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AFRICAN SAFARI NEWS

March 2007

(Page 1 of 2)

Page 1 Updates
Wilderness Safaris News - Info and updates from Wilderness Safaris.

• North Island Dive Report from the Seychelles.
• Monthly update from DumaTau Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Kings Pool Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Selinda & Zibalianja Camps in Botswana.
Kwando Safaris game reports.
• Monthly update from Mombo Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Jack's & San Camps in Botswana.

Page 2 Updates
• Monthly update from Tubu Tree Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Kwetsani Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Jao Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Vumbura Plains in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Jacana Plains in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Pafuri Camp in South Africa.

Turtle news from Rocktail Bay in South Africa.
Monthly Dive report from Rocktail Bay in South Africa.

• Rare sighting of Cattle Egrets at Little Kulala.


Wilderness Safaris Updates - March 2007

SEYCHELLES UPDATES
North Island Tortoise release
After having purchased North Island in 1997, Wilderness Safaris immediately reintroduced tortoises as only a few had survived the early traders/pirates and subsequent coconut plantation days.

In January 2007, we were delighted when the owners of Anonyme Island approached us with the offer to donate their seven captive Giant Aldabran Tortoises to North Island, where the animals would be able to roam around freely. With another 3 adult males, 2 females and 2 immature males on their way, things could not look more promising in the "shelled" world.

So we eagerly accepted the donation and started the necessary preparations. Indeed, apart from the occasional e-mail joke between the present owners and their future new wardens on some claimed specific dietary preferences of each individual tortoise, things were serious and substantial thinking ahead had to be done before getting the friendly giants over on a one-way ticket! Our major concern was that, however unlikely, one of the newcomers might carry a disease or parasite which could infect our resident reptiles. Another concern was the possible introduction of unwanted invader plants via undigested seeds deposited in the tortoises' droppings onto our painstakingly rehabilitated Island. Not to mention the logistical challenge of the required the transport to get the heavyweights safely to their new home!

We also needed to decide on which side of the island the animals would be eventually released. Most of the tortoises presently on the Island live on the plateau on the east, with only a few solitary individuals in the forest on the higher parts. Only on rare occasions a single tortoise was seen walking from the east to the west, where they apparently never stayed for long. Experts such as Jeanne Mortimer, Justin and Ron Gerlach, Katy Beaver and Lindsay Chong-Seng were therefore consulted, and the resulting decision was to construct a quarantine pen at West Beach. As for the transfer equipment, we began modifying crates but soon abandoned the idea and reverted to the cleaning of aggregate bags with handles and poles for the transport from the pen to the barge on Anonyme instead.

Tortoise droppings often contain undigested or partly digested plant material, therewith making the chance for introduction of unwanted invader plants from their original home a realistic risk, which can be avoided by keeping them temporarily penned so their droppings can be safely disposed off.

The 24th February was the big day when North Island's Environment Officer, together with two other staff members with past experience on moving tortoises during our rat eradication, finally travelled to Anonyme, where we joined with an enthusiastic Project Manager and his staff for the safe and least traumatic moving of the unassuming giants.

Anonyme Island tortoise
Anonyme Island tortoise

North Island rented the IDC barge Maza especially for the occasion, because of its door that can be opened after beaching considerably simplifying the carrying of the seven heavy animals (weights were later established to vary from the lightweight female of 69kg to the heaviest male pushing the scale to 141kg). Even the aggregate bags appeared to be unnecessary to get the animals down to the beach. Once lifted over the pen wall, the walking animals were gently guided down to the beach instead, from where they got another lift onto the barge, where palm leaves were spread out on the deck as a welcoming carpet. All went surprisingly smoothly and quickly, with skipper Mazarin and his team proving to be experienced with moving tortoises and genuinely caring for the animals.

How it all began: Tortoises put in a big open bag on Anonyme; they were then gently coached into walking from their pen and subsequently lifted over the pen wall...to the barge.

Walking to the barge
Walking to the barge

Some were easy to get to the barge.......whilst others needed to be carried.

It was reassuring to see how quickly the animals seemed to calm down after the initial panic of finding themselves temporarily separated and lifted up in the air and deposited in a totally new and strange environment. Especially Harry, the biggest male, made some frantic efforts to push the makeshift barricade set up during the loading of the animals, and his bumping against the walls and fast walking on board had left us with no doubt about his anger and fear. Once at sea, with the gentle rocking barge and occasional waves splashing onboard, they soon settled calmly in a corner huddled together in little groups.

After such a successful embarkation, the Environment Officer had envisaged a smooth trip of about five hours with the animals on the barge. Hmm, things did not work out so easy, though! Only a few minutes at sea, an alarmed skipper reported a seriously overheating engine, thereby making it unsafe to attempt to stick to the initial plan to go directly to North Island. A stop had to be made at Mahé instead.

While the crew called upon their mechanic, the Environment Officer took possession of the company car to drive up and down the coastal road in search of a reassuring meal of patatran for the stranded immigrants. The concerns of the humans about the interrupted transfer did not seem to affect the animals, as they eagerly accepted the food and began chewing calmly without any traces of sea sickness! They also seemed to enjoy getting watered down. The deck started to quickly turn into a used tortoise pen in follow-up of the happy chewing. Caring for the animals on a wobbling deck led to the unavoidable smothering of trousers and shoes in the process, and one can only feel sympathy with the disapproving frowning from the bed and breakfast owner whom the Environment Officer late that evening approached for a room to overnight after having been given a solid pledge from harbour security to take over the vigil for the first part of the night.

Both crew and Environment Officer let out a genuine sigh of relief on behalf of their shelled friends on deck when the skipper and mechanic declared the engine to be fit for continuation of the trip early the next morning. Enthusiastic phone calls were made to North Island where the support team had set everything in place to move the tortoises to their quarantine pen immediately after arrival.

The sea trip was once again welcomingly uneventful. The tortoises appeared to be surprisingly quick in adapting to the swaying movements of their new environment, with most of them eagerly eating the new greens dumped on deck before departure.

However, the unloading on North Island's East Beach soon posed a new challenge. With Maza's door not fully reaching the beach and the strong waves bouncing the barge up and down roughly, the lifting of the heavy and uncooperative tortoises from their temporary residence onto our beach proved to be a potential danger both for the precious animals as well as the helpers.

Unloading on North Island's East Beach
Unloading on North Island's East Beach

With a rough sea and the barge door refusing to open entirely, the unloading became a risky challenge, but many staff members assisted enthusiastically and all ended well. We never found out which group was most tired that evening, though: the North Islanders or the new arrivals...

Everyone was therefore hugely relieved when the last animal had finally been safely deposited on terra firma. Some rather startled tortoises subsequently started to frantically crawl towards the fringe vegetation and on to the grass, where excited staff members and guests surrounded them and kept an eye on the ones staying behind whilst the first animals were loaded onto gators for further transport to the west side of the island.

Once again, Harry proved to be a powerful unhappy chappy, requiring us to put a wired canopy over the loading space of the gator. Once deposited in the pen, there were some strong but futile attempts to break through one of the beams, but after noticing the food, the drinking pool and each other they soon resided into a contented huddle again under the watchful concerned eye of the Environment Team.

All animals were moved to their quarantine pen at West Beach
All animals were moved to their quarantine pen at West Beach

The prescribed three weeks of quarantine passed away uneventfully after the first four days when the shyer animals initially refused to eat and kept to themselves withdrawn in their shells for most of the time. It was therefore heart-warming to finally see all animals becoming familiar with their caretakers who bravely carted off their droppings and patiently gathered a variety of foods for them several times a day. The fun moments were during the daily filling of their makeshift pool with fresh water, when each tortoise was approached gently to further gain their trust. It was proven, once again, that a little bit of juicy fruit bribery can go a long way in speeding up that process!Once again, a happy milestone was reached on 16th March when all seven healthy tortoises were released, after being numbered the previous day and weighed just before being given their freedom. Their first steps into the bush took place under the watchful eye of the Environment and Landscape Teams, with delighted guests partaking in the happy occasion. The weights were added to shell measurements previously made by Dr Mortimer. Together with photos highlighting individual morphological differences and notes on behaviour observed during their captivity, these records, per new tortoise, were added to the existing database which contains most of the tortoises already present on the island.

Weighing before release
Weighing before release

Over the next days, the place of release was visited daily to verify if the newcomers were doing alright as this was the first time in their lives when they were no longer fed by humans. All our worries proved to be totally unnecessary, for the animals seemed to be adapting remarkably quickly once again, independently foraging in the vegetation. We definitely need many more tortoises to keep the wild passionfruit under control in the newly rehabilitated area, but the happy seven sure do make their contribution! We now eagerly await their future moves: how long will it take before the newcomers will eventually meet up with the old residents (estimated at about 25, the 11 penned babies not included)? Imagine the shock for our biggest male Brutus (192 kg) to finally meet some healthy competition for females from a certain Harry (141 kg)!

And as all happy stories have a happy ending, we should add that Harry has enthusiastically taken up residence around our Sunset Bar. It remains as yet unknown, though, whether he has trespassed on the staff code of conduct by ordering sundowners, and if so, whether he will be able to settle his account by the end of this month!


North Island Environmental News

The rehabilitation of the award-winning island is moving on well with the environmental team hard at work: 8 000 new trees have been planted in three rehabilitated areas, and preparations for the reintroduction of Seychelles White-eyes and endemic freshwater terrapins have begun. The White-eyes are expected in June with the terrapins due to arrive in the second half of the year.

Aldabra tortoise on North Island, Seychelles

More exciting arrivals came in the form of the Aldabra Giant Tortoise. Only a handful existed on the Island when Wilderness Safaris arrived to begin the rehabilitation process, but following donations of captive tortoises from all over the Seychelles, the population rose to 25 adults and a number of hatchlings. A further seven tortoises were recently donated by Anonyme Island (see story above) and have been kept in quarantine for the past three weeks before being released along West Beach. The largest (a male called ‘Harry’) weighed in at 141kg, while the smallest was a female weighing 69kg.


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BOTSWANA UPDATES
Another Rhino baby at Mombo
              Jump to Mombo Camp
Great news from Mombo is that the Botswana Rhino Reintroduction Project has produced another white rhino calf – the 11th since reintroduction. Poster Mpho found the week-old male during a patrol. The newborn, who has been named Delta, was born to mother Maun and likely father Sergeant, the territorial bull of the area. This is the second calf born to Maun since her release in the Mombo area.

Baby rhino at Mombo camp


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SOUTH AFRICA UPDATES
Maputaland Sea Turtle Season ends
              Jump to Rocktail Bay Lodge
It is the end of the turtle season for 2006-2007, and a great season it was too, with 304 Loggerhead nests and a total of 98 Leatherback Turtles nests. These figures show similar results to the 2005/2006 season with an increase in the Loggerhead Turtle numbers. Overall, the turtle monitors were able to successfully tag 79 individuals and inserted 33 identifying microchips. The microchips, recently introduced, serve as a means of identifying turtles which have lost tags in the ocean and will hopefully contribute to the collection of longer term data.

Baby turtle at Rocktail Bay Lodge

Overall, the season’s total includes 403 confirmed nests of both species and 576 turtle tracks representing emergences onto the beach from the ocean. Twelve turtles that had been recorded in previous seasons were seen again, the oldest being two Loggerheads tagged 17 years ago: one tagged previously in the 1988/1989 season and the other in the 1989/1990. A whopping number of turtles were ‘adopted’ and we’d like to thank everyone who welcomed a turtle into their family.


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CAMP UPDATES
After a successful trial period this past rainy season we are happy to announce an extension of our operating season in the Kafue: Shumba and Lufupa camps will no longer close at the end of November but rather on the 4th January 2008. With the aid of helicopters, specialized swamp boats and recent infrastructural developments (roads, bridges and strategic airstrips) we are now able to provide an exciting experience in one of the wildest and most remote areas in Africa. Christmas and New Year Kafue packages will follow shortly.

Kalamu Tented Camp will open its doors in July this season. An all-weather airstrip has been constructed at this camp which will negate lengthy transfers and ensure that all our guests will not be missing out on any of their morning or afternoon activities.

Kalamu Tented Camp is setting new environmental standards for the industry. Great care has been taken to minimize our impact on this pristine wilderness site. Solar power and sophisticated waste water processing plants are some of the initiatives to be found in this charming tented camp.

The River Club is the place to see some of the highest water levels experienced on the Zambezi River for many years. The Victoria Falls can be accessed from the comfort of The River Club where a soft refurb of the rooms has enhanced this superb product.

Savuti and Little Vumbura camps have successfully been rebuilt and reopened to great excitement. Both these camps have been newly upgraded with spectacular soft finishes and with a rigid building process that limited any impact on the environment. Evidence of this was the cheetah that gave chase to an impala right in front of the Savuti building team of 40-odd people!

A new Ruckomechi Camp is scheduled to be built. Comprising five tents, it will be located a few kilometers away from the site of the existing Ruckomechi and will essentially replace the existing one when it is complete. Little Makalolo will be closed for December, January and February and will be putting up new guest tents and doing general refurbishments. The improved camp will reopen in March 2008.


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Seychelles / North Island
North Island Dive Report - March 07               Jump to North Island

March started off unexpectedly with some windy periods and the odd bit of rain which was not been entirely unpleasant but definitely unexpected for this time of year. Generally March is known for calm seas and good diving conditions; this year as a result of a cyclone off Madagascar we found there was still some light to medium winds about.

The second half of March however made up for the adverse beginning and we have had plate glass flat seas, great visibility and gorgeous sunsets. The water temperature is at 29°C on the bottom and 30°C on the surface with the visibility hanging consistently around the 20-30 metre mark. The dolphins have made an appearance after a long absence and we had two memorable "in water" encounters with a pod of these awesome creatures. In the shallows in front of the restaurant we have also seen the return of the juvenile Lemon Sharks. These guys (and girls) are only about a foot long and can be seen regularly in water only a few inches deep chasing tiny fish around for a snack.

We have had the pleasure of introducing a number of people to the underwater world in the last few weeks by doing Discover Scuba Diving courses with them. Two went all the way to become PADI Open Water divers and had some great dives along the way - we wish them a memorable and exciting diving future.

We have also had some great dives on one of our less-dived reefs called "Outer Banks" and have consistently been seeing 10 to 20 Lionfish on a dive as well as a number of the Giant Sleepy Sharks. On one dive we had a very curious Giant Sleepy Shark come and spend a few minutes with us on a dive. These sharks are absolutely harmless and the only danger is they may make you want to curl up next to them in a cave and also go to sleep. It is great that we are continuously seeing three or more of these beautiful sharks on this particular dive site.

The great conditions have also let us get out and have a few night dives, which has really put the icing on the cake after a great day on the ocean. The tranquil feeling of a fantastic sunset with the calm blue waters lapping at the boat, the moon rising, the stars twinkling in the sky and the refreshing cool night really puts you in a nirvana state of mind even without the dive.

We had the excitement of discovering a new reef just 4km off North Island which we may name the "Treasure Chest". We found this reef full of all the colours and varieties of the many species of reef fish common to this area as well as some good coral growth and a visit from a small White-tip Reef Shark and two inquisitive Barracudas. We will definitely be visiting this reef regularly and I look forward to giving you news on its "treasures" in the near future.

On the fishing side of things we have not caught many fish, probably because of the waters being a bit warm. However we have seen the Dorados coming back and had two of these beautiful and strong fish coming onto the boat.

We are all looking forward to the next month as the great conditions are expected to continue all through April with flat seas, good visibility and great sunsets.

Clive Scherer

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Botswana Camps
DumaTau Camp update - March 07                Jump to DumaTau Camp

Hello to everyone from all of us here at DumaTau Camp. We have had another fantastic month here in the Linyanti. DumaTau is looking great and the management and staff have all done a fantastic job this last month.

The guiding team this month has been Kane (the new Head Guide), Theba (Mr T) and Ollie. Brian has been helping out with the guiding a fair bit, but will be filling more of an environmental position this year. Ban was also in camp for a short period this month, but due to health reasons he has been away for quite a while. He is now back again and is looking much better. While Savuti has been closed we have also had two of their new guides (Tsepho and Thuso) joining us on drives in order to familiarise themselves with the area. All the guides have all done a fantastic job and the game viewing has been great.

Woodland Kingfisher

We have come to the end of summer now and the skies still have clouds on most days but the rains are almost gone. This month we have had very little rain (approximately 30 mm) and the bush is drying out quickly. On many an afternoon we have seen the clouds build up in the distance (giving us great shows of lightning, where it appears that the horizon is being electrocuted and the sky is ripping open with streaks of light) and yet on each occasion the rain passed us by. Temperatures are still high and we have had a few hot days this month where the midday thermometer read 35 degrees Celsius in the shade. The minimum temperature this month was 19 degrees Celsius, and most mornings have been pleasant.

Unlike last year, there is not much water lying around in the woodlands and the seasonal pools are almost all dry everywhere. The hippo pool on Mopane Road, which last year this time had at least one hippo in it, is now just a tiny puddle that not even a terrapin could hide in. If there is not much rain next month then we will have a very dry winter indeed.

With the standing water in the woodlands rapidly disappearing we have started to see elephants returning to the Linyanti River and the lagoons - very early in the season. Elephants are seen on most drives now and it appears that one of our resident winter bulls (Dennis) has returned to the camp area already. He has once again started to cause chaos by pulling off the balustrading from the walkways, and Zoot and the camp-hands are having to fix them on an almost daily basis. We have also seen quite a few breeding herds this month and we have had a few memorable sightings of big herds (of between 50 and 100 elephants) coming down to the water to drink and mud bathe. Big herds like these are usually only seen in our winter and spring months, when all the elephants from the surrounding woodlands congregate along the Linyanti/Kwando River, which is then the only source of water for many, many kilometres.

The bush is now starting to dry up a bit and the grass is all a golden colour. Visibility should now start to become slightly better as autumn and winter approach, although it is still very thick in the scrublands at the moment.

The birdlife has been great this month and many of the summer migrants are still here. At the beginning of the month the Carmine Bee-eaters were still following the cars around the open plains. It was beautiful to have these brightly coloured birds flying so close to us, performing aerial acrobatics as they swoop in to grab the disturbed grasshoppers and other insects. Towards the end of the month most of them have left the area, heading further north again. We are still seeing the African Golden Orioles fly between the trees and the icy blue Woodlands Kingfisher holding its wings open just after landing. Many of the migrant raptors are still around and we have still been having regular sightings of Wahlberg's Eagles and Amur Falcons. The Barn Swallows are still swooping over the grasslands catching insects and we are still seeing Paradise Flycatchers flitting through the Mangosteen trees in camp.

Soon the migrants will be leaving us, the residents however will remain. Ground Hornbills are regularly seen striding across in small family groups in the open grasslands catching insects, snakes and smaller vertebrates. Another interesting bird to watch in the open grasslands is the Secretarybird. These are basically walking Eagles and are great predators of snakes, mice and other small creatures.

This area is particularly well known for the number of Eagles and is considered an internationally Important Birding Area, particularly for Raptors and waterbirds. The Bateleur Eagle is a particularly well known eagle of the African savannah, although the numbers of this beautiful eagle are steadily decreasing throughout (mainly due to habitat destruction, poisoning by farmers and lack of big trees in which to nest). We are very fortunate in this area to still have a particularly high concentration of these beautiful eagles. Towards the end of the month we were driving in the riverine woodland when a large shadow passed over the vehicle. We looked up to see a sub-adult Bateleur flying low over us. Then, from above, an adult male Bateleur swooped down and attacked the sub-adult. The sub-adult swerved out of the way and looped upwards and the adult male gave chase again. He was obviously trying to chase the young male out of his territory. As they passed over us again the adult dropped down from above with talons outstretched. The young eagle tried to avoid the adult and had to turn completely upside-down in the sky lifting his talons up in defence. We watched this extraordinary aerial combat for a while before both birds disappeared over the tree line.

Bateleur Eagles in combat

The water levels in the Linyanti River and the lagoons are still very high and the floodplains are quite moist. A lovely herd of red lechwe can often be seen wading in the shallow water near Zib Mangosteens and there are still many White-faced Whistling Ducks along the river. We have seen very few Wattled Cranes, with only one reported sighting for the month. The water in the Savuti Channel managed to reach the second corner in the Channel (at the end of "Hippo Bones"), but is now retreating again. When we receive the floodwaters from the Angolan highlands, in a few months time, the water will probably push up the channel some more.

The general game has been great this month and we are regularly seeing Burchell's zebra, wildebeest, impala, kudu, giraffe, warthog, vervet monkeys, chacma baboons, hippo and steenbok on the game-drives. Waterbuck are seen on occasion and even a herd of tsessebe (the fastest of all antelope) seems to have taken up residence near "Letsumo Sign". This antelope is not often seen here in the Linyanti.

Of the smaller animals dwarf, banded and slender mongooses are regularly seen on the day drives, while lesser bushbabies, African wildcats, springhares and scrub hares are seen on most night drives. Spotted hyaena have been spotted fairly regularly this month. Some of the more unusual animals reported by the guides this month include a few sightings of serval, one sighting of an African civet and a few sightings of honey badgers and porcupines. Both of the latter two have even been seen from the boardwalks in camp at night. Brian was fortunate enough to get two sightings of the elusive aardvark on separate occasions during the month (both quite late at night, moving around in the open grasslands of the Savuti Channel).

Dwarf Mongooses at DumaTau

Cheetah were seen on at least eight days this month most of which were of the two "Savuti Boys". These two males have been seen regularly in the area for about the last ten years. On the morning of the 22nd the brothers were seen resting on the large termite heap on the eastern side of Dish Pan Clearing, where the large Boscia Tree used to grow. They seemed hungry and were staring out intently over the grasslands looking for prey. After a while they spotted some impala and headed in their direction, but the impala had seen them and quickly ran into the thick bushes on the channel bank.

Cheetah seen at DumaTau camp

On the afternoon of the 11th Grant Atkinson, who was driving for Kings Pool Camp, reported seeing an unknown female cheetah and her cub near Rock Pan, in the Savuti Channel. She had just killed an adult male impala and the two were feeding on it. The next morning Kane found the female and her cub just to the south of Rock Pan. They were resting on a termite heap. The female was very relaxed but the cub was a little nervous of the vehicles and after a while it urged its mother on and the two headed off into the thicker scrub where we left them.

Leopard-wise, the Zibadianja Female and her sub-adult cub were seen on a few occasions this month. The cub is growing up quickly now and we believe that it will soon be leaving the company of its mother. On the night of the 9th we were driving along the floodplains near Kubu Lagoon when we noticed fresh footprints of two leopards in the road. As we turned the next corner there were the two leopards walking down the road ahead of us. They moved off the road into the longer grass as we approached. The sub-adult was in a boisterous mood and started stalking her mom. As the mother came close to the area where the cub was hiding the cub jumped out and tackled her before running off into the long grass again. We left the area, and headed back to camp, as the younger leopard was again trying to ambush the female. The youngster was certainly having a good time.

More leopards were seen this month, all very exciting sightings. The DumaTau male was seen only once this month. On the morning of the 7th Grant Atkinson found him lying on a termite heap in the middle of the open grasslands near Dish Pan clearing. He then walked across the grassland and headed up into the surrounding scrub. He walked along the road for a while, constantly scent-marking and calling. He is much better now and the limp is hardly noticeable any more.

We have also seen the Rock Pan Female a few times this month. Since Brad and Kristi saw her two months ago with her tiny cub, we have not seen her much. On the 9th she was spotted with her cub on the southern embankment of the channel near "The Bottleneck". She had killed an adult male impala and they were feeding on it. They remained in the area the next day as well. The cub is still skittish of vehicles, but we think it will relax over time. On the 24th Ollie was approaching "Botsilo Pan" in the mopane woodlands, when he found her and her cub lying out in the open area that was the dried up pan. The cub was suckling. They remained there watching her for a while until she got up and took the cub off into the woodlands.

The camp female ("Osprey Female") was seen only once this month, by Theba. She was feeding on a baboon in a tree near Devastation Drive. A spotted hyaena was at the base of the tree and when the leopard dropped the remains of prey, the hyaena grabbed it and headed into the nearby thicket. Even though the leopard is very skittish she has been in camp quite a bit this month. She comes late at night when everyone is sleeping and tries to go for the baboons that roost in the Mangosteen trees. We often hear the baboons giving their alarm barks late at night and in the morning we see her footprints on the pathway between the kitchen and the main area.

The Osprey female leopard at DumaTau

Lions were seen often this month. The Savuti Pride have reappeared after spending quite a while to the south of the Savuti Channel where we have no roads. This pride is looking healthy and consists of two adult females ("Isis" and "Savuti 2"), two sub-adult males, two sub-adult females and two younger cubs. On the morning of the 9th the pride was seen in the vicinity of Rock Pan resting on the embankment. In the afternoon, when we returned to view them, we found only the youngsters. The two adult females were seen a short distance away heading out to hunt. That evening Kane was starting to head back towards the camp for dinner and had just left the grasslands of the Savuti Channel and headed into the mopane woodlands near Green Pan. As he rounded the corner he was surprised to find the two females lying panting nearby the body of a large male giraffe that they had obviously just killed. The lionesses were quite exhausted.

The next morning when we returned to the scene the whole pride was at the carcass. A clan of spotted hyaenas had also gathered in the area, hoping to steal the carcass from the lions. There was a bit of interaction between the two species as the hyaenas gathered and the lions drove them off. In the afternoon at least 11 hyaenas had gathered and it appeared that the lions may just lose their hard-earned kill. The next morning when we appeared at the scene we found two large male lions at the carcass - two of the Savuti Males. They had driven the hyaenas back and were busy feeding on the carcass. The rest of the pride were not in the area and we later found them a few kilometres away at the area called "Giraffe Bones", resting. The next day all the lions had left the giraffe carcass and the hyaenas and vultures were cleaning up the last scraps.

The next morning we found the pride's tracks heading towards camp and found them walking through the scrublands. They were now hungry again and seemed to be moving purposefully in a north-easterly direction. We followed them and they broke into a trot. We could see that they were heading towards a large Camelthorn tree where there was a baboon carcass (possibly put there by a leopard?). It was going rotten and the lions had obviously smelled the reeking meat from a distance. One of the sub-adults reached the base of the tree first and seemed confused as to how to get the meat down when the lioness "Savuti 2" ran in and jumped up and grabbed the carcass down. There was a short scuffle and the lioness showed the others that they should leave her alone by swatting and growling at them. The others all retired to a short distance away staring at the lioness feeding with wistful eyes. In the meantime a journey of five giraffes had noticed the commotion and approached quite closely to get a better view. They took a good look at what was going on and then slowly departed from the area, with the lions still hoping to get scraps from "Savuti 2" - to no avail.

Wild Dogs at DumaTau

The Selinda Female (SEL F 18) and her two cubs are all still healthy and have been seen a few times this month. On the 19th they were seen resting in the shade, lying nearby a large termite-heap with a large hole in its base. This hole was the den of a family of warthogs and we could see in the hole was a large male guarding the entrance with his tusks. The lioness was obviously waiting for the warthog family to give up on the siege and make a scarper for it, but in the meantime, it was a stalemate and the lioness was quite content to lie back and rest while waiting for something to give. When we returned in the afternoon the warthog family had obviously escaped and the lioness was still resting nearby.

Wild dogs were seen on two days this month. Both of these sightings were of the DumaTau Pack, which now consists of 16 dogs. On the 10th they were seen feeding on an adult male impala near Rock Pan. On the 11th they were seen resting near "Big Bend"/ "Letsumo Sign". We watched as they woke up and greeted each other in the late afternoon and they then ran across the open grasslands and headed into the thick bush on the southern embankment. We have not seen them since and assume that they headed into the Selinda Concession and then possibly off towards the Kwando Area.

DumaTau game viewing

We are looking forward to what April brings now.

Best greetings,
The DumaTau Team

 

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Kings Pool Camp update - March 07                Jump to Kings Pool Camp

Game viewing along the Linyanti River is affected by rainfall in the summer months. This year the river is running high, but local rainfall has been limited to a few storms during the course of the month.

This has resulted in better than normal elephant viewing and throughout March there were a number of breeding herds active along the river. On several occasions we were lucky to watch the elephants crossing back through the river towards Botswana and these events made for some great viewing. There was also one sighting of a baby elephant that had been born just minutes before. Giraffe were present in good numbers, and a highlight was a fight between two males that ended with one animal bleeding around the horns and driven away from a group of female giraffe by the victorious male. Impala remained plentiful along the river, and the last half of the month saw the males beginning to actively gather their herds of females in preparation of the breeding season. Kudu and waterbuck were sighted daily. There were a handful of zebra sightings, as well as a couple of sightings of sable antelope. Hippo numbers in the river were high throughout the month, and we enjoyed many good sightings of hippo grazing out of the water.

Kings Pool - Cheetah

Predator viewing along the Linyanti was fairly good, with a single lioness raising her two 6-month-old cubs providing us with good viewing. For some days she was joined by two adult males from the Savuti male coalition. More lion sightings came in the form of the Border Boys, the male coalition that spend their time crossing between the Namibian floodplains and the woodlands on the Botswana side of the river. We saw three of the group of six males moving along the river several times during the month. Another group of lions, consisting of two adult females and a subadult male appeared near the camp one day and killed a waterbuck. This was made more exciting as it happened just a few hundred metres from camp. We are still unsure of their affiliations with the dominant males in the area.

Cheetah in the Savuti Channel

Leopard viewing was good, and we saw two different males during the month. One was hunting baboons at night, the other killed an impala and dragged it into a tree near the river. A good number of times we saw a young female close to Kings Pool, that the guides believe to be the daughter of the Boscia female. Near the end of the month we had our first sighting of her with her very young cub which was a highlight. During the first part of the month we did several trips to the Savuti Channel, and were lucky to have several great sightings of the two male cheetah as well as spotted hyaenas.

Birding was excellent, and the woodland fringing the river was filled with Woodland and Grey-hooded Kingfishers as well as several species of Orioles. Wattled Cranes, Saddle-billed Storks and Fish Eagles were seen regularly along the waterway. Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters added colour to the birding. A very rare sighting was recorded of an Augur Buzzard, normally a raptor associated with rock outcrops and cliffs.

Augur Buzzard

 

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Selinda & Zibalianja Camps update - March 07                Jump to Selinda Camp                Jump to Zibalianja Camp

It was a big task, but we have done it (well almost). Selinda Camp's new main area is stunning to say the very least. The daunting magnitude of creating such a structure in a mere seven weeks was brushed aside and everyone just got stuck in. The little finishing touches are currently being attended to and the final refurbishment/adaptation of the old main area is nearing completion. The "philosophy" of what Dereck and Beverly would like our guests to experience with this new building is printed in full below. It will give you some insight into their deep love and commitment to Africa and Nature, a love they want to share with all our visitors and the Linyanti staff.

At Zibalianja Camp, it was business as usual (how lucky for them), but they have had a chance to get into some maintenance and there are a few "back of house" improvements which will hopefully make the daily chores that little easier and efficient.

One new addition to all the tents at Zib is new "four-poster" mosquito nets. These add even more romance to the tent interiors as well as doing a great job of keeping the mozzis at bay!

Selinda bed

If we thought the floods past Motswiri were big last year, we are in for a surprise. Preliminary reports are that, for this time of year, the Okavango is higher than it has been in two decades. This bodes well for both our canoeing and game viewing.

On the birding side, all camps are seeing a flurry of nesting activity by the local avifauna. Weavers, palm-thrushes, babblers, and hornbills are all busy trying to multiply their species.

The Trails camps are going through the finals of their spruce-up with the first walkers due towards the end of the month. We had a small disaster when one of the trees casting its shade on a tent at Mokoba camp went roots up! We are still assessing what our options are - replant the downed tree (it's massive) or rebuild the platform at another shaded site.

Wildlife sightings
Although the reserve is looking green and the grass is high and thick, rain has been in short supply since the wet festive season we had. The result of this is that there is not much water in the back country, forcing more and more game on to the floodplains and the spillway. Large numbers of elephant are once again evident and they are always a hit with our guests.

Despite the lack of rainfall, the waters of the spillway have started to rise yet again. This is a strong indication that the watershed of the Kwando has received plenty precipitation. Indeed Angola has had terrible floods and reports are that the Okavango, Kwando and Zambezi can all expect floods considerably higher than the average.

Cat news! Two more lionesses are showing indications of a good cub season in the offing. One is heavily pregnant and the other is lactating so she probably has tiny cubs stashed somewhere safe. The two cheetah 'boys' spent a good deal of the last month on the floodplains near Zib. Their conquests included two young ostrich and a wildebeest calf all in the space of nine days.

Despite the general lack of leopard viewing at this time of year due to the height of the vegetation, a number of males have been seen. One in particular gave a grand showing outside our CMU camp. Amber and her cub have been extremely scarce, but this is normal for her until about May when she starts gracing us with her presence again.

Apart from the spectacle of the tsessebe kill at Motswiri Camp, this area has yielded good numbers and variety of plains game - tsessebe, roan, zebra, wildebeest and kudu have all been commonly sighted. Much like the floodplains to the east, elephant are also far more prevalent than usual - drawn out by the lack of rain.

More bird delights. Once the grass reaches its full wet-season height (which is now), insectivorous birds need help in catching their prey. The most ingenious of these are the Bee-eaters. They are seen frequently hitching a ride on a large animal as it wanders through the grass, kicking up grasshoppers and the like. A warthog's back or saddling up on a tall Kori Bustard is a great vantage point from which to hawk.

A "NATURAL" PHILOSOPHY FOR SELINDA CAMP
The design of the main area at Selinda sets the tone for our visitors on arrival. The philosophy of our company is simple. We firmly believe that there is no business without the environment and as such we feel a part of Nature not apart from it.

As you enter, you will start seeing subtle themes, the first of which is reflected in the blues, cool tones in the lounge, a place where drinks are taken and you can relax to the tranquillity of this WATER theme. It is accentuated by Keith Joubert's art that takes you on a journey around the room and through the four basic elements, the first of which is suggested in the use of dug-out canoes, or mokoros, which he has worked in a new crossover medium, somewhere between art and sculpture.

Step beyond this into the tea area, a sunken lounge/gathering area and the last of the blue hints linger with references to clouds in those colours and WIND is represented here as the light silk billows to the slightest breeze. It is a place to feel the cool wind on your face and close your eyes, evoking the journey you will take shortly.

In the dining areas, where fresh food from the earth is served with good, earthy wines from the cellar, EARTH tones allow you to feel grounded and at home. It is an atmosphere that makes you want to linger, almost in a Tuscan way, and be part of the family.

After dinner your journey continues to the fire. A traditional meeting place and storytelling arena where the final element of FIRE completes the four corners of being grounded in life and accepting Nature into your world. The accents around the fire are enhanced with red blankets draped over the chairs in winter.

At Selinda Camp the design is practical and exciting, based on that blurring of the lines between inside and out and also on our understanding that we are Nature, not in opposition to it. You will see this in the almost invisible barrier (cables rather than balustrades) and art that can be weathered. The visual lines (in the floors) lead your eye inside as you enter and then outside when you are in the comfort of the lounge. They don't trap you inside a building.

The Selinda is not a place to chase the Big Five - an archaic hunting term, a philosophy we abhor, even though you will most likely see lion, elephant, and buffalo - even cheetah or wild dogs. But you will do it at their pace not ours, and in that Selinda is more about reflection rather than the chase.

Here we invite you to also be still and to think about the moments in life you have loved, and to make this one of them.

Dereck and Beverly Joubert - The Selinda

 

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Kwando Safari Camps Update - March 07

Lagoon camp               Jump to Lagoon Camp
(Weeks 1-2)
• A single lioness was seen roaming through the area.
A female leopard and her cub were seen feeding on an Impala kill. Two male leopards were also seen, both were very relaxed and one of them was sitting on top of a termite mound observing his territory.
The pack of 6 wild dogs continue to be sighted in the Lagoon area. They have been found on numerous occasions, with full bellies and blood on their faces but no one actually saw them killing.
Good sightings of chameleons were again reported. Three Hyena were seen hunting and killing an Impala. Another clan were seen feeding on a giraffe carcass. Genets, springhare and black backed jackals were also seen on some of the night drives.
Small groups of elephants, breeding herds as well as bachelor groups, continue to be seen on the floodplains and on the riverbanks.
General game is very good with Tsetsebee, warthog, wildebeest, steenbok, lechwe, zebra seen on most drives. Some guests were lucky and managed to get a good look at some sable antelope. A very rare sighting of a herd of Eland was also reported, they were seen in the Northern part of the
concession.
Birding continues to be good with lots of birds of prey and some European bee-eaters being sighted. There are also still a few carmine bee-eaters around.
A black mamba was seen on one of the night drives and a 4-meter African rock python was found sleeping in a tree.

(Weeks 3-4)
• A single male lion was heard calling for a couple of nights. He was eventually tracked down and was found feeding on a Kudu kill. Another two males were also seen, moving South through the area.   
• An excellent sighting of an unknown 2 year old male Leopard was reported. He was found sleeping on a termite mound and was very nervous at first but relaxed after a while. He allowed the game drive vehicle to get close enough for very good viewing.
• One female cheetah was seen hunting, and she was later seen moving South, towards the Lebala area.   
• The Lagoon pack of 6 dogs were seen hunting in the area but no kills were seen. The pack of 16 dogs came over from the Lebala area and the Lagoon pack disappeared whilst they were around.
• Hyena, both species of Jackal, African wild cat, small spotted genet, civet, bat-eared fox and caracal was seen during the night drives.  
• Small groups of elephants, breeding herds as well as bachelor groups, continue to be seen on the floodplains and on the riverbanks.      
• General game is very good with Tsetsebee, warthog, wildebeest, steenbok, lechwe, zebra seen on most drives. Some guests were lucky and managed to get a good look at some roan antelope.
• A group of 36 banded mongoose were seen, as well as 3 porcupine, a civet and a honey badger.   
• Birding continues to be good, especially the birds of prey, with Martial eagle, Black breasted snake eagle, Giant eagle owl, barn owl and pearl spotted owls being seen. Spoon bill storks and wattled cranes were also seen.   

Kwara & Little Kwara camps               Jump to Kwara & Little Kwara camps
(Weeks 1-2)
• Three different prides of lions have been seen. The two big dominant males have joined up again with the rest of their pride (4 females and one sub adult male). They have been very active, hunting around the camp and airstrip and were seen feeding on a Tsessebe.
• A smaller pride consisting of 2 females and a year old cub were seen hunting around the mekoros station area. Another pride of five lions was seen killing a warthog.
• The famous leopard and cub were seen trying to hunt impala, as well as warthog. They were not successful and spent a lot of time relaxing in a tree.
• The coalition of three-brother cheetah was seen on numerous occasions. They looked very hungry at one stage but were later found with full bellies.
• A pack of 2 dogs appeared at Kwara camp one morning and the camp called the game drive vehicles back to come and have a look. They were very healthy looking, but did not spend much time in the area.
• Elephant numbers are slowly increasing in the area and quite a few bachelor herds as well as small breeding herds have been seen.
• Night drives provided sightings of hyena and, both jackal species. Hyena were also seen and heard in camp every night.
• General game sightings continue to be very good and the impala are also starting to rut. Good sightings of hippo coming out of the water to graze in front of the camp were also reported.
• Very good sightings of Serval and African wildcat were reported. A caracal was also seen walking down a road in broad daylight.
• Birding continues to be good. Martial eagle, brown snake eagle and black-breasted snake eagle were some of the birds of prey being seen. Marabou stork and saddle-billed storks was also seen. The guides also managed to locate two puff adders.


(Weeks 3-4)
• Two prides of lions were very active in the area. A pride of 5 lions, consisting of 2 females, with the three one year cubs were seen feeding on a tsessebe kill. The pride with the two big males, 4 females and 1 sub adult male were seen feeding on a big male giraffe. No one knows how the giraffe died, but it is quite possible that they made the kill.
• The now famous leopard cub, created lots of entertainment when she was left on her own, while mom went out to hunt. Firstly she decided to stalk some cattle egret, which were walking next to an elephant. The egrets flew away when she charged and she was left with the elephant, which was a bit out of her league! She then went on to hop around in a marula tree, trying to catch a tree squirrel, which also did not go according to plan.   
• A female cheetah, with her litter of 3 one year old cubs were seen relaxing in the four rivers area. The three brothers were found almost on the same spot, 2 days later. They stalked an impala and then went in for the kill, in front of the game drive vehicles. Some of the guests managed to capture the whole hunt on film.      
• Very good sightings of bull elephants have been reported. They moved in to the area to feed on the marula fruits, which is now ripening up and falling from the trees. One of these bulls was made the joke of the day, when a hippo calf charged him and scared him away, whilst he was trying to get a drink from  the water hole in front of camp.
• Guests on one of the boat cruises had a fantastic sighting when they came across two old buffalo bulls swimming through the river in front of the boat.         
• Night drives provided sightings of hyena and, both jackal species. Hyena were also seen and heard in camp every night. Two flap necked chameleons were spotted in the light, on the night drives.
• General game sightings continue to be very good. Giraffe, zebra, tsessebe, kudu and some sable antelope were seen. Good sightings of hippo coming out of the water to graze in front of the camp were also reported.
• A serval created lots of excitement when it managed to leap one and a half meters in to the air to catch a bird. Two honey badgers were seen running across the plains and an African wild cat was unexpectedly seen on a morning game drive.      
• Birding continues to be good. A pair of watteled cranes, saddle billed storks, yellow billed storks, marabou storks and some ground hornbills were also seen.

Lebala camp
               Jump to Lebala Camp
(Weeks 1-2)
The guides have been trying very hard to find the den of the three lionesses that are roaming the area at the moment. They were able to hear them calling in the mopane forest, but have been unable to locate the den up to now.
• A big male leopard was seen and followed along river road. He was very relaxed, but disappeared into some long grasses after a while.
• Herds of elephant continue to be seen, but they seem to be found more on the edges of the Mopane woodland, rather than on the riverbanks where they were concentrated for the past 2 weeks.
• Hyena and both of the jackal species were seen during the day and night. Eight hyena were found feeding on an elephant carcass. The elephant had died of natural causes.
• Excellent general game with many large journeys of giraffe, impala, waterbuck, Tsessebe, Wildebeest, Steenbok zebra, red lechwe and kudu.
• Very good sightings of all the mongoose species were reported daily. Serval and Civet cats as well as porcupine have been seen on the night drives.
• A mating pair of honey badgers was seen feeding on a leopard tortoise. A good sighting of a caracal, walking down main road was also reported.
• Birdlife continues to be excellent. African skimmers, ostriches, wattled cranes and lots of ducks and geese were seen, as well as many birds of prey.


(Weeks 3-4)

• A very relaxed male leopard was located on a morning drive. He was demarcating his territory whilst also trying to hunt. Another leopard was seen by guests whilst walking near Springhare link. They could not identify the leopard as it was very skittish when they approached on foot. A female leopard was seen hunting North of Motswiri pan. She was followed by some hyena and jackal and disappeared into the mopane forest after a while.
• A female cheetah was seen around the white plains area. She was very relaxed and spent a lot of time relaxing on termite mounds.
• The pack of 16 wild dogs are still hunting in the Lebala area, and they created lots of excitement as always. They were followed on two hunts and they managed to kill an Kudu and Impala. They were seen feeding on two more Impala kills and their fights with the Hyena, who were trying to steal their kills, were as spectacular as ever. The guides have now established that it is the Alpha female that is  pregnant. The Beta female is still acting very dominant, but that might be because of the Alpha female being  very old.       
• Herds of elephant continue to be seen, some of them coming very close to camp. Bull elephants are a common sighting on the flood plains and also having mud baths in the pans.
• Hyena have been following the wild dogs and raiding their kills. Their strategy being that they rest with the wild dogs at the water holes and they then follow the dogs when they start hunting. At one of the wild dog kills, two different clans clashed over the bounty. Jackals of both species are a common sighting.   
• Excellent general game with many large journeys of giraffe, impala, waterbuck, Tsessebe, Wildebeest, Steenbok zebra, red lechwe and kudu. A herd of Sable antelope was also seen.     
• African wild cats are a common sighting in the trees at night. A striped polecat and both species of Genet were also seen. Two sightings of Caracal was reported, one was a female and her cub hunting during the night drives. The other was of a solitary female also hunting.
• Birdlife continues to be excellent. African skimmers, ostriches, wattled cranes and lots of ducks and geese were seen, as well as many birds of prey. Secretary birds, pythons and leopard tortoises have also been seen.

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Mombo Camp update - March 07                Jump to Mombo Camp

It has been another amazing month at Mombo. Yet again the area has produced consistently good sightings of a large variety and number of species.

The weather has been a bit unusual this month with higher than usual temperatures, with minimums of around 23?C going up to 38?C. This has been attributed to the lack of rainfall this month. Although we have not had much rain this month the Okavango catchment area in Angola has received a large amount of rainfall this season and we are now seeing the affects with the steady rise of the water in the floodplains. This in turn is producing some excellent birding.

Lion in flood waters at Mombo

With not having any rain this month the vegetation has died down drastically, giving everything a very dry look. There is however a defined line of green where the floodplains start. This is attracting large amounts of game to the water's edge and pushing other game out of the floodplains.

There is now a very noticeable change in the season with the days becoming gradually shorter. The last week has seen a progressive drop in the morning temperatures. In the coming month this will happen a lot quicker

Lion
The Mathata Pride has been very active in and around the camp this month and on some memorable occasions has been seen taking down the resident buffalo males that live in the camp. This has given guests a great opportunity to observe the interaction between the lions themselves and the hyaena in the area. There was also an amazing sighting of two nomadic male lions and a female taking down a buffalo calf, the herd retaliating and the lioness getting badly injured in the process.

Mombo Lion

Leopard
The highlight of the month was the sighting of Lagadima's first cub. The cub was seen at the beginning of the month and we have not had a sighting since as for the first couple of weeks since seeing them, we have chosen to leave the two of them alone, as this is a very vulnerable time for a leopard cub and our presence could attract the unwanted interest of other animals like baboon, lion and hyaena. There have been numerous other sightings of some of the other leopard in the area with some of them on kills as well.

Elephants
With the high temperatures and low rainfall the pans in the woodland areas surrounding the Delta have been drying up. This has led to the elephants moving back to the permanent waters of the Delta. We are now being able to have the wonderful sight of breeding herds in the area, with the youngsters providing great entertainment.

Mombo Elephant

Buffalo
There are two large herds moving around the area at the moment and these herds are in excess of 300+ and are a very impressive sight to see.

Rhino
We started the month with great excitement with the birth of another white rhino but sadly the calf did not survive. Poster who is responsible for the rhino monitoring, has seen the mother on a number of occasions since the birth, but without her new calf. We can only speculate as to what happened. We have had a number of good rhino sightings this month with some guests seeing as many as four at one time.

White Rhino at Mombo

The wild dogs have been moving in and out of the area, which have been seen in the northern parts of the area. We have also been seeing some of the more unusual animals such as caracal, honey badger and African wildcat.

With the approach of the dry season, we can only expect the game viewing to get even better.

See you soon.
All of us at Mombo

 

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Jack's Camp update - March 07                Jump to Jack's Camp

The month of March brought unusually high temperatures and low rainfall to the Makgadikgadi. Quite unusual for this time of year, but that's the wonder of the Makgadikgadi and why, after so many years we keep being surprised by this fascinating area.

The thousands of zebra that were around camp earlier in the year have now dwindled to a few lone individuals, choosing the waterhole just outside camp over a long walk back to the Boteti. This has become a precarious practice, given that we have two lionesses at Jack's Camp, one of which appears to have some cubs in tow.

We have also been blessed with more meerkat pups, which have only in the last couple of weeks ventured outside the burrow. Sadly one did not survive the early days, so we are left with four from a litter of five. It will be interesting to see at what stage the group breaks up, since after several litters in the last nine months, the group has grown to 19 individuals.

Meerkat pup at Jack's Camp

Meanwhile, the brown hyaena cubs, now a few months old, grow ever more curious, and one has been spotted wandering from the kitchen in the late afternoon, no doubt tempted by the delicious aromas of dinner.

Hyena cub at Jack's Camp

The staff did their best to assist with nature, rescuing a tortoise from an onslaught of ants; this involved plucking the ravenous insects from inside the poor tortoise's shell one by one with a pair of tweezers! After a few days of recuperation, the tortoise wandered off back into the bush. We also seem to have attracted a pair of young Pearl-spotted Owls to the senior staff mess; they're such a regular sighting that we've considered placing them on the official staff register!

Pearl-spotted Owl

Not all our wildlife encounters have happy endings though, as a hornbill chick which was found abandoned on the ground, too weak to break out of its shell, it failed to survive more than a few days despite desperate feeding attempts by several members of staff.

Hornbill chick in egg

And so, as the peak season beckons, it seems unlikely that we will get any more rain in the Makgadikgadi this season. We can only hope that as many of the hundreds of zebra foals as possible survive the migration back to water, so we will see them again next year. Given the floods in Angola and Zambia this year, it is one of nature's paradoxes that rain seldom falls where it is needed most, but if it were all so easy to predict, I guess Africa wouldn't be as exciting and alluring as it is.

Max Temp: 45 degrees
Min Temp: 16 degrees
Rainfall: 9mm

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