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Safaris News -
Info and updates from Wilderness Safaris.
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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
Page 2 Updates
Monthly update from Tubu Tree Camp in
Monthly update from Kwetsani Camp in
Monthly update from Jao Camp in
Monthly update from 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.
Tree Camp update - June 07 Jump
to Tubu Tree
The month of June has seen water levels dropping, exposing a totally new dimension of this ever-changing landscape. The animals' interaction with the newly exposed land has been observed with interest by all. New movement patterns of animals on the floodplain in front of the camp made sure that no day is the same as the previous one, and as the roads became more and more accessible, reports from guides and guests alike have told the story of the rich life cycle of this piece of the Okavango Delta.
The colder weather has resulted in enthusiastic visitors tucked in warmly on game viewers with the roofs now removed. Having risen while it was still dark, and leaving camp after a hot early morning beverage, with cameras all set and ready, they braved the elements to come back delighted with lots of stories about what they had seen and experienced. Those that opted on occasion to stay in camp during the early morning or late afternoon activities, were also rewarded with the peacefulness of the area surrounding the camp, and the richness of wildlife in the immediate vicinity, if you are willing to be patient and allow the "National Geographic Channel" to unfold as a live show all around you.
The front deck of the camp, which we refer to as "the best safari vehicle" in the Delta, never failed to deliver what is expected of it. On a particular day our guests, while having their afternoon snack at 16h00, were able to observe how a leopard plucked his evening meal from a herd of antelope right in front of camp. Everybody, including the staff, was able to watch as this wonder played out right in front of our home!
Our pathways between the tents and the main camp area, which are on the ground and not elevated as with most other camps, told the story every morning of how closely we interact with the permanent inhabitants of this area. Elephant, hyaena, lion and leopard tracks are often seen in the soft sand of the pathways, which are shared by them, visitors and staff alike.
With the fruits of the Ilala palms ripening, another now familiar sound has gradually become part of our lives: the load, rhythmic rustling of a huge palm tree being shaken by an elephant to make the fruit fall for him to feast on! The awesome power of these animals never fails to impress those that are privileged enough to experience this wonder. The spin-off of this behaviour of the elephants favours the baboons, which are never far away and are saved the effort of climbing the palm trees themselves for their share of the richness!
The "little" members of the animal kingdom have amused us all along. Monkeys, honey badgers, squirrels and geckos are ever-present to entertain us as we move around camp. The babblers, francolins and other birds make sure that there is not a quiet moment in this wonderland! We hope that the picture painted here holds good memories for those that have visited before, and to the rest of you out there reading this - hope to see you soon!
Tubu Greeting from Christo, Alene and the rest of the staff.
update - June 07 Jump
to Kwetsani Camp
Winter has arrived with a vengeance this year, with temperatures dropping fast and furiously. The mornings and evenings getting to a chilly 2°C (34F), and during the day reaching a pleasant 20°C (70F). The wind has also arrived 2 months early this year, with a wind chill factor, which makes cold days pretty harsh. The flood has passed its peak and is on the decline.
June was a month of amazing variety of nationalities and cultures, from Costa Rica to China, visiting Kwetsani. With all the different cultures, the Monday night traditional dinner has been very enjoyable especially in the showcasing of different dancing styles. The guests that stood out the most during the course of the month however were a couple who to date have spent no less than 112 nights with Wilderness Safaris over the years. We look forward to having you back with us for at least another 100!
Sunrise is so late during winter months that guests are normally out and about when this happens. Sunsets are still a winner with our guests who enjoy amazing afternoon mekoro, while boat cruises are also a big favourite. The days have been really pleasant, and bush brunches have added to everyone's adventure here in Africa. Allowing us to eat "out" and enjoying the perfect nature of our paradise!
With the lions and leopards, we have almost had more sightings this month than red lechwe; it has been a feline frenzy. We have had great lion and leopard kills in and around camp. On the morning of the 21st during brunch, all was disrupted. Two lionesses were stalking a group of lechwe 100m from our deck. During this time a family of warthog casually strolled passed. The two lioness took this opportunity and the lechwe were left to live another day; the poor warthog however was ambushed and killed.
The mother warthog tried to no avail to rescue the young warthog, but eventually retreated. The two lionesses and their two cubs devoured the warthog within twenty minutes before falling asleep under room number 4. Not even five minutes later the camp was invaded by two massive bull elephant, crashing through camp, pushing over trees and eating their quota of 120kg for the day. This kind of elephant visit happened again on the 27th while new guests where arriving in camp, what a welcome!
Leopard sightings are running in a close second to lion sightings this month. Our Kwetsani male leopard was seen walking along the road past the swimming pool with no worries in the world. Hunda Island also produced many amazing sightings. The best sighting to date at Hunda was a family of three leopards. They had just made a kill, dragging it up a tree and had to defend their kill from the scavenging hyaena. Guests spent half a day watching this battle - it was a tie, as the leopards got half the carcass up the tree and the hungry hyaena got away with the other half!
This month has passed all our expectations for animal sightings. The bushbuck fawns have made their appearance, coming out of hiding since birth. One guest had the pleasure of a very rare sighting; they had the opportunity of seeing an aardvark under room number 4. With the water being so high, their holes are full of water and they look for dry areas to sleep. The aardvark is a nocturnal feeder; there are only a handful of people that get the chance to see this mammal. Another amazing phenomenon has been occurring during the night - the catfish have started running. The catfish run normally only occurs in October, when the catfish by the hundreds move along in a feeding frenzy in the main stream catching small fish in the water between the reeds and hippo grass, the sound is deafening with the popping and slapping on the water.
The elephants have also started moving, with massive breeding herds, pacing through Kwetsani. Both big and small can be seen on the move and of course the babies are everyone's favourite: A breeding herd of no less than 80 joined us and guests were kept busy for 2 hours photographing them moving from room 1 to room 6.
With warm wishes from chilly Kwetsani. Thanking everyone that visited this month, it was wonderful. Hope you all had a safe journey back home and are in the process of planning your next trip this way. To all heading this way we are looking forward to meeting you.
Lastly from the Kwetsani Team, best wishes to Laura (Operations Manager) on your new adventure, we wish you and your family all the best and don't forget us!
Jao Camp update
- June 07 Jump
to Jao Camp
The month of June welcomed in the cold and kept everyone wrapped up in layers of woollies. Tea and coffee orders were reminiscent of local Italian cafés on a busy Sunday afternoon; mugs wrapped in cold hands seeking the warmth. The 1st of the month started off with a tremendous wind storm meagrely sprinkled with rain. These winds picked up occasionally over the month to stoke the ice-cubes but nonetheless all are in high spirits with their impressive Delta experiences. Temperatures averaged at about 13-22°C, and on warm days reached 27-29°C.
The floods have been receding slowly but our channels are still providing the opportunity to get out on the motor boats and cruise through the tall papyrus and past hippo pools. The Jao Island is still awash with the floodwaters which is accommodating many wonderful birds and their intriguing behaviour. A male and a female Saddle-billed Stork have found a new home in the centre of the island, treading majestically through the dampness. We have also been seeing Malachite and Pied Kingfishes and, unusually, Brown-hooded and Striped Kingfishers on the island swooping down on the pools for meals.
The felines have been performing spectacularly for our guests this month. A surprise sighting of a serval delighted onlookers as it pounced through the tall grasses. An African wildcat was seen on Hunda Island contradicting its nocturnal reputation by posing briefly for excited spectators in the daylight. Closer to home the new lion pride that has moved into the area from the north - two females, one sub-adult male and one female cub - has been viewed over the floodplains and by the Jao airstrip, wowing guests as they come in for landing.
Our floodplain lions have been hunting red lechwe which spend most of their day feeding in the shallow waters of the plains. This makes for dramatic chases splashing and pounding through the aqueous terrain. Freddy and Vee, our local male lions, have been lingering behind the hunting females, waiting for their meal. The leopards, however, have been taking the cake. During trips to the Hunda Island guides have presented their guests with a spectacle of rosettes and whiskers as a mother and her two adult offspring fed on a red lechwe in a tree. Guests reported their guide was shaking with excitement!
A young male leopard has been strutting his spots for our guests as well, often popping up unexpectedly to peruse his territory.
Unfortunately our resident female leopard and her two cubs have not been seen for the last couple of weeks which brings about doubts of the cubs' wellbeing. Fingers crossed that they have found a safe hide-out for a few months until they have gained some more experience to battle the ruthless life in the Delta.
Spotted hyaenas and honey badgers have rounded out the predator viewing.
Some comments from our guests:
"Lovely birds and animals, good hospitality by fine staff members. Gave us unforgettable memories." - S&SN, Japan
"A fine camp. Thank you for the good time you gave us and for putting up with those crazy bunch of Dutchness" - GV & company, The Netherlands
"What a marvellous experience! This was a magical place for our honeymoon! We will remember our stay forever. Thank you to everyone" - S&NP, USA
"Gorgeous place. Great staff. Great leopard! We hope to come back one day. Keep us the great work" - the M family, USA
"Thanks to the staff. It was wonderful" - AS, Switzerland
Thank you to all of our wonderful guests who entertained us throughout the month of June. We look forward to meeting many more people who share our passion for Africa and its beauty. This paradise has so much to offer anyone who is willing to see it.
Kindest regards from all of us at Jao.
See you soon!
update - June 07 Jump
to Little Vumbura Camp
The last 3 monthly reports have started along the same theme, and last month was no different - "what strange weather we are having?" June is known to be one of the colder months of the year with temperatures well down to a minimum 6°C. June 2007 will be remembered for the wind, clouds and very cold mornings. Sure we had some cold days, but nothing we aren't used to. The weather certainly didn't scare any of the guests or animals away. June 28th marked the official start of winter in the Vumbura area.
On the game viewing side it has been a very good month although the water level is higher compared to what it was last year. The game has simply moved to the higher lying ground to the north of camp. The resident pride of lion, namely the Kubu Pride, was seen on several occasions and the highlight was during the middle of the month when guest witnessed them trying to bring down a buffalo.
Besides this type of high profile sighting, the general game was also abundant in the concession; sable, kudu, impala, and elephant to mention a few were seen almost everyday during game drives. As June is our winter month and the temperatures were low, the local hippo population has been spending far more time out of the water during daylight hours. The most reliable individual was a single male at Mbishi Bridge where he resided for about a week. Every guest en route to or from the airstrip was treated to his antics either in the water or out. The Little Vumbura bull elephants were back on the island again and again walked on the new board walk. This low decking did not always take their full weight and on many occasions the walk way was broken. We replaced the planks thinking that these bulls had left the island only to realize the next morning that they were still there. Back to square one ?
On the staff side it was sad to say goodbye to Rohan. He has been the back bone of Little Vumbura team for the past three years but has finally left us for the UK where he will join his fiancé. All the staff were in tears during his farewell party - testament to the impact he made here. Anyway we wish him all the best and leave the door wide open for him hoping that he will return one of these days. On that note we all would like to say welcome to Lawrence who has joined the Little Vumbura management team from DumaTau in the Linyanti. Lawrence joins Darley and Molly in the Little Vumbura management team, with, Uno, another new addition, joining us in mid-July.
Little Vumbura Team
update - June 07 Jump
to Vumbura Camps
June is that time of the year when the early morning air is crisp and chilly and the trees are almost bare. The grass is dying down to a golden yellow, except for the distinct lines of green that signify the edges of the annual floodwaters. The pans in the northern woodland areas are starting to dry up. With the loss of these sources of water, elephants and buffalo are moving south to the fresh clear waters of the Okavango Delta where the annual floodwaters have been extremely high and have been inundating floodplains that have not seen water for a number of years.
Small herds of buffalo are now joining to form larger herds in an attempt gain some form of protection against the constant onslaught of the Kubu Pride. This pride (consisting of 2 dominant males, 3 females 4 adolescent males and 1 cub) have for the past seven months been surviving on various antelope, now have new prey, the Cape buffalo. On numerous occasions, guests have been witness to battles of success and failure, seeing at close hand the stealthy teamwork of hungry lions stalking their prey and defiant buffalo manoeuvring into defensive positions with old males on the outside, calves in the middle.
The Kubu Pride has also been spending some time east of the camp, an area that has been inhabited by Scar Face and his brother, two male lions. They have had some successful hunting in this area and have been seen taking down buffalo and giraffe. Hunting in this area has been risky with the two males around and has made for some interesting interaction between the two prides.
Almost on a daily basis a breeding herd of elephants have being frequenting the camp, and have become totally comfortable with our presence. They have been enjoyed by guests at tea time and in the comfort of their rooms, with a newborn of two weeks old providing the most entertainment.
We are fortunate to have a number of cheetah in the area at the moment and sightings of these graceful cats interacting have left all guests with wonderful memories. One of the most amazing sightings was of a leopard stalking a cheetah. The cheetah stood its ground against the leopard with lots of hissing.
Sable antelope have been roaming in the concession and have been spotted on many a game drive.
All in all it has been a great month with, 4 cheetah sightings, 22 lion sightings, 13 leopard sightings and 10 sightings involving these species feeding on kills. Some of the more unique sightings have been of rare or seldom seen species such as honey badger, porcupine, caracal and African wildcat.
Some guest comments:
"What a fabulous place! I loved it! I hope to come back some day. Thanks for a beautiful experience! "
"Do we really have to leave? Memories for a life time! "
"Absolutely fabulous! The memories will last forever! Thank you!"
Jacana update - June 07 Jump
to Jacana Camps
Hello to all, from our little paradise.
To start with, the days have been sunny but with a few windy cold mornings. However, we have had so many highlights, that we haven't worried about winter. The beautiful sunrises and sunsets in this awesome water-surrounded camp are something to behold. With the abundance of bird life and the fantastic sounds of the African Fish-eagles that awaken you like clockwork each morning, it is still hard to believe that this paradise is our office - what a way to start your day. We enjoyed sharing this with all the guests from all over the world who are as enthusiastic about nature as we are.
Most days the guests were greeted by our resident elephant bull and the local hippos that love to visit the camp on a regular basis. The elephant has added to the great atmosphere in the camp; for first time visitors to Africa especially he has been a welcoming sight and a great experience. With the water receding slowly but surely, the guests are seeing more hippos active and moving around as they are all defending their water territories and letting us all know with their grunts and swishing through the water that they are in the area.
Lately we have also had a lot of catfish moving into the area and some great tigerfish have been caught and released after photos have been taken. One of the great daily highlights was everybody sitting around the camp fire enjoying well deserved refreshments and talking about all the highlights of the day and of course of the big ones that got away.
Ah and then we get to the traditional night, that the guests cannot stop raving about. It is an amazing experience to be part of one of these nights, mainly because you've got this group of people from all different walks of life just enjoying sitting on cushions on the ground next to a warm fire. And then to their surprise all the staff members come dancing in, playing on their drums and singing while dressed in traditional clothing. After dancing with the staff, the food is brought in traditional pots and put next to the fire where everybody helps themselves to some delicious traditional food. The highlight is that everybody eats with their hands, as traditionally done, what an awesome night.
We could go on and on with all the sightings, from the small reed frogs to the huge elephants and hippos, but we will leave the details for those still to visit our paradise and to the lucky people that have it all stored on cameras and imprinted in their minds forever.
Camp Newsletter - June 07 Jump
Camp & Mvuu Wilderness Lodge
Common mammals like waterbuck, impala, bushbuck, sable, spotted hyaena, warthog and others have been seen in many places around Mvuu Camp and Lodge. Side-striped jackal sightings were particularly common; they were all over the show! On game drive elephant were spotted in the following areas: north and southern banks of Mtangai River, at the airstrip and all over the eastern side of the park. Buffalo and plenty of sable were also seen in big herds in these areas.
Guests loved going on a sunrise safari one morning. They saw elephant, a diversity of flowers and reedbuck, but the thing they enjoyed most was a pangolin that they saw at the bottom of the airstrip - this was around 5:45am. The leader of the group was so excited that he was almost screaming with joy before realising that he should take pictures. This was a very memorable drive for everyone.
We have also been taking guests out to the hide during the early morning hours before sunrise. Here they've enjoyed the sights of hippos returning to the river after a night of grazing - something you'll only be able to appreciate early in the morning. On one particular visit to the hide a few seconds before the sun came up, the guide spotted a Pel's Fishing-owl hiding in a Mahogany - giving us a close look at a very elusive bird.
Guides have been going to Chinguni to check out the condition of the road. Here they saw something never seen before by Mvuu guides: two klipspringer running up the hills. After that peculiar sighting the guides spotted six reedbuck on the floodplain as well. A few days later some guides went out to Naifiulu Hills where they saw three rock hyrax climbing on the rocks. They also saw a male reedbuck and two more rock hyrax.
RHINO SANCTUARY SIGHTINGS
Game drives in the rhino sanctuary have been fruitful as well; Sable were seen in big herds, as well as buffalo, eland and Lichtenstein's hartebeest. Porcupine have been on show as well and guests had some brilliant viewings of these usually very shy creatures. Jim and his guests were very lucky to see two black rhino at the end of a drive in the sanctuary. Everyone was extremely excited. That same night the guests saw two porcupine at the sanctuary gate as well as two genet feeding on a mouse.
On the regular boat trips elephant have been seen in large herds drinking and swimming in the Shire River while birds such as African Skimmers have been spotted at the same time. Sable were seen at different locations which made the boat activities even more fun. Guests have been enjoying the sunsets on the river - going with the flow with a glass of MG&T (Malawi Gin and Tonic) accompanying the stunning views. We've also enjoyed some very good crocodile sightings at various places, open sandbanks and cooler weather playing an important role.
Walking in the mornings has always been a lot of fun; you never know what you're going to see. This time around guests have been enjoying some fantastic birds: Brown-breasted Barbet, Livingstone's Flycatcher and some of the Bush-shrikes. Interesting animal sightings included side-striped jackal and a very special one of three honey badgers - another unusual sighting.
That's all for now,
The Mvuu Team
Mana Canoe Trail Newsletter - June 07 Jump
to Mana Canoe Trail safari
STAFF ON CANOE TRAILS
June has been an extremely busy month for Mana Canoe Trails (MCT) with five trips in total. On the canoeing side we have Matthew Nyamakope who joined us this month to be a permanent feature on the trails. Ian Ridel was our walking guide for the beginning of the month followed by our good friend James Hone who guided on the majority of the trips.
At the onset of June it seemed to be a lot warmer than May but did not last long and the temperatures dropped quickly. Early morning temperatures have been a chilly 13-15°C but hotting up during the day to a pleasant 25-27°C. We have also been having strong blustery winds around midday which can be escaped by having a siesta under the mahogany trees along the river shoreline.
VEGETATION, LANSCAPE AND THE ZAMBEZI RIVER
The famous Albida trees are starting to get their first pods, encouraging a whole variety of game along the shoreline. If you ever decide to canoe in June you will find that the vegetation is thinning out, giving you a great preview as to what lies behind the blanket of Senna and Indigofera that is almost all gone now. The herds of impala and other antelope have tidied up the underbellies of the trees leaving an even graze line as far as the eye can see. In the mornings the mist settles on the surface of the water and mingles with the trees, inviting you into its crispy freshness. The fishing is not very good at the moment and the guides will tell you that it is not from lack of trying. You would be better off sitting back in your canoe watching the magic of the Zambezi River unfold in front of you.
It's a circus out there on the canoes. Guests came back with tales of flying hippo and acrobatic crocodiles that almost walked on water in their mad dash for safety. The talented Mr Elephant has been spotted recently standing on his hind legs in an impressive display of pulling down an Albida branch. Some optimistic guests commented that they would really like to see one of the big cats drinking by the water's edge. This is an extreme rarity but that didn't stop our guides pulling a leopard out of a hat on the very first day of canoeing. This magnificent specimen was seen strutting his stuff along the shoreline before doing a disappearing act into the thick brush.
There was also comedy half-hour when an opportunistic baboon stole not just a slice, but the WHOLE cake at lunchtime. Matthew's futile attempts at getting it back were rather entertaining. The baboon must have thought it was his birthday three times over with all that cake on his hands.
The canoes have also been coming into contact with a lot of elephants. A small herd was encountered crossing the river and the guests were able to get really close to the swimming elephants. There was also a tender moment when a baby elephant that was frolicking by the water's edge got washed away by the current. He was swiftly rescued by his mother and kept under her watchful eye. We have also had recurring sightings of the endangered wild dogs; one particular dog has the most peculiar colouring. It stands out from all the rest as it has a lot more white patches than normal. The usual suspects on canoe trails have been seen: waterbuck, warthog, zebra, impala, baboons and vervet monkeys. There have also been increased sightings of kudu and eland.
BIRDS AND BIRDING
Once again, we can say we have seen the Bat Hawk; this is almost a guaranteed sighting at our last campsite. Also sighted were a flock of Livingstone's Flycatchers seen catching insects. Following in their footsteps were some Böhm's Spinetails. Other birds seen while canoeing were Woolly-necked Stork, Greenshank, Grey-headed Gull and the petite but impressively coloured Pygmy Kingfisher. On canoe trails, the birds really are the highlight of the trip as there is just such a variety and all are concentrated at the water's edge. So get your binoculars out, you won't be disappointed.
"The whole trip was terrific, from the outdoor activities to the food. In terms of the 3-day canoe trip, our several encounters with hippo and watching the guides try to out-guess the pods were hugely interesting and fun. Stalking the buffalo herd was also a real experience. The camp by the way was a welcome sight every night" - R, E, W &MQ
"Very good staff in the camps and two extra good guides." - R&JK
"Luxury and sophistication while bush camping, well done" - LM
update - June 07 Jump
to Ruckomechi Camp
This month we welcomed Sibahle Sibanda onto our team. He has already made a great impression on our guests and has quickly become a part of the Ruckomechi family, joining Kevin and Kambel on the guiding side.
Caro, Garth, Lindsay and Shayne have kept up the efficient but friendly atmosphere that is Ruckomechi, while Alistair has been up to his elbows in grease, smoothing out our vehicle shakes and rattles while still finding the time for a practical joke or three. The general rule around here is that staff sleep with one eye open when he is around.
The Mana Canoe Trails also gained a new member this month; Matthew Nyamakope joined James Hone and Ian Ridel as our new canoe guide. These men safely conquer the mighty Zambezi River on a daily basis.
There has not been much difference between May and June. Mornings are still about 12°C, although taking slightly longer to warm up to about 25°C in the afternoons. The wind has lessened a little, but still does its usual trick of rising again during siesta and then conveniently ceasing just before the afternoon activity. The nights are also getting crisper, and a hot water bottle is a welcome treat for the toes when you jump into bed.
Vegetation, Landscape & Zambezi River
Our camp is quietly tucked away beneath an oasis of lush green Mahogany and Albida trees. This combined with the sprinkling of water that settles the dust every day gives a false impression of the freshness that comes with the rains. Venture out of the vicinity of camp and you will see a huge contrast of vegetation and landscape. The earth is very dry and bare, sparsely scattered with inedible shrubs and weeds such as Spheranthus and Cocklebur. The wind is constantly whipping up mini-tornadoes, coating the vegetation in a layer of fine dust. The animals are finding some relief in the Croton forests which are still thick and provide cover. Close to the Ruckomechi River the Umbrella Thorn Acacias are shedding their pods, creating a banquet for the impala, baboon and elephant.
Our local pans are getting even stickier as the water dries up revealing all sorts of tasty treats for the birds and baboons. The stray hippo that have been wallowing in these pans have been forced back into the river, impeding on territories and creating uproar in their fight for a piece of the river.
Animal sightings for the month of June were as follows: bushbuck, buffalo, cheetah, eland, elephant, hyaena, kudu, leopard, lion, wild dog and zebra.
Congratulations are in order for our pride of resident lions which have increased in number this year from two males to a pride of six. It seems their late nights the last couple of months have paid off. Two cubs were spotted for the first time at the beginning of this month in the Croton forest just behind camp. They were next spotted by guests about three weeks later, again very close to camp. It is estimated that they are about two months old now. It is evident that the females have kept them hidden right under our noses. We look forward to watching them develop over the next couple of months.
Once again, the lions made a nocturnal impala kill right in camp, sprawling the intestines behind the anthill just in front of the dining room table. The guests were treated to a wonderful sight of carnage over morning tea and toast. Only in Africa!
The big cats are constantly in demand from our guests and Ruckomechi keeps producing fantastic and unexpected results. We have had two sightings of cheetah this month after thinking that they had all but disappeared. They were seen one night at Parachute Pan half-heartedly making an attempt at the docile impala. The leopards have also been seen on the prowl, literally 200m out of camp. Their favourite hunting grounds are around the staff houses where they have been spotted slinking in and out of the shadows during full moon.
Elephants have also been a permanent feature in camp, vacuuming up the Albida pods and racing to the kitchen area every time they hear one of the Torchwood fruits fall on the tin roof. This provides wonderful entertainment for all sitting at the dining table during brunch.
Birds & Birding
Throughout the whole month of June a total of 166 bird species were seen. Some of the more interesting sightings are as follows: Several Western Banded Snake-Eagles were seen around Parachute Pan and the Ruckomechi Riverbed on different occasions. These are not too common around here and to see so many has been very encouraging. On a drive around Parachute Pan two Painted Snipes were seen feeding in the open mudflats around the area.
You don't have to go far at Ruckomechi to treat yourself to a whole variety of birds though. A flock of Yellow-breasted Apalis were seen feeding in a bush next to our swing and an Orange-breasted Bush Shrike was also seen at teatime feeding in our front area.
"Seeing lions up close in the dark and elephants wandering through the camp were our highlights. The food was great, guides very knowledgeable, staff friendly and helpful." - G&VJ
"Loved the river rides, all staff were excellent." - NS
Little Makalolo Camp
update - June 07 Jump
to Makalolo Camps
The month of June, just like any other month, has its own character and sightings. Guides in camp were Charles Ndhlovu and (winner of loudest in the concession award) Temba Sibanda, Cosam Milazi was the host. Behind the scenes we had Sandy, Mayisa and Shapi in the kitchen, waiters Rosten and Jabu-Jabu, housekeeping Jibani and Mdluli, workshop Never, Rodger and Thulani.
The decrease in temperatures saw us changing the early morning safaris to mid-morning ones to avoid the cold. Early morning saw the bush 'television' [campfire] being popular, no more so than on the 29th of June when the month drew to a close on -1°C.
VEGETATION, LANDSCAPE AND WATER
The bush has thinned out further, giving wider and longer line of sight. The False Mopane has won the brightest colour award with their red-coloured seeds. Receiving 12mm of rainfall on the 2nd of June was such a precious gift, which saw our natural pans collecting a fair amount of water.
Sightings for the month included: aardvark, lesser bushbaby, caracal, African civet, gemsbok, bushbuck, pangolin, cheetah, porcupine, striped polecat, small-spotted genet, reedbuck, white rhino, dwarf mongoose, slender mongoose, aardwolf, African wildcat, banded mongoose, tree squirrel, vervet monkey, side-striped jackal, roan antelope, scrub hare, leopard, eland, red hartebeest, kudu, lion, warthog, hippo, bat-eared fox, waterbuck, baboon, giraffe, spotted hyaena, steenbok, buffalo, zebra, wildebeest, springhare, sable, duiker and elephant.
Buffalo, zebra, elephant, sable, black-backed jackal and common duiker dominated the attention of everyone at Little Makalolo pan in front of camp.
As mentioned above, this month had its own stories to tell. A pride of thirteen sub-adult lions, a splinter pride from the famous 20-member Spice Pride, dominated the scenes. On the morning of the 16th they killed and feasted on a zebra at Ostrich Pan, leaving only a few bones. Four days later they had more success, this time with a wildebeest leaving only the skull which one of the lions even carried off some distance. It was a sight to remember; just imagine watching lions feeding with six hyaenas and four black-backed jackals waiting in anticipation of leftovers while Bateleur and Tawny Eagles circled overhead. It was a dog eat dog scene as lions, hyaena, black-backed jackal and various eagle and vulture species continually sought their share: hyaena robbing lion, Tawny Eagle robbing hyaena - the latter wondering what hit as he watched the eagle feeding on the wing. The icing on the cake was when one hyaena was busy teasing part of the pride when suddenly a lioness came from behind and gently touched the hyaena's rump , as if to say, "HEY MATE, EXCUSE ME." A bit like the well known film 'Eternal Enemies' except in this case the hyaena escaped with no worse than just a big fright.
This month was just full of surprises, including a sighting of a partially albino elephant calf. This young elephant behaves strangely as he is very passive in social interaction and is not playful, spending most of his time with the mother.
BIRDS AND BIRDING
Highlight of the month was probably the sighting of a Tawny Eagle robbing a spotted hyaena of its wildebeest tail. Watching the hyaena looking up into the sky as the eagle floated away, as if to say, "Please drop that piece of tail since it's the only meal I was looking forward to," brought a touch of comedy to game drive.
"The big 3 - staff, facilities and game viewing - at LITTLE MAKALOLO continue to delight us!"
Meet you on your next journey...
Camp Newsletter - June 07 Jump
Pafuri is an area that is famed for its beauty and diversity, but in order to appreciate it, you need to use all of your senses. The diversity of colours on the concession at the moment is amazing. On the one hand, there is the rich yellow and reddish, brown as the Mopane trees continue to shed their foliage. This is in stark contrast to the deep purple of the pods of the Lowveld Cluster-leaf as well as the magnificent mauve of the flowers of the Anisotes formosissimus, sometimes known as Most Beautiful. The scent of the Potato Bush and Wild Sage permeate the evening air. To add to this, the night is filled with the 'whooping' sound of spotted hyaenas around camp and the stillness of night has been broken on many occasions by the 'sawing-sound' of a leopard, the roar of lions and the raucous shriek of the thick-tailed bushbaby.
The month of June saw a marked increase in predator activity in the vicinity of camp. This is probably linked to the fact that most of the surface water has dried up and the animals are forced to congregate around the Luvuvhu River in order to meet their water requirements.
As the lion population in the area continues to grow, June turned up some significant developments. A new male lion has moved into the area. He has joined forces with a male that moved into the concession about eight months ago. Together, we are certain that these two males will displace the old, dominant male in the area. The significance of this is that the Pafuri Pride has five sub-adult males in it. These males are two years old and this is about the age that the new males will view them as competition.
Another encouraging sign this month has been a number of sightings of white rhino. The rhino in the concession seem to have settled in the vicinity of a perennial spring. Other interesting mammal sightings during the month included sightings of springhare and Jameson's red rock rabbit. On one occasion, one of our guides was lucky enough to witness a pair of thick-tailed bushbabies mating.
The elephant sightings have remained good and there has been a bachelor herd of seven bulls that has been drinking in front of camp on an almost daily basis. There have also been numerous sightings of elephant herds on the floodplains of both the Luvuvhu and Limpopo Rivers.
The dry season always brings out the ruthless side of the bush. Whilst on a guided walk, one of our guides discovered the carcass of a kudu that had recently died after becoming trapped in some mud while trying to get to a pool of water. The carcass was surrounded by numerous hyaena tracks and there were a number of vultures perched in the surrounding trees hoping to get some of the scraps.
From a birding point of view, the month of June is traditionally not meant to be great, but in fact it turned up the best sightings we have yet had of some area specials. There were regular sightings of a flock of Racket-tailed Rollers. Interestingly they were not seen in their usual Mopane habitat, but rather in a forest of Fever Trees. To add to this, we have also had sightings of a Pel's Fishing-owl chick. As if that wasn't enough, 29 June turned up a Bat Hawk sighting that can be said to be worthy of a 'Blue Moon' (30 June was in fact a Blue Moon which is the phenomenon of 2 full moons in a calendar month). The bird was seen perched on a dead tree and was watched for some 45 minutes after sunrise. The fact that we had a dry summer has also resulted in us seeing birds which are traditionally associated with drier areas. Significant findings include Chestnut-vented Titbabbler, Grey-backed Sparrowlark as well as numerous Lark-like Bunting sightings.
Each month at Pafuri camp is so different and as we approach our second birthday, we are only beginning to gain an understanding of just how dynamic and amazing this area truly is.
Average maximum: 29.5°C. Average minimum: 8.2°C.
Bay Dive Newsletter - June 07 Jump
June has provided us with some wonderful and unusual sightings, invoking a mixture of emotions. The first strange sighting was on the beach - as we drove down to the launch site we saw a line of unusual tracks, these were certainly not turtle tracks. On closer inspection we saw that they were hippopotamus tracks, which led along the beach; we visualised the hippo taking a lazy stroll along the front of the dune, then up behind it, then back onto the beach and into the water for a refreshing dip and then back into the dune vegetation. The following day we were telling Gugu (one of the guides at Rocktail) what we had seen and he said he had actually seen a hippo swimming in the ocean at Black Rock, which is quite a way north of where we saw the tracks. We are used to seeing them in rivers and lakes but they are occasionally found taking a swim in the ocean as well. A search on the internet states that "Recent DNA evidence suggests that the hippopotamus is more closely related to cetaceans (whales and dolphins) than it is to any other artiodactyls (even-toed hoofed mammal)". Anyone fancy a dive with a hippo?
A couple of days after this funny incident came some sad news. A whaleshark, approximately eight metres in length, was found stranded on the beach about one kilometre north of Rocktail Bay. This was not all, the news got steadily worse. The following day another two whalesharks were seen stranded just south of Black Rock, then came the call from the Natal Sharks Board, saying that they had just had a report from a pilot that he had seen a total of six whalesharks on the beaches stretching from Bhanga Neck southwards to Rocktail Bay. A couple of scientists from the Natal Sharks Board arrived the following day to see if they could find any causes for the stranding. Sometimes these creatures are found with empty stomachs, indicating that they had not had enough food and perhaps therefore not enough energy to swim back out to sea as they found themselves in the backline, where the waves crash onto the beach. Other theories are that perhaps they are too old or sick to carry on and wash out. Another very likely explanation is that when the sea is calm, these sharks come too close to the backline whilst feeding and then find themselves washed ashore before they can get out of trouble. Nobody really knows the answer, but no obvious reasons like injury or starvation were found with any of these six animals. On a happier note, we did see a further four, live, healthy whalesharks, swimming out at sea during the remainder of the month. Hermien and Izak even had their very first sighting of a whaleshark and got the chance to snorkel with it - very special indeed.
Manta rays are on most divers' wish lists, and we were glad to have three different encounters with them. The first was seen at Elusive, gliding overhead with an entourage of 10 big remoras. The second was at Solitude, this one hovered above the reef, framed by the blue-banded snappers while it was getting cleaned. The third was at Pineapple. This was a phenomenal dive: first the manta ray circled the divers for a while, and then as it swam off into the blue, we turned back to the reef to see a bowmouth guitarfish swimming across the reef, right in front of us! These are not seen that often by divers. They have a big rounded head, with ridges along it. The rest of the body is the same shape as the more common guitarfish, with a tall, pointed dorsal fin, but the markings remind one of a whaleshark, with white spots on a dark body. Then a giant kingfish swam straight past us, clearly on a mission. All this frantic action was followed by a sleepy loggerhead turtle emerging from under a ledge, just before it was time for us to ascend. Then to end the dive, one of the resident potato bass came to spend our three-minute safety stop with us, swimming up behind one diver, then darting down and back up behind another diver, before finally swimming back down to the reef as we ascended.
Other wonderful news is that the humpback whales have been migrating northwards throughout the month. A lot of the sightings were of whales breaching, far out towards the horizon but there was one very memorable day this month where we saw a total of eight whales during a single outing. On our way to the dive site we stopped and watched as four whales swam towards the boat, then around the back, then popped up on the other side. We sat for about ten minutes watching them as they came up, spouting that distinctive fishy smelling spray, and then teasing those with cameras with the perfect tail shot! Then off we went for the dive where some divers surfaced before the others and were entertained by another two whales. The highlight however was for the remaining divers. We watched from the boat as two whales swam straight towards the buoy line, where the divers were doing their safety stop. We debated whether they would see the whales in the water as they ascended. Sure enough, the whales had swum straight towards and then underneath them as they hung there in awe! Truly an amazing experience!
Congratulations go to Eric, Annemie, Hermien and Izak for completing their PADI Advanced Diver Course, also to Thomas for completing his PADI Open Water Diver Course.
Wishing you all many more wonderful dives!
Yours in diving,
Darryl, Clive, Michelle and Karin
The Rocktail Bay Dive Team
East winds from hell - part of the system - June 07 Jump
to Little Kulala
The Namib Desert, as old and as stable as it is, always has a few tricks up its sleeve. One of the most dramatic, immediate and unexpected climatic tricks this part of the world can throw at you is the legendary east wind. This event literally transforms the area to such a degree that the effects thereof are clearly visible on satellite imagery. A calm tranquil morning of pleasant ambient temperatures is literally ripped apart, desiccated and sand-blasted beyond recognition. The latest east wind of the Namib has been no exception.
On a scientific front, the east wind has the following characteristics; Within ten minutes of it striking it usually increases the ambient temperature by 15 -20 degrees, decreases the humidity to around 1%, drives wind speed to more than 60 kilometres per hour and sends a dust and sand plume way out into the Atlantic. Any feature in its path gets totally sand-blasted - it removes paint from vehicles, pits windscreens and clogs filters with the greatest of ease. For us simply enduring an east wind event is an achievement.
But it is also an extremely strong driving ecological force of the Namib. Desert dune detritus, made up of seeds and other forms of organic material, is literally the lifeblood of the sand sea system. Invertebrates depend on it and so do the rest of the highly adapted life forms in the food chain. The immensely powerful east wind circulates this detritus in swirling masses on the dune surfaces, acting as an enormous heart circulating the detritus to all parts of the Namib. On a more global scale, trace elements and essential minerals lifted up into the atmosphere of the west African desert areas constitute an important source of these elements for the Amazon rain forest: Lifted up and transported in jet streams across the Atlantic to be incorporated in tropical rain storms and deposited on South American soils.
Seen in context it is a marvel of nature. Birds are particularly affected by this wind and many are blown clean out of their normal ranges. One of the most bizarre sightings was a Lilac-breasted Roller perched on the wreck of the Eduard Bohlen along the Skeleton Coast. Some birds are simply just blown off their perches and seek refuge behind rocks or flat on the ground.
With the last east wind event, with wind speeds in excess of 70 km/h this Spotted Eagle Owl was seen trying to maintain a footing on the ground near Little Kulala. At times the ear tufts would completely distort and as if in an animated movie it would go sliding along the surface. It didn't dare open its wings.
Strangely, the east wind disappears as quickly as it appears. Calm prevails and the birds can once more return to the trees.
Damaraland Camp Newsletter - June 07 Jump
to Damaraland Camp
Damaraland has had rather cold weather this winter which has allowed us to utilise our newly installed fireplace at dinner which has had all diners munching away in a snug and friendly atmosphere. Crystal clear nights have allowed for stunning stargazing and our winter skies are as beautiful as always. Recently though, Damaraland Camp has had a welcome warm streak, compliments of the east wind blowing our way. Usually cold nights have been balmy and guests have been relieved to wear short-sleeved shirts and shorts for dinner after experiencing much colder weather in our northern and southern Camps of Namibia.
Vegetation, Landscape and Water
After having a very minimal rainy season, Damaraland is very dry, but still the scenery is exceptional. The grass has dried out and coats the mountains and plains in yellow blankets, turning gold at sunrise and sunset; guests "ooh and aah" at the change in colours as the sun moves overhead. With the sudden change in weather we have started to observe the local plant life rejuvenating with observations of the Elephant's Foot growing new stems.
The Damaraland elephants have returned to the Huab River after spending the summer months far off in the surrounding mountains. DMC guides and guests have had the almost daily privilege of sightings on activities and we are pleased to announce the arrival of a new baby to the breeding herd named "Oscar's Group". It was born somewhere between April and May and has become a huge attraction already. Cheering guests and guides alike with its toddler like antics and softening many a hard heart with its silliness. It was born to mother "Kinky Tail" and both mum and son are doing extremely well, although we are all well aware that his existence in the harsh Namibian environment has only started as he learns to become a contributing member of the VERY special desert-adapted elephants.
Also spotted recently, as far as the Loxodonta africana goes, is old solitary bull "Governor" who has been cruising the riverbed systems accompanied by a much younger "teenage" bull. As nature dictates, the older chap is passing on the staggeringly important knowledge which has made these desert-adapted elephants survivors in the desert.
(NB - please note that all names used for the Elephants are not official names, rather "Camp" names used by our guides)
In other thrilling news, a superb sighting of no less than SEVEN cheetah resting together in the grasslands near the Huab River was observed by DMC guides and guests recently. DMC is buzzing with theories as to why there were seven together and have decided it must be a mother with sub-adult cubs who had attracted the interest of a coalition of males. Cheetah sightings in the Damaraland area are becoming more common with our resident mother and 2 cubs being more active on hunting activities.
Spotted too the other day was a grey duiker who was foraging amongst the breeding herd (Oscar's Group) and was surprisingly calm and not bothered by the elephant activity and game viewers (strange breed these sandy-coloured vehicles) nearby.
Birds and Birding
Lately the bird activity has been booming. On one drive alone we were blessed with sightings of two Martial Eagles, Lappet-faced Vulture and a Pale Chanting Goshawk.
On the same drive we had awesome sightings of some aquatic feathered friends (in the DESERT!!??) at Douw's Pools in the Huab. Amongst them were Black Crake, Egyptian Geese putting on territorial displays, Common Moorhen, a small flock of South African Shelduck, Three-banded Plover, Blacksmith Plover and a Hamerkop as well as the endemic Benguela Long-billed Lark and other more common species.
Also seen last month was a great sighting of a Bateleur feeding on a gemsbok carcass which is not a common bird of prey seen here. Guests had a great opportunity to photograph him before he took off.
That's all for now folks.
Nadja le Roux and DMC Staff
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