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Safaris News -
Info and updates from Wilderness Safaris.
North Island Dive Report from
Monthly update from DumaTau Camp in
Kwando Safaris game reports.
update from Jack's & San Camps in
Page 2 Updates
Monthly update from Tubu Tree Camp in
Monthly update from Kwetsani Camp in
Monthly update from Jao Camp in
Monthly update from Vumbura Plains in
Monthly update from Pafuri Camp in
Turtle news from Rocktail
Bay in South Africa.
Monthly Dive report from Rocktail
Bay in South Africa.
Monthly update from Serra Cafema Camp in
Taking time to see Ostriches in Namibia.
Take a look at Super Predators in Namibia.
Tree Camp update - February 07 Jump
to Tubu Tree
We have had several large grass
fires burning in our area for over a week. Fires are fairly common
in the Delta this time of year just before the annual floodwaters
arrive; many are lit by local fishermen to clear channels, making
it easier for fishing. It was interesting to note the bird activity
during the time the fires were burning. Abdim's Storks flocked
in their hundreds to feast on the insects displaced by the fire,
and could be seen walking in the still smouldering burnt areas
picking off freshly roasted insects. Flying through the smoke
and in front of the fire were numerous Carmine Bee-eaters; these
aerial acrobats would swoop past the flames catching the insects
trying to escape the fire, chirping to one another all the while.
floodwater has arrived earlier than usual and most of the floodplains
are now under water. The arrival of the annual flood brings with
it great excitement for both human and animal alike. A barrage
of catfish run at the forefront of the flood taking advantage
of insects and other small creatures that have been disturbed
by the arriving water. The catfish can be heard plopping in the
shallows as they take insects off the surface of the water; at
times the water seems to 'boil' with fish. Birds join the feeding
frenzy, Woolly-necked and Marabou Storks, Cattle Egrets, and
several Heron and Plover species. The Marabou no doubt keeps
a beady eye out for any small catfish that might fit into his
Another bird found in numbers at this time is the African Fish
Eagle - which prey on the catfish that are exposed in the shallow
incoming waters. Fish Eagles are normally found in pairs but at
this time of plenty they can be seen in large numbers taking advantage
of the easy meals. They tolerate each others' close proximity because
there is a plentiful supply of food and so there is little competition
between the birds, there is more than enough for everyone.
The incoming floodwater means that we will soon be able to offer
boating, fishing and mokoro activities.
The small pack of wild dogs made a welcome although brief return
to Tubu this month. The guides were out on a walk when they saw
the dogs erupt from a nearby bush, running at full pace before
disappearing just as quickly. They quickly returned to the vehicles
and managed to relocate the dogs, following the pack as they began
to hunt. Their first attempt was unsuccessful, but they managed
to pull down an impala the second time. Before we knew it they
were gone again, as quickly as they had arrived. Of the five original
dogs only four were seen this time and we can only speculate as
to what happened to the missing one. Wild dogs are in fierce competition
with other predators and lions are their biggest concern.
February was our last month at Tubu before we move onto another
camp in the Delta, the same for Moa who will be joining the Wilderness
guide training department. We have had an absolutely amazing experience
in our time here with lots of great memories to cherish. We are
sure the new team will experience the same and carry on where we
left off. Tubu as a camp has a great charm about it and is a favourite
of most who have visited it. We can highly recommend it and once
you have been you will understand why!
Anton, Carrie and Moa
update - February 07 Jump
to Kwetsani Camp
The heavens above did not provide us with much
water here on the island in the Delta as we only received about
10mm of rain during February. The blessing however is that we have
received the annual winter floodwaters a little earlier this year.
The flood started off in the panhandle as if it was going to be
a huge flood but has levelled out and seems that it will be an
average flooding year. One never knows though as the water courses
change all the time and you can never be sure which way and where
the water is going to flow. There is a lot of promise though as
the rainfall in the Angola highlands have been really good this
Kwetsani has become an island again and we are
totally surrounded by water. The water's edge is creeping closer
and closer from the east and soon the whole front of the island
will be covered with water again. So the roads have changed to
waterways again! The temperatures have been as expected for this
time of year with an average low of 17° C and a high of 33° C.
The floodwaters moving in have been alive with activity, as the
tasty new morsels become exposed. The new food is almost immediately
devoured by a wonderful abundance of new birdlife in the area.
The sunset skies are filled with the silhouettes of the birds as
they fly around looking for roosting spots but not too far from
the water. In the morning we are awoken by the constant babbling,
chirping and chattering of the birds as they get really busy as
soon as there is enough light. You can follow where the water is
filling up first by the lines of birds, many Wattled Cranes, Spur-winged
Goose in their hundreds barely lifting their heads for air, clusters
of all the different Egrets, Open-billed Storks and so many different
types of the smaller wading birds all looking for food as the water
filters through dry sand.
The lion pride has had to move the core territory back as they
have lost the new ground to the oncoming water. The water has brought
about a bit of misfortune for the family as the young male cub
has a huge cut on his side and has not been seen with the family
for the last few days. He was last seen on the other side of the
water way to the north, which the rest of the family have already
crossed. We will have to let you know what the outcome will be.
We hear the lions calling around the camp almost every night and
they have been seen a few times from the decks of the lodge already
and even around the staff village.
The female leopard has been around Jao Camp area and is doing
really well with the new impala generation, killing a few around
the camp island. She is healthy and staying out of trouble with
the lions. We hope that she will be seen a lot more as she too
tries to avoid the increasing waters.
The highlight of the month was four wild dogs that had just killed
an impala and finished the kill in no time at all. The red lechwe
are back in large numbers and the water will definitely create
a fantastic spectacle.
Until next month,
Jao Camp update
- February 07 Jump
to Jao Camp
This last month has been as dry as the last,
with less than 5mm of rain and some very hot days, seeming to point
to a pretty dry winter this year. Some of the evenings have already
been chilly! The last part of February has also been quite windy
which also brought some cloudy weather but no rain. The floods
are pouring into NG25 from the eastern side this year and it is
really amazing to see that the water is filling certain areas already
this year which only got water much later last year.
During February the camp was sanded, varnished, polished, washed,
swept, dusted and mopped before having opened on the 12th for
business again. We replaced the upper front saligna deck at the
main lodge and we also renewed the boat jetty in front of the
Our lions "the old and the beautiful" are
living up to their soap opera name with daily drama and intrigue.
The two dominant males are always fighting over the lionesses
and then the two cubs have to take the slack from the males.
It has come to our attention that the male cub has not been
sighted with the mother and other cub for a couple of days
now and according to the guides it must have died as the other
lions had been distancing themselves from the male cub for
some days before his disappearance. Always a sad case with
our lions as few lion cubs have survived in this concession
for the last five years now. We would love some new young blood!
'Beauty', the resident female leopard has been very active on
the Island on which Jao is based. She was spotted under the walkway
by one of the managers one evening when escorting guests home
from dinner! She was in the area because she had made a kill
towards the back of the Island, an impala from the local herd
which she kept under a tree for two day and then when it was
light enough she dragged it up a tree to finish it off during
the next 4 days.
Our baby baboons are still around with the rest of the troop.
The baby impalas are all still accounted for as well as the baby
mongooses which are running around with the rest of the band
at the moment.
The elephants have been few and far between in the concession
in the beginning of Feb but as it got drier towards the end of
the month and with some fires around we suddenly saw a huge improvement
in numbers especially lone bulls walking around. Part and parcel
of our guests experiences were seeing these huge pachyderms taking
a bath in the river, always good to see!
The amount of red lechwe in the area is absolutely crazy as
they are covering the floodplains in their thousands. With this
we also see a rise in lion activity in the water. Seeing a big
lion walking through water is an uncommon a sight but in NG25
we see this during most of the year as the lions have adapted
to live in this wet watery environment.
One of the most amazing sightings in a while has been that of
a Secretarybird being caught by a Martial Eagle. The guide and
his guests were sitting watching a leopard when the guide saw
the Eagle sitting in the grass plucking away at a kill and at
closer inspection saw that it was indeed a Secretarybird - two
of the rarer animals in the concession!
Some comments from our guests this month:
"Once again a sensory overload. The sighting of the elusive
leopard on the bridge into camp was awesome." - Larry and
"The diversity of your activities and the excellent attention
to your guests were all highlights to our stay." - Marcelino
"Our highlight was a leopard for starters and then the camp
with its very good staff." - Klaus and Elizabeth
"The lodge and the staff and the very good guides on safari
were outstanding but especially the chocolates on demand!" -
Michael and Nancy
All the best
The Jao Team
update - February 07 Jump
to Vumbura Camps
The month of February saw an increase in the variety and
frequency of big game sightings over those of the previous month.
This is mainly due to the increase in rain and water levels ensuring
the grazers and browsers are kept healthy with ample good grazing
grasses and heavily leafed trees with the likes of Jackalberries
starting to fruit early; healthy prey means healthy predators!
The high water levels have promoted water activities as well. Mokoro
trips are a fantastic way to take in the beauty and serenity of the Delta
and it seems as soon as one guest takes part in this activity, news of
the experience spreads amongst the camp and the mokoro station becomes
a busy place! Boat cruises have been popular too and are a good way to
venture deeper into the Delta and the best part is the memorable sundowners
that can be had whilst on the water. The anglers of Vumbura have been
busy as well, working of course on a catch-and-release system. With a
lot of bream, pike, and barbel around there is always a fishing trip
to discuss over dinner. Several guests have taken part in our guided
walks which allow a closer look at the surroundings and a different perspective
on the environment. The current rain has led to high levels of grass
and vegetation making the possibility of sightings more difficult - but
the experience of being in the bush with no boundaries is still unrivalled.
Lion sightings have been a plenty this month, starting with a fantastic
late evening sighting of the resident Kubu Pride. They were sighted just
a kilometre out of camp and present were the three cubs looking very
healthy, four females and a sub-adult male - who is just starting to
grow his mane. All were very relaxed and most were sleeping except for
the cubs that spent most of their time hassling mom for food and everyone
else for play. The sightings of this successful pride have been abundant
throughout the month with the cubs giving everybody great photo opportunities
and talking points. The Big Red Pride have also been seen in the area
and earlier in the month they all looked very hungry and agitated, so
it was good to view them a few weeks on looking full and relaxed, a recent
Selonyana, a resident female leopard, was spotted in front of South
Camp stalking impala, but without any success. As she is generally a
good hunter and always in a healthy condition none were surprised to
finally sight her up a tree with the kill of a young kudu. She had not
yet started to feed and so we left the sighting until the following morning.
On our return we were treated to a food power struggle: Shaka, a male
leopard, who is infrequently seen, was spotted chasing Selonyana out
of the tree and away from the kill. She stood her ground and defended
as best she could, but soon gave the carcass up to the pressure of Shaka.
With shoulders slung low she started making off on the long walk, to
the next possible kill, only giving one quick glance over her shoulder
to assure herself there was nothing left to stay for.
Cheetah and wild dog have also been spotted throughout the month. Vuka,
a male cheetah, has been seen marking his territory, hunting warthogs
and dozing in the heat of day under a Mopane tree. The wild dogs caused
great excitement throughout Vumbura with only two sightings of the pack
in recent times. The pack consisted of an adult male and female and two
sub-adults. Two days later they were seen again with an impala kill which
was later taken over by four hyaenas; however it seemed they had fed
well before the invasion. The hyaena exhibited highly protective behaviour
of the carcass, lying on top of the impala before scavenging the remains.
Throughout the month we have had many elephant encounters on drives
and within camp. The local breeding herd has been seen most days feeding
close to the walkway and then drinking and bathing in front of North
Camp. Sable sightings have been good, with herds numbering up to ten.
They look to be in an extremely good condition with beautiful glossy
coats and grazing well. Aardvark were also seen - these elusive animals
with their unusual appearance and behaviour are always a delight to observe.
One seemed very relaxed and was feeding at a nearby termite mound just
off the road but eventually disappearing into the night. The hyaena den
a few kilometres from camp has proved once again a great spot for close
encounters with the six young pups, they are now four months old and
looking very healthy. There is no designated nanny and most family members
seem to take it in turns looking after these energetic and inquisitive
young pups. We had a great buffalo sighting near Nare Pan; the herd were
300 strong and on the move. Jacky's Pan has been the usual hive of activity
with frequent sightings of giraffe, zebra, warthog and various antelope.
The call of the African Fish Eagle can be heard most mornings in front
of South Camp and one can often be seen perching on the branch of a dead
tree in the plain. Insectivorous bird species such as Bee-eaters, Kingfishers,
Rollers and Hornbills have been plentiful due to the quantity of insects,
which seem to be breeding well due to the current high temperatures and
water levels. Unmistakable larger species such as Saddled-billed Storks,
Goliath Herons and the endangered Ground Hornbill have been seen feeding
on the floodplains in front of camp. South Camp's Scops Owl is still
happily roosting in the Jackalberry tree above the Star Deck.
The weather conditions for February have
been relatively constant for this time of year. February experienced
highs of 38°C and lows of
15°C and an average of 26°C. Most days have been clear with some
overcast conditions appearing in the late afternoon with only a few resulting
in short afternoon showers.
Complied by: Ryan Stockman
Camp Newsletter - February 07 Jump
What can one say about Pafuri? The area never
ceases to amaze with its ever-changing moods and
wildness. What started out as a dry, hot month,
with very little grass cover finished up with numerous
areas being carpeted in the yellow flowers of dubbeltjies
After the low rainfall so far this summer, we
were hoping for some good downpours to revitalise
the area. These rains did not materialise for the
first half of the month and soaring temperatures
scorched the bush. The grass that had grown following
the rains in January died down completely. Fortunately,
we received two big downpours, the later one an
offshoot of Cyclone Flavio that hit Mozambique.
These showers transformed Pafuri into a deep green
interspersed with the bright colours of numerous
flowers that bloomed following the rains. This
was in stark contrast to the bare Ana Trees along
the river courses, which interestingly shed their
leaves in summer (one of the primary reasons they
are no longer included in the Acacia genus).
The most encouraging aspect of the month was how
good the general game viewing has been. There has
been an abundance of impala. Numerous herds, some
totalling in the region of 70 were scattered throughout
the concession. The number of kudu sightings has
also been impressive with a herd of 20 being recorded
at one time. Zebra were seen on a daily basis and
a herd of 30 was seen grazing on the new grass
close to camp. Game has also been seen colonising
areas which have seemingly been avoided by the
larger mammals; a herd of eland and impala were
seen drinking in the Limpopo River one evening
as the sun dipped below the horizon.
The significance of the increase in general game
concentrations is that as their numbers continue
to rise in the concession, the number of predators
is increasing as well. This has been confirmed
with a sighting of some new lion cubs on top of
Hutwini Mountain. There have also been two records
of lions mating within the month; the second mating
was by a new male lion in the area which bodes
well for the future. Sightings of lions have remained
constant throughout the month and it is encouraging
to see that all six sub-adults in the Pafuri pride
are alive and well.
We have had daily sightings of elephants (unusual
for this time of year but largely as a result of
low rainfall) as well as the numerous buffalo herds
throughout the concession. Some of the less common
species that have been sighted this month include
honey badger, Jameson's red rock rabbit, bushpig,
and a number of sightings of eland and Sharpe's
grysbok. One of the highlights of the month from
a mammal sighting point of view has to be the sighting
of three Cape clawless otters cavorting in the
Luvuvhu River. This sighting was from the top of
Lanner Gorge, which in itself is one of the finest
views in the Kruger National Park.
The birding this month has been great. One of
the highlights was the discovery of a new roost
for a pair of Pel's Fishing Owls. Other notable
sightings include Greater Painted Snipe, a flock
of Lesser Flamingos in the Limpopo River, a roost
for 4 African Wood Owls in camp and a Kori Bustard.
It was also exciting to find another Yellow-billed
Oxpecker nest this month. It is great to see that
this bird is once again thriving in the area after
becoming locally extinct in 1910 and only seen
again in the area in 1979. A pair of Saddle-billed
Storks was also seen constructing a nest.
The Luvuvhu River maintained a steady flow throughout
the month with the animals still utilising it as
a source of water up until the arrival of the rains.
The Limpopo River, on the other hand, did not flow
for most of the month and only a few pools remained
until it started flowing strongly again on 26 February
following the heavy rains in southern Zimbabwe.
Pafuri continues to surprise us with its many
moods and there is a sense of anticipation amongst
the guides of what the month of March will provide.
Number of days with rain: 4
Temperature: Average Maximum: 35°C; Average
Bay Turtle News - February 07 Jump
What an outstanding month! We never thought we
would see the amount of turtle hatchlings and mother turtles that
we did. This has been the best February we have experienced in
a long time!
It all started on the 2nd of the month, when we came across a
little Loggerhead laying her eggs on Lala Nek beach. Mbongeni was
the researcher that night, and once he had checked that she did
not already have a tag, he proceeded to tag her with number ZARR569.
Once the tagging was done Mbongeni measured her with the callipers,
and she measured in at 84cm long by 62cm wide. This turtle was
not an orphan for too long - only two weeks later David and Annebelle
adopted her and named her Lucy.
Once little Lucy was finished her business everyone
hopped back onto the vehicle, and carried on down to Mabibi,
and then started making their way back to camp. They were on
the home stretch, when Mbongeni spotted Leatherback tracks trailing
out of the ocean. He flipped the vehicle lights off, and approached
the Leatherback silently. Once he had sussed out the situation,
he called all the guests on board the vehicle to come and witness
the amazing creature. She had also never been tagged before,
and Mbongeni tagged her with tag number ZARR563. This Leatherback
turtle has now become known as Lili, and although her adoptive
parents, Luc and Severine Chaumette did not actually get to see
her, they had to adopt her anyway. (And hopefully they will come
back to see her again next year, or the year after and the year
The next turtle was seen on the 6th of February, and she also
did not wait too long to be adopted. Her name is Maher, and she
was adopted by Raj and Gemma Sangha from London. Mbongeni was the
researcher once again that night, and with terrible conditions
like lightening and rain to deal with, Maher, did not successfully
nest that night. The very next evening on Lala Nek beach, who should
we run into, none other than Maher: This time digging and laying
a successful nest. Gugu measured her in at 1.62m long by 1.20m
wide. A great happy ending!
The next turtle that we saw just happened to be on that special
day when Cupid was shooting his arrow. After a romantic candlelight
dinner, our guests joined Gugu on the research drive. They were
almost at Mabibi when Gugu spotted the tracks of a gigantic Leatherback
Turtle that had come up to nest. Gugu checked her and found that
she had not been tagged yet, so proceeded to do so with tag number
ZARR577. She also measured in at a massive 1.7m long by 1.25m wide.
This beautiful Leatherback Mother is now known as Janet, and has
proudly become apart of Colin and Janet Minty's family.
Turtle adoptions have been exceptional this month, with 22 turtles
finding themselves loving families to join. Here are some of the
other turtles that were adopted this month:
• Odd and Gisela Edstrand adopted Gisela the Loggerhead
- tag number ZARR599
• Mark and Kerrin Dinicola adopted Valentine the Loggerhead
- tag number ZARR516
• Izak and Hermein Steenkamp adopted Helen the Loggerhead
- tag number ZARR519
• Patrick and Bronwyn Duggan adopted Gaby the Leatherback
- tag number KK443
• Allan and Marjorie Macpherson-Fletcher adopted Amy Primrose
the Leatherback - microchip number 4860005F5C
• Johannes and Annemarie Baumgart adopted Keira the Leatherback
- microchip number 485F527D11
• Gareth and Annemarie Herselman adopted Chasey Lane the
Leatherback - tag number KK367
• Mr and Mrs Knight adopted Pink Peanut the Leatherback
- tag number ZARR548
• Colin and Janet Minty also adopted Scatterling the Loggerhead
- tag number GG114
• Martin Sturchler adopted Cleopatra the Leatherback -
tag number ZAYT057
• Terry Pentony adopted Blossom the Loggerhead - tag number
• Gordie adopted The Wanderer the Loggerhead - tag number
• Ronald and Emmanuel Siary adopted Paul-Jules the Loggerhead
- tag number AA471
• Jon and Belinda Hollingsworth adopted Michael the Loggerhead
- tag number ZARR566, and Lindsey the Leatherback - tag number
• Mr and Mrs Balmer adopted Margaret the Loggerhead - tag
• Sebastian and Vanessa Camblin adopted Quenceny the Loggerhead
- tag number ZARR544
• Conrad and Riaan Hennig adopted Priscilla the Leatherback
- tag number ZARR340
Thank you so, so much for all the support you have shown by adopting
Maputaland Leatherback and Loggerhead Turtles!
Nesting turtles aside, February is truly the time of the hatchlings.
We have lost count of how many little souls we have witnessed venturing
from the safety of their nest down to the vast waters of the Indian
Ocean. The majority of our research drives have ended successfully,
with us seeing one if not 100 little hatchlings flapping frantically
to get down to the water's edge.
But, where there are hatchlings there are also
predators, and we have had our fair share of encounters with
those too. We have seen water monitors, water mongoose and even
bushbabies on the beach at night, but the award for top predator
of this turtle season is definitely the honey badger. We have
come across many nests that have been excavated by these stocky
creatures, where the only remnants of turtles we have found have
been the broken shells lying on the sand. They are amazing opportunists
and will eat just about anything, and they can be aggressive
about it too. There is an old saying that says that "dynamite comes in small packages",
and this is the perfect way to describe the honey badger. Sadly,
this season, they have been responsible for the destruction of
a number of healthy nests, but as sad as it may be; we understand
that they have to eat too.
March will see the last fifteen days of the turtle nesting season.
It is astonishing just how quickly these last five months have
gone by. But, although there is a short time, it is not over yet,
and we look forward to a few more wonderful sightings.
Here's wishing you a fantastic first month of autumn,
Andrew, Shannon, Simon and the Rocktail Team
Bay Dive Newsletter - February 07 Jump
February began as a wonderful summer month with blue skies,
hot days and warm seas, divers loving the boat rides across
clean, blue water. Mid-month saw lots of plankton and hundreds
of bluebottles. There were so many that they looked like bubbles
on the water and formed blue wavy patterns on the beach where
they washed up. These are a great food source for turtles and
we got to see a lot of them feeding at the surface. Spadefish
also enjoyed the feast!
The last few days of the month produced unsettled seas with
two-metre swells. This was due to a cyclone that hit Mozambique,
the spin-offs from that producing our rough sea conditions.
An unusual sighting was hundreds of Cape Gannets heading north.
These birds should be in the Cape breeding at his time of year.
Possibly a food shortage has kept them searching in our area.
These birds are clearly hungry as they often dive into the
bubble column made by the divers, mistaking the bubbles for
fish. It is quite sad to see them washing up dead on the beach,
as they are obviously not finding enough food. Another feathered
visitor that is supposed to be here at the moment is the European
Storm Petrel. This is one of the tiniest sea birds and is often
confused with the Wilson's Storm Petrel, which is seen in the
winter months along with the albatross and skuas.
A lot of fish have been using this month's unsettled sea conditions
to their advantage. As the sand gets stirred up over the reef
the game fish charge in and catch unsuspecting prey. We have
had wonderful sightings of couta (king mackerel), sea pike
(pickhandle barracuda), a few sightings of great barracuda
and even a queen fish/natal snoek (queen mackerel). As you
normally only get a fleeting glance of these fish, identifying
them can be tricky. What we call sea pike have straight bars
that run down the body from top to bottom (when viewed from
the side); couta have wavy lines that run down the body and
the great barracuda has black dots at the tail, which look
sort of like Mickey Mouse ears! The great barracuda tend to
be bolder than the others and we had quite a few come in close
to have a look at us. The queen mackerel is quite different
to the rest of these game fish in that the body has small spots
down the length of it.
It is not just the game fish that hunt on the reef. Life at
sea is a constant fight for survival. We watched just such
a fight during a dive at Gogo's. A dory snapper (not such a
big fish, approximately 25cm in length, normally seen swimming
in schools with bluebanded snappers) was the hunter and a small
moray eel was the hunted! The snapper raced past us with the
eel's head sticking out of its mouth and tail sticking out
of its gills. The fight was on, the eel was trying to bite
the side of the snapper's face and the snapper was trying to
smash the eel on the reef in an attempt to swallow it. The
snapper eventually won his meal for the day.
Colin Minty did his 100th sea dive here at Rocktail and what
a dive to remember! First we saw a green turtle; then as we
looked out to sea we saw 7 couta come out of nowhere, one after
the other they swam into formation as they did a cruise past
us. We then saw a total of 7 big honeycomb eels, some under
ledges, others lying against the reef. A sharpnose stingray
swam past us across the sand and as we crossed over the reef
we saw 2 huge honeycomb rays and a small blue spotted ray.
Schools of tropical kingfish played on the sand and as we ascended
we saw a big school of eastern little tuna (kawakawa) race
past us. As if to say goodbye, a potato bass swam along underneath
us while we did our safety stop. Looking forward to another
100 wonderful dives!
"Brilliant again. The best diving and dive team anywhere!" -
Colin Minty, Hout Bay, South Africa
Other memorable moments this month were for some first timers!
Geoff Mullen and Joan and Hein Vosloo qualified as PADI Open
Water Divers. They were all welcomed by friendly bottlenose
dolphins and got the opportunity to snorkel with them. Congratulations,
wishing you all many more beautiful dives!
We all have our wish list, for most it's the big boys - mantas,
whalesharks, or whales. For Michelle it's the frogfish. To
date she has not seen one and Karin found a beautiful red specimen
during a dive at Gogo's. During Joan and Hein's qualifying
dives Karin signalled to Michelle to look for the frogfish
as they all ascended ahead of her. Looking in vain, Michelle
could not find it. Once back on the boat Hein excitedly said
that Karin had a photograph of it, which she promptly showed
Michelle on the digital camera. Michelle was distraught that
she had not seen it on the dive and to everyone's amusement,
Karin admitted to taking a photograph of a photograph in one
of the fish identification books. A bit early for an April
fool's joke but we all had a good laugh!
Too many frogfish,
Darryl, Clive, Michelle and
The Rocktail Bay Dive Team
Serra Cafema Camp Newsletter - February 07 Jump
to Serra Cafema
Greetings to all from our energetic, happy and bubbly staff
up here at Serra Cafema. This probably rubs off on us from the
tranquillity of our surroundings and the constant flow of positive
energy from the ever-stunning Kunene River.
Renovations in the camp are moving on swiftly, thanks to Pepe's
team of dedicated carpenters, who take great pride in their craft.
We have had the privilege of meeting wonderful guests, and sharing
stories and experiences, whilst wolfing down (the fresh breeze
of the river and searing temperatures tends to build up a ravenous
appetite!) mouth-watering meals prepared by our excellent kitchen
However, two guests had an excellent experience that I would like
to share with you: Jill and Timothy (from England) had just returned
from a Quad Bike excursion with our jovial George as their guide.
I invited them to the deck for drinks, and we watched how Johan
helped the Himbas to transport their goats, one by one, from the
Angolan side to ours. It's quite a funny sight, as you can well
imagine, the goats bleating away and the men trying to calm them
down on the boat. Back and forth he went, as they had about eight
to bring across.
As Johan was returning to the Angolan side, Spokie
(one of our staff members) "spooked" a goat! Smashing through the
reeds it found itself in the strong currents of the river. Obviously
a chorus of yells alerted Johan, and he saw the goat (still bleating)
coming towards him at ± 18 km/h (now that's what crocodiles
call fast food!), head bobbing in and out of the water.
Manoeuvring the boat with great precision, and turning off the
engine in case she went towards the propellers, he leant over and
grabbing onto the one horn, hurled her over onto the safety of
the boat. It was a very close call as the rapids were about 15
Our two guests broke out into howls of laughter
and being British, shouted "Bravo, bravo old chap!"
But more was to come. The following afternoon,
Johan and I were enjoying a cup of coffee on the deck when all
hell broke loose! Spokie and his entourage burst onto the deck
took our goat!" (Obviously I have cleaned up the language
a touch) and jumped onto the boat hoping that we would rescue it!
At that precise moment the croc floated past, about 4 metres or
more in length and the goat dangling from its brilliant white ivories!
The croc had taken her whilst drinking from the shoreline. Needless
to say we never did give chase.
Anyway folks, that's the way the river flows...
Take care, from the river people,
Eric, Tanja, Johan and Wayne
Taking Time to
see the Ostrich in Namibia -
February 07 Jump
to Ongava Lodge
At first glance an ostrich sitting
on a nest surrounded by vast desert plain is not
very exciting. At this time of year and at almost
all Wilderness Safaris locations throughout Namibia
this lonely-looking spectacle is being witnessed
by guests, often only briefly before moving on.
However, spend just a short time in the company
of this flightless anomaly and your efforts will
be handsomely rewarded in one way or another.
We recently spent time at three very distant
locations - Damaraland
Ongava - and at each a different story of life,
care, hope, tragedy and triumph unfolded - and
all in the company of a bird whose eye is bigger
than its brain. For people not familiar with
the deep, almost infrasonic, boom of an ostrich
call, the sound wafting across the arid savannah
is often mistaken for that of a lion. It is difficult
to identify from which direction the sound is
coming and so finding these birds is more often
accomplished by sight than by sound. In fact,
an ostrich sitting on a nest is quite difficult
to see and if they put their heads down, their
dark mound of feathers resembles a bush or a
In Damaraland, Etosha and the
Hartmann Valley, the mounds we saw were all
sitting on and surrounded by eggs. At each
location, the birds had made a neat circular
furrow around them and had arranged the eggs
in this furrow - a form of circular organic
shrine. In Damaraland we saw the adults regularly
rotate the eggs and when male and female changed
guard, each helped each other give the eggs
a turn, possibly ensuring an equal distribution
of incubation heat from sun and earth. In the
evening the eggs are all neatly gathered and
placed in a central hollow on which the adult
It was in Etosha that we witnessed
the miracle of hatching and within a sort space
of time the nesting furrow was merely an obstacle
for lively peeping new chicks. Bits and pieces
of broken egg were left as a monument to the
nesting site as literally within minutes of
the last chick hatching the newly formed group
started moving off - but not without incident.
Pied crows swooped down at almost the instant
hatching started and it took every effort of
the adults to keep them at bay. The adults
were successful to a degree but it was those
who hatched last that appeared to be left as
a sacrificial offering. Their struggle with
the crows allowed the others to slip away and
three hatchlings died in the assault, never
really making it out of their eggs. It was a
pitiful sight but in the distance two adults
walked of surrounded by a scattering of new life.
It is at this stage that one seriously begins
to wonder about ostrich intelligence and their
survival over time. With an enormous clutch of
chicks at their heels the adult ostriches appear
to every onlooker as to have done their job in
offspring care and now it is up to the chicks
to survive. The mortality rate of ostrich chicks
is phenomenal, as high as 90%, and one can simply
sit and watch the chicks fall by the wayside,
get gobbled by eagle, jackal or anything else
wanting bird for dinner. In the Hartmann Valley,
with its fantastic vistas and elevated viewing
opportunities we watched a group of twenty chicks
and two adults cross the valley. By the time
they had reached the opposite side, in a space
of less than two kilometres the group had lost
three chicks, and the rest simply marched on.
At that rate, the chicks would all be gone before
they got to the spring less than ten kilometres
away. However, some survive and life continues.
The time spent with ostriches really forces
one to re-examine the basics of survival. It
also highlights the success of mammals and possibly
why they have succeeded so well on planet Earth.
None of this however detracts from the satisfaction
that one can achieve by being with ostriches
and seeing survival forces at play. One does
however often wonder if these self-propelled
feather dusters have any intelligence at all!
Wilderness Safaris Namibia
Namibia - February 07 Jump
There is something about a predator's stare -
especially if it is directed straight at you. In many cases it
is as if the predator is actually looking straight through you,
a form of a la carte browsing where the main course is a given
and thoughts have already shifted to the dessert. Embedded within
us all is an age-old evolutionary terror of the super-predators,
but that terror and the factors associated with it are suppressed,
subdued and almost forgotten in most humans: A consequence of non-exposure.
Fortunately however, that terror and how to deal with it in a manner
that guarantees survival and unforgettable experiences is alive
and well, stimulated on a nearly daily basis and available from
highly trained guides traversing the Wilderness areas. Here are
some recent encounters with super-predators in Namibia, encounters
that reawaken a dormant element within us.
Lions in and around Etosha have long been considered as some
of the biggest, fiercest and healthiest. These assumptions were
verified to a large degree when some of these lions formed the
translocation nucleus of a new population to the Pilansberg National
Park in South Africa. Etosha lions were originally selected because
of their magnificent appearance, their reputation and the fact
that they are the only remaining wild lion population that are
totally FIV-free (the feline equivalent of HIV). This translocation
proved so successful that the nucleus population itself has become
a donor population many times over. But the original source for
that translocation remains a major attraction for those wanting
to encounter true power.
Lions on Ongava
Game Reserve all originated in Etosha and colonised
Ongava through a process similar to that of osmosis, moving naturally
over to the area. Ongava is in fact a fantastic example of a
successful conservation area bordering on an established protected
area, and for lions, this sort of arrangement might prove critical
for their future survival. Lion sightings on Ongava are now as
good as those in Etosha and it was here that we encountered the
lions (in the photo) and once again experienced that piercing
stare. Having just pulled down a springbok, we got the feeling
the meal was just not big enough for the lions and when the stare
in our direction was suddenly accompanied by a flicking tail,
we backed off immediately. Their bone-crunching meal continued
for around half an hour and in that time the springbok was completely
consumed. Our assumptions regarding meal quantity were verified
as evening set in and the lions set off to hunt once more.
Another super-predator with a much more sinister
and unblinking stare is the mega-sized crocodile found in the
Kunene River. These giants go by the names of "Colgate" and
the like by Wilderness Safaris staff at Serra
Cafema and recently
have been witnessed to effortlessly overpower livestock drinking
from the river. Careless humans from the local population have
also definitely been on the crocodiles' menu in the past and
have earned them a fearful reputation. Pepe, a seasoned Wilderness
guide, recently captured one of these Kunene super-predators
and its unblinking stare on film. Unlike the lions, this predator
appeared to be well satisfied after its last meal - a huge distended
abdomen accompanied its permanent smile and array of sharp, white
An encounter with a super-predator, the stare, the power, the
white teeth and flicking tail, the aura of survival at any cost,
collectively amount to a most humbling and essential experience
for humanity. Predators guided our development and survival and
our link of mutual acknowledgement must be maintained. It is
indeed an honour to have such stunning wild areas still available
within which to engage in these age-old encounters and renew
Wilderness Safaris Namibia
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