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AFRICAN SAFARI NEWS

July 2007

(Page 2 of 2)

Page 1 Updates
Wilderness Safaris News - Info and updates from Wilderness Safaris.
• North Island Dive Report from the Seychelles.
• Monthly update from Lunga River Lodge in Zambia.
• Monthly update from Kapinga Camp in Zambia.
• Monthly update from Shumba Camp in Zambia.
• Monthly update from Busanga Bush Camp in Zambia.
• Monthly update from The River Club in Zambia.
• Monthly update from DumaTau Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Kings Pool Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Savuti Camp in Botswana.
Kwando Safaris game reports.
• Monthly update from Xigera Camp in Botswana.

Page 2 Updates
• Monthly update from Kwetsani Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Jao Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Abu Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Duba Plains in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Little Vumbura in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Vumbura Plains in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Jacana Plains in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Ruckomechi Camp in Zimbabwe.
• Monthly update from Little Makalolo Camp in Zimbabwe.

Monthly update from Rocktail Bay in South Africa.


Kwetsani update - July 07                Jump to Kwetsani Camp

COLD is the only way to describe this month. This winter has been vicious and the snow in South Africa has not helped a single degree. The mornings have been unbelievably cold, but the days are extremely pleasant. As for the nights, well, there's nothing like a good book, a "Bush Baby" (hot water bottle) and a Mohair blanket to keep you warm!

Like the sea, our tide is on the way out, the water level dropping every day. The new water brings life when the flood rises, but as it drops it also creates new life as well: the vegetation that was covered for a couple of months is now sprouting and growing, the seasons are changing, with only 31 days to the official start of spring. Stargazing was redefined this month, as we had a guest here who had a "Star GPS!" When you point the GPS to the star, it tells you which star it is and its GPS coordinates - technology is truly amazing. But so is nature: there were two full moons this month!

Almost two Full moons
July was a month of celebration, from honeymooners, anniversaries, graduations and birthdays to retirements. Champagne was the best part of the dinners and enjoyed by all. The cold has brought out the warmth in all hearts, with all the assorted people that have walked through our front door making new friends. Some really amazing families and people visited Kwetsani this month.

Full moon over Kwetsani

Adventures are the best part of the Delta experience. One afternoon turned into an amazing experience for a group of six guests and David our guide. While on a game drive they were driving through a water crossing and were dumped into a hole - the picture is worth a thousand words. With extra gin and tonics being delivered during the rescue, the guests thought this was the best part of the trip.

Deep water crossing mishap     Submerged vehicle at Kwetsani

Leopard at Hunda Island
Animal sightings have been outstanding with dropping water levels. The wildebeest have started crossing over from Hunda Island. Hunda Island trips are still going strong and leopard sightings have been good, including this sister and brother lepoard looking to hunt the lechwe.

Leopard at Hunda Island

Along with wildebeest, the elephant are still moving with the water and we are still getting a number of breeding herds and lone bulls through and around camp. We have had three lone bulls make temporary homes at Kwetsani. The guests have had a little trouble falling asleep, with the elephants snoring and the shaking of the palm trees during the day, looking for the palm nuts which are ripening.

Elephant at Kwetsani

The lions have been very active this month moving around their territory a lot. Many a night the guests fade off to sleep listening to the sound of the lions roaring in the distance, followed by the sound of the hyaena. Lechwe have been their staple diet in the floodwaters; the variety will come as the animals cross the shallow water.

Lions at Kwetsani

Guests were out the one morning and the lions were in and out of camp, we could not understand what they were trying to do. We were answered an hour later. Approximately 9am while cleaning the pool, I looked up, and thought it was a baboon running through the water, but there she was, a beautiful lioness chasing a lechwe. What followed was amazing, the take down, the kill and the family running out the long grass to join in on the meal.

The big shake and a meal from heaven
We are counting the days now when the zebra will cross over from Hunda Island, followed by the giraffe and buffalo. With the dropping water the bird life of the resident birds has been great. Two new members to the NG25 family: we welcome a new lion cub to the Jao concession and at Kwetsani we have a resident honey badger that has made the kitchen his home, visiting us on most nights.

With July setting in the distance and August rising, we are halfway through 2007. We wait with baited breath for the adventures to continue in August, looking forward to sharing them with you here at Kwetsani.

 

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Jao Camp update - July 07               Jump to Jao Camp

Jao has once again been such a pleasure this month. As ever, the dynamics of the Delta never cease to amaze and inspire us. The floodwaters have receded substantially and the waters have stopped flowing below the main guest walkway where we now have an elephant highway along the path that was created by the surging floodwaters.

We are over the winter peak, with slightly warmer mornings and evenings. We are however starting to feel the early August winds and can perhaps expect a rain shower or two in the coming month. Of course it will be many months before the summer rains begin. The quietness of the colder winter evenings is still with us, the summer cacophony of yelping fruit bats and frogs is not as loud, however the silence is often interrupted with the grunt of hippo and every so often the characteristic roar of the lion sends shivers down your spine.

This has been the most unbelievable month for predators, there was great excitement when one of our lionesses, "Broken Nose", was seen crossing the airstrip with two young drenched cubs, probably about 2½ months old, that she had carried through the floodplains. The excitement was somewhat dampened a day later as we only found a single cub on the wildebeest kill she made. We are therefore concerned that she has lost one of her cubs. Broken Nose has an unfortunate history raising cubs so we can only live in hope that her luck turns and that she is able to protect and raise her remaining offspring so that it grows up to prowl the floodplains as an able hunter one day.

Lion cub at Jao

Leopards too have been particularly prevalent this month with many of the females still being accompanied by cubs. We are unfortunately still not able to report that the cubs of 'Beauty', the resident female, have survived as they have not been seen since they were moved from the lion activity around Jao. We hope they are tucked away safely on an island somewhere.

Beauty - the leopard at Jao

Although the high early floods have receded noticeably, channels are still in pristine condition allowing our boat cruises and trips to Hunda Island to continue as they will for the next couple of months. Spending a day on the island picnicking with herds of zebra and wildebeest surrounding you is an experience you will not forget.

Walking safari at Jao

Whilst the boat trips continue, with magnificent breeding herds of elephant accompanying guests on their boat cruises and drives, we are also starting to see the return of some plains game such as our resident herd of zebra that have crossed the slightly shallower channels to graze on the fresh green grass in the floodplains as the drier Kalahari sands start to beg for the summer rains which is still many months away.

At the beginning of the month, a lion pride ambushed two reedbuck, right in front of the lodge. This was the end to a perfect day for a family of 10 who had spent the day on Hunda Island with great general game, leopards and breeding herds of elephant.

Another extraordinary experience took place in camp around the middle of the month when we heard impala alarm calls. On investigation we found a Martial Eagle attacking members of a banded mongoose family who were scurrying for cover and screaming their alarm calls. Guests rushed from the brunch table and clambered onto vehicles to view the magnificent bird that had perched in the trees not more than 200 meters from the main lodge. Notice the attentive mongoose family in the picture below while the game viewers watch our most powerful aerial hunter.

Banded Mongooses at Jao

With the winter come crystal clear skies that are still littered with Palm Swifts flying around in their never-ending search for insectivorous prey. They will also swoop to snatch a floating feather which they will glue with their saliva to form a protective nest for their eggs.

Of course the seasons and ever-changing animal behaviour and cycles are interesting to follow. It seems only yesterday we had newborn impala still unstable on their legs, today they are large independent antelope bearing their winter coats, the young males instinctively testing their emerging horns in playful sparring. Before long they will be full grown and competing for dominance of the herd.

This is the dynamic of the Delta where wildlife is driven and guided by the precious floodwaters that bring life to an otherwise very arid Kalahari complex. It is difficult to comprehend the dry Kalahari when we are sitting in the middle of this vast Delta where everything is so lush and green. The environment is just too wonderful, Meyer's Parrots eat the fruit of the sausage trees, and African Harrier Hawks fly by. Slaty and Black egrets, Coppery-tailed and White-browed Coucals, Malachite Kingfishers, Hamerkops, Black Crakes and tons of other birds are always present, this really is a wildlife paradise.

Black Egret

We look forward to sharing these experiences with you sometime soon.

Kindest regards from all at Jao.


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Abu Camp update - July 07               Jump to Abu Camp

What a wonderful season we are having with camps full of guests from all corners of the world. We have had some very fascinating guests over the last few months, from leading financiers to kimono manufacturers from Japan with all their worldly stories (but none to top their experience they have encountered at Abu Camp.)

The flood is now dropping fast and although we reportedly had the largest flood since 1984 which we thought was going to give us difficulties, this was not the case. In fact, it has really enhanced the guest experience. The game over the last few weeks has been absolutely incredible and has brought our guests the most wonderful sightings.

This season we have had two prides of lions which have been moving around our concession with sightings of these large cats feeding on buffalo and giraffe kills and even a sighting of a single lioness chasing down zebra. One of the prides also has cubs of varying ages and we have been able to sit with these prides and watch the young ones go through their training for hunting with their mothers. This has provided us with much amusement as the cubs are not very disciplined at the moment and you can almost see the mothers saying "not now; not like that; like this", and the fathers just lazing in the sun with one eye on the process saying, "here she goes again: Nag, nag, nag."

We are also very excited because our illustrious guides have been able to find a very large new pride that has arrived in the concession just the other day, so hopefully we will be able to report more on their arrival next month.

The leopard and cheetah have, as always, been very elusive but we have found numerous spoor or tracks around the camp and elsewhere seeing a tail or two but no really good sightings this month. We were able to spot a kill of a young bushbuck hoisted in a tree near camp and kept a vigilant eye during the night, but the leopard was too clever for us as soon as we retired late at night she very quickly removed the kill without a sound.

Our general game viewing has been wonderful as always, the complete spectrum has been sighted and with the plethora of bird life around we have had truly contented guests with wonderful experiences.

Then of course there have been our wonderful elephants. They always steal the show and together with our team of mahouts bring much joy and humour to the guests. We are very privileged to have such an illustrious group who are so dedicated to our elephants. Baby Abu, without a shadow of doubt, is the most photographed elephant in the world He is now fifteen months old and he knows he is the star of our herd and plays on it. He is like a naughty little boy and loves to play and he really brings much joy to all.

In closing I thought I had to mention an amusing little story that happened a few weeks ago. Periodically our guides and polers go out in mokoros to carry out a reconnaissance of certain areas. Off they go, the two guides and the polers in the very shallow water around camp and the story goes that one of the guides was not concentrating on where he was going and the mokoro turned over in 30 centimetres of water where the poler and other guide stepped out gracefully while our other guide was completely submerged, rifle and all, which took him about fifteen minutes to find. He arrived back at camp dripping wet, which caused much amusement and he was the centre of serious lambasting from the other staff. But again I think this just shows what a great team we have at Abu Camp.

We are all looking forward to seeing many more guests over the coming weeks so they can enjoy the beauty of the Okavango Delta with us.


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

The management team at Duba for the month of July consisted of: Moalosi, Tebby and Francois, with the assistance of our trainee manager Kabo who has now left Duba to further his training in the other camps. Our guiding team has great experience of the Duba concession, which is invaluable to assisting us get the best out of our guest activities. They were James 007, Reuben and Dennis. ST was on leave for the month of July.

CLIMATE
With the annual floodwater continuing to recede at a reasonable speed across the concession we can now access most of game drive areas that have been inundated in the last two months or so. Over the latter two-thirds of July we experienced a chilly wind blowing through the area with temperatures varying daily, from cold windy mornings and evenings to fairly warm and very warm during the daytime.

WILDLIFE
This is the time of the year when we expect larger breeding herds of elephants to move into the concession in the wake of the receding floodwaters as they feed on the emerging vegetation. The camp island, which is dominated by the Sicklebush that the elephant enjoys, is already starting to be invaded by elephants almost every night. The night air now reverberates to the sound of trumpeting elephants that have just returned from the northern Mopane woodland areas, due to the fact that the water pans are now dry. It is always wonderful to see the same elephants - both bulls and the recognisable cows in the breeding herds - returning year after year. We recently saw the bull that always hangs around the camp this time of the year; he has been seen in camp a lot feeding on the Knobthorn trees just by the workshop, and disturbing the guests while they rest in the middle of the day by feeding right in front of the tents.

The buffalo herd is still looking very healthy, and constantly moving around the concession due to pressure from the Tsaro Pride. They often cross to the wetter part of the extended Duba area (Paradise and Sakoyi Islands in the east) that we cannot access due the presence of permanent deep water channels, although they never seem to spend too much time in these areas. Overall we are of the impression that buffalo numbers are increasing and attribute this to decreased hunting success of the local lion prides and the resultant better recruitment rates of calves into the herd. The respective strategies of the buffalo herd in defending their number from the lions and the lions in attempting to outwit the herd continue to enthral us. Interactions between the two species very often result in badly injured cows and calves that have been rescued from death by the herd. This can lead to infection and the wounded buffalo may die. In the month of July we came across two calves and a cow that appeared to have died in such circumstances.

We are very pleased to see an addition of two lions to the Tsaro Pride. Junior the young male who is almost two and half years now, is doing very well. He has been seen on several occasions initiating the hunting, but we think that he still needs a little more time to learn! Very often he has narrowly missed the fierce horns of buffalo and is slowly realising those horns can do him serious harm. The second addition is a female cub of about seven and a half months. We hope she will make it as well as she has already passed the most vulnerable stage of being killed by other lionesses (which was the fate of previous litters). We think this is a result of her being looked after by two lionesses which are extremely protective over her - the same reasoning applying to Junior.

It was very impressive recently to see one of the most ruthless cub killers, 'Silver Eye', growling and exposing her deadly canines at this cub. She was badly attacked by the two females that look after this young cub, and since then has very often been denied any chance to get anywhere close to her. One of the lionesses ('Machine Gun') had cubs on the northern side of the camp, probably wanting to keep them away from the rest of the pride until a certain stage. This worked out well for that period as the cubs at least made it to at least 4-5 months, but unfortunately after only five days of introduction to the rest of the pride they were all found dead. We are not sure if 'Silver Eye' was responsible for any of the deaths. In one case only did the guides witness the death of a cub. It was killed by two other females, which was not really surprising as they have been witnessed killing cubs before. These two lionesses associate more with the silver-eyed female than any other lioness in the pride. The bereft mother (Machine Gun) was already seen mating by the second week of July. Currently we have one lioness with one cub estimated at three months old. Despite their age (about 16 years), the Duba Boys still continue as the proud leaders of the Tsaro Pride in their domain.

The Skimmer Pride has only been seen once in July. They were seen in the vicinity of the buffalo herd on the north-western side of the camp. This was from a distance, as the Tsaro Pride was very close to the herd and prevented the approach of the Skimmer Pride. The composition is still three lionesses as from about seven months ago. We are now beginning to be convinced that the rest of the pride has emigrated from the area completely. The three that we see are all the young females of about 4 and half years old.

OTHER GAME VIEWING
In general, hippo have been commonly seen out of the water from camp in particular, due mainly to the cooler temperatures which allowed them to come out of the water for basking in the sun. This provides guests with great photographic opportunities as it is fairly rare to see the bulk of a whole hippo body during the day! Aardwolves have also been seen many times at Duba, which thrill the guests, especially those who have been on safari several times and have yet to see this elusive nocturnal species. We are seeing two dens at the moment that are constantly visited by our game drives.

Birding is still fantastic in the area, and we are looking forward to the natural fish traps that attract many of the water birds such as pelicans, storks and egrets. This normally happens in early September as the water levels drop and form isolated pools. The three flamingos that surprised and excited us in the last two months with constant sightings have already moved out of the area and have not been sighted for the last three weeks.

The month has ended with great fun and pleasure,
TL Moalosi


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Little Vumbura update - July 07               Jump to Little Vumbura Camp

July has been a great month for almost everything. Game viewing has been excellent and also the weather has been great with favourable temperatures. It was not as cold as we normally expect during the month of July.

On the game viewing side it was a very successful month with a lot of elephant coming to the permanent water area. The water has been dropping rapidly and most of the annual waterholes have dried up, forcing the animals from the woodlands towards perennial waters. Herds of elephant, buffalo and sable were mainly seen around the water. The biggest herd of elephant sighted during the month of July was about 40! Our resident bull elephants that usually destroy our camp boardwalk by walking along it have been frequenting the island. At least during the month of July they did not break the walkway!

The highlight of the month was when the two leopards made a kill on Shumba Island. This was during the middle of the month when the two spotted cats were seen feeding on a baboon and later the guides also discovered that the there was another kill next to first one - this time the leopards had killed a reedbuck. They had made two kills in one day.

Whilst they were still feeding on their old kills there was unfortunate steenbok that happened to come through where the two cats were and this was also killed to make three kills in less than three days. As leopards are known to do they enjoyed the decaying meat and were on this island for at least six days. During this period our guests were almost guaranteed to see leopard. This was an amazing sighting, it does not happen often but it happened at Little Vumbura.

The general game was so abundant around Little Vumbura. This included impala, kudu, zebra, waterbuck, baboon, lechwe and reedbuck.

Happy game viewing, from all of us at Little Vumbura.


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Vumbura Plains update - July 07               Jump to Vumbura Camps

CLIMATE
As we all know that it is that time of the year when the seasons are beginning to change. It has still been relatively cold however and minimum temperatures ranged between 5 and 12°C, while maximums were as low as 18 and as high as 27°C. Some wind has been experienced especially towards end of July and the atmosphere has been a little hazy as a result of dust and smoke that is characteristic at this time of year.

VEGETATION CHANGE
The limited rainfall received this past summer is taking its toll now as the vegetation really dries out. The northern and western reaches of our concession beyond the floodwaters are now very arid and all water has dried up, forcing the animals out of the woodland and onto the floodplains. The mopane trees have lost most of their leaves and the Kalahari apple-leaf trees of this woodland are very dry. Acacia species like the knobthorn and camelthorn have also lost their leaves and the grasses are of course withered and dry.

In response elephants have moved out of the woodland and are concentrating on the riverine islands, while other species such as wildebeest, warthog, tsessebe, and sable are starting to also concentrate in the floodplains because of good grass that is growing after the receding water.

OKAVANGO FLOODS
Much of the floodplain area that was temporarily inundated by the waters of the Okavango flood is drying out and by the end of August we are expecting the waters to have receded substantially. The exposed floodplains are currently the most favourable feeding areas for large grazers such as buffalo which are finding the new shoots of grass. These areas are also attracting different kinds of birds and at night time small animals are also foraging along the edge of the receding water.

GAME VIEWING
Sightings are just awesome. Guests are coming back from game drives with lots of joy and huge excitement. Viewing this month has been of elephant and buffalo herds, giraffe, the Kubu lion pride, the Big Red lion pride, some new lions from the Vundumtiki area, sable, genet, porcupine, serval, honey badger, Ground Hornbill, Wattle Crane, Martial Eagle, leopard and spotted hyaena.

Some of the highlights were a sighting of a lion pride successfully pulling down a young buffalo during a morning game drive, a leopard with a porcupine kill, a leopard attempting to pirate a kill from a hyaena, and two leopards viewed over 6 days at Shumba Island with a succession of kills (three! One of which was witnessed).

Elephants are everywhere at this point and very relaxed as well. The cherry on the top though happened a few weeks ago when I had a fantastic sighting of a Pel's Fishing-owl right in camp! The bird was roosting between the staff village and South Camp by the crossing. Towards the end of the month another was seen at Kubu Deck.

What a fabulous month.

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Jacana update - July 07               Jump to Jacana Camps

Another month at Jacana has come and gone. No two months are the same out here on our paradise island in the Okavango Delta. The floods that seemed to have come in so rapidly have ceased, and the water seems to be dropping as fast as it came in.

Boating to and from the island is still possible and the mokoro trips are as popular as ever. The subsiding water is revealing more of the floodplains and attracting many birds. Wattled Cranes, Saddle-billed Storks, Slaty Egrets and Squacco Herons are a common sight. The Fish-eagles are constantly seen and heard around camp. Even the Western Banded Snake-eagle, a rather uncommon raptor, has been seen on the island a number of times. The beautiful Malachite Kingfishers are also very common at the moment, catching fish from the side of the water channels in the shallower water. They are easily seen and photographed from the boats.

Malachite Kingfisher at Jacana

Elephants have been regular visitors to our island. The main attraction: the palm trees on the island. It is quite a sight seeing the elephants stand up to the large palms and giving them a good shake so that the nuts can fall to the ground. They then leisurely pick the nuts up with their trunks and pop them in their mouths. Some of the younger male elephants aren't as skilled as the older more experienced bulls, and tend to head-butt the palms with not as great a success.

Elephant at Jacana

Game viewing has been very good, and our local pride of lion has been around a lot lately. There have also been a number of sightings of a single lioness, with her 2-month-old cub. Definitely the highlight of the month!

July has been a great and memorable month at Jacana. The cold winter nights have been passed sitting around the camp fire with stories of the day's events and sightings, friendships made and memories created.

We hope to see you soon on our tropical island Jacana

The Jacana Team

"Elephants in camp, fishing and watching them. Lions, Hippos, crocs, otters and all kinds of birds. The food was amazing. The whole stay at Jacana was a highlight." - E&BM

"Wonderful hosts and staff - excellent guide July - unbelievable sightings - Especially mother lion with 3-month-old cub - food was well planned and prepared- some of the best meals on out tour - servers were gracious and helpful - Dominique and Clint were responsive to our needs, and delightful, outstanding hosts! Thanks." - J& MN, USA

"Seeing lion with cubs, just being on the water. Mokoro ride, the sunsets over the water. Our last night with the Jacana choir & dancers was sensational." - W&PP, Australia

"Everything! The staff is nice and prepared; the position absolutely amazing and also the tents. Okavango Delta is one of the best parts of Botswana." - A&M, France


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Zimbabwe camps
Ruckomechi Camp update - July 07               Jump to Ruckomechi Camp

Staff
This month has been a busy month here at Ruckomechi and we have all been kept on our toes with lots of interesting and friendly guests and some awesome animals sightings too. Sibs and Kevin have continued to give our visitors more than they bargained for with exciting and informative activities while Bryan and Mathew have happily paddled their way safely downstream every three days on the Mana Canoe Trail.

The camp, led by Caro and Garth and assisted by Lindsay, Shayne and Alistair, has been active and the team cheerful and busy. Sherrie has as always provided a neat and welcoming camp to the weary canoeists at the end of each day on the river, making sure they return to a hot shower and a delicious meal. The staff at Ruckomechi and Mana Canoe Trails continue to put all their efforts into making this camp a place to remember for all our visitors and they strive to create a warm and happy atmosphere for all.

Weather
It would seem that the worst of winter has passed and we have definitely got off lightly this year with temperatures not falling much below 12°C. The nights have been a little chilly and the campfire a welcome respite for our guests after a breezy night drive. Mornings have seen beautiful blue skies and enough wind to clear most of the haze from bush fires away. The Zambian Escarpment towers over the river and provides a majestic backdrop behind which the sun sinks slowly every evening.

Vegetation, Landscape & Zambezi River
The bush has become very dry and most of the waterholes are now patches of hard mud and cracked earth, all the inhabitants having had to move away slowly but surely. There has thus been a marked movement of animals, both large and small, toward the river and the better grazing and food it offers along its banks. The grassy floodplains on either side of the camp are always frequented at any time of the day by large numbers of waterbuck, warthog, impala and elephant.

The albida trees are in full pod now and all manner of creatures are taking advantage of this succulent food source as the pods fall to the ground. The grove of trees within the camp grounds draws in small herds of elephant and these patient creatures mingle with the staff and guests on a regular basis throughout the day.

The river level has remained high all month and the current very strong and fast flowing. Most sandbanks have been submerged more than ever before and the usual weekly fluctuations in the water level have not been as visible as they were earlier in the season.

Wildlife
Animal sightings for July aside from the species such as impala, waterbuck, warthog and hippo that are sighted daily were as follows: lion, leopard, wild dog, honey badger, eland, kudu, elephant, hyaena, buffalo, cheetah, porcupine and zebra.

Leopard have been spotted regularly around the camp surrounds and Shayne was pleasantly surprised one afternoon to have one of these beautiful male cats approach his house and mark its territory against a tree in full sight of him having a rest on his afternoon off. This same leopard has been walking through the camp late at night on most nights and one lucky guest was awake in the early hours of the morning and spotted the cat slink past her bedroom window. On an early morning ramble past the workshop area Alistair followed a drag mark from the river's edge to find a half-eaten baboon up a tree. This unsuspecting creature had obviously been caught from behind while it was drinking from the river and was dragged about 400 metres by the leopard and eaten up a tree behind the staff village. Interestingly, there were signs of a large crocodile having followed the drag mark right up to the base of the tree.

The two lion cubs have been venturing out into the open more often and a regular sight this month was the two of them playing on the top of termite mounds while mom rested in the shade nearby. Towards the end of the month two strange male lions arrived in the area and were seen trying to approach the females with the cubs. This encounter was heralded by a lot of loud growling and snarling from two very apprehensive females who quickly shepherded their cubs off in another direction. That night our two resident "boys" arrived back in the area and saw the interlopers off, reclaiming their place by the ladies' sides.

Shayne's house was once again the sight of action one evening when the two male lions killed and ate an impala right in front of his front door while the guests watched with Sibs from the vehicle not far away.

A snow-white kudu calf has been spotted on a few occasions in our concession of late. It is still suckling from its mother and stands out like a beacon when seen with the herd. This calf may not be a true albino as its eyes are not the distinctive pink indicative of an albino and the condition is more likely one known as leucism which results from a recessive gene. Regardless we fear for its survival with every predator being able to spot it so easily at night.

Hyaena have been more evident than usual and sightings are normally of more than one of these secretive animals at a time. One morning Garth, Lindsay and Caro spotted three of them come down to the mouth of the Ruckomechi River and roll around in the mud and have a long soak in the shallow water there. The three hot creatures quenched their thirst in the muddy water and having covered themselves in the black, sticky mud they then walked off and melted into the long grass again.

An impressive herd of 42 eland have been sighted on the concession. This herd includes a large nursery group and they seem a little shy and seek refuge in the thick riverine vegetation when vehicles come by. A group of bulls have been browsing around the staff houses at night, the distinctive clicking as they walk past heralding their arrival each night. The Mahogany trees are all starting to show a clear eland browse line in the area in front of the camp and around the waterhole.

Birds & Birding
For the month of July a total of 173 bird species were recorded.

We were delighted to see the arrival again this season of the African Skimmer. These are seen flying fast just over the surface of the river while they dip their lower mandible just beneath the surface, cutting a narrow wake and scooping up small fish. When not foraging they are resting on the sandbanks and can be approached quite easily by boat for photographs. We expect them to soon start nesting on these sandbanks.

Caro and Courtney were excited to spot a Pel's Fishing-owl one evening near the Nyakasanga mouth. This tawny-coloured owl is a rare sight and is seen along the river where it feeds mostly on fish, frogs and even young crocodiles. This owl was seen sitting on a high river bank and it flew into the canopy of an Acacia tree when we approached by boat.

Downstream of camp along the Zambezi, Bryan spotted an African Finfoot on a canoe trip along Chikwenya Island. This is again a rare sighting, this bird being an uncommon resident and quite shy.

The birds in the camp grounds have been very active this month. The sound of woodpeckers in the tall trees is not uncommon in the quiet hours of the afternoon: Cardinal, Bearded and Golden-tailed are all present in the camp. Yellow-spotted Nicators are quite common too and can be seen skulking in the low bushes around the living room area most afternoons. The evening song of the Collared Palm-Thrush continues to thrill us and these little birds are becoming so tame they now move around between our chairs at the tea table, unconcerned by the people moving around. A Wattle-eyed Flycatcher pair regularly visits the Mahogany tree above the dining room table and their position can be easily pinpointed by following the clicking sounds they make as they forage in the tree.

Guest comments
"Staff are great - experience was great - we had a blast - thank you all". - B Family

"Kindness and professionalism of everyone here. The approach to the wilderness here perfect, we lived it from the inside" - G&AR

"Good selection of animals and a beautiful location of camp site. Very well equipped huts with lots of charm; all in all - just great." - O&ER

Midway through the season we all look back with pride and laugh at the good memories and the good times everyone has had here. As we get busier we look forward to seeing more and more spectacular animal sightings and having more guests to share it all with. The river flows endlessly and each day brings something new to watch and marvel at.


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Makalolo Plains update - July 07               Jump to Makalolo Camps

Guides: Dickson Dube, Hupu Dube, Lawrence Yohanne, Godfrey Kunze, Raymond Ndlovu.
Hostess: Charmaine Sawyer
Host: Beke Ncube
Management: We would like to welcome Amon Johnson as our new Manager for Makalolo Camp

WEATHER
Winter finally draws to an end, summer officially starts on the 1st of August, but with August there is a chilly wind that sweeps through the camp and keeps us bundled up in the early mornings and evenings. The temperatures during July were warmer than June with the Maximum at 30 degrees Celsius and minimum at 7 degrees Celsius. No rainfall was recorded this month, whereas last month 2nd June there was an unusual shower of 12mm. The mornings and evenings are cool to cold with warm to hot afternoons, guests on morning and late afternoon game drives dress warmly.

VEGETATION, LANDSCAPE AND WATER
The vegetation is now dormant since most trees lose their leaves at this time of the year. The colours of golden yellow to brown with the odd False Mopane still wearing its evergreen leaves give the landscape an unusual beauty. The bush is no longer dense and wildlife can be easily spotted. The game viewing is at its best, with the cool temperatures; open vegetation, and with the only water available in the pumped waterholes, animals are observed easily. Water is a precious commodity in this semi-desert environment; we ensure that all the waterholes in our concession are pumping water 24 hours a day.

WILDLIFE NEWS
Sightings for July were as follows: cheetah, aardwolf, small spotted genet, side-striped jackal, caracal, white rhino, leopard, bat-eared fox, lion, hyaena, eland, roan antelope, sable antelope, buffalo, common duiker elephant, kudu, baboon, giraffe, wildebeest, zebra, waterbuck, warthog, hippo, black-backed jackal.

Elephants, elephants everywhere, Hwange National Park is living up to its name of having the most elephants in Zimbabwe, there are numerous herds that converge at the waterholes to drink, putting pressure on the already depleted supply of water.

Around the camp there have been big herds of buffalo that saunter in, bringing clouds of dust behind them. They are using the camp as a resting place, thus the lions have moved in, creating great excitement as they bring the nights alive with their deep thunderous roars. Many nights have been spent with the sounds of buffalo and lions fighting for ground but as yet no kills have been witnessed.

We had several sightings of the timid caracal around the airstrip this month. Leopards have been a little more common than usual as they have been seen on the Broken Rifle Waterhole platform on two occasions, making the platform their new lookout point.

Four lioness were seen feeding on a sub-adult elephant near Madison waterhole, the lioness were taking turns in guarding the carcass, while the other three rested in the shade. There were hyaena and vultures around all trying to get at the elephant, but the adamant lioness were keeping them at bay. The pride of females was again seen but this time with their cubs feeding on an eland carcass.

12 hyaena were seen feeding on a zebra near Ngweshla Pan; the group overpowered the young zebra and had themselves a lovely meal.

Rhino sightings have improved after the release of five white rhino, which were translocated from Matopos National Park outside Bulawayo. We have even been lucky enough to have seen them right in front of camp at Somavundla Pan which was most definitely the highlight of our month. This just shows that they have settled in, and are adapting rather well to their new surroundings!

BIRDS AND BIRDING
White Pelicans were observed flying over Somavundla Waterhole; they were seen the following day at Little Makalolo Camp waterhole. An African Goshawk caught a dove that had landed on a dead tree in front of camp; the Goshawk's movements were swift and lethal. A Bat Hawk was observed at Ngweshla Pan during a sun downer stop chasing bats; it successfully caught two bats during the 20-minute stop. Their flight is similar to those of bats and it turns fast during flight in pursuit of its prey. A Martial Eagle was seen diving towards the ground and on further observation it had caught a banded mongoose.

A large congregation of vultures were at Little Somavundla for two weeks, attracted by a dead bull elephant which collapsed about 700 metres from the waterhole. There were Marabou Storks, Lappet-faced, White-headed, White-backed and Hooded Vultures. Their smell was powerful, as they congregated at the waterhole. They most definitely had the best of both worlds as after feeding they did not have to venture far to have a drink, a bath and then bask themselves in the warm afternoon sun.

GUEST COMMENTS
"Lions at the eland kill; warmth of the staff; conversations around the fire at night; led to a sense of community. The finest and most luxurious tent we have ever slept in" - KF & TR, USA

"Quality of the game drive area, quality of the service and comfort of the room, quality of the food, all was perfect - beyond expectations!" C&D-MS, France

"Awesome variety and incredible abundance of game, excellent food, service that makes us very proud to be Zimbabwean and a most delightful; polite; hospitable team here at Makalolo, thank you very much" - C Family, Zimbabwe

"Very beautiful place - main area, rooms and view. Adorable people, good game drive - thanks to our guide, perfect food and drinks." - C&CL, France

"We loved it: lodge set-up, guides, staff, meals, and hot water bottles in the bed, outdoor showers" - R Family, USA

Thank you to all our guests for being with us this month

Best wishes from the Makalolo Team!


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South Africa camps
Rocktail Bay Dive Newsletter - July 07                  Jump to Rocktail Bay Lodge

It is that time of the month again when you receive a newsletter from your favourite diving destination. The visibility over the course of the month averaged 12-15m and the sea temperature also remained relatively constant at a refreshing 20-22° Celsius. Overall this month's weather has been very good. We only experienced four days with rain and rough or choppy sea conditions, but the rest of the month delivered good, sunny conditions with one day being particularly spectacular.

On this particular day we had near perfect conditions. The sea looked as if it had the viscosity of oil, barely a ripple over the entire ocean. Before the first dive we spotted some Humpback Whales out to sea and decided to go take a quick look. Our quick look ended up lasting almost 2 hours. We followed the whales as they travelled north and everyone with cameras got some very good footage of the whales as they swam alongside us. Different groups of whales were seen breaching further out to sea and landing on the water with a huge splash. It is truly amazing how they are able to lift that huge mass completely out of the water. After quite some time we decided to try get in the water and maybe catch a glimpse of the whales as they swam past. The whales obliged by circling the snorkellers; both snorkellers and whales enjoyed watching one another. It is truly amazing how these creatures weighing 40 tons and more can glide so effortlessly through the water! These sightings last only seconds, even though it feels like hours, with a swish of their tails they are gone, continuing on their migratory route northwards.

"You promised whales but never did we expect to be snorkelling with them! What an experience, a truly memorable day."
- Derm, Jen and Yan

On this same day we also got the chance to swim with Bottlenose Dolphins; they were hunting garfish, which were frantically jumping out of the water to try and escape the fate that was waiting for them just beneath the surface.

We had quite a few more dolphin encounters this month. During a dive at 'Pineapple' we heard dolphins; some of the divers were already busy doing their safety stop and managed to see them as they swam by. Another dive saw two bottlenoses come in to play during the safety stop - always special to see them on scuba. Near the end of the month we encountered 2 separate groups of Bottlenose Dolphins. These dolphins were playing in the waves, jumping around and they seemed to be having a wonderful time. We got in the water ahead of them and watched as they swam by. One dolphin from the first pod split off from the group and played and twirled around us before rejoining the rest of his mates. We have noticed a humpback dolphin that has joined up with the bottlenose dolphins. It seems as if they have adopted him as we have seen them together over a period of approximately one year now. This month we have seen a good spectrum of the Cetacean family, Humpback Whales, Bottlenose, Humpback and Spinner Dolphins.

There were four different shark encounters during the first half of the month. The first of the encounters was with a Tawny Nurse shark during a dive at 'Gogo's'. Tawny Nurse Sharks grow to approximately two metres long and are often found resting in caves or crevices during the day, as was the case with this one. Darryl noticed the tip of a tail and on closer inspection saw the big shark hidden under the ledge. Good thing he looked or they would have missed this wonderful sighting. 'Gogo's' also produced the other three shark sightings; a Grey Reef Shark and two White Tip Reef Sharks.

Game fish were on the prowl, favouring the north-south current as this is the best one for hunting in. Tuna, Sea Pike (Pick-handle Barracuda), Couta (Spanish/King Mackerel) and Giant Kingfish (Ignoblis) were all seen this month. There has been a huge school of Needle-scaled Queenfish at 'Pineapple Reef'. These fish grow to a length of 50cm and are bright silver with 5-8 small blue spots running down their sides. This shimmering cloud of fish hovers at the northern side of the reef, waiting for titbits to be brought in on the current. Every now and again they become the titbits themselves as they leap out of the water, being chased by bigger predators.

Other creatures on and around the reef have been as plentiful as always. Potato Bass come in to inspect divers regularly, octopus hide away in their holes, Geometric Eels are seen snaking their way amongst the corals, Black-cheek Eels pop out of holes and cheeky Clownfish defend their anemones. We have seen juvenile Batfish, Paperfish, Razor Wrasse, Scorpionfish, Firefish, Slinger, Angelfish and many more this month. Trumpet Fish have been seen in abundance, especially at 'Regal Reef' and 'Coral Alley'. These fish are skilled at camouflaging themselves to blend in with their background. This ability enables them to be very effective predators while they hang motionless among larger fish, searching for potential prey.

Rays are always a favourite sighting for any diver. Winter time usually sees the big rays disappear, leaving the smaller Blue Spotted Rays and Electric Marbled Rays. We were lucky to see a small Black Ribbontail Stingray just before we ended our dive at 'Coachman's Ledge'. The Stingray was lying on the sand and as the divers approached to take photos it lifted up and circled everyone before swimming off across the sand; a great ending to a wonderful dive.

Congratulations to Megan Mackenzie on completing her PADI Open Water Diver certification - wishing you lots more wonderful dives!

And last but certainly not least, congratulations to Pieter and Gerhard for breaking their cycle of bad weather diving! See you again soon!

Yours in diving,

Clive, Darryl, Michelle and Karin

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