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Monthly update from Tubu Tree Camp in
Monthly update from Kwetsani Camp in
Monthly update from Jao Camp in
Monthly update from Seba Camp in
Monthly update from Duba Plains Camp in
Monthly update from Vumbura Plains in
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Turtle news from Rocktail
Bay in South Africa.
Monthly Dive report from Rocktail
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Monthly update from Serra Cafema Camp in
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Tree Camp update - January 07 Jump
to Tubu Tree
January yielded 90mm and the
vegetation is lush and green. The month has been very humid with
hot, cloudy days. The min/max temperatures for the month averaged
between 19 and 34°C.
January has been a quieter month for Tubu. We closed the camp
for two weeks to do some maintenance, taking advantage of the quiet
and getting down to the necessary tasks that are not possible with
guests in camp. It mostly involves a lot of scrubbing, cleaning
the canvas of the tents, cleaning the decks and fixing whatever
With the camp closed for half the month the guides
did not get out much, however when they did, they were rewarded
with good sightings of giraffe, zebra, tsessebe, kudu, warthog,
wildebeest and impala, many of these still with young. We have
a small herd of buffalo that is starting to be seen more regularly
on Hunda - they were very skittish at first but are slowly becoming
accustomed to having game viewers.
Two of the resident lions were viewed on a bushwalk, the guests
managed to have a good view of the lions before they slunk off
into the bush. On another occasion a male lion caught a baboon
in front of camp. The baboon troop were moving across the floodplains
having fed on the trees in camp, when one of the stragglers fell
prey to a male lion that had been resting in the Tsaro palm island.
A mother hyaena was seen at the beginning of the month with three
young pups. We have not seen them since and think they must have
moved their den site.
The young leopards have provided us with some great sightings.
At the beginning of the month a young giraffe that had been looking
rather poorly finally died not far from the airstrip. The carcass
was quickly found by the Motseletsele female leopard and her two
sub-adult cubs. They spent four or five days feeding off the remains
of the young giraffe. The mother giraffe returned to the site several
times over the first few days, leading to interesting interaction
between the feeding leopards and distressed mother. One evening
a breeding herd of elephant happened to pass the sighting and they
showed some interest in the giraffe carcass but quickly moved off.
We have had many elephant sightings this month, of our regular
breeding herd and then several small groups of bulls. One young
and frustrated bull disturbed a leopard sighting one afternoon
close to Kalahari Pans. Guests were busy enjoying the sight of
a young leopard reclining on top of a termite mound in the afternoon
sun, when they were rudely interrupted by the young bull who proceeded
to trumpet and chase the leopard from the termite mound before
turning around to flap his ears at the vehicle. The guide decided
to leave the bull to his own devices and move on, leaving the bull
trumpeting at the vanishing leopard.
The pool between the camp and the airstrip is finally drying up,
the final few Barbel are being picked off by the Marabou Storks
and Fish Eagles - up to six Fish Eagles have been seen feeding
on the same carcass of a giant catfish. Other raptor sightings
have been of Pallid Harrier, African Harrier Hawk, African Hawk
Eagle, Gabar Goshawk, Dickinson's Kestrel, Red-necked Falcon, Lizard
Buzzard and Shikra. Bleating Warbler, Yellow-billed Oxpecker, Greater
Honeyguide, Diederik Cuckoo, Carmine Bee-Eater, Blue-cheeked Bee-eater,
White-browed Robin-Chat, Terrestrial Bulbul and Green Pigeon were
also seen in and around camp.
Looking forward to seeing you out here!
Anton, Carrie, Moa, Salani and the Tubu Team
- January 07 Jump
to Kwetsani Camp
The New Year was seen under a starlight blanket as everyone was out
and about looking for the family of lions as well as some of the elusive
nocturnal species. What a fantastic start to 2007! The two lion cubs
are still alive and growing every day. Even though there is some competition
on the boundaries of the territory with the northern pride and the two
older females to the east. They are becoming a little too brave sometimes
and started off on their own to follow their mother on the hunt. This
was not really a wise strategy, as the prey animals spread out further
and further due to newer feeding areas becoming available. So to try
and track down their mother they seem to have gotten lost as she went
a long distance to hunt. They even had to sleep alone for one night but
luckily everything turned out well and they were reunited with their
mother the following day and no harm was done. Now they seem to stay
where their mother leaves them and don't follow her on the hunting trip
all the time. The skill of hunting will have to be learnt at a later
stage. Looking for their food has been hard and the male and the two
females with the cubs have crossed over to areas which are a little out
of their territory but they need to go where the food can be found.
The Delta is looking wonderful at the moment as we have
had fairly good rains this month - about 100mm - but we do hope that
there is a lot more to come. The mornings are really spectacular with
great sunrises and some really good misty mornings. The days build up
for storms as only Africa provide but this not every day. This provides
for spectacular sunsets coupled with a refreshing cocktail as it all
unfolds before your eyes. The temperature has been really moderate for
this time of the year with the days been on average in the mid-thirties
and the nights cooling off to the early twenties.
The grass is now very tall and very green. The trees and shrubs have
shot up all over the place and the islands are great places to find good
food. The animals are looking very healthy and most of them as well as
the young of the warthogs, impala, red lechwe and even the occasional
hippo outside the water are doing really well. The mokoros are still
the main highlight and provides a real safe, unique and tranquil experience
of the nature of the Okavango.
The Floodplain Leopard (Beauty) has been keeping herself well hidden
and we have not had great viewing of her this month. In fact we have
only seen her on two occasions. There was another leopard, a smaller
one, seen around Kwetsani Camp island but she is however very shy and
moved away as quickly as possible.
There is promise of a great flood this year but one can not really tell
so far in advance as to where and how much of the water will go. No one
has ever really been able to predict the flood exactly as the land is
ever-changing. One does not always know all the factors and that's what
makes it so exciting. Looking forward to a spectacular Okavango flood!
Jao Camp update
- January 07 Jump
to Jao Camp
The heavens are yet to open up properly as we
had only 72mm falling in January. The days have been very mild
in comparison with last month with early morning being almost chilly
with a thick cloud of mist hanging over the area like a blanket.
We have seen a very dramatic drop in water and all the water channels
are closing up fast only to be pushed open later in the year by
the new floods. Speaking about floods we are all very excited about
this year as the flood charts are looking very good, it all just
depends now where the water will go? Will it flow east, central
or west, we will see!
One of the most exciting sightings was the chase of old Vee
(one of the local territorial male lions) by two younger males
that have come onto the concession. Vee was walking towards a
palm island where two unsuspecting younger male lions were lying
and as soon as he smelt their scent he rampaged after them chasing
them towards Jao floodplains. Shortly into the chase one of the
younger males gathered some confidence, stopped and challenged
Vee with the other male behind him, and so this became a game
of cat and mouse with Vee being chased all the way down towards
the floodplains. The unwitting younger males did not know that
Vee was running towards Freddy who was mating with a female somewhere
in the Jao floodplains and if they had to meet up the youngsters
would be getting a big hiding. The reason for this remark was
that these two young males were in such a pristine condition
with not one scar and old Vee and Freddy, the professional fighters,
look as if they were in a war! The two young cubs are still alive
and well and sticking with the two females but we were worried
that if those two big boys had to lose to the younger males the
cubs would automatically be eliminated by the young males. It
would be a shame if that had to happen.
Our resident female leopard has been scarce this month with
only one good sighting. There is good reason for this as she
now has a vast area to cover because of the water that receded
so far. Two new youngsters are still along the Jacana route but
very shy and hide away quickly when approached.
The baby boom is still on the go from last month, with exciting
sightings for the guests. We now have 12 impala babies on our
Jao Island. They have been very lucky in that the leopard has
stayed off the Island since their arrival in the last four weeks!
They are just the cutest little things! The banded mongoose have
had their fair share of little ones as promised and they are
just too adorable when running after mom constantly looking for
something to eat.
The birding has been outstanding with the huge numbers of big
waterfowl in the area. The waterholes around have been inundated
with great numbers of Open-billed Storks, Red-winged Pratincoles
as well as Crowned Plovers nesting close by. The Wattled Cranes
and the Saddle-billed Storks were not far away. There has been
good increase in Bee-eater numbers from the little to the European
and then the Kingfishers were abundant with the Woodland being
the most evident and vocal. With some isolated wild fires in
the area it was amazing to see how the raptors react to the smoke
and the fires, going into a feeding frenzy with the majority
of the raptors being the Yellow-billed Storks joined by some
Brown Snake Eagles and even a Fish Eagle or two.
The reptiles have been very active - we are seeing lots of crocodiles
and water monitors. Snakes as always are few and far between
but we are still seeing lots of harmless bush snakes.
Some comments we had from guests in the last month:
"Wonderful people paying attention to me and my surroundings.
Lovely outdoor eating and dancing" - JH (California - USA)
"Your accommodations, courtesy, hospitality and incredible
morale are only surpassed by the beautiful diverse game animals
and the expertise of the guides. The staff here is world class,
courteous and professional??Thank you" - JC (Boston - USA)
"Our highlight was the leopard with 2 cubs, eating from
a giraffe with a full show most of the morning. Great place all
round excellent staff, fantastic guide Victor" - P& M
( London - UK)
It is great having fun in the bush and even greater sharing
it with people of the same mindset and interests. Hope to see
all you African lovers soon at Jao.
update - January 07 Jump
The last month at Seba has seen some major changes
in the environment and however much we expect them at this time of the
year; they are always both welcome and exciting. This is a time of rain,
and rain in the Delta means life. Early in November we saw the impalas
drop their lambs and now at the end of January the young ones have lost
their gangly legs and are beautiful miniature adults. The wildebeest
calves were born in late December and they are so unlike their dark mothers,
being a soft fawn, with long floppy ears, looking more like donkeys than
The Acacia trees blossomed over Christmas and the bush was full of
the butter-yellow balls of Acacia tortilis and the creamy lambs-tails
of Acacia fleckii whilst the exquisite red and yellow flowers of the
Flame Lily were seen climbing over the undergrowth. Over all of this
budding greenness came the millions of brown-veined whites, a butterfly
that migrates across the Delta at this time of the year. Day after
day we saw them moving eastwards, looking more like a snowstorm than
insects on the move.
Mid-January saw the beginning of the major rains and with it came
the mushrooms; creamy white, delicious fungi that push up out of the
many termite mounds overnight. We collected them and cooked them for
supper. Another food source after the rains are the billions of termites
that emerge to mate and leave piles of delicate wings around every
path-light. The camp suddenly seemed full of birds making the most
of this feast - our banded mongooses, squirrels and local genet family
all have potbellies.
Whilst all this life was coming into camp the collared elephants were
leaving and although it is sad not to have them so close to camp for
our daily studies, it is wonderful to know that they are roaming out
there in the bush, free and doing what wild elephants should. Mafunyane
(20 years old this year) has wandered way off to the west of the concession
and when we followed him, having been provided with his location from
the satellite collar, we found him in the company of Aristotle an older
bull. Thando has moved back up north-west of Seba Camp, between Jao
and Tubu Tree Camp, and was last seen from the aircraft in a breeding
herd of 20 elephants. Seba, the youngest radio-collared elephant of
13 years, has really been on the move and almost visited Maun! He has
been around 60km south-east of Seba Camp, a long way from home and
close to the buffalo fence, but with a breeding herd of around 40 animals.
Nandipa continues to elude us since she lost her collar last year
but we had a brief sighting of her and her little calf, Ntongine, over
Christmas (a present for us all!) and both were looking fit and healthy.
Since the rain started we have not had so many wild elephants around
and the breeding herds have virtually disappeared but we do occasionally
see some of the wild bulls and yesterday a group of eight wild males
came right to Seba Camp to visit.
We have not seen the cheetah family or the wild dogs for a while but
have had Lea (our lioness mother) with her four grown-up cubs around
camp, plus a new visitor of a lioness with two tiny cubs. The hyaena
den had three cubs in it before Christmas; one had all its spots and
was around six months whilst the other two still had the gorgeous chocolate-brown
coat they are born with.
So life at Seba continues to grow and change, just as it should at
this time in the Delta!
Plains Camp update - January 07 Jump
to Duba Plains
- 15 January
First of all, we at Duba wish all our readers and previous
guests a fantastic new year. We'd like as well to thank the fast growing
number of people asking for news and regular updates on the Duba wildlife
Over this festive season, the Plains of Duba have
definitely been a "place of plenty". Buffalo cows are dropping their
calves, turning the area into a giant "kindergarten." The
boom has of course played into the lion's paws, but it has not
all been plain sailing, with buffalo confidence at high levels
after several retaliations and rescues of calves resulting in slightly
On Christmas Eve, near Makwelekwele, several lionesses of the
Tsaro Pride were spotted harassing the buffalo herd. An attack
was finally launched on a big bull. These impressive beasts are
not easy targets, with high levels of testosterone and adrenalin
combining to make them an enormous challenge to even large lion
prides, fighting all the way until their final breath. This is
exactly what happened on this occasion, with one of the lionesses
being wounded in the process and leaving the male limping. Nonetheless,
she will recover and the 800kg carcass represented a Christmas
windfall for the pride.
The first days of January were unexpectedly successful for the
Tsaro Pride. We had guests at the time who were on their first
African safari and every single one of their game drives was highlighted
by phenomenal interactions. On their first morning game drive,
south of Lion Pan, the lions pulled down a buffalo calf. The whole
pride, including the Duba Boys, participated in the hunt. Very
confident with the presence of the two males, the kill was supposed
to be an easy task and the pride settled over the downed calf,
almost ignoring the herd. Two big bulls had different ideas though
and charged back, horning one of the Duba Boys who leapt into the
air before finally disappearing under a bush in panic! The young
buffalo down on the ground had his spine broken and was distress
calling. The herd bounded together even more, before finally accepting
the fatality of the challenge and abandoning the calf him to the
big cats after a long hour of agony.
On their second game drive, near Nwoka Island, a lone lioness
attempted to kill a buffalo cow. Once again the herd teamed up,
challenging her and allowing her erstwhile prey to regain its feet
and disappear in the middle of the protective wall of horns. The
rest of the pride then joined in the hunt and the chase started
again, the Tsaro Pride managing to bring down another cow, which
this time did not enjoy a successful rescue attempt by the rest
of the herd.
And on their third game drive, another spectacular kill happened.
This time only the lionesses made the kill of a pregnant buffalo
cow, the Duba Boys observing from a distance. With two lionesses
clamping their jaws over the cow's throat and nostrils, it didn't
take her long to die and immediately the feeding frenzy began.
Although lions are gregarious, social and affectionate most of
the time, when it comes to food they behave like vicious enemies,
growling loudly, fearlessly fighting over their meals.
And to finish on a positive note for the future...we recently
located two new sets of adorable cubs which we hope will perpetuate
the future of the Tsaro Pride. The previous litters have unfortunately
disappeared once again, but these new arrivals are getting stronger
day by day.
It's not all about lion and buffalo however. The migrant birds
have thrilled all and sundry the regularly seen aardwolf's cubs
have now left the protection of their den to live their own independent
Francois Savigny at Duba
update - January 07 Jump
to Vumbura Camps
The past month has been dynamic in terms of animal movements,
weather and charismatic species consistency.
The mean maximum temperature for the month was 31°C (a low of 24°C
and a high 34°C). The month was relatively mild with only five days
of the month reaching 34. The mean minimum was 19.5°C (a low of 12°C
and a high of 23°C). We still receive classic thundershowers in the
afternoon, but much less compared to those earlier in the month; however
70% of the month was associated with overcast and/or partly cloudy conditions
with a gentle breeze.
The elephants are now tending to spend longer periods in the immediate
vicinity of the camp. The herds that come to drink are very nervous
of noises coming from the camp, this being an indication that they
are moving in from areas in the north, far from people. The smaller
pans to the north and north-west are mostly just mud wallows now so
this is probably another reason for now seeing more herds daily.
The best thing about the elephants in camp is their unwavering punctuality
with guest arrivals and departures. Along with their refresher towels
and welcome drinks, guests get the elephant welcome parties - these first
impressions are priceless! The guests have also had some unforgettable
experiences with elephants at close quarters and family group interactions
at mud baths and swimming parties.
Buffalo have been somewhat scarce with two relatively large herds out
in the Appleleaf country, making up the five sightings for the month.
The most suitable habitat and grazing for them this time of the year
is in the Mopane and Kalahari Appleleaf woodlands; in time they will
move back into the traversing areas around camp.
There were some interesting movements in the lion world of the Kwedi.
Two new females with three cubs appeared unannounced. A pride that the
guides have never seen before, the general assumption is that they may
have come out of the far north or one of the neighbouring hunting areas.
Sightings of these lions are so far inconsistent.
The pride known as the Big Red females and the Kubu Boys (two adult
males and two adult females with their cubs) were last seen in the early
part of the month and are probably not moving over extended areas due
to the demands of the cubs. The two adult males are magnificent specimens
and are the most impressive sightings for guests lucky enough to see
them. We are holding thumbs that they will move back to their old haunts.
Maybe when the cubs grow up a bit these lions might spend more time in
areas accessible to guides, providing some competition for the more frequently
viewed Kubu Pride. The Kubu Pride is made up of three adult females,
their cubs and four sub-adult males, and they have been on the track
of a few small buffalo herds that came into the northern areas of the
concessions during the month. The Xugana males from the east were present
on a number of mornings at the North Lagoon, and seem to be extending
The leopards that frequent the game drive areas have maintained their
elusive nature and sightings have been very limited. The Selonyana female
made an appearance at North Camp on the 13th but has not been seen with
any consistency since. The leopards are definitely still around as the
guides get tracks almost every afternoon, but have difficulty in locating
them through dense bush and long grass. The common thought is that Big
Boy (Dominant Male) is spending his time with another unidentified female
to the east of camp. Two younger leopards move through the area from
time to time but these two are also low-profile characters and possibly
not quite accustomed to vehicles and people yet.
The hyaena dens continue to entertain the guest and staff alike. There
are two den sites approachable on game drive: one on Tutwa Road coming
from the airstrip and the other north of North camp on Ronnie's Road.
The Tutwa Road den only has one young female pup whereas the Ronnie's
Road den has five pups all of similar age and four adults.
certainly come to party this month with guests being fortunate enough
on two occasions to witness kills, one of impala and another right in
front of the vehicle of a tsessebe. Vuka, a large male, is frequently
spotted in the vast open floodplains to the south-west of the airstrip.
Sightings were very productive at one stage with the Vuka male being
found twice a day. This particular cheetah is magnificent.
As far as other species are concerned zebra every now and then move
in huge numbers through the area around the airstrip providing a kaleidoscope
effect for the guest, sable are spotted with uniform regularity and here
again a few youngsters are around. A large herd of 34 sable was sighted
early in the month, but these large herds spend their time in the north-east.
Most plains game are now finished with dropping youngsters and some of
the impala are already weaned; however saying that there are a few 'laat
lammetjies' (late arrivals) still appearing here and there.
Vumbura is a hive of activity for the more scarce waterfowl including
African Skimmers, Black-winged Pratincoles and Slaty Egrets. Wattled
Cranes have been seen in gatherings of up to 6 around the main pan.
The Yellow-billed Kites seem to be moving out slowly or have started
hunting other prey, like frogs or insects in areas away from the vicinity
of the camps. A group of Ground Hornbills visit the North Camp lagoon
about twice weekly. The birds are also deep into the love season, with
Green Pigeon, Paradise Flycatcher, Red-billed Francolin, Kurrichane
Thrush and Black-headed Oriole raising their broods within camp confines.
The floodplains are all dry now and these areas are drawing large numbers
of grazers making beautiful vistas. The lights around camp are swarmed
by thousands of mayflies at night and in the late afternoon the fish
activity in front of the camp is quite spectacular.
Gatherings of up to 100 dragonflies frequent the North Camp main area
deck in the afternoon and then move down to the water to lay their eggs.
Numerous flies get taken by bream, which perform technical aerial manoeuvres
to snatch the flies from the air. The bream are finished constructing
their neat little bowls for breeding and depositing eggs and nesting
fry. The nests are very close to the bank, possibly to avoid predation
from barbel; however the elephant herds do severe damage by walking over
the nests. The fish in the bigger channels have become very inactive,
both in feeding and movement, this is probably due to fewer and fewer
bait fish entering the system off draining floodplains, another thought
could be the waters are now very low and water temperatures are dropping.
Tigerfish seem to be moving away from Pipi Island. The pike are in a
bit of a lull at the moment and don't seem to be very active. Large-mouth
bream are almost completely inactive, making up a tiny percentage of
Shifting seasons, particularly from summer through autumn and into winter
is always a very interesting time as there is a lot of new life and a
lot of changes across all eco-spheres. We are still in a dynamic part
of the year and we look forward to experiencing the jewels of life the
Delta has to offer. We are all waiting for the big flood and can't wait
to see if the open oval pan behind camp will become an inundated floodplain
Compiled by G.C. Corbett
Little Vumbura Camp
update - January 07 Jump
to Little Vumbura
The festive season in the bush is generally always
- festive! With the rains falling, the herbivores have plenty to eat
- and with their babies dropping too, so do the predators. After a fairly
dry start to the month 120mm of rain fell in three days to quench the
area. This was the only rain to fall during the month but it was enough
to boost the growth in the bush. This meant that game drives, boating,
mokoros and walks were unhindered during the whole month, apart from
one wet afternoon. Christmas was celebrated in traditional style with
turkey and gammon. The New Year was celebrated in unique Little Vumbura
style - each guest was given an empty egg and a piece of paper to write
their wish for 2007. The paper was rolled up and sealed inside the egg,
and thrown into the Okavango Delta to be carried to some magical place.
The champagne flowed at 12-00 and we were all treated to a Greek New
Year's wish sung by the Antoniadis family.
The month has been an exceptional one with regards to game viewing
with large numbers of young animals being seen. The birding has also
been incredible with all of the migrant species now present and being
seen in huge numbers. The rains arrived midway through the month and
the temporary pans and waterholes are all once again full and the vegetation
lush and green. This makes such a dramatic change from the dry brown
landscapes seen here in the dry season.
There have been some new additions to the resident lion prides with
a total of nine new cubs being born over the last four months.
The Big Red Females, who are two beautiful lionesses from the west
of the concession, have both given birth to cubs. The younger lioness
gave birth to two male cubs in September. These two cubs are healthy
and very much part of the pride now. The older lioness, which had lost
her previous litter to the dominant male leopard, has four new cubs.
These little lions are about three months old now and all seem to be
The "Kubu Pride", consisting of the three
adult lionesses and four sub-adult male lions now has three new additions.
These three little lionesses are approximately three months old and
have been seen regularly with the main pride.
One of the highlights of this months viewing was of the Big Red Females
out near the Hippo Pools. They had been feeding on a huge crocodile
which in itself was an amazing sighting. The crocodile was very large,
measuring approximately four metres and must have weighed in excess
of 400 kilograms; we are still unsure if the lionesses actually killed
it. Both lionesses had been seen along with the two older cubs, all
feeding on the carcass over a period of three days.
We had been to the sighting the day before and had seen no sign of
the lions although there was still plenty of meat left on the crocodile
carcass and decided to return the next day to try our luck again. Not
expecting to find the lionesses, it was a huge and very welcome surprise
to find not only the two lionesses and the two older cubs but four
new cubs suckling and playing around their mother. These lion cubs
had never been seen before and they entertained us for over two hours
with their antics.
However on the return to this area the following day we found the
lionesses asleep but no sign of the cubs. It was only a commotion that
alerted us to their presence. The cubs had been resting under a Wild
Date Palm thicket. It was with some dismay that we saw the cause of
the commotion, a 3-metre black mamba! We had our fears confirmed when
only two of the smaller cubs appeared. We spent the entire afternoon
with the lions with still no sign of the other two cubs and left just
We all agreed that the cubs had been killed by the snake and without
any further sightings of the lionesses or the cubs for the following
week we resigned ourselves to the fact that the lion pride was now
down to six members. Lion cub mortality is exceptionally high especially
within their first year and although unfortunate it is something we
all accept. So it was with lots of excitement that Kay arrived back
in camp after an evening drive to report that he had found the entire
pride including all four young cubs! So there is a happy ending to
this story. The cubs are all doing well and over the month provided
us with some wonderful sightings and as of now they are all healthy
and becoming a big part of our safari area.
As for the Kubu Pride, they have been concentrating their activities
around the Zambezi Pan area. The three new cubs were first seen moving
around with the pride in the beginning of the month and have provided
us with some fantastic viewing as some of the photographs will show
We have also had the pack of African wild dogs in the concession over
the month and one of the best sightings we had of them was late one
afternoon while following them through the Kgokong Loop area. They
were looking for prey and being an open area it was a treat to watch
these long-legged canines moving through the plains. They did have
more company than the game drive vehicle - in the form of a spotted
hyaena. The hyaena, realising that the dogs were hunting, loped on
behind them almost assured of a meal if he could keep up with the dogs.
The dogs had other ideas though and following the lead of the alpha
male all rushed at the hyaena biting him on the rear and badgering
him. All the hyaena could do was try and protect his rather vulnerable
behind by backing up against a large termite mound and fending of the
nimble dogs with vicious growls and its powerful jaws.
The male cheetah has been seen regularly and has been relishing the
baby boom in the bush at the moment. He was seen feeding on impala
lambs, tsessebe calves and a wildebeest calf during the month. It is
always a great sighting to see this graceful cat sitting on a termite
mound scanning the horizon for a meal.
As mentioned before the birding has been amazing, we have had a number
of Pel's Fishing Owl sightings over the month including seeing three
in 24 hours. These large ginger owls are very secretive and a great
tick on any birder's list. We have also had large numbers of Wattled
Cranes and Slaty Egrets moving around the drying channels foraging
for food. One of the birding highlights was the presence of a Rosy-Throated
Longclaw, which we managed to see on three different occasions. The
diversity of birdlife in the area was shown when tallying up the number
of birds seen during a three night stay by guests who had seen 160
All in all a great month and with the renovations happening early
on in the New Year Little Vumbura can only get better and better! Season
Greetings from the Little Vumbura Guiding Team
On the 6th of January 2007, the last guests left Little Vumbura for
the last time - their will be no arrivals until April. Two days later,
it was impossible not to shed a tear for this amazing camp that so
many Wilderness Safaris employees have called home over the last
9 years. The building team moved in and due to the fact that all
WS camps are built with minimal permanent structures, the camp was
demolished in no time. However, all sites were impressively cleared
of all foreign material and the new Little Vumbura is growing fast.
Watch this space for further progress.
Best wishes for 2007,
Rohan, Molly, Dardley and Eva
Camp Newsletter - January 07 Jump
Although the 56mm of rain we received in January has
largely transformed the Makuleke Concession into lush
greenery, there are still some areas on the concession
that are very dry and in desperate need of rain. The
grazing is relatively good however and the young antelope,
especially the impala lambs, are doing well.
The Limpopo River is not flowing nearly as strongly
as it did this time last year, in fact it's very low,
but still a stunning sight that is attracting a lot of
water birds and game to its banks. Crooks Corner is still
a hive of activity with crocs, hippo, and a wide variety
of birds. There's now only one small section of the Luvuvhu
still flowing into the Limpopo, so what remains between
the two rivers is one large sandy beach which is ideal
for birdwatching and game viewing from the high and well-sheltered
The drive west of camp along the Luvuvhu River heading
towards Mangala is still proving to be full of surprises.
With its beautiful views of the river to the left and
Hutwini Mountain to the right, you just never know what
might be around the next bend. We have encountered large
breeding herds of buffalo crossing the road and making
their way down to the river several times this month.
I have also come around a bend and met with an old male
lion that is continuously marking his territory in this
Two nights ago Colleen and I were driving home from
the camp and came across a baby porcupine that was just
walking casually down the road towards us. Even when
I stopped the vehicle and dimmed the lights he was not
fazed in the least as he went about his business. What
a great sighting.
There is a section of this road that winds its way for
a short distance through a forest of winterthorn trees,
and it was in these trees, around about the middle of
the month that we had an excellent sighting of a Pel's
Fishing Owl. An exceptional sighting this month was an
influx of raptors attracted by termite emergences. At
one stage there must have been easily 70-100 raptors
spread along the whole length on our airstrip - Lesser
Spotted Eagles, Wahlberg's Eagles, Tawny Eagles, also
including Woolly-necked Storks, Black Storks, Marabou
Storks, White-backed Vultures and Lappet-faced Vultures:
A truly special sighting.
Some of the month's highlights:
1) Three bushpigs sighted on Rhino Boma Road north of
2) A springhare that was sighted one evening near the
3) An excellent sighting of a male Pennant-winged Nightjar
on the 5th of the month.
4) 20 Open-billed Storks south of the airstrip.
5) A sighting of a baboon killing an impala lamb in front
of the lodge on the 15th.
6) A second Racket-tailed Roller nest (only the second
for South Africa) was discovered by Simon, our head guide,
on the 11th of the month.
7) A herd of about 20 eland was sighted at Mangeba Pan
on the 12th.
8) Two lionesses with 6 sub-adults were seen hunting
baboon right near camp on the 14th.
9) On the 17th of the month two sable antelope cows were
seen near Palm Vlei.
Despite the breeding herds moving off into Zimbabwe and
further south into Kruger as they do at this time of
year we continued to see elephant bulls in groups of
up to three during January. Herds of buffalo, blue
wildebeest Burchell's zebra, waterbuck, kudu and nyala
were seen on a regular basis as well as the smaller
species such as bushbuck, steenbok, grey duiker and
klipspringer. Some of the local specials such as bushpig,
Sharpe's grysbok, eland, springhare, sable antelope
and yellow-spotted rock dassie also excited our guests
and guides, and the smaller nocturnal mammals always
caused a stir when seen: porcupine, black-backed jackal,
white-tailed mongoose, caracal, African civet, large
spotted genet and African wildcat. Lion viewing was
good with sightings every other day during the month
of a core group of the Pafuri Pride consisting of the
old male, two lionesses and 6 sub-adults. Leopard were
seen less regularly with sporadic sightings of a large
male on the Luvuvhu Bridge and a female at Mangala.
We have had 246 recorded species this month, including:
Black, Woolly-necked, and Saddle-billed Storks, African
Spoonbill, Racket-tailed Roller, Southern Carmine Bee-eater,
Grey-headed Parrot, Black Crake, Three-banded Courser
and of course our great sightings of the Pel's Fishing
Average minimum temperature: 23.4°C
Average maximum temperature: 36.7°C
Bay Turtle News - January 07 Jump
New Year greetings from an alive and buzzing
Rocktail Bay Lodge!
We have had the most fabulous start to 2007: Marvellous sightings
of mother turtles, an abundance of adoptions, and our most special
event of the month, of course, our first glimpses of adorable Loggerhead
Gugu spotted our first nest of hatching Loggerhead babies on the
7th of January, just south of Rocktail Bay at pole 56. This is
much earlier than last year, when we only spotted our first hatchlings
on the 19th of January. Since then we have seen Loggerhead hatchlings
from a total of 18 nests. We also came across a Leatherback nest
that had already hatched, and all that remained of the hatchlings
were their tiny little tracks heading seaward. Seeing these tiny
little beings just makes you wonder how ANY of them survive out
there in that big rough ocean - it is truly only the magic of Mother
While some eggs were already hatching, plenty
of mothers were still coming up to lay their eggs. The first
drive of the year was a very wet and stormy one, but this did
not deter one little Loggerhead from coming up to lay her eggs.
The group of guests looked on as Mbongeni measured the first
turtle of 2007. On closer inspection, Mbongeni saw that she had
already been tagged with tag number ZARR555, and she measured
83cm long by 62cm wide. On arrival back at the lodge, we looked
into our data and found that she had been tagged on the 30th
of December 2006. Unbelievably, on the night of the 3rd of January,
who should we bump into again nesting on the beach - ZARR555.
Amazingly, this turtle was found to have successfully nested
three times within five days - that's a lot of work for one mother!
The team here at Rocktail have nicknamed her "Busy Bee",
unofficially however as she has not been adopted yet.
Overall through the season, we have had an amazing interest in
our 'Adopt a Turtle' project, where 68 turtles have found loving
families. We still have many turtles, such as 'Busy Bee', waiting
to be adopted of course and if any of you are interested in adopting
a Rocktail Leatherback or Loggerhead Turtle, see the details at
the bottom of the newsletter.
Our largest Leatherback of the month was spotted in the wee hours
of the morning on the 26th of January. The time was 03H55 to be
exact when Gugu and Chris came across her on Lala Nek beach. Gugu
micro-chipped and then measured her - an amazing 1.73m long by
1.2m wide. That's one big mother!
Our smallest turtle of the month was seen on the 11th of January,
also in the early hours of the morning, at 03H25 to be exact. Gugu
was also the researcher that night, and they came across her while
driving down Mabibi beach. Gugu tagged her, and then measured her
in at 70cm long by 59cm wide. Maria, Connor, Darren and Niamh Madden
totally fell in love with her, and adopted her and christened her
Eabha (the Irish equivalent of Eva).
In total over the month of January 2007, we have had 51 successful
Loggerhead nests, as well as 16 successful Leatherback nests. For
the season, up until the end of January we have seen and recorded
230 successful Loggerhead nests and 78 successful Leatherback nests.
We also had a total of 17 turtles adopted through the month of
January, and we would like to thank everyone who welcomed a turtle
into their family.
We are now moving into the quieter time of the season. Sightings
of mother turtles should start slowing down, while sightings of
hatchlings should increase.
Here's hoping you all have a fantastic month,
Andrew, Shannon, Simon, Gugu, Mbongeni and
The Rocktail Bay Lodge Team
Bay Dive Newsletter - January 07 Jump
It's that time of the month again where you receive an update
on everything that has happened over the past month at your
favourite diving destination. Another amazing month of summer
weather has passed, sunny, hot and humid with two or three
cloudy days. We got some relief at the end of the month when
a south-westerly wind brought in cloudy and overcast weather
with some rain, cooling us down.
Water temperature hovered at a pleasant
25 - 27°C for
most of the month. The odd drop in temperature was due to too
much north-easterly wind, which tends to drop the visibility
and the temperature at the same time. We then wait patiently
for a south-westerly to blow; this is the 'doctor' wind, bringing
in warm clean water.
The sightings were always good, even on days when visibility
wasn't the greatest. The low visibility meant that there was
a lot of food in the water and therefore a lot of fish life
feeding midwater, hunting on the reef and being hunted. On
a dive at Gogos a Grey Reef Shark was observed being followed
closely by four Potato Bass as it hunted along the reef. More
than likely the Bass were hoping he would flush a fish out
the reef and they would get an easy meal. Bluefin and Blacktip
Kingfish followed us around on dives darting out in front of
us every now and then in the hopes of catching something. Some
were seen chasing a free-swimming Geometric Eel back into a
hole; others chased an octopus across the reef until he found
a hole to slip into. Every reef has been alive with activity.
We have seen Clown Triggerfish, juvenile Razor Wrasse, Lionfish,
Paperfish, many different snappers including Black Snappers
(Black Beauties), Crayfish and Porcelain Crabs. Juvenile Scorpionfish
no more than 6cm big were spotted on more than one occasion,
which is small as some of the adults we see are up to 30cm
Dives at Aerial produced some rare sightings: A small Ghost
Pipefish floating around between the seaweed. The Pineapplefish
has continued to hang around in his cave but he has had some
other company in the cave besides the sweepers and us. There
has been a big Marbled Electric Ray barely visible under the
sand, a Potato Bass and Round Ribbontail Stingrays as well.
Seems like everyone wants a piece of his real estate on the
reef! On our last two visits to the cave we couldn't even go
down into it because of the huge Round Ribbontail Stingray
that had decided to make the cave her home.
Ray sightings are on the increase with the warm water. Ribbontails
Sharpnose, Bluespotted and Honeycomb Stingrays have been seen
on most dives. On low visibility dives Honeycomb Stingrays
are hard to spot as they lie on the edge of the reef on the
sand. A Devil Ray circled below us during a safety stop on
Pineapple. He swam up a bit a few times to take a look at us.
We even spent some extra time on our safety stop to see if
he would move off, but he stayed with us the whole time.
Turtle season continues and the first groups of hatchlings
have been seen heading for the ocean. On one cloudy day we
had a surprise sighting. As we were driving down to the launch
site for our first dive of the day we saw Loggerhead turtle
hatchlings heading down the beach. We stopped the vehicles
and watched as the last of them passed in front of us and headed
out to sea. Large female Loggerhead turtles are still seen
sleeping under ledges waiting for nightfall so they can go
ashore to lay their eggs. A Hawksbill Turtle followed us around
the reef the entire duration of one dive. On some dives Loggerhead
or Green turtles would swim right up to us to investigate.
A lot of turtles have also been seen on the surface. On the
10th while the Bunger family was scuba diving, son Jethro got
the chance of a lifetime to snorkel with a giant Leatherback
turtle! This is something only a handful of people have experienced.
The mother Raggedtooth Sharks are still with us and on the
increase. The most we have sighted on one day was 16. Raggie
dives have been brilliant with the sharks coming right up to
us so we can see the sand on their bodies and even the algae
growing on some of the shark's teeth! Snorkellers have also
had lovely sightings of the Raggies viewing them from above
as they loll around the reef. Snorkellers have also been lucky
to see some Blacktip Sharks zipping in and out around them,
whilst they watch the Raggies. Formations of beautiful Eagle
Rays were also seen in that area.
During the summer months there is an increase of Blacktip
and Gray Reef Shark sightings. On a dive at Regal divers were
fascinated watching a Whitetip Reef Shark getting his teeth
cleaned by Cleaner Wrasse. The shark approached the cleaning
station slowing down as much as possible mouth wide open so
that the little guys could get their job done.
Bloodsnapper is our deep dive at 50m. It is not often dived
as you need perfect conditions, no current and good visibility.
Willem and Jacqui Wessels were keen on the dive even though
the current seemed a bit strong. When we got to the bottom
there was a thermocline at 35m and we didn't get to see much
of the reef. But as with all deep dives the dive is only over
when you get on the boat. As we ascended a Zambezi Shark circled
below us for the rest of the dive. While our attention was
riveted on the Zambezi a shoal of nine Blacktip Sharks came
in for a look as well. They swam towards us but every time
we looked in their direction they swam off quickly in the other
direction. The one shark they really wanted to see they saw
on their last day, a beautiful 6m female Whaleshark.
As always the dolphins stole the show interacting with the
snorkellers. Lekion our boat assistant could not resist reaching
out and touching one as they played around him. The grin on
his face told a thousand words. While the divers were diving
at Aerial Darryl saw a large school of Spinner dolphins approaching
Island Rock from out to sea. There were about 150 of them in
the school and they were just hanging around in the bay, performing
their characteristic spinning jumps. A rare sight as these
are ocean-going animals and not often seen this close to shore.
The divers were serenaded with clicks and squeaks but unfortunately
were not close enough to see the show.
All in all, a great start to the New Year!
Yours in diving,
Darryl, Clive, Michelle and
The Rocktail Bay Dive Team
Serra Cafema Camp Newsletter - January 07 Jump
to Serra Cafema Camp
With time and water everything changes.
Indeed, and the longer the time, the more the change. Take the Kunene
Valley in northern Namibia. Forged, carved and shaped by frozen glaciers,
charging water and incising streams for millions of years, the Kunene
Valley stands as it is today. Millions of years have seen a landscape
transformed and a narrow linear oasis now defies the oldest desert in
the world. The living desert has a perennial, flowing, living ecosystem
running through its northern extreme, traversing canyon and sand sea
and eventually spewing life, nutrients and colour into the Atlantic's
Benguela current. The Kunene is a wonder of the Namib and in the summer
months as the water level rises, a new wonder of change is witnessed,
not one that takes millions of years, but a transformation that occurs
as you watch, an unexpected change: In minutes and hours, a rebirth of
life on earth in super fast-forward.
As the waters from the southern Angolan highlands cascade down into
the Kunene catchments, a river takes shape that after tumbling over the
bare Ruacana rock face, heads due west and into the northern Namib Desert.
Steep and unforgiving canyon sides seem to steer the water westwards
and for a large part of its travel to the Atlantic, the river is completely
confined by sheer exposed sterile rock. Intermittently however, the rock
recedes and floodplains with lush vegetation interpose. Here life abounds.
Huge acacias, makalani palm trees, salvadora bushes and reed beds host,
shelter and hide a surprising diversity of wildlife, some so endemic
that they occur along the Kunene and nowhere else in the world - such
as the Cinderella Waxbill.
However, it is the summer months and following particularly good rainfall
in the distant Angolan highlands that a true explosion of life graces
the Kunene valley.
At Serra Cafema camp, a spectacular floodplain lies between desert dunes,
canyon rock and the flowing river. For the most part of each year the
river is confined to its traditional confined course but with the distant
rains, it begins to explore a new seasonal territory and fingers of water
creep into the floodplain. Here a dormant giant of nutrients, latent
life and new territory awaits. Within hours, even minutes, a completely
new ecosystem awakens and springs to life. Arrival of life follows the
traditional path from invisible and small upwards along the scale of
morphology. You can actually sit back and watch it happen. Schools of
small fish invade previously dry mudflats; schools of larger fish follow
and so on until even large Kunene crocodiles move in to savour the new
feeding grounds. Pygmy Kingfishers, less than half the size of the freshwater
prawns below, seem particularly active, taking advantage of the new fast-food
outlet. Birds of prey, rodents, snakes and non-human primates all follow.
Dormant seeds germinate and a desert floodplain blossoms in the afternoon
of a summer of plenty. Although a-seasonal, this section of desert borrows
this hectic season of plentiful from seasonal highlands and when the
rain stops, life retreats once more to the river. But the floodplains
are now recharged and a peaceful dormancy prevails once more - waiting.
Such is a summer in northern Namibia where the mighty Kunene slices
through the desert. But the Kunene's summer bounty has one more vital
function. Floodplain nutrients, plant debris and life are hurtled into
the Atlantic at the Kunene mouth and here again a separate ecosystem
is maintained. Freshwater terrapins, marine turtles, enormous crocodiles
and sharks abound in a sea of plenty, all fed by a dynamic inland system.
The chocolate-coloured fresh water pushes deep into the blue-green ocean,
forming a huge arc, a strangely coloured mix of sea and fresh water,
and in so doing the Kunene delivers a final gift of summer to the planet.
Ongava Lodge Newsletter -
January 07 Jump
to Ongava Lodge
Andrew in the Hide
I am frequently asked by guests if in my wildlife
veterinary work it is satisfying to treat individual
animals. The answer must be 'yes' but the fact
of the matter is that in the wildlife sphere,
we don't look so much at the individual but at
the population. Success is measured not by recovery
of an individual, but rather at the contribution
of that individual to the herd, flock, pride,
clan or group it belongs to. These results are
not immediate but you definitely reap what you
sow and just the other day this was made graphically
clear to me at Ongava Game Reserve.
Andrew is an Irishman and he and his wife were
spending their last night in Namibia at Ongava
Lodge. Their Namibian travels had taken them
to Serra Cafema, Sossusvlei and Damaraland Camp
and the next day I was flying them to Windhoek
International. He beamed excitedly, as only the
Irish can do, about the trip so far and how he
wanted to take some iced water, a bottle of white
wine and himself into the hide at Ongava Lodge
waterhole and pass the late afternoon away. Leon,
the GM at Ongava, walked him into the hide and
returned to where I and other guests were sitting
on the deck overlooking the waterhole and the
hide. It was a calm peaceful African afternoon
and soon the Double-banded Sandgrouse would be
appearing with their sunset chorus. The little
hide looked tiny, inconsequential and peaceful;
we could almost hear the ice tinkle in the glass
as Andrew poured his sundowner.
Then everything started to change. Appearing
out of the Mopane and almost brushing against
the hide, a white rhino cow and calf noisily
strutted to the waterhole. We all started to
imagine what Andrew was doing - perhaps knocking
his glass over as his view was obscured by a
massive piece of rhino hide. With typical rhino
antics the cow and calf put on a theatrical display
before melting into the Mopane once again. Two
giraffe also watched the rhino and on their departure
approached the water to drink - but alas it was
not to be. Three black rhino stumbled in chasing
the giraffe off a few metres. Then two more black
rhino appeared and both had small calves. Seven
black rhino in one frame and unbelievably a half-size
sub-adult calf then also joined the seven. From
the deck we were able to identify the rhino and
simply watch a spectacle that is probably one
of the rarest scenes on Earth.
Also watching was a small herd of black-faced
impala, three warthog, two Spotted Eagle Owls
and around 500 Double-banded Sandgrouse, all
displaced by eight black rhino! Andrew was of
course also watching - from only a few metres
away, a voyeur to an event very few ever see.
It then struck me. Over the past decade and
a half I had caught, handled or treated almost
every rhino in front of us. Some had been wounded,
some caught in wire, some simply needed to be
marked and some just seemed unwell. But what
we were seeing was not the efforts deployed on
individuals, but the true success of a population.
In front of us three small rhinos jumped, played
and emitted catlike calls. Other wildlife large
and small waited their turn to drink and in the
distance, to complete a perfect evening, two
lions roared. A stable ecosystem prevailed and
that is what every effort in the past was aimed
The flight to Windhoek International the next
morning ended a trip like no other for Andrew
and his wife. Their smiles were from ear to ear
when I said farewell at the departure terminal
and I knew instinctively that we had not seen
the last of them in the wilderness areas of Namibia,
even if some Irish luck had something to do with
Ecologist, Wilderness Safaris Namibia
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