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Page 1 Updates
Info and updates from Wilderness Safaris.
North Island Dive Report from
Monthly update from Lunga River Lodge in
Monthly update from Kapinga Camp in
Monthly update from DumaTau Camp in
Monthly update from Savuti Camp in
Monthly update from Kings Pool Camp in
Baboon Infanticide and Cannibalism at Kings Pool Camp in
Monthly update from Selinda & Zibalianja Camps in
Kwando Safaris game reports
Monthly update from Mombo
Camp in Botswana.
Monthly update from Chitabe
Camp in Botswana.
Monthly update from Tubu Tree Camp in
Monthly update from Kwetsani Camp in
Monthly update from Duba Plains Camp in
Monthly update from Abu Camp in
Monthly update from Jao
Camp in Botswana.
Monthly update from Little Vumbura in
Monthly update from Vumbura Plains in
Monthly update from Jacana Plains in
Monthly newsletter from the Mana Canoe Trail in
Monthly update from Makalolo Plains in
Monthly update from Pafuri Camp in
Monthly update from Rocktail
Bay in South Africa.
Safaris Updates - May 2007
Makuleke designated Ramsar Site of Wetlands of International Importance
On 22 May 2007, International Day of Biodiversity, South Africa’s Department of Environment and Tourism announced a new Ramsar listing: the Makuleke Wetlands in the far north of the Kruger. The Makuleke Wetlands are part of the 59,000-acre private Makuleke Concession in which Wilderness Safaris’ Pafuri Camp lies.
A wetland that is added to the Ramsar listing becomes known as a wetland of international importance as per the Convention on Wetlands, signed in Ramsar, Iran, in 1971. The Convention is an intergovernmental treaty providing the framework for national action and international cooperation for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources.
Wilderness Safaris is proud to be a part of South Africa’s 19th Ramsar site and is delighted at the timely recognition of the area’s unique conservation value.
New Packages: Rocktail Bay and Phinda
Wilderness Safaris is pleased to release three excellent new packages combining Rocktail Bay with Phinda Private Game Reserve. Both are situated in Maputaland, one of the most scenic parts of northern KwaZulu-Natal. Rocktail Bay Lodge is located in the Greater St Lucia Wetland Park, a World Heritage Site, and Phindais situated on the border of this important area. The combination allows guests to experience both the diverse habitats of Maputaland's inland areas - big game viewing - and the natural beauty of the coast and its marine environment.
Each of the three packages combining Phinda and Rocktail comprises three nights at each camp, with only the transfers between them differing. One caters to those guests traveling ‘self-drive’, one to those guests flying only between Rocktail and Phinda and one to those guests flying out of Johannesburg over the whole itinerary.
Incredible flood waters in NG25 Jump
to Jao Camp
Scenes at Jao to the west of Chiefs Island in the central parts of the Okavango are very impressive thanks to the floodwaters transforming it into a water wonderland. This year’s flood has been a big one and the floodplains and grassland are all inundated. Between April and October each year this phenomenal natural event causes all sorts of improvisation and adaptation in the area’s animal life. The resident female leopard around Jao was seen moving her two cubs from island to island across open stands of water. (Photograph: Victor Horatius)
Lions in Malawi
Apart from hyena there are no other common predators in Liwonde National Park – until a few months ago. For the past few months Mvuu guests have been able to hear lions roar almost every night. They are far off on the eastern side of the Park – about 10km away – and very wary of any public viewing. They haven’t been seen but now that most of the water has gone it’s going to be easier to get closer to them, or maybe for them to get closer to the camps in order to drink from the river. The last time that lions were recorded was 96/97, so naturally we are very excited!
Ongava Wildlife Vaccination Program
A rhino vaccination program against anthrax was recently completed at Ongava; anthrax is a disease that is endemic in neighboring Etosha. A total of 44 rhino (27 white, 16 black) were vaccinated and a new month-old black rhino calf was seen for the first time. Antibodies in the rhino will be checked again in September to assess the effectiveness of the vaccination program. In addition, as part of the operation a gemsbok and kudu were radio collared. Ongava continues to be a significant contributor to rhino and other conservation in Namibia, the expense and effort of this program underlining their commitment to the cause.
Busanga Bush Camp is gearing up to open for the season. The tents are now on top of ground level wooden decks and have had a soft refurb. The open-air bathrooms have been moved back creating an enlarged and brighter space.
The dining area has had a complete makeover maximizing views of the Busanga Plains. The camp retains its bush feel with solar geysers and solar lights ensuring the environmental footprint is light. The camp also has a new kitchen, office and storeroom. Sewerage and plumbing were also completely redone. Getting materials to camp entailed of a 12-16 hour truck ride, a 45-minute mokoro excursion and a two-hour walk!
The back-of-house areas of the brand new Kalamu Camp are now complete and the team can start to focus on the guest tents. The camp will open in July 2007. Game viewing in the area has been good with lion reported regularly. The road building team witnessed a kill of a puku. Leopard are heard most nights, five wild dogs came through the site and buffalo and elephant frequent the vicinity.
Zibalianja Camp closes on 27 November 2007 and reopens as a completely redesigned three-roomed Premier Camp on 05 April 2008. The ‘new’ Zibalianja will only accept children 12 years of age and older.
A new family room has been built at Ongava Lodge. Special care was taken to use local materials (Ongava rock and mopane, Caprivi thatch). Additional environmental principles were taken into account with the use of solar powered geysers and an advanced air conditioning unit that automatically reduces power when no movement is detected in the room for a 20 minute period (when guests are asleep or outside).
Ongava Tented Camp also underwent some refurbishment with new Prosopis decking (an alien invasive species) being well received.
At Ruckomechi Camp the main area and a few of the rooms have been re-thatched. Game viewing has been very good and Ruckomechi continues to live up to its reputation as a top leopard viewing destination. The camp regularly hosts elephant, particularly a bull known as Changamere who is more often than not in and around camp.
Abu Private Villa, the exclusive private villa in the Abu concession is now offering elephant back rides at no additional cost on Friday afternoons only. The sought-after three-day elephant back safari programs at Abu Camp, operate as usual starting on Saturdays and Tuesdays.
The new rooms at Little Vumbura and Savuti camps do not yet feature outside showers (although the honeymoon room at Little Vumbura does have an outside bath). Outside showers will be installed after the high season – anyway, it’s still a little too cold to shower outside!
Access to Serra Cafema will become simpler in 2008. On Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, Sefofane will offer seat rates to the camp. All seat rates to and from Serra Cafema are only applicable on these days. Flights depart Windhoek at 9:00am and arrive back in Windhoek at 4:15pm. Inter-camp transfers for Serra Cafema will be linked to this aircraft. All guests traveling to Serra Cafema from Windhoek need to ensure that they are in Windhoek before 8:15am. Connections to international flights out of Windhoek should be after 6:00pm. Flights to or from Serra Cafema on Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday will have to be booked on a Private Charter basis.
/ North Island
North Island Dive Report
- May 07 Jump
The month of May has come and gone and so has the fair weather of the north-east trade winds. The south-east monsoon arrived here and announced itself very clearly by removing around 20 metres of beach from the front area in two days! A very impressive spectacle.This change of weather and movement of the beach is normal as the winds change direction, become slightly stronger and move the sand from the east to the west side of the island.
This also creates changes in the sea life and we have seen Yellowfin Tuna schooling around as well as our first Sailfish caught and released this year. One of our dive sites called "Sprat City" has started to come alive. This reef is so named because of the amount of Sprats that hatch there during this time of year, making it literally a massive city of Sprats. The Sprats are now starting to hatch and because of the extra food in the water we have the gamefish coming to feed on them. Sightings of schools of Bluefin Kingfish, Tuna, Trevally, Queenfish and lots of others are almost guaranteed for the next few months while this reef plays host to this very visual ecosystem.
A number of very large Green Turtles have been seen again this month. At least one of them is the same giant turtle we saw last month, but we are unsure about the other sightings.
We still have the baby Lemon Sharks hanging around right on the shore-breakers. These juvenile Lemon Sharks are only about a foot long and stay in the shallows away from any bigger animals that would hunt them as prey. We also have a number of Eagle Rays hanging around on the main beach. This month we have seen three or four larger species coming quite close in and jumping into the air before landing with a big splash! This is a great spectacle and gets everyone who sees it very excited.
The reef we found in February named "Treasure Chest" has now been renamed "Brain Freeze" due to its topography and fish life freezing your brain. We have made a few dives there and have been rewarded with sightings of massive schools of Coachmen, Damsels and Fusiliers as well as some very nice hard and soft corals. The reef lies at 20 metres on top and 25 metres on the bottom and also has stingrays, crayfish, plenty of Lionfish and all sorts of reef fish, crustaceans and cephalopods inhabiting this very alive piece of seafloor.
For the month of June we are looking forward to observing and reporting on all the fascinating changes happening under the sea.
Lunga River Lodge
update - May 07 Jump
Getting to camp at the end of the rains this year proved challenging to say the least. The staff convoy, three vehicles strong, left Lusaka on 7th April and finally made it into camp 25 hours later! Although the route taken was the 'long way round' (i.e. through the Copperbelt), this trip usually takes 16 hours at the most! Roads proved impassable and there were many sessions of mud wrestling and vehicle pushing and shoving!
Staff that had remained in camp or that had already returned to begin the season were relieved to see the troops arrive - glad for the company and fresh rations. No time was wasted however as the camp had to be unpacked and set up. There were also a number of improvements and renovations made to the camp, such as a new boma built on the termite mound behind the swimming pool, and bush pole screens put up in front of donkey boilers by each chalet. One of the most impressive jobs delivered was the preparing of the airstrip? slashing, raking, slashing again!
Lunga was prepared and ready for our first guests on 30th April. Let the season begin!
Temperatures have been a little temperamental - the first few weeks were cold and windy but we then had an unusually warm week with mild mornings and evenings and hot days. Even the pool has been used regularly! The new moon however has bought the cold back with it though, and nights and mornings are very nippy again, campfires being a welcome retreat in the evenings after dinner.
Wildlife has been scattered due to large amounts of water still found everywhere in the area. As it starts to dry up however we have been noticing a slow but sure congregation of game in some areas once again.
Our first night drive was a huge hit with our first sighting of lionesses, one of which is suspected to be pregnant. Other sightings of interest have been side-striped jackal, Lichtenstein's hartebeest and a herd of buffalo.
Elephants have been in camp several times again to welcome us back. One bull felt so comfortable in his thicket between Chalets 5 and 6 that he would not allow us past to show new guests into Chalet 6. After some enticing and distraction, he finally decided to leave his thicket? until the next time!
There have also been some wonderful elephant sightings on the boat and from the bar deck - swimming and frolicking in the water. An awesome sight to see these magnificent beasts splashing around like dolphins!
Highlights of the river cruises have definitely been the birds. Favourites having been African Finfoot, Maccoa Duck, Black-backed Barbet and Schalow's Turaco.
We expect it is going to be another awesome season!
The Lunga Team
Guest comments for May:
"The whole team is wonderful and I think Lunga is an amazing little camp." - JU, USA
"Camp is in such a beautiful location and the river and surrounds are just stunning." - MP, RSA
"I had a great time here at Lunga. The warmth and hospitality here really made it special here. Thanks!" - NU, USA
Camp update - May 07 Jump
What a spectacular month to be on the Busanga Plains. We moved across to Kapinga from Shumba on the 14h May with our first guests for the season arriving on the 18th.
Temperatures have been warm for most of the month but mornings and evenings have been getting progressively cooler. Midday temperatures are pleasant and guests have been making good use of the pool. Kapinga is fortunate to be set within tall trees and bushes which break any wind chill factor. Water levels on the plains remain high but seem to be receding every day, allowing the movement of vehicles to become easier.
Lions were spotted on a number of occasions between Kapinga and Busanga Bush Camp. So far the lions which have been spotted have consisted of two males and a female and separately three females and a young male. The lions have been hard at work chasing and catching puku and red lechwe between Kapinga and Busanga a number of times. They have also been heard roaring every night close to the camp. Buffalo have moved through camp and we know of at least two 'dagga boys' which seem to be permanent on Kapinga Island.
We have had a lot of elephant activity on Kapinga Island with a breeding herd accompanied by a large bull roaming around close to camp. One misty morning we woke up to find the bull feeding not far in front of camp. The herd is still on the island and seems settled. Every morning we find the tracks of spotted hyaena, civet, white-tailed mongoose and serval in the camp and its surroundings. We also have been finding fresh leopard tracks daily on the island and feel certain that leopard sightings will increase from now onwards.
Birding has been excellent! The floodplains are a waterbird paradise and have kept us constantly 'ticking'. The Wattled and Crowned Cranes have been dancing their days away on the giant 'ballroom dance floors' of the plains which is always a privilege to watch. What at first appear to be massive clouds of smoke soon reveal themselves to be large flocks of Opened-billed Storks circling closer and closer. We have built up a very large species list some of which include: Glossy Ibis, Lesser Jacana, Lesser Gallinule, Pygmy Goose, White-faced Duck, Dabchick, Darter, Goliath Heron, Purple Heron, Rufous-bellied Heron and many more. We were also very excited to find a spot above the channel where two Half-collared Kingfishers perch every day. One day camp really had a buzz to it as we spotted two Böhm's Bee-eaters fluttering around. We have been fortunate to see them every day since. Rosy-throated Longclaw and Sooty Chat have also been spotted and the raptors have been exhilarating as always. To name just a few: Black-chested Snake Eagle, African Marsh Harrier, Lizard Buzzard, Gabar Goshawk, and Little-banded Goshawk.
One morning we watched as a Martial Eagle soared high above its unsuspecting prey of Great White Egrets below, and expertly dropped from the sky shooting straight towards the circling birds. A slight miscalculation from the eagle resulted in a very fortunate egret suffering only the indignity of avoiding the dangerous talons in a mid-air scramble which was anything but the usual elegant flight of these majestic birds. Owls have also been adding to our list. We have felt the presence of the watchful eye of the bush elders on us, with numerous species being spotted such as: Barn Owl, Spotted Eagle Owl, Marsh Owl, Wood Owl and Barred Owl. These have been just a few of our ever-increasing bird list.
Our guests have all thoroughly enjoyed their stay with us in Kapinga and we look forward to much more of the same in the months to follow.
The Kapinga Team
update - May 07 Jump
May is the beginning of our dry winter season; there has been no rain this month and thus we must admit that the rainy season is now definitely at its end. The minimum temperature in the morning, at the start of the month, was around 16° Celsius but towards the latter half of the month a cold front came through and the early morning temperatures dropped down to a chilly 6° Celsius. The mid-afternoon temperatures are still warm and have dropped from the low thirties to the mid to high-twenties. The weather has been reasonably comfortable and mild, but we are expecting the colder temperatures soon. We have already unpacked our beanies, gloves, scarves and fleeces in preparation for the winter months.
It appears that we are due for a very dry winter this year. Our annual rainfall has only been in the region of two-thirds of the norm. The seasonal pools in the Mopane woodlands are now almost all dry and those few pans that do still have a bit of moisture are dirty and muddy. The air is very dry and the dust floats about leaving a trail behind the vehicles and the herds of animals, lighting up in beautiful golden colours with the afternoon sun behind it. In the Mopane woodlands the leaves have all turned chestnut-brown and many lie littered upon the ground. The leaves of the Kalahari Apple Leaf trees are now all pale cream and give off a dry rustling noise when the breeze blows through them. The grass layer is becoming thinner and throughout the scrublands bare sand is starting to show. The beach-like sand patches has become quite difficult to drive through as the grains are loose. We have had a few vehicles stuck in the sand this month with much muted cursing and lots of physical labour to get them out. In the riparian woodland bordering the Linyanti River the elephants have stripped the Feverberry Crotons of much of their leaves and visibility is becoming better. The grass in the Savuti Channel is also thinner and shorter than it was in summer.
The water level in the lagoons and the river has dropped slightly and the floodplains that were quite moist are now drying up and reverting to grasslands. The water in the Savuti Channel has continued to dry up and is in pools at the Old Mopane Bridge. We have not yet, however, received our normal annual flood and are expecting the water levels in the lagoons and the river to rise again in the next month or two. It will be interesting to see the floodplains become moist and green again and to see how far the water will push up the dry Savuti Channel this year.
The migratory birds have all left us now, but this does not mean that the bird life is poor! Many of the resident birds are extraordinarily beautiful e.g. the Lilac-breasted Roller, White-fronted Bee-eater and the starlings to name a few. Our species count for the month is still over 180. A wealth of raptors including Bateleur, Fish Eagle, Martial Eagle, Tawny Eagle, Brown Snake Eagle and African Hawk Eagle are still present and in the grasslands of the Savuti Channel we are still seeing some of the larger birds such as Ostrich and Kori Bustard, as well as Ground Hornbill and the amazing Secretarybird. The lagoons are still attracting numerous ducks and geese and in places where the water has formed pools the storks and egrets congregate in small groups trying to herd the fish and frogs into the shallows where they become easier pickings. This month we have had regular sightings of a group of Wattled Cranes near Zibadianja Hide. At one time there were 11 cranes together at one place.
The general game is getting better and better as winter approaches and they are forced to the river to drink. We have had a handful of sightings of big buffalo bulls this month. The Savuti Channel is packed with zebra. At each of the pumped waterholes (Rock Pan, Dish Pan and Savuti waterhole) they gather in their hundreds in the late mornings and around noon. With all the smaller harems or herds of zebra all gathering together in large "dazzles" there is a lot of interaction between the groups. The air rings with their dog-like whooping call and the stallions are often seen sparring and fighting with one another, trying to bite each other's legs, kicking each other and raising up on their hind legs as they try to bite and kick their opponents. With the big herds of zebra in the channel there is also a lot of dust now.
Giraffes, impala, red lechwe, Chacma baboons, warthogs, vervet monkeys, blue wildebeest, hippo and kudu amongst others are
being seen on almost every drive but we are also starting to see some of the rarer antelope again. On a few occasions this month
we have seen roan and sable in the Mopane woodlands, and for much of the month there has been a small herd of tsessebe in the
grasslands near Dish Pan Clearing.
The elephant numbers are also increasing now and there are very few drives that we do not see these grey goliaths. George, the big
old bull elephant with chipped tusks and a hole in the forehead, is back in the camp for winter and we see him almost every day,
sometimes in the company of Dennis or some smaller bulls. In the late mornings and late afternoons the elephant herds start
coming down to the river and the lagoons to drink and mud-bathe. Usually after drinking the herds then go to a sandy area where
they throw dust all over their bodies and shower themselves with sand.
Sadly, however, we have noticed that there are quite a few youngsters and teenagers that have lost the ends (and sometimes even more) of their trunks. We wonder how this could have happened - possibly hyaenas? One evening we were watching a herd of elephants coming down to drink in the late afternoon light. Almost the entire herd had already reached the water when we saw a female coming out of the bushes. She was quite stressed and kept looking backwards towards the bushes. Finally out of the vegetation we saw a small baby elephant emerge. The female called the baby and went back to help it along. The youngster was
wobbling about on its legs and we then noticed that it was bleeding from its trunk (which was all mangled) and from its rump area. Some predator or other had obviously attacked it. The mother helped the baby to the water, where it collapsed and started to drink with its mouth. The mother then gently tried to assist the baby back to its feet, but it collapsed again into the mud. It was very heart-sore to watch and in the end we decided to leave the elephants at the edge of the water. They must have eventually moved away as they were not there when we returned to the area on the way back to camp that night.
One afternoon we were driving past Kubu Lagoon headed towards Croc Island Floodplains. We had just turned the corner and noticed that the floodplains were black with animals. We assumed that it was a large herd of buffalo, but as we drove closer we noticed that the animals were in fact elephants. Altogether we counted over 250 elephants in the open grasslands, and there were still others that we could see disappearing into the riverine woodland - and still more that we could hear splashing about in the marsh and in the tall reedbeds!
With the grass becoming thinner and shorter we are starting to see many of the smaller mammals again. This month we have had a few sightings of porcupine, large-spotted genets, small-spotted genets, black-backed jackals, bat-eared foxes, honey badgers and mongooses (banded, slender, dwarf and Selous).
Predator sightings have been great this month.
We have had quite a few views of spotted hyaena, almost every day. We are now in the process of trying to set up an ID kit of each individual seen and photographed, so that we can know how many hyaenas there are in the concession and how big the clans are. On the morning of the 5th we were driving near Dish Pan when we noticed a few hyaena in the open grasslands. We found that they were feeding on the carcass of an adult zebra. Possibly the hyaena managed to kill the zebra during the night. In past years we have seen the hyaena chasing zebra round the open grassland during the night, in the winter months. At this particular sighting there were eventually at least 15 hyaena. Two black-backed jackals were also in the area and we had a great time watching the jackals sneaking up to the carcass and stealing pieces from out from underneath the hyaenas' noses. Those jackals are certainly plucky little animals. As the carcass disappeared many hyaena, full-bellied, left the area to find some shade to rest in. The jackals then took full advantage and we had great views of a single hyaena trying to chase the jackals and vultures from the remains of the zebra. It was a great morning!
We have had some awesome cheetah viewing this month and have seen these magnificent spotted cats on at least 16 days this month. Most of these sightings have been of the two "Savuti Boys" and they have been mainly seen in the open grasslands of Dish Pan Clearing and in the area to the south-east of Savuti Camp, near the large Sausage Tree. One afternoon the two boys were seen feeding on a young female Ostrich west of Savuti Camp. Even though cheetah are the fastest of all the land mammals it amazes us that they can catch these speedy birds.
On the morning of the 20th we found the two walking across the grasslands. They looked hungry. They came down to drink at Dish Pan and then headed south into the grasslands searching for prey. While they were walking they bumped into a large male elephant, who followed them round a bit before he got bored and decided that the water at the pan was a higher priority than following the two cats around. On the morning of the 21st Oaites was busy watching the two brothers walking across the grasslands again. They looked very hungry. Then suddenly the two cheetah caught sight of a sounder of warthogs feeding in the grass up ahead. They immediately gave chase and caught one of the piglets. The mother warthog was not going to just leave her family to the fate of the cats and suddenly turned on them, chasing them a fair bit. Oaites had a good laugh as the mother pig drove off the cats. Unfortunately for the warthogs the young pig was already dead and therefore, after the rest of the warthogs moved off, the cheetah returned to feed on their hard-earned meal.
We have also had sightings of the female cheetah that we saw in April, on at least three occasions this month. Ollie was driving along the river when he came across her resting with her youngster in an opening in the riparian vegetation. The youngster was still shy of the vehicles, but the mother seems to be quite relaxed. Then Ban found the two cheetah just behind the staff village relaxing in the shade of a Feverberry Croton. The youngster soon became more relaxed with the vehicles and came back to lie with its mother. We could hear the staff talking in the staff village and watched as the mother cheetah turned her ears that way to try and figure out what was making the sounds. The mother seemed to have a minor injury on her back right leg and one of her toes was raw. Finally the female cheetah was seen in the Savuti Channel, near Letsumo Sign. She seemed to be alone which makes us wonder what happened to her youngster. The injury to her foot seemed to be worse and it appears that she may have lost one of her rear toes.
Leopard sightings have been awesome and we had sightings of these elusive felids on at least 15 days this month. This month the sounds of leopards calling have been quite prominent in the camp at night. The sight of leopard pugmarks in the sand near the main area has become a fairly common sight. The camp lies at the boundary to two different female leopards' territories. The two female leopards are known to us as the Zib Female (who utilises the area to the south of the camp up to Zibadianja Lagoon and a fair way up the Savuti Channel, at least to Giraffe Bones) and the Osprey Female (who uses the area to the north of camp, along Osprey Lagoon and the riparian and mopane woodlands at least to the area near Deadwood). Both are shy and both have sub-adult youngsters, meaning that they are at a stage that they may seek the company of a male and mate again.
The Zib Female was also seen on few occasions this last month. One morning we could hear a leopard calling behind the camp as were doing the guest wake-ups. We followed the sounds and eventually got a glimpse of her as she ran into the thick bushes. We decided to leave her alone and were heading back when we came across a hyaena running towards where the leopard had gone. We looked in the direction from which the hyaena had come and found the carcass of an adult male impala that was almost finished. At the carcass we found the Zib Female's sub-adult youngster. From what we can figure out it appears that the Zib Female had caught an impala and had it stolen by the hyaena who finished most of it off while the leopard looked on. When we arrived we disturbed the skittish female who ran away, with the hyaena now following her. The sub-adult who had also been in the area now saw a chance at the carcass and quickly headed there. This sub-adult is quite relaxed with vehicles and was therefore not bothered with us being there. She had a bit to eat, but because there was very little left she soon headed off, posing for photos, and then climbed up a Leadwood tree where she went to sleep.
The Zib sub-adult is proving to be a superb cat and is quite relaxed around vehicles. Oaites found her walking along the bank of the Savuti Channel near the 1st Corner. A jackal had seen her and was howling in the grasslands. She headed up into the scrubland where she came across a large herd of impala. We could see that she was interested in them, but was not sure what to do. The impala soon saw her and started giving alarm snorts and staring in her direction. They seemed to be teasing the young leopard and remained just out of reach. We left the frustrated female feline with the antelope.
The DumaTau Male was seen on at least three occasions this month. One afternoon he was seen drinking at the waterhole in front of Savuti Camp, magnificent in the late afternoon light. On the afternoon of the 17th he was spotted walking near Forest Rd. We followed and watched as he saw some warthogs up ahead. They were approaching their burrow for the night. The leopard snuck up, but the warthogs were aware that something was amiss and did not come straight to the burrow, but instead turned away and headed into the Cathedral Mopane Woodlands. We watched as the male then changed his strategy and started stalking them again in the woodlands. The area was a bit open and he could not dare to get too close at this point. Eventually the pigs decided to head back to the burrow. The leopard quickly tried to head them off at the burrow. When the tomcat arrived at the burrow most of the young pigs were already inside and there were still two adults approaching. The leopard sneaked right up to the entrance to the burrow and waited for the pigs to arrive. The pigs came closer and closer and at one point we thought that the pigs must only be a few metres from the cat. The pigs, however, caught wind of the leopard and ran away again. The leopard then decided to leave this family of pigs for another day, and walked into the woodlands marking his territory as he walked.
We have had some fantastic lion viewing, seen on at least 18 days this last month. The Savuti Pride is the dominant pride in the area and at present consists of two adult females ("Isis" and "Savuti 2"), 2 sub-adult males, 2 sub-adult females and two younger sub-adults/cubs. This month they were often seen in the company of two large male lions that are known as "Savuti Male 2" and "Savuti Male 4". These two mature males are a part of a coalition of 4 male lions. They prefer to travel in two distinct pairs i.e. Males 1 & 3 together and 2 & 4 together. We did not see any sign of Males 1 & 3 this month.
Up until the 20th the Savuti Pride were mainly seen in the area between Savuti Camp, Dish Pan and Rock Pan. This is not surprising considering all the zebra in the grasslands there. On the 15th the pride were found with the two large males to the west of Savuti Camp. They had killed an adult male kudu, but the males had expropriated it and were feeding on it while the rest of the pride looked on. When one of the males moved the carcass into the shade the pride immediately sprang up to investigate whether the males had left any scraps lying around. The next day they were all found much deeper into the mopane scrubland, lying at the edge of a dried up pan. Thuto, one of the Exploration Guides, was watching the lions resting during the middle of the day. At one point the female known as Savuti 2 got up and the two males reacted to her. They obviously were both interested in her and had a short quarrel between the two before one headed off closer to the lioness. We have noticed other behaviour that tends to show that Savuti 2 is ready to mate again, although we do not believe that she is in full heat now. Last month the males were also very interested in her, but no mating was observed.
One morning we came across the two Savuti Males at the edge of the floodplains near Croc Island. We had heard them calling throughout the night from the camp. We watched them as they lay in the road and when we were parked quite close to them they started roaring again. We watched the two lions in awe as they carried on roaring for while. We could see the steam coming out of their mouths into the cold early morning air. It was intense!
Towards the beginning of the month we were still seeing the Selinda Lioness (Sel F 18) and her two cubs. At the end of last month she had a confrontation with the Savuti Pride, who did not appreciate her presence in their territory. We came across this lioness and her two cubs in the floodplains near camp. The lioness had sustained some wounds on her back and rump from the encounter with the pride, but these wounds will soon heal. They were walking towards Kubu Lagoon, the youngsters chasing after the female and playing with each other in the carefree manner that the youth have. The lioness seemed a bit annoyed with the antics of the youngsters and when one of the cubs approached her she growled at it. Up ahead in the grass the lions spotted some warthog and the lioness started stalking them. As she was approaching the pigs one of the young lions popped out of the grass and the warthogs ran away. This was the last straw! The lioness then left the two cubs in the grassland and headed off alone. That afternoon, when we returned, we found the lioness and her two youngsters feeding on an adult male kudu that she had killed. A few days later, she headed up the river in the direction of Kings Pool and other guides report that since then she has been sighted across the river, in Namibia. We wish her the best. She has provided us with some amazing viewing over the last year and we hope that she finds her original pride again and manages to integrate her two cubs into the pride.
The dogs have been reasonably scarce this month and we have only seen them on six days. This has been quite a concern for the guides who all know that the pack will soon be settling down to den, and if they decide to den outside of the concession we may not see them for a few months. One afternoon Oaites found them near the Old Mopane Bridge. The next day we found them resting at the edge of a dry pan in the mopane woodlands. On the 12th they appeared behind the camp. The Beta Male has some injuries around the neck and we wonder if he has been fighting with the Alpha Male. The female looks slightly swollen-bellied, but her teats are not large yet. We think that they will be denning late this year. On the 13th they were seen at Zib Hide and Ollie watched as they headed out of our area into the Selinda Concession. On the 25th they reappeared in the area and were seen on the road leading to the airstrip from camp. The female is still not showing pregnancy fully. In the afternoon they headed towards Kings Pool Camp and we did not see them again until just before the end of the month, when they were seen running south across the channel into the huge scrublands beyond. We will have to wait and see what happens next month!
Whatever happens we feel that we are extremely blessed to be living in this huge, magnificent, untamed piece of wilderness in northern Botswana and to see and share the lives of the amazing creatures that live here.
It is with that thought that we sign off for the month.
The DumaTau Team
Camp update - May 07 Jump
Temperature: Min 4°C; Max 37°C
Another month has come and gone and time is really flying. May started off with warm weather and most of us thought that we could keep the thermal clothing packed away for a while - until a cold front hit us towards the end of the month. We quickly started giving our guests hot water bottles in the evening and for the early morning game drives. They have proven to be a blessing in disguise, nothing like being tucked into a poncho with a hot water bottle to keep your hands warm and viewing the unbelievable wildlife that makes Savuti such a special place.
The start of May also brought the elephants back to Savuti en mass. Every day the waterhole was a hive of activity with hundreds of elephants coming to drink. The elephants become very possessive over the water and all the other animals have to wait for the elephants to leave before being able to drink. The bravest of them all are the warthogs who are small enough to run in and grab a quick drink before the elephants have had time to react.
We were fortunate to see the DumaTau male leopard a number of times this month. One afternoon between brunch and tea he came walking through camp and entered the channel and after marking his territory made his way to the waterhole in front of camp where he was chased onto the Woodpile Hide by a zebra stallion. With the stallion chasing him and the elephants not wanting him near the waterhole, he had to make a run into the bush for cover.
A few days later the Savuti Pride killed a kudu just up the channel in the tree line. While they were busy on the kill that afternoon, the DumaTau male came down to the waterhole for a drink. He was, however, kept at bay by the elephants. Suddenly one of the male lions came out of the tree line into the channel and all the zebra and impala went mad with alarm calls. He later went back to the kill and guests' attention then focused back onto the leopard, who was still trying to get a drink from the waterhole. That evening while we were having pre-dinner drinks the Savuti pride came down to the waterhole to drink; with light fading fast all we could make out was the silhouettes and reflection of ten lions in the water!
The two cheetah brothers have also spent quite a bit of time in the channel this month and have given our guests some great sightings. On one morning drive Thuso and his guests were viewing the cheetah and a few ostriches walked into the channel. Not long after that the cheetah gave chase and brought down a young female and spent the rest of the day feeding on it; all this happened in front of Thuso and his guests. A few weeks later Thuso witnessed the two brothers chase, kill and feed on a warthog.
The wild dogs were sighted a couple times this month, mostly spending the month in the Selinda Concession. We believe that they are looking for a den site and all hope that they den back in our concession again this year.
Roan antelope have been seen regularly on the road to the airstrip which brings a bit of excitement to the airstrip transfers. A herd of ten tsessebe has been seen regularly at Dish Pan. Very rarely do we see the tsessebe in these parts. Hundreds of zebra frequent the Savuti waterhole on a daily basis, along with all the elephants and warthog make viewing from camp an unforgettable experience. Other game seen this month in the course of game drives: Aardwolf, aardvark, spotted hyaena, black-backed jackal, and honey badger; Martial Eagle, Ground Hornbill, Kori Bustard, and Wattled Crane to name a few.
We have had a brilliant month and look forward to an unbelievable season ahead.
On a personal note, sadly we, Jacqui and Malcolm, bid farewell to Savuti and Wilderness Safaris. Over the last 5 years we have had the most amazing times and experiences and will miss it greatly. Savuti will always have a special place in our hearts.
The Savuti Team
Camps update - May 07 Jump
to Kings Pool
May has certainly seen the beginning of our winter season. In the early mornings, late afternoon and during the night the temperature drops significantly. On one occasion the mercury plunged to a low of 3°C early one morning but on several days we've hit temperatures of 30°C leading new arrivals to temporarily doubt that it is indeed winter. The pans that collected water during the wet season have already dried up, resulting in the elephant herds concentrating earlier than usual on the Linyanti River. Some of the best sightings of the month as far as our guests were concerned however were the hot water bottles that greeted them in their beds each night.
Most of the trees have already started to lose their leaves, many of them also turned a paler shade of yellow after some heavy frost that we have had recently. The Mopane trees, mainstay of the elephant diet, are busy drying up and the grass has dried up extremely quickly; where in the summer months once lay a lovely lush grassy field is now a sandy patch devoid of any greenery although still somehow an amazingly beautiful sight. Game sightings are rapidly improving in both quality and quantity as the
vegetation thins out and enables better visibility. The lack of grass has also meant more sightings of the smaller creatures as well.
We are now seeing elephants in abundant numbers concentrating on the shores of the Linyanti River; lots of breeding herds with some numbering over 40 in a herd. Game drives are regularly seeing up to 8 herds totalling as many as 600 elephants - an unbelievable sight.
Leopards too have been really cooperative with one of the sightings being of a mating pair, with the still dependent cub perched in a tree above, so a total of three leopards. Other than that we have been having great sightings of the female seen in this sighting. She also had a kill in a tree near the airstrip which was great as it was the first and the last thing the guests saw during their stays with us that week.
By comparison the lions have been a little scarce this month with sightings only of the male coalition known as the Border Boys, which seems now to have now dropped to three male lions. They have been patrolling the area quite a bit and much of their territory extends across the international border into Namibia. The buffalo herds have begun moving back into the area as they tend to do at this time of the year and it is likely the lions will follow them. Even if they do not at first it is still a beautiful sight seeing a herd of 500+.
All in all the game has been amazing this last month and only getting better as the water and vegetation dries up.
Gofaone 'Gift' Mhaladi
Infanticide and Cannibalism in Chacma Baboon - May 07 Jump
to Kings Pool
Location: Kings Pool, NG 15, Botswana
Date: May 2007
Observers: Ant Bennet
Every now and then those of us who work in the Edens of Africa are reminded of its wild nature where life can sometimes be harsh and ruthless. I am fortunate to be a guide in a remote corner of northern Botswana and recently witnessed a sighting that left me wondering about my reactions and emotions to a savage feast.
The Linyanti is a vast concession area of about 125 000ha that borders onto the Linyanti River system separating Botswana from Namibia. Along this river course one finds mixed woodland which is home to one of southern Africa's most versatile primates, the chacma baboon.
On this particular afternoon I was alone driving through the woodland towards camp. Coming around a slight bend in the track I came across a troop of baboon on the ground. I noticed what appeared to be a female grab her baby and start moving away. What sparked my interest in an otherwise "normal" baboon sighting was that this "female" had grasped the baby underneath her as they usually do with young ones but had the baby's tail in its mouth.
As I slowed down and switched off the engine I heard the first plaintive cry. It sounded like any baby baboon that has taken fright but all that changed in the blink of an eye. The female turned out to be a male and after walking a few metres away he sat down, grasped the baby upside down and bit it in the stomach region. This elicited another anguished scream from the baby.
I was initially astounded as I had heard of such tales but never in over seven years of bush living witnessed such an event. I grabbed my camera and tried to reposition the vehicle for a clear view of the baboon. He was having none of it and almost as though he had a guilt complex he scuttled off with the baby in his grasp. We did a short dance around a large termite mound and eventually the chap stopped moving and sat close to the top.
For 15 long minutes I witnessed the raw side of Mother Nature. My emotions ranged from anguish, nausea and anger to eventually acceptance of a situation that has played itself out countless times before and will do so countless times in the future. To intervene would have been wrong as it was a natural event. So instead I took photos and observed the behaviour of the troop.
From the outset the troop was scattered around the male and appeared to be calm and indifferent to the baby's anguished screams. Another large male hovered nearby but took no part in the killing and subsequent feast. He did chase two females who became inquisitive. Once the baby had been dismembered the male moved away to continue his feast elsewhere.
Interestingly almost immediately a female came in to the kill site and picked up a small leg bone which she proceeded to gnaw on. The second male was in attendance but did not partake of any of the meal.
My thoughts on this event are that two males, maybe more, ganged up on the alpha male and managed to displace him. In so doing the alpha female became the target of their attention and her young baby was snatched from her. Infanticide is well known in felids and I had heard of it happening in primates but this was my first encounter of it. The reason for the infant being killed would be to assert dominance and ensure that the previous alpha male's genes did not survive.
A few days later I witnessed two further events that possibly reinforce my ideas. While walking in an area close by to the kill site I came across a lone large male baboon, but there was no baboon troop nearby. He was hiding in a tree and only moved out of it as we walked close by. I would not have known he was there if he had not moved. This was at about 10:30am which is unusual for baboons which are normally active in the early morning foraging. A day later and this same chap became lunch for a mating leopard couple. I found him stashed unceremoniously in a tree while the couple courted each other. I assume he was the same lone male as it was close by to where I had seen him.
This savage feast in Eden reminded me that I live in a wild place that does not conform to our snug world of technology, rules and emotions. Out here life is to be lived for tomorrow you could be the next meal....
Selinda & Zibalianja
Camps update - May 07 Jump
to Zibalianja Camp
Our staff training programme is gathering momentum. It will operate throughout the year, with various departments receiving training at different periods. This month it was the turn of our catering staff. With the help of Michelle Fourie, an internationally trained chef, and our own Kerrielea, the chefs, cooks and waiters all benefited. New recipes and styles have been embraced and implemented.
Zibalianja Camp has been undergoing a few more small changes. We have done away with the low wall that surrounded the main "mess tent". This has opened up the area tremendously seemingly creating more space and also removing any visual barriers to Zib's inspiring views. Zib has also added to their ongoing soft refurb with the addition of beautiful cushions and throws in the tents. The impact this has had to the rooms' appearance is dazzling. A new style of bed is on order and these will finish off Zib's makeover.
Selinda Camp has taken "ownership" of the aluminium dinghy that used to be used on the Zibalianja Lagoon. They are using it to access the opposite bank of the spillway in front of camp. This area is ideal for walking excursions and allows our guests to explore an area that is inaccessible to vehicles.
What we've been seeing
Below is some news from Zane (Selinda Camp) detailing a four-day safari which some of our guests had the pleasure of experiencing.
Cheetah have provided some of our best big cat viewing this month. Our two brothers got separated (we think in pursuit of romance) and their plaintive chirps could be heard for two days as they tried to locate each other. They eventually reunited on their favourite resting spot - a shaded termite mound outside Room 3 at Zibalianja.
Elephants have not only been prevalent, but have actually been hindering our travels to and from Selinda Camp. As the main access road follows the spillway, getting past thirsty herds can be problematic at times - like when a plane is waiting on the strip. This is a traffic problem that we are more than happy to live with.
Our new lion cubs have been seen on quite a few occasions this month and they are at that delightful age when everything is either a game or a visit to the milk bar. Their fathers have been extremely tolerant of their antics, preferring to either ignore them or wander off elsewhere for peace and quiet.
Four Days at Selinda by Zane Volker
April has been a month of refinement with our new camp now up and running. The rainy season has now just about come to an end and the pans are drying up which means the elephants have returned. And boy have they returned. Talk about rush hour traffic, elephants around every corner makes the going slow but immensely enjoyable, even the occasional charge by a protective matriarch becomes an enjoyable experience in the hands of our capable guides.
I thought that an excerpt from our daily life would make for a good story so I am going to relate to you a four-day stay experienced by some guests that we had in camp recently. Enjoy!
The guests arrived in camp, were welcomed and settled in immediately, as one tends to do in our beautiful surroundings. After high tea they embarked on their first Selinda drive with their guide BB, and were treated to an immense tropical deluge, which they endured admirably. As the clouds parted and the rain dissipated they happened upon our pack of 16 wild dogs energetically hunting impala in the spillway; unfortunately no kill was witnessed (not unfortunate for the impala). This incredible sighting was followed shortly by a female lioness going about her business.
A full day game drive took place as the folks were keen on seeing a few of our neighbouring camps. The morning segment was a bit quiet on the game side but very eventful on the birds, which it turns out was a passion of theirs. We made our way to Shumba Pan where an exquisite bush brunch had been set up for us to enjoy and catch up on some shade out of the midday sun. Upon completion of brunch we headed back into the wilds to see what fate had prepared for us. We started off with a dead ostrich that was being defensively guarded by a mangy old hyaena. Cause of death unknown but the cheetah brothers were an educated guess as they had recently been in the area, plus they are quite partial to some giant African poultry on occasion.
Heading off back in the direction of camp and beginning to scout for a suitable sundowner spot we happened upon a Spitting Cobra in the midst of trying to swallow a bloated Bullfrog. We left about half an hour later and the poor Cobra was still trying its best to swallow the bulging Bullfrog. We stopped at our sundowner spot and BB set up the drinks with his usual flair. He was duly interrupted by me exclaiming "Lions, just across the water!" So, "over the teeth and round the gums", the sundowners slipped down faster than a homesick mole and we re-embarked to track and hopefully find the lions we had just seen disappearing into the thick bush across the water. Darkness descended upon us like a magical cloak of illusion casting doubt into the minds of our guests as to the tracking abilities of BB and myself. "Lions, to the left" I exclaimed once more. We found them, just in the nick of time too as they stalked and killed an impala right in front of us. After watching our dominant male lion begin to feed, we decided to leave him in peace and try and conserve whatever appetite we had left for dinner.
Just around the corner we found a Pearl-spotted Owl perched in a tree with a field mouse clasped firmly in one of its talons. The appetite was waning. Two minutes later, as we rejoined the Spillway, the most graceful serval I have ever seen entertained us for what seemed like an eternity, stalking up and down, pouncing on mice as they scurried through the brush. We proceeded in the direction of camp thinking that we had seen just about all there was to see for one evening. Except of course, for the side-striped jackal energetically hunting field mice around the very next corner. In the bush behind him, a bushbaby sprang from branch to branch in the glow of our spotlight. Excellent, a game drive well done, let's head home BB. Hold on, what is that? A baby Python drinking out of the puddle in the middle of the road. Oh, well I'm sure we can spare a few minutes to watch him. Dinner can wait. Heading off once more, satisfied, fully. The appetite has returned now. Let's go BB, dinner's getting cold. What now? A gigantic porcupine stands in the middle of the road daring us to pass! He turns around and waddles of into the night. Oh, what a night!
"Relatively uneventful". Saw the wild dogs again, this time feeding on an impala they had only just pulled down. Had a brief leopard sighting as she melted away into the bush. Found a Goliath Heron spearing catfish in the Spillway.
Came across five black-backed jackals harassing three of our female lions. The irritated ladies crossed the Spillway and blatantly ignored scores of scrumptious impala only metres away and completely oblivious to their presence. This unusual behaviour explains itself as the ladies lead our vehicle straight to an innocuous termite mound which coughs up five yelping lion cubs. Our first sighting of them and they could care less, running around helter skelter and searching for mummy's teat.
Well, what can I say? Africa is a magical place and so is Selinda. We look forward to sharing it with you.
P.S Our guides have just found the cubs again with the females. One of the females was unusually distant and had very swollen teats. OB, our head guide, is of the opinion that she has recently given birth! Looks like we are super sizing our pride again. We ask you all to hold thumbs as we wait to see the outcome!
Camps Update - May 07
Lagoon camp Jump
• Lion activities seem to be on the increase now that the buffalo herds are moving back on to the flood plains. Lion tracks were seen almost every day and they could be heard calling during the night. A shy male lion, unknown in the area was found on a warthog kill and one female from the Lagoon pride was seen hunting on her own.
• A very unusual sighting of two leopards chased up a tree by the very active Lagoon pack of wild dogs was reported. It seems that the dogs found the leopards feeding on a kill. They then chased the leopards up the tree and stole their kill.
• The two cheetah brothers made a brief appearance in the Lagoon area, before they started heading south towards Lebala. They were not seen hunting, but were in good condition.
• The Lagoon pack of 6 dogs were seen almost every day and were followed on many of their hunts. After searching high and low for the perfect den, the Alpha female selected a site close to the Lagoon Airstrip. She gave birth to an unknown number of pups around the 14th of May.
• Hyena, both species of Jackal, African wild cat, small spotted genet, civet, bat-eared fox and caracal was seen during the night drives.
• Big groups of elephants, breeding herds as well as bachelor groups, have been seen on the floodplains and on the riverbanks.
• Big herds of buffalo, some of them with 1500 and more buffalo in the herds have been seen grazing on the flood plains. We suspect that the waterholes in the Mopane forests must now be dry and therefore the big movement of buffalo and elephants towards the river systems.
• General game was very good with Tsetsebee, warthog, wildebeest, steenbok, lechwe, zebra seen on most drives.
• Banded mongoose, dwarf mongoose, as well as porcupine, civet and a honey badger were seen on the drives.
• 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. Spoonbill storks and Wattled Cranes were also seen.
Kwara & Little Kwara camps Jump
& Little Kwara camps
• A pride of five lions managed to kill a young Giraffe. They were only feeding on the kill for a few minutes when a big male turned up and claimed the kill for himself. A different pride consisting of one male and four females were seen feeding on an Impala. Two lionesses and their sub adult cub were seen hunting giraffe close to Sable Island.
• Again the female leopard and cub created great sightings throughout the month. They decided to visit Kwara Camp and were seen in front of tent one. The cub was a bit shy with the mother being very relaxed as they strolled through camp in broad daylight. They were also found feeding on a Reedbuck kill.
• The three Cheetah brothers were spotted on a regular basis throughout the month. They were seen hunting a young Tsessebe calf and took it down in front of the game drive vehicles. A female cheetah and her two ten month old cubs were followed and were seen chasing Impala with the cubs.
• A pack of thirteen Wild dogs briefly visited the area. They seemed very hungry but were not seen hunting.
• Small bachelor herds of elephant were seen on regular basis. A superb sighting of three elephant bulls crossing the Kwara channel in full view of guests on the boat.
• Small herds of buffalo have been seen moving through the area. The herds were all between 30 and 50 animals and have been spotted on a regular basis.
• A hyena was seen taking an Impala from a leopard close to Kwara Camp during an evening drive. A relaxed Male Civet was followed on one of the evening drives and successfully managed to kill a snake. Other evening sighting included Jackal, Small spotted Genet and a Giant Eagle Owl.
• General game sightings continue to be very good. Giraffe, zebra, tsessebe, warthog, kudu and some sable antelope were seen.
• Good sightings of Civet, Serval and African Wild Cat have been reported. The game drives have found numerous active Aardvark holes but animals have been eluding the drives up to now.
• A four-metre African Rock Python was seen crossing the road between Kwara and Little Kwara. A couple of Puff Adders were found sunning themselves. Lots of spoon billed storks, yellow billed storks and Pelicans were seen in the Lagoon in front of the camp. About forty White Back vultures were seen feeding on an Elephant carcass. Bird of prey sightings have been good with both Martial Eagle and Fish Eagle seen.
Lebala camp Jump
• Lion sightings have been on the increase since the buffalo herds have moved back onto the floodplains. A solitary female lion killed a young buffalo about 3km from camp. She stayed with the kill for a couple of days. Two male lions found a hyena den and then killed 2 six-month-old hyena pups. Two females were also found close to the Mopane forest, they were skittish as they had a confrontation with a hyena clan. A coalition of three sub-adult males were found hunting buffalo near John’s Pan.
• Leopard sightings were very good, with a big male leopard being sighted in front of the camp. He was very relaxed but ran away when 3 hyenas approached him. The same male was seen a week later, again close to camp. He was very well fed and relaxed. A younger male was seen near wild dog pan.
• The two cheetah brothers arrived in the Lebala area coming from Lagoon. They were strolling through the area and visiting their marking spots.
• The pack of 16 wild dogs split up and 11 of them briefly visited the Lebala area. Game drives managed to follow the 11 dogs on a hunt. The dogs killed an Impala but unfortunately lost it to Hyena.
• Huge breeding herds as well as bachelor herds of elephants are a common sighting on the flood plains. These herds are now moving out of the Mopane forests onto the floodplains since all the water holes have dried up.
• Big herds of buffalo, some ranging between five hundred and a thousand animals were found along various plains. They were mostly seen mating and drinking with some of the bulls fighting for females.
• A very active hyena den was found South of Nari Pan. About 10 pups of not more than eight months old have been counted so far. Jackals of both species are a common sighting and some chameleons were also seen during night drives.
• Excellent general game with many large journeys of giraffe, impala, waterbuck, Tsessebe, Wildebeest, Steenbok zebra, red lechwe and kudu.
• Porcupine, Civet, African Wildcat and Serval were seen through out the month. An unusual sighting of a Banded Mongoose chasing a Jackal was reported. Dwarf, Yellow and Slender Mongoose were also seen. Two Bat Eared Foxes were found close to the Hyena den.
• Birdlife continues to be excellent. African skimmers, ostrich, wattled cranes and lots of ducks and geese were seen, as well as many birds of prey. Unusual sightings of Pelican were reported at different waterholes.
Camp update - May 07 Jump
The place of plenty has also proved to us that it is a place of action this month. May has had the highest number of kills which were witnessed by us and some of our guests in recent years. Most days were sunny and mild temperatures were recorded almost throughout the month except for the 18th and the 19th which turned to be the coldest days of the month.
The flood is being considered one of the biggest in the past 20 years and has really consumed large areas in the plains - even in areas where we never thought would be covered by water. Some game drive roads and most summer feeding grounds for most animal species have been consumed too and this has made game concentrate on the areas which are not affected by the flood. This has given us the highest opportunity to see game without driving far. A lot of green palatable grass has surfaced on most of the flooded plains as well as the water lilies beautifying these natural gardens. Inland, most grass species and seasonal plants are drying out and all the deciduous trees such as Baobabs, Rain trees and the Marulas have already started shedding their leaves as an adaptation to transpiration reduction process and at the same time conveniently making it easy for us to spot animals at a distance. Most large mammals, except buffalo, lechwe and hippo, have moved off the inundated floodplains onto the limited dryland areas making it easier for guides and guests to spot the concentrated herds.
Cheetah seem to be moving into the Mombo game drive area again after a short absence and we recorded eight cheetah sightings this month. These sightings included some previously unidentified animals and others that are relatively new to the area including the three males known as the Tsessebe Street Boys which were seen a couple of times during the month chasing different prey species. These three brothers seem to be settling in well regardless of the number of times they lose their prey to the local lion population. On the 25th we had an incredible sighting of these males taking down a young zebra and the 20 lions of the Mathata pride coming in and robbing the brothers of their windfall. The blue-eyed male has also been in the area and this month appeared to settle between the Sandy Valley area and the Simbira area. Knowing the favourite areas of the above-mentioned cheetah, the guides were curious when they found tracks along the Maun Road and they managed to track down two new cheetah, which they named Dikeledi. As we notice all the new cheetah apparently coping in the area we wonder what has happened to the pregnant female which was found once last month close to the Suzie's Duck Pond area.
Lagadima has really proved to us that she is a fully matured and self-sufficient female and has abandoned her birthplace, which is close to the Mombo main camp. However, she is still in the area and we managed to spot her five times this month. Everybody is convinced now that she lost her first cub which we thought was the one she was hiding last month when we did not see her that much. She is mainly seen at the old Mombo site moving between Western Pan and the Far Eastern Pan and also to the north and north-eastern side of the airstrip in the Tipis Road areas. The Far-Eastern Pan Female and the Paradise Plain Female were sighted as well. We also had two different male leopards on separate impala kills.
Buffalo and Lion
Four different buffalo herds were seen during the course of the month. During May there were also several lion-buffalo interactions witnessed, with the majority resulting in successful kills by the lions. During one unforgettable experience the buffalo were trying to defend a calf from the lion but ultimately lost it to the dogged determination of the lions. The lions in the Mombo area during May were seen on zebra, giraffe and impala kills and were recorded unsuccessfully chasing warthog. The 50 different lion sightings this month comprised four known prides - the famous Mathata Pride (28 strong), the Maporota Pride (24), the Western Pride and the Stickya Pride - as well as several nomadic lions moving through the territories of the two major prides.
Elephant and Rhino
Good-sized herds of elephant also availed themselves of our beautiful plains, although much of the time sightings were only of the solitary bulls, who even made the island on which the camp is situated their temporary home.
The local white rhino population really made our month exciting due to the number of times we have seen them. Considering that there are fewer than 50 rhino in Botswana we were thrilled with the six sightings we managed this month. One of the sightings was even of a black rhino - the considerably rarer of the two species in Botswana. Poster Mpho, the rhino monitor employed by Wilderness Safaris to work hand in hand with the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (DWNP) on the rhino project, has also seen tracks of newly born calves although he has not yet located the new arrivals. With the support of our guests, several helicopter game flights were conducted around the Delta as part of the monitoring and two other calves were spotted. This is exciting to all of us because these are good signs of the success of the project.
Zebra, giraffe, kudu, wildebeest, baboon and impala have been seen in large groups, journeys and herds.
The Mombo team also hosted a wedding this month. This was combined with sundowners set up in the bush. All the Mombo staff attended to sing traditional Botswana wedding songs and advised the happy couple on how things are done here in Botswana.
Regards from Mombo.
Camp update - May 07 Jump
The flood that has inundated a large part of the Delta has yet to show itself in the western Chitabe region. To the east however, the Gomoti River is full from bank to bank and has spread into some of the adjacent floodplains, while the Santantadibe side has flooded as far south as the baobabs on the way to Sandibe, but doesn't appear to be coming any further. In previous years it has only arrived as late as June, so there is still a possibility of a further push coming our way.
This month we have had many sightings of leopard - sometimes as many as four in a single day. The Mosadi Mogolo leopard has still not shown anyone her cubs since Lazarus saw them in April, but she has put on some lovely performances this month. Grant Atkinson's pictures of her climbing up a Leadwood tree with a kill were quite spectacular (see below).
The impala rutting season is coming to an end now, not without having claimed its fair share of victims. The testosterone-charged males that so boldly advertise their presence to females also make a pretty obvious target for lurking predators, and many are taken. In one day, three male impala were found brought down by various carnivores. After a long time, a male cheetah has been seen in the area again - Luke found him hunting near River Road.
Sightings of the wild dog pack this month have been sporadic, the last one being at the aptly-named Dog's Pan in the north-east. They seem to be favouring a thick belt of almost impenetrable Mopane scrub in our Southern Boundary region, and are occasionally spotted hunting through Robin's Floodplain. The Alpha female is very pregnant, and at time of writing has most likely given birth. We will keep you posted if we find the den site, and hope they produce a healthy litter - remember that they didn't raise one last year, so this might be their final chance.
The pride of lion in the area have been sighted often this month - the female who was injured has recovered, and has been seen mating with one of the males. The cub is doing well and growing steadily, and recently they were observed feeding on a giraffe.
Another young male lion has been seen in the Gomoti area, possibly a nomad from a Moremi pride, and he and a solitary female were seen feeding on a buffalo near the river. The buffalo was seen earlier with quite a bad injury to its leg, and this must have been why only one lion was able to bring it down and kill it.
A few buffalo herds have moved through the area - one numbering about a hundred came past the camp, and down to Trails Crossing. The lionesses were in the riverine forest across the water, and attempted a stalk in the last moments of daylight. This ended in a bit of a farce as they were spotted by one of the bulls and rather ignominiously chased away. Another herd of approximately 350 came down the Gomoti floodplains and then looped back again northwards into the Moremi.
As is usual for this time of year, many herds of elephant were seen passing through the area, feeding in the Mopane belt before heading west into the permanent waters of the Delta for their daily rituals. A lone bull has been hanging around the camp, and has been like a massive benevolent deity observing our activities here. He hasn't seemed in the slightest bit bothered by our inconsequential comings and goings, and often we get the feeling that he has been watching us with an amused curiosity.
Regarding birds, a pair of Saddle-billed Storks are still resident in the floodplain in front of the camp, and further up to the north, we often see the graceful Wattled Cranes stalking through the marsh. A family of six Ground Hornbills stalk the grasslands to the east of the camp, and one afternoon they flew into the Jackalberry Trees at Chitabe Trails and filled the air with their haunting calls. A Greater Honeyguide regularly tries to entice people to follow him to one of the many beehives on the island, and Scarlet-chested Sunbirds flit like glittering jewels through the canopy above. Two Hooded Vultures have also made a home on Chitabe Island, and a flock of Ostrich are often seen in the plains to the east of the camp.
The walking trail season is now in full swing, with people regularly out there soaking up the wonders of being on foot out in this untrammelled wilderness - sleeping out under the stars, engulfed in Nature's midnight orchestra, revelling in the sensual bliss of being a part a world more ancient and wild than our own.
We have had a few cold fronts in the last month, on some mornings taking the temperature down to 3°C, making the fireplace a focal point for our predawn breakfast. When the southerly wind switched to the north, however, it brought warmer weather with it. Daytime temperatures have been pleasantly mild, averaging in the high twenties.
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