. The new classic tents will be modeled on our Zambian camps and will be connected by a low walkway.

Hwange National Park: Our leases have been renewed and extended. Our anti-poaching and conservation team now covers an even larger buffer area around our concessions. As a result we are currently completely rebuilding Little Makalolo. The camp’s new tents will remain on the ground at the existing site. Nearby Makalolo Plains Camp, with its elevated tented rooms, will remain a Classic camp. An extra tent will be added, making this a 12-bedded camp.

Kings Pool Camp in Botswana is currently having its main area rebuilt – a welcome and exciting facelift after more than eight years.

Luggage update
In order to comply with its high standards of safety, Sefofane Air Charters now provides a measuring box at the main airports from which they depart. This box is used to check the size of baggage per guest. If a bag is too large or if the suitcase is hard-framed, guests will have to repack into smaller bags. To avoid this, please remind your guests of their baggage size and weight limits! This is imperative to avoid delays as a result of repacking and also to ensure safety standards.

Air transfers in Botswana, South Africa, Zambia and Namibia have a luggage limit of 20kg (44lbs) per person in a soft bag (including camera equipment and carry-on luggage). This includes the Skeleton Coast Fly-In Safari but excludes Best of Namibia Wing Safaris and Namibia Explorations which are restricted to 12kg (26lbs) per person. Luggage is restricted to 12kg per person for travel in Zimbabwe in a soft bag (including camera equipment and carry-on luggage).


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Seychelles / North Island
North Island Dive Report - December 07               Jump to North Island

Summer is now in full swing, and as the winds slowly start to settle for the rest of the season the temperature starts to rise. The winds, as mentioned last month, have swung around from the south-east and will now blow from a northerly direction for the duration of the summer. The weather in general though has been fantastic this month with many days of calm, clear conditions, with only a few rainy periods around the beginning and middle of December specifically that have cooled things down a bit giving us a glimpse of what the summer has to offer.

The sand movement around the Island has been quite significant this month and the beaches by Villa 11 and the West Beach Bar have already begun to be devoured rather quickly; simultaneously the beach in front of the Restaurant has already extended approximately 20 metres. The boats have now officially been moved to Petit Anse. Petit Anse is always very well protected during the summer as the winds blow predominantly from the north and north-east providing excellent shelter from the winds.

The diving conditions this month have also been fantastic despite the relatively poor visibility on our closer reefs around the middle of December. The sea conditions have since cleared up and the diving around the island has returned to normal. The further reefs however have been unaffected and have provided excellent conditions in which to dive. There has however been substantial current on several of the further dive sites, especially the northern sites such as 'The Spot' which has made for some exciting drift diving.

The underwater research that has already been conducted on 'Sprat City' that was first mentioned in the September report has progressed further this month with several new observations of juvenile fish species that are territorial to specific areas of 'Sprat City', namely the Emperor Angelfish and the Oriental Sweetlips. There are several different individuals that we have monitored over the last couple of months that have enabled us to capture some useful data. The corals on all the reefs look fantastic after the winter and the Lettuce Corals specifically have shown considerable growth throughout this season.

One particular shrimp that has been a highlight this month is one of the Commensal Shrimps. There are two species of this particular Commensal Shrimp that exist that are very similar to each other (Pontonides unciger and Dasycaris zanzibaricus) and the one found on the reefs around North Island has been identified as the latter due to a slight morphological difference. These shrimps live exclusively on the Whip Corals, also known as Black Corals (Cirripathes) along with the Whip Coral Gobies which basically just swim up and down the Whip Coral. This particular Commensal Shrimp is extremely small and is able to imitate the polyps of the Whip Coral perfectly enabling it to become almost invisible. The excitement surrounding this particular shrimp is as a result of the fact that it is a species indicative of a well established reef. So far we have predominantly found this shrimp on 'Sprat City' and 'Pat Banks'.

In an attempt to develop our marine sightings recordings we have committed to recording (in addition to the turtles, dolphins, whales and sharks) anything significant that we see on our dives, such as rays, firefish moray eels or any of the gamefish. Other recordings that have also become of interest are the shrimps and crustaceans that will also feature in our reports. This will enable us to effectively conduct a comparison between the sightings of different months and seasons to monitor any patterns that may exist on specific reefs over the year. A comprehensive sightings record has been completed since the beginning of October 2007. We hope to assimilate this data at a later stage to provide valuable insight into the activity of our reefs.

Patrick Armstrong

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Zambia Camps
Shumba Camp update - December 07                Jump to Shumba Camp

Summer came suddenly to Shumba and the rest of the Busanga Plains. Heavy rains at the beginning of December have resulted in an inundation of the plains and spectacular afternoon thunderstorms. The rain has also brought multiple antelope births including puku. Wild dogs have put in good appearances at Shumba too.

Perhaps the highlight in the Busanga Plains was a rare sighting of a pangolin where the relaxed animal actually approached the group of guests who were standing nearby and extended its very long tongue to test the shoes of one very surprised guest before curling up in a ball at her feet!

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Botswana Camps
DumaTau Camp update - December 07                Jump to DumaTau Camp

This last December has been amazing! We have been really full this last month and guest occupancies have been high. Christmas Eve was festive. A few days before Christmas we found a lovely dead mangosteen branch and propped it in a bucket of sand. The ladies decorated the tree with bushy Christmas ornaments, put cardboard around the bucket and put up a string of lights over the bar. It looked great. Christmas Eve was lovely and a super feast was had by all - the chefs really outdid themselves.

Climate & vegetation
We have seen some amazing changes taking place in the bush. We are now in the middle of summer and well into our rainy season. The temperatures have been fairly mild, with the maximum temperature for the month at 33°C. In total we have had 148.5mm of rain this month at the camp. Throughout the concession there are puddles lying in the roads. All the seasonal pools in the mopane woodlands seem to have water and many of the hippos have moved out of the lagoons and river to take up temporary residence in the larger seasonal pools. The pan along Mopane Road (known as Hippo Pool) is already housing up to 12 of these huge creatures.

With all the rain, the shrubs and trees are in full leaf and the grass is growing quickly. the Savute Channel is a pretty sight right now; a ribbon of open green grassland winding through the thick, bushy woodlands. In the open sandy areas of the scrublands the flowers are outstanding - most notable are the pretty fields of yellow 'Devils Thorn'. All the impala, zebra and kudu are enjoying this delicacy at the moment.

Kudu and Devil's Thorn flowers

With all the flowers butterflies are in great abundance at the moment; Brown-veined Whites, Yellow Pansies, Blue Pansies, African Monarchs, Diadems and a few Charaxes species floating around. The moths also abound and we are often harassed by "Sundowner Moths" that insist on drowning themselves in our glasses of wine during dinner! One of the wildlife spectacles of the season is the termite eruptions that occur this time of year. Sparked by rains, the termite colonies release thousands of winged termites - known as alates. They provide a feast for numerous mammals and birds, a wondrous spectacle to see. As the termites take flight the birds gather in big numbers to feed on them. On the few occasions that we have seen the termites rising in the channel they have usually attracted a vast amount of birds (swallows, bee-eaters, rollers, eagles and storks) and certain smaller predators such as black-backed jackals. It was amusing to watch these jackals chasing the rising termites and even jumping in the air to get at them.

Birds, reptiles & amphibians
The birdlife in the area at the moment is incredible and all the summer migrants have returned. This month we observed 248 species. The eagles have been spectacular and almost every dead tree along the edges of the Savuti Channels hold one or two: Steppe Eagle, Tawny Eagle, Lesser-spotted Eagle, Wahlbergs Eagle, Bateleur, Yellow-billed Kites and more. It is quite incredible. Sometimes the eagles gather at the termite eruptions and can be seen walking in the grasslands feeding on the insects. In the gallery mopane woodlands the vleis and pans are full attracting many waterbirds including great sightings of Greater Painted Snipe and Dwarf Bittern. In the grasslands of the Savute Channel the Southern Carmine Bee-eaters are already starting to follow the vehicles around, opportunistically catching the grasshoppers that they disturb. These bee-eaters have also been seen riding on the backs of the Kori Bustards, hitching a ride and hawking the insects that they disturb as they stride throughout the grasslands. Storks are also in great abundance - Marabous are often seen striding through the grasslands complemented with White Storks, Abdim's Storks, Saddle-billed Storks and even Wattled Cranes. This month we have also been fortunate enough to see Black-winged and Collared Pratincoles flocking near Osprey Lagoon. Altogether there must be way over a thousand birds in the flock and it is quite incredible to see them all flying together and hawking insects.

Pratincoles flocking

We also enjoyed several reptile sightings this month - African rock python, black mamba, cobras and a quite a few other species were all recorded. One morning while sitting at the main area, a large commotion of alarming birds and squirrels was heard down at the poolside. A closer look revealed a young boomslang in a tree nearby. There were quite a few birds mobbing the snake including Black-backed Puffback and Golden Weavers even pecking at the unfortunate reptile with the snake inflating his neck in defence. Eventually the birds lost interest and we could continue with our breakfast. Tortoises and terrapins have also made reappearances after the colder winter months and are seen regularly on drives now. One afternoon we came across a mating pair of Leopard tortoises at the edge of the Savute Channel.

Boomslang

One afternoon we were driving in the mopane woodlands near Botsilo Pan when we came across a very unusual sight. We had just entered into an open area, which was covered in rainwater in fairly large grassy pools. There in the vlei we noticed that there was a lot of movement going on. Upon closer inspection we saw that it was in fact a lek of bullfrogs. When grassy pools fill up with water in the summer months these huge frogs come out from hibernation and prepare for breeding. The males are extremely big, bright yellow, and all gather in the temporary pools to try and attract the ladies with loud roaring calls. They are quite aggressive and actively fight with other competing males. It is amazing to watch them sparring with and biting each other with bony projections on their lower jaws. They leap towards each other trying to chase the other away and wrestle with him in the shallow water. As soon as a male has chased the other males far enough away he starts giving off his loud booming call and instantly female frogs appear from everywhere. A successful male can have numerous females all around him trying to push away the other females so as to get a chance of being mated with. By the end of the afternoon the water in these pools was covered in small, fertilised black eggs.

Giant Bullfrogs fighting

Mammal viewing
With the new leaves and grass, and great supply of water, many of the animals have had young. The impalas have all given birth and there are numerous crèches of youngsters around. We have also seen new zebra foals and quite a few baby wildebeest. The warthog babies have also provided much enjoyment for the guests. The zebras and elephants have returned again this month, after last month's conspicuous absence. At the end of last month there was very little grass in the Savute Channel and after the rains started most of the zebras and elephants left the area and headed deep into the woodlands. Now with the grass lush and green in the channel we are again seeing herds of both species.

We have seen cheetah on at least 7 days this last month. All of the cheetah sightings have been of the two Savuti Boys. These two are exceptionally old cheetahs and have been in the area from before this camp was even built. They are probably one of the most famous wild cheetah coalitions in the world and have been photographed by numerous professional photographers and even filmed by a few documentary-makers. The two brothers, "Alpha" and "Bravo" have an extremely large territory and in our area particularly like the open grasslands near Dish Pan Clearing and near the 2 Sausage Trees south-east of Savuti Camp.

Leopard was seen on at least 14 days this last month of several individuals. The Rock Pan Female and her cub are still quite healthy. The cub is really growing up quickly now and is approximately a year old. They are a pleasure to watch as they are not concerned with our presence and were seen on several occasions in the mopane woodlands, either resting up, feeding on impala lambs or associating with the DumaTau male. This male is an extraordinary cat with a very large territory extending all the way along the Savuti Channel from Savuti camp to DumaTau Camp, a distance of at least over 13 kilometres. This month we saw him on at least 8 occasions, once with the Rock Pan Female and twice with the Zib Female with whom he was seen mating - a strange set of circumstances since she is clearly lactating. Perhaps she recently had cubs and had lost these, thus coming back into oestrous. The two leopards had an impala kill on top of the calcrete ridge and as Ban was watching them a hyaena suddenly appeared out of the bushes behind the cats, giving the loving couple a bit of a fright.

Leopards mating

On the afternoon of the 29th Ollie had just exited the camp and was headed out on the Duma Tau Access Road when he spotted the Duma Tau Male lying up in a large Acacia tree. He was really relaxed and was lying with his limbs on either side of a large branch. A little later he woke up, climbed down the tree and started walking down the road towards the camp. Ollie followed him as he headed towards camp. The sun had already set and Ollie could see the cat clearly in the headlamps. It was almost time for the vehicles to start arriving back for dinner and Brian, Chantelle and Zoot were standing at the turning circle waiting to greet the guests on their return. As they were standing there Ollie came slowly around the corner with the leopard walking right in front of the car. The big tomcat did not seem perturbed by the presence of three humans standing in the road only 30 or so meters ahead. He just stopped and looked at the three puny humans and then nonchalantly turned away from the road and headed into the thick bush behind the kitchen. It was almost as if he was saying goodbye to Brian and Chantelle, who are leaving the area now, and to Zoot who is going on holiday very shortly.

Lions were seen on at least 13 days this month. It appears that there is a battle for dominance taking place amongst the males in the area and the two Selinda Males (Silver-eye and his brother) have been seen on a few occasions deep into the concession. It appears that they have been fighting with the Savuti Males, who were seen at the beginning of the month. One of the Savuti Males was sporting injuries on his side and we presume they were sustained in a clash with the Selinda Males. We have not seen the Savuti Males much this month and it appears that they have been driven more to the east of Savuti Camp. On the 17th two unidentified young male lions were seen along the river (we assume that they are nomads who are now looking for an area of their own). The next day they had come quite a bit further down the river towards DumaTau and were in the region of Livingstone's Hide. We did not see them again after this.

Lions mating

On the morning of the 20th one of the Selinda Males (the brother of Silver-eye) and one of the adult females from the Savuti Pride (SAV F 2) were found in the cathedral woodlands near Forest Road. We watched as they mated with each other. The next day the male and female were seen quite a distance away, near Kubu Lagoon, still mating. Just a few kilometres away we found the remaining 7 members of the Savuti Pride. SAV F 2 was still missing and one of the subadult males was sporting injuries, which we assume were caused by Silver-eye. Towards the end of the month they were seen behind camp and seemed to be headed back through the woodlands towards Savuti. Silver-eye was seen for a few more days in the grasslands in the vicinity of the Bottleneck and the Backflow. We wonder what is going to happen next month. Have the Selinda Males driven the Savuti Males out of their territory? What has happened to the other two Savuti Males? What is going to happen to the Subadult males of the Savuti Pride? Who were the two nomads and where are they now? Is SAV F 2 now pregnant?

Wild Dogs were seen on five days this last month. On the morning of the 11th Ban was driving near Forest Road when he came across the "DumaTau Pack" of Wild Dogs. The dogs were on the hunt and were running through the woodland looking for prey. Up ahead they saw an adult female impala and gave chase. Ban tried to follow, but the chase was fast and there were many fallen branches and trees that he had to negotiate around. As Ban caught up with the dogs again they had just killed the impala and were observed feeding on their kill.

On the afternoon of the 18th the DumaTau Pack (11 adults and 2 pups) were seen again, running in the scrublands behind camp. The dogs were quite spread out and were running through the brush flushing out any antelope in the area. Impalas and kudus were running in all directions with the dogs at their heels. The dogs then managed to get hold of a young impala and this was quickly killed and eaten. Afterwards the dogs lay down for a short period, while the pups played with the head of the young impala. The next morning they were found at the Old Mopane Bridge, near the mouth of the Savute Channel. They had found a rather large herd of wildebeest that had a few young calves. The dogs were very interested in the calves and tried to separate them from the herd. The wildebeest were not going to allow that to happen and each time that the dogs attacked the adult wildebeest thwarted their attempts. Again and again the dogs circled and tried to chase the wildebeest, but the adult wildebeest were determined to save their calves and managed to eventually drive the dogs away. It was. It was an incredible sighting of an amazing series of interactions between the dogs and wildebeest. On two occasions we had sightings of another pack of dogs known as the "Pack of 5".

Sighting of the month
Towards the end of the month something occurred that will probably long remain in the memories of those who saw it. In the scrublands near the second floodplains turnoff a young elephant calf had just died. Perhaps it was ill? The herd remained for quite a while with the dead calf, but eventually the matriarch decided to move on. By now the hyaenas were starting to gather and there were many vultures perched in the trees nearby. The mother of the calf was torn between going with the herd or protecting her dead calf. She remained behind with the calf and chased the hyaenas, but they returned as soon as she moved off. She returned again and tried to chase them once more, but once again the hyaenas returned and the female elephant finally abandoned the carcass to the hyenas and vultures and headed in the direction that the herd had gone. The grief and love shown by the elephants, the determination of the hyaenas, and the inevitable conclusion to the saga will have a profound effect on those who witnessed it.

-Cheers from everyone at DumaTau-


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Kings Pool Camp update - December 07                Jump to Kings Pool Camp

December at Kings Pool has seen the continuation of the incredible transformation that began in mid-November. We are deep into summer now (our longest day of the year in the southern hemisphere is December 21st) and yet it is hard to grow accustomed to all the changes we see around us - and impossible to take it for granted. The thirsty months are at an end, and a veritable festival of life has begun in celebration of the rains.

The Linyanti can be a harsh environment when it is at its driest - a challenging environment for the animals that live here, with the age-old law of only the fittest surviving very much in force. Now however, in complete contrast, we are seeing northern Botswana at its softest, most forgiving, and even generous. The bare twigs of the fever-berry bushes in Camp which clutched in vain at the sky, reaching up as though in supplication, are now clothed in new leaves. The bare grey soil of winter has been cloaked in a verdant mantle of grass, which sways in the breeze and bends down in awe at the power of the rain showers.

It is difficult to convey just how dramatic this transmogrification is; from a landscape where every drop of moisture is jealously guarded, sought out by the dry tongues of animals and the thrusting, searching roots of withered plants, to a world where everything is available in abundance, for the asking.

Of course such a dramatic transformation in the environment has not gone unnoticed by the many species we share this area with. Every new niche and habitat, however temporary, is exploited, and every opportunity seized. The ground is hidden now by a waving sea of grass and the roads are punctuated by pools of rainwater. Trees and bushes have exploded in clouds of green, every shade from turquoise to emerald. It is a landscape full of beauty, as though the rains were an artist's brush - watercolour painting of course - and everything they touch is made wonderful; The Midas touch of precipitation.

The reeds around Kings Pool resound to the vibrato chirruping of a million frogs, and the resonant boom of hippos chortling and snorting echoes off the giant jackalberry trees which lean over the oxbow lake. Every puddle in the road, it seems, has a resident terrapin, which scurries for safety as the game drive vehicles ease their way into each muddy hollow.

December it seems is a great month to give birth! The growling excitement of the May mating rut has long since faded, with the males sliding down the other side of the testosterone sin-curve, but new life has been squirming and growing in the bellies of the once-sleek females since then, and suddenly everywhere we look there are tiny forms struggling to their feet on long, uncertain legs, tiny eyes seeing everything for the first time, in a fresh, new world, like the very first morning ever.

Synchronising their birthing like this is an important survival strategy for impala, helping to swamp the predators (for whom this time of year is a grisly bonanza of course) and ensure that as many as possible of the fragile, impossibly perfect young survive to grow and strengthen on the summer bounty. More than one however has been stolen in a sudden onrush of black rosettes and white claws, and killed even before its uncomprehending, uncertain eyes could register the shape of a leopard, before its startled brain could even understand the concept of danger in this perfect world. The branches of the larger trees host a macabre display of slaughtered innocents, with even the baboons abandoning their normal symbiotic relationship with the impala herds to snatch at this free protein.

Warthogs too have their young at this time of year; tiny bundles of pent-up energy charging around in the grass, sometimes so excited that they trip over themselves or end up turning round and round in circles, too overwhelmed by 'joie de vivre' to even know what they are doing anymore.

At the end of our airstrip, spotted hyaenas have appropriated an old aardvark burrow, and are busy raising a new generation of Africa's most maligned hunter. Perhaps these youngsters will grow up to discover that people are realising that the terrible reputation these amazing animals have is not founded on fact. Young hyaenas are intensely, endearingly curious about the world around them, investigating anything they find from an old bone to the deliciously chewy rubber parts of Land Rovers. One of the newest youngsters, still with his very dark first coat of fur, was however killed by a male lion who managed to squeeze his massive body far enough into the den to hook him out and snap him up.

The drama and tension of life on the ground is mirrored and perhaps even exceeded by events above. The storms can be spectacular, and sudden: the whisper of air rushing into a vacuum, a few heavy spots of rain, and suddenly the heavens open. Watching the columns of rain march in, and drips streaming from the end of the thatched eaves, one guest commented "I like weather". We have certainly had a lot of it this month to keep her content. The awesome electric storms we experience here are not just beautiful displays of natural beauty in their own right, but give rise to so much more beauty that it is impossible to think of them as destructive, even when trees give up the unequal struggle and shed branches, and the grass is bent all the way down to the ground.

Beauty it seems begets beauty. Not only are the storms themselves simply stunning to watch, but they leave a great deal of wonder in their wake: the breathtaking colours of the sunsets rippling and waving across Botswana's big sky, with bars of purple, mauve, pink, and an intense golden light filtered through the clouds which makes everything appear gilt-edged. As the rods of rain crater the sand, you can almost hear the curled up buds and shoots unfurling and pushing through the soil, and yet more beauty erupts as new plants grow and existing ones are revitalised.

Nature has a lot to teach us about rhythm and timing, and one good example of this is the way that our rain showers very often happen in mid-afternoon, round about tea time, and have already begun to clear as we set out on the afternoon game drives, heading out into wonderful light, clear air, and refreshingly cool temperatures. Or we have more prolonged, gentler rain overnight, soaking into the underground reservoirs of life that will irrigate still more growth and life, and giving us perfect temperatures for restful sleep, with only the roaring of lions gnawing at the edge of your dreams.

The Linyanti's wild dogs have been favouring the Kings Pool area recently - no doubt in part due to the profusion of young impala - and so many of our guests have enjoyed great sightings of these fascinating but elusive creatures. Wild dogs are deadly effective hunters, but even a side-striped jackal seen in poor light by impalas (like wild dogs, these jackals have a distinctive white tail tip) is enough to provoke intense watchfulness - if not blind panic - amongst the herds.

The rains have also brought out the winged termites, each winged future king or queen heading out on the only flight of their lives, looking to mate at the end of and start a new colony. This nuptial flight is the termite equivalent of a blind date - all too often a date with a gecko or a bat, or even a paraffin lamp or a glass of red wine; we have had some very cute beaded nets made to cover our glasses at the dinner table to save the termites and our wine from each other!

When it rains during the day and the termites emerge, each mound can be pinpointed from afar by the birds wheeling and snapping above it - very often some of our summer migrants - Yellow-billed Kites, Southern Carmine Bee-eaters and Barn Swallows circle and swoop and prey remorselessly on the flying termites to the extent that it is a wonder that any of them make it through this relentless ambush.

The rapid 'trrrrrrrrr' of the electric-blue Woodland Kingfisher confirm that summer is here. These little birds with their bi-coloured bills strike heroic poses in the trees, displaying in their wings all the colours of the Botswana flag - the blue, white and black that evokes life-giving water and harmony between peoples.

And despite all the drama of summer storms, of new life and sudden death, of growth and renewal and the slow, steady turning of the clock of the seasons, it is this sense of harmony that pervades everything here - the harmony of an ecosystem perfectly in synch, and the sense of harmony that so many of our guests find they are gently filled with as they gaze out from the camp and contemplate the view across the water and into the grasslands.
Guest comments for the month:

'We appreciated the very warm welcome and hospitality of all staff members and enjoyed the luxury and style of Kings Pool very much!'

'I am so relaxed I cannot spell my name any more ?'
'We visited in July and returned in December - both visits were fantastic! We will return!'
'The highlight was the singing staff leading us to dinner?'
'The highlights were the two male cheetahs? and listening to the hippos at night!'
'Keep up the personal service!'
'How does one improve upon perfection?'
'Leopard sighting: one word - awesome!'
'Kings Pool - The atmosphere and the closeness to nature?'

That's all from your Kings Pool December team, and wishing you all the very best for 2008.

-Nick & Kerry, Noko, Eva, Eddie & Penny, and Dave-

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Kwando Safari Camps Update - December 07

Lagoon camp               Jump to Lagoon Camp
• The coalition of four male lions was seen on several occasions. They were seen hunting Zebra and were heard calling around the area.  
• A female leopard and her cub were seen feeding on an Impala kill while a male leopard was found resting next to his Impala kill. He was very relaxed and made for good photographic opportunities. Another female Leopard was seen just relaxing and she also allowed the guests to take some good photos.
• The three new male Cheetah were seen on several occasions hunting Impala but they made no kills. They are in very good condition though and very relaxed towards the game drive vehicles. A sighting of a single female Cheetah in the Water-cut area was also reported.
• The Lagoon pack of six adult Wild dogs and seven sub adult dogs were seen on numerous occasions during the month. Unfortunately on of the young dogs got attacked by a Leopard and got injured badly. The dog is still mobile though and will hopefully make a good recovery.  
• The large breeding herds of Elephant have disappeared into the Mopane forests since the rain has started. Some of the smaller herds and bachelor males were still seen feeding on the flood planes.
• The big herds of Buffalo have now completely disappeared because of the rains. Some small bachelor groups were still seen feeding on the floodplains though.   
• Night drives were exceptionally good during this month, with a very elusive Aardvark being spotted. Hyena, Jackal, Springhare and African Wild Cats were also seen on most drives. Bat-eared Fox with babies made for another unusual sighting.
• General game sightings were fantastic during this month as all the Tsessebee’s and Impalas are having their babies now. Many Zebra were also seen as well as Giraffe, Kudu, Lechwe, Waterbuck, Reedbuck, Sable and Roan Antelope.
• Excellent sightings of Porcupines, Aardvark, Civet, Serval, Wildcat and Honey Badger were reported during night drives.
• Birding was very good during this month. The first sighting of Whiskered Turns were reported. Birds of Prey sightings were also very good with, Black Breasted Snake Eagle, Martial Eagle, and African Hawk Eagle being seen.

Kwara & Little Kwara camps               Jump to Kwara & Little Kwara camps
• Lion sightings in the Kwara area continue to be very good. The coalition of 7 male lions was very active throughout the month and one of the males were seen trying to kill a Leopard Tortoise but he did not succeed. One lone male Lion was seen roaming around the area, this is the partner to the male that was killed by Buffalo. The Tsum-Tsum pride consisting of seven females and one male were seen often on the North Western side of the camp. The three Lionesses and their 8 cubs were seen trying to take down some Zebra but were not successful, while the two big males were just resting in the shade. The Kwara pride managed to kill a Giraffe on Leadwood Island.
• The well-known female Leopard and her cub seemed to have now gone their separate ways. The mother was seen hunting Reedbuck whilst the youngster managed to kill an Impala lamb. A big male Leopard was found with an Impala carcass up in a tree with three Hyena waiting for some tit bits to fall down to them under the tree. An unknown female Leopard was seen hunting around the flood plains, but she was unsuccessful and lastly a male Leopard cub was spotted enjoying the sunshine from his position on top of a big log.
• The resident three brother Cheetah were seen hunting and killing Impala as well as Tsessebe. The other coalition consisting of two brothers managed to kill a baby Impala and was seen hunting baby Wildebeest. The Wildebeest were too clever though and managed to get away in time. They did manage to kill a male Impala shortly afterward though.
• Two packs of Wild Dogs were operating in the Kwara area this month. A pack of four dogs were found hunting but they were unsuccessful. A pack of twenty-one dogs managed to kill three baby Impala, close to camp and also killed a Tsessebe near the hippo pools.
• A couple of bull Elephants were seen crossing the channel in front of one of the boat cruises and made for a wonderful sighting. Some more bachelor bulls were feeding around the camps and were also seen having a mud bath on the edge of the lagoon. A small breeding herd of about twenty-two Elephants also made an unexpected appearance on the Tsum-Tsum plains.
• The Side-striped and Black-backed Jackal were very active hunting frogs during this rainy month. Hyena were also seen on almost every drive and heard during the night. Flapped Neck Chameleons were seen regularly as well. Four Bat-Eared fox started denning on the Tsum-Tsum plains.
• General game sightings were excellent throughout the month. The Impala, Tsessebe and Wildebeest are busy dropping their young, so lots of newborn babies around. Lots of Zebra and Giraffe around as well.  
• A good sighting of a Serval hunting frogs were reported as well as a Honey Badger with a Python kill. Porcupine and many of the mongoose species were also sighted.
• Giant Bullfrogs and Banded Rubber Frogs were seen everywhere. A Black Mamba of about 2.5 meters was located near the camp and a Mozambique Spitting Cobra was seen on the Tsum-Tsum plains. One group of guests were very lucky to witness a big Python killing and swallowing a newborn Impala lamb. The Heronry at Gadikwe Lagoon were also very active and created good birding opportunities. Four Wattled Cranes were seen on the Kwara flood plains.

Lebala camp
               Jump to Lebala Camp
• The pride of three lionesses and their eight cubs have become such specialists in hunting Warthog, that they were seen killing two Warthogs in one day. They were also seen killing an Impala. The two dominant males are not always seen with the females but they do join up with them regularly.
• Leopard sightings were very good at Lebala this month with four different Leopards being seen. A young male was seen hunting twice in the woodland, while a shy female was seen hunting North of Lechwe corner. Another young female was also seen hunting West of camp. A big male Leopard was found with two kills up in a tree. It seems that he managed to kill both a female Impala and her newborn baby.
• The two male Cheetah were very active throughout the month. They were found feeding on a baby Wildebeest carcass and were also seen hunting and killing a young Red Lechwe. They also tried to hunt Impala and Warthog. A well-fed female Cheetah was found resting South of Camp. Three very skittish males were seen near Nare Pan.
• The pack of 10 adult Wild Dogs and two puppies still roamed around in the Lebala area. They were seen killing six Impala in two hunting sessions. The same afternoon they tried to kill a young Giraffe but failed. They also managed to kill a Tsessebe but a Clan of Hyena managed to steal the kill from them.
• Only the occasional glimpse of Elephant herds was reported during this month. Most of these big herds are now feeding in the Mopane woodland. Bachelor bulls were still seen feeding on the floodplains and having mud baths in the waterholes.
• Birding has been very good this month with a lot of the summer migrants starting to nest. Reptile sightings were excellent, with Puff Adders, Spitting Cobras, Boom slang and African Rock Pythons being seen.   
• A Clan of Hyena were seen hunting a Hippo. They managed to do some major damage to the back of the Hippo before it managed to escape in to the water. Another Clan of Hyena was feeding on a Giraffe carcass when the Hippo hunting Clan turned up. There was some serious interaction between the two Clans before the Hippo hunters decided to run away.
• General game sightings have been very good through out the month due to the Impalas, Tsessebe and Wildebeest dropping their young. Good sightings of Roan Antelope were also reported.
• Civet, Serval, Porcupines as well as Honey Badgers were common sightings throughout the month. Two Aardvark were seen almost next to each other and Genets were spotted feeding on termites.

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Mombo Camp update - December 07                Jump to Mombo Camp

December's weather was rather wet but resulted in pleasant mild day-time temperatures. The rain has also resulted in lush vegetation with all the grass species flowering in profusion. Most seasonal pans are full and now offer reliable summer drinking spots for wildlife. Some pans have turned into small permanent swamps with rich reed growth: a good example being Lethaka Pan. Blood or fireball lilies (Scadoxus Spp) are flowering across the island - a spectacular riot of crimson colour dotting the continuous greenery of the area.

Game-wise, there has been an explosion of antelope births and consequent increase in animal populations around Mombo. Each and every floodplain seems at the moment to be fully utilized by the various herbivore species. All the impala herds have literally doubled in size, as have the blue wildebeest and tsessebe herds. Warthogs, baboons, zebra, kudu and giraffe always add value to the beautiful terrain of the Mombo Island and there have been a number of healthy buffalo herds in the area this month. Herds of over 500 were found and are of course doing very well at this time of the year due to the abundance of grazing. Both black and white rhino were seen during December, albeit infrequently, and white rhino population in particular seems to be thriving.

Leopard, wild dog & cheetah
Leopard have been very cooperative in their movements and have presented us with some fantastic sightings. These sightings were mainly of the well known Legadima (star of National Geographic's 'Eye of the Leopard') who is heavily pregnant and was found searching for the best birth places for her expected cub/s. We were all convinced of the imminent birth when she spent considerable time around the 'triple baobab' and on one occasion was seen in the highest branches of this gigantic tree. She looked restless and was moving around scent marking a good number of spots. She also ended up cutting across the Vulture's Baobab area down to the Far Eastern Pan - a distance of about five kilometres, which she covered in a day. At Far Eastern Pan she was cornered by a big troop of baboons, but managed to descend her Acacia tree refuge and slip away from the more aggressive baboons. She has also been spotted taking down impala lambs. We have also had sightings of the male which we suspect to be the father of Legadima's unborn cubs. He is very skittish, though he looks to be in his prime and might be the same age as the late Burnt Ebony Male (the father to Legadima) though a little smaller in size. We also enjoyed sightings of an unknown young male.

Leopard at Mombo     Leopard at Mombo

The vast home range of the wild dog pack meant that we had only a handful of sightings of them this month. They are always exciting though and we watched them chasing and feeding on a number of species. They are enjoying the prey-rich floodplains and have been chasing impala, blue wildebeest and tsessebe. They were recorded around the shortcut to Bird Island and Boro areas and still come all the way to the Honeymoon Pan area which is in the north eastern parts of the Island.

We had only one cheetah sighting recorded this month - this was of the male which lost its brother a couple of months ago to a big male lion in the Simbira area.

Lion
Of the 41 lion sightings this month, 22 were of the Maporata and Mathata Prides which are the biggest in the area. They are showing some signs of splitting however and in particular two lionesses from the Mathata Pride do not seem to have joined the main pride for some time now. A reasonable number of other prides have been sighted including the Boro Pride (1 male, 3 females and 8 sub adults). The prides at Mombo usually hunt at night but in a few cases the guides and guests got to see them taking down impala, warthog and sometime buffalo. 'Bob Marley and the Wailers' (the dominant male lion coalition) were seen on a couple of occasions, the West Pride (mainly just the two males) was seen four times, and two other prides were seen as well, one of them numbering 2 males, 2 females and 3 sub-adults.

Staff in camp
Managers: Taps, Jeremy, Lezzy (Front of house), Sharon and Pete (back of house)
Guides: Cilas, Francis, Malinga, Lebo, Cisco, and Grant Atkinson (came in to assist)

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Chitabe Lediba Camp update - December 07                Jump to Chitabe Lediba Camp

December saw the advent of the long-awaited rains in our region, and the landscape slowly began transforming itself. A hesitant green flush came first over what had been parched sands - an inkling of the life below waiting to burst through should more rain arrive. The channels had shrunk back into themselves - hippos grew more crowded and cantankerous as they jostled for space in the dwindling pools.

As the rains came and gathered momentum, the land responded with enthusiasm; grasses shot into the air, covering everything with a lush green carpet, the channels swelled and pushed, reclaiming what they had lost, and the waiting antelope dropped their young en masse. Migrant birds have arrived in their thousands, and the bush resounds with their song. Southern Carmine Bee-eaters swoop through the air behind the vehicles, Broad-billed Rollers cackle in the woodlands, Black Coucals burble in the wetlands with their resident cousins, and the air resounds with the trilling of the Woodland Kingfishers. Once again, we are in mid-summers thrall - delighting in the colours, sounds, smells and sensations of a world abounding with the exuberance of life. The spectacle of the sunset - as the sun paints the cloudscapes with a kaleidoscope of colour using every tint in her palette is a moment of wonder at the sheer beauty of nature.

The skies above belong to the raptors, and some days literally thousands of Marabou Storks could be seen swirling in the heights. The flooded pans and plains are host to a multitude of waterbirds, from Comb Duck, Woolly-necked and Abdim's Stork, African Spoonbill and the graceful Wattled Crane.

Predators are taking advantage of the abundance of food in the form of so many antelope young, and sightings for the month have reflected this.

The lion pride has been seen often, and the three cubs are still doing well. The two males keep up their restless patrolling of their territory, and the nights resound with their roars. The solitary female who shares the area appears to be pregnant, so next month might see the arrival of more cubs to swell the number of lion in the area.

Leopard sightings, as always, have been very good, and they too have been stocking up on impala lambs. One afternoon we saw the Marula Female killing a warthog piglet - playing with the hapless little thing while its valiant mother repeatedly charged the leopard, vainly attempting to chase her off.

We have also had a couple of sightings of serval hunting near the camp, and a caracal in the Sunset Road area not far from here.

The wild dog pack is down to three remaining pups, and at six months they are almost the size of the seven adults in the pack. We were concerned about one of the adults who was badly injured on the head during a hunt, whether by horn, hoof or fang we don't know, and he was separated from the pack for a few days. He managed to rejoin them, and seems to be able to keep up with the pack while they demonstrate their remarkable tendency to care for the injured by licking his wounds and sharing their kills. Solitary cheetah has been seen a few times - a male in the River Road area, and a female north of the airstrip towards the Gomoti River.

For the reptile lovers - several young monitor lizards were sighted around camp. As per the season, we have had many termite hatches, filling the night air with the beating of their wings, and all animals have been taking advantage of this bountiful resource - from the lizards and birds to baboons. The resident bushbuck on the island has also dropped their lambs, and we almost have a herd of these beautiful, shy antelope, delicately picking their way through the camp undergrowth.

Temperatures varied considerably, typical of the season - the rainy and overcast days giving welcome respite from the searing summer sun, which reached 35°C in the shade on several days.

For the month of January, guides in camp will be Newman, Phinley, Ebs, Lazarus, Andrea and Luke. Ryan, Dawson, Celine and Josephine will be your hosts.

We look forward to an interesting and rewarding New Year, and wish everybody out there all the best for 2008, and look forward to sharing our little slice of Africa with you.

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