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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 DumaTau Camp in
Monthly update from Savuti Camp in
Kwando Safaris game reports
Monthly update from Mombo
Camp in Botswana.
Monthly update from Tubu Tree Camp in
Monthly update from Kwetsani Camp in
Monthly update from Jao
Camp in Botswana.
Monthly update from Little Vumbura in
Monthly update from Vumbura Plains in
Monthly update from Jacana Plains in
Monthly update from Mvuu in
Monthly newsletter from the Mana Canoe Trail in
Monthly update from Ruckomechi Camp in
Monthly update from Little Makalolo Camp in
Monthly update from Pafuri Camp in
Monthly update from Rocktail
Bay in South Africa.
East Winds in the Namib Desert - Part of the natural system in Namibia.
Monthly update from Damaraland Camp in South Africa.
Safaris Updates - June 2007
Private Guiding Update
Privately guided safaris are hugely popular with repeat guests and are a regular feature of Wilderness Safaris itineraries in southern Africa. Botswana sees the majority of privately guided safaris each year, although this is spreading to other countries as well. Gregg Hughes manages this value-add experience from Cape Town and regularly conducts safaris himself.
These are some of the best guides in the business. Earlier this year Dave Luck was inducted into the Natural Habitat Guiding Hall of Fame, a huge honor in itself. Lee Wittam, former guide and manager at DumaTau and Mombo, is another of the Botswana private guides and one who has a shot in the finals of the Shell Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition. Matt Copham recently left Vumbura Plains to take up private guiding and on a recent trip was described by one of the guests as “just totally amazing ... the most stimulating, interesting and genuine guide I have ever experienced.” Grant Atkinson (who took the above photo) is a stalwart of Botswana and spent many years in the Jao Concession. His infectious enthusiasm for nature and dry sense of humor are contagious. Guests recently described Grant as “an exceptional human being and an extraordinarily capable and eminently professional guide.”
Explorations: Changes for 2008
There are several enhancements in the works for Explorations 2008 which aim to streamline our tour offerings to concentrate on key interest areas for guests. This will allow guests the opportunity to add on other lodges or products should they wish to do so. Aside from the exciting new Explorations – Kafue’s Rivers and Plains in Zambia (open this year), and The Parched Kalahari in Botswana (2008), the perfect add-on to the Migration Routes. The Explorations to be discontinued are: The Great Botswana Journey, Untamed Lands, Botswana Namibia Epic and The Great Zambia Journey.
The Great Wilderness Journey will be shortened by one night to run over 10 nights/11 days, with an extra night at Jacana (with land-based activities on the one day) and San Camp being removed. An exciting addition to this Exploration is the “Flight of Angels” air transfer between Kasane and Livingstone over the Victoria Falls! Migration Routes will be extended by one night to run over 9 nights/10 days, spending the extra night at Lechwe Island Camp along the unique Selinda Spillway.
Gary Booth escorted a Desert Rhino and Elephant Expedition (also known as a ‘camel trip’) of 100km from the middle of the Palmwag Concession straight through to the Skeleton Coast at the mouth of the Uniab River finishing with a bottle of champagne on the beach and a chilly dip in the Atlantic! A vehicle went on ahead of the group each day to set up camp, but otherwise the group (including four Save the Rhino Trust Trackers), the 6 camels and 2 dogs (to warn against lions) walked unaided through this vast wilderness.
Birding Weekend at Pafuri
Renowned birder and contributor to Roberts Birds of Southern Africa, Geoff Lockwood, recently hosted Pafuri Camp’s first dedicated birding weekend, and was suitably impressed:
“The Makuleke concession has to be one of the most beautiful and diverse parts of the Kruger National Park and certainly for me one of the highlights of the weekend was the chance that it gave to see new parts of this beautiful region – spectacular baobabs, extensive forests of yellow fever trees (on a scale I have never seen before) and, possibly the highlight for many in the group, the spectacular views looking down into Lanner Gorge.
“The weekend was about birding however and the weekend delivered. A total of 178 bird species was seen by the group – great winter birding in anyone’s book, but what made the weekend such a success was the quality of both birds and sightings. Flocks of firefinches along with their brood parasites –the various indigobirds, were everywhere, decking the trees or feeding along the edges of the roads. As dusk fell on the first evening we came upon the first of several Bronze-winged Coursers for the weekend and almost immediately afterwards a Three-banded Courser with two chicks was spotted close to our vehicle. The Three-banded Courser has only been recorded along the northern border of South Africa and the Pafuri region is one of the few places to see this bird. Both of these courser species are nocturnal, plover-like birds and are not easily-, or often seen and to have such great views set the tone for the rest of the weekend.”
Camp Name Changes
Palmwag Rhino Camp in the Palmwag Concession has had its name changed to Desert Rhino Camp to more accurately reflect its purpose, to differentiate it from the nearby Palmwag Lodge, and to emphasize the unique selling point of the camp – the desert-adapted black rhino, whose stronghold in Namibia (and the world) is in this concession area.
In Botswana, Chitabe Trails Camp has changed its name to Chitabe Lediba Camp. ‘Lediba’ is Setswana for pool or lagoon and is fitting seeing that the camp looks over a natural waterhole/channel.
More rhino for Mombo
Big news from Botswana has been the discovery by Poster Mpho of another newborn white rhino calf near Mombo Camp. This is the second wild born calf for this particular mother (‘Warona’). In general there have been excellent sightings of rhino over the past months, including that of a black rhino, considerably the rarer of the two species. With the support of guests several helicopter game flights were conducted around the Delta as part of the monitoring and two other calves were spotted. This is exciting to all, proving the ongoing success of the project.
Ruckomechi Camp in Mana Pools National Park, Zimbabwe, can now easily be added to a Zambian itinerary, even though it is on the other side of the border! Ruckomechi, accommodating 14 guests in thatched, en-suite chalets, overlooks the Zambezi River with a superb view of the mountains of Africa's Great Rift Valley in the distance. Available now is a wonderful three-night special package at Ruckomechi, which can be added easily to any itinerary using South Luangwa or Kafue National Parks. The package includes accommodation and flights from Lusaka.
Getting to Lunga River Lodge at the end of the rains this year proved challenging to say the least, with a 25-hour long journey from Lusaka – they had to take the long way around through the Copperbelt! Once in camp, however, no time was wasted as the camp was unpacked and set up. There have also been a number of improvements and renovations made to the camp, such as a new boma built on the termite mound behind the swimming pool, and bush pole screens put up in front of donkey boilers by each chalet. One of the most impressive jobs was the preparing of the airstrip… slashing, raking, and slashing again!
As a result of renovations for the 2010 Soccer World Cup, O.R. Tambo (Johannesburg International) Airport is sometimes more cramped for space than usual and the international arrivals hall at peak hours can thus be very crowded. Along with this, airport-employed porters try to secure guests’ business as soon as they enter the hall. This means that guests are sometimes caught up in the swell on arrival and our ‘meet and greet’ staff are not always able to get to them immediately which can lead to delays. If you have guests that are being met by our representatives, please advise them to move past the porters and through to the back of the crowds where they will then be met by our staff. Alternately they can head to the nearby Information counter where they will be helped.
The annual Okavango flood has probably reached its peak levels for the season and in some places is beginning to recede. There is still plenty of water about however. At Little Vumbura the whole of the front section of the jetty became submerged under water, but we managed to make a plan where the vehicles park to enable our guests to get on and off without getting wet. Spurwing Crossing became a real thrill for guests as the Land Rovers went into submarine mode with the water coming over the hood.
/ North Island
North Island Dive Report
- June 07 Jump
The month of May has come and gone and so has the fair weather of the north-east trade winds. The south-east monsoon arrived here and announced itself very clearly by removing around 20 metres of beach from the front area in two days! A very impressive spectacle!
This change of weather and movement of the beach is normal as the winds change direction, become slightly stronger and move the sand from the east to the west side of the island. This also creates changes in the sea life and we have seen Yellowfin Tuna schooling around as well as our first Sailfish caught and released this year.
One of our dive sites called "Sprat City" has started to come alive. This reef is so named because of the amount of Sprats that hatch there during this time of year, making it literally a massive city of Sprats. The Sprats are now starting to hatch and because of the extra food in the water we have the gamefish coming to feed on them. Sightings of schools of Bluefin Kingfish, Tuna, Trevally, Queenfish and lots of others are almost guaranteed for the next few months while this reef plays host to this very visual ecosystem.
A number of very big Green Turtles have been seen again this month. At least one of them is the same giant turtle we saw last month, but we are unsure about the other sightings. We also still have the baby Lemon Sharks hanging around right on the shore-breakers. These juvenile Lemon Sharks are only about a foot long and stay in the shallows away from any bigger animals that would hunt them as prey. We also have a number of Eagle Rays hanging around on the main beach. This month we have seen three or four larger species coming quite close in and jumping into the air before landing with a big splash! This is a great spectacle and gets everyone who sees it very excited.
The reef we found in February named "Treasure Chest" has now been renamed "Brainfreeze" due to its topography and fish life freezing your brain. We have made a few dives there and have been rewarded with sightings of massive schools of Coachmen, Damsels and Fusiliers as well as some very nice hard and soft corals. The reef lies at 20 metres on top and 25 metres on the bottom and also has stingrays, crayfish, plenty of Lionfish and all sorts of reef fish, crustaceans and cephalopods inhabiting this very alive piece of seafloor.
For the month of June we are looking forward to observing and reporting on all the fascinating changes happening under the sea.
Lunga River Lodge
update - June 07 Jump
The combination of an impressive month of game viewing coupled with fine cuisine and ever friendly staff has not surprisingly left many a guest wanting to linger a little longer in Lunga!
June has literally been the month of the elements - water, wind, fire and earth. The water - Lunga River has been as languid and soporific as ever and has induced many an afternoon siesta. The seasonal fires have in places revealed a charred earth and many species usually concealed by the grasses. The smoke that accompanies the fire has resulted in a surreal atmosphere on some days with spectacular sunsets; the frequent but moderate winds have dissipated any lingering smoke and brought with it a diversity of spectacular sightings including wild dogs and other transient species. On average the elements of June have resulted in a concoction of rather chilly mornings and evenings with pleasant days in between.
Although this area has a great diversity of habitats, June has being particularly impressive in terms of sightings with an assortment of animals calling the Lunga area home. The elephants have developed a fondness for the Lunga River Lodge, and have frequently been spotted pruning the vegetation around the chalets.
Apart from the numerous sightings of elephants, some of the many sightings for June have included wild dog, mating leopards, lions, buffalo, hartebeest, sable and roan antelope, eland, civet, large-spotted genet, thick-tailed bushbaby, the retiring caracal and the ubiquitous but no less marvellous puku and impala.
The birding has been exceptional as well. The African Finfoot along the Lunga River have been far more conspicuous than one should hope for and have been making regular appearances for our guests. Some of the other birds that frequented the area included the Western-banded Snake-eagle; Ross's and Schalow's Turaco; Saddle-billed Stork; Wattled Crane; Black-backed Barbet; Arnott's and Sooty Chat to mention but a few of them.
The Lunga Team
Guest comments for the month of June.
"Excellent lodge, a credit to all. The lodge is lovely with a beautiful setting, staff are friendly and helpful and made us welcome. Nothing was missed for our comfort" - UK
"Truly wonderful and a special place to stay at".
"Everything beyond expectation".
"A wonderful life changing trip" - UK
Camp update - June 07 Jump
Who on earth would choose to build a camp in the middle of a practically impenetrable floodplain, surrounded by tsetse fly inhabited Miombo Woodland? Wilderness Safaris of course. I pondered this bizarre reality, while facing the daily challenges of getting supplies, guests and building material along the fast-drying channels where laden mekoro can no longer be poled but must be dragged and pushed through kilometres of mud and wet grass. The African bush, despite its challenges has a way of stimulating introspection, and for all its difficulties, I had to admit that I must be part of this insanity if I was in fact working in such a place. And through it all, the situation of the Busanga swamp as the waters recede reminds you that the real Africa still exists. The hardships make the experience more real, more like the 'old days' when intrepid explorers would venture into the unknown and endure all kinds of trials just for the sake of seeing what was there. Well, it's still like that, only the luxurious accommodation, five star meals and friendly staff help to make it a whole lot more tolerable! And what a place to have such an adventure - in the middle of a paradise where species like roan antelope and lechwe are common sightings and the sunsets are as red as the wings of a Schalow's Turaco!
June certainly brought with it a winter chill and early morning drives often found guests wrapped up in blankets and whatever warm clothing they could find but the days have been pleasant, sometimes even hot and the afternoons perfect.
The waters have been receding fast and sometimes a discernable change can be observed in a single day. Islands are linked by muddy tracks and although vehicles have been moved onto all the islands on which Wilderness Safaris has its camps, these roads quickly become too treacherous to cross. Access to prime game viewing areas has been via mokoro to points where vehicles have been strategically placed.
Kapinga island is bordered by the Lushimba channel to the south and swamp on all other sides making it impossible for any terrestrial animal to gain access to the area without getting its feet wet. Nonetheless as the water level drops, more and more animals are being seen from the island. Elephant have been sighted across the 'bay' from the main lodge area and leopard tracks have been seen in camp on a number of occasions. Towards the end of the month, evidence of hyaenas on the island was increasing and night drives have been quite productive with species like small-spotted genet and white-tailed mongoose being seen. The famous Busanga lions have been spotted to the north-east of the island on game drive in that area and their calls are heard nearly every morning. Further south in the 'treeline' both leopard and cheetah have been seen a number of times and wildebeest, zebra and roan are frequently spotted there together with a plethora of puku.
Birding in the area has been fantastic. One of the highlights must certainly be the Böhm's Bee-eaters which are frequently seen hawking butterflies and other insects in the trees around the lodge entrance. A Fish Eagle with two chicks presented an opportunity for an interesting discussion on 'Cainism' (which doesn't take place in this eagle but is an example of siblicide in other species such as Verreauxs' Eagle) and species like Sooty Chats and Rosy-throated Longclaws have provided a number of visitors with 'lifers'. An African Barred Owlet has made the area around the main lodge its home and is often seen both during the day and at night. Night time is certainly busy on the bird front with Square-tailed and Swamp Nightjars calling regularly. In the early mornings the calls of Grey Crowned Cranes seem to reverberate across the plains and the tail-feather 'drumming' of Ethiopian Snipes can sometimes be heard.
Waterbirds there are in abundance, the most plentiful being Squacco and Rufous-bellied Herons, and Yellow-billed Egrets are as easy to spot as the Wattled Cranes that breed in the swamps.
We watch with excitement as game moves steadily into the plains from the increasingly dry areas further south.
The Kapinga Team
"Not knowing what to expect, our experience here exceeded our imagination and expectations. It was a fantastic opportunity (and privilege) to be together as a family at a very special place with a wonderful friendly staff. Best to all." - JP & LM
Camp update - June 07 Jump
Well, if you thought that May was an exciting month for us all here at Shumba, you will not believe what June has brought us!
Shumba, as some of you may already know, is the Shona word for lion, and very appropriately named if we don't say so ourselves even if for the first couple of days of the month, we didn't have any sightings of these magnificent cats; we did not even hear a sound out of them, until the glorious crisp morning of the 8th of June. Roaring was coming from all sides of the camp, east, west, south and north, and then all of a sudden we spotted him!
A family of our guests were enjoying their early morning breakfast looking out from the main deck, east across to the Lufupa Channel. He was ambling down the eastern side of the Lufupa Chanel, as only a king can do, bellowing his great heart out. We all watched him, in absolute awe, as he stood on top of a termite mound and let out his final thunderous roar, before retiring for the day. What a way to start a day in Africa!
On the 12th and 13th of June there was much excitement, as a two-day spectacle happened before our very eyes.
It all started mid morning on the 12th of June, where Idos and a single guest were out and about on early morning game drive. Idos stumbled upon three lionesses south-east of Busanga Bush Camp. They were looking hungrily at a herd of female puku who were eyeing them right back. Then it all started happening. Using the long grass to their advantage, the lionesses took formation and cornered one of the younger puku. Then, almost in the blink of an eye, they were on the young antelope, and unfortunately for the puku, there was no escape after that. They began feeding intensely, bickering among themselves for the best parts, almost forgetting they were on the same team. Idos and John watched the entire event until the ladies had finished feeding and lay up in the tall grass to rest for the rest of the day. On arrival back at camp, they could not contain his excitement at his morning's sighting.
The next morning, it was Idos again with his eagle eyes that spotted the same three lionesses. It was just after seven o'clock in the morning, when Idos saw a group of White-headed Vultures in the vicinity of where the trio were the previous day. When they got to where they were they found out that they had in fact killed and gorged themselves on another puku during the night. With the lionesses resting after their meal, Idos carried on his game drive.
Later in the morning, Idos went back to check out what the ladies were doing, and found them on the hunt again! They had moved closer to the Hippo Pools, which is about two kilometres from Shumba. Once again using the tall grass for their gain, they went into formation and surrounded another young puku. The puku started alarm-calling, but by this time it was too late, and the lionesses launched themselves at the antelope and took it down on the road. It was a feast fit for queens - queens of the plains - groaning and growling at each other for the tastiest cuts. The guests who were on the vehicle that morning could not believe their eyes or their luck. As you can imagine, with three kills within 24 hours, there was no shortage of conversation at the brunch table that morning.
We had frequent viewing of all types of lions, doing all types of lion things after these happenings. We saw lions mating, we saw lions with cubs, we saw lionesses grooming each other, we saw lionesses walking through camp, and we saw lionesses with cubs walking through camp, but nothing could quite prepare us for the afternoon of the 19th of June.
We spotted the four lionesses walking in the dry grassy area just to the south of tent 2. They were definitely on the prowl, as Idos had seen them on the morning game drive, attempting to hunt, but they were unsuccessful. There was a group of puku sitting just outside tent 1, which the ladies were eyeing out. We then lost sight of the fourth lioness, and the three others made an attempt to try to take down one of the puku, but they failed again. We then thought that nothing was going to come of this, until suddenly we saw the fourth lioness, who had done a semi-circle and was now chasing the small herd of puku through the camp. She chased them under the boardwalk, around the front of the camp, and outside tent 2, right into the claws of her three sisters. In a matter of seconds, they had caught their prize. There was absolute chaos on the boardwalks at Shumba, with guests rushing from one side of the camp to the other trying to see what was happening. Once we had seen where they took the antelope down, Idos pulled the vehicle up, and he took our ecstatic guests out to see them indulging in their well earned afternoon snack. What a thrilling afternoon, who needs siestas when you have nature to watch?
It may seem like it was lions, lions and more lions this month, but these were not the only cats that we had the pleasure of seeing this month. Believe us when we say we are ecstatic to announce our first sighting this season of two male cheetah. It was the 15th of June, late in the afternoon, when we spotted the two brothers just outside Shumba. One of our guests had been in camp for less than an hour, when we heard the radio reporting the sighting of the two males. Without even thinking, he grabbed his camera, and jumped into the vehicle with Idos, and went off to look at one of the rarer cats in Zambia. Although the grass at this time of year is high, he managed to get a great view of the brothers on the prowl. Unfortunately, the light was fading, and so they had to return back to camp, hoping that they would pick them up again the next morning.
And find them they did. This time they were closer to Busanga Bush Camp, and they spent at least an hour following them. They even got an extraordinary glimpse - and exceptional photograph - of one of the cheetah leaping over the water. On the way back to camp, Idos found the remains of a small puku, which the males had killed the night before, so at least we knew that they did not go hungry. We also had irregular sightings of them later in the month, but hopefully, with the grass getting thinner and shorter, they will become easier to spot.
As you may have guessed, with the water drying up rapidly, we were able to get vehicles onto our island at the beginning of the month. At the rate that the water has been disappearing, we have been able to get out further and further on each game drive. On our drives, we have noticed some new arrivals onto the plains, those being some warthogs and blue wildebeest, who have also obviously thought that it is dry enough for them too. Towards the end of the month, a herd of majestic roan antelope also returned to the plains; what a sight! We had been discussing when they were going to return, and then in a matter of days, there they were.
Birding as always, has been a real treat, with the likes of Crowned Cranes, Wattled Cranes and Open-Billed Storks dotting the plains, and soaring over our camp in huge numbers. A major highlight this month was witnessing the hatching of a Blacksmith Plover chick, close to the Hippo Pools. A family of guests who were with Solomon out on game drive that morning came across this uncommon sight. As you can imagine, the new mother hen was screeching and squawking at the large game drive vehicle, but managed to deal with the pressure and let them watch the entire spectacle. We have been past her nest a couple of times since the hatching, and are pleased to report that the little chick is doing very well, and growing day by day.
We have had guests visit us here from all over the world this month, and we thought that we would share some of their comments with you:
"It is a beautiful place. Enjoyed our stay" - F&GH - Tennessee, U.S.A
"A world away from the city, full of birds and lions, with great people to make the time here a joy" - S&SG - Perth, Australia
"After twenty consecutive seasons travelling to southern Africa, this area has the potential to add another new dimension to my lion photography. A wonderful few days and I hope that somehow I will make it back later in the year for some dry-season comparisons. Thanks all!" - PL - Melbourne, Australia
"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 to come. Our heartfelt thanks!" - The W Family - U.S.A
June has exceeded all of our expectations, staff and guests included. If this is how the season is starting we can only imagine what is in store for the next couple of months.
Until next month,
The Shumba Team
update - June 07 Jump
Managers in camp this month have been, Ashleigh, Koki, Vasco, Lawrence and Kago. Rose has also been helping out with management duties. Guides this month have been Mr T, Ban, Oaitse, and Kane with Ant helping out for a few days. Oaitse will be leaving for leave shortly and we have been joined now by Thompson for the next month.
We are so excited to mention that in this past month we managed to complete the Jetty and the DumaTau boma which has been operational for the past two weeks.
The temperatures dropped at the beginning of June and now have really plummeted with the usual seasonal winds also arriving. The average minimum temperature was 7°C, while the average maximum was 27°C. The annual flood from the Kwando/Cuando catchment which is typically later to arrive than that further south in the Okavango has slowly been making its presence felt. We have noticed that the water has been rising in the river and has also crossed the Mopane Bridge and started to move slowly down the Savuti Channel. The area that had dried up above the Mopane Bridge now has water once more and we are hoping that more water will follow into the channel.
Most of the waterholes in the area have dried up and this has resulted in many animals moving towards the river, even the rare ones such as the roan antelope and the buffalo (for this area). We have also noticed an increase of tsessebe, zebra, giraffe, wildebeest and buffalo along the DumaTau floodplain. Elephant are always in very big herds along the river, and there have been many elephant moving in and around the camp itself. The camp has actually been the scene of quite a bit of excitement; we had spectacular sighting of a female leopard (Zib female cub) that killed a large spotted genet behind the guest toilet! We also regularly have warthog enjoying the benefits of the bird bath!
The two waterholes in the upper Savuti Channel, Rock Pan and Dish Pan, have had great game viewing of late, with many great sightings of huge herds of elephant drinking, mud bathing and sand dusting; fantastic sunset scenes of giraffe and zebra all coming to drink. With most animals moving toward the river we have noticed that the predators have also moved towards the same area. For the past two weeks the Savuti lion pride have been seen at Livingstone Hide and the Chobe One area next to the river. The pride has successfully managed to kill and feed on zebra, and the two male lions, the Savuti Boys, have also lately been seen with the rest of the pride. There have been many leopard sightings along the riverine strip adjacent to the floodplain.
There was a tense moment in the area when our guides noticed that one of the wild dogs (DumaTau Pack) was seriously injured and had a sharp piece of wood stuck in its front leg. The good news is that they have been sighted recently and the leg has healed very nicely. This was not the only good news - the dogs were seen on game drive but the pack was not complete. We know they had been mating a while back, so we decided to go and check the old den sight. The remaining dogs were there except the alpha female. We believe she was in the den, hopefully with her new puppies. Watch this space for more news on that! There have been some interesting scenes involving this pack; the wild dogs chased an impala into the water in front of camp into the waiting jaws of a crocodile! The pack moved on, while the crocodile defended the kills from the attentions of a local hippo pod: This all happened next to the new DumaTau jetty. The wild dogs carried on through camp and they killed a female impala in front of the staff village.
The Savuti Channel has also had great game viewing moments, with the Savuti pride killing a warthog and its piglets; warthogs mating, two male cheetah (Savuti Boys) killing an ostrich, hyaena with a young zebra kill and two leopards mating.
Birds & birding
Along the floodplain there has been some great bird life, even some of the endangered birds such as the Ground Hornbill, Wattled Crane and Kori Bustard. It was quite interesting to hear from one of the guides (Grant A) that he saw twelve Wattled Cranes along the floodplain. We have had Ground Hornbills passing through the front of the camp, as well as Fish Eagles catching fish from the river right in front of the camp. Our visitors (Bradfield's Hornbill, Crested Barbet and Starlings) in camp have never stopped coming in for brunch and tea; this has been a great photographic opportunity for most of our guests.
"Your wonderful staff."
"Watching male hippo battle in the water, while a variety of other animals came down to drink."
"Brandon/leopards mating, also the staff was. Ash and Kago were great! Terrific sunrise."
"Cheetah eating prey, and the interaction of hyaenas and other animals."
"Interaction between species at waterhole, also seeing the leopards was very special."
"Tough choice! Amazing accommodation, loved our rides with Ban. Excellent food, one of the best trips we have ever had."
"We saw so many animals; it is hard to have a favourite. The sunsets were fantastic. The food was great, we loved our guide Oats. All staff members were wonderful."
"Roar of the lion at DumaTau."
"Mr T as our guide was the highlight. His knowledge, skill, and wonderful stories will stay with us. We saw so many animals than we had imagined possible."
To everybody out there - Best wishes from all of us here at DumaTau Camp!
The DumaTau Team
Camp update - June 07 Jump
In June we bade a sad farewell to long-serving Linyanti stalwarts Malcolm and Jacqui. This has of course not affected the enthusiasm of the Savuti team to offer our guests probably the best experience of their trip? no bragging of course, it's what they tell us!
The weather is cold and our guests normally look like they are going on safari in the Antarctic when they set off for early morning drives.
Game has been awesome, with the 'usual' wild dog kill in front of the camp, the three males of the Savuti pride roaring at our waterhole from 3 to 6 in the morning and not to forget the constant traffic of elephant mirroring human actions: such as the courage to stand up to the schoolyard bully or to turn and walk or run away, youngsters being able to get away with actions the older relatives would be punished for, and of course the mothers caring for the calves. It all happens at the waterhole as the elephant compete for the fresh water available there. It really is a lesson in life to watch these magnificent creatures interact with each other.
There has been an endless stream of other animals arriving as well, zebra in particular. They make the long march down the channel only to be blocked from drinking by the elephant herds dominating the waterhole. We have had a group of no less than ten honey badgers who come into the camp in the evenings, chattering to themselves, or more like arguing with each other as they forage amongst the dead logs occasionally looking up to see one of us on the walkway and stopping to consider us for a few moments before waddling onward.
Our guests have been treated to generous sightings and photographic opportunities of our 3-metre black mamba which has recently emerged from his anthill home next to the office. A generally pleasant fellow who has been with us for over five years, he allows us humans to take some photographs before slithering off in search of sunlight warmth in these winter months.
The sighting of the month has to be the sad loss of a female cheetah who died next to the Rock Pan waterhole surrounded by hundreds of zebra and elephants. Our guests had watched her for two days lying under a bush hardly able to get up, eventually summoning the courage to try and get to the water.
After her death, our guests watched as hyaena initially tried to take the carcass but were warded off by two leopards who in turn were sent packing by a couple of jackals, who were sent scurrying by the elephants before they returned and had a meal. Yes, it's all on film!
That's about it for June, speak to you in July.
Camps Update - June 07
Lagoon camp Jump
• A coalition of four young male lions seems to have settled in the area. They were followed on numerous occasions whilst hunting buffalo. They only managed to kill one baby buffalo but managed to kill three baby elephant in the duration of their stay.
• Leopard sightings were a little less frequent during this month compared to last month. This might be because of the lions being very active in the area. The game drives did manage to locate a female leopard though and she was very relaxed and created good photo opportunities for the guests.
• The two cheetah brothers made their monthly appearance in the Lagoon area as usual. They were seen on numerous occasions resting and moving through the area. Towards the end of the month they started moving south towards Lebala.
• The Lagoon pack of 6 dogs have now well and truly settled in to their den site close to the Lagoon airstrip. There were lots of speculation about the number of pups that were born but everyone had to wait until about two weeks ago when finally the Alpha female showed all of her nine healthy pups to the world. Since then there have been daily sightings of the adult dogs and pups. All of a sudden it was noticed that the dogs had started to hunt twice a day instead of their normal once a day routine. This was because they had to start feeding the now very fast growing pups as well. The dogs were seen regurgitating so that the pups could feed. A very interesting altercation between the adult dogs and a rather large crocodile was noted, when the crocodile came a little to close to the den to the dogs liking. The dogs were seen jumping on to the crocodile and biting him until he rushed back in to the water, not without a few snaps at them.
• Six hyena were seen at one of the elephant kills. They kept their distance though as the four male lions were still feeding on the kill. Hippo’s, were seen grazing on the plains almost every night. Both species of jackal were also common sightings throughout the month.
• 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, with the four male lions never very far behind them.
• 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.
• A rare sighting of a caracal was reported on one of the morning drives. Honey badger banded and dwarf mongoose as well as genet and African wildcat were also seen on some of the drives.
• The highlight of this months birding must have been the sighting of a Goliath heron that got into a fight with a fish eagle. The contest was declared a draw, with no serious injuries being reported. The cold weather made for no snake sightings but martial eagle and ostrich were seen.
• One group of guests were glad of their seat belts, when their vehicle came to an abrupt stop in front of a very large puff adder on the road.
Kwara & Little Kwara camps Jump
& Little Kwara camps
• Lion sightings were incredible during this month. Two nomadic male lions managed to kill a buffalo calf near Peter’s crossing. The buffalo herd retaliated when they heard the calf’s distress calls and one of the male lions got his flank ripped open by some of the buffalo bulls. A very old male lion was also seen following one of the buffalo herds and he managed to kill a young buffalo after a couple of days. A new pride consisting of four lionesses, one sub adult male and two big males got into a huge territorial fight with the Kwara pride – also known as the one eyed pride. The Kwara pride won the fight and luckily there were no serious injuries. The other pride is still hanging around the area though, so more action can be anticipated.
• A new face appeared on the Leopard scene at Kwara. A young female was seen and followed on numerous occasions. She is very relaxed and in good condition. She was seen feeding on a unusual pink backed pelican kill and again found later in the month, when the game drives followed a lion on a night drive. The lion walked underneath the tree where she was resting. She looked terrified but the lion did not see her up in the tree. The well-known leopard cub and mother were also seen on a regular basis. The cub now accompanies its mother on all her hunts, as she is busy teaching the cub how to hunt.
• The female cheetah and her three 11-month-old cubs were seen twice. They were being watched when she managed to kill a young kudu and on another occasion when she managed to kill an impala. The three brothers were only spotted once earlier on in the month.
• A small pack, consisting of two wild dogs spent some time resting between Kwara and Little Kwara camps. They looked hungry and were only seen once before the disappeared.
• Only a small number of bachelor herds and some 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.
• Huge herds of buffalo, some of the herds had up to 2000 animals big have been visiting the area. These herds are coming out of the mopane woodlands where all the waterholes are now dry.
• 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. Pink-backed and white pelicans were seen as well as saddle billed storks and sacred ibises. A spectacular sighting were recorded when about 300 pink backed pelicans decided to come and fish in the Kwara lagoon in front of the camp. Fish eagles and marabou storks were also common sightings. Some night adders were also seen in the camps.
Lebala camp Jump
• Lion sightings have been very good throughout the month. A single lioness was seen regularly following the buffalo herds. She was unfortunately not successful in her hunting attempts. Two big males appeared on the scene and also started following the buffalo herds. They met up with the single female and started mating with her. The mating lasted for three days. The four young males from the Lagoon area were also seen hunting buffalo at John’s pan, which is situated halfway between Lebala and Lagoon. They were followed on one of their hunts by the game drives and one of the males was seen successfully bringing down and killing a two month old buffalo calf.
• Leopard sightings were again very good with four different leopards being sighted throughout the month. One female was seen hunting springhare at Twin pools whilst another female was also seen hunting in the area. A young male was seen playing in the mopane woodland and a big male was seen resting near wild dog pan.
• The two cheetah brothers put in their normal appearance during the month and were followed on numerous occasions. They were seen hunting a warthog but did not manage to make the kill. An unknown female was found resting at twin pools as well.
• 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. Two guests enjoying a drink around the campfire with the camp manager were witness to a very special moment, when an eight-month-old elephant calf decided to come and visit the camp on his own one evening. He casually strolled past the coffee station and into the lounge. After looking around in the lounge he made his way into the drinks storeroom and then back to the fireplace. He got so comfortable that he took the camp managers hand and put it in to his mouth. They eventually persuaded him to move out towards the open area behind the camp, but not before he took a chair from the managers hand and played with it. He disappeared into the dark and after a while a breeding herd came past and took him with them.
• 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.
• The hyena den near Nari pan is still very active and regular sightings of the young and adult hyena have been reported. 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.
• Night sightings were fantastic with two aardvarks 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. A puff adder was located in camp when the guides went to investigate a francolin alarm call. A black mamba as well as an African rock python was seen on the drives.
Camp update - June 07 Jump
Writing this by the watery light of a full moon, with the rhythmic sloshing sounds of hippo rippling through the still night air, it is not difficult to believe in magic. And Mombo is one place where the stream of magic runs deep and fast, and touches every aspect of life.
It's been an incredible month, so enjoyable that it seems to have simply flown past, and so memorable that we will be recalling it fondly for years to come. Old friends returning and erstwhile strangers becoming new friends. The middle of winter here, with the solstice just past, but as yet no sign that the days are growing any longer. A mild winter on the whole, but with occasional cold fronts swirling icily out of South Africa to remind us of winters past.
June began strangely with a terrific electrical storm rolling in just as we sat down to dinner one evening. The flames of candles and paraffin lanterns were augmented by the blue fire of lightning forking down out of the black velvet night, and the roar of lions was hushed temporarily by the rumble of thunder. Remarkably, we even felt a few drops of rain. This spectacular, freakish overture heralded the start of a remarkable month. We are often asked when the best time of year to visit Mombo is, but the only truthful answer is that there is no bad time. That said it would be hard to find a time when Mombo is more beautiful than now.
The flood is very high this year, almost up to the steps which lead down from the raised decks of Camp? steps which lead the eyes and the imagination out into the bush and into the realm of sorcery. The vista from Camp is stunning: African Jacanas striding and squawking amongst the white champagne flutes of the day lilies, and Pygmy Geese beating out a nervous tattoo as they burst into flight. White-faced Ducks and a solitary, gangly, Goliath Heron keep watch, the heron's massive dagger peak poised to stab at any fish which swims too close.
Early in the morning, the crusty old buffalo bulls creak to their knees and emerge from underneath the tents, to wade out in search of the sweetest grass; by night, while they chew the cud, the hippo cut wide swathes through the water plants and we can trace their wanderings at dawn, as the rising sun tints each skein of clear water with molten gold.
Breakfast is very often interrupted by the roar of lions rolling over the floodplains, the incredible explosion of sound breaking over the thatched roof of the main area like waves on a shore. All of which means that breakfast can be a rushed or even abandoned affair - there's just too much going on out there to miss!
The impressive males, whose matted, almost dreadlocked manes earned them the nickname Bob Marley and the Wailers, have been again seen to the south of Camp, close to the swollen Simbira Channel, and it is almost certainly them we have heard calling.
The agitated coughs of the vervet monkeys snap like twigs in the tree tops as their sharp eyes detect a movement along the water's edge - a serval, one of our smaller predators and one that is rarely seen. Through long years of painful experience, monkeys are wary of any spotted cat, although this one was more interested in frogs and mice. Servals are more usually seen at night, when they occasionally cross the beams of our flashlights along with other nocturnal marvels such as porcupines and genets.
The last grunts and roars of the impala rut are echoing out and fading amongst the rain trees now, and the sleek lines of the females will soon start to swell with new life. The hyaenas have beaten them to it, with the dusty ground around their den playing host to a new brood of irrepressibly mischievous and curious cubs. As they get older, the first spots start to show through their initially black fur, and their personalities also start to become apparent - as well as their fondness for chewing the rubber parts of game drive vehicles.
In fact the hyaena cubs seem even more delighted than we are with our fleet of new Land Rovers, the latest incarnation of our bespoke game-viewers, with several improvements gleaned from our years of safari experience - not least the extra storage space for digital cameras, binoculars and other paraphernalia.
Meanwhile Mombo continues to be a place of plenty - plenty of lions. Two of our resident prides number over 20 individuals, with the cubs of both the Moporota and Mathatha prides now of a size where they can start to participate in - and all too often spoil - hunts. Before the hunt though, pride bonds must be renewed and forged still stronger, tawny heads rubbing together and killer paws touched for a moment with tenderness as they greet each other - a pause for killers, a respite for their prey - and then the hunt begins in earnest.
Experienced lionesses fan out through the leonine grass, stealing stealthily away to set an ambush. Others creep forward, quivering with excitement and anticipation, the scent of life in their nostrils. An agonisingly slow waltz, graceful yet deadly in intent, and a long line of zebra and wildebeest warily walking down to water. At the last moment a swirl in the air, a twinge of uneasiness, and the hee-hawing of a distressed zebra starts everyone to flight. Hooves drum on the dry savannah, and the lionesses ruefully watch the flight, still retaining their dignity and the seamless teamwork that will bring success the next time.
A very special lady was seen back at Mombo this month, in the graceful form of Legadima, the young female leopard who was the star of 'Eye of the Leopard', the National Geographic documentary filmed over three years in and out of the Acacia trees of islands close to Mombo.
Her story is one of survival, but the disappearance of her own mother, the Tortillis Female, shows that even for such wily characters as leopards, each day must be snatched from the unforgiving jaws of the bush. Tragically, Legadima's own two cubs, born earlier this year, have also disappeared, their young lives most probably snuffed out by a hyaena or by baboons trying to protect their own offspring from a new generation of their deadly foe.
The loss of her cubs seems to have brought Legadima into oestrus again, but as yet she has been unable to find a mate. In the course of one incredible morning, guests on a game drive watched her kill a bird, a squirrel (her favourite prey when she was growing up) and then attack a side-striped jackal. She pinned the unfortunate jackal down and began plucking mouthfuls of fur from it, leaving one flank red raw. After a while she lost interest, and stalked away. The jackal, which had been playing possum, took its chance and staggered grotesquely to its feet before hobbling away. In a flash, Legadima had pounced again, this time finally dispatching the hapless jackal with a crushing bite to the neck.
However, not even leopards have everything their own way, and just a few days ago we watched as Legadima had to surrender a freshly-killed impala to a hyaena far larger than she. The impala was too heavy to be cached in a tree, and the commotion caused by the kill attracted the powerful hyaena to the scene. Legadima then had to suffer the indignity of watching her hard-won meal being devoured before her eyes.
It is often very hard to predict who will come out on top in encounters between different species, and a curious incident involving our reintroduced rhino illustrates this. Two black-maned male lions following a female had their planned romantic interlude rudely interrupted when they strayed too close to a gazing group of white rhino. Valentine, our first male calf, who was discovered in mid-February 2005 (hence the name) and buoyed by the support of his mother, Bogale, and several other rhino, gave chase, and his assertiveness won the day.
We strongly believe (from spoor evidence) that we currently have two new rhino calves on Chief's Island, but with many areas currently inaccessible due to the flood, we have not yet been able to confirm this with sightings. The flood does however give many of our game drive roads valuable time to recuperate, and increases game concentrations by reducing the amount of land available to many species.
The ghosts of the Steroid Boys, legendary Mombo cheetah who both died in the summer of 2006/7 still stalk the open plains, and it seems that their feats may soon be repeated by a new coalition of two brothers which we have been seeing quite regularly this month. The loss of the Steroid Boys was a very bitter pill to swallow, but the emergence of their successors gives us new hope for this rarest and most elusive of Delta cats.
They have already been delighting guests with some fantastic sightings, whether reclining on termite mounds to scan the savannah, or racing pell-mell after a zebra foal which they tripped and killed right in front of one of our game drive vehicles, the swirling dust settling on permanently-stilled stripes, and heaving polka-dot flanks as the cheetah fought to regain their breath so that they could begin eating.
We also have to control our excitement before we can eat, not least when brunch is a picnic at tables set beneath the soaring arches of Acacias, the vaulted nave of a vast arboreal cathedral. A wickedly hot potjie pot of curry simmers on the fire, with the chocolate sauce for the crepes bubbling alongside it. Our executive chef, Simon, grew up in Durban in South Africa, and his love of his home region is very evident in the Natal heat he brings to many of the dishes he creates - the warmth of Africa spiced with the exotic flavours of lands further east - all of which helps combat the winter chills.
Even more so, it is the wide-smiling hospitality of the people of Botswana that will dispel any traces of winter, whether they are singing a traditional song of welcome as you arrive on your magic carpet (oh, alright then, Land Rover) into Camp, or pouring you the perfect gin and tonic to wash away the dust of the day - or simply ensuring in everything they do that it is the human warmth of this magical place which will linger the longest of all your safari memories.
With warm regards from your June team at Mombo and Little Mombo: Taps, One, Pete and Sharon, Simon, Eva, Lenny, Tsile, Noko and Sandra.
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