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December 2007

(Page 2 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.

Kwetsani update - December 07                Jump to Kwetsani Camp

The Heavens have opened this month at Kwetsani with 66mm of rain. Everything is beautifully green and the Delta has come "alive" again. All over the vast floodplains, you can see new baby antelope which have started dropping. All the birds and frogs are satiated with all the insects in the air.

Fireball Lily

With all the thunder, lighting and rain the flowers this month have been incredible. Just three days after the first good rains, everything just blossomed and the grass is green again. The prettiest wild flower (bulb) would be the Fireball Lilly. Kwetsani is blossoming shining red; each bloom has more than 150 individual flowers on one stem.

The mammal populations have doubled with all the new babies. There is so much energy in the Delta, tsessebe, impala, zebra and wildebeest with little ones jumping all over the place. This is a time of joy and sadness as the predators move closer.

Baby zebra at Kwetsani

The lions festival feasting started early this month and has continued throughout December, with buffalo, lechwe and the new born all on the menu. The leopards have also joined in, with double leopard kills in two different trees, with two different kills, on the same day! Our guests have had great sightings. The capture of the month was a baboon that caught a newborn bushbuck, took it up the tree and ate half of it, then left. With all the meat around, the hyaenas have been in full force around Kwetsani. The night air is filled with their laughing.

The water is now completely gone and driving in the concession is a tough task, the thick sand adding to the adventurous game drives. You will not be disappointed with the wildlife viewing however, with buffalo herds, journeys of giraffe and zebra by the hundreds.

Birds have been phenomenal this month and we've had some new sightings. Our first sighting of a baby Stone Chat (already a small bird); imagine how small this little guy is and how hard it is to spot. The next surprise was the Narina Trogon which we saw while at Jao one evening. It does not appear on the distribution map in the Delta, must have flow off course and needed to rest before continuing her trip - a spectacular sighting.

Lechwes and sunset

From Kwetsani we wish everyone the best, until next year. We are looking forward to meeting you all or seeing you again for another visit to Kwetsani.

This report is in loving memory of Nick De Wet, a guest that stayed with us during December. He left his footprints and memories with us and we wish his family all the best and our thoughts and memories will always be with you.



Jao Camp update - December 07               Jump to Jao Camp

December has proven its reputation as the true beginning of the so-called green season. Short storms have revived the thirsty fauna and flora, enriching the land with verdant and emerald green and the morning skies have been warmed the skies with rich, Renaissance colours as though Michelangelo lay on his back all night painting the sunrise for all of us to enjoy.

Temperatures nudged 40°C but fluctuated over the whole month, keeping us all guessing. An unusual cold spell lasted only three days and reminded us to appreciate the heat; it dropped to 18°C with mischievous winds swirling through the leafy trees.

Sundowners at Jao Camp

Our guests hardly needed to leave the Jao Island for game viewing this month as the area became a litter box for the cats. The leopards wandered in eyeing the new born impalas and the Northern Pride of lions also strutted in with their eyes on the young ones. They settled in for a few days and kept the baboons barking and forced to settle into the highest of branches as a refuge before they moved on. The temporary absence of the lions and leopards in camp did not provide much respite for the young impala lambs however and the successor of the felines was a hungry Southern African python who managed a meal of an unlucky lamb.

In addition to the impala learning to survive on their wobbly legs, young wildebeest, zebra, giraffe and tsessebe are also taking their first steps on the fresh plains. There were new mothers all around the concession who had (and still have) their "hands" full being alert and protective of their newborns.

Other highlights have been our resident female leopard putting on her usual show for our guests while she fed on her kill, an adult tsessebe. She was challenged by hungry hyaenas for her kill but as they ran off with just part of the meal she swiftly dragged it up a nearby tree out of reach of scavengers. Night drives have proved popular with lucky sightings of the hippo trudging through the grasses, lion feeding and leopard stalking. The springhares made our Australian guests feel at home as they bounced about like mini-kangaroos.

Lion and buffalo kill at Jao

Our local male lions managed to tackle a buffalo to fill their hungry stomachs. They shared this meal with the Northern Pride of lions who had been hungry for a while whilst on the Jao Island. All were exhausted and round-bellied by the time they were finished with their meal.

The Western Banded Snake-Eagles have returned after being elusive for sometime now. Our general manager captured a couple together near the lodge on film. Also, we have had the Narina Trogan and Abdim's Stork about the areas giving our birders something to get excited about.

Western-banded Snake Eagles at Jao

Our guests have been treating themselves to sessions in the salon with our resident therapist. African Aromatherapy massages, Indian head massages and Clarins facials are just a few of the favourites at Jao, leaving one rejuvenated and floating like a jacana on a lily pad.

The camp has been a bowl of multi-cultural soup this December. We have had Australians to Austrians, Americans to Batswana, Swedish to English to Irish, Japanese to Chinese. It has been fascinating and fun for all the Jao staff meeting everyone.

Here is what some of our guests have to say about their time at JAO CAMP:
"A fabulous time was had; all of the staff were incredibly helpful and hospitable. Beautiful camp. Thank you." - GH, Sydney Australia.
"Great time, Great People, Great Fun!" - RM, Belfast Ireland.
"We had the most beautiful time on of our lives and many thanks for the honeymoon surprise. We take with us many special moments of Jao. Thanks to Vic and the entire Jao Team." - C&P, Gabarone Botswana.
"Thank you so much for the unforgettable stay at your Camp. We wish you all the best! - S&EV, Vienna Austria.
"The Big Yellow Bird was amazing. Hopefully all guests get to see one of them! Vic was a great guide. Hopefully will see you all again soon!" - JY, Boston/Scotland

We are excited to see what the New Year will bring to Jao and look forward to meeting our new visitors for 2008. The lions will roar, the birds will sing and the sun will shine - (most days).

Best regards and season's greetings,
The Jao Team

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

We finally received some rain in December and it all came down in one day. We were busy preparing Christmas dinner when the storm set in and flooded the camp in only a few minutes. The poor waiters had to carry the food from the kitchen to the dining area in pouring rain, wading through ankle-deep water. They fulfilled their duties with dignity and smiles on their face - although they looked wetter and wetter each time they came back from the kitchen, as there is no way to carry a plate of food and an umbrella at the same time? Our guests also got their fair share but the good mood was kept up and we spent a wonderful evening with candlelight, delicious food and some fine glasses of red wine.

We were lucky, as the rain is a signal for the termites to fly out and reproduce. A female and a male termite will eventually join together and while she is digging a hole into the soft and wet ground, the winner will try to seal off the entrance behind them to keep the competitors off. So there is no time to be lost and the Tubu Team and their guests suddenly found themselves in the middle of a huge termite storm that began to rise just after Christmas dinner. Fortunately we all managed to be safely in bed and switch off the lights before the termites took over.

The remains of the battle were investigated the next morning. We were stunned by the huge number of abandoned wings left behind - also the baboons took their chances and were busy feeding on the termites, unfortunately moving our beautifully made pathway rails all over the place. If you watch a fully-grown male baboon effortlessly move a big log out of its way you know why even leopards give way.

But the rain never lasts long and in no time at all we have another beautiful and sunny day. After the rains the predators start moving to refresh their scent markings and these days are often the best days to go out on a game drive - the tracks are fresh and the chance to see our leopards are higher than ever. One party of guests found a leopard quite close to camp and managed to follow it through the bush. They realised soon that the leopard was hunting and they finally witnessed how the leopard was stalking an impala, slowly, slowly getting nearer and nearer and finally rushed to kill it. They could not believe their luck next day as they saw two lions mating - but it can never be too much, can it?

Tubu Greetings
Peter & Katrin and the whole Tubu Team

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

December was a great month and the weather has been good. It rained hard with several storms coming through from the northern and southern side. Luckily this rainfall was mostly in the form of early pre-dawn and mid-afternoon showers, thus still allowing guests time to go out on activities. Due to the rain and cloud cover the temperature has also been really pleasant most of the month.

General Wildlife
General game over the last month has always been outstanding, even though the elephants have moved further north into the mopane woodlands since all the rain water pans there are now full. As we mentioned last month most of the antelope have calved or lambed and it has been fantastic this month to see the various crèches of youngsters of species such as tsessebe. In many cases these crèches ranging in number from 4-6 are accompanied only by one adult while the other mothers feed elsewhere. The other interesting sighting of the month has been watching warthogs with piglets and the targeting of these by lionesses.

Night drives have been very special as usual, with great sightings of relaxed bat-eared foxes while foraging for harvester termites with little pups following them. Normally the pups only come out at night with the day usually spent in their dens. There have also been great sightings of another feeder of termites, the aardwolf. These are seen mainly at dawn, after dark and sometimes in the early mornings. Regular sightings of this normally rare creature have thrilled most of the guests - especially when seen with their pups as they have been this month!

The main birding highlights this month resulted from the continued drying up of the floodwaters which left exposed pans and patches of floodplain with stranded fish populations at the mercy of various bird species. We refer to this phenomenon as the 'fish traps' and this the time of year when we see lots of waterbirds like pelicans, storks and egrets congregating along these pans. We also started seeing more of the summer migrants birds like African Paradise Flycatchers and many more. We also seemed to have more sighting of a rare and unusual species - the stately Denham's bustard. We saw them occasionally in small flocks, but mostly as pairs. Another special, the Rosy-throated Longclaw, has been regularly seen and has continued to provide enormous pleasure to birders.

Rosy-throated Longclaw at Duba

Lion Observations
As usual the Tsaro Pride has continued to provide the majority of the lion sightings this month. They still consist of the nine adult females, the juvenile female cub and the sub-adult male called 'Junior'. Lionesses continue to lose their cubs and mortality remains high with very few additions to this population. The pride continues to be seen in three different groups at the moment, although they do meet up regularly to hunt and when feeding on large carcasses. On several occasions in December these 'divisions' have been hunting independently with great success. Junior has already started to be harassed a bit by one of the Duba Boys. This natural behaviour between father and son has been witnessed a lot at feeding points. Amazingly however one of the Duba Boys (the sick one who has since died - see below) has not antagonized him and has generously shared carcasses and space.

A 'Fallen Hero'
As we mentioned in last month's report one of the long dominant members of the Duba boy coalition has been sick. With sadness and sorrow we would like to announce that he has since died.

The managers at Duba during the month of December were Moalosi, Bonang and Gabbi. Also we would like to mention that one of our colleagues, Francois, has decided to move on in a new direction after a good year of fun with us here at Duba. As usual, we were well supported by our team of guides: James 007, ST, and Dennis.

T.L Moalosi @ Duba plains.

Vumbura Plains update - December 07               Jump to Vumbura Plains Camp

It has been an action filled month at Vumbura with many celebrations taking place both in and out of camp.

December started off rather cloudy, a trend which continued pretty much right through the month. All the cloud brings with it spectacular afternoon thunder showers and electrifying lightning displays at night. These afternoon showers are also a welcome relief from the heat that not only rejuvenate the bush and all its inhabitants, but also brings out some amazing aromas and sweep the roads clean of all previous activities, leaving you with a new story to discover on your next adventure?

All these welcomed rain clouds produce amazing sunrises and sunsets with the latter usually accompanied by an ice cold gin & tonic. Temperatures for the month were pretty stable with the mercury only once rising to a month high of 35°C and falling to a month low of 17°C. The average daily high was 30°C, while the average low was 22°C.

Our celebrations for the month in camp where numerous with many birthday cakes being produced and many champagne bottles being put on ice! But before we run through the usual suspects our biggest celebration for the year was at the beginning of the month with the birth of a baby elephant in camp - a sign of good things to come I am sure. We also celebrated Christmas in true African style by having a traditional Boma evening under the stars with singing and dancing preparing us all for the coming of the new year. New Year's Eve was celebrated in spectacular fashion around a fire, under the stars with a good supply of champagne and ample laughter.

The celebrations continued through the month with hundreds of newborns flooding the bush with new life and some very entertaining behaviour. One of the new arrivals still to be confirmed is the birth of new lion cubs from the 'Kubu Pride'. One of the older lionesses has been seen lactating, but as yet no one has seen the cubs. The 'Big Red Pride' has also been seen on numerous kills and of course doing what lions do best, simply just sleeping!

The wild dogs have shown their patches just as many times this month - the pack members varying in numbers from 23 to 9 and always on the move. The male cheetah named 'Vuka' has been showing off his spots along with our other spotted friends, the leopards. A new young female leopard has been seen a few times around the Vumbura Paradise area which has sparked the interest of the dominant male. We hope to see tiny siblings in the future!

It has also been a month of amazing birding with numerous sightings of Martial Eagle, Southern Ground Hornbill, Wattled Crane, Slaty Egret, African Skimmers and a Long-crested Eagle just to name a few.

The landscape is also ablaze with vibrant colour as flowers like flame lilies, wild sesame and devil's thorn light up our concession and we shall hopefully see you here soon.

South Africa camps
Pafuri Camp update - December 07               Jump to Pafuri Camp

December has been a month in which we were blessed with plenty of rain, something that is never shunned here in one of the driest regions of the Kruger National Park. With heavy rains comes rapid growth and what were previously dry and scorched regions on the concession have been transformed into a mosaic of greenery and shoulder-high grass. The Limpopo River is flowing bank to bank, and again joining up with the Luvuvhu at Crooks' Corner to provide an additional spectacular sight.

The Luvuvhu River was close to breaking its banks on the 17th of this month when we received over 90mm of rain in just over an hour. All guests and staff watched the spectacle as the river rose over 3-4 metres in just a few hours bringing all kinds of debris from upstream, including giant sycamore figs stranded from the February 2000 floods. Luckily the water reached its highest level before intruding too close to the boardwalks of the camp and letting all who witnessed breathe a sigh of relief.

Temperatures have been quite bearable throughout the month with cloud cover playing a large part in keeping things cooler, but when the sun did push through, humidity levels soared.

With the denser vegetation as a result of rainfall, sightings of some species have been harder to come by than in the winter months. This is especially so when it comes to elephants. Nearly all the elephants have moved on, presumably pushing either further north into Zimbabwe, or south into the Park, with only the occasional bull being seen on the distant western side of the concession. The six white rhino have been hard to come by this month with only a handful of sightings from vehicles. With the onset of the rains they seemed to have moved into different grazing areas from those which they frequented during the drier winter months. Tracking the rhinos on foot is still unquestionably the best way to find them and this is easily achievable at this time of year. Sightings of these animals have definitely increased though since their reintroduction in 2005, with a notable habituation to the game drive vehicles. What was once just a speedy flash of grey mass through the bush has improved to the point where we are now able to watch these animals from a distance of 20-30m while they display their natural behaviour. Buffalo sightings have been excellent with herds being seen almost every day, as well as the ever-present 'dagga boys' that frequent the camp area.

Seeing the cats in the dense brush is without doubt more of a challenge than when the bush is thin. Nonetheless we have been rather fortunate this month with 15 separate sightings of lion and 17 of leopard. On the 3rd of the month there were 7 lions outside Tent 5 vocalising in the early morning, providing a beautiful sound to wake up to. A surreal sighting of a female leopard and her two cubs gave all who saw it memories for a lifetime.

On the 26th a young nyala carcass was found between Tents 8 and 9 next to the boardwalk. The assailant, a leopard, had most likely been disturbed in the early hours whilst the guides were waking up their guests.

Other special predator sightings this month included a spotted hyaena hunting impala as well as a mother jackal and her three pups being seen on a regular basis at close quarters. Some of the rarities in the mammal kingdom have also had a say this month with a pair of honey badgers being seen and the finding of an aardvark burrow still with the aardvark inside! The latter not being seen but the tracks providing sufficient evidence, as well as being able to hear the animal breathing from within its dwelling.

The finding of a 4m African rock python on a drive gave rise to some quick thinking as it started heading straight towards the vehicle in an effort to find warmth in the engine mount! A forest cobra was a true treat, a snake seldom seen, and apparently the first record of this particular subspecies for the Kruger Park and in fact South Africa as a whole.

For all who have visited this small piece of heaven will know, birding in the region is exceptional all year round, but the wet months provide some incredible sightings of our feathered friends. This month has given a number of titanic specials and the much awaited arrival of certain migrant species. Some "mega ticks" seen this month include Striped Crake, Green Sandpiper, Thrush Nightingale, Lesser Moorhen, Hottentot Teal, Racket-tailed Roller, Thick-billed Cuckoo, White-winged Tern and Lesser Flamingo. All the roller species are present at the moment including Broad-billed, Racket-tailed, Lilac-breasted, Purple and European. The bee-eaters are also out in full force with the arrival of the European, Blue-cheeked and the cranberry-pink Carmine Bee-eaters whose vibrant plumage stands out boldly against the gloomy grey canvas of the rain-bearing clouds.

Along with the rains has come the emergence of the winged alates (flying ants), which has provided a nutritious diet full of protein for many birds and smaller predators. We have often come across emergences this month and the bird life associated with them has been astonishing. At a single emergence you can expect to find numerous Lesser-spotted Eagles feeding on the ground along with Hooded Vultures, Tawny Eagles, Steppe Eagles, Marabou Storks, and several starling and shrike species. The sky is roofed with Bee-eaters, Rollers, Amur falcons and Yellow-billed kites. Truly a sight to behold!

Mongoose, squirrels, genets and plenty more have also been well satisfied by these flying meals. A wonderful time for all in the bush! The highly sought-after Pel's Fishing-Owl has been seen quite a few times this month, but sightings dropped after the heavy rains when the Luvuvhu swept away many of their preferred fishing spots. An old fallen ana tree that overhung the flowing water would often be frequented by a pair. They were sighted again several days after the rains on a new perch close by, giving us hope that they will remain in the area.

2007 was seen out in style with a late evening game drive to the Limpopo floodplains, where we celebrated the coming of the new year with a rising moon glowing over the fairytale land that is Pafuri. 2008 holds much to be explored and we welcome it with open arms.

Callum Sargent

Namibia camps
Damaraland Camp update - December 07               Jump to Damaraland Camp

A Tribute to the Damaraland Desert-adapted Elephants
For our elephants out here in this harsh environment it is always a struggle to survive. There are thought to be about 700 of these amazingly adapted desert-dwelling elephants in the Damaraland and Kaokoveld areas of Namibia. Although genetically there is no difference between these and the "normal" elephant, their adaptation to living in an area of such huge extremes makes them stand out and demand all the appreciation and awe that comes with encountering them. Much of their learned survival skills are passed from generation to generation and the older, mature elephants play a vital role in the family groups.

Due to the harsh environment the breeding groups are generally much smaller than the average elephant herds found in higher rainfall savannah regions, but the home ranges are vastly larger. During the winter months they are mainly found in the dry riverbeds where underground water supplies life to the trees off which they feed. In the summer and rainy seasons they move huge distances up into the surrounding mountains to feed on the grasses and bushes in the more exposed areas. Water plays an enormous role in these elephants' lives and they usually feed between water points, coming to water sometimes only every three days during the dry seasons. With our elephants there seem to be a few points between which they move, the middle one being a local settlement called 'de Riet' where they drink out of the reservoirs built by the farmers there to water their livestock. This is an amazing compromise between human and animal and an inspiration to conservation around the world.

In 2007 we have had a productive and interesting year for our two main breeding herds, 'Rosie's Group' and 'Oscar's Group'. In April of this year we were honoured with the birth of little Gabes to Kinky Tail of Oscar's Group, who at eight months old now is really finding his feet. He was born away from the riverbeds in the mountains just as the group was heading back to their winter feeding grounds. We were introduced to him when he was a few weeks old and he has just exploded in energy, character and size in the last few months. From clinging to mum's tail he now ventures out, playing a bit with the "big boys", but quick to dash back when things get a little too exciting or rough. He's kept mum busy with his adventures and as soon as he slips out of sight she's soon to follow to get him out of whatever mischief he might be making.

Oscar, the namesake of the group, is still one of the "stars of the show". As a calf he was always very interested in our vehicles and showed little intimidation, and more interest and intrigue at these large funny looking sandy-coloured machines and their strange occupants. At about eight years old now he is still an absolute pleasure and one of the calmest and friendliest elephants we have out here. As far as elephant social dynamics go, one of the bulls of 'Oscar's Group' has moved out. It was his time and he will probably join up with the bachelors or old Governor.

The 26th of November saw the birth of a male calf to Rosie's Group, and we were all so fortunate to see him within days of his birth. Over the last three weeks, Rosie's Group has not strayed far from the water post at 'de Riet' and nearby 'de Riet Pos'. Although it is coming up to the time when they generally move out of the riverbed systems and into the mountains they have stayed put, not moving far as it is a critical time for this youngster and he requires plenty of rest as all babies generally do.

And surprise, surprise, only a few days ago on the 28th December we had a belated Christmas present! Born also to Rosie's Group, a little Christmas boy! We were so fortunate to see him at a day old, still white and flaky although now he's found his colour and is rather hairy to say the least. And lo and behold, he too has a 'Kinky Tail'! Mum and baby were alone for a few days as they bonded and just rested before joining the rest of the group on the 30th. With the new and beautiful addition it is sure that the Group will be hanging around for a while as these little boys find their strength. It is a sensitive time for these little ones so we watch in anticipation and hope they thrive just as Gabes has. In the upcoming years it will be great to watch them grow together, play together, learn together and finally, probably move out of the herds together.

As this piece is a tribute, there is one vital fallen Queen we would like to dedicate this year to. While we had a birth on the 28th, we had a death on the 29th and it has saddened us hugely.

'With life comes death" it is said out here and the Damara people strongly believe in this. About a month ago the Matriarch of Oscar's Group quietly moved away from the family group. She was seen on her own while her second in command had begun taking over the roles of leadership and responsibility of the family. She stuck to the same area for the whole time and we often saw her alone. We knew it was a sign that her time as ruler was over and she had removed herself to die. On the 29th we received reports that she had indeed fallen and we were all greatly affected by this huge loss to our elephants and the people out here. On discussing her it came out from some of our staff that grew up in this area that she was more than a great leader and role model for her family group. According to a guide at Damaraland Camp who grew up in this area, she was well known to be a very calm leader and most influential to the peaceful attitude of Oscar's Group towards people. As a child he remembered her kindness and how she taught them as children the respectful distances to keep away from elephants. She was a mother to many, a leader to all and a fountain of knowledge that has been monumental in the survival of this group. She died of natural causes and at an old age and will be remembered and sorely missed.

The emotions felt cannot be expressed in the last few days with these two equally important moments in the history of Rosie's and Oscar's Groups. The upcoming year will be possibly a tough one, with the care of two brand-new infants and the loss of a Queen. We hold thumbs and cross fingers and can only hope for the best for the survival of these rare, gentle and amazing giants. 2007 was most certainly a year to be dedicated to our Damaraland desert-adapted elephants.

That's all for now folks,

Nadja le Roux and the Damaraland Camp Staff

Skeleton Coast Camp update - December 07               Jump to Skeleton Coast Camp

After finally settling down at the office after my time away to the Skeleton Coast, I can't help but miss this incredible experience. This was truly a life changing experience, or should I rather say a soul changing experience. From my own personal point of view, this is an exclusive safari experience highly recommended to those who want to really just get away. Here one abandons the traditional city lifestyle and get yourself ready for an exclusive safari experience in a wild, desolate and stunningly beautiful destination. Sitting contemplating life from your private veranda you see clear sky stretching endlessly away and the gentle sea breeze from the Atlantic Ocean cools the effect of the sun. Everywhere you look just offers something to be amazed about. The area is so vast and there is so much to see and experience.

Aerial view near Skeleton Coast Camp

One does not need to be a geologist in order to recognize and be amazed at this land and its geological history. Rock deposits of granite, mica schist and gneiss are exposed in large formations. Chemical weathering has left these formations pitted and moulded into spectacular shapes. The Rocky Garden is an absolute must: to see these gigantic rocks just leaves you standing with mouth wide open!

When one begins to ponder this coastline and the adjacent desolate dunes of the Skeleton Coast you can't but wonder how it is possible that anything can survive in this desolate place. I was so amazed when I saw the fat oryx, springbok (aka jumping antelope), donkey (aka Kalahari taxi), brown hyaena (we spotted one near our tents), giraffe, elephant and Ostrich. The ecology of this fragile arid region is mind-boggling - complex but absolutely fascinating.

Baby elephant drinking in river

The scattering of shipwrecks along the coast, and the stories of those who were stranded on beaches surrounded by the dunes and the world's loneliest grave (of Matthias) create a humbling reality of true harshness of this area. This expedition is another highlight to a visit at the Skeleton Coast. The Skeleton Coast is a true safari adventure that brings the remote desert, the mystical coast and African game viewing together in a life-changing wilderness experience. The addition of fine accommodation in the exclusive Wilderness Safari style makes the Skeleton Coast one of the prime destinations in Africa. Many more people like myself, will be returning home with stories of fascinating wildlife, thundering, roaring dunes, castles of clay and a constant flow of colour, light and penetrating shadows.

Himba woman and child

I honestly cannot say what was most fascinating of this safari because everything from the flying, (yippy-yippy-yeah-Sefofane!), staff service at the camp, day trips, scenery, fishing at Rocky Point, every sundowner, lunch stop, excursion to the Himba Village and dinner around the Skeleton Coast family dinner table was just absolutely amazing. Our guide (Bariar) and camp manager (Bronkie) were absolutely fantastic as they explained history, geology, ecology and culture of the different areas. At times it felt my brain wanted to explode because of all this wonderful exciting information. What set this safari apart though was the love the guide, staff and camp manager have for this part of their country. Their commitment and love for the Skeleton Coast was tangible and their desire to share this with guests was inspiring. If you asked me what I would like to change or improve, my simple answer simply would be - nothing! This was a perfectly unique experience! Keep it up Skeleton Coast Camp!

Karen Onwuemene

Spirit of the Namib - December 07               Jump to Spirit of the Namib Safari

After arrival and settling in at Ongava Game Reserve we set out on an afternoon game drive. Almost immediately we came across two lionesses with three cubs- an awesome sighting indeed. We spent a good half an hour observing them before carrying on with the drive. A stop was also made for a short walk to take a closer look at three white rhinoceros; talk about getting the adrenaline going!

Lion cubs     White Rhino and calf

The following morning was spent in the adjoining Etosha National Park, one of Africa's premier wildlife destinations. We had good sightings of many general game species like the endemic black-faced impala, more lion sightings and some elephants too. Also of interest was noting a partially melanistic Burchell's zebra in Etosha.In the afternoon we all took a relaxing walk in Ongava Reserve itself, in the area of Ongava Lodge; a fitting end to an exciting day.

Melanistic Burchell's zebra

The next four days was spent in the Damaraland region. On the first day, staying in Palmwag Lodge, we took another afternoon walk. All I can say is "What scenery!" The next day we left for Hoanib River Camp where en route we stopped to visit the local Himba people, one of the guests' prime reasons for coming to Namibia. The afternoon leg of the drive to Hoanib River Camp was action-packed; particularly the three hours spent driving through the dry riverbed. We came across elephant, lot of giraffe, springbok, Oryx and few different sightings of steenbok - a diminutive antelope species. But the highlight had to be the leopard sighting, which we found just about halfway between the camp and the town of Sesfontein. "It was incredible and unforgettable. As far as I know this was the first leopard sighting by an Explorations guide since the camp has opened!"

A young male leopard was found together with its kill - a young Oryx bull. From the tracks in the area we could see that the Oryx was killed early in the morning, but because of the game activity, and especially elephants walking through that area, the leopard really did not have much privacy to feed on it. He also tried to take the kill up a big Ana tree (Faidherbia albida) but did not succeed because the prey was just too heavy. The leopard then simply hid in a nearby Salvadora bush to wait for the rush hour of animals to pass and get back to feed on its kill. For the next few days until the end of the trip we all brought up one and the same topic at the dinner table, namely the incredible leopard sighting we had!

From Hoanib River Camp we carried on to Damaraland Camp and then Swakopmund and we finished the trip in the area of Sossusvlei. I think this is the right place to finish the trip - keep the highlight for the end so to speak!

The guests on this exploaration have been saving money for many years to come to Namibia. One of the guests, Laura, said that she wanted to come and see the Sossusvlei dunes since she was a teenager! I was very happy for her that her dream finally came true?

-Rosta Janik-

Great Namibian Journey - December 07               Jump to Great Namibian Journey Safari

I was privileged in guiding an Italian couple on a Great Namibian Journey and we had a fantastic trip. Everything went well; they enjoyed the dunes at Sossusvlei and the town of Swakopmund too - certainly the right place to relax and shop. Next up was the dramatic Damaraland region and Hoanib River Camp instead of Desert Rhino Camp which was closed for a Children in the Wilderness programme. A highlight at Hoanib River Camp was the extremely lucky sighting of three beautiful cheetah just ten minutes outside the camp while driving in that afternoon. The guests we very happy because that was their first cat sighting ever!

Steenbok     Welwitschia mirabilis

We also visited Twyfelfontein (one of Africa's richest sites for rock art) as well as the Petrified Forest, Organ Pipes and Burnt Mountain. The guests were completely awe-struck by the scenery of the area and the amazing geology. After that we left for Ongava Game Reserve where we had good sightings of both black and white rhino on the reserve and also in the evening by the waterhole at Ongava Tented Camp. We did a couple of game drives into Etosha National Park where we had sighting of 14 lions at the Salvadora waterhole. A lot of elephants and all other general game species were also seen.

Springbok drinking

After that we flew to the number one destination in the country - the indescribable Skeleton Coast area, where we spent four days just exploring its rich diversity. Again we were very lucky enough to see desert elephants (It was amazing to watch the dominant bulls fighting and trying to assert their dominance) and other game species like gemsbok and springbok. Other activities was visiting a Himba village, spending a day on the beach exploring old shipwrecks and visiting the seal colony at Cape Frio. The colony was full of young seal pups and many were newborn. This is the time of year when black-backed jackals always have their easily meals and when we usually see Lappet-faced Vultures coming from inland, sometimes up to 50 km, to finish up whatever is left by the jackals. It was only my second time to see vultures on the beach in the Skeleton Coast area! "I think watching the vultures' feeding on the seal carcasses was definitely my highlight on this Exploration...."

-Rosta Janik-


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