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Page 2 Updates
Monthly update from Kwetsani Camp in
Monthly update from Jao Camp in
Monthly update from Tubu Tree Camp in
Monthly update from Jacana Camp in
Monthly update from Duba Plains in
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Monthly update from Ruckomechi Camp in
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update - September 07 Jump
to Kwetsani Camp
September, traditionally the beginning of spring, has brought with it rising temperatures, the maximum being 38°C and the minimum 17°C. Luckily we experience generally breezy days to cool things down.
The warm summer air is now filled with the shrill buzzing call of the Cicada, which is such a characteristic call of summer. Behind the call is an extremely interesting insect whose larva will remain buried below ground for up to ten years before emerging. After emerging, the larva climb a tree and moult into a winged adult that will live for only a very short period of time during which it will use its characteristic call to attract a female and mate. After mating the adults lay eggs in a slit made in a twig, and upon hatching the nymphs will fall to the ground where they will dig meters into the ground with their enlarged forelegs to feed off the roots of the tree, taking up to 10 years to extract enough nutrients from the low energy root sap before they are able to make their way to the surface for the final metamorphosis to adulthood.
It is these wonderful; mostly unknown secrets of nature that we would like to share with you as we guide you through Kwetsani Island and beyond, in search of our larger and perhaps better known wildlife. Whatever your interest, insect, bird, lion or leopard we would love to share our environment with you.
The floodwaters, which arrived early this year, have now receded, bringing boat transfers from the airstrip to an end. We will certainly remember the wonderful sightings of buffalo, elephant, hippo and crocodile from the channels in our final few transfers. We will continue to enjoy these sightings in the coming months as we explore the much shallower papyrus lined waterways by Mekoro or by boats on the more distant lagoons.
We have had an enormous amount of elephant activity around Kwetsani Island this month. These large animals have spent hours shaking the ivory fruit from the tall real fan palms (Hyphaene petersiana). It is too wonderful to watch them position themselves for the final shake. They lift their heads, tusks either side of the palm and the upper part of the trunk placed high up on the palm stem, before a vigorous shake is given to knock the fruit from the top of the palms. The most amusing part of the "activity" is watching how the elephants close their eyes just before the shake, to avoid the falling fruit. The tough large seeds are up to 7cm in diameter and will not digest while passing through the elephant; however, the sweet outer skin is highly sought after by the large pachyderms during the dry season, when the quality of food in surrounding areas is poor or in short supply. The fruit will indeed release some nutrients for the elephant; however, probably greater benefit is for the fruit itself that will find its way to the ground in a pile of natural fertilizer that will stimulate its growth.
The wonderful warm weather seems to bring everything to life. The swelling bellies of the now well pregnant antelope are becoming rather obvious and trees are beginning to flower. One of the more interesting trees overhanging our deck is the Sausage tree (Kigelia africana) that is dropping its spectacular large red flowers onto the deck early each morning. Guests are always amazed that they are unable to see large numbers of flowers on the tree when there are so many scattered on the deck below. This is because each of the pollen laden sticky flowers only emerges from its bud for a single night before falling from the tree. It is not only the beauty of the flower that is impressive, but also nature's subtle interactions that take place around us all the time. During the night you will hear the squeaking fruit bats that are attracted to the large nectar laden flowers that smell like fermenting liquid. Their feeding frenzy and visits to the flowers are vital to the pollination process that will produce the large, valuable sausage like fruit later in the season.
Of course, as is the balance of nature, the falling flowers provide a valuable and highly prized food source for the impala and bushbuck around camp. However, as they congregate around the base of the trees they in turn are watched from the depths of the bush by our resident leopard that has been very active on the island this month. Unlike many of the other leopards around the concession, our resident male is elusive, and simply teases us with his tracks and rasping roar during the night, although we have been lucky enough to catch a glimpse of him on a couple of occasions this month. There has been no shortage of predator activity throughout September; lion and leopard sightings have been regular. 'Broken Nose' with her cub is doing extremely well, as are 'Freddy' and 'V' with their females and two prized cubs.
The birds around Kwetsani alone are an adequate reward. Of course, at this time of the year, their numbers begin to swell as the summer migrants return. How wonderful it has been to see the yellow-billed kites returning this month: these Intra Africa migrants that head north at the end of summer to over-winter in central Africa have returned to breed in Southern Africa. It has also been wonderful to see the large flocks of open-billed storks that roost at the tops of the trees in the evenings and bring such a wonderful atmosphere to the delta. These large chocolate brown and black storks, with their extraordinary pincer-like bills, are completely aquatic storks that have come here to feed almost exclusively on snails and freshwater mussels that they search for in the sediment and mud of the receding floodwaters. Yet again some interesting behaviour has been observed, the storks are said to follow in the wake of hippos and even to ride on the backs of these huge mammals that habitually churn up the mud and expose the birds' preferred prey.
We have also been taking advantage of the wonderful warm weather, brunching under the shade of Sycamore figs on nearby islands in the company of birds, lechwe and the other spectacular wildlife that thrive around Kwetsani. And once you have experienced all of this, there is always time for a little fishing in our crystal clear lagoons and waterways. We were also privileged to celebrate a number of special anniversaries, honeymoons and birthdays during the month, thanks to everyone for sharing these special and important occasions with us at Kwetsani.
We hope you too will visit us sometime soon so that we can share our special world with you.
Regards from all at Kwetsani - the Delta Paradise
Jao Camp update
- September 07 Jump
to Jao Camp
September began with a welcome heat wave. There is no longer a sharp bite to the air to redden the cheeks; the sun has now been posted to flush faces. A pleasant 34°C has kept everyone smiling and a comfortable 14°C overnight; still cool enough for cuddles.
The leaves have been drifting away from their semi-deciduous bearers carpeting the ground with a crackle of auburn and orange. The persistent breezes rustle the leaves about delicately. Near to the end of the month we were sprinkled with the first drops of rain for the season. However, there was not a significant amount to measure or to get new flora sprouting.
The motor boats are still on the water, cruising through the tall walls of papyrus and visiting open areas where the hippos dwell during the day. Mekoro rides are complimented by our resident therapist's relaxing massages. The combination is the first step to absolute relaxation.
September started off with another visit by lions on the island. Two lionesses visited the camp whilst the male beckoned them with spectacular roars from across the channels. Sleeplessness was worth the entertainment. Our resident lion brothers have been present throughout the month giving our guests perfect opportunity to photograph them. Thick, healthy manes being tickled by the winds and massive paws treading the flood plains; these brothers demand attention.
Our resident female leopard has been living up to a common reputation of the rosette covered cats by being elusive. Since losing her second set of cubs she has been spotted with a male, and heard mating. This is very exciting. We will be crossing fingers in hope of another small litter that will survive the challenges of a Delta lifestyle.
Gradually, a handful of buffalo have been moving back into the area. They are enjoying the lush grasses by the channels and wandering around the airstrip to welcome our new arrivals with an emotionless stare and a low grunt. Elephant trunks have been swaying around every bend and bump. Breeding herds have been flocking through the concession, trampling trees for herbivore convenience and dropping dung for baboon inspection. New born calves, still brushed with their bushy, brown hairs are ambling amongst the giant, grey legs of their mothers and sisters.
From a petit perspective, the smaller creatures have been just as fascinating as the large animals. Our honey badgers have been roaming around in pairs, posing briefly for our guests. The banded mongooses have been showing off their stealthy skills in the art of snake hunting. The porcupines have been flaring their quills on and around the island. And, Malachite kingfishers are parading their vibrant colours for every person that takes a moment to watch them. A special visit by a Pearl Spotted Owl during the morning light, delighted onlookers. This owl is the smallest of this region and was calmly resting on a low branch by the lodge.
September ended with a Bang! It was the 41st anniversary of Botswana's independence. Independence Day drenched everyone with enthusiasm and pride. Our guests were treated to some traditional celebrations. The fire glow shone upon all the joyful faces as the staff sang and danced passionately.
Romance spread through Jao this month as Honeymooners from all over the world and those celebrating milestone anniversaries visited the Jao Delta paradise. It has also been a very multicultural month. We've had guests from Switzerland, Hong Kong, France, Spain, Australia, England, Wales, Turkey, Singapore, Canada and U.S.A. It has been fun and interesting to meet all of our guests; our Very Important People.
"Loved every day, stayed four, but wish it could have been forty! Staff and managers are wonderful, friendly, beautiful people. Thank you!" - K&S, Baltimore, USA
"Wonderful camp- very restful and beautiful. Staff is the best!!" - H&B, Chicago, USA
"Very Impressive! Great experience, incredibly nice people, beautiful landscape - This is a memorable trip for me. Thank you very much for making my stay pleasant. Hope to come back with my family next time." - V, Turkey
"The lodge is fabulous. There was attention to every detail. Our highlight was the mokoro trip this morning. The staff is gracious, helpful and happy. This combination makes for a fun stay." - R&E, Florence, Italy
"Thank you for everything! We had wonderful days staying in this amazing site. Great thank you to the whole team of Jao - See you soon." - Z&T, Geneva, Switzerland
"As good as it gets!" - N&P, Wales
Come and sign our guest book. It really doesn't get any better than this!
We'll be waiting,
The Jao Team
Tubu Tree Camp
update - September 07 Jump
to Tubu Tree Camp
"There's a leopard in my shower!"
That was the quote of the month after two of our guests saw a leopard in their outside shower when they arrived in their tent after dinner! As if that was not enough, our Barman surprised a leopard sitting on the deck at the Tubu Tree bar counter early one morning! Two leopards that walked right past the swimming pool and boma area with sunset one afternoon provided the ideal sunset to the staff while the guests were out on a game drive! It really seemed this month that the leopards were just all over Hunda Island!
The elephants provided a different, although devastating, form of entertainment during September. With the fruits of the Ilala palms depleted, they got so frustrated with shaking the palms and no fruit falling down, that they literally pushed over numerous of the tall giants. It is an amazing sight to see the elephants just effortlessly applying more and more pressure until you hear the roots of the palm giving in, and then slowly toppling over until it crashes down through the undergrowth horizontally onto Mother Earth! This behavior of the elephants has a definite effect on the lives of all the staff members - we are giving them a much bigger berth than usual when encountering them on foot in camp!!
The sharp ears of our barman made sure that we did not miss the two male lions that walked past the boma area while we were having dinner one night. The sight of the two lions in the light of the torches passing so close was unforgettable.
With the temperatures rising and the average maximum readings being 32° Celsius (89° Fahrenheit), we were extremely glad to see the arrival of some new summer visitors - thunder clouds! Although we have not yet received any rain, the cloudy weather provided us with some nice moderate daytime temperatures for three days! Seeing guests standing around in the swimming pool, sipping away leisurely on their drinks has become a common sight during siesta time (12h00 to 15h00)! The warmer weather has also increased the demand on another feature of our camp - the outside showers!
To end off the month we were thrilled by the arrival of the first wild dogs of the season! As the water level in the delta gets lower and lower, it is amazing to see how the presence and movement patterns of the animals changes with it. We have been waiting eagerly for the two notorious "summer inhabitants" of the island to arrive - the wild dogs and the cheetahs. The four wild dogs that entertained us this morning with their presence had everybody scrambling for a glimpse of the new arrivals! We are hoping to report next month that the cheetahs have arrived!
Greetings from the Tubu Team
update - September 07 Jump
to Jacana Camp
Another month has passed on our paradise island, as it grew on a daily basis as the water has continued to drop. Boating to and from the camp is still possible, but it will not be long before we will be able to drive to the camp.
The drop in water levels has also made it possible for a number of different animals to visit the island, beside the elephant and hippos. The number of Red Lechwe around the camp has grown steadily, and they have been regular visitors in front of the main deck during dinner. The Red Lechwe is a specialist aquatic antelope, having a number of adaptations, such as splayed hooves and powerful hind legs, for living in floodplains. A troop of baboons have also made their way onto the island, and have been enjoying all the palm nuts left behind by the elephants.
The biggest surprise has been the presence of lion tracks on the island on two different occasions; both times the tracks have been from a lioness and her young cub. Unfortunately this has been in the middle of the night, and not seen by us. This has been the first time lions have been present on the small island on which the camp is situated for almost eight months, due to the high water levels. There is no doubt that they are being attracted here by the increasing numbers of Red Lechwe in the area.
The receding waters have also brought many of the birds that are common in the shallow waters of the floodplain. Saddle-billed Storks and the rare Wattled Crane are often seen in front of the camp feeding in the shallow waters.
We hope to see you see you soon, to share the excitement with us as we discover what more the receding waters and new seasons bring us, on our paradise island, Jacana.
• We enjoyed our stay at Jacana so much. You are located in one of the most beautiful places in the world. To be able to have the wonderful wildlife and so many of the most glorious birds and the water, it is certainly a piece of heaven wrapped up all in one place. - Tom and Dianne, USA
• My favourite part of Botswana on this my third trip to this country. Thanks to all. - Bonnie, USA
• Small camp, remote location, very comfortable, staff fantastic! Quality of food, Mokoro trips & water environment generally, Game drives - lion sightings, bird life & absence of people. - Elizabeth, Australia
• Enjoyed our stay, especially the elephant. Both in and out of camp. - Margaret and Don, Canada
• Great staff, magical place! - Tom & Brenda, USA
• We liked the harmony, the "African Queen" feeling and reed frog - but especially the staff here. - Richard & Ruth, USA
Duba Plains Camp
update - September 07 Jump
to Duba Plains Camp
Managers: Moalosi, Tebby and Bonang.
Guides: ST, Reuben and Dennis.
September was a very busy month and we operated with a full camp most of the month with a high percentage of our guests as repeat to Duba Plains. Weather was good - quite temperate during the day and night for most of the month. Only in the last week of the month did we really experience a temporary weather change when it became very windy and dusty for a period of about 3 to 4 consecutive days.
As we mentioned last month the elephants have come into the area in large numbers and this continued over September with some notably large breeding herds and of course the regular bulls that always come into the camp at this time of the year. They have been seen most of the month sleeping around the camp perimeter; they lie up against the low lying termite mounds as it is easier for them to heave their large bulks up off the side of the mound when they are suddenly disturbed from their slumber! An amazing scene to watch! Not only were they in camp to feed and sleep - they have been pretty destructive as well. Several times this month we did not have water in mornings as overnight they pulled up water pipes to gain access to the fresh clean water and then left the water tanks to drain. There have even been few incidents where they pushed the water heaters down in a very gentle manner so as not to break the solar panels. It was very interesting one morning to watch a bull elephant walking from the water channel towards camp. He walked all the way through the water on the floodplain just to get to the swimming pool where he broke the rails in an attempt to drink water out of the pool!!
Bird life has been interesting in September. At this time of year most of the water pans are drying up leaving isolate fish populations at the mercy of fish eating birds in the so-called 'fish traps' that are left behind. This is an incredible sight to behold with a huge variety of species to be seen in one spot. We have been watching saddle-billed, yellow-billed and open-billed storks, pelicans, cattle, black, little and great white egrets, spoonbills, glossy ibis and many, many others in large flocks fishing efficiently from these drying pans. September is also normally the month when the first summer migrants start to return; it is always very nice to see them back. The first to be seen were carmine bee-eaters and yellow-billed kites. Not only the migrants make the birding interesting - we have been having regular sightings of other local birds of prey like martial eagle, tawny eagle and black-chested snake-eagle.
Other smaller creatures such as bat-eared fox, aardwolf, honey badger, and side-striped jackal are still being seen on a regular basis on game drive due to the open grassland habitat we have. The wide open space makes it very easy for us to watch them going about their business which is fascinating in terms of learning about their behavior.
Of the larger species the buffalo herd spent the whole of this month in the area that we can access easily, which is great for viewing of course. They are still in excellent condition despite the relentless activity between the buffalos and lions. This month the interaction between the two has again been fantastic to witness as the two groups fight against each other. It is interesting to note that the interaction only resulted in eight kills this month. While this is a lower number than normal it is not just about the kill and the interface between lion and buffalo, and the endless game of the hunt that plays itself out on the Duba floodplains, is enough to keep everyone absolutely riveted.
The two Duba Boys, estimated at just over 16 years, are still doing very well at the moment. One of them has been seen limping quite badly and there was a period of a week this month when he was not seen at all; apparently this is an old injury from few years ago caused by a buffalo horn. This male reappeared but in pretty poor condition. Their longevity has amazed most of our repeat guests who did not expect to see them still alive! Although there is a slight evidence of deterioration on their bodies, age is only slowly working on them. The Duba Boys have been holding the dominancy in the area for about ten years now which has been aided by two main factors: they have an excellent prey base in the buffalo herd and have not had threats or challenges from other males for a long time. This has assured stability in the area so far. There was a time when we were all anticipating a challenge from the five males from the Skimmer Pride (in the neighboring territory) once they left their natal pride. It now seems like they have gone in a completely different direction, because it has been more than six months since seeing them at all. This in a way is against what we were hoping for as attached to the Duba Boys as we are. It is imperative for successful genetic breeding that a new generation of males takes over the territory in the near future.
Junior (the two year old male with the Tsaro Pride), has provided his own surprises to both the guides and guests. He seems much bigger in size compared with what is expected for his age. In September he made his second solo kill (after a first in August). With his eagerness to initiate hunts (doing it the right way now), he is proving himself a valuable and useful member of the pride. However, he seems to have also developed a penchant for initiating fights within the pride and recently scrapped with the silver eyed lioness who he appears to target specifically. Junior is now a big lion who no longer tucks in his tale and retreats when being growled at by the Duba Boys. He has been seen growling back, and 2 days ago he took one of the boys on in a severe fight that lasted about a minute without him giving up - rather the Duba Boy did - interesting times and a bit of a turn up for the books.
The young female cub in the Tsaro Pride (9 months) is also still continuing to participate a lot in hunting, after being missed by the swinging horns of a buff last month. This time she was taken on a several meters chase by an old dagga boy (buffalo bull) - had she not made a quick decision to escape into the palm island the whole thing would have ended in disaster. The silver eyed lioness has cubs at the moment, though her offspring have still not been seen.
The rest of the Tsaro Pride is doing very well and are in good shape at the moment with three major groupings being seen on a consistent basis: 2 females and junior; 2 females and the 9 months old female cub; 'Silver Eye' mostly alone due to her having the cubs and meeting up with the others only when hunting and feeding. There has been substantial conflict between the lionesses on the carcasses - a new and unprecedented development in the pride and one that we shall continue to watch with interest.
The Skimmer Male that was in the Duba Boys and Tsaro Pride territory last month has again appeared in the area this September. This time he did not spend his time just wandering around and made good use of the incursion - he was caught in action mating with one of the Tsaro females for a very good period of 3 to 4 days! This incident happened along Molapo Road, which is the territorial boundary of the two prides. After mating, he disappeared for a while, and then came back into the area, and walked a distance of 7km (about 4 miles) into the Tsaro Pride territory, all the way up to Kabole Pan which is just after the bridge. This means he pushed way into the territory of the Duba Boys and was not looking settled at all (as he was aware of what will happen if the Duba boys come across him), leaving the next day for safer ground.
As I mentioned above,interesting times
Plains update - September 07 Jump
to Vumbura Plains Camp
The beginning of September is typically the time of year we start to pack up the winter gear in exchange for more appropriate summer equipment. The long cold wintery nights are gone so that means no more hot water bottles in bed or on the early morning drives. It has been a fantastic month with some incredibly productive game drives. The month can quite convincingly be considered the 'month of the elephant'. The numbers in the traversing area of the concession have been unprecedented. The majority of the floodplains that were inundated so recently are now almost dry. Not to worry though as this draws in large numbers of grazers like zebra, wildebeest and tsessebe. The floodplain behind the camp is now a large mud wallow and only the shallow depressions hold any respectable amount of water. The concession was very dry, dusty and barren for the better part of the month, however the oncoming summer is doing a lot to radically change the faces of the trees and grasses.
Botswana celebrated its 41st anniversary of independence on the 30th. The occasion was very festive with guests really embracing the celebrations with their new found friends and wearing beaded broaches of the Botswana flag to dinner, which was held out in the bush. To help set the tone for the evening everybody received a little fact card on the country's history upon their return to the camp from the afternoon drive. We had fun that night!
Weather & vegetation
The mean minimum temperature for the month was 17°C (range: 11-21°C) while the average maximum was 34°C (range: 28-36°) and September has been consistently warm. Vumbura Plains, Kings Pool and Mombo have all installed very sophisticated weather data capture stations. This system records and stores all weather variables including rainfall, temperature, humidity and barometric pressure to name a few. The station is powered by a small solar panel and it has a back up battery for overcast days. Vumbura plains comes into its own during the warmer months as the open airy rooms with the cool wind coming in over the water creates a perfect siesta breeze through the room. We have also been flaunting the comfortable evening conditions with having most meals out under the stars.
Even without a drop of rain the trees and grasses have been pushing new shoots and leaves, this a natural reaction of the plants to increased daylight hours and temperatures. The Sausage Trees never fail to amaze us as their turn around from no leaves to completely dressed is only about three days. These trees have also just finished dropping their long thick sausages, some of which grew to respectable sizes like 8 - 10 kgs. The Sausage tree has a particularly attractive flowers with regards to appearance and palatability and here again animals congregate under the larger trees to make use of the nutritious flowers that are so easily come by. The Mopane woodlands lost their leaves entirely and we have noticed that in the last few days new buds are forming. The display that the Rain Trees put on with their mauve flowers was spectacular especially in the late afternoon with the warm rich light. The ground below these trees was a purple carpet writhing with bees and beetles. There are equal amounts of trees dressing up for the on coming season as there are shrubs assaulting your olfactory senses with fragrant and aromatic flowers. A simple stroll down the boardwalk between the camps will have you exposed to the Potato Bush, The Wooly Caper Bush and the Spiny Combretum.
With all the floodplains now almost completely dry, the newly exposed soils teem with thousands of sprouting grasses that from a distance look like a huge green mats. The result of the afore-mentioned is that the plains are a dazzle of zebra and wildebeest that are streaming in from all around to take advantage of the time of plenty.
As mentioned above September has been a month with some extraordinary elephant activity with many large herds moving into the game drive areas for extended periods. The lagoon in front of North Camp had herd after herd elephants coming to drink on many days. The larger bulls have been spending fair amounts of time deep into the permanent swamp and even feeding in the boating channel. A number of guests were unpleasantly surprised when they rounded the tight bends on the boat cruise and came face to face with very heavy set elephant bulls.
The lions have had us quite concerned as our core pride disappeared for almost two weeks, but they did return in great style with a couple of back to back buffalo kills. The pride consists of 4 sub-adult males three adult females and a really tough cub that somehow manages to keep with the pride on their extensive wonderings and treacherous buffalo and giraffe hunts. The "New Pride", so called for obvious reasons, has been somewhat elusive and they were only spotted on four occasions this month and on each occasion they seemed to have lost condition. The 'Big Red females' and 'Kubu Boys' were found on only a few of the drives. The cubs are at the stage of boldly exploring their surroundings and they seem to have taken a liking to climbing trees, a game they are fast becoming very confident at.
Leopard and cheetah have really come to the party this month with 'Vuka' the local territorial cheetah frequenting the plains around the airstrip and being seen on a regular basis. This particular male is relaxed around the vehicles and is often seen perched up perfectly on termite mounds to catch the afternoon sun and the odd photograph. Leopards have been at the center of magical experiences for some guests this month. A mating pair was on the menu in the early part of the month. The two love birds were caught in the act, in a tree, something rarely witnessed - let alone in tree with the perfect backdrop and lighting. Our local sweetheart 'Selonyana' kept a low profile and we concluded the reason for this is the newly established hyena den in close proximity to her old haunts. The two large female leopards that were seen in the area early in August may have also had an effect on her movements. Selonyana will hopefully came back to the vicinity of camp were she was born and spent the first part of her life, we will keep you posted. Two new males were also identified this month bring a great deal of excitement into the guiding team.
The highlight for September across all facets of wildlife however was the discovery of a pack of 23 wild dogs, 8 of which are still quite young. As so common with these dogs they came in, made a huge fuss with guides, guests and staff and then disappeared as quickly as they arrived. We are patiently awaiting their return.
The two well known hyena dens seem to have now been abandoned for the summer house. A new den site was found by one of the guides around the middle of the month. This is good news as the black pups frolicking and playing is something very special to witness. Movements into the den site have been restricted as the pups are still quite small and we fear any excessive presence by ourselves might have a negative impact on the ecology of the immediate area and the lives of the hyena in general.
Plains game viewing has been exceptional due to vast areas of floodplain becoming available to the grazers. The road in from the airstrip is possibly the most productive road in all of the Kwedi Concession with most species being seen in large numbers even before arriving in camp. Zebra have really established some large concentrations but the plains are also generally filled with grazing wildebeest, tsessebe, warthog and ostrich in loose arrangements. Very large herds of buffalo wandered through the concession on a regular basis as well. One particular herd numbering 300-400 moved right through North Camp in the morning and two days later returned to sleep in the camp. It was a unique experience for the guests in camp at the time.
The smaller often overlooked animals like honey badgers, genets, civets, porcupines etc have kept with the program and have been important additions to the afternoon safaris. A mating pair of porcupines made their way in and around North camp during the month and a couple of guests were lucky enough to see the prickly affair.
Birds & birding
Vumbura Paradise, a low lying depression adjacent to the airstrip reached its deepest water levels in 15 years, is a hive of activity for some of the scarce waterfowl including African Skimmers, Black-winged Pratincoles and Slaty Egrets. Wattled cranes have been seen in gatherings of up to 6 around the main pan.
Some returning migrant species already seen include Carmine Bee-eaters and Yellow-billed kites. September sees a marked increases in avian numbers and activity as insects tend to become more active and as a result of increased food sources many species indulge in a flurry of breeding activity with outrageous displays and new summer plumages and vocalizations. A number of attractive birds are in the process of constructing their nests around north camp. These include Black Headed Orioles and Paradise Flycatchers.
Large congregations of yellow-billed storks, hamerkops, squacco herons and pelicans are also currently being found herding the trapped bait fish in the last of the shrinking pans. Some very exciting news is that we have a very relaxed Pels Fishing Owl that sits on the poles marking the correct route of passage through one of our deep channel crossings. Every evening after the guests are finished with the boating activity they need to pass through this crossing, so many people have been fortunate to see this rare and special bird.
Until Next Time
Ruckomechi Camp update - September 07 Jump
to Ruckomechi Camp
September has been a busy month here at Ruckomechi with lots of interesting and friendly guests and some amazing sightings too. We also welcome Chris to our team as a much trusted canoe and learner guide with Sibs and Kevin continuing to give our visitors a once in a lifetime experience with exciting and informative activities. Those left behind in camp are always keen to welcome them back from activities to hear what exciting adventures they have had out in the wilderness!
The camp has been busy and the team always pulling together and being cheerfully led by Caro and Garth and assisted by Lindsay, Shayne and Alistair, not to forget Sherrie on the Canoe Trails always keeping the guests smiling. The staff at Ruckomechi and Mana Canoe Trails continues to put all their time and effort into making this camp a place to remember for all our visitors and striving to create a warm and happy atmosphere for all.
The gusty winds of August continued to sweep through the valley during September. Mornings started off fairly cool with temperatures of around 15°C and slightly overcast skies. The clouds quickly disappear by midday however when temperatures soar into the high 30°C and the pool becomes a very welcoming place to all! The Zambian Escarpment is still alight with the bush fires that are so characteristic at this dry time of year. However they seem to be slowly burning out now and the land lies dry and parched waiting breathlessly for the rains to bring new life and a new season to the valley.
Vegetation, Landscape and the Zambezi River
The bush is very dry at the moment and all the animals are all concentrating much closer to the river where there is better grazing and water. The grassy floodplains are frequented at all times of the day and night by waterbuck, warthog, elephant and impala. Underneath the shady albida trees there is now a red carpet of pods which have fallen due to the dry September days and late winds. This has provided a constant supply of food for the increasing number of elephant's wandering in and around camp. The once abundant indigofera has now lost all its foliage, leaving it brittle and bare, opening the floodplain enabling game viewing to be a lot easier. The crotons and vitivaria grass still provide the wildlife with sufficient nutrients to get them through the dry days.
Mammals & game viewing
We have been very lucky this month as we have had many spectacular leopard sightings which include the addition of a handsome, strong little cub that is full of playful mischief. One morning Sibs noticed some fresh leopard spoor at the back of camp and eagerly followed it round to a tree by the staff houses to discover that the leopard had killed right there. A poor unsuspecting bushbuck had made our leopard a fine meal that night! That evening the guests returned to the spot to find him still there slung lazily over the branch of an albida tree, digesting his huge meal. After a while, he was left in peace and the guests moved off to look for some more exciting creatures of the night. They were extremely lucky to stumble across another leopard and her cub perched on top of an ant hill contemplating the day gone by.
There was much excitement in camp when the elusive wild dogs paid us a surprise visit this month too. We haven't seen them for a while, so it was great to have them back around camp. They spent two whole days wallowing and cooling off in the waterhole just outside of camp and amusing themselves with games of cat and mouse with the elephant herds who also frequented the waterhole.
The lions have had an exceptionally active month on the concession with numerous sightings of the mighty kings feasting on their prey. Definitely not a sight for the faint hearted. It is so special to watch the interaction and bonding that occurs between the proud lioness mum and her two cubs, who are rapidly growing and developing their own individual characters.
The plains game is not to be forgotten this month as they have become a permanent feature around the waterhole quenching their thirsts under the soldering October sun. There has been an increase in the numbers of zebra with a few additions to the herds and we cannot forget the ballerinas of the bush, the herds of Impala that continue to grace the landscape in their leaps and bounds. Eland and buffalo sightings have been excellent and of course elephants have been par for the course in and around camp and on most game drives and boat trips.
Birds and Birding
We recorded 163 bird species during September including the arrival of some of the migrants. The banks of the rivers are alive with the majestic colours of the greatly anticipated Carmine Bee-Eaters who are commandeering the nests of their white-fronted cousins.
Kevin and Garth spotted a Western Banded Snake Eagle whilst walking back from their rooms, which caused much excitement as this is a very rare sighting. Kevin has been hearing its frequent calls and had spotted it flying off in the distance. Fortunately this was not our last encounter and we have been lucky enough to witness this bird on numerous occasions over the month.
Whilst on a boat cruise we had some unusual visitors all the way from their breeding grounds in Europe - 11 White Storks were sighted on the river. This is an unusual sighting due to the fact that these specific birds usually only arrive with the rains closer to the end of November. Yet another rare sighting for Ruckomechi this month - the Livingstone's Flycatcher! Again this bird is only seen on rare occasions but our avid team of Ruckomechi Birders has blown us away yet again by spotting this phenomenal bird.
"Everything was superb. People, sceneries, sunsets, wildlife big and small. Wonderfully relaxing. Thanks to a great staff" - M&MC
"Leopard kill in front of our lodge was the biggest highlight." - P&SA
"Thank you so much for a wonderful experience. Your staff is very special and made us feel that we were a part of the family" - S Family
"This was the most wonderful vacation of our life! The food, staff and guides were fantastic. Thanks!" - J&DH
We are so blessed to be able work and live in such a beautiful spot with such amazing animals all around us. Cheers for now and we look forward to seeing you all here to share this special piece of paradise with us!
Garth and the Ruckomechi team
Makalolo Plains update - September 07 Jump
to Makalolo Camps
September is traditionally a hot and dusty month, this year however the weather has changed. We were still wearing fleeces in the mornings and evenings over parts of September. The wind has increased and clouds have been forming, but it is still too early for the rains, albeit that we had light showers in the last week of the month. The early rain brought about mixed feelings of whether this was a sign of drought or floods for the summer to come.
Vegetation, Landscape and Water:
The vegetation has made a dramatic change and a few species of trees are presenting new leaves. The landscape is now a mixture of greens, yellows and russets. The frogs and cicadas have started their noisy sounds. Without the arrival of the summer rains, water is still an issue with engines and pumps running 24 hours to keep up with the wildlife pressure.
Probability sightings for September were as follows
10% - Aardwolf, Lesser Bushbaby, Dwarf Mongoose
29% - Small Spotted Genet, White-tailed Mongoose, Slender Mongoose, Leopard
50% - Banded Mongoose, White Rhino, African Wild Cat
65% - Common Duiker, Vervet Monkey, Spotted Hyena
100% - Baboon, Buffalo, Elephant, Giraffe, Hippo, Black-backed Jackal, Kudu, Sable, Springhare, Steenbok, Warthog, Waterbuck, Wildebeest, Zebra, Lion
Wildlife has been as expected with animals in abundance at the water holes. Predator sightings (lion, leopard, hyena) have been phenomenal and every night the camp is filled of stories of the lions or leopards that have been sighted. When the wind picked up in the last week of September the wildlife seemed to disappear, however the harsh dry environment brought them all out to the waterholes to wet their dusty throats.
The lion pride of two males, three females and their nine cubs are a regular sighting, the cubs are healthy and we are proud to be home of these magnificent and royal beasts. Another pride of 12 subadult lions have been busy hunting in the plains and surrounding areas, with a kill seemingly every third day we have viewed them on carcasses much of the time.
The leopards seen at Broken Rifle Pan have not let us down either; they have been seen regularly this month. Elephants are Hwange's main attraction however and at the camp waterhole we have witnessed an aggregation of over 200 elephants, all waiting their turn for the precious liquid.
The elusive and shy aardwolf has all of a sudden become a common sighting, three sightings in two days by the same guests, or was it their luck.
There was a loud and vicious fight between two hyena clans at the Madison Waterhole. The matriarch of the on clan was severely maimed and has not been seen again since the fight.
Birds & birding
A total of 90 different bird species were recorded this month. The summer visitors have arrived.
A dark chanting goshawk was observed swooping down and successfully catching and eating a snake. A brown snake eagle was seen on the ground killing a snake, it was disturbed before it could eat or carry it away. The vultures this month have also been fed very well with the several kills made by the lion prides and hyenas. Little Somavundla waterhole was inundated with vultures this month, never have so many been seen at the waterhole at the same time.
The feral pigeon that has been in camp the last month has hopefully flown away, back to the city/town to which it belongs unless it had fallen prey to one of the many raptors that abound the camp surrounds. The red billed francolins in camp now have three of the four in their brood, wonder what happened to the other one?
"The hospitable people in this lodge, the great experience with the animals in this park, good food, good company and a very nice place" - AM & CF - France
"Everything - the entire staff was professional, kind and accommodating. I was extremely impressed with the entire operation - wonderful service with a smile" keep up the great work! Don't change a thing" - AG & ET - USA
"The Makalolo Team, the game drives and the great accommodation" - M & S - USA
update - September 07 Jump
to Pafuri Camp
Once again, September has produced an amazing month at Pafuri. After a lengthy dry spell, we received our first rains for the coming summer this month. On the 28th we had 7mm and on the 29th, we were fortunate to have a further 6mm. This may seem like a small amount, but it is certainly going to have a huge influence on the concession in the next few weeks, as numerous plants will begin to flower. These flowers in turn will attract huge numbers of insects and birds so we are in for an interesting time ahead at Pafuri.
During September, we once again had fantastic sightings of elephants as the huge pachyderms congregated around the cooling waters of the Luvuvhu River. Bachelor herds have also made their presence felt in and around camp as they find it harder and harder to meet their daily nutrition requirements out in the bush. As we continue to see the elephants more regularly, it is great to see how they have become more tolerant of our presence over the last 2 years.
The same can be said for buffalo and the month of September produced some great sightings of the buffalo herds that roam the concession, some numbering up to 200. We have also been fortunate to have some good lion sightings during the month, the highlight of these, a pride consisting of 1 male, 2 lionesses and 2 cubs that are operating up and down the Luvuvhu River.
The month also produced some good leopard sightings. Of particular interest were 2 sightings of a relaxed female leopard, not far from camp. On one occasion we were fortunate to watch her feeding on an impala that she had killed. We have also continued to have sightings of the small white rhino population resident on the concession.
Other interesting sightings that we had during the month included:
sightings of a herd of 20 eland
2 separate sightings of Water Mongoose
an aardvark sighting
a sighting of an African Wild Cat
2 separate sightings of Bushpig
10 sightings of Sharpe's Grysbok
a baboon feeding on a bushbuck lamb
a Pel's Fishing Owl catching and feeding on a fish
an African Fish Eagle scavenging on the remains of a Nyala carcass that had been killed by lions
In spite of it being the driest time of year in the concession, we continued to have great birding. In fact, we have come to realize that this time of year is in fact the best time for viewing some of the area specials, notably Eastern Nicator, Dickinson's Kestrel, Crested Guineafowl, Gorgeous Bush-Shrike and many more.
As you can see from the above, Pafuri continues to deliver some amazing sightings of both bird and mammals alike, however a trip to the bush is more than just about ticking off species. Pafuri continues to offer a unique bush experience where you will be as surprised by the mystery of the place as we who live here are.
Ongava Lodge Newsletter - September 07 Jump
to Ongava Lodge
DELIGHTS OF THE ONGAVA LODGE WATERHOLE
At this time of year the stage for a show of a lifetime is set at sunrise daily at the Ongava Lodge waterhole when hundreds of birds will gather for the opening act and set the theme for the day which will last until way after sunset. Gone is the dream that the big 5 is the only memorable sighting on Game Reserves and a daylong show such at the Ongava waterhole is far more memorable. Why can the gracious Giraffe or the impressive Eland not be promoted to the BIG species?
Make yourself comfortable on the deck of our recently renovated rooms and try to understand why the Oryx prefer to drink water only at the top waterhole and watch their skilful sparring competitions.
The show continues with the black-faced impala coming to the waterhole in their dozens, males snorting like lions to impress the ewes. A group of thirsty kudus will move closer and the impressive bulls with their corkscrew horns add to the natural splendour of the show.
Just when you think that it is safe to quickly sneak away to the well stocked curio shop, the high pitched barking of a herd of Zebra, queuing behind a herd of springbok, attracts your attention. You will wonder how the Lodge staff manages to keep the water level high enough to quench the thirst of the dozens of Blue Wildebeest pushing and shoving and then leaving centre stage in a single file as if somebody blew a whistle to mark the end of a drinking session
A Kori Bustard couple will move cautiously closer to the water edge before going on their knees to drink in an ideal pre show to set the stage for the noisy double-banded sandgrouse to come in exactly 10 minutes after sunset to quench their thirst and to take water back to their young ones in their chest feathers.
This is the time to start sipping sundowners alongside a crackling Mopane wood fire while waiting excitedly for a surprise visit from the darkness beyond the floodlights of centre stage.
A group of Giraffes will gather slowly and very nervously outside the bright lights of the centre stage to await their turn to entertain the audience with a gracious bow to drink the cool juice of the waterhole.
The main act of the evening comes when either black or white rhinos, with their prehistoric anatomy, enter the stage, preventing even the lions from drinking until their own thirst is slaked.
The script of the show at the Ongava waterhole changes daily and you will never get bored with what nature has to offer.
update - September 07 Jump
to Damaraland Camp
Damaraland is experiencing a stubborn end-of-winter cold streak. The wind is not giving up in the evenings and keeps up a steady chilly breeze compliments of the Atlantic Ocean to our west. But true to Damaraland Style we are not letting it get the better of us. Dinners in the main area are snug and warm with our fire place, and our outside dinners are even more sociable with guests and staff alike wrapped in warm blankets sitting together under the stars around a rather large fire. With reports of hot weather further east and north and even reports of RAIN in some areas, we're waiting patiently for Winter to release its hold. The mornings in Damaraland are misty as the Fog pushes up the Huab River, before quickly evaporating as the sun rises above the red mountains. As soon as the sun comes up the days are still pleasant and warm and our small swimming pool and deck chairs are welcomed by Guests during the lazy afternoons after lunch.
Vegetation, Landscape and Water
The Damaraland scenery still takes our breath away, even though we live out here. The Valley below the Camp is mesmerizing and is very hard not to notice. With crystal bright blue skies against the contrasting red and gold mountains it's a sight for sore eyes and has such a calming effect on all who pass through here.
The resident D-Camp black-backed jackals are on top form at the moment. Many a meal is interrupted by their wailing calls just beyond the fire light. Elephant sightings are still a daily occurrence in the Huab with 'Oscar's Group' and 'Rosie's Group' joining up on one occasion and giving guests a great sighting of up to 30 desert-adapted Elephants at a time. The young baby is growing in confidence and is starting to find his feet with the other two youngsters and has discovered he has some great playmates. Guests have had a wonderful time watching their silliness as they push and pull and charge each other, with mum nearby when the older youngsters get a bit rough. A little further away in the Springbok River there have been reports of a new born Black Rhino calf as well as a Lioness with 2 Cubs.
Although the cubs and the calf have not yet been sighted by Damaraland guides, it is still ery exciting news and we hope to see them as soon as both mums decide it's time for introductions.
Coming into camp more frequently now as well is a small herd of young Kudu cows. They wander in amongst the Tents at night foraging on the new tender leaves of plants and as the sun rises they are seen from the breakfast table making their way down the Valley again. They really are the "nobility" of the larger Antelope. Cheetah have been sighted a few times this last month too and there have been very clear signs of Brown Hyena in the Huab riverbed although no actual sightings as yet.
Birds and Birding
Birding is FABULOUS at the moment. Dozens of small kestrels and falcons are sighted daily along the flat plains hovering in the afternoon thermals while they hunt for lizards and small rodents. A pair of Martial Eagles has been sighted near the Camp and, as the largest eagle in Africa, are an awesome sight. A Secretary Bird has also taken recent residence in the Flats and is a great sighting as it stalks along the open spaces with its head feathers bobbing in the breeze. The Bokmakieries in camp are giving a clear indication that Summer is on its way with amazing displays of their vocal abilities. They are on almost every roof top, bush tip or post imaginable with their heads thrown back and their song streaming out.
And in Other News
This last month one of Damarland Camp Managers, Gerda van Niekerk, represented the Camp at the local Bergsig School Prize giving, where she handed out prizes and congratulated Scholars who had preformed throughout the year. Many of the children of Damaraland Camp staff children attend this local boarding school, so moms and dads at Damaralnd Camp all attended to watch their children receive their awards.
That's all for now folks.
Nadja le Roux and DMC Staff
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