(Page 1 of
Page 1 Updates
Info and updates from Wilderness Safaris.
North Island Dive Report from
Monthly update from Lunga River Lodge in
Monthly update from Kapinga Camp in
Monthly update from Shumba Camp in
Monthly update from Busanga Bush Camp in
Monthly update from The River Club in
Monthly update from DumaTau Camp in
Monthly update from Kings Pool Camp in
Monthly update from Savuti Camp in
Kwando Safaris game reports.
Monthly update from Xigera
Camp in Botswana.
Monthly update from Kwetsani Camp in
Monthly update from Jao
Camp in Botswana.
Monthly update from Abu Camp in
Monthly update from Duba Plains in
Monthly update from Little Vumbura in
Monthly update from Vumbura Plains in
Monthly update from Jacana Plains in
Monthly update from Ruckomechi Camp in
Monthly update from Little Makalolo Camp in
Monthly update from Rocktail
Bay in South Africa.
Safaris Updates - July 2007
Premier Collection Auction for Trust
Acclaimed conservation artist Larry Norton has created the Premier Collection, a series of four paintings, one for each of Wilderness Safaris' Premier Camps in Botswana: Jao, Mombo, Vumbura Plains and Kings Pool. The full set is to be auctioned off, with bidding closing on 31 December 2007. Fifty percent of the proceeds of the sale of the original painting will be donated to the Wilderness Safaris Wildlife Trust.
To bid for one or the entire 2007 Premier Collection, please go to the Trust website here for more details and to see replicas of the paintings.
About Larry Norton
Larry Norton is an internationally recognised wildlife artist. This Zimbabwean painter has travelled extensively in Africa and has held a number of exhibitions in New York, London and Europe.
Throughout his career, Larry Norton's paintings have raised large sums of money for numerous conservation organisations and charities, including Tusk Trust, WWF, SAVE Australia, Zambezi Society, Department of National Parks (Zimbabwe), Wildlife Society (Zimbabwe), Zimbabwe Farm Widows Charity, Painted Dog Research, Emerald Hill Children's Home and many others.
The artist and his wife Sara are currently embarked on a major fundraising drive for the Children's Cancer Unit, Red Cross Children's Hospital in Cape Town, South Africa. Sara Norton ran the London Marathon in April 2001 and raised approximately USD 7 000. A portion of the proceeds from the Cape to Cairo exhibition in 2003 will be directed to the Children's Cancer Unit.
In November 2002, the sale of a painting raised approximately USD 9 000 for the Rainforest Foundation. In 2006 the auction of a painting raised R40 000 for M'dala Trust for Old Age Pensioners. Sales of prints have raised money for the "Save Hwange Trust" in 2006 and 2007. The recent auction of two paintings raised USD 11 000 for private cancer patients.
Tour de Kruger a success
The 209 participants of the Tour de Kruger 2007 have all arrived back tired but exhilarated. This year was the final TDK and a great success from a fundraising point of view, as well as being an incredible experience for all who participated.
The event, a four-and-a-half day mountain bike tour through The Kruger National Park and Mozambique's Limpopo National Park raised about R700 000 for two non-profit organizations, Children in The Wilderness and Peace Parks Foundation.
More good news around Wilderness
Great conservation news from Botswana has been the discovery by Poster, the rhino monitoring officer at Mombo, of another newborn white rhino calf. The calf was so young it still moved awkwardly. Its mother is Bogale and this is the second calf she has produced since her release into the wild in Moremi.
Wilderness Safaris has once again done well in the 2007 Travel & Leisure Reader Awards. Mombo and Jao performed well in the ‘100 Best Hotels in the World’ category where they came 16th and 56th respectively. In the Top Hotels in Africa & the Middle East Mombo came 3rd and Jao 16th. Wilderness Safaris was voted number 4 in the ‘Top 15 Tour Operators & Safaris Outfitters’ in the world!
The documentary ‘Eye of the Leopard’ filmed by Dereck and Beverly Joubert at Mombo has been nominated for an Emmy Award in the category ‘outstanding science, technology and nature programming’. The awards will be broadcast on 16 September.
White Rhino reintroduced to Hwange
After a year of negotiation and organization, Wilderness Safaris Zimbabwe in conjunction with the Zimbabwe Department of Parks and Wildlife is well on the way to reintroducing no less than 20 white rhino into Hwange National Park! The bomas are situated in our Makalolo Plains Concession and our guides and other field staff will play an important role in monitoring the rhino after their release. The first five white rhino arrived in the bomas in early July, and since release have been establishing themselves in the broader area, with one animal even seen wallowing in the pan in front of Little Makalolo the day after release.
Well done to the Zimbabwe team whose unceasing conservation efforts continue to be of vital importance to this country.
Wild Dogs in the Linyanti
Great news for the Selinda and Linyanti Concessions has been the discovery of two wild dog dens in the last couple of weeks. The DumaTau pack has denned just south of the Savuti Channel, while an unknown pack of dogs has denned closed to Ketumetse Discoverer Camp in the southern part of the Selinda concession.
Critically Endangered Bird Species Re-established on North Island
After nearly ten years of intensive rehabilitation of North Island all the hard work paid off when 25 Seychelles White-Eyes were released on North Island over a two-week period in July.
North Island’s Noah’s Ark Project has been involved in vegetation rehabilitation, pest-eradication and replanting of indigenous flora to become a “host island”, that is, a place where species indigenous to the Seychelles, particularly those that are endangered, can be reintroduced and increase in numbers in a safe environment.
The Seychelles White-Eye is a small, nondescript bird, but no less important in that the global population is estimated at only 350-400 individuals and is entirely restricted to the granitic islands of the Seychelles. Due to habitat loss and the highly localised nature of the population this species is listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red Data List. Central to the recovery strategy for the species has been expanding its range and as a result it had previously been reintroduced from Mahé and Conception Islands to Frégate. This year it was decided to allow new populations to be created on two additional islands, one of which was North Island.
The 25 newest inhabitants of North Island hail from Conception Island adjacent to Mahé and were moved by helicopter in five separate translocations by Helicopter Seychelles and Zil Air. On North Island each group of birds was held overnight in captivity for observation and for analysis of blood samples for parasites before being released the following day onto the island.
The whole operation was very much a team effort. North Island’s rehabilitation programme provided a sustainable habitat for the White-Eyes, while NGO Island Conservation Society and the Seychelles Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources enabled the capture, transfer and post-release monitoring of the birds.
With so few Seychelles White-Eyes left on Earth, North Island will be responsible for the wellbeing of around 8% of the world’s population, a responsibility it looks forward to fulfilling. This is a historic moment for North Island, the Seychelles and the history of island conservation as a whole.
Twyfelfontein awarded World Heritage Site Status
We are fortunate that they left a record of ancient history for us, the best and most enduring newspaper ever, carved in rock, embedded in boulders and sheltered in shade and time. Yet, when the sun casts its daily oblique light across the silent sandstone slabs, they spring to life, portraying a time, an animal, a spirit, a heritage, a harmony and a show of virtual reality. But most of all, the footprints, the tall giraffe, running ostrich, dancing eland and the laughing baboons are products of an inspired hand and mind, records of distant travels and treks and a compilation embracing a sub-continental paradise. Something powerful within fuelled a desire to transfer thought to stone, a slow percolation from body to eternity. It is this inspiration that is as valuable as the art itself and, like the indelibly engraved images, the very source of the inspiration is still there for us. It is the land itself, from subterranean granite to soaring eagles, from the depth of the Aba Huab to the top of the Brandberg, from an algal frond to the eye of an elephant.
Those early correspondents, who saw it fit to report on the happenings within their land, did indeed having something very important on which to report. It is likely that they were well travelled, well versed in their chosen way of existence and rather than being mere observers, were themselves intimate partners in a natural world. This natural world was likely to have extended, at least, from the Ugab to Kunene Rivers and from Atlantic to Oshana - the area we now refer to as north-western Namibia. Why they chose an area in the surrounds of the Aba Huab as a recording point, a museum and archive is probably a consequence of suitable substrate. That at least is the most practical and least romantic answer. But it would be ignorant and naïve to assume that as the only consideration. Emotions, spirits, feelings and a collision of natural forces were likely just as important in determining the address for the location of one of the most important rock art sites on Earth. Today the environmental trigger that detonated the start of the displays in stone is still there, a little changed, somewhat interfered with, definitely more populated, a few thousand years older and certainly just as magnificent. The rocks remain. And through some considerable conservation efforts, community projects, cultural enhancement, partnerships and some exceptionally high-quality low-impact tourism ventures, so does the area and habitat at large.
Partnerships in various forms between people, environment and wildlife are not really new in the conservation-tourism sphere but when they reach the levels attained by some in the North-West, they become special. When wildlife populations rebound, when poachers become game guards and when the natural world becomes the most treasured asset you inadvertently achieve the greatest goal of all: community commitment. Along with this involvement comes the trappings of poverty reduction, empowerment, gender equality, cultural integrity, in fact all the things a nation needs and that leaders pursue.
Wilderness Safaris, the undoubted leader in community partnerships, is a major player in demonstrating the concept in north-western Namibia. Community upliftments through their operations have received local and global recognition. A large degree of cultural dilution has been eliminated through employing only those from adjoining villages which also eliminates community destabilization. In short, it is a recipe for completely sustainable land-use and conservation through tourism. These environmental and cultural advantages also greatly influence the individual as well and a renewed sense of individual self-esteem is cultivated and champions for future conservation are forged.
Through an extremely responsible approach to tourism in the area, the very area that inspired the artists thousands of years ago, Namibia now has an area that is not only admired and appreciated in situ, it inspires the world - so much so that the area has now received World Heritage Site status. In addition, this area contains desert-adapted elephants, one of the most important black rhino populations on the planet, a rebounding desert lion population, invertebrates, plants and reptiles that defy the desert and a rapidly expanding human cohort who see the value of this natural treasure chest exceeding it all.
It is not surprising then that when taking in the magnificence of the area, using up what memory space you have on your digital camera that you will be able to contemplate an even more ancient form of memory storage: embedded in rock. The two images, digital and rock, might be different - but the impressions are the same.
Save the Rhino Trust Fundraising Walk 2007
Some twenty five years ago, a mere quarter of a century past, less than fifty five
black rhinos trod their way across Namibia’s vast Kunene Region.
Save the Rhino Trust (SRT) is celebrating 25 years of protecting rhinos with a fundraising walk from 29 August to 09 September 2007. The 360 km route from the Ugab to the Hoaruseb takes in the vast rhino range. Sponsorship of this walk will not only show your support of past conservation endeavours, but secures you as a conservation partner.
Close behind these rhinos trod someone else; this time not someone intent on killing the few remaining beasts, but a lonely protector, a guardian angel. But she was not alone as along with her walked an enduring will and a driving vision. This permanent companion, as indestructible as the Damaraland rocks underfoot, was to outrun the individual, supersede obstacles and outlive its creator. In fact, this abstract companion transformed into tangible assets and solid steel, infrastructure and staff. The companion of this transformed idea is now the abstract partner and the ever-present guiding spirit. Blythe Loutit took Save The Rhino Trust from concept to concrete and created a halo of protection over the wild Kunene region. Now there is a lot more walking going on, both by rhino and human and a conservation partnership prevails.
It is not unusual to find partnerships in aspects dealing with conservation, but it is to find one that really works. Save The Rhino Trust is one of those that really works. With a mandate from Government to conduct monitoring and research on communal state land in the Kunene and Erongo regions of Namibia, and importantly, also to conduct specialist rhino tours with concessionaires, the stage is perfectly set for a multi faceted interaction of organizations and individuals. This form of healthy interactions benefits all, from new born rhino to new born humans. At the centre is the conservation of a Key 1 (the only desert ecotype of black rhino on earth) species and on the periphery is all that goes along with this task such as community upliftment, employment opportunities and poverty reduction - hence the benefit to even new born humans in the concerned area. Central to these peripheral activities is the use of these conservation activities as a generator of income through responsible tourism. The joint venture between Wilderness Safaris and SRT has shown the local and global community just how far a responsible operation can go to benefit all. It holds immense promise for the future and demonstrates that there really is an alternate land use option that is sustainable, renewable and infinitely good for the future well being of mankind.
So after 25 years of walking with rhinos, many things have happened, one is that many a pair of good shoes has succumbed to the Damaraland substrate. The other is that the rhinos are thriving. With a healthy growing population comes satisfaction and more work, more expenses and a feeling of pride amongst all that have in some way helped achieve this remarkable turn-around. There could be no more fitting way to celebrate this achievement than to actually go walking with and amongst the rhinos themselves. Now on the very eve of SRT’s 25th anniversary this opportunity presents in the form of a fund raising walk from 29 August to 9 September 2007. The 360 km route from the Ugab to the Hoaruseb takes in the vast rhino range. Sponsorship of this walk will not only show your support of past conservation endeavors, but secures you as a conservation partner. There will of course also be a guiding spirit for this walk as well. Blythe would not miss out on this opportunity were she still with us now she has acquired a really good pair of shoes.
(For donations and enquiries: firstname.lastname@example.org or tel/fax: 064 403829)
Busanga Bush Camp has been completely rebuilt for the new season and is now a Classic Wilderness Safaris Camp. While it has undergone major changes it has not lost the “bush camp” feel that endeared it to so many and has kept all its old charm with great views of the plains from the lush tree-covered island on which it is situated. It was also featured in the US August 2007 edition of Conde Nast Traveler.
Lufupa Camp is the new Explorations camp built for the popular Kafue’s Rivers & Plains Discoverer Exploration. It is situated in a fantastic game viewing area at the confluence of the Lufupa and Kafue Rivers. Built to Discoverer Standard with spectacular river views this charming camp provides a true bush camp feel. Activities include boating on the Kafue River as well as game drives along the floodplains, dambos and woodlands that line the banks of the Kafue and Lufupa Rivers. Other camps on this Exploration include the well know Lunga River Lodge as well as the newly built Musanza Camp which is situated on the Busanga Plains.
Yoga in the bush
Being in the remote wilderness is just the right ambience for practicing a little yoga. From September 2007, yoga mats will be available at Botswana’s Premier Camps: Kings Pool, Mombo & Little Mombo, Vumbura Plains, Jao and Abu.
This season, we are using a new helicopter in the Busanga Plains to ferry guests between Lunga and Shumba, Kapinga and Busanga Bush Camp. The larger and quieter Eurocopter has been enthusiastically received by guests and carries 4 passengers with 20kg of luggage each.
Rocktail Bay is now easily accessible on a daily basis OR Tambo International Airport (JNB). The Federal Air flight departs JNB at 11h00 and arrives at Phinda at 12h45. Guests are then transferred in another aircraft, arriving at Rocktail Bay at 13h15. The return flight departs Rocktail Bay at 12h30 to connect to the Federal Air Phina/JNB service, arriving at 15h00.
Effective immediately, Sefofane SA is operating a new schedule between Lanseria and Welgevonden and between Welgevonden and Pafuri on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. The new schedule now departs Pafuri between 13h30 and 14h05 and arrives back at Lanseria by 16h10.
/ North Island
North Island Dive Report
- July 07 Jump
This month has been all about our dive site just in front of the West Beach bar called "Sprat City".
This time of year sees the colder water temperatures (27°C - 25°C) causing lots of juvenile fish eggs to hatch. In particular the "Sprats" or Silversides hatch in enormous quantities. They stick very close together in baitballs with some other small juvenile fish hanging around as well. This causes quite a stir with the bigger guys and we have seen schools of Golden Kingfish, Queenfish, Bluefin Kingfish, Trevally, small Barracuda and a few Bonitos coming onto this reef to look for an easy snack. These schools have comprised around 20 to 30 fish with some big "moms" and "dads" leading the feeding frenzy.
Round Ribbontail Rays have also flocked to this reef and Potato Bass and Marbled Groupers have now made this area their playground for the next two or three months.
This action will continue for around another two months before the season begins to change again and the action moves onto some of our other reefs.
The weather has been relatively calm this month even though we are right in the middle of the windy monsoon time. We have had some plate glass perfection days out at sea and, in general, very good diving conditions.
On some of our other reefs we have had a couple of green turtle sightings as well as a pod of around 50 bottlenose dolphins that surrounded the boat during a sunset cruise.
The fishing has improved this month with a few Yellowfin Tuna coming up as well as our first Sailfish being caught and released. Two other chances of catching a Sailfish were won by the fish after a strike and a short bit of excitement.
Lunga River Lodge
update - July 07 Jump
Lunga continues to surprise and tantalise us. There is no doubt that we have an incredible variety of animals in the area, both nocturnal and diurnal. The leopard, hyaena and lion calls that ring so clearly on some nights, and the numerous tracks that await us in the mornings are all testimony to this variety and to a nocturnal world that goes largely unwitnessed. As for the diurnal animals, they have appeared in a remarkable variety over the month, however on any given day of course they can prove to be astonishingly (and sometimes frustratingly) elusive.
The one constant here though has been the ever-alluring Lunga River. As the inland areas continue to dry out along with the gradually receding Lunga River, it seems that there is an increasing abundance of animals that gravitate to the Lunga River - making our water-based activities that much more interesting and rewarding.
The Lunga staff have also on occasion performed for the guests with their traditional drums and instruments, giving a sneak preview into the local cultures, and reminding us that there is more to appreciate in these areas than just the fauna and flora.
The cold mornings and evenings that persisted in June were abruptly cast aside by a spell of warmer, almost balmy weather that has lingered for the larger part of July. Summer may have come early this year it seems.
Although the Kafue National Park is a large area, the elephants still seem to be quite fascinated with the Lunga River Lodge. The trees in the arrival / welcome area now have the somewhat rough touch of elephant topiary. The warm weather has also meant that the numerous hippos and crocodiles have had to share the river with the elephants that on many occasions have been seen cooling off in its waters.
Other sightings this month have included cheetah, lion, leopard, kudu, eland, bushpig, zebra, wildebeest, buffalo, sable, and roan antelope amongst others. The birding has continued to excel in the area, particularly during the water-based activities. As per last month, we have continued to see African Finfoot, Western Banded Snake Eagle, Ross's and Schalow's Turacos, Saddle-billed Stork; Wattled Crane and Black-backed Barbet. Some of the many additional sightings have included the Böhms Bee-eater, African Skimmer, Racket-tailed Roller, Black Coucal, Red-throated Twinspot and Osprey.
Until next time,
The Lunga Team
"The entire staff made us feel really special. This is truly a great team" - USA
"I had an awesome time" - USA
Camp update - July 07 Jump
What an exciting month it has been for Kapinga and the Busanga Plains landscape that we are situated in. The steady flow of game into the area has been fascinating to watch. Kapinga has been thriving and we are always thrilled to see the delight of our guests after experiencing everything the area has to offer.
Midday temperatures have been very pleasant and warm. Evenings have remained much the same with the only real drop in temperature just before sunrise but morning sun is quick to warm up our camp and game drives? hardly a winter. The days are characterised by clear sunny skies with slight cloud build-up in the late afternoons setting the scene for perfect sunsets. Nothing beats a sunset at hippo pools with molten pink water and sky transforming the plains into a "wildlife paradise," as one guest commented. The clear skies have also allowed for amazing stargazing at night.
The Plains are really starting to thrive with game. Everywhere one turns there are large herds of puku and red lechwe. The blue wildebeest have returned and we expect the plains zebra to follow very soon. The rare opportunity to view the handsome roan antelope with the regularity which the plains offer is a privilege.
Lion sightings have been outstanding over the past month. It is a regular experience to see the lions hunting, with varying degrees of success. The different strategies which the antelope employ against the lions have been really interesting to witness. The roan antelope have an almost military-style defence against the lions, forming a solid defensive line with the adults at the front and the young behind. They always bring the fight to the lions. Usually the lion's heart lets them down and the roan live to fight another day.
The lechwe also have an effective tactic against the lions. They reside more in the wet marshy water and using their long legs they are able to jump effectively through the reeds and mud away from the heavy, stocky cats which struggle more to move effectively through the water. The lions do however charge into the wet areas and one morning on drive we saw two male lions find a lechwe ram hiding in the reeds which made for a great sighting of a kill.
The puku seem to be the most vulnerable to lion attack, as they remain close to water but normally on dry ground, which gives the lion ample opportunity to stalk effectively up to them and catch them. It seems the puku do not have the brave heart of the roan, nor do they have the adaptability of the lechwe which reside in the safety of the water. As a result puku have been the most regular prey species for lion.
Birding has been great as always. There is still sufficient water around for this to be a water bird paradise. Not to mention the huge diversity which the area has of passerine birds, raptorial birds, ground birds, owls, nightjars etc. The Böhm's Bee-eater is still a regular in camp which delights all birders. Large numbers of Crowned and Wattled Cranes make for excellent photographic opportunities. There is a pair of the pale form of Tawny Eagles on the plains which is certainly unique. Malachite and Half-collared Kingfishers make for visual delight while African Fish-eagles soar over the plains and rivers with their distinctive calls appealing to everyone.
We have also had good sightings of serval, civet, genet, side-striped jackal and bushpig, to name just a few. Every day is a new experience in the plains and we look forward to the next month and everything it has to offer.
The Kapinga Team
"Kapinga is absolutely fabulous. All aspects of our visit here were terrific: warm, interesting hosts and guide; caring, attentive staff; expert kitchen. Thank you!" - JL & PJ, Boston, USA.
"Kapinga is a fantastic camp. A really great experience and wonderful staff. We had a super time, thank you. Do we really have to leave?" - RT & ST, South Africa.
"The perfect way to end our trip. The camp is beautiful and the staff went above and beyond our expectations. Thank you for a wonderful stay." - AM, PM, MM & MM, California, USA.
Camp update - July 07 Jump
July got off to a rocking start, with the first sighting of our namesake, the lions, on the 3rd of July. All our guests were enjoying a hearty brunch around the communal table in the main area, after a very successful morning of birding, when Idos stood up from the table, and said in a very calm voice, "Lions."
Everyone followed in Idos's footsteps, and proceeded to scramble for binoculars to get a glimpse of the felines across the river. Sure enough, there they were, spotted by Idos's "eagle eyes." Not only were there two striking lionesses, but also three little bundles of fluff, which were close in tow. We discovered after we looked at them through binoculars, that they had in fact made a kill on the other side of the Lufupa Channel in front of camp. Although we missed most of the action that clearly took place earlier in the morning, we all had a good giggle watching the three cubs chasing vultures off their mother's meal. Such bliss being a lion cub!
We did not have to wait much longer to see our next sighting of the queens of the plains. The very next evening, while our guests were enjoying the fire in the boma, Idos came running through. Once again Idos, with his superior hearing, heard the lions growling near tent 1. Everyone jumped into the vehicle, red wine and all, and drove out to see what all the commotion was about. Sure enough, there they were. There were four lionesses this time, with no cubs in sight, squabbling over the remains of a young Puku. We watched them finishing off their hard earned meal, and returned back to camp, to enjoy sweet dreams of Africa.
All in all, July's lion sightings have been incredible. Out of the 31 days in July, we saw them on a total of 21 days. Not bad at all if we don't say so ourselves and pretty appropriate given the name of our camp.
But, it wasn't all about lions this month. We had an unforeseen sighting of another large cat, but this one has spots, climbs trees, and is known as the most elusive of the larger cats in Africa: A striking female leopard. She was seen on the track between Busanga Bush Camp and Shumba just after the sun set on 9th July. She strolled down the middle of the road, and then went into the bushes of one of the many palm islands that dot the plains. We waited and watched until she showed herself again. She allowed us to stay with her for over half an hour, until she passed an area that we could not cross in the vehicle. Wherever you are, you can always count yourself lucky to see a leopard, but out here on the Plains they are especially lucky, and that night represented the month's only leopard sighting even though we regularly picked up her tracks during the daylight hours.
There was much cause for excitement on the morning of the 20th of July. This was all due to the season's first sighting of Lichtenstein's hartebeest, who arrived in the plains fresh from the tree line. He was just in front of tent 1, and was trying to mingle with a small herd of puku, who didn't quite know who this stranger was, or why he was trying to join their herd. He had a bit of fun and games for a couple of hours with the puku, until he got bored and moved off south from Shumba. We haven't seen him again since that morning, but assume that he has gone down south to look for the rest of his herd.
A couple of days after seeing the hartebeest, our first two herds of wildebeest returned to the plains. We saw them halfway between Kapinga Camp and Busanga Bush Camp. With these first sightings of both these antelope, we are sure the masses are only days away from moving into the plains - we cannot wait!
Birding, as always, has been fabulous even though many of the summer migrants have moved off for the winter. July has brought us many sightings of raptors, from the gymnastic Gymnogene, to Martial Eagles, to the always present Fish-eagle - we have seen them all. We had a lovely glimpse of a Spotted Eagle Owl, which was perched in the Sycamore Fig tree above tent 5. The poor owl was being dive-bombed by Little Bee-eaters, African Bulbuls and a very brave Shikra. The Shikra, also known as a Little Banded Goshawk, was making lots of noise and was clearly not happy with this owl who was minding his own business sitting in the tree. Eventually, the Spotted Eagle Owl gave in to the demands of the Shikra and glided off onto the next island. The Wattled Cranes, Saddle-billed Storks and Crown Cranes have been moseying around in front of the camp for all to see - making great bird watching from the main deck. This is a birder's paradise!
For most of July, we have woken to icy mornings, experienced very pleasant days, and cooler evenings. Our guests' favourite time has definitely been the early mornings before game drive, where they have been sipping coffee, huddled up in blankets by the fire, watching the sun come up through the mist. Once the mist starts to disappear, you can start to make out the figures of the ghost-like lechwe grazing on the floodplain in the orange glistening light. Shumba really is a haven for photographers!
"This place is just about the nearest thing to heaven we have visited. The land, the staff and the animals were superb. We are already talking about the next time we come! Our heartfelt thanks!" - Sacramento, US
"Thank you to everyone at Shumba for a wonderful three days. Fabulous guiding with Idos, superb food and service from everyone in camp, and a warm welcome from Andrew and Shannon, who have been great hosts. We look forward to returning!" - London, UK
"Thank you so much for an incredible three days. Exciting drives, delicious food, beautiful people and so many laughs my stomach hurts. Our memories will last a lifetime. We look forward to a return visit in the near future" - Boston, US
"A wonderful three days with outstanding service, food and accommodation. Way beyond our expectations" - Manila, Philippines
"Fantastic place, excellent entrance to our African experience. We all loved it" - Sao Paulo, Brazil
As we go into the last month of southern hemisphere winter, we can only wait in anticipation to what we will experience, We hope you all have a great August.
Andrew, Shannon, Petros, Idos, Essie & all the staff at Shumba
Camp update - July 07 Jump
to Busanga Bush
Building in the bush
When I first arrived at the Busanga Bush Camp building site at the end of May this year, it was nothing more but a semi-built main area and some concrete slabs where last season's rooms used to be. As I looked about an overgrown island, it was pretty hard to imagine what the finished product was going to look like.
Building a camp in the Kafue during May and June when the Busanga Island is still completely surrounded with water and black cotton soil is no easy feat to say the least! My first journey here involved walking through knee- to thigh-deep water for 45 minutes from Kapinga Island - and this was an expedition I had to undertake countless times during this time.
All the building materials needed for camp were driven by trucks to the tree line on the edge of the plains, about 6 kilometres away from camp. From there all the goods were put on a couple of mokoros and poled across to the edge of Kapinga Island. At this point we had the use of a very old 'skoro-skoro' Land Rover, which had to be push-started, to ferry goods across to the next drop-off point. For the final leg of the journey, the material was mokoroed or carried into camp.
As the water in the Plains started drying up eventually, a whole new set of problems occurred - water too shallow to pole across, but black cotton soil to deep to drive through! As a result we got stuck with the 'skoro-skoro' more often than we were mobile and the construction team helping us to build the camp became experts at rescuing the drowned Landy. I have a fond memory of two staff members and me in the front seat of the 'skoro-skoro', the back loaded to the hilt with goods, six mattresses balancing on top of the stack and five construction workers pushing us though slippery liquid mud. Needless to say, getting covered in mud on several occasions during the course of a work day became the norm!
The final three days leading up to the opening of the camp was a flurry of activity - unpacking plates, glasses, tablecloths, sheets, hanging mozzie nets, putting up curtains, unpacking the bulk freight and a million other small things that go hand in hand with opening a camp in one of the most remote regions Wilderness Safaris operate in. Late afternoon on the day before our first guests arrived, we were still rushing about installing solar panels and geysers. And finally, after an exhausting 47 days, we were ready. Our first guests arrived on the 2nd of July and their stay went tremendously well.
The finished product
Busanga Bush Camp was first opened in 1996 and managed by African Experience until Wilderness Safaris took over the management and marketing in 2006. It was however decided to rebuild the camp at the beginning of the 2007 season, upgrading the old camp to a Classic Wilderness Safaris camp with a distinct bush feel.
The camp sleeps a maximum of 8 guests in simple but very comfortable tents with open-air bathrooms under enormous Sycomore Figs. Dinners are served in a bamboo boma under an impressive chandelier made of lanterns and our fire area is sheltered by a natural Date Palm alcove. The most impressive aspect of the camp however, is the magnificent view over the surrounding Busanga Plains - spilling out as far as the eye can see. Here I have experienced some of the most incredible sunrises of my bush career, with the plains and the resident lechwe herd draped in a dense mist blanket, a scarlet sun rising, tinting the mist candy floss-pink.
The game and birds
Northern Kafue is an absolute delight for keen birders. Our guests have borne witness to flocks of Crowned Cranes up to 50 individuals strong. An impressive sight as they forage around the edges of the floodplain, often mixing with Wattled Cranes to form an impressive "crane cocktail". We've also been seeing a myriad of other birds, including Lesser Jacanas, Spurwing Geese, Saddle-billed Storks, Secretarybirds, a Martial Eagle and Pied Kingfishers hovering over the remaining water pools while the skies are often littered with great flocks of Open-billed Storks. While enjoying brunch one day, we even saw a lone Pelican soar over the floodplain in front of camp. An Olive Woodpecker can also frequently be heard tinkering away in the trees around camp. We also have two resident pairs of African Fish-eagles that roost in the trees nearby to camp and they can regularly be seen sitting on the floodplain with their distinctive calls echoing across the water. A great highlight was a couple of sightings of Fülleborn's Longclaw - a specialty of the area.
As we've been enjoying some great warmer weather the last couple of weeks, the floodplains are swiftly drying up and the game has been moving back into our area. The first to arrive has been a herd of 28 very relaxed roan antelope which has delighted many a guest with great photographic opportunities. Next in line to arrive were the wildebeest - creating great excitement amongst guides and managers alike. I didn't realise that people could get that excited over a couple of wildebeest!
One night our guests got an unexpected sighting on a male leopard out in the floodplain - a very unusual sight for the area as the leopard here are very shy and tend to stick to the forested islands. Our guests have also been fortunate to see the cheetah brothers twice this month as they moved through the Plains.
Apart from these great sightings, the lions of the Busanga Plains have not failed to impress many a visitor. We had the pleasure of two new male lion joining our group of three very impressive lionesses. The lion can often be heard roaring during the night or early hours of the morning while we're all still cosily tucked in bed.
Other highlights of the month included a porcupine in camp, water mongooses in front of Tent 4, side-striped jackal, white-tailed mongoose, oribi and reedbuck. We've also become very fond of our resident bushbuck on the island, even though they've given me numerous scares as they move close by in the dark!
We look forward to August and the return of some more magnificent animals to our vast Plains.
Sjani and the Busanga Family
River Club update - July 07 Jump
to The River Club
July started with the last Lunar Rainbow over the Victoria Falls for this season - at least for the Zambian side. The Zambezi is dropping quickly and soon there won't be enough of the spray that is needed for this sort of rainbow.
As usual we packed snacks and a bar which were awaiting our guests on the riverside of the Falls where they were set to have their drink while keeping their feet dry. It's wonderful to see how amazed, surprised and stunned our guests are every time we go to experience it. No manner of managed expectation seems to prepare first time viewers for the phenomenon and 'ahs' and 'ohs' are spontaneous as are the almost desperate attempts to try and catch the moment on film?
This last 'moonbow' reared all the way up from the bottom of the gorge and went 270 degrees around until it disappeared into the Zambezi River upstream of the Falls!
Sitting on the pool deck of The River Club it is getting more and more difficult this time of year to distinguish emerging rocks exposed by the falling river levels from hippos. There is a lot of activity happening on the islands just in front of the lodge. The number of hippos increased and we were lucky on several occasions this past month to find newborn additions to the colony.
The elephants are crossing the river, frequently wading out as far as possible via sandbanks before they seem to get swallowed by the depths and only the snorkel-like trunks keep sticking out.
With The River Club going to be 10 years old soon we decided to make everybody's lives a bit more comfortable and added new bathrooms on the same level as the bedrooms. So apart from being able to enjoy the scenery from the downstairs bathtub there is a whole new "loo with a view" aspect not to be missed. The first guests to experience this latest addition were highly appreciative and couldn't stop talking about it!
Peter, Eugene, Christelle, Kapasa, Nigel, Andrea and all the staff
update - July 07 Jump
Wow! It has been another amazing month here at DumaTau!
Managers: Chantelle, Vasco, Ash and Kago with assistance from Thompso. Rose has also been her wonderful self and helping out wherever possible. The camp is looking great. The new Boma/Kgotla has already been put to great use and we are eating dinner there at least twice a week.
Guides: Ronald, Theba, Ban, Lemme and Ollie. Brian and Chantelle helped out on occasion. As did Thompson as well as both Richard Coke and Grant Atkinson who brought groups into camp.
We have already passed the dead of winter and the days are slowly starting to get longer again. The temperatures are warming up although one morning, at the beginning of the month, the temperature dropped down to a chilly 5°C. Average minimum temperature for the month was 10°C while the average maximum was 25°C. The skies have been generally clear with no sign of rain and we are only expecting the clouds to build again towards mid-November. The air is now very dry and very dusty.
As a result the leaves of most of the bushes have dropped and visibility into the thickets is good. The grass is disappearing at a rapid rate and in the Savute Channel is also much shorter, being quickly flattened by the passing animals. In some of the Knobthorn trees mistletoe is still flowering and attracting the pretty, metallic-coloured sunbirds. The Jackal-berry trees have been in full fruit this month and have attracted many starlings and baboons, enjoying the sweet-tasting flesh.
The rains that fell in the plateau in Angola last summer have finally arrived and we are seeing a rise in the water level in the Linyanti River and the lagoon system towards Zibadianja. As the Linyanti Concession lies on the higher side of a geographic fault-line, and the lower-lying marshy area is mainly in Namibia, we do not see the full effects of the flood. Where it does affect us, however, is in the few floodplain areas that fall into the concession, and of course the Savute Channel. This Channel, which runs from Zibadianja Lagoon to the Savute Marsh has been dry since the early 1980s. Last year, and the year before, the water in Zibadianja Lagoon was high enough to start flowing down the Savute Channel. In 2006 the head of water reached five kilometres down the channel, to an area called Giraffe Bones. It did pretty much the same thing in 2005, but did not get quite as far. With the floodwaters arriving from Angola we are again seeing the water push. At the beginning of the month the water reached only to the Old Mopane Bridge and no further, but now we can see the water moving again. We are curious to see how far the water will push this season.
Birds & Birding
As the area has been drying out we are seeing more of the arid area birds, such as Ostriches, Kori Bustards, Red-eyed Bulbuls and Chestnut-vented Titbabblers. There are even birds that are breeding at this time of the year and a pair of Wire-tailed Swallows is building a nest on our boat, just under the sun-cover. We often see the pair following us in the boat as we cruise up Osprey Lagoon on midday or afternoon excursions. A pair of Lesser-striped Swallows has also started building a nest in the workshop behind the kitchen and the chicks of a family of Arrow-marked Babblers have just recently hatched in nest in a dead log in front of the main office.
The African Fish-eagles that nest on the island in front of camp and those that nest near Kubu Lagoon both have pair of juveniles that have recently left the nest and are often seen begging from their folks. This month we have been lucky enough to have had a few sightings of a flock of 11 Wattled Cranes that moved between Zibadianja Lagoon and the DumaTau Floodplains before flying off.
Game viewing - herbivores
This month the general game has been awesome. We have been seeing giraffe, impala, red lechwe, chacma baboon, warthog, vervet monkey, blue wildebeest, hippo and kudu, amongst others, on almost every drive.
The zebra numbers, in particular, are quite amazing in the Savute Channel at the moment where a few hundred are currently resident. There is constant interaction as the stallions fight while others graze on the last remaining straw-like grass, or roll in the sandy earth covering themselves in the brown dust.
We have had fairly regular sightings of small groups of buffalo bulls, but have only really seen a few large herds, at a distance, on the other side of the river in Namibia and in the Selinda Concession on the other side of Zibadianja Lagoon. We are expecting to still see herds in the coming weeks on the floodplains near Croc Island and Zib. This last month, with the waterholes in the mopane woodlands having dried up, we have started to get sightings of the rare roan antelope on a more regular basis. There is a small herd, of approximately 8 individuals (and 1 small calf) that are being seen fairly regularly on the road to the airstrip, while we have also been seeing other individuals in the mopane woodlands or crossing the Savute Channel.
Elephant numbers have certainly increased. From about 9 in the morning they start to gather at the pans and along the river and one can see more than 30 elephants drinking at each waterhole, with sometimes over 100 standing in the shade nearby waiting for a turn to enter the melee at the water. It looks like a very coordinated affair and it is obvious that the different herds are communicating.
During night drives with the use of a red filter to limit our impact after dark we have seen some of the more elusive and seldom seen creatures: lesser bushbabies, honey badgers (five individuals are often seen walking around the camp late at night), African civet, serval, white-tailed mongoose, porcupine, African wild cat, Selous mongoose and a few species of owls. Springhares and scrub hares are particularly common at night and we see many hippo in the floodplains just after dark as they emerge out of the water to start grazing.
Game viewing - carnivores
We have had regular sightings of all the big predators, i.e. lion, leopard, cheetah, wild dog and spotted hyaena.
At the beginning of the month 2 lionesses with five (approximately 1 year old) juveniles were spotted along the Linyanti River near Livingstones Hide. By going back on past photographs in our Predator ID kit we established that the two must be from the Selinda Pride, relatives of the lioness and the two cubs that we were seeing in the area over the last year before she took her cubs into Caprivi. The two lionesses had killed a large male buffalo and the pride were feeding on it and chasing vultures around for the next few days. Towards the end of the first week the pride had moved away from the carcass, up the river, and had come much closer to camp, spending more than a week between here and the Zibadianja Lagoon without hunting successfully.
On the evening of the 20th however Brian was having sundowners at the First Corner in the Savuti Channel, watching the elephants as they came down to drink the new water when a wild dog from the DumaTau Pack came running past in the last light. After dark Brian headed up the Savute Channel and a short while later was passing back past the first corner on his way back towards the camp when he came across the five juvenile lions. The females were not with them. The cubs headed down to the edge of the water and then crossed it running towards the opposite bank. On the other side we found the two lionesses they were busy feeding on an impala. Just out of the circle of light we could make out that there were approximately 8 - 10 wild dogs watching the lions feeding. They were growling at the lions who were joined by the cubs trying to get some scraps. In the meantime some hyaena had appeared on the outskirts and the dogs decided to leave the area. The lionesses were not interested in sharing the carcass, which they had probably just expropriated from the dogs, and they chased the hyaena away. It was an amazing sequence of events and a really exciting sighting.
The Savuti Pride, the dominant pride in our area, has also been seen on a few occasions this month, although they have been difficult to find. The pride at present consists of two adult females, two sub-adult males, two sub-adult females and one juvenile of each gender. This pride is on occasion seen in the presence of one or more of four big male lions known as the "Savuti Boys". Good sightings of them this month involved watching them set an unsuccessful ambush for some zebra which were on their way towards the Dish Pan waterhole and on another day coming down to drink in front of Savuti Camp with full bellies.
On the night of the 7th we came across a small herd of buffalo in the riverine woodlands. Shortly afterwards we came across three of the Border Brothers. These male lions form part of a coalition of six males, all in the region of 5-6 years old.
This month we have also had at least two sightings of a trio of lioness that are known to us as the LTC females. One morning, the three lionesses were seen at the "Bottleneck". Thompson was at Mopane Rd Junction when he came across a wild dog that had just killed an impala in the open grasslands. Obviously the lioness had been resting in the bushes nearby when they saw the kill take place and immediately chased the dog from the carcass. Two of the lionesses fed, but the third was shy and stayed in the bushes on the bank. As the lionesses were feeding a clan of hyaenas appeared and drove the lionesses from the almost finished carcass. Another amazing interaction by these three predators.
We saw a handful of different individuals this month.
The DumaTau Male
This very relaxed animal is the dominant male leopard in the DumaTau game drive area. One night he was seen in the company of the Rock Pan Female at Rock Pan; they came to the water to drink and came across a spotted hyaena at the fresh carcass of a female cheetah! The male chased the hyaena off the carcass and investigated it himself, but then left the dead cat and headed on, tailed closely by the Rock Pan Female.
On the morning of the 17th he was seen again, this time on the Transit Rd near the calcrete area. A pack of wild dogs had killed an impala and was feeding upon it. The leopard heard the commotion and sneaked up to have a closer look. He watched as the dogs began to leave and head off towards their den, located on the southern side of the Savute Channel. Eventually there was only one dog left and the leopard looked like it was going to make a move. The dog sensed that he was now alone and that the others of his pack had headed off and decided to leave the remains of the carcass behind. Just in time! The leopard approached the carcass, scavenging from what was left, but some hyaenas arrived and drove him off.
The Zib Female
This shy female uses the area along the Savute Channel from the Zibadianja Lagoon. She has a sub-adult cub, from early to mid 2006, who is now at an age where she will be leaving her mom. On the 5th and 6th of the month she was seen with an impala kill up in a tree near Hippo Bones after the first corner in the channel. She was again seen on the afternoon of the 23rd lying in a large Jackal-berry tree near the Zib Mangosteen forest overlooking Zibadianja Lagoon. Her independent sub-adult cub - now referred to as "Mosetane", which means 'young girl' - seems to now be fending for herself and is looking quite thin.
The Rock Pan Female
This leopard uses the Savute Channel between Savuti Camp and Rock Pan and has a cub approximately 6 months old. They were seen one afternoon near Rock Pan. The female had caught and killed a male vervet monkey and had pulled it up a large tree, where the cub fed upon it.
The majority of the sightings were of the two "Savuti Boys" who were seen moving along the Savute Channel on several days this month. They were seen feeding on a zebra foal and on two occasions on successful warthog hunts. On one occasion they managed to successfully kill a young kudu.
We had a very sad and heart-wrenching few days when we found an ill female cheetah near Rock Pan known to us as "Female No. 10". She was very gaunt and her ribs and pelvis were showing. She stood up and waddled about before collapsing in the shade of a Bluebush near Rock Pan. There were a few spotted hyaenas in the area and we were certain that she would not live through the night if she remained there. For the rest of the day she did not move. The next morning when we arrived at Rock Pan she was lying in the open area very close to the waterhole itself. It appeared that in the morning she had tried to get to the water to have a drink and staggered towards the life-giving liquid, but was just not strong enough to make it. She lay in the dust a few metres away, barely breathing. She was unable to lift her head. It was very sad. As she lay there over 100 zebra came down to drink and stared at her lying in the sun. The dust and the heat in that exposed place must have been terrible. The zebra milled about staring at her and causing more dust. The elephants then started coming down to waterhole to drink and also passed within a few meters as she lay dying in the sand. By the afternoon she ceased breathing. Shortly after dark a hyaena appeared and picked up the carcass. Two leopards who had seen the hyena find the carcass then chased it away and took the carcass and investigated it, but did not feed upon it. The next morning there was no trace of the sad story that had unfolded over the previous two days.
The DumaTau Pack (11 adults) is denning in the scrublands quite far to the south of the Savute Channel. They are using the same den as they were last year. We have not allowed any game viewing vehicles in to the den yet as the pups are still too small but have sent in a single vehicle, without guests, to monitor what has been happening a couple of times. In the latter half of the month we had the first view of a single pup! It was extremely small and not quite able to walk yet. At the end of the month we monitored the den and three pups were seen. They are starting to grow quickly and we anticipate that we will soon be able to take guests to see them, obviously with the guides obeying very strict rules at the den site and on the entrance road to the den.
Even without visiting the den we have had great sightings of the dogs as they have been out hunting away from the den, targeting impala on a number of occasions; these were sometimes stolen in turn by lion, hyaena or leopard! On the 9th they were hunting near Zibadianja Lagoon. Thompson was trying to follow them and they targeted an impala and gave chase. The impala had no option but to run into the water of the lagoon, where unfortunately for it it got taken by a crocodile instead. On the 12th they killed an impala in the Bottleneck area, but it was stolen by some lionesses. On the morning of the 24th they had an unlucky time. They killed an impala near the Old Mopane Bridge, but it was stolen by hyaena. They then managed to kill a second impala near DumaTau Camp, but this one was once again stolen this time by two leopard.
As the area is drying up we are expecting the game to be just as fantastic next month and are thoroughly looking forward to see what happens here in August.
Best wishes from all of us at DumaTau Camp.
Come and see for yourself.
The DumaTau Team
Camp update - July 07 Jump
to Kings Pool
July in the Linyanti has been a dramatic month filled with contrasts. As the dry season tightens its stranglehold on the Linyanti these contrasts become ever more marked, and they can mean the difference between life and death for the many animals that live in or pass through this area.
As a counterpoint to the somehow softer, more luxuriant world of the Okavango Delta, the Linyanti can be a harsh and unforgiving environment. It is also the bush in its purest, most distilled form, the very essence of wilderness and it is impossible not to hear the call of the wild here, and to respond as it speaks to your soul.
Weather & Environment
This year's southern hemisphere winter, at least as we are experiencing it here in the Linyanti, has been relatively mild with only a few brief cold snaps to remind us of how it used to be! The average minimum temperature each day has been 9.5°C (49°F), with a minimum temperature range from 6 - 12°C (43 - 54°F). The average maximum temperature was an almost balmy 24.4°C (76°F) with a range of 23 - 27°C (73 - 81°F).
Being winter, this is of course our dry season too, and we experienced no rainfall whatsoever at Kings Pool in July. This year's summer rains were in fact poor, so we entered the dry season already in deficit. The vegetation nearest the river is the first to suffer, and as this is all consumed so the thirsty - and hungry - animals must travel further each day between the river or the few surviving pans in the forest, and the choicest feeding sites. This constant commute soon takes its toll, as the water dries up and the mopane woodlands seem to shrink, almost to recoil in fear, before the relentless onslaught of the elephant herds.
In the absence of the rains, the ponderous feet of thousands of elephants stir up the dust and seem to create their own micro-climate - from a distance they appear like the fluttering banners of an advancing army. This dust and the black smoke from burning papyrus beds in the Caprivi Strip, just across the Linyanti River in Namibia, lend a hazy aspect to each evening and an almost unreal hue to the sunsets. As the moon slips into view above the horizon, it is initially a smouldering orange colour and only as it rises out of the atmospheric dust does it shed this cloak and become the more usual lunar white.
Contrasts are everywhere, most noticeably where the trees stop and the plains begin, at the fault line, last gasp of the mighty Rift Valley; and between the parched, muted colours of the mopane woodland, where yellowing leaves fall to the brown earth as the afternoon breezes rattle dry twigs together, and the banks of the Linyanti River and the Kings Pool itself, where lush green outbursts of reeds delineate the margin between wet and dry.
Elephant and Hippo
Elephant matriarchs lead their herds along paths ingrained in their DNA, paths their own mothers trod and their mothers before them, to hidden pools surviving beneath the trees, at one of which we have installed a sunken hide where guests can look out at ground - or water - level as the midday heat shimmers and myriad animals come to slake their thirst, such as inquisitive slender mongooses, black tail tips quivering with daring as they dart into the open, to the massive elephants themselves.
There are contrasts too in the behaviour of the elephants which come to the pan - and very often pass within a few feet of the hide, and the guests! Some herds wait patiently to one side, in what shade they can find, until other herds - perhaps with more senior matriarchs - have drunk, whereas many bulls will come and drink directly and only from the source, and stand guard over it so that no other elephants may so much as poke an optimistic trunk in there.
Other animals must make do with drinking the muddied water stirred up by mammoth feet, and at the fringes of this pan we often see impala, warthog and, most special of all, rare roan and sable antelope which are a speciality of this region. Yet more contrasts here, in the black and white striped faces of the roan - which gives them a permanently surprised air - and the inky black coats and scimitar horns of the sable bulls, which make them stand out dramatically from the dried out surroundings with their predominantly straight lines - mopane trees both still standing, and laid low by pushy, pushing pachyderms.
Right in front of the Camp, we are often treated to an 'a cappella' performance by the hippos (although they still won't share the joke they have been chortling at all this time!) and the transformation from laborious, lumbering beast to graceful, indolent mermaids as they slide back into the water. The differing approaches to finding food of the Black Crake, gingerly picking its way along submerged reed stems and probing the water, to the sudden plummet of the Pied Kingfisher; the demarcation across an elephant's ear between the submerged part and the still dry part as they haul themselves up the far bank after fording the pool.
Leopards have been the stars of many game drives this month, not least for guests who have arrived at our airstrip late in the afternoon, uncurling their legs after a long international flight, feeling their blood flow again, and expanding their horizons from a seatback "entertainment system" to the limitless skies of northern Botswana, and the greatest show on earth - one which expertly blends moments of high drama with pauses of exquisite serenity.
The Boscia female seems to have dreams of becoming airborne, as she is often seen around the airstrip and on one occasion was seen leaping artfully into the air after a startled bird, a tactic which shows just how versatile leopards can be in their approach to hunting, exhibiting a range of skills that allow them to survive almost anywhere, from city suburbs to the snows of Kilimanjaro.
The fast-growing cubs of the Kings Pool pride, now aged around 12 months, continue to delight with their playful antics - play which grows more serious by the day as they constantly rehearse the balletic yet lethal moves which will bring down and throttle their prey in years to come. Contrast their boisterous energy with the barely reined-power of the dominant Border Boys, huge males in their prime who cross to and from Namibia with impunity.
Tragedy can strike at even the most regal, however, and this month we were appalled to see that one of the Border Boys has somehow become entangled in a snare, no doubt set by bush-meat poachers in the Caprivi. This encounter with the sinister wiles of human hunters has left him with a loop of wire cutting into his neck.
This is where we suspend our policy of non-intervention. In the case of injured or diseased animals we let nature take its course, but this is clearly a case of an injury caused by humans, so we are aiming to intervene now to cancel out this earlier, invidious intervention. We are actively scouring the Linyanti looking for this male lion, and hoping to find him on a kill where he will stay long enough that we can fly in a wildlife veterinarian to dart him and remove the wire.
Injuries like this, while thankfully rare, are a sobering reminder that even in an environment as tough as the Linyanti in the throes of the dry season, it is the unthinking, unwelcome intrusions of humans which can make circumstances truly harsh for animals, and underline how vital it is that we respond to this wilderness in a way that preserves it for the future.
Look, listen, feel - breathe ? there are contrasts and clashes everywhere, yet somehow, on a level we can only grasp at, they converge and combine to form a coherent whole, a raw and sometimes disquieting, yet strangely harmonious place - a place to escape to, a place of sanctuary. Not just for the elephants who seem visibly less tense as they cross into the safety of Botswana from neighbouring countries where they may be harassed, but a place of escape for us too, or perhaps even, a place of return. A place where we can see our own role in this bigger picture, appreciate and be humbled by our individual insignificance, but at the same time, acknowledge the awesome responsibility we bear as a species, that of ensuring wild places like the Linyanti remain wild for future generations of elephants - and people.
These are just a few of the responses of some of the guests who were moved by this jagged-edged piece of African wilderness - and the refined and tranquil Camp that lies at its heart - this month:
· The Camp is absolutely beautiful and the staff has been the greatest group of personalities ever!
· The rooms are beautiful - very spacious, inviting, and social. Moses was absolutely a dream - one of the best guides we have ever experienced.
· Kings Pool has left us speechless ? the staff cultural performance was an absolute highlight.
· The warmest, most accessible and capable staff I have met in years of travel.
. The game drives were incredible - we had no idea it would be so amazing and we couldn't have asked for more!
· The singing was incredibly wonderful and moving - thank you!
· This might be the most perfect, ideal and totally dedicated to spot to safari tourism around; couldn't have been better or more comfortable.
· Awesome accommodations, friendly staff, good food (thank you Eddie!)
· Great game, wonderful food, and the best managers of any Camp I stayed at - despite stiff competition!
And that's all from all of us who were blessed to live and work here this month, your Kings Pool team for July: Richard & Olivia, Eddie & Penny, Miriam, Noko, Dave, Gideon, and Mike.
Camp update - July 07 Jump
July has been a busy time for the game on the Savuti Channel.
On several occasions cheetah allowed our guests to watch attempts to kill their prey and on one day they killed two warthogs in morning and afternoon chases respectively.
Lion have been consistent, including male lion drinking at the waterhole in front of the camp. The Channel wild dogs have been sighted on a regular basis, their pups now just about ready to exit the den. The aardvark and aardwolf sightings have also been regular with one game drive spotting an incredible four aardvarks on one trip.
The elephant sightings at the camp waterhole have been busy and the volume of elephant has increased considerably. Many arguments over the positioning at the waterhole make for interesting discussion.
Leopard sightings have been steady and our camp female has graced us all with her presence on many occasions including her evening appearance before a disbelieving Nick Bingaman in front of his deck, looking up at him with her big yellow eyes.
We have a new excuse to have a drink in the Channel. Known as 'the moonshine bar' all our guests gather to watch the full moon rise over the channel, glass in hand, a memorable experience ? the moon rise, that is!
Weather-wise it is still winter and the early mornings are cold with a need for warm clothing. The weather, however, heats up rapidly and by 10h00 it is nice and warm.
We are looking forward to a dry and eventful August and the opportunity to share the splendour of our wilderness here on the Savute Channel with all our guests.
Camps Update - July 07
Lagoon camp Jump
• A coalition of four, young male lions are still operating between Lagoon and Lebala. They have been seen on numerous occasions following the big herds of buffalo and trying to kill, buffalo calves. A once off sighting of a male and female feeding on a warthog kill were also reported. Two females from the old Lagoon pride also moved back in to the area and were seen hunting impala near the airstrip.
• Leopard sightings were very good during this month. A mother and her cub were seen feeding on their impala kill, which made for very good photo opportunities. An unknown male was seen near Kwane lagoon, but he was very nervous and would not let the game drives get close.
• The two cheetah brothers moved north towards Lebala, but a female cheetah was seen hunting impala near John’s pan.
• The Lagoon pack of 6 dogs and their 9 pups are doing well. All the pups look healthy and they are very playful when seen outside the den. The guides have reported some very strange behaviour at the den site. It seems that two warthogs have also made the den their home. One evening while the dogs were on a hunt, these two warthogs turned up at the dog den. They sniffed around for a bit and then proceeded to back in to the den as if they were planning to spend the night. This was indeed exactly what they did; they spent the night in the den, with the pups. This has now been going on for most of the month and the dogs seem not to mind having them as housemates. The dogs also proved to be good guides with one group of guests following them and bumping into a pangolin and on the next day, following the dogs to a leopard.
• Big groups of elephants, breeding herds as well as bachelor groups, have been seen on the floodplains and on the riverbanks. Some of the single bulls have also been visiting the camp during the nights.
• Big mixed herds of buffalo, some of them with 1500 and more buffalo in the herds have been seen grazing on the flood plains.
• Night drives were very successful during this month, with bat eared foxes, both species of jackal, small spotted genets and a couple of chameleons being seen.
• General game was very good with both roan and sable antelope being found. Big herds of zebra and large journeys of giraffe were also seen. Wildebeest, steenbok, lechwe, and impala made up some of the many other species of general game that were sighted.
• Rare sightings of aardvark and pangolin were reported on some of the drives. Honey badger banded and dwarf mongoose as well as genet and African wildcat were also seen on the drives.
• Birding was excellent during the month, with purple gallinule, lapped faced vulture, osprey and giant eagle owls being seen.
Kwara & Little Kwara camps Jump
& Little Kwara camps
• A coalition of two old male lions was seen frequently during this month. They were seen hunting buffalo on numerous occasions and managed the almost impossible task of killing a buffalo in the middle of a big herd. The pride of four females and one sub adult male were also seen operating in the area. They were very care full not to clash with the two old males but still managed to kill an buffalo calf on the road between camp and the airstrip.
• A sub adult female leopard was seen resting in a tree, with a pride of lions only about a hundred meters away. She was also seen trying to kill a large spotted genet, but did not succeed. An adult female was seen hunting reedbuck, but she also was unsuccessful.
• The coalition of three male cheetah were seen a couple of times. They were followed on one of their hunts and they managed to kill and impala in front of the game drive vehicles.
• Some bachelor herds and single bull elephant were seen during this month. Some of these bulls were seen swimming as well as crossing the channel in front of the boat cruise and also feeding on the trees in the camps.
• Huge herds of buffalo, some of the herds had up to 2000 animals have been visiting the area. These herds are coming out of the mopane woodlands where all the waterholes are now dry. Some guests were very lucky when they were able to witness a buffalo cow giving birth.
• Hyena were seen most nights patrolling around the camps. Both black backed and side-striped jackal were seen during the night drives.
• General game sightings continue to be very good. Giraffe, zebra, tsessebe, warthog, kudu and some sable antelope were seen.
• Good sightings of Civet, Serval and African Wild Cat have been reported. The game drives have found numerous active Aardvark holes but animals have been eluding the drives up to now.
• Birding continues to be good in the area. Wattled cranes, saddle billed storks, fish eagles and an elusive Pels fishing owl were seen.
Lebala camp Jump
• Lion sightings have again been very good throughout the month. The four young male lions were followed on numerous occasions while they were hunting buffalo. They managed to kill a buffalo bull right in front of camp and stayed with the kill for three days. The two big dominant males and single female were also seen hunting in the mopane woodlands. A pride of three lionesses and eight cubs also visited the area. The lionesses were seen hiding their cubs and hunting buffalo.
• A rare sighting of two big male leopards walking less than a hundred meters apart was reported. A very relaxed young male were seen on numerous occasions. He was mostly seen trying to catch some fowls. The resident female was also located twice in the woodlands.
• The two cheetah brothers put in their normal appearance during the month and were followed on numerous occasions. A female cheetah appeared on the scene and she managed to successfully hunt and kill and impala almost in the camp. She has been seen on numerous occasions and seemed to have made the area around the camp her home. Four very shy males appeared briefly and managed to kill a young kudu before they moved on.
• Big breeding herds, bachelor herds and some single bull elephants are a common sighting on the flood plains. These herds are now moving out of the Mopane forests onto the floodplains since all the water holes have dried up.
• Big herds of buffalo, some ranging between five hundred and a thousand animals were found along various plains. They were mostly seen mating and drinking with some of the bulls fighting for females.
• Some hyena were found feeding on a baby elephant carcass and another group of eight hyena were seen scavenging on the remains of a buffalo kill. Both species of jackal are also found during the night drives.
• Excellent general game with many large journeys of giraffe, impala, waterbuck, Tsessebe, Wildebeest, Steenbok zebra, red lechwe and kudu. Sable and roan antelope were also seen on some of the drives.
• Night sightings were fantastic with a pangolin being sighted. They also saw many servals and honey badgers as well as a striped polecat. Bat eared foxes were located near the hyena den. Yellow, dwarf, banded and slender mongoose were also seen.
• Raptor sightings were very good during the month, with Martial eagle, brown and black snake eagles as well as tawny and short tail eagles being seen. Marabou storks as well as wattled cranes were also seen. Hundreds of guttural toads and bell frogs could also be heard during the night.
Camp update - July 07 Jump
Warm greetings to all from a very happy Xigera Island
Environment and climate
What a wonderful month it has been and the gradual end to an even better winter season. Although I am sure we can expect a few more chilly days, we are most definitely moving out of winter and into what already promises to be a beautiful spring. Our average minimum temperature was 11?C while the mean maximum was 22?C, so a relatively mild month behind us. However, a high of 27?C recorded on the 27th got us all very excited and ready to pull out our swimming gear and kikois.
The annual flood which is the lifeline of the Delta has come, reached its peak and is now rapidly receding - so much so that guests who stay for two or three nights comment on departure at how much the water has dropped during their stay. The water under the bridge at Xigera Camp has risen a total of approximately 90cm between the start and the peak of the flood, and just this past month it has already dropped about 18cm. Flooding on the roads and in the surrounding areas around camp is also subsiding dramatically, and guides have to be extra careful not to get stuck in the mud where the water used to be. The seasonal floodplain in front of the guest tents that filled with water in March is slowly becoming a major fish trap and soon the resident water birds such as herons, storks and egrets will start to congregate around in this area where they will have the easy pickings of many fish that have become stranded in this shrinking body of water.
The fruit of the many Real Fan Palms (or Mokolane as some of you may know it), which are so characteristic of Xigera and the Okavango Delta as a whole, have begun ripening, resulting in a serious increase in the number of elephants in the area and we have two 'resident' elephant bulls in camp almost on a daily basis. The sound of rustling palm leaves can be heard day and night as elephant comically raise their trunks along the length of the stem and shake the trees hoping to get every last ripened fruit to fall from above? even if it does mean a couple of knocks on the head as the fruits come plummeting down!
Our game viewing this past winter season has been awesome! With the water level being so high, we are lucky enough to be able to do full-day picnics to the area around Chiefs Island and Simbira Channel. This has our guests (and ourselves) marvelling at the amount of game out there and the spectacular experience of cruising through the Okavango Delta.
Apart from the regular sightings of impala, giraffe, red lechwe, zebra, elephant, buffalo and other herbivores, our guides and guests have seen lion on five different occasions and a herd of buffalo exceeding 120 (not to mention the numerous lone males known as dagga boys seen on a regular basis).
Between the boating and the driving around our island we have also seen leopard on at least five different occasions and we regularly see their tracks on our "morning newspaper" following a night stroll across the bridge at Xigera Camp. Lastly, the very rare and elusive sitatunga was seen once during the month. Simon and Cisco had a fantastic sighting of a male while out on mokoro with two guests and managed to get to within 20m of the animal before it slowly moved off into the surrounding papyrus. Breathtaking!
There have been two particularly wonderful wildlife highlights this month that deserve a special mention. The first was the sighting of four spotted-necked otters frolicking and playing in front of the main area at camp. We have sightings of two resident otters on a regular basis, but seeing four of them playing together was a real treat. Groups of up to five individuals have been observed around southern Africa, but generally they are known to hang around in pairs only. Since spotted-necked otters are not known to be territorial, we believe that all four may have come into the same area due to an abundance of fish or alternatively, the unfamiliar individuals may just have been passing through the area resulting in some friendly interaction between them and the resident otters. However, as we have not seen all four again since the latter is probably the more likely explanation. We watched them for about half an hour, darting to and fro under the bridge. Occasionally one would pop its head out of the water and notice us watching them, which would be followed by a shrill "chikkering" as they scolded us before diving back down. Even though the Okavango Delta is known to have a thriving population of this otter species, seeing them around camp is always a bonus!
The second incident worth mentioning was the discovery by Teko of a clan of hyaena on a baby giraffe kill on the 27th. There were two females and two sub-adult hyaena feeding. A few days later, our guide Ndebo came across the same four, this time on an impala kill. Teko believes that since large predators such as lion are extremely scarce at this time of the year, due to the amount of water on the island, hyaena are forced to hunt for themselves in order to survive. This, together with the fact that both sub-adults are now at an age where they can participate in a hunt, has led Teko to believe that both the giraffe and impala were killed by the hyaena themselves.
Birds & birding
On the birding front, Xigera continues to astound and astonish on a daily basis. We have seen a total of 160 bird species this month, and we hope that as more land surface becomes available for game driving in the coming month we will increase this number even more. Of the thirteen species of Threatened and Endangered Birds that are being monitored, we have seen seven: Pel's Fishing-owl, Slaty Egret, Wattled Crane, Martial Eagle, White-headed Vulture, Southern Ground Hornbill and African Skimmer. Wattled Crane were seen on 13 occasions, Pel's Fishing-owl on 9 occasions and Slaty Egrets 6 times.
Once again, there were two birding highlights that are definitely worth a mention. The first was a spectacular display of territoriality by four African Fish-eagles at the Xigera Mokoro Trails Camp (Xigera's rustic sister camp for the more adventurous camper: no pathways, long drop toilets and bucket showers - fantastic!). Fish-eagles have their greatest abundance in the whole of Southern Africa here in the Okavango Delta with an average of 0.53 birds per kilometre. Although both male and female are highly territorial, the female is more active at keeping intruders out and is usually the one to attack. They start off with their unmistakable call to warn the intruder that they have been spotted, and if the intruder continues to trespass, the resident individual or pair may attack. Aerial combat usually involves attacking the intruder from below and may evolve into what is known as "cart wheeling" flight, where the two individuals lock feet and tumble over and over towards the ground. On this particular occasion, the scene went on for almost half an hour, with an incredible amount of noise and calling from all four individuals. Marleen watched them as they chased and collided with one another whilst in the air. If one landed in a tree, another would bombard it and drive it out. Eventually, the intruding pair gave up and headed off, probably to try their luck elsewhere.
The second highlight was the return of the African Skimmers. Simon spotted them at Xigera Lagoon on the 30th. He saw a total of 13 individuals roosting on the sandbank. It is great to have these beautiful birds back in the area. As usual, their timing is impeccable and coincides with the falling water levels. They return each year to this area to breed on the exposed sand banks. Last year, however, they did not breed at Xigera Lagoon. Teko believes this may be due to high levels of predation in recent years on the eggs and chicks by animals such as water monitors and crocodiles. We will have to wait patiently to see what happens this year and hope that we will witness a successful breeding season. We'll most definitely keep you all up to date on any progress witnessed!
We'll end off with a couple of comments from our guests here at Xigera and what they loved most about their time spent here.
"Just being in the legendary Delta! The fields of lilies. Definitely the Malachite Kingfisher." - JW & VH
"Fabulous day on the water where we saw wildlife galore." - CH & MH
And so we come to the end of our July news. We look forward to a great month ahead, with many more exciting events to come as the season changes. We hope that you have enjoyed the monthly update!
The Xigera Team
to Page 2