(Page 1 of
Page 1 Updates
Info and updates from Wilderness Safaris.
North Island Dive Report from
Monthly update from Kalamu Camp in
Monthly update from Shumba Camp in
Monthly update from Lunga River Lodge in
Monthly update from DumaTau Camp in
Monthly update from Kings Pool Camp in
Monthly update from Savuti Camp in
Kwando Safaris game reports.
Monthly update from Mombo
Camp in Botswana.
Monthly update from Xigera
Camp in Botswana.
Monthly update from Chitabe
Camp in Botswana.
Monthly update from Kwetsani Camp in
Monthly update from Jao
Camp in Botswana.
Monthly update from Tubu Tree Camp in
Monthly update from Jacana Camp in
Monthly update from Duba Plains in
Monthly update from Vumbura Plains in
Monthly update from Ruckomechi Camp in
Monthly update from Makalolo Plains in
Monthly update from Pafuri Camp in
Monthly update from Ongava Lodge in
Monthly update from Damaraland Camp in
Safaris Updates - September 2007
Mombo wins Condé Nast Traveler 2007 Readers' Choice Awards
Wilderness Safaris camps, Mombo and Little Mombo situated in the Moremi Game Reserve in the Okavango Delta, Botswana, were winners, coming second in the annual 2007 Condé Nast Traveler Awards in the category: Top 30 Resorts & Camps in Africa/Middle East, which saw Dubai’s Burj Al Arab Resort being declared the winner. With a rating of 96.3, Mombo Camp achieved the highest score for all camps in Africa, making it the top safari lodge in Africa.
Mombo and Little Mombo provide arguably the best game viewing in Botswana. Accommodation is in spacious tents raised off the ground, each with breathtaking views over a vast floodplain teeming with wildlife. In the category The 100 Best of the Best Properties in the World, Mombo came in at a highly respectable 10th place.
The winners were announced at the 20th annual Readers’ Choice Awards gala which took place on 11th October 2007 in New York City at the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum and will appear in the November 2007 issue of Condé Nast Traveler. The results are derived from the largest independent poll of consumers’ preferences, the Readers’ Choice Survey, second in size only to the U.S. Census. A record number of travelers, over 28 000, voted this year.
In addition to Mombo’s great accolade, another Wilderness Safaris camp – Vumbura Plains with a rating of 92.9 – was placed as 4th best safari camp in Africa. This is a well-deserved recognition for a camp which opened in 2005 and which has been an exciting new development of Wilderness Safaris in Botswana’s Okavango Delta. Vumbura Plains is part of a community participation project that benefits the surrounding communities through eco-tourism. With two separate seven-roomed camps, each with its own raised dining, lounge and bar area, guests are provided with the utmost in luxury, while exploring the wilderness.
Malcolm McCulloch, Wilderness Safaris CEO, said: “It is a great honor to receive these prestigious awards from Condé Nast Traveler’s readers, who are known to be discerning global travelers searching for authentic experiences. The staff at all Wilderness Safaris’ 60 camps in 7 different countries join me in congratulating our Mombo and Vumbura Plains teams who have worked tirelessly and passionately to exceed our guests’ expectations.”
Wilderness Safaris and Doro Nawas enter into joint venture
An incredibly exciting development for Wilderness Safaris is the signing of Namibia's first-ever joint venture with a conservancy at Doro Nawas Camp. The signing ceremony marked the conclusion of a three-year project in which Wilderness Safaris, the Doro Nawas Conservancy and local Namibian partners developed a community-based tourism model. Wilderness Safaris, together with Business Linkage Challenge Fund, developed the Doro Nawas Camp, which provides 36 full-time jobs and ensures the conservation of 700 000 hectares of land.
Vital Visa/Passport information
In some of the various countries in which we operate there are very stringent government regulations regarding the number of blank pages in travelers’ passports and their expiry dates, and it is vital that guests are made aware of this and ensure that they have the correct documentation. One of the stipulations which seem to have been misunderstood in the past is that at least THREE BLANK PAGES are required in your passport on departure from South Africa. These need to be VISA pages, not endorsement pages. As guests normally include more than one country in their journey (South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi and/or Namibia), we therefore recommend that there are at least 4-5 blank pages in the passport prior to arrival as guests can be denied entry and deported if the immigration officials do not have blank pages on which to place their entry/departure/visa stamps.
Hunting and carnivory in vervet monkey
Sighting: hunting and carnivory in vervet monkey
Location: Kings Pool, NG 15, Botswana
Date: September 2007
Observers: Ant Bennet
I'm starting to wonder about the primates of the Linyanti area having witnessed a chacma baboon infanticide in May this year and now coming across some unusual behavior in the smaller vervet monkey.
While driving along the Linyanti River in the vicinity of Kings Pool Camp in early-September I came across a troop of vervet monkeys in the riparian woodland. They appeared agitated and one particular animal was the focus of attention. As I looked more closely to see what the fuss was about I noticed that this animal, a large male and presumably the dominant animal in the troop, was clutching a much smaller creature. It was a tree squirrel and was apparently already dead with no sign of movement.
Under increasing pressure from the rest of the troop, the large male then jumped away to enjoy his prize in peace and we watching briefly as he bit into the squirrel before he moved out of sight. It is not clear how he came to have the squirrel and many scenarios are possible: he may have caught and killed it himself, or pirated it off another monkey or indeed a raptor or other predator for example.
While this species is known to be omnivorous, the mainstay of its diet is generally fruit, seeds, pods, fruit, bark, sap and shoots. It is opportunistic however and while foraging in the course of normal day to day events vervet monkeys are constantly looking for invertebrates such as beetles and beetle larvae, as well as lizards and birds eggs and bird nestlings.
Mammal prey such as this tree squirrel is very unusual and this is certainly the first time that I've seen carnivory to this extent in vervet monkeys.
Snare removed from male lion
Sighting: Snare removed from male lion
Location: NG15, Linyanti Concession, northern Botswana
Date: 8 October 2007
Observers: Grant Atkinson
For some months now we have been aware that one of the male lions of the territorial coalition that we know as the Border Boys has been carrying a persistent injury. The injury took the form of a bloody line around the lion's neck and was presumed to almost certainly be the result of a wire snare or noose that had got itself wrapped around the lion's neck.
At times over the last season the wound appeared to be healing, and then would open up again. As these lions frequent both our private concession area as well as the Mamili National Park north of the Linyanti River in Namibia's Caprivi Strip we have assumed that the wire was set by poachers across the river. As the wound has been persistent we decided to intervene and try to repair what had happened.
We managed to locate the lion early yesterday morning, and called Maun office who were on standby, and immediately flew Dr Rob Jackson to Kings Pool, where he was joined by Nick and Zoot, and we headed east to where Max, Linyanti Tented Camp manager, was standing by with the lion. The dart went in perfectly from about 15m away and the lion leapt up and stared at us, eventually decided the problem came from the tree he was sleeping under. He was in close association with a female, and as he went to sleep after ten minutes we drove in close and encouraged the lioness to move off. We had parked two vehicles as a sight barrier between the lion and the rest of the pride and Zoot, one of the Kings Pool managers with extensive experience in this field, acted as the vet's assistant. Thuto the Explorations guide, who had assisted with the lion, went and collected his guests who were on a Wilderness Journey, and they viewed from a distance.
The inspection went smoothly, but no foreign body was found in the wound although there was definite sign of a noose. The feeling of Dr Jackson was that it may have broken free sometime recently ... although a possibility remained that there could have been some remnants of the noose so deep inside the lion's tissue that it was undetectable. The wound was cleaned out and disinfected, and a dose of penicillin administered to help the recovery. A broken fragment of tooth was also removed from the lion's mouth.
The whole procedure took about an hour, and then the antidote was administered. The lion woke up, and spent a wobbly twenty minutes getting back to his normal state of awareness, during which we kept vehicles between him and the remainder of the pride. We watched him rejoin the pride. Early today the lion was located with two of his companions feeding on a freshly killed buffalo, and mating with a lioness. Despite the fact that no snare was removed, we are hopeful that the lion will recover from the wound he is carrying. The whole process ran super smoothly, and I need to thank Grant Woodrow and the rest of the Wilderness Safaris team for their commitment. The help of Max at Linyanti and Nick and especially Zoot from Kings Pool was invaluable.
Many-eyed Snake Eel
On an exploratory dive off North Island, instructor Donna Rogers came across a very bizarre looking eel. Fortunately she had her camera and took a photo which was sent to various authorities to try and identify the species. It appears that this was the first record for the Seychelles of a many-eyed snake eel. Donna’s photo has now joined the database of the South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity.
Rhinos at Mombo in the Okavango Delta
More rhino news from Mombo is that in a two-hour tracking flight with the Department of Wildlife and National Parks helicopter, a total of 13 white rhino and 1 black rhino were located, including sightings of some animals that had not been seen for some time. This population is certainly flourishing with numbers of black and white rhino now over 40 free-ranging animals in the Delta.
As is well known we have always intended further developing our presence in Zambia and 2008 will see the opening of a new camp in our South Luangwa concession named Kwena Lagoon. This 8-bedded camp is situated 5km south of Kalamu Camp on the edge of the Luamfwa Lagoon and will allow us to offer more capacity in the productive South Luangwa system to balance our Kafue offering.
In much the same vein we will also be developing Toka Leya, a 12-bedded camp on the banks of the Zambezi River some 12km upstream from Victoria Falls. The camp is located within the Mosi-Oa-Tunya National Park and activities include a tour of the Falls on the Zambian side, game drives, river cruises, guided walks and the adventure activities for which Livingstone is so well known.
From 2008 we are pleased to announce that there will be three airstrips that service our Kafue camps: the existing strip at Lunga, as well as new airstrips on the northern edge of the Busanga Plains, and one near Lufupa Camp. These will significantly reduce transfer times to the camps and road transfers between camps will no longer be offered. The helicopter transfer service will continue and will be the primary means of accessing Kapinga, Shumba and Busanga Bush Camp from the Busanga Airstrip.
Serra Cafema’s bold new design
Inspired by the pioneering spirit of this extraordinary location and the remote explorer aesthetic, Serra Cafema has a whole new look. The new design was based on the sparsely serene environment which called for dramatic, clean lines and a measured, edited approach; one of almost minimalist sensitivity which coexists with sober luxury of exotic materials and finishes and a homage to the Himba people who call this unique locale their home.
The eight luxury chalets and the family unit celebrate the wide open world and the spectacular scenery. There is a subtle separation of this vast openness into three zones – living and sleeping, dressing, and bathing – via the use of two dramatic Himba curtain walls, strong panels of Himba ochre red in the otherwise serene interior palette. Following months of research and participation from the semi-nomadic peoples of this area, the design team portrayed the locale, the striking geology and cultural uniqueness of Serra Cafema, and in so doing, paid homage to the Himba and respect to the culture and way of life of this unique and exceptional tribe.
Note that Serra Cafema will be closed from 12th to 17th Dec 07 for the revamp of the deck and upgrades at the Main area.
It has been decided to change the name of the Abu Private Villa to Villa Okavango to avoid confusion between this private villa and Abu Camp. The new name will also hopefully do away with any confusion between the two camps particularly with regard to elephant activities (which are not offered daily at the Villa Okavango).
The existing Zibadianja Camp will be closed on the 27th November and a new Premier Camp and facilities will reopen on the 4th April 2008.
/ North Island
North Island Dive Report
- September 07 Jump
Firstly, we would like to say our heartfelt goodbyes to Donna Rogers, our underwater photographer and Clive Scherer, the Activities Manager who have left us for the azure waters of Mozambique, we wish them all the best with their future endeavors but know that we have not seen the last of them yet.
During September we began to get a glimpse of the more favourable water and weather conditions of the summer months to come. We had several days of calm sea and clear water which is an indication of the turn in the season and the end of the SE monsoon winds. The wind should now start to swing around and blow from the North East and with it bring calmer and clearer water. This being said, the last few days of September brought in some large swells which. We shall be closely monitoring the sea conditions for the next spring tides!
The latter part of September has already brought us substantially better diving conditions with the visibility improving steadily from around 8 - 10 meters or so up to 15 - 18m on some days and so we look forward to the clearer water and calmer seas which October will bring.
The first 3 days of September we were involved with the Children in the Wilderness Program which was again a huge success. There were a wide range of activities that the kids got up to including Swimming, Sand Castle Building and the Beach Olympics. A demonstration was also given on scuba diving so as to educate the kids on the finer details of this activity. Donna was designated the photographer for the 3 days and managed to capture some excellent shots of the kids and their activities.
September has been an excellent month with regard to dolphin sightings with several close encounters with these amazing creatures. Some guests have even been lucky enough to spot the dolphins while in the water upon surfacing from a dive with the dolphins being especially inquisitive and coming right up to the divers to properly check them out.
One particularly exciting development has been the sighting of a pregnant White Tip Reef Shark on 'Sprat City' (our most famous local dive site situated right off the West Beach Bar) which we first noticed around the beginning of the last week of September. We look forward to monitoring this shark in anticipation of documenting the arrival of the little ones.
We have also had great sightings of the Indian Ocean Walkman (Inimicus filamentosus) which we have rarely seen this often before. The Walkman uses his lower free pectoral rays as "walking" legs which leaves a set of tracks in the sand. This member of the Scorpionfish family is however extremely venomous so we keep our distance.
This month we have also seen an increase in the number of turtle sightings on the dives and on 'Sprat City' specifically. Some guests snorkeling on North East Point were also lucky enough to have an excellent encounter with a Hawksbill turtle while snorkeling right up against the rocks. Another small Hawksbill turtle has been repeatedly spotted in the bay just North of West Beach. We will keep you posted on this small creature's behavioral patterns.
The Activities Department has also been conducting some interesting research on 'Sprat City' for our own interest as well as in an attempt to highlight the importance of this reef to the Seychelles Maritime Authority in the hopes that it will some day assist us in registering at least this area as a protected site. Some of the observations we have noted apart from the obvious spawnings of thousands of sprats (small silver hatchlings prone to being devoured by numerous large game fish) during the brunt of the SE Monsoon season, is the vast array of territorial juvenile fish that are present on the reef, especially the Oriental Sweetlips and the Emperor Angelfish, indicating that this reef is an important breeding ground as well as the fact that the reef topography is completely unique to this area with excellent examples of the extremely fragile Lettuce Coral.
In great partnership with the Environment Department as well as Mr Jude Bijoux from the Marine Parks Authority we have finally established the current and correct Coral Reef Monitoring Procedures that are to be used for the Seychelles specifically which we will implement in October. Valuable insights into this procedure have been discussed and we are now confident that we will be able to conduct a sustainable Coral Reef Monitoring Project in the future gathering far more relevant and detailed reef information.
We look forward to the change in the SE monsoon season as well as the favourable water conditions that it will bring. Summer is on its way!
Camp update - September 07
A gentle heat haze shimmers across the increasing expanses of sand exposed by the drying Luangwa. An African Skimmer wings its way gracefully above the still steadily flowing water and a herd of elephants are seen navigating a steep bank to get to the cool water for a much-needed drink.
This is what the Luangwa Valley looks like from a position ensconced on the couch under a canvass roof, ice-cold dry lemon in hand and mist fan spraying cool air through the camp's lounge area.
It's tough in Africa!
September has seen our camp start to settle into the timelessness of an African wilderness. This of course poses distinct problems when having to meet airplanes and western ideals of timeousness. Somehow we have managed to combine the two and our hope is that our guests have left refreshed by the serenity of the South Luangwa and ready to conquer the bustle of their busy worlds back home.
September has seen the mercury rise steadily with midday temperatures reaching the high thirties (Celsius). Mornings are still pleasant and we're waking up at five o'clock to make the most of the cool weather before heading back to the lodge to sit out the heat of the day on the shady fig-tree deck or lounging by the side of the pool, regulating body temperature with the occasional dip into the surprisingly chilly water.
On three occasions, very light showers surprised us and grey thunderheads threatened more but brought little more than a bit of shade. Days are generally windless except for dust-devils twisting leaf-litter into the blue sky above and we have had a couple of fairly brief but strong winds. The last of these sent a shower of Ilala palm fruit to the ground and we are just waiting for the elephant bulls to discover this treasure trove of delicacies. Once again they will hold us hostage in various parts of the camp while they feed at their own leisurely pace on the 'gingerbread' fruit.
The month started off with a bang when our guests, John, Kathy and Heidi witnessed a pack of seven Wild Dogs feasting on a puku just across the river. The dogs were seen across from camp for two days before disappearing back into the hinterland.
Both lion and leopard have been elusive this month. Despite this, one afternoon drive discovered a group of 10 lions lazing on a sandy riverbank. They were unwittingly stumbled upon by a giraffe who appeared more distracted by our vehicle and less vigilant than he should have been. While we were watching the lions, we heard Yellow Baboons giving their barking alarm call and upon investigation found a leopard and cub hunting the primates as they searched for evening roosts. The cub waited patiently as mother went in search of food.
Other highlights include the strange co-operative feeding of crocodiles in a shallow pan in the Chinengwe area. These reptiles, numbering fifty or more seem to congregate together - almost on top of one another at times in the drying pan - and 'herd' fish along the pan to be snapped up if they venture too close to a hungry set of teeth. A most unusual and fascinating sight to watch and one which has drawn the attention of nearly 200 storks: yellow-billed, saddle-billed and marabou.
The Carmine Bee-eaters are nesting in colonies numbering hundreds of birds each. One of these is easily accessible as the nest bank overlooks a broad stretch of beach-like sand. We hope some award-winning photos have been taken of the Carmines absorbing the early morning sun at their nest entrances as well as sunning themselves in large numbers on the sandy riverbed. Interestingly, they share their nest bank with a colony of White-fronted bee-eaters. The two species have definite 'neighbourhoods' on different parts of the bank but an early morning visit revealed hundreds of both these spectacular species leaving their dark tunnels to warm up and begin the endless search for sustenance.
Another spectacular scene was a group of fourteen Thornicroft's Giraffe gathered in tight huddles on an expansive riverbank as huge thunderclouds complimented a backdrop of Ana Trees and filtered the setting sun into silver rays. Just when we thought it couldn't get any better, two elephant bulls laboured through the thick sand beneath a magenta sun. The plethora of giraffe seem to have been attracted by a female in oestrus and the tussles and congregations that have resulted from the presence of her heady pheromones have been most interesting to watch.
On one rather warm morning game drive we came around a corner on our way back to the lodge to be stopped in our tracks by a breathtaking sight. Just ahead of us perched awkwardly in a 'V' of a leadwood was a huge Martial Eagle. It must have taken up this perch seconds before we arrived. It had been unable to fold one of its wings between the boughs of the tree and this was outstreached behind the branch like the wing of an Icarus about to jump to his death. Attached to a single talon was a wriggling warthog piglet. Its pathetic form dangled helplessly far above the ground, soon to succumb forever. We watched the drama for some time as the Martial Eagle dropped its prey in search of a better perch and Bateleurs, Tawny Eagles and vultures materialized in vain hope.
We look forward to sharing many more adventures both with our visitors and the creatures with which we live in the South Luangwa and quote one guest comment to end off the month:
"The experience was so positive, I am motivated to return and explore as much of Africa as possible." HS
The Kalamu Team
Camp update - September 07 Jump
September has been one of those months that we will just never forget. From day one of this month, it has been nonstop excitement, with something new around every corner our game drive vehicles turned.
September was really the month of the predator, because we just saw so many different types and had so many frequent sightings! If we weren't watching lions gorging themselves on a hippo, then we were watching African wild dogs either hunting warthog or bushbuck or playing and having an absolute ball with each other. And if we weren't watching the two cheetah brothers panting heavily due to oversized stomachs, then we were watching a female leopard and her cub sitting on a termite mound. This is just a brief summary of what we have seen - we know it sound ridiculous, but we tell no word of a lie!
It would take us ages to tell you all about everything that we have seen this month, so we thought we would share the most memorable sightings with you.
The 14th of this month, will be a day that will stick out in Idos's mind forever. We got word that there was a dead hippo lying in the water with at least 10 lions feeding on it far to the south of Shumba. Not wanting to waste any time, straight after brunch Idos climbed in his vehicle with his guests, and went to where this so-called sighting was happening. And happening it was! From a distance, Idos could see the vultures, perched on the dead trees along the river bank looking like undertakers waiting for their scraps. As he got closer, he could see the large grey mass that had attracted so much attention, but there weren't ten lions, there were eighteen muddy felines, all chomping away at this welcome present from Mother Nature. With the amount of food on offer, even the cubs were allowed to join the feast, climbing inside to get at some of the best parts. The scene played out for the next couple of days after that, the lions left the site, the hyena's and jackals moved in, and the vultures finally got to hush their growling bellies.
We said last month that it is by no means an everyday occurrence to see African wild dogs in the wild, and you won't believe how wrong we were proved this month.
The pack, made up of five adults and five puppies, was first spotted on the 9th of the month in Kapinga Forest, and they stayed in the area for about sixteen days, before departing after a run in with a pride of lions. They gave us non-stop entertainment while they were here; we saw them sleep, play, hunt and just doing what dogs normally do. Our guests got some fantastic photographs of them, and all of our guests and guides alike loved every minute of being with them. An unquestionable highlight occurred late in the afternoon of the 20th. Idos and Lexon were out on game drive in the Kapinga area, and all of a sudden they herd a huge commotion coming from the front of Kapinga camp. As they drove around, they saw what they had been hearing. What had happened was that three adult dogs had chased and killed a bushbuck right in front of the pool area at Kapinga. Our guests got to watch the dogs eating; not a pretty sight to say the least, but nature is not always pretty. There was no shortage of chatter at the dinner table that memorable evening, and the excitement was still strong the next morning.
The spotted cats also made their appearance on more than one occasion this month. We have had impressive sightings of both cheetah and leopard this month, the latter being very special indeed.
Once again, Idos was out and about on the morning of the 23rd, bumbling along south of Shumba on a mission to find cheetah. As he was driving something caught his eye, and he just had to go and investigate. On closer inspection, it turned out to be a different spotted cat; a smallish female leopard. She turned to look back at the game drive vehicle; she was a picture of health, very fit with a beautiful coat. She did however not want to be seen and slunk into the bushes. Carrying on with their game drive, they had not even got one kilometer away from where they saw the female, when Idos spied a little bundle of spotted fur sitting on top of a termite mound. This time it was a leopard cub, just sitting and enjoying the morning sun. It must have been waiting for its mother, who they had seen earlier, to come back. It did not move a muscle and just glared at the game drive vehicle in front of it. Idos decided to give the cub some space, and returned back to camp. Brunch that morning consisted of Idos and his guests bragging about their fantastic morning to all the staff in camp; believe us, they had every right to do so, we all would have done the same thing!
On top of all the incredible predator sightings we have had, the plains game has also been just as interesting. More antelope have moved into the area surrounding Shumba, and we have spotted roan antelope, wildebeest, zebra and even a solitary Lichtenstein's hartebeest from the main camp deck. Guests transferring into camp with the helicopter have been lucky to see huge herds of buffalo, up to four hundred strong, making their way across the plains. Lexon also had a fantastic sighting of a herd of fifteen sable antelope in the tree line south of Shumba, which is a particularly special sighting, as despite the fact that this species is relatively common within the miombo woodland it was a first for our guests on the actual plains this season.
Two additional special instances do stick out in our minds. The first would have to be our guests getting a glimpse of a sitatunga in the papyrus reeds north of Kapinga. This very secretive semi-aquatic antelope spends most of its time in dense papyrus reed beds, coming out in the early morning and late afternoon to feed. They are incredible swimmers and in order to escape predators will actually swim into deep water and submerge itself just leaving its two nostrils above the water to breath - a very rare sight indeed.
On a sadder note, some of our guests were out on game drive with Saidi one morning and came across a wildebeest who was about to give birth. As the calf dropped, everyone noticed that it was not moving. The mother was licking it, and nudging it, but there was no response. The mother had given birth to a still-born. As sad as it is, nothing in Africa goes to waste, and within minutes the vultures started to circle. Our guests were very sad when they returned, but none of them could say that they had ever seen something like that before. On a happier note, there are already plenty of playful, sprightly and healthy little wildebeest calves galloping around the plains, which have also been bringing smiles to our visitor's faces.
September certainly ended with a bang; by bang we mean the first rains of the season. On the 28th a true African thunderstorm hit Shumba, with the wind, rain, lightening and of course thunder cracking.
It was absolutely awesome, and our guests loved it! The only thing that was more awesome that the storm was how clear and fresh it was the next morning, everything looked greener, birds were singing, and the antelope in front of camp looked content.
With all these amazing going-on around camp this month, this is what some of our guests had to say about their time spent with us:
"A wonderful visit. Thanks so much for everything, Lexon is tops!" - JC & JC - U.K
"Wonderful camp! Our first visit to Africa - absolutely fantastic. Thanks for a great time." - HJ & BJ - U.S.A
"Best of the five camps that we have stayed at in the past two weeks." - RC & WC - U.S.A
"Thank-you for this great experience. It was over the top. Lexon was amazing and the entire staff made this experience one I'll never forget. See you again very soon." - BC - U.S.A
"Many thanks for a wonderful stay. We could not have asked for more. The staff are some of the friendliest we have met!" - AM & LM - U.K
"Loved every moment. Thank-you Shannon, Andrew, Idos and everyone. See you all next time" - JG & JG - U.K
"Thank-you for a great experience and for building this lovely place in a garden of Eden" - DB & TB - U.S.A
September has truly been a staggering month and just to top it all off our last memory that all of us here at Shumba had of a September day was a flock of over 1000 open-billed storks soaring over the camp
The Busanga Plains is truly a Garden of Eden.
Until next month,
Andrew, Shannon, Idos, Essie, Lexon and the Shumba Team
Lodge update - September 07 Jump
to Lunga River Lodge
The fact that Lunga was without an August newsletter was not due to any lack of game sightings or material. On the contrary, it was an eventful month with numerous sightings and we have decided to combine the August and September newsletters. Over this period there has been a distinct and noticeable change to the surroundings with many of the trees having come into leaf, giving the area a refreshing tinge of green almost defying the oppressive heat we had been experiencing of late.
Sweltering would have to be the first word that comes to mind, I'm sure our resident tree hyrax will attest to that (see inset of it trying to cool down during a particularly warm day).
Although we are fortunate in that we are right on the banks of the Lunga River (and even just to look at it seems to be refreshing enough - not to mention the cool breezes that blow off it) the heat in the last two months certainly intensified, with very little moisture in the air to speak of, and clouds only vague recollections. On some of the days in September though clouds gathered on the horizon and the sight of them both mesmerized and tantalized, giving hope for some respite from the dryness. Toward the end of September we had our first rains which were much celebrated - there was very little scurrying for cover that I noticed.
The game sightings have been particularly impressive over these past two months. Lions have been very active, with various prides moving through the Lunga area (including the camp). We have regularly seen a lioness and her cub, as well as a pride of 3 young males and a young female with one older lioness. Just a few days ago, we saw two enormous male lions nearby sporting luxuriant black manes with a lioness which had recently moved into the area. The big males still appear to be in the vicinity, if the presence of the opportunistic vultures is anything to go by.
Lunga has also been fortunate to have a pack of approximately 14 wild dogs in the area. The pack consists of a number of healthy, young dogs and has been seen on the hunt and with kills on more than one occasion. They have eluded us for the last few days, possibly due to the presence of the lions, however fresh tracks have been found, giving hope that they are still nearby.
Lunga has also enjoyed seeing elephant and even lion swimming across the river in front of the camp, leopard chasing baboons up into the trees, as well as sightings of cheetah, African wild cat, serval, Lichtenstein's hartebeest, buffalo, zebra, kudu, eland, and sable and roan antelope amongst others. In fact it almost seems as though the animals have been jostling for a mention in the monthly newsletter.
The birding has as usual been nothing short of exceptional in the Lunga area. We have continued to see African finfoot, western banded snake eagle; Ross's and Shalow's turaco; red throated twinspot, Chaplin's barbet, saddle-billed stork; wattled crane, black-backed barbet and barred owls. Some of the recent additions have been the migrant European bee-eater and broad-billed roller. I also saw for the first time the male pennant winged nightjar in full breeding regalia, flitting about with its long pennants for all to see.
Until next time,
Warm regards from the Lunga Team
· "The Lunga River must be one of the most beautiful rivers in the world" - United Kingdom
· "I loved the intimacy of this special place. My favourite of all our six camps. Thank you for your graciousness and genuine kindness" - California, USA
· "Thank you for making me feel at home away from home" - Namibia/Germany
update - September 07 Jump
Wow! It certainly has been another amazing month here at Duma Tau. The camp is looking great. Everyone has worked really hard and has done a fantastic job.
Managers: Chantelle, Vasco, Bryce and Nichola. Ashleigh will be in camp next month.
Guides: Theba, Ronald, Ollie and Oaitse. Master has been accompanying the guides on drives and is still in training. Lemme and Ban are returning from leave next month and Ollie will be taking his hard-earned rest.
Weather & environment
It has certainly started to heat up, now that winter is past. The maximum temperature in September was 36°C and the minimum 10°C. The skies have been generally clear, although towards the end of the month we started seeing scattered clouds in the skies during the afternoons. Quite unexpectedly, on the night of the 26th we were woken up by the sounds of raindrops falling outside. It rained 13mm during the night and the next morning it drizzled a little, but the sun soon burnt the clouds away. We normally receive rain only towards late October or early November, so this rain was quite a surprise. We are now in fact at the driest time of the year here in the Linyanti. The seasonal pools in the mopane woodlands have all been dry for a few months now and the animals have been concentrating around the permanent water-points. The water levels in the floodplains and the Linyanti River are fairly high and although the water in the Savuti Channel is still flowing it is disappearing rapidly into the soil and the air and the head does not seem to be pushing anymore, in fact it appears that it is slowly starting to recede again. This year it managed to get as far as the end of "Hippo Bones", approximately 5 km from Zibadianja Lagoon, the source of the Savuti Channel. Artificial waterpoints are currently operative at Dish Pan, Rock Pan, Savuti Waterhole, Muntswe Waterhole and Tona Pan, the latter two only towards the end of the month. All the pumped waterholes are heavily utilised by animals and we often see large herds of Zebras and elephants coming to drink.
Visibility has been at its greatest this month. The vegetation is quite thin now. In the mopane woodlands the trees are all bare of leaves but in the Kalahari Apple Leaf belts the trees were all in flower this month. The grass in the mopane woodlands is all gone now and the dried terra-cotta leaves lie on the ground at the base of the shrubs. In the Savuti Channel, particularly from Savuti Camp to Zib Lagoon, the grass has all disappeared and the channel is now just a dusty ribbon winding its way through the parched woodlands. In the riparian woodlands the only trees still with leaves are the Mangosteens and the Jackalberries. The Mangosteens finished flowering last month and this month we can see small green fruit lying on the ground beneath the trees. Next month the fruit should ripen, The monkeys, baboons, fruit bats and even some of the antelope relish these tasty morsels. This month the Knobbly Combretums (Shaving Brush Bushes) were all in flower in the riverine scrub. In places it looked like a fruit orchard in full blossom. These flowers contain a fair bit of nectar and have been attracting numerous sunbirds and butterflies. We have even noticed the Meyer's Parrots feeding on the flowers. The kudus, impalas and giraffe have also found the flowers of the Shaving Brush Bushes to be a blessing. Along the floodplains the bluebushes have all come into leaf and are now bright green in colour. These bushes get quite thick in patches and are now providing much needed shade for smaller animals and predators during the heat of the day. On the banks of the Savuti Channel the few sausage trees all have new leaves and are even supporting sprays of beautiful big crimson flowers.
Insects & reptiles
With the increase in temperature the insects and reptiles have started to wake up from their winter slumber. The mosquitoes are starting to appear now and there are quite a few flies about. At night, when using the spotlight, one can see many small, green eyes reflecting back as the wolf spiders run around catching insects. Mayflies are also starting to appear now.
Although there are many that are still hibernating, we are now starting to see snakes and tortoises again. One morning we noticed that the birds and squirrels were all giving alarm calls and were staring underneath a fallen mopane tree. Upon investigation we found a magnificent African Rock Python lying there. It was at least 2 and a half meters long and had a stunning glossy skin, as if it had recently sloughed. There have been quite a few crocodiles seen near Zibadianja Lagoon this month.
With winter now ended quite a few of the migrant birds have started returning. The Yellow-billed Kites arrived back first and the pair that nest in camp have already been seen mating and are now collecting sticks to build the nests. Many of the Carmine Bee-eaters have returned already and the birds at the colony at Chobe 1 have started burrowing into the embankment there. Along the floodplains and in the muddy areas alongside the water we have started to see more and more waders returning. Small flocks of Ruff can be seen moving along, and other waders seen this month include Wood Sandpipers, Common Sandpipers, Three-banded Plovers, Black-winged Stilts, Greenshanks and even a Little Stint. A few of the migrant eagles have started returning and we have already seen the first Wahlbergs Eagles that have just returned. This month the following birds of prey were seen: Yellow-billed Kite, Fish Eagle, Bateleur, Brown Snake-eagle, Tawny Eagle, Wahlberg's Eagle, Martial Eagle, African Hawk-eagle, African Marsh Harrier, Gabar Goshawk, Little-banded Goshawk, Little Sparrowhawk, Black-shouldered Kite, Red-necked Falcon, Dickinson's Kestrel and even a single Lizard Buzzard and Dark-chanting Goshawk. The Wood Owls have just started nesting in camp again, in a fork of a tree that stands quite close to the boardwalk near tent number 6. They are quite protective parents and at night the male tends to attack anything moving past the nest (where the female is sitting on eggs). We have had to give all the guests and guides that are going to the room umbrellas so that the male does not dig his talons into the backs of their heads. With the bush still being so dry we are still seeing many of the dry-land birds. Chestnut-vented Titbabblers can still be seen in camp, as can the Red-eyed Bulbuls. In the mopane woodlands we are on occasion seeing Grey-backed Sparrow-larks. Because of the high water-levels in the floodplains we are now starting to see more Slaty Egrets again, and the two Saddlebilled Stork chicks at Zibadianja Lagoon are still doing well.
The general game is fantastic at the moment. In a short trip from camp to Zibadianja Lagoon (approximately 5km away), in the afternoon, one can see Impala, Warthog, Giraffe, Zebra, Red Lechwe, Vervet Monkeys, Chacma Baboons, elephants, kudu, hippos, crocodiles and sometimes even Buffalo. Banded Mongoose, Slender Mongoose and Dwarf Mongooses are all seen on a regular basis. Other antelope seen this month include Tsessebe, Waterbuck, Steenbuck, Blue Wildebeest, Roan Antelope and on one occasion even a female Eland and her young calf (very uncommon in this area).
Oaitse managed to see a magnificent Sable Antelope this month and Vasco, who was out on the boat one afternoon managed to get a view of an elusive Sitatunga. Towards the end of the month we were having tea at the lounge area when we noticed a strange looking antelope walking in the floodplains on the other side of the lagoon and are sure that this was the same sitatunga seen by Vasco previously. This month there have been many Zebras in the Savuti Channel, particularly in the region of Rock Pan and Dish Pan. It was quite amazing that for the few days after the 13 mm of rain fell we did not see any Zebras. They all just seemed to disappear. Now that the puddles have dried up again we are seeing them at the waterholes once more.
With the grass all gone and the trees bare visibility has been great this month. This has allowed for good sightings of the smaller creatures, particularly on the night drives. On most night drives we are seeing Scrub Hares, Springhares, Black-backed Jackals, Lesser Bushbabies and African Wild Cats with occasional sightings of Selous' Mongoose, White-tailed Mongoose, Porcupine and Honey Badger. We even had a single Side-striped Jackal sighting as well as exciting one off records of Serval and Caracal.
Elephant numbers are still very high as they concentrate around the water-points in the late mornings and in the afternoons. It has not been uncommon to come across large herds of at least 50 individuals coming down to drink. It is that time of the year when the elephants are struggling. Many are in poor condition as a result of a scarcity of food and the longer and longer distances between the last remaining food and water-sources. We have also seen many unfortunate young calves that do not have trunks or tails. We assume that they have had their trunks damaged by hyenas, or possibly even snares (when they travel into the Caprivi Strip). Already this month two dead elephants have been reported from the north east of the concession, 2 from the Kings Pool area, 1 from the area around DumaTau and another two in the region around Savuti. Next month there will be more. We are also noticing young calves in very poor condition that have been separated from the herds, unable to travel the long distances any more. Very often they end up wandering along the river, feeding on the green reeds and papyrus and finally dying there. In the late morning there are often a few bull elephants and sometimes even herds that come into camp to find food and rest in the shade of the Mangosteen trees. "George" (a large recognisable bull) has been a regular in the camp this month, as has "Moff". We have watched as George and the others have been vacuuming up the dead leaves lying on the ground and eating them. They are obviously getting desperate now.
We have had a great month for predator sightings with 16 days of lion sightings, 12 days of leopard sightings, 5 days of wild dog and 3 days with cheetah.
The main groups of lion seen this month were the Savuti Males, the Savuti Pride, the Selinda Pride and the Selinda Males.
The Savuti Males are 4 (formerly 5) big males that are the territory holders of much of the Concession. In 2003, estimated at 4 years of age, they immediately set about driving the two Chobe Boys (who held the territory along the river from Chobe National Park to Kings Pool Camp) back into Chobe. During this period the 5th male disappeared. By the end of 2003 the 4 males had made their way to the Savuti Channel and proceeded to drive out "Mr Savuti", the large black-maned lion that was living there. By the next year they had headed all the way down the channel towards Zibadianja Lagoon, where they proceeded to take on and kill the 2 "Michelin Boys". Since then the 4 Savuti Males have been the dominant males in the large triangle between Duma Tau, Kings Pool and Savuti Camps and are most often seen in stable groups of 2.
This was the case for much of September with groups of 2 males patrolling their territory and occasionally being seen with the Savuti Pride from Savuti Camp, to the 'Bottleneck' to Dish Pan Clearing to Rock Pan, to 'First Corner' and then, towards the end of the month, along the Linyanti River in an area known as Deadwood. From here all four of the males were seen together near Dish Pan. This was an extraordinary sighting. To see 4 big-maned lions walking together and drinking together in the early morning light is quite a fantastic sight. They all roared, which was very impressive, and then went to rest together in the shade to the south of the pan.
The Savuti Pride (currently 2 adult females, 4 sub-adult [2 female, 2 male], 2 cubs [1 female, 1 male]) were also seen on a few occasions this month although they moved quite dramatically across the area, being seen at Rock Pan, Savuti Camp, Dish Pan Clearing and back to Savuti Camp (probably via the mopane woodlands to the north of here). By the middle of the month they moved north of the Channel up towards the Linyanti River and were seen near 'Fisherman's Camp' and Kubu Lagoon. They stayed in the area for a few days before moving back into the woodlands and then headed back up the river.
Towards the end of August two lionesses and their 5 youngsters from the Selinda Pride reappeared and this month they moved from Croc Island, in the floodplains, down the Savuti Channel and to the Letsumo Sign - now deep in the territory of the Savuti Pride - before heading back towards Croc Island. It was at this point that the two Selinda Males entered the concession in pursuit of the Selinda Pride (the cubs of which are not related to the males and therefore a target for infanticide). The next two nights were quite chaotic around camp. The males managed to track the pride down and found them in the camp. There was a huge fight and luckily for the youngsters they managed to survive the attack. This fight occurred quite close to the staff village and was witnessed by many of the staff. The next night Vasco was sleeping in his tent when he was woken up by lots of growling and roaring. The next thing there was a loud thump against the tent wall. Vasco looked out of his window and saw the lions right outside the tent. The two males were attacking the youngsters and lionesses again. There was lots of dust in the air as the fight continued. Vasco eventually got back to sleep as the fight moved elsewhere. The next morning he got out of bed and went to go look at the prints in the sand outside. In front of his window there is a shade-cloth wall, to give him a bit more privacy. This shade-cloth wall is suspended between two poles in front of the side of his tent. On the shade-cloth wall Vasco could distinctly see the footprints of one of the youngsters, as he had jumped up and ran sideways along the wall in order to escape one of the males. These indentations were at least a meter and a half up from the ground. This is what the sound was that woke him up during the night. He was lucky that the shade-cloth had stopped the big cat otherwise the fight could have easily ended up in his room with him. What an amazing night and an amazing story. Later that morning the 5 youngsters were found near Osprey Lagoon. The females were not with them. The two males were found lying near the floodplains in front of camp. The next morning the lionesses had again joined up with the youngsters and they all headed up the river towards Kings Pool. The males started to follow, but this was leading them deeper and deeper into the territory of the Savuti Males and they then turned back and returned to Selinda. In the meantime the Selinda Pride were headed straight into the area where the Savuti Pride were resting. We do not know if they bumped into each other as the next day the Savuti Pride had come past camp and the Selinda Pride were not seen again for the rest of the month. We assume that they found a place to cross the river and were possibly in Namibia or back in Selinda.
We have had quite a few different leopard over the course of the month. This month the camp leopard (the Osprey Female) has been heard calling quite a bit around the camp at night. Often in the mornings we have found her tracks where she had been walking around the camp. The Duma Tau Male was seen on at least 5 occasions this month across his extremely large territory, from near Savuti Camp (where he had killed a warthog and hoisted it into a large tree), to Ele Valley Rd (where we were following the Zib Female) from where he headed towards Kubu Lagoon through the open grasslands. He was calling and marking territory as he went. It was a great sighting. Later in the month he was seen near the Letsumo Sign (again with a warthog kill and again near the Zib Female who was watching him and may well have had the kill expropriated from her by the male).. For the rest of the day the male rested up in the sausage tree and started feeding on the warthog again in the late afternoon, when the temperature had cooled down. That night when we returned to the spot we found him feeding on the kill and the Zib Female was lying near the base of the tree.
The Rock Pan Female and her female cub (8-9 months) were seen on at least 6 days this month. On one occasions she was seen just to the west of Savuti Camp and the following day was found with the cub and an impala kill just to the south of Dish Pan. A few days later she was again found in this area with another impala kill. She appeared to spend more than a week in this area and later in the month was seen near Rock Pan and then near Bundu Island. On this occasion she headed towards a termite heap. Theba moved around the termite heap, waiting for her there. As she got to the heap she noticed an African Wild Cat hiding in a hole at the base of the heap. The wild cat saw the leopard at the last moment and leapt out of the hole. The leopard was quick though and managed to catch the cat as it was in the air. She then sat down and ate the unfortunate cat, crunching on the bones right next to the vehicles.
We had only one sighting of Mosetsana (the Zib Female's Cub) this month, This young female leopard is extremely relaxed with vehicles and on the morning of the 4th we had been watching the Zib Female, left her only to find the DumaTau Male, and then left him and headed towards Zibadianja Lagoon, when we bumped into Mosetsana walking on the road ahead of us. We followed her for a while when she noticed a tree squirrel in a Feverberry Croton nearby. She headed towards the small tree and started climbing up it after the squirrel. The squirrel decided to make a leap out of the tree, but the leopard was too close and had anticipated the squirrel's move. As the squirrel leapt the leopard jumped up and grabbed it mid-air.
Another leopard seen this month was the Mmantshwe Female who was found on a freshly killed impala south of Savuti Camp, that night being seen feeding on the carcass with her cub and her previous male cub from 2003. He was looking healthy and is now quite a large male tomcat. We also found the Chobe 1 Female lying in an Appleleaf Tree near 'Chobe 1', and later in the month near this site also located a large male leopard. He was sleeping, but woke up when he heard the vehicle approaching and headed into a thicket. After sundowners we bumped into him again. A few days later Oaitse was driving along the river when he spotted a male and female leopard with a large male impala kill hanging in a tree. That evening he and the other guides returned to the area and found the two leopards again. The male leopard was identified as the Kubu Male and the female was our very own camp leopard the Osprey Female. They were both seen in the vicinity of the kill again the next morning.
Having now left the den, the Wild Dogs were not seen very much this month. The Duma Tau Pack (11adults and 3 pups) left the area of the den and headed into the Selinda Concession and were not seen at all this month although we have heard that only 2 pups remain. On the afternoon of the 9th though we came across 5 unknown dogs (4 males, 1 female) on the Transit Road. One of the males was limping, but still keeping up with the pack. On the afternoon of the 12th we again saw this pack near Rock Pan. They were busy drinking water and then headed off again. On the afternoon of the 20th the guides from DumaTau were all in the vicinity of Zibadianja Lagoon and the Savuti Channel, up to the First Corner, having sundowners. Mr T was parked right at the First Corner when suddenly the pack of 5 came running right past them as they were standing outside of the car. They were chasing a kudu, but did not manage to catch it. On the morning of the 23rd these dogs were seen resting in the middle of the open grasslands of Dish Pan Clearing, then on the morning of the 27th Ronald found the dogs near Forest Rd. They were feeding on a young kudu, but when the hyenas arrived the dogs left the carcass and headed off towards the Savuti Channel. The female was acting quite strangely and was marking all the bushes that she came across with her urine. Perhaps she doesn't know that this area is right within the territory of the DumaTau Pack. When they got to the channel they rested there underneath the shade of a Bluebush, but the female was quite frisky and kept on trying to play with the males. They all rested there for the rest of the day and only got mobile again in the late afternoon.
Cheetah sightings this month were few and far between. On the morning of the 1st the two Savuti Boys were seen resting at Dish Pan Clearing. These two males are particularly relaxed and have given us many great sightings in the past. They are the stars of an upcoming documentary that has been filmed in the area and we are looking forward to the time that it is released. On the morning of the 2nd the two boys were seen much further down the channel towards Bundu Island. They were busy walking towards the west and were headed in the direction of the Selinda Concession. We did not see these two cheetahs for the rest of the month. On the morning of the 27th we were travelling near "Giraffe Bones" in the Savuti Channel when we spotted a relaxed female cheetah lying on the side of a termite heap. From photographs we later identified her as the female cheetah that was seen quite a bit in 2005. She then had two older cubs and was training them to hunt. This time she was on her own.
And that's all for the month. We are looking forward to seeing what October provides. Come and visit us.
Best wishes from all of us at Duma Tau - Linyanti - Botswana
Camp update - September 07 Jump
to Kings Pool
September has proven to be a phenomenal month at Kings Pool. All the signs of summer are upon us with various plant species pushing out their blossoms and filling the air around us with the intoxicating fragrance of the African Bush. Were were blessed with light rainfall this month: The first liquid gold of the season. PULA! But the thirsty land of the Linyanti quickly sucked up all the moisture from the soil.
Many of our feathered friends have returned from their migration. Species like Walberg's Eagle, Yellow-billed Kite, Carmine Bee-Eater and Broad-billed Roller to name a few: A true birding delight as the arid woodlands are complimented with strokes of color and sweet melodic songs.
Elephants are still present in great numbers in and around Kings Pool, and it was not uncommon this month to see between 500 and 1000 of these giants during game drive. Watching these Elephants cross the Linyanti River at sunset is a magical experience revered by many of our guests as the highlight of their stay. On a sad note, we have also had a few young elephant die in the area to due to lack of water and sufficient fodder. It is always heartbreaking seeing one of the lifeless body of one of these majestic creatures but one man's sorrow is another's gold. Lions and Hyaena profit greatly from these carcasses, giving them fresh meat for days.
Predator sightings have been very good this month with great sightings of Lion, Leopard and Spotted Hyaena. The Hyaena den has been very productive with great views of two different litters of cubs. Their inquisitive nature draws them close to our vehicles as they try to make sense of the Land Rovers. Leopards have been great with almost daily appearances on Game Drive. One female enjoys terrorizing the roosting Baboons in camp, filling the night with their alarm barks. Lions have also been seen frequently, either sleeping in the shade of a Blue Bush or gorging themselves on a freshly killed Buffalo or Giraffe.
Wild dogs were only sighted on one occasion this month. Three adults and seven new puppies were seen. They have emerged from their den site and have started to move again. We are hoping for more fequent sightings of these predators in the coming months.
Aside from the predators a highlight of the month has been the pleasure of fantastic Roan sightings. Seeing these endangered antelopes is always a treat and the majority of the sightings have been at our Sunken Hide. The Sable antelope have also been seen throughout the month and a single very brief sighting of one sole Eland has been reported by our guides.
All in all a great month of Africa's best here at Kings Pool. Here are some comments on their highlights from our Guests who stayed with us in September.
"Animal sightings, Excellent staff, Super show." - A&RG
"Elephants in the hide. Sighting 5 Different Leopards, 3 Sleeping Lions and Elephant Crossing." - M&LB
"Absolutely great. The entire staff was great. Welcome dinner. The bush was such a fantastic experience." - M&CW
"Peace and Tranquility." - JC
Many thanks to all our guest staying with us during September. We trust you have had a memorable African experience and Kings Pool is looking forward to seeing you all again soon.
The Kings Pool Team: Nick, Kerry, Miriam, Zoot and Eddi
Camp update - September 07 Jump
Tough decisions at the beginning of the month... Savuti Pride up the Channel, as well as leopard or cheetah. All within a stone's throw of each other. Guests decide the leopard. There she is sitting up in the sausage tree with an impala. Whilst they watch the spectacle, a lion walks under the tree on his way to find his companion and then, having smelt the carcass, several spotted hyena and jackal arrive to see what they can snatch.
Other highlights have included two of the Savuti boys who were found on a baby elephant kill. Arriving the next day only the head and ears remain, along with hundreds of vultures and engorged hyena's found lying in the water of the channel cooling off their discomfort of overeating. Leopards, normally rare to see, have been prolific, and just this morning we have two on the Channel, one at Savuti camp and the other near Dish Pan, both with impala carcasses, relaxing in their respective trees.
Again, it's not all about the predators; Roan antelope are being seen on a regular basis, in large herds, and the reptiles are out: the first Mozambique spitting cobra for the season seen going about its business along with a black mamba and a few striped sand snakes. Summer is definitely on the way. The smell of rain is in the air, we can feel it but it's still dry. The only species who is in on the rain plan is the Knobbly Combretum, they are all in flower.
Well, last night I spent the evening with two guests in the sleep out hide. Prior to meeting them I went with a couple of staff to set the hide up for the evening. On the way we met five wild dogs relaxing in the shade of some blue bushes. Called to the game drives but nobody was interested, they were busy with other exciting stuff - arrived at the hide to find a leopardess drinking at the water. She has claimed a dead zebra at the water hole as her kill. Strangely, she has covered its entire head and neck with sand perhaps trying to hide the carcass as it is obviously too heavy to haul up a tree. Meanwhile, two Impala came down to drink not noticing the leopard at the water. At five metres, leopard in prepared crouch, an impala suddenly senses something, prances 2m into the air and steams off into the woodland - close shave for sure. Meanwhile I am proudly raising the guides on the radio - no one responds they are too busy with equally exciting stuff.
That night the leopardess continues to feed off the zebra, guests getting some awesome footage, later the hyena's come in and start devouring the animal, leaving it for two lions in the early morning. They drag the carcass into the shade of a tree to keep it cool for the day - Dish Pan night out ... the place to be seen!
As we head to the end of the month the clouds loom and on the 26th we have a huge rain storm. (Maybe the Knobbly Combretum's did know something we did not!) The dust clears, the ground takes on a much softer hue. The smell of the ground after the first rain is memorable and the animals de-stress, the elephants' colouration changes to dark grey as they are showered, their tusks white against the black hide - that's if you can find one. In stark contrast to the preceding month the water hole is devoid of elephants today, they have headed off to the woodlands where the rain water has collected in old pockets in the ground.
On this day the wild dogs have taken down a young kudu, to be harassed by two Hyena which they manage to keep away until they are full, running off down the channel before settling for the day in the shade, a good start for this afternoon's drive, especially with new guests arriving in camp!
Nearly the end of the month, two guests, a father and son, both keen photographer's on their sixth visit with Wilderness are on an evening sleep out at the hide. Prior to arriving they visit the leopard cub they have been watching during the day. It is on the ground in front of them hunting a springhare which it catches and carries up a tree before the hyena intercepts it. Early morning in the hide, we can hear the lions calling but they seem far away. A little later two lions arrive to drink at the water but are intercepted by the four Savuti boys. They take a rain check on the water and rush off pursued by the four. Having dispatched them, the four brothers's line up at the water and slake their thirst. The guests get incredible photos of the lions drinking together.
It's Independence Day in Botswana today; the proud staff sing the national anthem for our guests. Botswana is a great country, a rare gem in Africa.
That's about all for September as we head into a hot October.
Camps Update - September 07
Lagoon camp Jump
• Lion sightings were good throughout the month, with the four male lions establishing their territory in the Lagoon area. They were seen on numerous occasions but were unfortunately not seen making any kills.
• Four different leopards were seen in the Lagoon area during this month. All these leopards were very relaxed and made for some good photographic opportunities.
• The two cheetah brothers made their monthly appearance in the Lagoon area as usual. They were seen stalking and killing an impala next to the river in the water cut area,
• The Lagoon pack of 6 dogs and their 9 pups are doing extremely well. Although they have left the den for quite some time now, they are still seen on a regular basis. They six adult dogs were seen killing an impala and then they brought the pups in to come and share the kill.
• Night sightings were very good this month, with an elusive aardvark being seen. Chameleon, springhare, and giant eagle owl were also seen on some of the night drives.
• Big groups of elephants, breeding herds as well as bachelor groups, have been seen on the floodplains and on the riverbanks. Some of the single bulls have also been visiting the camp during the nights.
• Big mixed herds of buffalo, some of them with 1500 and more buffalo in the herds continue to been seen grazing on the flood plains. Some of the bulls were seen mating with the cows and there are lots of calves in the herds.
• General game was very good with both roan and sable antelope being found. Big herds of zebra and large journeys of giraffe were also seen. Wildebeest, steenbok, lechwe, and impala made up some of the many other species of general game that were sighted.
• A record of 4 porcupines was sighted on one game drive during this month. Honey badgers were also seen on a regular basis
• Birding was good during this month, with secretary birds as well as some ostriches being seen. Marabou storks and black-bellied korhaan were also spotted.
Kwara & Little Kwara camps Jump
& Little Kwara camps
• Lion sightings were again very good during this month. A pride of 7 females managed to kill a zebra, while the two big males killed a buffalo. There were lots of hyena and vultures around these kills. The pride of 5, consisting of four females and one young male were hunting zebras but had no luck.
• The well-known female leopard and her cub were seen often throughout the month. She managed to kill a reedbuck and left the kill to go and fetch her offspring. When they got back the kill was already taken over by a clan of hyena. Two other female leopards, one fully grown and the other a young one were also seen during the month. They were both very relaxed and made for some good photo opportunities.
• Two groups of cheetah were seen during this month. A female with her 3 sub-adult cubs were seen hunting but they had no success. The 3 brothers were also seen hunting impala but they were also not successful.
• A small pack, consisting of two wild dogs spent some time in the area. They were seen hunting impala but no kill was witnessed.
• Only a small amount of bachelor herds and some single bull elephant were seen during this month. Some of these bulls were seen swimming as well as crossing the channel in front of the boat cruise.
• Big herds of buffalo have been visiting the area. These herds are coming out of the mopane woodlands where all the waterholes are now dry.
• Hyena was seen most nights patrolling around the camps. Both black backed and side-striped jackal were seen during the night drives.
• General game sightings continue to be very good. Giraffe, zebra, tsessebe, warthog, kudu and some sable antelope were seen.
• Good sightings of Civet, Serval and African Wild Cat have been reported. The game drives have found numerous active Aardvark holes but animals have been eluding the drives up to now.
• Birding was spectacular in this month. All the summer residents had turned up and started breeding at Gadikwe lagoon. The heronry is filled with yellow-billed storks, marabou storks, egrets and many other species of birds.
Lebala camp Jump
• Two male lions killed a buffalo east of Lechwe Island. A new pride consisting of 2 adult females and 4 one-year-old cubs appeared on the scene and were seen on a regular basis. The resident pride of 3 lionesses, 8 cubs and two males had made several kills during the month. The pride of 13 also moved regularly between Selinda and Lebala.
• Leopard sightings were excellent during this month. A male leopard was found after 45minutes of tracking, but he was not relaxed. The resident female was found with an impala kill but she lost it to the hyena as the kill was still on the ground when they appeared. Two other males were found in separate locations. One of them had killed a porcupine while the other one had a steenbok in one tree and an impala up another tree, 30 meters away.
• An unknown female cheetah was seen in the area for 3 days. She managed to kill an impala on the third day and then left the area after feeding on her kill. A new coalition of four cheetah had been spotted in the area but they were very nervous and could not be approached. The two-brother cheetah also spent some time here and managed to kill a young kudu near halfway pan.
• A pack of 11 wild dogs and their 2 pups made a surprise visit to the area for one day. They managed to kill an impala during their visit but some male lions robbed them of their kill. The lagoon pack, consisting of the 6 adults and 9 pups also put in a short visit before moving back towards Lagoon camp.
• Big breeding herds, bachelor herds and some single bull elephants are a common sighting on the flood plains.
• 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.
• Excellent general game with many large journeys of giraffe, impala, waterbuck, Tsessebe, Wildebeest, Steenbok zebra, red lechwe and kudu. Some herds of roan and sable antelope were also seen during the drives.
• Night sightings were good with both species of jackal being seen. Some of the hyena clans were seen feeding on a buffalo calf at Tsessebe Island while another group stole a leopard kill.
• Birding was excellent during this month, with most of the summer residents around. The carmine bee-eaters are breeding and the weavers are busy making nests. Lots of kingfishers around as well as a giant kingfisher spotted on the railing of the camp bridge.
• Porcupine sightings were great throughout the month and some guests were lucky enough to see a very elusive pangolin. African wildcat and honey badgers were also seen almost every day as well as many species of mongoose.
Camp update - September 07 Jump
September 2007 has, as usual, been another fantastic month at Mombo! Summer is approaching at an increasingly fast pace and the changes are evident all over the island. Temperatures have been steadily rising and on most days the maximum temperature has been up around 35°C - not a problem under the shade on an outside sala mattress. Early mornings and nighttime temperatures have been consistently cool, one of the few relics of the winter months. However, the most exciting (yes, exciting) weather event of the month was the arrival of the first few drops of rain of the season that fell towards the end of the month. This early rain was barely enough to wet the ground but it is a sure sign of more to follow.
Owing to our location at the tip of Chief's Island, the landscapes around Mombo camp are permanently in a state of flux, and September has provided no exception. The flood water is now well and truly on its way out, leaving behind moist and nutrient rich soils. These drying floodplains are attracting general game en masse, something which Mombo is renowned for. Large herds of zebra, impala, lechwe and wildebeest make their way down to these plains in the early mornings and evenings, making for truly stunning vistas for those out on game drive. Associated with the retreating flood water we are also starting to see the formation of 'fish traps'. Fish traps are formed as the receding water leaves behind pools of water from which fish didn't have time to move away. These pools provide a feast for any living beings with a taste for fish and a treat for birders. Water birds concentrate on these areas, providing spectacular scenes of squabbling herons, pelicans, egrets, storks and an array of other bird life. Hovering kingfishers drop in amongst the fray, grabbing what they can. In a matter of hours, the chaos is over and the birds move on, looking for the next easy meal.
A further noticeable indicator of the changing of the seasons has been the return of many of the migratory bird species that have returned from their winter-time jaunts to the north. Yellow-billed kites, stunning carmine bee-eaters, and woodland kingfishers are all back in the area, adding to already stunning birdlife that we experience at Mombo.
Anyone who has visited Mombo in recent years will know that at present our predator system is dominated by lion and spotted hyaena. These two carnivores also happen to be extremely intolerant of each other and the scraps over kills are a constant. On two occasions in the month the scavenging hyaenas pushed their luck a bit far and on both occasions the hyaena team came off one member short courtesy of the large male lions - extremely interesting interaction for those who witnessed these scenes!
The three prides in the area have been unchanged over the last month. The Moporota Pride has been the most frequently seen as they have been spending most of their time on the floodplains to the north west of the camp, taking advantage of the concentrations of game. This pride is composed of 2 adult males, 7 adult females and 13 sub-adults.
At the beginning of the month, the Mathata Pride had moved quite far to the south of Mombo and weren't being seen very frequently. As the month has progressed the pride has moved back towards Mombo, probably also following the high concentrations of game species. The Mathata Pride is also composed of 2 adult males and 7 adult females. In this pride, however, there are 15 sub-adults. This has not been consistent though as the high number of young males means that small numbers have been breaking away. With the number of other lions in the area these breakaways have always been very short lived! A sad thing to see has been the quite dramatic decline in condition of the Mathata Female, the former matriarch of the pride and the lioness after which the pride takes its name. She sustained a bad injury to her stomach about four months ago, probably from an encounter with a buffalo. She has fought the injury since then and it is amazing that she has survived for this long at her age (estimated at about 9 or 10 years). Sadly, it now appears that she is on her last legs and may not survive much longer.
The third pride is the West Pride, composed of 2 adult males, 7 adult females and 4 sub-adults. This pride appears to have moved a bit further west into the wetter areas and thus they have not been observed very frequently this month.
As always, leopards have been ever present here at Mombo but are by nature harder to find and observe than lions. However, Legadima (well know to anyone who has been to Mombo) has frequently been putting on a show for those lucky enough to find her.
There have been two other males seen through the month but far less frequently than Legadima and both are a lot more skittish. An interesting variation in leopard hunting techniques has been very well demonstrated by our leopards here at Mombo this month. The Sausage Trees (Kigelia africana) in the area have been flowering through the month of September, providing an easy and nutritious meal for antelope that wait under the trees for the maroon blooms to fall. These unsuspecting and preoccupied antelope provide a perfect target for any leopard with the patience to lie in the shade of the canopy. When the moment is right the leopard drops out of the tree and into its prey below. This spectacular scene has been witnessed by a number of lucky guests at Mombo this month.
Some excitement at the end of last month was the return of wild dogs to Mombo. The pack of 7 dogs remained in the area for about 2 weeks and was seen at the beginning of September. Unfortunately they have not been seen since then and we suspect that the concentrations of lion and particularly hyaena have pushed them back toward the south east side of Mombo.
The cheetah that tragically lost his brother towards the end of last month has been observed on a number of occasions through the month. Even without his brother he is continuing to be very successful and has thus far remained in the area and in good condition.
The continued drying of the interior of Chief's Island has been driving most animals to the island fringes and elephants have been no exception. We have been seeing higher numbers of elephants this month and in bigger herds. The abundance of food and water on the verge of the island means that the elephants are experiencing a very low level of environmental stress and so guests are frequently treated to very up close encounters with remarkably relaxed elephants.
As usual, the resident buffalo bulls have been ever-present in the camp and on the floodplain in front. Their habit of sleeping under the tents and board walks introduces the constant possibility of excitement in camp, as experienced on number of occasions when they have been hunted by lions in camp! Unfortunately, September was a relatively quiet month on the rhino front, with only a handful of sightings. However, monitoring has shown that they are indeed still in the eastern areas of the island and one helicopter monitoring flight produced 16 different individuals.
And so that has been the month at Mombo as can best, but never adequately, be described in such a short account.
Jeremy, Lizzy, One, Frank, Camilla, Nick & Leonard
Camp update - September 07 Jump
It has been a great month at Xigera, and many thanks to everyone who helped in all of that, from the management at Xigera (Francois, Neo, Marleen, Kago, Karen & Mike the trainee manager), the guides (KD, TK, Phet, Ndebo, & Thompson the freelance guide), the polers, and staff at large and everyone who has so enthusiastically participated in showcasing the tradition of Botswana every Monday night when we have our boma and traditional night.
Spring just arrived: the temperature has gone up, flowers are starting to bloom and some of the trees that had lost their leaves are now starting to shoot. Minimum average temperature for the month was 16°C, while the average maximum was 33°C. The low was 14°C, and the high 36°C. Just at the end of the month we had an overcast day and a few rain drops during the night, but generally it has been hot with clear skies.
We have seen a rapid retreat of the water levels in our area this month, resulting in us being able to access many of the roads that had been inundated and now having a little bit more of our game drive area. This drop in the levels has unfortunately also meant that we might soon have to stop taking our guests up to Chiefs Island because the water is too low for the boats to go through. Even now, in some areas, the guides have to lift up the propeller and pole the boat through the shallows. These Chief's Island picnic trips have resulted in great feedback from our guests. They have seen a lot of general game (red lechwe, giraffe, impala, and many more) and have also some more high profile species such as buffalo, elephant, lion, crocodile, python and others. Some of the highlights were: a crocodile in the Boro Channel with an elephant leg in its mouth, lions stalking and killing an impala and later on the male coming and stealing the kill, another lion pride feeding on a buffalo, elephant mud bathing and crossing the channels, and about three hundred buffalos grazing on the floodplain.
We are very fortunate to have a Pel's fishing owl nesting in our area and a lot of our guests have enjoyed the sighting of the owl with its chick. There have been some great sightings of other awesome birds in the area like the African skimmer (these are nesting in healthy numbers at the Xigera Lagoon), malachite kingfisher, pelicans, saddle-billed stork, little bee-eater, giant kingfisher, pied kingfisher and slaty egret. We have also seen a lot of wattled cranes. It has been fantastic to welcome back the migrants: we have recently seen yellow-billed kite and carmine bee-eater.
We have also had a resident elephant in camp for the past two weeks, hyena, large spotted genet, and a leopard. There has also been a leopard that has been seen at the airstrip a couple of times.
The sand pit that we call the 'morning newspaper' has also shown us that animals like leopard and hyaena have visited camp, even when we haven't seen them.
Camp update - September 07 Jump
It has been a month of soaring temperatures and an eyeball-searing intensity of the light. Earlier in the month a great haze of airborne dust and smoke particles made everything appear fuzzy, and sunsets and sunrises were spectacular orange and red affairs. With a hot wind to blow away the dust, the clarity of the air took on a new perspective.
Sausage Trees have taken on their summer colours - dropping their ruby-red flowers, while leopards lounge in the concealment of their boughs. Knobbly Combretums also burst into their characteristic firecracker inflorescences adding a new element to the landscapes, while the grasslands were a lion-stalked dun, apart from the Imperata grasses, which appear flame-red, and the others fill the palette with every shade of beige. As everything dries out and dies off, visibility in the woodlands has been excellent, resulting in many wonderful sightings.
The Hooded Vultures are still sitting on their nest behind tent #4, and if all goes well, we might see a hatchling soon. The first avian summer visitors have arrived in the form of Yellow-Billed Kites. We saw a Martial Eagle feeding on its kill in the camp one morning, and have had many sightings of other raptors (Brown Snake-Eagle, African Hawk-Eagle, Bateleur, White-backed Vulture), while Marabou and Saddle-billed Storks are taking advantage of the receding floodwaters and the resulting fish traps to feed on the bounty of hapless catfish, minnow and tilapia species.
The best news this month is that the African Wild Dogs have been seen again - all seven of the adults were present, along with six puppies (one of which looked a bit weak and feeble, and may possibly not make it). The puppies are moving with the pack, but obviously not yet able to participate in, or keep up with, the hunting adults.
We have had a tremendous number of Leopard sightings this month - 27 days in total. Sometimes we didn't even have to leave the camp to see them. A very large male and his smaller female consort have been seen many times hunting in the camp at night, and one evening just after dusk he killed a big baboon right outside my tent, and dragged the carcass out of the trees and across the narrow floodplain opposite, while the troop shrieked and yelled in terror from their roosts above.
The two cubs that last year were hidden on our island by their mother have grown into beautiful adults and have regularly been seen in the vicinity of the camp. The male suffered an injury to his abdomen recently, but it seems he will make a full recovery. Another female in the Airstrip Road area has been seen with two cubs, as well as 'Mosadi Mogolo' with her cub who have moved down to the Balance Plant area. In total, I can think of at least twelve Leopards in the vicinity. This is possibly due to relatively low Lion density in the area currently.
The female Cheetah with four cubs in the Phinley's Road area is doing well and has been seen a few times, as well as a male in the River Road area. One morning Lazarus saw him bringing down a Warthog. Another female with three cubs has been found in the Gomoti area recently, and in total we have had 9 days of Cheetah sightings.
OT found the Gomoti pride of 15 Lions feeding on a Kudu one morning, and they have been seen in the Gomoti Channel area quite regularly. The local pride has also been seen a lot this month, the female with the cubs is doing well, but unfortunately it appears one of her three offspring has disappeared. The other solitary female Lioness has also been seen a few times, and after seeing her with a Buffalo kill last month, Ebs found her killing a Baboon in the Gomoti area - it seems a predator will take whatever it can get!
The region abounds with plains game - many Giraffe (sometimes in spread-out herds of a dozen or more), Kudu, Wildebeest, Warthog, Zebra, the ubiquitous Impala, large herds of Buffalo (some in their hundreds) and of course, many Elephants. All are focusing on the channel and flooded areas to meet their water needs, and then moving into the adjacent woodlands to feed. The camp island has also been blessed with a new Bushbuck lamb, and often we see the male together with the two females delicately stepping through the undergrowth.
One night in the Boma we watched a Tree Monitor Lizard digging her nest and laying her eggs in the hole. We have protected the spot and will be keeping an eye on proceedings. Not many snakes about yet.
We had a fantastic Independence Day celebration in the Boma on the night of the 30th, and for some, the festivities continued until the sun rose on another beautiful Okavango day.
This month has been very warm, with temperatures getting up to 36°C on occasions coupled with strong, dry winds sucking the moisture out of everything. We had a slight spatter of rain on the night of the 26th, but it was only a bittersweet reminder of the relief we are all waiting for.
For the month of October, Phinley, Ebs, OT, Lazarus, Andrea and Luke will be guiding, and Ryan, Celine, Shaa and Moss will your hosts. Kenny and Josephine will be at Chitabe Lediba.
to Page 2