(Page 1 of
Safaris Updates - August 2008
Citation Mustang Exciting Addition to Sefofane Air Charter Operations
Sefofane is thrilled to announce the newest addition to its fleet: the exclusive Cessna Citation Mustang. The Citation Mustang fits into new class of business jet called the "very light jet" or VLJ. It has four comfy executive class passenger seats in the main cabin area and a side-facing toilet. Sefofane is the first air charter company in South Africa to operate this jet within the tourism space. With its competitive prices and twin engine jet capabilities, the Mustang is without doubt a more affordable solution for travelers needing convenient connections round South Africa as compared to alternative larger 8-seat jets.
The Mustang is capable of reaching all destinations in South Africa and most of southern Africa with a full load of passengers. Sefofane anticipates its destinations being between South Africa and the neighboring countries to the north. As an example, flight times between Johannesburg and Maun will be 1hr 20min and between Cape Town and Maun just less than three hours. Other convenient connections will be Mfuwe, Victoria Falls, Livingstone, Lusaka and Windhoek.
Green Turtle Breeding Update at North Island
Location: North Island, Seychelles
Date: August 2008
Observers: Linda van Herck and North Island Environmental Team
During the months of January to September, female green turtles come onto the beaches of North Island (mostly on West beach) to lay their eggs. This year the environmental department is thrilled to announce that during our turtle patrols we have observed a substantial increase in green turtle females coming onto our beaches and attempting to lay eggs.
During previous years, numbers of green turtle tracks seen for a season going from Jan to Sept, remained very low - less than 10. This year, however, we have reached a staggering total of no less than 143 turtle tracks measured and recorded, with four green turtles seen on the beach, one of which was tagged by the Enviromental Team.
Although not every track and nesting attempt is successful, meaning the above number does not reflect the number of actual clutches laid, we nevertheless expect a lot more turtle hatchlings to emerge from our beach than in previous years. (Hatching takes about two months for a green turtle).
Lions overcome Crocodile
Location: Duba Plains, NG22, Okavango Delta
Date: May 2008 (other images of this account appear in the June 2008 Duba Plains report)
Observers: Duba Plains guides
Lions have what might be described as a catholic diet. Essentially they eat whatever they can overpower and an amazing number of prey species have been recorded for them, ranging from tiny rodents to sub-adult elephant. They are overwhelmingly opportunistic but at Duba Plains the two resident prides, the Tsaro Pride and the Skimmer Pride, prey almost exclusively on buffalo with some seasonal predation on species like warthog and red lechwe. The dominance of this one prey species in their diets is a result of local factors such as reduced prey diversity and also the abundance of buffalo in relation to other prey species. As a result, both prides have learnt to specialise in the somewhat daunting art of pulling down buffalo of all ages from within a herd of over 1000 animals.
The home range of this buffalo herd lies mostly within the territory of the Tsaro Pride and as a result this is the pride that is seen most often. However as local dynamics allow, the Skimmer Pride is able to infiltrate the home range of the buffalo and on one occasion in May 2008 they managed to bring down and overpower an adult buffalo bull.
This took place in the early morning only 50m from a nearby deep water channel and while the pride (3 lionesses with five young cubs) enjoyed their windfall several crocodiles were quickly attracted to the area by the smell of the carcass. By the afternoon the smell was too much for one adult crocodile which bravely emerged from the water and walked confidently towards the carcass. One of the lionesses immediately responded and approached the crocodile growling and hissing at it. The crocodile was undeterred and kept heading towards the carcass although at this point it lunged at one of the nearby lion cubs.
This brazen act caused an immediate eruption of lioness aggression and all three lionesses laid into the crocodile as can be seen from these great images captured by father and son team of Tony and Darin Goldman who were on game drive for this exciting event. As one lioness approached from the front the crocodile lunged at her allowing the two remaining lionesses to attack the base of the tail. As the crocodile writhed and twisted backwards to attack his assailants one of the lionesses seized its muzzle and they overpowered the large reptile - and immediately began to feed on the limbs and underbelly.
Quite a battle between two extremely powerful predators and proof of the opportunism of both species!
Unusual food item for Mombo's wild dogs
Location: Mombo Camp, Mombo Concession, Moremi Game Reserve
Date: 28 August 2008
Observers: Brandon Kemp
Despite the incredibly high lion density at Mombo, other predator species seem to hold their own, even sensitive species such as cheetah and wild dog which are known to normally thrive in areas of low predator density. Perhaps as a result of these high lion densities, the Mombo wild dog pack is only three strong at present and sightings of this endangered carnivore are valued by guests and guides alike. Recently we have been enjoying quite regular sightings and on the morning of August the 28th I was guiding a family out of Mombo Camp and we joined a sighting of the wild dog pack just to the west of the Hippo Hide.
Most dog packs in northern Botswana seem to be denning already (they demonstrate a very strong seasonal tendency), but this pack have not yet settled down to den for the season. The Alpha female is very clearly pregnant however and looks very close to giving birth with extended, swollen teats very visible. We hope that the chosen den site will be somewhere to the south of Mombo.
We arrived in the sighting to see several half-hearted attempts by the small pack in hunting lechwe and impala on the floodplain fringe. None were successful and the dogs then decided to head further north up this western floodplain area.
We followed them and they soon came across two old sets of buffalo horns lying bleached on the floodplain. As is common to many large carnivores the Alpha male and female started to rub themselves over the horns and skeletal remains, turning them over several times and rolling continuously in the process. This is something that is seen fairly regularly with spotted hyaenas or leopards when they roll in the dung of herbivores or in some other heavily scented patch. What followed however was unusual and certainly my first experience of such behaviour.
Both sets of horns now lay upside down. Exposed on their underside were a number of faecal tunnels left behind by horn-eating moth larvae who feed on the keratinous sheath surround the bony core on all horns. These faecal tunnels or 'bags' attracted the attention of the dogs that proceeded to clean first one set of horns and then the other of all apparent 'bags' (see adjacent image by John Gnodde). Given that this is essentially faecal material consisting primarily of processed keratin and used to construct a protective sack for the moth larvae we were surprised at this behaviour.
Our subjective assessment of the reaction of the dogs to this unusual food item seemed to confirm that this is not a regular practice: my impression was that they did not particularly enjoy the taste.
Spotted Hyaenas feed on Tsessebe
Location: Savuti, Linyanti Concession, NG15
Date: August 2008
Observers: Grant Atkinson & Andrea Staltmeier
Whilst on drive out of Savuti Camp just after sunrise we found three spotted hyaena on an island in the middle of the Savute Channel. They were feeding on a male tsessebe. We had seen the lone tsessebe in the area the previous night and there was no sign of any other predators in the area. Given the freshness of the kill it seems as though the tsessebe was overcome by the hyaena.
As we sat and watched, a further two hyaena arrived, running fast from the woodland into the Channel. They made their way onto the island, joining the other three who were already full-bellied but nonetheless still eating with intent. Some squabbles broke out amongst the group, and there was mud and water flying as they clashed. A black-backed jackal arrived on the bank, but was not willing to swim over to the island, and proceeded to run up and down the bank. Two Hooded Vultures then joined the hyaena.
As if this was not enough, a lone wild dog wandered out from the south bank, swam across the Savute Channel, and investigated the kill and hyaena from a distance before trotting off in search of the rest of its pack. The hyaena were still taking turns feeding and tussling over the remnants, and several times one or two of them would swim across the water onto the south bank, walk around for a while and then return, with one animal in particular carrying off bones and coming back for more. Eventually all of them except one left the area and the jackal finally entered the water and began to swim toward the island. As it arrived the last hyaena picked up what was left of the carcass and swam back to the north bank and walked off with it. The jackal was left to search around for scraps.
It is interesting to note that with the recent inundation of the Savute Channel with water, many of the animals there show much less concern for crocodiles than in the Okavango or even the Linyanti. The hyaena were even sitting in the water for long periods and the wild dogs cross at will. While we have had some regular sightings of medium-sized crocodiles in the Channel, there don't seem to be too many as yet.
Three spacious new rooms have been completed at Mvuu Wilderness Lodge. These are larger and more luxurious than the original five tents, each with its own private viewing deck and dining area if required. These extend the camp further along the small life-filled inlet just off the Shire River.
Kaya Mawa has recently purchased four quad bikes. Key routes have been worked out to do leisurely tours around the island taking in the surrounding villages, our community projects, Katundu Textiles, the highest point on the island and then on to town to see St Peter's Cathedral and the market. The response from the islanders has been brilliant, the usual smiling faces and waving as you go past or the odd shout of "waleko" meaning "give me a lift!"
Finally, three Malawi camps previously under the Vintage classification of Wilderness Safaris are a perfect match for Safari & Adventure Co.'s themes of family-friendliness and adventurous wilderness and so have joined that portfolio: Chintheche Inn, midway up the western shores of Lake Malawi, Mumbo Island in Lake Malawi National Park and Mvuu Camp in Liwonde National Park.
The Tubu Tree Camp tents have new wooden sliding doors, which open up the tent dramatically and extend the view from a more user-friendly deck area. A door to the toilet enhances privacy.
At Jacana Camp, following replacing the tent furnishings last year, new sliding doors for entry to tents and a door for the bathroom have been added.
At Kwetsani Camp, all tents were refurnished earlier this year.
The rooms at Jao Camp were also all refurbished and a new gym has been added.
A reminder that guests at Pafuri Camp are within five kilometers of the famous Thulamela archeological site, which makes for an excellent half-day excursion from the camp to explore and learn more about this ancient, powerful and intriguing culture.
Camps offering spa, massage, gym and wellness centre treatments
Jao Camp has expanded its salon which has a range of massage and facial treatments. It also offers treatments in the guest room on request. There is now a separate gym, which has yoga mats, free weights, an exercise ball, a rowing machine and an exercise bike.
Kapinga Camp has an on-site spa which offers a range of massage and beauty treatments.
North Island offers in-villa spa treatments. The island specializes in designing personalized holistic treatments including massages, body wraps, beauty treatments etc. There is also an on-site air-conditioned gym which has a variety of equipment, exercise mats and a selection of exercise DVDs and CDs.
Pafuri Camp and Rocktail Bay Lodge both offer a selection of massage treatments, which take place in the guest's tent.
The River Club's new wellness centre has a range of massage, manicure and pedicure treatments. There is also a sauna, Jacuzzi and mini gym with exercise equipment as well as an outdoor running track.
The on-site spa at Shumba Camp offers a range of massage and beauty treatments.
Toka Leya Camp has a spa with a range of massage and beauty treatments using the 100% natural Africology range of products. There is also the option of couples' massages, mobile treatments in the guest's room or a manicure / pedicure while relaxing by the poolside.
Awards and Accolades
North Island fifth in Conde Nast Traveller Readers' Awards
North Island continues to notch up its accolades, this time coming fifth in Conde Nast Traveller's Readers' Travel Awards in the category: Overseas Leisure Hotels: Middle East, Africa & the Indian Ocean. It also came 18th in the Top 100 List which pays tribute to the overall winners: the highest scorers, irrespective of category or geographic location. The category of Overseas Leisure Hotels is divided into regions across the globe, and the category in which North Island featured (Middle East, Africa & the Indian Ocean) is particularly replete with wonderful accommodation choices. North Island's score of 92.03 out of 100 suggests that the team's renowned attention to detail and barefoot luxury continues to enthrall visitors.
Andersson's Camp - Namibian Eco Award
Eco Awards Namibia paid Andersson's Camp a visit recently with Andersson's attaining 'three flowers'. Eco Awards Namibia is modeled on the well-known quality grading system and up to five (desert) flowers may be awarded to an establishment. The grade involves many criteria including conservation, waste management, energy management, sustainable and appropriate construction, sensitive landscaping, staff development and social responsibility. Previously, both Damaraland and Skeleton Coast camps received the top award of five desert flowers.
/ North Island
North Island Dive Report
- August 08 Jump
Weather, Water Temperature and Visibilty
The ocean conditions have run through a complete spectrum and have ranged from beautifully calm days with very little water movement to extremely rough seas with strong winds and a large swell. The only constant this month has been the water temperature which has remained at 25°Celsius.
The increase in the swell has again been especially welcomed by some due to the great surfing and body-boarding conditions that were experienced off the East Beach during this time. The swell did however drop substantially toward the end of the month which was not so good for the wave riders but has made manoeuvring on and off the beach with the zodiac far easier.
The wind has again been steadily fierce but fortunately also dropped off toward the end of the month which allowed us to venture slightly further from the island with regard to our boating activities, even managing a day trip to Praslin Island which was hugely successful.
The visibility has, as is customary this time of year, also been quite unpredictable and has ranged from five or so metres to as much as 25 metres on some days. This variance has had very little to do with the ocean surface conditions but more to do with the ocean currents which have brought various different clouds of nutrients over the reef throughout the month which has consequently played havoc with the visibility. The water seems to have cleared somewhat toward the end of the month.
The diving this month has been hugely popular which has allowed us to keep close track of the marine developments over this time period, but unfortunately, even as hard as we have searched, we have still seen no sign of the Sprats (a small marine food fish) as yet. We are beginning to wonder if they have spawned in some other location or if perhaps there are years when this phenomenon does not occur. We have, however, spotted small schools of the Slender Sweepers (Glass fish) that have started to accumulate in the few scattered caves and ledges in the shallows. These are normally indicative of the arrival of the sprats and so we yet again await their long overdue arrival but with slightly more skepticism as to whether they actually will.
Due to the mostly favourable ocean conditions this month we have also been able to make numerous dives to Twin Anchors. Situated on the northern section of Silhouette Island, this site is particularly well sheltered this time of year. This site is also particularly interesting as it is situated right up against the granitic boulders of Anse Mondon. The water conditions here are much calmer and the visibility is normally a little clearer than most of the sites around North Island making this the perfect site for beginner divers and snorkellers alike.
This month has also been fantastic with regard to turtle sightings. There has been an exceptional increase in the number of turtles that we have seen coming onto the beaches to lay their nests and similarly we have seen a noticeable increase in the number of turtles spotted in the water. We have mainly spotted the Hawksbill Turtles which is strange as it is currently the nesting season for the Green Turtles. We have however also occasionally spotted some very large Green Turtles but not with nearly the same frequency as the Hawksbills.
This month we have also seen an abundance of Salps which have provided us with a great source of interest. These small gelatinous creatures, which were initially thought to be squid larvae, are in fact a type of zooplankton. They are filter feeders and have a distinctly darker digestive system which can be clearly seen through the gelatinous envelope. These Salps are usually seen in long chains which are normally broken up in the surf and rough seas. They float near the surface of the water and are at the mercy of the winds and currents. Huge numbers of these Salps washed up on Petit Anse toward the end of the month which also allowed the landlubbers an excellent chance to properly investigate these new arrivals.
We have also frequently spotted several enormous Fulvie Kingfish on Sprat City which look particularly menacing as they cruise up and down the edge of the reef totally ignoring the presence of the divers. We have also been lucky enough to spot numerous Mantis Shrimps this month which have been rather inquisitive and have been spotted venturing out over the reef far from their hiding spaces. These shrimps (which look more like small lobster) are usually very cautious and will not normally be caught out in the open. These particular shrimps, aptly named Smashing Mantis Shrimps are renowned for their incredible strength in their 'arms' and have been known to crack aquarium glass with the force of their 'punch'.
The Devil Fire fish have again been spotted quite frequently on Sprat City and again in one particular sandy patch where they prefer to congregate. These extraordinarily different looking fish make excellent photographic opportunities as they hover almost motionless above the reef.
September is officially the start of the Whale Shark season and the MCSS have just started to prepare their micro light flights for the monitoring of theses majestic creatures from the air. Several preparation trips have already been sent out without much luck but hopefully throughout the month we will start to see an increase in the number of sharks that are spotted by this means. There have however already been a couple of sightings of the sharks in the southern regions of Mahe as well as on Beau Vallon Beach in the north from the dive boats. The sharks are normally first encountered this time of year around the south of Mahe but have also been identified as far North as Silhouette Island.
This month we have noticed a distinct increase in the size of the White Tip Reef Sharks that are resident on Sprat City. With the reduced visibility it is difficult to ascertain how many sharks there are on the reef at any one time but the specimens that we have spotted are somewhat larger than what we have recorded over the beginning of the year. We have however had no fewer than 5 white tip reef sharks sighted on any given dive. To add to the size of some of the sharks we have also spotted several pregnant females on the reef, we will try to keep an eye on these individuals as they progress through their gestation period.
We have also managed to spot quite a few nudibranchs (multi-coloured sea slugs) this month including one species which has a unique colouration that we have not yet been able to identify. We have also had plentiful sightings of several resident Raggy Scorpion Fish on Sprat City which are somewhat difficult to spot due to their exceptional camouflage. These particular Scorpion Fish seem to be quite territorial and are almost always found near either of two different locations on the reef.
There has again been the ever present Spotted Eagle Rays, Thick lip Mullet and the occasional Lemon Shark swimming up and down the shore break which has provided ample snorkeling excitement in front of the restaurant.
The highlight of the month was however undoubtedly the sighting of several Humpback Whales which were spotted off the West Beach and were seen tracking around North East Point and off toward Praslin. These were sighted by our Environment Officer, Linda Vanherck, who was on a Sunset Cruise at the time.
The fishing this month has been markedly better than previous months and we have also entered the Seychelles Sailfish season which has added an extra edge to the excitement of the fishing trips. This month we also caught and released 7 Sailfish which has provided some excellent fishing experiences for the guests. We fortunately managed to return all 7 back to the sea without injury. A large Yellow-fin Tuna was also caught off the west side of Sprat city which is rather rare. Again there were some fishing trips where nothing was caught at all but in general we have had great fishing.
We look forward to September and the beginning of spring although we know that we still have a substantial portion of the monsoon season left before the winds begin to settle.
Camp update - August 08 Jump
Weather, Landscape and Water Levels
August is a notoriously windy month in Botswana, and this month has been no exception with the dust devils swirling across the dry parts of the channel bed, stirring up golden stalks of grass, rust-coloured mopane leaves and spirals of grey Linyanti dirt. The metaphorical winds of change have certainly swept through this area, or perhaps that should be the waters of change.
As for how this area will change in the future, we simply cannot say! Perhaps the water will dry up again under the unrelenting Kalahari sun and separate into distinct pools or fishtraps which will be a further huge bonanza for wading birds, or strong early rains could give the Channel the impetus it needs to push on all the way to the Marsh.
Since the rejuvenated Channel reached Savuti Camp at the beginning of the month, it has barely paused to draw breath, pushing on towards Mantshwe Pan, trickling and rushing into all the old, dry veins that used to carry water into the heart of the Savute Marsh. A large depression to the east of camp became a lagoon in a matter of days, the water racing down a road on a slight incline, scouring all the sand out of the vehicle tracks in the road and transforming mere ruts into deep trenches. This development of course delighted the ever-increasing numbers of waterbirds which are discovering this new, unexpected aquatic paradise. Reed Cormorants and Pied Kingfishers are now a common sight here, and last week we saw a pair of African Jacana right in front of camp for the first time.
Every dog has his day, they say, but this month at Savuti the dogs have not just had one day, but many - and in the process have made many of our days, too. Our resident pack of nine wild dogs has certainly been making their presence felt, not least among our kudu and impala populations. Both the dogs and their prey have had to adapt to a newer, wetter reality in Savuti with the Channel flowing again.
At the deepest points, the Channel is over 2m (6ft 6") deep, and it is to these points that the elephants are drawn. While some of the more staid adults will remain on the bank, playful youngsters move out into the centre of the Channel, wrestling and sparring with each other, rolling over and submerging themselves and completely disappearing so that we can only see the tips of their trunks above the churning waters.
There is a curve of the Channel directly in front of the honeymoon tent at Savuti, and this is where the elephants tend to congregate in the heat of the day. Formerly, the well-trodden path they tramped along to reach the waterhole passed this way - now, of course, elephants attempting to reach the logpile hide find their way obstructed by infinitely more water. On some afternoons we can have fifty or sixty elephants from three or four different herds, lining the banks of the Channel or surging through it.
Even with the presence of so much water, we are starting to see signs of distress amongst the elephants, as the amount of food available begins to dwindle and the weaker elephants begin to falter. We have noticed several tragic cases of elephant calves missing all or part of their trunks, either due to birth defects or possibly hyaena attacks, and they are a heartbreaking sight as once they stop suckling, they will inevitably die.
Death has certainly been stalking the Savute Channel this month, but the predators do not always have it their own way. On one night drive we witnessed a fascinating stand-off between lions and porcupines with the lions certain that there was a meal in there somewhere, but quite unable to get at it. Currently we have two very exciting sets of youngsters in this area: in mid-month one of our resident female leopards, the Rock Pan Female, was seen along the southern bank, moving not just one but two cubs to a new den site. Leopards do this frequently, especially if they have even the faintest suspicion that they have been followed back to the lair. The two cubs are almost certainly the offspring of the grizzled DumaTau Male, and were estimated to be around three weeks old when they were first seen.
The DumaTau pack of wild dogs has denned on the along the southern bank of the Channel and there are eight impossibly cute puppies there. Not only cute, but invaluable - wild dogs as a species are battling for survival, and northern Botswana is one of their last viable strongholds. We are being extremely cautious to avoid any potential disturbances. Wild dogs are susceptible to abandoning dens and puppies if they feel threatened, and so we have decided to keep the den "closed" for a while longer yet. We believe the dogs have already moved the den site once, and we are very anxious to avoid any human area in the vicinity of the den that might provoke the curiosity of hyaenas or big cats, which would surely kill all the puppies if they discovered them.
Temperatures are rising daily now, and the cold winter's mornings of June and July are just a memory now. And so we roll on towards summer.
DumaTau Camp update - August 08 Jump
to DumaTau Camp
Weather and Water Levels
August started to see the mornings warming up and the nearing end of the winter season. The minimum and maximum temperatures were 10° Celsius and 24.
The floodwaters are still rising in the Savute Channel; the water in front of camp is very high. For those who were here last year around this time it's very hard for them to believe what they are seeing. The Riverine Road from the staff village to Chobe 1 has been under water since January. We have cut a new road just along the tree line from Osprey lagoon to Deadwood. All the seasonal pans in the woodland have all dried up and this has resulted in elephant movement from the woodlands to the main river and the Savute Channel areas. The flow of the Channel has also relieved the main river from elephant congestion and also changed their movements, being more dispersed around the area.
A game drive along the Channel on a full daytrip is unbelievable at the moment and the number of game one sees is very different from last year this time. The water is pushing at a constant speed and is now about two kilometres south of Savuti Camp. Due to the water we have had a lot of new grass growth that has resulted in an influx of Red-billed Quelea - in flocks numbering thousands. These huge flocks look like columns of smoke as they undulate through the air, constantly changing shape and direction.
Sightings of lions in our area have been good, particularly of the Selinda Pride. This pride comprises three adult females, four juvenile males and three juvenile females.
The Selinda Pride is watched over by Silver Eye and his brother - a coalition of two male lions. The Savuti Pride has fragmented somewhat: One female has left our area with all the juveniles, last seen heading northeast. The other two females have remained behind and they have been seen mating with the Selinda Boys. This mating attempt seems to be successful, with the one sub-adult female showing signs of an early pregnancy.
This month, the Selinda Pride has been seen killing two impala at the same time, in an electrifying sighting that literally happened in the space of five minutes. The Selinda Pride also seems to specialise in hunting zebra and our guides spotted them at Letsomo feeding on a recently killed zebra. On several occasions this pride has also been sighted between Bundu Island and Letsomo interacting with buffalo. The lions in our area do not seem to hunt buffalo that much and we have only witnessed a few attempts that did not amount to much.
Leopard sightings have been relatively quiet this month. It was only the Zibadianja female that the guides have been seeing around Elephant Valley Road and Zibadianja Lagoon. We have not seen the two cubs with her only their tracks. Another guide, Ollie, spotted the Rock Pan sub-adult female moving her cubs which are about two weeks old. The DumaTau Male has been heard coughing in the mornings around DumaTau Camp, but funnily enough we have not seen him now for almost a whole month.
Cheetah sightings have also been quiet since one of the Blood Brothers died. The guides at Selinda Camp said the Blood Brothers were involved in a territorial fight which three other cheetah in the Selinda area. As a result the one brother was badly injured and seen limping badly, while the other brother ran for his life heading to our area. The remaining brother has been seen by Savuti Camp hunting and looking very frail.
Wild dogs are another highlight for August: the Linyanti Pack has been roaming in our area for over two months now. The DumaTau pack was last seen heading towards the Selinda Concession. The nine dogs from Linyanti group are very different from the DumaTau pack - notably the coat patterning. The guides between DumaTau and Savuti Camps have found it confusing each time the dogs were seen. The Linyanti Pack is now denning close to Rock Pan. There were tracked by Sefo (Savuti guide) from a kill - he followed them for a while and they lead him straight to the old denning site where he found eight pups.
Access to the denning area is strictly controlled and we are monitoring the site. The guides from Savuti Camp have been spotting the entire pack hunting along the Channel. This is a bit unusual as the 'baby sitter' dog is not staying behind to look after the den.
General game species has also been plentiful: buffalo are always seen between Bundu Island and Letsomo. Zebra and wildebeest are also seen along the Channel in big numbers with large crocodiles by Rock Pan.
Colourful Southern Carmine Bee-eaters are seen at Chobe 1 where they normally nest. The African Wood-Owl that nests by the tree at Tent 6 is back and mobbing people at night and early morning.
Kings Pool Camp update - August 08 Jump
to Kings Pool Camp
Weather and Water Levels
Temperatures have risen dramatically from the much cooler July air. Daytime temperatures are averaging around 30° Celsius and evenings are warm and comfortable. Knobthorn acacias and knobbly creepers have both erupted into flower, filling the evening air with an intoxicatingly pleasant perfume-like smell which complements the 'compulsory' gin and tonics at sundowners very well.
Water levels have continued to rise in the Linyanti. The water has pushed under the deck of Kings Pool Camp, creating perfect nesting sites for large red-breasted Tilapia.
Most of the mopane trees have lost their leaves and the seasonal pans in the woodland have dried out, transforming the mopane woodland into a dry, harsh environment. Most animals are now found along the Linyanti River.
Elephants have arrived in the Linyanti in force - crossing back-and-forth between Botswana and Namibia, providing us with superb sightings of swimming pachyderms. Our Sunken Hide has become a very popular gathering spot for elephants, especially at midday when thirst drives them to drink from the waters directly in front of the sunken hide.
As per usual, hippo have been very active around Kings Pool Camp. Even during the day, these lumbering beasts have been wandering around camp. On one occasion, at midday, a dominant hippo bull chased a subordinate bull in circles around camp for around 30 minutes!
Lions have provided us with regular sightings this month and two different groups have been seen: The infamous Border Boys (three dominant males in the area) and the LTC females who travel around with a sub-adult male. With the arrival of buffalo into the concession this month, the lions have launched a few attempts to take down these colossal bovids but only one buffalo has been taken down so far. The Border Boys frequently walk straight through camp at night, but a few days back they come through at brunch time, scattering staff in all directions before heading into the mopane woodland.
The Selinda male cheetah has made an appearance in the Kings Pool area twice this month. Cheetah are not usually seen in the Kings Pool area, so this was a very welcome sighting. This male was found hunting in and along the riverine forest.
Leopard sightings have been good with several sightings of a female with her two 4-month old cubs. They have even been seen in camp during dinner on a few occasions! We often hear the baboons in camp barking (alarm calling), which tells us our favourite spotted cat is in the area again.
The super sighting this month was that of a pangolin seen by our guests on a night drive! This fascinating and rarely seen animal was very relaxed and Ras (head guide) was able to get some good video footage of it.
Birds & Birding
A Giant Kingfisher has chosen the Kings Pool breakfast bar as an ideal spot to hunt fish from. African Skimmers have also been spotted during our sunset cruise, as well as African Purple Swamphen, Squacco Herons, Green-backed (Striated) Herons, African Pygmy-Geese and many other water birds. Our resident pair of swallows have return to nest in the Kings Pool main area - welcome back guys!
Too many to list: Lions mating; leopard with kill up a tree; wonderful room and camp atmosphere; great staff and guide (Moss).
Friendly and accommodating staff; beautiful setting; excellent game sightings; overall experience.
Seeing a pangolin; elephant crossing the river. The singing and dancing by the staff.
There are so many highlights such as watching the dancing on Monday, taking the boat out and watching the sunset, having elephants chase us out of their watering hole and lastly, tracking the lions.
Honestly the room was amazing - the most luxurious we've stayed in. Khan is an exceptional guide - the most knowledgeable we've encountered, friendly and accommodating as well.
The staff and management did a fantastic job welcoming us and varying our activities - A perfect stay.
Chitabe Camp update - August 08 Jump
to Chitabe Camp
After such a busy July, it seemed that whatever happened in August would inevitably, by comparison, be somewhat humdrum. Fortunately such presentiments were very wrong and we've enjoyed another month of great activity.
Nights and early mornings were cold the whole month, but for the first eight days our guests knew they would be rewarded with the nearby lion saga being played out on our front lawn (see last month's newsletter). Once the buffalo had been eaten and left to the vultures and spotted hyaena, the three younger lions roamed off. Our nomadic lioness also left the immediate vicinity.
The action continued when three older males came in from the Moremi. A battle then ensued between them and the three younger males but also with the lone female who, having just mated with four males fought hard to ward off the advances of yet another three outsiders.
These lions are currently spread out over a wide area within the concession. Our original pride of the surviving old male plus nomadic female and lone female with niece and two cubs are all seen from time to time on the outskirts. The latter family having fled towards the Gomoti as soon as the first three younger males turned up for fear that the younger cubs would be killed.
In camp we've been almost overrun by elephant, thankfully very relaxed for the most part. Plenty of guests have reported that they shared their afternoon outside shower with one or more of these giant residents. A very cute family of three keep us amused; the mother with one tusk, her two-year old who can just squeeze under the boardwalk, and the yearling who runs around trumpeting and charging anything from birds to whole herds of buffalo (also close to camp the whole month) pretending to be a grown-up.
Dawson, Shaa and I witnessed a ful-blown hippo fight just outside Room 4 one night. The bloodcurdling roars echoed for miles and shook us to our shoes but somehow when we checked that the guests hadn't been too scared in the morning all but Pierre in Tent 4 said they hadn't heard a thing and felt somewhat cheated!
Leopard sightings have also been plentiful, with some good interaction between Mosadi Mogolo and her two three-month old cubs, one male, one female (see Lisa Querimit's night-shot). Peter Bowler's photo shows that another of our leopards, we think it's the Morula female, was attacked and seriously injured by baboons. And thanks to Doug Rigg for his crisp 'Flying Banana' shot, the Yellow-billed Hornbill.
Mombo Camp update - August 08 Jump
to Mombo Camp
Weather and Water Levels
We are now fast approaching our summer months and August was a slightly mixed deck of hot and cold. The minimum temperature for the month was a very mild 9.5°Celsius and the mercury peaked at 34.6°Celsius. The mean temperature for the month was a very comfortable 20.6°Celsius. The flood has seen its peak in the Mombo area and the water has now begun to recede. Rain is still a thing of the distant future as we are moving into our driest months here in Botswana. This is making the lush wet Mombo floodplains a magnet for general game, both large and small. The interior of Chief's island is now very dry, which is only making the moist island fringes even more attractive.
Elephant numbers in the area are incredibly high in the area at the moment, making for some stunning sightings of these massive beasts. There is hardly a day when people will sit at Hippo Hide and not be treated to the sight of elephants crossing the water on either side of them. As some of our previous guests will attest to, not all of the elephants are welcome visitors to the camp with one culprit in particular ('Stompie') being the most feared by the maintenance team. When in the area, he likes to spend most of his free time proving his strength by mowing through our raised boardwalks, happily stranding anyone who happens to be on the other side. Luckily our quick response boardwalk team has plenty of experience and so the inconvenience is usually short lived.
We have had a number of buffalo herds through the area in the last month, as well as the ever-present herd of old males that live around the camp. This herd is now a permanent fixture on all lions' hunting rounds and so this herd continues to get smaller. Through the month there have been two of these old male buffalo killed in camp. The first one met his end at the hand of the two Moporota pride males. Another was killed between Rooms 3 and 4, providing some dramatic viewing for those with front row seats on their balconies.
The large Moporota pride, still numbering around 20 individuals has been spotted frequently this month. On one incredible occasion, this pride of lions brought down and killed three buffalo at once, two females and a calf, all in front of some very lucky guests.
The Western pride, slightly smaller at around nine individuals, has also been sighted frequently and continues to spend a lot of time around (and often in) Mombo Camp. The third pride that we have had at Mombo in the past, was not seen this last month due to the distance that their territory has moved to the south. Some good news is that one of two females that broke away from this pride has given birth to three cubs. They were discovered when only days old and are now only a couple of weeks.
Leopard sightings were average for the month of August with five different leopards being sighted in the Mombo area. The brilliant news is that Legadema, our local female, still has two healthy and steadily growing cubs. They are now about 6 months old and are looking more like adults and less like cubs with each passing day.
Cheetah and wild dog sightings have been good this month, especially the wild dogs. We are still seeing one male and one female cheetah in the area, however sightings have been fairly irregular and very unpredictable. The wild dogs have been sighted frequently this month. It is still a small pack, numbering only three dogs but, the good news is that the one female is heavily pregnant. We can only hope that they will find a den site well away from the eyes of lions and hyaenas.
Rhino sightings have been infrequent at Mombo through August. Most of the rhino have moved further to the south-east of the island, making their way to the floodplains. This has put them out of the range of a comfortable game drive, making sightings unusual.
And so concludes our monthly report, one which however long and detailed can never be more than a shadow of what it is like to actually be here and experience the place for yourself.
Xigera Camp update - August 08 Jump
to Xigera Camp
Weather and Water Levels
August has seen a change of season. The winter is behind us now and through the month temperatures have increased dramatically: from 24ºC at the beginning of the month to 30ºC at the end. The August winds have not failed this year, often picking up in strength through the night and early mornings, leaving us in a humid haze for the remainder of the day.
At Xigera Camp, an increase in temperatures means a simultaneous decrease in water levels, and that has been the case this month. The water level under the bridge has dropped by approximately 15cm, and a marked change can be seen in the pans and pools surrounding the camp. This drop will continue until the rains come to the island.
It has been a month of exciting sightings. Our full day trips have continued to supply hours of entertainment: herds of red lechwe running through the water; solitary, bulky male buffalo feeding on and around termite islands; hefty elephants crossing the channels; an array of other plains game encountered en route and several sightings of lion.
One exceptional sighting occurred around the middle of the month: it involved a pair of lionesses, a red lechwe, several Xigera guests and our guide Shadrack. After everyone had enjoyed an appetising lunch and peaceful siesta at our picnic site they slowly wound their way back to the camp. Shadrack then spotted one lioness sitting on top of a termite mound. He scanned the surrounding area and caught sight of a second female, slowly and sneakily advancing through the water towards an unknowing herd of four red lechwe feeding in the shallow waters. Within ten minutes, the female who had come through the water gave chase and cunningly forced the red lechwe towards the termite mound, where the other patiently-waiting lioness successfully pulled down the lechwe. Shadrack and his guests then watched as the two females fed on the carcass, and finally pull the remains onto a nearby island, more than likely so that they could digest their intake and save the rest for later. All in all, a brilliant ending to an already exceptional day!
Another fascinating event worth mentioning occurred right here in camp, in the waters under the bridge. This time only a potential kill was witnessed, and the hunt was of a slightly different class. After dinner one evening, Anton had taken some guests out onto the bridge with his flashlight to show them the stars and talk about the constellations. Anton, being Anton, was equally fascinated with the fish swimming below as with the stars glimmering in the night sky above. He suddenly spotted a big, fat catfish with a much smaller bream clenched in its jaws. Only the tail portion of the bream was visible, and it was thrusting from side to side trying to escape from the predator. Anton continued with his star talk and after several minutes returned to the site of the kill, only to find that the catfish had finally suffocated the bream and had let it go; it was evidently too large for the catfish to swallow whole. But all was not as it seemed - after a few seconds of drifting motionless through the water, the bream suddenly came to life, slowly wriggling its tail at first and then darting off into the safety of the reeds, leaving the (probably confused) catfish hungry in the open water. All present breathed a sigh of relief (as unfortunately catfish are not high on the list of favourite animals), had a good chuckle and went off to bed to get ready for the following day's excitement.
Birds & Birding
On the birding front, good sightings this month of Wattled Crane, Slaty Egret, African Snipe, African Skimmer and the Pel's Fishing-owl, or, as the exploration guide Thuto calls it, "the Rolls Royce of the birding world!" The numbers of skimmers have increased to approximately 30individuals at Xigera Lagoon, and they already seem to be nesting in the soft sandbanks.
The floodplain in front of the rooms at camp has also become a birding hotspot as the water slowly recedes, forming a fish trap that lures an array of storks, egrets, cranes, kingfishers and other waterbirds. Two Great White Pelicans have even been spotted hunting for fish in these waters. The first pelicans of the season are most definitely a sign of dropping water levels and the start of summer for those of us who are fortunate to reside in this pocket of paradise.
Camps Update - August 08
Lagoon camp Jump
• A single female Lioness has been seen on regular basis the last month with her four young cubs she has been mostly seen on the western side of the airstrip and she has done extremely well hunting down a few buffalo to feed her young. Sadly towards the end of the month she has crossed into the Namibian side. Two heavy black mained Lions have been dominating the area probably causing the young female with her cubs to flee.
• Great news for Lagoon the Selinda pack of Dogs have denned in the Lagoon area and have proudly produced eight pups, it has taken a while to find the den so the pups are active and out the den. They have been giving guests great sightings of the dogs hunting Impala and bringing the pups food from the field.
• The lagoon pack of Dogs have been scarce the past week since the epic tragedy last month, the pack has been located from time to time in the Mopane scrubland.
• Hundreds and hundreds of Elephant have been seen on every game drive in the Lagoon area, with the pans dry in the Mopane forests now the Kwando concession have some of the largest concentrations of Elephant in Botswana.
• The three resident Buffalo are still roaming around camp seeking protection from the Lions that are within the area. The buffalo herds have been seen on most game drives as the numbers increase due to the rain pans that are now completely dry.
• Raptors-backed Jackal and side stripped Jackal are seen at most kills during the night drives with a few Bat eared foxes seen on the cut line road.
• This month the guests were stunned to get to see a Pangolin on a night drive, the guide had almost missed it just before it ran under the grassy undergrowth. Surprisingly it stopped and curled up into a tight ball this is what do for protection against predators.
Kwara & Little Kwara camps Jump
& Little Kwara camps
• Lion are still abundant in the Kwara concession with a female Lioness and her two cubs hunting a fully grown Warthog just a few kilometres from camp. The small pride managed to bring down the warthog and feast on. The main pride has been hanging around the big herds of Buffalo but don’t seem to be interested in Hunting them but rather taking down smaller prey like Lechwe and Zebra. The coalition of seven male Lions were located on the boundary road hunting warthog on mogwele road. Three Lioness’s were seen towards Paulson’s crossing on an evening game drive hunting and killing an old female Buffalo.
• The Alpha male and female Wild Dog were spotted on a morning game drive seen building up their courage to chase off a single female Cheetah an Impala kill, guests were stunned by the fierce interaction of the creatures. The Dogs manage to chase the Cheetah off the kill and called in the rest of the resident pack of five to feast.
• Wattled crane and various summer birds have been seen this last month with the Yellow billed storks breeding at Godikwa lagoon.
• With a fire just to the north of Kwara airstrip, the area has brought new life to the moribund grass and which now flourishes with game as the guests arrive at the airstrip. Herds of Zebra, Tsesebe and Wildebeest thrive on the short grass seen as far as the eye can see across the Kwara floodplains.
• Three Honey badgers were seen on Tsesebe loop on the evening drive with guests, the guide managed to follow the startled three Badgers and witnessed a scuffle between the three badgers and a Spotted hyena, as aggressive as the are the Honey badgers managed to win the fight causing the Hyena to flee across the flood plains.
Lebala camp Jump
• Roan and Sable antelope have now been seen on a regular basis in the Lebala region, general game on most game drives down towards twin pools is Lebala’s most spectacular area for game this month, Lechwe, Hippo, Zebra and general game is absolutely phenomenal.
• Guests were intrigued with the tracking skills on a morning game drive as the guide and tracker managed to track down two large male Lions after two hours and then to their surprise the two joining up with a pride of seven on the marshes towards Wildebeest road. The pride gave it their best to hunt Lechwe in the marshes but were unlucky as the semi aquatic antelope had the upper hand in the marshes.
• Leopards have been spotted on a few evening game drives, a single female Leopard perched up a tree was seen by the guests but seemed very shy and slowly disappeared into the thicket of the bush, later on the guests came upon a large male leopard which seemed very relaxed and the enormous cat entertained the guests for a couple of hours as he patrolled his territory.
• Two male Cheetah were spotted by the tracker along the edge of the Mopane woodland, they were extremely relaxed as they casually walked along the side of the game drive and began to hunt. The two Cheetah had no luck with the hunt on a herd of Impala so settled down for the night.
• The Carmine Bee Eaters have began to build their nests in the sand banks on the main road towards Lagoon. Water birds like the Spoon bill, Jacana, Herons and large flocks of Duck on the marshes. The highlight of the birding experience was to see a Goliath heron feeding along the edge of the marsh.
• Banded Mongoose have been seen on the morning game drives by the guests, the creatures whistle and squeal as they forage along the under growth of the riverbanks.
Tau Pan camp (under construction - Central Kalahari Game Reserve)
• The drillers at the new camp site had to divert off the road to witness one of the largest black mained Lion they had ever seen, the enormous cat lay under a tree in the middle of the road, the one driller who has been in Botswana’s back country for all his life says that it was one of the largest Lions he has ever seen.
Jacana Camp update
- August 08 Jump
to Jacana Camp
As we get closer to September, which is the start of our spring, the days have become considerably warmer, and longer, almost like a typical dry and hot October day.
We have been visited by a lot of younger guests thanks to it being summer holidays in the northern hemisphere. It has been a great experience for them to learn about the culture and natural beauty of Botswana and Africa. They have been entertained with game viewing drives in the mornings where they have seen lion, leopard, breeding herds of elephant and many bird species.
After returning back to camp for brunch our younger visitors were further kept busy by teaching them how to pole a mokoro (wooden dug-out canoe; a traditional mode of transport in the Okavango Delta) in front of the main camp. Once they have gotten to grips with their balance they take part in mokoro races where they try to pole themselves from the one end of camp to the other - the first one home is the winner.
In the evenings after dinner, we treat them to the familiar taste of marshmallows toasted on the campfire while the palm trees in the background are being shaken by elephants eager to get to the tasty palmnuts. This always brings a chuckle to everyone. Then one of guides will further entertain the kids by telling them bush stories. Just before it's time for bed, welcoming hot water bottles are handed out.
Birds and Birding
With summer fast approaching, a number of Palearctic and intra-African migrants are already returning. These include Yellow-billed Kite, large flocks of African Openbill and even an early Woodland Kingfisher was reportedly seen near our neighbouring Jao Camp. The usual residents are still being seen regularly, such as the Saddle-billed Stork, Wattled Crane, Pel's Fishing-Owl and Giant Kingfisher. Even a nest of the beautiful Malachite Kingfisher was discovered on our island near the main area.
Our resident female leopard, Beauty, and her cub are still being seen on the Jao floodplain. We are now more optimistic that her cub will survive as he gets older. She has been a regular sighting, and there have been some amazing and intimate moments between mother and cub that our guests have had the pleasure of sharing in.
The annual flood is receding rapidly and soon we can expect more animals to visit the floodplain in front of camp, such as red lechwe, lion and hyaena. They generally prefer not to cross deep water, so now that it is starting to get shallow we will be seeing them more frequently in front of the camp. Later in the month, to our great surprise, we had already spotted a few red lechwe grazing on an island across from our camp - much earlier than expected.
A young elephant bull has been spotted on our Island following the older 'regular' bulls that come to camp. He may have been kicked out of his breeding herd. When young bulls get to a certain age they become boisterous and the matriarch decides he has to move on and learn the ways of the world on his own. This is when they join up with other lone males, especially older ones that teach them how to survive, such as where the best spots are to feed, how to behave in elephant society, the most affective way of shaking a palm tree etc.
We also had some naughty elephant activity on the Island. One of our regularly visiting bulls broke into the lounge area to try and get to a décor curtain made of camelthorn seed pods. The elephants find this addictive and we realised it was not a good idea to keep them hanging there. Just another story to tell around the campfire I suppose.
Tubu Tree Camp
update - August 08 Jump
to Tubu Tree Camp
Spotted hyaenas are regular visitors to Tubu Tree Camp. We often see them walking past the front of camp, especially when we sit at 'the beach' - our boma area - it often becomes a very exciting up close encounter.
Our guide, Johnny, just recently discovered a hyaena den, which is well hidden behind a termite mound and not visible from the road. He picked up a little cloud of dust in a thicket 50 metres away while driving his guests and talking to them. This turned out to be the hyaena mother cleaning the den. Three small black pups have been confirmed so far, but there might be some more. It will be great entertainment for our guests once the small ones venture out together with their clan - and we're keeping a respectful distance in the meantime.
There are numerous leopards on Hunda Island but our resident female is the most famous one. She has chosen the camp area to be her hunting ground for many years. We often see her hunting in front of camp, especially now that the water is receding again. She uses the tall grass to stalk impala or red lechwe and just recently she dashed out into the open area and literally jumped into the middle of an unsuspecting impala herd. All of this we watched from our main area deck. Also during tea time she recently stalked our resident bushbuck and chased them under the decks of the main area - guests and managers watching with open mouths and coffee cups in our hands. We were rather glad though that the bushbuck were alert and managed to escape.
However, she is not hunting for herself only as she has two small cubs to feed. We have only managed to spot them once as they are very shy and the mother hides them in a thicket. But they will start walking with their mother soon and will provide joyful moments for many of our guests. We know that she is a good mother and hope so much they may both survive to adulthood as her previous two cubs did.
The general game is still mainly congregated in the northern section of Hunda Island. The open grassland supports big herds of Burchell's zebra, blue wildebeest and red lechwe - we call it the 'Little Serengeti'. And love is in the air at Little Serengeti too - we found a beautiful lion couple that spent the last few days mating and hunting. Albeit we must say that she was hunting and he was eating...
update - August 08 Jump
to Kwetsani Camp
Weather and Water Levels
While the August winds did appear, the month has continued to produce some wonderful weather. The evenings in particular have been extremely warm and very calm and as we reach the end of the month it appears as if spectacular spring weather has arrived.
At current water levels we are set for continued boat transfers from the airstrip and boat rides to Hunda Island for a few more weeks. As always guests have had the opportunity to enjoy wonderful mokoro trips through the papyrus-lined channels and open lagoons.
The birds are returning to our floodplains and island - it has been wonderful to see the enormous flocks of Open-billed Storks wading in the retreating floodwaters where they snatch up freshwater mussels and snails, which they handle with the greatest of ease in their specially adapted bills. As the sun starts dipping below the horizon, hundreds of them are seen taking to the air in search of an appropriate roosting spot for the night.
The wilderness always produces new and exciting events; each month produces its own unique sighting and experience. August at Kwetsani Camp has produced an event that is one of those experiences that will be in our minds forever.
This experience happened one evening where, as usual, a cosy welcome fire was burning in the boma at the entrance to camp. On returning from their activity most of the guests had taken the opportunity of enjoying a drink around the fire. They had been chatting for a while and had decided to make a quick stop in their rooms to drop off cameras and freshen up before returning for dinner.
Just as guests Bob, David and Larry returned from their rooms, a huge commotion broke out in front of camp below the main deck. We immediately recognized the growls and snarls of lions and hyaenas; an enormous hyaena had decided to attack Broken Nose, one of our resident lionesses and her sub-adult cub. A brutal fight ensued.
Anne, who had been waiting to receive guests at the fireplace, immediately ran up to the deck to witness the ferocity of the contest between the two predators. She immediately summoned Bob, Larry and David to come watch. What transpired was completely unexpected: under attack the lioness decided to turn and run from the hyaenas. Finding the entrance to the camp, she immediately headed up the stairway seeking a place of safety. Just imagine the surprise and absolute amazement when Anne and guests stood face to face with the lioness at the entrance to camp. The lioness briefly looked up, growled and dashed past them in fear, onto the deck. Without a word, and themselves acting in blind fear, guests made a hasty retreat. The lioness took a minute to pause and contemplate her next move, seemingly surprised to find herself where she was. The lioness then headed along our raised walkways where she sought refuge in the outside shower of Tent 5.
Needless to say adrenalin was running high in our guests who by now were gathered safely in the main area. With everyone behind closed doors we flushed the large lioness out of the shower, back down the walkway and out onto the plains. Little did we know that the hyaenas were lying and waiting for the moment the lioness left the safety of camp. When she did, they immediately attacked and again had her on the defensive where she was forced to seek refuge, this time high up in the branches of a water berry tree in front of Tent 5. Here she remained encircled by four snarling hyaenas.
With the lioness now held captive in the tree, guests and staff used the elevated wooden walkways to take a closer look. The poor lioness crept higher and higher up the tree, at each stage trading snarls and growls with the relentless hyaenas below. We all had concerns that this could be Broken Nose's last night. We left for a belated dinner while the standoff continued and still had the four hyaenas lining the edge of the plain around the tree when everyone finally went to bed.
With much apprehension everyone headed out the next morning to follow the tracks and to see if they could find evidence of any serious conflict. Luckily none was found, guides and guests returned beaming with smiles - they had found Broken Nose and her cub, reunited. (Thanks to Jacques and Dominique for this wonderful picture of the two after their night of terror.)
Our resident leopard, Big Boy, also seems to be getting far more habituated to vehicles and the camp environment. We have seen him fairly regularly this month; perhaps the most exciting was for our Italian honeymooners, Stephano and Anna, who were lucky enough to get a sighting of him while out on a walk one morning. Nick and Cheryl snapped this picture of the massive leopard that was lying near the baobab tree after gorging himself on a bushbuck. For nights thereafter his saw-like coughing has been heard frequently around camp.
Each month we have guests whose experiences go beyond lucky. This month the lucky couple were Dominique and Jacques who spent four eventful and fun-filled days with us. Their list of sightings goes on and on: leopards on Hunda Island, Broken Nose, our resident lioness, and her cub, the "new" lion pride of three and so the sightings went. The cherry on top of course was the visit "into" the camp by Broken Nose.
Hunda Island has of course continued to offer wonderful sightings and tranquil boat rides back and forth. As usual, zebra, wildebeest, elephant, ostrich, giraffe, buffalo, leopard and many other species graze, browse and hunt here. The baby giraffe suckling from their mothers is one of the wonderful sights to watch. We have also discovered a litter of hyaena pups that are now safely denned in an old termite mound where we are being careful not to disturb them.
Then there are some that see wonderful sightings that are sometimes difficult to accept, like the sighting of a leopard jumping, head first, off a high branch, to snatch a steenbok that was browsing peacefully under the tree. For guests Jordi, Mariana, Marti and Robin, this was beginner's luck but they returned from their outing a little sad as their emotions took over.
That very same morning we had just witnessed the first steps taken by a tiny bushbuck that had been born hours prior. It was wobbling around its mother's legs when staff noticed the baboons approaching. The mother snorted and ran a short distance, leaving her fawn hidden under some dead branches, hoping to lure the baboons away from it. At first it appeared as if the fawn would stay put but sadly it chose to follow its mother, leaving the safety of its hiding place. Within seconds it was snatched by a very large baboon right before our eyes, a very sad sight to see. Being omnivorous, it is not unheard of for adult baboons to feed on young animals and birds.
All-in-all August has been a month of extraordinary sightings.
update - August 08 Jump
to Jao Camp
Weather and Water Levels
August has been quite windy as per usual for this time of the year. By the end of the month, however, the temperatures were reaching 30°Celsius during the day so spring is definitely on the way. The channel waters are still generous enough to accommodate the motor boat cruises through the reed channels and the open lagoon areas.
Our boat activity offers a unique perspective of the Okavango Delta as you often stumble on the smaller denizens found in this diverse ecosystem: This pictured baby crocodile was caught on camera as he scouted his way over the loose reeds.
African Pygmy-Goose is regularly seen. These uncommon small ducks are keenly viewed by most with their delicate features and endearing nature. Thankfully, they are fairly common in the Delta due to the abundance of water lilies here, there preferred food item (particularly the seeds).
And the jewel-like Malachite Kingfishers are always another favourite. No taller than 13cm, it takes a keen eye to spot them hunting along the waterside. Often this bullet of colour is seen as it dashes along the water's edge.
Game drives don't always have to extend farther than camp with resident leopard, Beauty, using the island as her hunting grounds. Our local impala herd lost their dominant male to her this month. Seemingly she always hunts the biggest of the bunch. She has a good track record of 'trophy' sized antelope. In 2006 she also took the dominant male from the resident impala herd here at Jao Camp and hence the mating season was delayed. Her cub, now about 6 months old, enjoyed the meal with her until hyaena stole what was left of the carcass from her. All this was witnessed during a night drive after dinner.
The hyaena's whooping call was heard most evenings this month. They seemed to follow Beauty's hunting trail, leaving her just enough time to have a good feed with her cub before they whisk away the remains. Alongside the shrill sounds of nearby scavengers, nocturnal owls such as the African Scops-Owl, Verreaux's Eagle-Owl and the sought-after Pel's Fishing-Owl have also added to the evening chorus.
Elephants have been busy around camp. One in particular managed to remodel half of the Jao Camp office in pursuit of tasty camel thorn seed pods used for décor. Another elephant regular to the Jao Island, often found sleeping and snoring in cosy places, decided to 're-decorate' early one morning during breakfast - needless to say that maintenance continued afterwards for most of the day. The palm nuts have also ripened and are an elephant's choice snack. Growing at the top of the palm trees it takes a bit of effort to dislodge them from the palm head. Like a giant maraca, the elephants shake the lean trees vigorously to hail the nuts to the ground and spend the rest of the afternoon scenting them out with their trunks.
Further out from camp a female lion, known as Broken Nose, and her juvenile daughter have been seen regularly on the floodplains. Broken Nose, known for her supreme hunting skills, has been giving her young daughter a few lessons as they've hunted wildebeest and red lechwe together, however at times their guise has been exposed by the eager cub. A little more practice needed for her. These two lionesses have also had grief from a group of spotted hyaenas, an endless battle between these two predators.
Western Banded Snake-eagles are enjoying the increase in temperature too as it has stirred some of the snakes out of their winter hibernating spots. These eagles easily consume their snake prey like one would suck spaghetti out of some Bolognese sauce.
Also, another rarity that is actually not so rare at Jao Camp is sightings of Cape clawless otter. We have three that regularly visit the channel at the front of camp; often popping their heads out from the water unexpectedly as if to say g'day.
School holidays around the world have also brought through some lucky kids on safari. Extra activities like tracking and plaster-moulds, candle-making and traditional crafts have entertained them during siesta time allotted for parents!
Duba Plains Camp update - August 08 Jump
to Duba Plains Camp
Weather, Vegetation and Water Levels
It has been interesting to see how the temperature has changed so quickly in August: now quite warm during the daytime, only a slight change in temperatures in the early mornings and some cold winds sweeping through at times, which is quite typical for the month of August.
The annual floodwater has dropped quite a bit in the concession as we have been able to access more of our game drive areas than usual.
The grasses are drying out too making them less palatable and nutritious to the bulk herbivores like buffalo. This has caused the buffalo to move around the concession a lot in search of 'greener pastures'. The couch grasses that dominate the floodplains of Duba Plains still remains the best area to graze for the buffalo which is good news for us.
Due to these drier conditions, most of the buffalo, especially the older cows have been seen losing body condition, gradually became weaker to the extent where some individuals cannot make it through the thick, deep mud crossings which has resulted in them getting stuck and becoming easy prey items to lion and hyaena.
As the northern woodland continues to dry up, more elephant are congregating in our area. The camp surrounds now reverberate with elephant noises day and night. Guests now often watch these elephants through the tent windows as they feed right beside their tents sometimes worried that these generally tranquil pachyderms may wreck their seemingly fragile home! The main reason these elephants are hanging around camp is that the tents are all shaded by age-old jackalberry trees (Diospyros mespiliformis) whose ripe berries are falling to the ground. These tasty fruits are one of the best delicacies for animals like elephant and also for the local people. Although it is really gratifying to see how elephants have become habituated to the camp and allowing guests to have close encounters with them from the main area or their rooms, one must remember these are still wild animals.
Night drives continue to be excellent, often dominated by regular sightings of small hard-to-see animals like bat-eared foxes, aardwolf, civet, serval, African wildcat and even sporadic sightings of caracal.
As we are fast approaching summer, the following summer migrants have already been seen in the area: Yellow-billed Stork, Southern Carmine Bee-eater, African Openbill and Whiskered Tern. Also, as the pans are drying out rapidly creating fish traps, we have been having regular sightings of Pink-backed Pelican fishing from these ever-shrinking water pans.
The Duba Concession being located in the Okavango Delta is one of the most suitable breeding areas for threatened and endangered species of birds like the Wattled Crane. I even observed one of these birds sitting of its nest not far from the camp; this was a special sighting for me. It was my first time in my seven years in the Delta to see this as these birds always choose the most undisturbed places for nesting - very often out of people's reach. Duba Plains is one of the few places in the Delta still holding large numbers of this crane species due to the abundance of suitable habitats (permanent wetlands, isolated and open moist grasslands).
At Duba Plains we are still experiencing phenomenal lion sightings and fascinating pride dynamics. The Tsaro Pride seems to have regrouped as before - we have been seeing them together in most of the sightings, comprising nine adult females, one sub-adult lioness and the Skimmer Male. Despite the regrouping, there is still that typical inter-lioness aggression going on within the pride, which causes some of the lionesses to stay aloof from the rest quite often. The re-grouping is a huge benefit to the pride as this has significantly increased the hunting success rate of the pride. In August the Tsaro Pride provided satisfying guest sightings with their relentless attack on the buffalo population. This month we witnessed 12 buffalo kills - despite the small number of kills, it has always taken up to three days of attempts with several adrenalin-raising encounters between successful hunts. There have been days of incessant lion-vs.-buffalo action which has kept guests out for longer hours.
As you may have noticed we are always fascinated by our lion pride dynamics, but I feel it is so much more than that - a suggestion of the spirit of wild Africa, which thankfully can still be found at Duba Plains.
After the long debate of the likelihood of the Duba Boys being supplanted as the territorial males of the area, this eventually happened. Another debate has now started: A young male, estimated to be in the age range of five years, has on several occasions been making incursions into the Duba area, and seems to have now made his intentions clear: that of staying. Over the past month, he has been seen regularly - always pretty relaxed considering he is in the core territory of the Skimmer Male. Within this period, he has already mated with the third lioness from the Tsaro Pride.
The Skimmer Male seems to be not yet be aware of the presence of this young male. Junior still seems to be the most unwanted lion in the territory. Despite his unwanted presence, he is still seen often in the area - keeping a good distance away from the rest of the pride, particularly the Skimmer Male. He still seems to be slowly gaining the intimidating physique that his father was always known for.
Vumbura Plains Camp update - August 08 Jump
to Vumbura Plains Camp
Another month has come and gone as the Delta waters quickly recede and temperatures climb, bringing with them the promise of a long, hot summer. The leaves fall gently to the ground the grass is bare and brown with the first rainfall being highly anticipated, although still many months away.
The thinning vegetation has allowed for spectacular sightings. The ultimate sighting this month was when the buffalo bellowed over the floodplains at Kaporota Lagoon, lions moved carefully and cautiously planning their master attack. The buffalo got away, this time. Earlier this month they were not so lucky - we've had four sightings of lions successfully taking down adult buffalo and feasting for days on end.
The spotted hyaenas worked together in their clan to take down a young elephant. For two days this provided fantastic photographic opportunities and showing the interaction regarding these magnificent creature's hierarchy and habits.
Elephants have been congregating in large numbers in front of Vumbura Plains; showering themselves with the crisp water and gathering in the shade feeding on fruiting jackalberry trees.
We've had some more exciting news regarding Kwedi's rhinos. Early one morning while on a safari Ant Bennet (guide trainer) found tracks of a male rhino a mere 100m from our camp, drank water from the Kaporota Lagoon and then disappeared into the woodlands. That afternoon his guests went on one of our scenic helicopter flights hoping to locate it, but with no luck. The area that this animal is traversing is huge and more-and-more tracks are found towards our airstrip. Not forgetting the rhino cow and calf that has been spotted a couple of months ago, their tracks have also been seen on numerous occasions.
Birds and Birding
A stand of teak woodland on the eastern side of the concession has delivered some rarely seen bird species. So far the count of mega-ticks is Racket-tailed Roller, White-breasted Cuckooshrike and Bathawk, all in about a 2km stretch of woodland!
Little Vumbura Camp update - August 08 Jump
to Little Vumbura Camp
August has been an action-packed month in the Kwedi Concession: interesting sightings of general game, cats galore and we even observed several kills. A lot of bird species were also seen this month - many migratory bird species already back. Every single drive has held different experiences, with guests coming back to camp with so many tales of discovery.
Weather and Water Levels
The water levels have dropped tremendously resulting in increased animal sightings at more permanent water holes. Summer has also slowly started arriving hence the noticeable animal activity mainly in the mornings and late afternoons when it's much cooler. This is also the beginning of summer birding season, which is great news for birders.
The month has been particularly interesting with different sightings of elephant herds, some of which were substantial breeding herds with a lot of young ones. You know how fun watching elephants can be - the mud baths, playing and protection of young ones by protective mothers. There have also been numerous cat sightings. Leopards were seen feeding on their kills which were mainly baboon and impala. We have actually concluded that the leopards in the Kwedi specialise in killing baboon as almost all the kills we see are of baboons.
As usual the Kubu Pride of lions has been dominating the area and has had several kills of mainly warthogs and buffalo. The interaction between the buffalo and lions has been also very interesting as usual with lots of attempts by lions and very good defence strategies from the buffalo.
We also have had a lot of sightings of endangered birds like Southern Ground Hornbills and also unusual antelope like sable which are increasing in numbers as a lot of calves have been seen. The hyaenas and vultures are also still doing a great job of cleaning up after all the kills. Another exceptional bird sighting was that of a Racket-tailed Roller.
The month has basically been a great one with lots of memorable sightings and happy guests. We have even found rhino tracks in the area several times which is an exciting indication of having them around. So we might permanently actually host all of the Big Five in the Kwedi, how exciting!
to Page 2