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August 2008

(Page 2 of 2)

Page 1 Updates
General Safari News - General information and updates from our partners in Africa.
Wildlife News - Interesting wildlife sightings and photos.
Camp News - Camp specific news, including refurbs, rebuilds, accolades, etc.
• Monthly dive report from North Island in the Seychelles.
• Monthly update from Savuti Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from DumaTau Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Kings Pool Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Chitabe Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Mombo Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Xigera Camp in Botswana.
Kwando Safaris game reports from Botswana.
• Monthly update from Jacana Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Tubu Tree Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Kwetsani Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Jao Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Duba Plains Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Vumbura Plains Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Little Vumbura Camp in Botswana.

Page 2 Updates
• Monthly update from Pafuri Camp in South Africa.
• Monthly update from Rocktail Bay Lodge in South Africa.
• Monthly Dive Report from Rocktail Bay Lodge in South Africa.
• Monthly update from Shumba Camp in Zambia.
• Monthly update from Lunga River Lodge in Zambia.
• Monthly update from Lufupa Tented Camp in Zambia.
• Monthly update from Busanga Bush Camp in Zambia.
• Monthly update from Kapinga Camp in Zambia.
• Monthly update from Toka Leya Camp in Zambia.
• Monthly update from Little Makalolo Camp in Zimbabwe.
• Monthly update from Ruckomechi Camp in Zimbabwe.
• Safari report from Mana Canoe & Walking Trail (late August) in Zimbabwe.
• Monthly update from Lianshulu Lodge in Namibia.
• Monthly update from Kulala Desert Lodge in Namibia.
• Monthly update from Andersson's Camp in Namibia.
• Monthly update from Kaya Mawa Lodge in Malawi.
• Monthly update from Governors' Camp in Kenya's Masai Mara.

South Africa camps
Pafuri Camp update - August 08               Jump to Pafuri Camp

Weather and Vegetation
August has been a month of yet more transitions here at Pafuri Camp. Most of the deciduous trees have dropped the majority of their leaves as they try in earnest to retain what little moisture is left in the parched soils. Warm breezes carry clouds of dust in certain areas but there is still greenery and growth along the perennial Luvuvhu River. The abundant ana trees outline the Luvuvhu along many stretches in the concession, and its pods are a welcome gift to many an animal at this time of year. One can relax under their shade and watch as a variety of game, including nyala, bushbuck, impala, kudu, baboon, monkeys and even elephants indulge in their nutritious fruits.

With spring not too far away there are a number of plant species that are already pushing through their fragrant flowers. If one travels east from camp into the fever tree forest, one is overwhelmed by the sweet fragrance of the fever tree acacia blossoms as well as the perfume-like scent of the flowering woolly caper bush. The buzzing of diligent worker bees can be heard all around and often drown out the sound of surrounding bird calls. The vibrant crimson flowers and the emerald leaves of the sausage tree add a beautiful contrast to the dry surroundings and are always littered with the comical Black-eyed bulbuls.

Elephants at Pafuri Camp      Pafuri sunset

A small stream, no wider than two metres, is all that is left of what was a torrent of a river no more than two months previously. The mighty Limpopo River has also been reduced to wide stretches of river sand. Game seems to be concentrating along the Luvuvhu during the warm part of the days and moving up to higher ground as the temperatures drop in the night. The warmest day recorded this month was a scorching 42° Celsius - very early for such high temperatures.

Birds and Birding
Birdlife is always good at Pafuri, and already we are greeting some of our migratory species: Wahlberg's Eagle, Common Greenshank, and Wood Sandpiper have already been seen, and the familiar call of Klaas's Cuckoo was heard towards the end of the month. Some extraordinary sightings of the avian kind included: A pair of Bat Hawks, six sightings of Pel's Fishing-owl, one Helmeted Guineafowl moving with a flock of Crested Guineafowl, Tawny Eagle catching a dove on the ground, Dark Chanting Goshawk catching a Crested Guineafowl, Gabar Goshawk eating a Burchell's Coucal, and two African Crowned Eagles hunting vervet monkeys.

Gabar Goshawk eating a Burchell's Coucal at Pafuri Camp

Rarities and unusual bird records for our concession included:
Crimson-breasted shrike, Scaly-throated Honeyguide, White-faced Scops-owl, African Barred Owlet, Racket-tailed Roller, Verrauxs' Eagle, Lanner Falcon, Mountain Wagtail, Little Sparrowhawk, White-backed Night-heron, Lappet-faced Vulture, Böhm's Spinetail and Tambourine Dove.

There has been a massive concentration of game along the Luvuvhu River and we are often blessed with seeing a variety of game from the comforts of our tents. Apart from the frequent baboons, nyala, impala and monkeys, elephants are familiar visitors to the stretch of water in front of camp at this time of year. On several occasions we have watched either a breeding herd or several bulls frolic in the cool water as we sipped our afternoon tea before game drive.

Three times this month a leopard has been seen across the river from camp, and on two of these occasions he lay in the shade of a nyala berry tree on the river bank exposing himself for all the guests to see. There was also action closer to home when a female leopard killed a young nyala between Tents 4 and 5. She was viewed for a short time before moving off into the denser shrub with her victim. This leopard seems to have taken a liking to the camp area as her tracks are often seen.

Leopard sightings this month in general have been well above average with 23 separate sightings over 17 days. Pafuri guide, Brett Greenaway, had an incredible experience with a female leopard as he watched her hunt an impala. The impala was unaware of the leopard's presence and slowly ambled along in her direction. Very close by though was an elephant bull who too was walking straight towards the leopard. The leopard was frozen in the grass in a stalking posture very low to the ground, almost completely concealed. The elephant bull proceeded on his path completely oblivious to the cat's presence. The leopard stayed glued to the spot, not moving a muscle. The elephant was no more than two metres from her when she suddenly exploded from her position to give chase after the impala. Unfortunately for her, but fortunate for the impala, it reacted quickly and managed to escape unharmed.

Pafuri has been home to an abundant amount of elephants in the month of August with the pachyderms being seen everyday this month: From the lone old bulls and bachelor herds, to breeding herds of close to 200 strong.

White rhino was seen twice this month. We can probably expect more sightings next month as the seasonal pans dry out and the rhinos are forced to drink from the Luvuvhu.

The ever-present buffalo bulls are seen almost daily around camp but large herds have been less prevalent this month. A herd of 250 were seen around Mangala and several sightings of smaller goups in other areas but undoubtedly less frequent than in past months.

Selous' mongoose at Pafuri Camp

Some other special sightings of the mammalian kind included: three spotted hyaena feeding off a nyala carcass, two Cape clawless otters, Selous' mongoose, Sharpe's grysbok, honey badger, porcupine, bushpig and small spotted genet.

Blue wildebeest are seen quite regularly lately and eland sightings have increased dramatically. Guests and guides alike enjoyed recurring sightings of a herd of 12 eland that frequented the camp on an almost daily basis. Several very large bulls have been seen roaming the concession too. Eland are spectacular antelope that are seldom seen elsewhere in the Kruger National Park.

With temperatures beginning to rise as we head out of winter, we are finding some of the reptiles starting to become more active, noticeably snakes. One will often go out on drive to find serpentine tracks crossing the road. The rasping sound of birds' alarm calling and mobbing a snake in a tree is becoming commonplace. An impressive sighting of a 3.5 metre African rock python was seen crossing the road and heading into some thick brush where it spent the rest of the day - an extraordinary sight for some but slightly nerveracking for others.

Every sunrise here at Pafuri sees ever-changing times ahead and the breaking dawn epitomises this land of pure wilderness.


Rocktail Bay Lodge update - August 08               Jump to Rocktail Bay Lodge

The month of August has been a turning point from winter to summer. The days are slowly warming up as they lengthen with an occasional sprinkle of rain. Although the days have been mostly sunny, late August has been characterised by fairly strong winds.

Pods of humpback whales continue to playfully pass our little bay and the occasional pod of dolphins has been seen patrolling up and down beyond backline. Snorkelling at Lala Nek has produced some interesting sightings such as moray eels, a blue spotted ribbon-tailed ray and garfish hatchlings.

African Goshawk at Rocktail Bay      Wild flower at Rocktail Bay

The proof that summer is just around the corner was sounded out late this month with the first migratory bird enthusiastically calling out "Mikey, Mikey". Yip, the Klaas's Cuckoo has won the race back. We look forward to seeing the other migratory species arrive as our short spring sets in. A Green Malkoha has also been seen in the same bush in the camp car park every couple of days. Out on daily activities Palmnut Vultures and a single Long-crested Eagle have been seen.

Other grassland birds include great views of our famous Rosy-throated Longclaws, Croaking Cisticola, a surprise Black-rumped Buttonquail and Collared Pratincole.

Possibly the same Narina Trogon that was seen last month was spotted again in the same area near Lala Nek. Almost every evening an adult African Goshawk has been seen displaying high above the camp area. Other good forest birds have included Black-throated Wattle-Eye, Brown Scrub-Robin, Woodward's Batis and Livingstone's Turaco.

Rocktail Bay Lodge recently hosted a Naturetrek Birds & Botany group as Rocktail is renowned for its grassland flower diversity - from orchids to African dog rose to dainty doll's powderpuff flowers. The prize had to go to a beautiful specimen of butterfly gladiolus that was found in a marshy area.

Wild flowers at Rocktail Bay Lodge

An unexpected surprise for this group as they drove back to camp after a morning activity was being invited by the local community to attend their Saturday cultural festivities - the sight of boys and girls passionately dancing to captivating local Zulu drumming was certainly a highlight of their entire trip. This was utterly spontaneous and pure luck as they were simply in the right place at the right time.

Local Zulus dancing at Rocktail Bay

There was a surprising discovery of honey badger tracks found in camp this month but there have been no sightings of this interesting mostly-nocturnal creature as yet.


Rocktail Bay Lodge Dive Report - August 08               Jump to Rocktail Bay Lodge

Weather and Water Temperature
Despite some strong winds and a little surge during dives, conditions were still pretty good for most of the month, with visibility averaging 15m and the sea temperature hovering around 22°Celsius.

Marine Experiences
In the first week of August, Jackie and Willem from the Cape were enjoying some "warm water" dives with us. (The Atlantic waters of the Cape are much colder than our Indian Ocean). We'd just completed a lovely dive at Gogo's and were returning for a hearty breakfast when we spotted a pod of Bottlenose Dolphins frolicking behind Island Rock. Everyone was keen to enjoy some snorkelling and perhaps get a chance to interact with the dolphins, so off we went. As soon as everyone was in the water we were surrounded by squeaking, excitable dolphins - always a special treat when they allow us a glimpse into their lives. And as if this wasn't enough, a huge Humpback Whale emerged from the blue and swam right up to us! As curious of us as the dolphins were, he circled round to get a second look and then slowly headed north with all the dolphins accompanying him, leaving us with an amazing memory.

Humpback Whale and dolphins at Rocktail Bay

"Amazing diving: had a wonderful four days, especially snorkelling with a humpback whale and three dolphins!" - Becky, Mark, Andrew

There were many more whale sightings this month. One family were spoilt with humpback sightings three days in a row, of as well as bottlenose dolphins and some other wonderful dives.

"We did three dives and every dive was amazing - paperfish, lionfish, cuttlefish, many moray eels, potato bass, cleaner shrimps. But especially thanks for all your enthusiasm, Clive, Michelle, Darryl." - Joseph
"The whale watching was UNBELIEVABLE! The dolphins were fantastic! Nice place and people." - Denise

As many of you may know, Pineapple Reef was named after the elusive little Pineapple Fish.However, this little fish is not always obliging and tends to move between overhangs and caves, and has not been seen on Pineapple for quite a while. Clive found a pair at Aerial in a cave that has been inhabited by them on previous occasions. Pineapple fish are not permanent residents on our shallow reefs, as they move to deeper waters as they mature, leaving us to hunt for the next juveniles!

There have also been some exciting game fish sightings throughout the month: a couple of dives featured lone couta (king/Spanish mackerel) patrolling the outer edges of the reefs but both Clive and Darryl were thrilled to see some Wahoo. It is rare to see these fish during dives and is a wonderful opportunity to be able to appreciate their beautiful colouring - iridescent blue body with white and black bars. Wahoo reach 70kg and are the true cheetahs of the sea, reaching speeds of 75km/h!

To round off a wonderful month we had yet another Whaleshark sighting. Although winter is not normally the season for Whaleshark viewing, our records show sightings in almost every month of the year, though they are definitely more common & numerous during the summer months.

Several people completed their PADI Discover Scuba Diving Course for the first time and some young, aspiring divers also completed their Bubblemaker Course.


Zambia Camps
Shumba Camp update - August 08                Jump to Shumba Camp

The beginning of August was still very chilly in the morning, but the afternoons turned out to be lovely and hot, and just perfect for relaxing by the pool. We can definitely feel that summer is on the way, with temperatures in the month of up to 35° Celsius. The 05h30 wakeup calls are getting more and more manageable with the sun rising a little earlier.

Male lion at Shumba      Warthog family at Shumba

Wildlife Sightings
It has been a truly amazing month in terms of mammal and bird sightings around the open floodplains that we call home. As we mentioned last month the dynamics of the plains have changed, and our resident Busanga Pride have had their paws full with a new pride of lions that have entered the northern part of their territory, namely the Papyrus Pride. The 4th of August proved to be a very sad day in the Busanga Plains, where on our morning game drive we discovered that our only surviving cub from last season had been killed by the new Papyrus Pride. No one actually saw the incident take place, but what we did come across was the cub's little lifeless body. Nedson, one of our trainee guides, was out on the drive that morning and told us when he got back to camp that he interpreted the spoor (animal tracks) on the ground, and it was one of the new male lions that had killed this young lion.

Africa is a continuous circle of life, and so true it is. Later on that same morning, our game drive vehicle came across a family of warthogs, which comprised of a mother warthog and two tiny piglets. So although one life was lost, two more were born. Besides this sad incident, we have also had plenty of action with the two lion prides around the area. We have seen them almost every day, and they have walked through our camp and under our boardwalks on more than one occasion, roaring as they went. In the early hours of the morning on the 15th of August, we had the two resident Busanga Pride male's walking around Shumba Camp. They roared all night and well until after sunrise. Over a cup of coffee, we watched them roaring; their breath looking like smoke in the cool morning air, and their resonant calls echoing across the Plains. What a way to start the day!

On the 18th of August, the Plains had finally dried enough that we could build a bridge over to the eastern side of the Lufupa Channel. This turned out to be a good move, as on our very first drive over the Channel, who should we bump into, but none other than our Busanga Pride feeding on a hippo. The pride stayed in this area for a couple of days, almost guaranteeing guests a lion sighting during their stay.

Leopard at Shumba Camp

We have also had amazing luck finding cats of the spotted variety this month: two separate sightings of leopard, both south of camp, of a sleek female leopard. She really is beautiful and thrilled our guests no end.

We had one sighting of a male cheetah, which had hunted and killed a red lechwe near Busanga Bush Camp, and right next to the main dirt track used for game drives. It turned into quite a spectacle, as the next thing a horde of vultures descended, along with a male warthog, and chased the cheetah off his kill. We also had another fantastic scene, where guide Lexon stumbled upon a family of four cheetah basking in the sun on a termite mound. The light was just perfect, and our guests on the drive that morning got the most amazing photographs.

The best game drive of the month had to have been on the morning of the 26th, where once again Lexon drove south of Shumba Camp. On reaching the southern end of the Plains, he found a group of four wild dogs, found the female leopard mentioned above, a herd of twenty elephants, a herd of forty roan antelope as well as a herd of sixty zebra amongst numerous other wildlife.

Elephant at Shumba      Buffalos at Shumba

Buffalo has also been another common sighting this month, especially around Shumba Camp where a herd of approximately four hundred buffalo have decided to call the floodplain south of camp their home. They moved down from the papyrus area north of Shumba at the beginning of the month, and walked straight in front of camp in the late afternoon. They walked in single file, kicking up dust as they walked, and their line must have stretched for over a kilometre. Amazing!!

All-in-all, August has been an incredible month, with more game viewing when compared to last year's trends. This definitely has something to do with the water levels being lower this year. An indication of this has been that we have had three herds of elephant move onto Kapinga Island, which once again, is almost guaranteeing our guests a sighting of these giant pachyderms. We have seen them many times simply ambling through the Plains in search of the closest source of water.


Lunga River Lodge update - August 08                Jump to Lunga River Lodge

New Discoveries
Towards the end of the month we found an interesting area south of Lunga River Lodge along the Lunga River. In the short period of exploring this new area we sighted a leopard with her cub, Lichtenstein's hartebeest and kudu. The area is different from the other game drive areas and has a beautiful spot to have stunning sundowners. It will be interesting to explore this new area more in September!

Boating on the Lunga River      Elephant at Lunga

All the guests that stayed at Lunga River Lodge in August had a wonderful time. Many guests were surprised by the variety of activities that Lunga has to offer. A short stay of just one night is not enough to experience the activities by boat, vehicle and foot!

August is the beginning of the warmer months in Zambia. Spring is in the air with temperatures reaching 30°Celsius during the daytime. At night it was still nice to sit around the camp fire but the really warm clothing is not necessary anymore. Because of the rise in temperature the waterholes in the Park are drying up and you can find the animals closer to the River. Our dambo in front of the guest rooms is getting more and more animal visits.

Kudu bull at Lunga      Lunga River Lodge staff

Wildlife Sightings
This month elephant often came to the Lunga River to have a nice swim to cool off. It's always amazing to see how these impressive animals enjoy the clear water that passes next to the lodge. Luckily our guests could often enjoy this spectacle right from the main deck, their private deck behind the room or from the boat. Where we saw mainly bull elephants at the beginning of the season we now also encounter breeding herds.

Seeing a serval during a game drive is great but seeing a serval on a walk is even more special. Certain guests at Lunga were lucky to experience just that (Good spotting Michele!). This was not the only serval sighting for Lunga in August as at the Lunga River rapids, guests spotted another of these mainly nocturnal cats wandering on the riverbank. What a great moment! Antelope species we see at Lunga varies from impala, puku, Lichtenstein's hartebeest, kudu, oribi, common duiker, Defassa waterbuck, bushbuck, eland and reedbuck. Many different species to look for and with the temperatures rising they are coming more-and-more to the River, which means closer to Lunga River Lodge itself.

Dwarf Red Combretum      Southern Masked-Weaver

Birds & Birding
Lunga River Lodge is known as a perfect birding location. During the month we saw many beautiful birds along the river and in camp: Ross's Turaco, African Finfoot, Black-Headed Oriole and Half-Collared Kingfisher are just a few of the many birds that made guests smile. With spring in the air we had our first sightings of African Paradise Flycatcher and we enjoyed all the birds singing their 'love songs' and building their nests like the busy Lesser Masked Weavers.


Lufupa Tented Camp update - August 08

A Morning Spectacle: Observing phenomenal lion kill
The impala herd began to look uneasy as the scent of the approaching danger drifted towards them through the cool morning air. The uncomfortable silence was suddenly shattered by the loud snorts of the confused herd. Wide eyes darted about anxiously, scanning the dense woodland for any sign of the imminent threat, but to no avail. The tension was too much and the herd broke off into a full getaway sprint, each animal clearing the road in one giant leap. It was an incredible sight; a large group of Africa's most athletic antelope flying through the air in a life and death struggle against the claws and jaws of death. The lions had outmanoeuvred them on this occasion and the shrieking death-cry of a captured animal filled the air momentarily. The animal's last utterances were surprisingly brief, the power of a hungry lion being no match for a young impala ram.

Lions at Lufupa      Lioness at Lufupa

The lion's in the Lufupa area seem to specialize in killing smaller antelope such as bushbuck, puku and in this case impala (This is probably due to the lack of larger prey species such as buffalo in the area). As a result large prides of lions splinter off into smaller sub-groups of three or four in order to sustain themselves on the smaller antelope. This was exactly what had happened on this particular morning. The three hungry lions wasted no time in devouring their hard-won breakfast. The sound of feeding lions is one of extreme contrasts; vicious aggression mixed with pure pleasure as the taste of fresh meat finds its mark. We recorded the time it took these three lions to completely demolish every last remnant of their small meal - 12 minutes. Twelve minutes of unforgettable Africa for myself and the four guests lucky enough to experience such an incredible event.

Avian Master of the Night: Pel's Fishing-Owl
It had been a classic Lufupa night drive. We had seen an array of the small nocturnal species that occur in this rich area. Civet, genet, white-tailed Mongoose, bushbabies and many a grazing hippo had all made an appearance on this subtly moonlit evening. We were heading back to camp, slowly carving our way through the dense riverine vegetation that lines the banks of the Lufupa River. I hit the brakes hard as our spotlight outlined the form of a young male lion. He was on the move, meticulously scanning ahead of him for any unsuspecting creature. This regal male led us to his accomplices, four lionesses, strategically positioned ahead of him, moving silently through the night in single-file. We cherished the privilege of being privy to a hunt with the big cats but decided to move on so as not to jeopardize their chances of a successful hunt. It turned out to be a fantastic decision.

White-tailed Mongoose at Lufupa

Not even 300m down the road we came across a large leadwood tree stump, the top of which seemed to possess an uncharacteristically large blob. The blob glared at us through the darkness as the excitement of our find rippled through the vehicle. The elusive Pel's Fishing-Owl sat motionless barely a stone's throw away from us. At such close range, our spotlight revealed the intricate colouration of this giant fishing specialist. It was an absolute feast for the eye, shades of beige melted into chocolate brown, and its big black eyes contrasting with its fluffy cream cheeks. As if to finish off the scene, the bird began to call. A mournful melody filtered through the guests behind me and out into the night. We couldn't believe our luck and as I began to comprehend it, the bird was gone. It took off with a gentle swish of its giant wings; the sound carrying easily to my mesmerized guests. These are one of the few owls that do not possess the adaptations to their feathers that enable silent flight; there is no need to as their prey lurk beneath the water. We bode farewell to this masterful fisherman of Lufupa and sat in contented silence all the way back to Lufupa Tented Camp.


Busanga Bush Camp update - August 08                Jump to Busanga Bush Camp

We have reached the end of August here at Busanga Bush Camp, with no-one quite knowing where the time has gone! In disbelief that we are half way through our season already, we are left looking back at the events of the past month and witnessing the plains drying up considerably.

The second half of August has seen the temperatures rapidly increasing. The afternoons now are often too hot to be doing very much, but the winds blowing in across the plains remain strong, and thankfully help to cool us all off a bit! There is still a chill in the air on those early mornings, but the evenings are now quite pleasant with the wind dying down and the heat giving way to a more cool temperature. There have also been beautiful-clear-blue skies most days.

Lions at Busanga      Buffalo at Busanga

Lions: The Busanga Pride has been in the area and around camp for majority of this month. If we haven't been fortunate enough to see them every day, we often get treated to hearing them calling to each other late at night or early in the morning. As well as the Busanga Pride, we have had some fantastic sightings of the Papyrus Pride (a pride usually located further north from us) and also the Treeline Pride (usually found far south from us). The Busanga Pride has also been sighted with a kill or hunting, on a number of occasions, providing the observers with some great experiences as well as great photographic opportunities!

With the flood waters receding rapidly, we've seen the arrival of buffalo and elephant onto the plains as they follow the diminishing water supplies. The buffalo herd is quite a spectacular sight, especially in their numerous battles with the Busanga Pride. Also, the elephants are beginning to make tentative ventures out onto the plains in search of water and have been spotted on the edge of Busanga Island, close to camp, making the most of the fresh leaves! The Treeline Drive has produced a wonderful leopard sighting with a kill as well as a number of sightings of the zebra herd found in this area.

Roan Antelopes at Busanga

Antelope sightings have been fantastic this month as well: puku and red lechwe, as always, are a familiar part of our view from the front of camp. To add to this however, we have continued to have fascinating viewings of roan antelope and more frequent bushbuck sightings in and around the camp, including a female walking stealthily past our camp fire one evening.

On our night drives we have been fortunate enough to continue having unique sightings of serval, side-Striped jackal and various mongoose species. We've also been very lucky in finding porcupine on a few of the night drives as well as the first sighting for us since operating here of a honey badger - a real treat and a mammal first for the guide as well!

Rosy-throated Longclaw      Little Egrets at Busanga

The birds have come into camp more this month as well and we have had some beautiful ones who are becoming used to our daily activity, including Tropical Boubou and Scarlet-Chested Sunbird. Out on the Plains phenomenal views of Rosy-throated Longclaw have also been enjoyed.


Kapinga Camp update - August 08                Jump to Kapinga Camp

As the first few days of August lingered into the sunset, it seemed that spring was just looming on the eastern horizon. There is a particular feeling in the air that one associates with the arrival of the summer months - a feeling of nimbleness and excitement - the blooming of new life after a long hibernation. The air is filled with fragrant bush flowers and the tawny Plains are splashed with dots of incandescent red, white and brilliant green. Traditionally one associates September in Southern Africa as the beginning of spring, but nature dances to her own mysterious melody and we were all too happy to welcome the arrival of warmer days here at Kapinga.

Lions at Kapinga      Lion pair at Kapinga

The month started off with a number of good lion sightings of the Busanga Pride and the dominant males of the area - the Busanga Boys. With the herd of ~200 buffalo in the area, the lions have been trying to hunt them far more often than we witnessed last season. Unfortunately the Busanga Pride is not very skilled and experienced in hunting buffalo - not an easy feat - and as a result a few lionesses were tossed about by quick and sharp buffalo horns. Unfortunately this was to be the fate of one of the pride lionesses when she suffered a severe injury and died the day following her injuries. We have been a little concerned about the condition of the young male in the pride as he's been looking a little skinny and not all that healthy. We are speculating that as a result of pressure from the males it might be time for him to move away from the pride to establish his own territory. Later in the month we started seeing a "new" pride in the Papyrus area and it seems like the young male has been spending some time with these females - just lurking beyond their reach - waiting to be accepted. The Papyrus Pride, as they are now known, is not as used to vehicles as the Busanga Pride as they were quite skittish when first approached.

We've also had a few sightings of the lone Tree-line Female and her sub-adult cubs. Some of our guests were lucky enough to witness the incredible patience of a large hungry cat on the hunt as they watched in awe how the lioness stalked a lechwe that had no idea that she was there. She managed to come within meters of the lechwe undetected and to bring it down in full sight of our delighted guests.

Red Lechwe at Kapinga      Zabras at Kapinga

The wild dogs have been on the move but we were fortunate to see them earlier in the month. They seemed to have moved further down the tree line, slightly south of our usual game drive routes. We have also had a number of cheetah sightings during August. We've been seeing the mother cheetah with her four sub adult cubs and the lone male. Because of the high lion density in our immediate area, cheetah is more difficult to find as pressure from the lions will drive them out further away toward the southern section of the Plains.

Probably our biggest delight and surprise during August was the number of elephant that has moved onto Kapinga Island from the miombo woodland. Although we had a herd move on the island last season as well, there are quite a number more this year. We suspect this is a result of the water drying up earlier this season in the miombo whilst there is still some water left on the Plains. The elephants prefer the security of our island - and food is in abundance here so they are rarely seen out in the open Plains. We have also seen one large tusker moving from island to island in front of camp. A breeding herd of between 19 and 25 individuals have a favourite drinking and bathing spot just on the edge of the island in front of camp and on several occasions we have watched them frolicking in the muddy water whilst we were enjoying brunch in the dining room!

Other highlights of the month included sightings of water mongoose, white-tailed mongoose, honey badger, porcupine, monitor lizard, civet and the haunting cries of hyaena in the distance. Some of our guests were also very fortunate to see sitatunga - probably one of the shyest antelope in Africa. They were rewarded with not only a mere glimpse of these elusive beauties but with sighting four in total which included a mother and calf parading out in the open!

Apart from the usual avian flurry of gem-coloured birds that live on the Plains we were also very excited about sighting a Racket-tailed Roller, Swallow-tailed and Böhm's Bee-eaters and a couple of stunning Red-throated Twinspots.


Toka Leya Camp update - August 08                Jump to Toka Leya Camp

During August, elephant have made regular visits to Toka Leya Camp. They seem to be particularly interested in the young date palm trees that were planted as part of an effort to rehabilitate the area after the camp was constructed - The elephants just love their tender shoots. One elephant, in particular, was so eager to get to them that it actually squeezed between the poles supporting the elevated wooden walkways. Another elephant found its way to the Spa and tried uprooting a palm in a pot. When this failed it went for a cushion on one of the Sofas perhaps to vent his/her frustration.

Black Stork at Toka Leya      Crocodile at Toka Leya

While elephants roamed by day, the night air was filled with the strong scent of buffalo - their favourite time to visit was during dinner time. Buffalo herds are often seen grazing in front of the camp tents.

Drives within Mosi-Oa-Tunya National Park have been very productive. It seems August was baby month with many animals giving birth at this time of year: baby giraffe (with their umbilical cords still attached), impala and elephant were all a joy to see.

The river levels have dropped quite considerably; where there were rushing rapids there are now rocks and sandbanks, which are great sunbathing spots for hippo and crocodiles. From the deck area in the bar you can see hippos playing on the sandbanks in front of camp.

River cruises have also delivered some interesting sightings: hippo, crocodiles, waterbirds galore - Black Stork, Malachite Kingfisher, Collared Pratincole, Purple Heron, Water Thick-knee, splashing African Finfoot, Half-collared Kingfisher, African Skimmer, African Fish Eagle and White-fronted Bee-eater amongst others. Migratory species like Yellow-billed Kite are also returning.

Pizza oven at Toka Leya      Yellow-billed Kite

Our pizza oven is also proving its worth with visitors' young-and-old alike!


Zimbabwe Camps
Little Makalolo Camp update - August 08                Jump to Little Makalolo Camp

The temperatures are definitely rising with the coming of spring. This is making game viewing more exciting as more animals are utilising the pumped water as most of the seasonal natural waterholes have now dried up. The lowest recorded temperature was 5° Celsius while the highest was 34° Celsius.

Vegetation and Water
The water situation in our concession is looking good as all our pumps are working, although we hope this does not change much as we get into the drier months. Vegetation is still extremely sparse making viewing and visibility easy, although some trees like the acacias, peeling bark ochna and bluebushes are in new leaf.

Wildlife Sightings
If everyone out there knew what action you were missing we would probably see you arriving in no time! Game viewing has been just too special, if not bordering on exceptionally superb.

Early this month we had lions kill a buffalo cow just behind my safari vehicle at Little Makalolo's pan. This saw us having to host all kind of visitors at the kill site in the form all the four vulture species - namely White-backed, Hooded, White-headed and the bully Lappet-faced Vulture. Black-backed jackal and the notorious spotted hyaena also joined in the spoils. Lion and leopard have also been seen drinking at the camp pool and main bird bath respectively.

We thought the disappearance of the Ngamo Boys would affect our lion sightings but not at all as we have had good and almost constant sightings: The Spice Seniors, the Scott's lioness, four of the Spice Junior lionesses, the fifth Spice Junior Lioness which seems to have eloped with Ugly, the Ngweshla male, and Peugeot and Cruiser who are both enjoying most of the area.

Rhino sightings were excellent including mating rhino at Airstrip 2 Pan. A small group of three rhino have been seen, comprising one adult cow , one sub-adult and an adult bull that are all not part of those reintroduced last year as they all had sharper horns. White rhino bull No.43 seems to have found himself a free territory between us and Makalolo Plains and has been frequently sighted. As if that's not enough three leopard sightings at the log pile added to the show this month.

This month's sightings percentages were as follows:
Elephant, buffalo, zebra, wildebeest, baboon, vervet monkey - 100%; lion - 70%; leopard - 22%, hyaena - 55%, roan - 55%; sable - 83% .

Birding has been fairly quiet but we did see juvenile Brown Snake-Eagle and juvenile Martial Eagle, both in the Linkwasha Vlei area on the same game drive. The resident Red-billed Francolin are doing well in camp and have more chicks. Meyer's Parrots are often seen and the Zambezi teak woodlands produced some interesting mixed feeding flocks with species including Stierling's Wren-Warbler.

Guest Comments
So many highlights: camp setting, the rooms and decor, the drives and excellent guides, caring staff, excellent food - T, France
Don't change anything - P family, France
Seeing a kill, start to finish, five lionesses and the buffalo herds: Wow! - Robert, USA


Ruckomechi Camp update - August 08                Jump to Ruckomechi Camp

The Zambezi Valley heat has finally hit us this month and temperatures have been in the upper 30° Celsius for the last part of the month. Siesta time at the pool is now the norm and the warm, sultry summer evenings are spent on the star gazing deck under the vast expanse of the African night sky.

Winds of reasonable strength have had our canoeists about to leave on the Mana Canoe Trail eying the river with trepidation on some days but midday usually sees the wind change to a gentle breeze, bringing a refreshing coolness to otherwise hot, sticky afternoons.

Unfortunately bushfire season (annual uncontrolled slash-and-burn by local communities mostly) has started early this year and a smoke haze is slowly blanketing the Valley each day. Vast areas on the southern side of the escarpment are already burnt and the orange glow from the fires can be seen at night along the Zambian Escarpment.

Elephant on the banks of the Zambezi at Ruckomechi      Hippos at Ruckomechi Camp

Vegetation, Landscape and the Zambezi River
As the dry season fast approaches the bush is opening up and animal sightings are getting better each day. Inland pans are quickly drying up and Parachute Pan, located behind the new Ruckomechi Camp, is barely a puddle now. The acacias continue to produce vast quantities of nutritious pods and therefore draw large numbers of elephants into camp each day. The Natal mahogany trees have begun to flower and the sweet smell of these permeates the still air in the evenings.

The river level has dropped significantly over the last few weeks and the channel in front of the camp is now very shallow with big mud banks. Large shoals of bream (Tilapia) can be seen cruising through the shallows from the front deck.

With the hot weather, water temperatures have warmed up too and the tiger fishing has improved greatly. Many of our local Zimbabwean guests come at this time of the year to try their hand at catching the "big one" and evenings are spent drifting down the Zambezi, watching the sunset in all its glory while trying to catch one of these formidable fish. We strictly follow a catch-and-release policy here and once photos are taken these fish are gently released back into the water to once again swim these mighty waters.

View from newly rebuilt Ruckomechi Camp

Wildlife News
The hot, dry season is the time for great game viewing and August has been an exciting month in this respect.

A cheetah was seen on a couple of occasions, causing great excitement amongst guides and guests alike. These graceful animals are uncommon here and when one does come into the concession it generally stays for a couple of days before moving on. Another rare sighting this month was that of a serval. This secretive creature was spotted on two separate occasions on night drives and seems to prefer the cover of the long, thick 'adrenalin grass'.

Our lion have had a challenging month with continued visits from a couple of new males to the area. These two males are an odd-looking pair, one missing the end of his tail and the other a large male with no mane. They seem to have an avid interest in our resident females and their two cubs, so we have watched with interest the interaction between all these lion. The two resident males seem to avoid confrontation with the interlopers and we are still not sure what the final outcome of these visitations may be.

Leopard sightings have been good, with most being seen on night drives in the vicinity of the Ruckomechi riverbed. A mating pair was spotted not far from the camp one evening and the guests were lucky enough to observe them quietly without disturbing the pair at all. There would appear to be a resident leopard around the new camp as well and on many a morning the quiet stillness is shattered with the frantic alarm barking of the troop of baboons perched in the trees at the end of the camp. Sibs found the evidence of the demise of one of these baboons one morning whilst investigating the tracks and signs in the area where all the noise came from.

The whole concession is teeming with elephant and as far as the eye can see there are small family groups dotted around the area. Many of these groups pass through the camp on a daily basis and regularly wade across the channel in front of the dining room and feed on the island in front of the camp. These massive creatures often put our boardwalks to the test and it is fascinating watching them gingerly testing the wooden walkway before putting their weight on it whilst trying to cross.

The Southern Carmine Bee-eaters arrived in August and the first ones were seen taking up residence in the Charara River opposite our boat 'harbour'. This colony is growing larger by the day and these magnificent scarlet-coloured birds are a sight to behold when coming into their bank nests in the late evening.

African Skimmers at Ruckomechi      Southern Carmine Bee-eaters at Ruckomechi

If one sits quietly on the deck in the morning a variety of kingfishers can be seen and easily photographed in the soft morning light. A pair of Giant Kingfishers is often observed catching bream right in front of the dining room while a Brown-hooded Kingfisher uses the edge of the stargazing deck as a perch from which to look into the waters below. A stunning Malachite Kingfisher is a local resident as well and many guests have succeeded in getting those "one in a million" shots of it with its vivid colours reflected in the golden light of the sunrise.

A Grey Crowned Crane are still in residence on the island opposite the camp and it can often be heard calling in the first hours of the morning when its cry can be heard echoing across the river.

African Skimmer eggs

Mathew and some guests were lucky enough to spot an African Skimmer's nest on a sandbank one afternoon as they were canoeing down the river. This nest is now closely watched by all and we wait with bated breath for the chicks to hatch.

This month we have welcomed a few new additions to our team. Ashley Rimmer has joined us to take over the role of hostess at Ruckomechi Camp and she has quickly settled in and added her personal touches to the camp. The guides have continued to excel in keeping guests entertained and happy out there in the bush. Sibs, Julian, Tendai and Kevin have all had a very successful month with lots of exciting sightings throughout. Alistair has as always most admirably kept all our vehicles on the road and made sure that both camps function with minimal maintenance problems.

Mana Canoe Trail Exploration
Our Mana Canoe Trails team has been very busy this month and have been out on the water every day safely leading our guests down the fascinating Zambezi River.


Mana Canoe & Walking Trail Safari report - late August 08                Jump to Mana Canoe & Walking Trail Safari

After arriving at Ruckomechi Camp and settling in, Kevin (camp guide) suggested an afternoon drive down to the Zambezi River for sunset. Drink in hand, and with elephants milling around us we inspected a Canadian canoe for stability and wondered what the following three days were going to bring. Hearing stories of wedding rings ending up in the River, the concern seemed to be more about the canoeing compatibility of one's partner rather than grumpy hippo. The sun had set and our adventure was waiting around the next bend in the mighty Zambezi. Driving back to camp we had good sightings of several nocturnal mammal species: African civet, large spotted genet and hyaena.

Mana Canoe Trail campsite      Elephant and canoeing on the Zambezi River

Next morning we opted for an early morning game drive - a side-striped jackal was enjoying the morning sun as we headed for concession areas with odd names like an open grassy plain dubbed 'the golf course' and a road called 'cat alley'. All around us was tall 'adrenalin' grass. Suddenly we caught sight of a lioness hiding in this grass with a couple of warthog in her sights. Our view was quite obscured so we circled around - ending up back at the spot where we thought we had seen her. 'She's not there!' we all cried out, only to hear squealing pig sounds just to our left. A bit of off-roading and we discovered the ambush site: two lionesses had caught a warthog in the adrenalin grass and were feeding on it.

Later that afternoon we headed out to meet our canoe safari guides. On the way we passed a herd of elephant, submerged up to their bellies and quietly feeding. The scene was surreal, as if straight out of a BBC wildlife documentary - David Attenborough's narrative voice was all that was missing.

After an initial family meeting about who should sit where, Tendai (our legendary river guide or should I say god) gave us a safety briefing, we selected our life jackets, waterproofed our digital gear and set off all while remembering our sacred wedding vows. The afternoon on the River turned out to be fine and we soon got over any reservations thinking, 'this is easy, we can do it!' 'One more kilometre and we would be at camp', remarks Tendai, so we joined together forming a raft. Well-earned drinks were distributed and as we approached the last bend before camp, LOTS of crocodiles were basking on the banks and a dead hippo floats into view. In all directions we counted thirty six crocodiles, all hoping for a piece of the action.

On the Mana Canoe Trail      Saddlebilled Stork

On we drifted and met up with the Mana Canoe Trail support staff for our first night's camping. The trail staff welcomed us and showed us to our tents where our bags had already been delivered. We took a tour of our fabulous campsite: the loo had a view and hot showers were beckoning. Dinner, can you believe it, was roast lamb with golden-roasted potatoes and fresh vegetables. With gin and tonics in hand, customary campfire chat was enjoyed for a while before it was time to retire to our comfortable tents.

No need for morning wake-up calls, everybody finds (smells) their way to the campfire for morning coffee with a continental breakfast spread soon appearing. I was told elephant were nearby during the night, but I soundly slept through their visit. Back in canoes, Tendai looks ahead scanning for hippo and the best route to avoid them. Thankfully they were all very accommodating - no need for protracted negotiations, they graciously let us pass on the shallow side.

We are delighted by Saddle-billed Storks fishing in the early light and other bird species everywhere - White-crowned Lapwing and Meve's Starling our constant orchestra. Southern Carmine Bee-eaters have arrived displacing the resident White-fronted Bee-eaters for nest sites in a sandy bank. We even spot a few birds sitting on their nests: Black-winged Stilts and African Skimmers - both being precocial birds, just modest scrapes in the sand with highly camouflaged eggs.

The canoeing is creatively interspersed with morning and afternoon walks back on terra firma. We are spoilt for choice - at least two herds of eland allow us good views, common waterbuck keep us under close observation and a sleeping hippo rests amongst the leaf litter of a shady tree. As we approach the hippo, single file and in silence, a Verreaux's Eagle-owl abandons his day time perch. Mr Hippo thankfully sleeps on. Back to the canoes for a cool Coke, time was spent watching an elephant herd mud bathing, the tiny one just wanted to romp around and share the love or the mud in this case!

Lions feeding - Mana Canoe Trail      Wild Dog - Mana Canoe Trail

Back on the River we jump at the chance of a swim in the shallow waters. Continuing downstream we see a buffalo herd on the right bank, elephants feeding among the albida trees as we slide past quietly. The elephants feeding antics were hilarious - stretching up on their back legs to reach the nutritious pods. Digital cameras were working overtime, Tendai constantly scanning ahead, confirming our route.

The lunch spread was enough to feed an army: fresh bread, vegetable tarts, meat pies and salads. A Yellow-billed Kite floats over and takes a birds-eye inspection of the lunch table. After lunch it's time for a siesta. 'No swimming here; don't even think about it', says Brian before wandering off to find a shady tree for forty winks. I close my eyes, but lie there wondering about every splash and chirp. A Black-backed Puffback calls and flits around in the bushes. There is a repetitive sound coming from the deep shade; I cannot possibly sleep and decide to seek out the source. There I find a lesser-spotted-snoring Bryan and a Bearded Woodpecker also fancied that tree.

The rest of the afternoon is more of the glorious same, walking and canoeing with animals and birds at every turn. We paddle on, seeing who can spot our camp site first. With glee we paddle towards our next camp site. Tents are set up and every detail thought of: cute mirrors, a potty for night time and a duvet and pillows promise a comfy night in Mana Pools. A bit of a ruckus from the baboons and Tendai has spotted something. 'There's a leopard down by the canoes if anyone wants to have a look', he casually announces.

The next day there is more talk between the men about the "pulling" power of their canoe buddies and singing from the girls to the tune of "stuck in the middle with you" by Stealer's Wheel. Our words were a little different - 'clowns (elephant) on the left of me, jokers (hippo) on the right, here I am, stuck in a canoe with you and yes mum that is a hippo over there'.

It's a long paddle to Chickwenya Island - about 3km. Finally we float in for lunch, and decide between setting up lunch in the river's cool waters or in the shade of trees. We enjoyed cold chicken drumsticks, salad rolls, pasta and bacon salad, coleslaw, beetroot, bean salad and vanilla cake. Having eaten far too much, we ease into the water for a refreshing dip. We absolutely trash the existing fishing record with the 'townies' achieving personal bests: A bream is the first catch, then a small tiger fish, which is released, then a cat fish. We head off for camp, knowing that chef is going to be delighted with our dinner contribution! Back to the canoes singing "stuck in a canoe with you". We negotiate the Chickwenya Rapids and with the setting sun arrive at our final camp site. We are utterly filthy, having had to wade through waist-deep mud, to avoid a pair of buffalo. Our camp hosts announce that we are to have chicken 'potjiekos' (traditional stew) for dinner - yummy!

Our final day starts with a leisurely wake up and breakfast overlooking the river; waterbuck, buffalo and ground hornbills are feeding on the opposite bank. We got news that our plane will be at Chickwenya strip at 9 am so we say our sad goodbyes to the Mana Canoe Team and take a short drive to the airstrip, stopping to look at an ancient baobab tree. Driving up to the airstrip Tendai notices a pack of wild dogs lying in the shade of a tree - it's as if they have been waiting there just to say 'Bon Voyage'. The plane was a bit late, but that is fine with us!

River guide: Tendai
Walking guide: Bryan
Hosts: Charmain and Jo (Chappy)


Namibia camps
Lianshulu Lodge update - August 08               Jump to Lianshulu Lodge

Overall, the weather during August has been excellent: Mostly still days with clear, blue skies so typical of the winter months. Some wind came through during the latter half of the month.

The Mayeyi Traditional Authority, managing authority over Balyerwa, Wuparo, Malengalenga and Shikaku Conservancies had their 12th Annual Cultural Festival in August. A whole day of exciting festivities was all about local culture and dancing performances. The honourable Mayeyi Chief Sifu also attended. The Minister of Health and Social Services, Dr. Richard Kamwi, was also the guest of honour this festival.

Mayeyi Annual Cultural Festival      Mayeyi Annual Cultural Festival      Mayeyi Annual Cultural Festival

Lianshulu Lodge also hosted the Minister of Environment and Tourism, Mrs Netumbo on her visit to Mudumu National Park recently.

Around the lodge, an elephant wreaked havoc in our vegetable garden, but at least left us with the bananas! Some trees within camp also suffered as he moved through the area, but one has to remember this is a wilderness area and therefore belongs to him as much as anyone else...

Boat trips on the Kwando River are one of our big highlights and game drives into Mudumu National Park are still producing some excellent sightings: the local wild dog pack has been seen a few times providing some thrilling moments for guests.

Guest Comments
PJ, Tillburg, Holland - "Outstanding! Nice experiences."
EH, Surrey, United Kingdom - "Great food, lovely staff, our favourite place. Wonderful, our 3rd visit."
G, Munich, Germany - "Hope to come again!"
D, Suffolk, England - "Fantastic! Thank you all so much."


Kulala Desert Lodge update - August 08               Jump to Kulala Desert Lodge

A group of International vintage car enthusiasts entered into 'The Classic Safari'. This rally starts in Cape Town, moving through Namibia and Botswana before returning to the Mother City. The third night of this tour was hosted at Kulala Desert Lodge and the group enjoyed the lodge, food and staff tremendously - even joining in on the evening's singing and dancing. Part of this group was Michael Wilkinson and his wife Anne. He specifically brought his surfboard, to 'surf' down Big Mama Dune.

Michael and Anne Wilkinson at Kulala Desert Lodge

Kulala Desert Lodge easily provides the closest access to the red sand dunes of Sossusvlei and morning drives into the Park have been very productive with many guests returning to camp boasting exceptional landscape pictures. The early morning ballooning safaris over this magical topography of southern Namibia also continues to be a hit with guests. Kulala has 40 000 hectares of its own land, namely the private Kulala Wilderness Reserve on which we also conduct nature drives. Gemsbok, springbok, black-backed jackal are some of the more common of our larger mammal species.

National Geographic Society Group at Kulala      Cheetah at Kulala

Although this is not big game country, the National Geographic Society Group, under guidance of Festus, was very fortunate to find a cheetah feeding on a kill. Cheetah around Sossusvlei is a special sighting as these graceful predators are generally rarely seen here.


Andersson's Camp update - August 08               Jump to Andersson's Camp

Andersson's Camp is now seven months old and well into another busy season.

Our waterhole is proving to be one of the camp's best attractions: situated only 20 metres from a comfortable couch and well-lit at night. There has been an abundance of game daily - thus far including, kudu, springbok, black-faced impala, gemsbok (oryx), red hartebeest, blue wildebeest, eland, plains zebra and southern giraffe.

Predators like lion, cheetah, spotted hyaena and black-backed jackal are occasionally seen at the waterhole in the evenings and more often than not heard calling during the night.

White and black rhino also frequent the waterhole including a young black rhino named Oden and his friend (for now) Asterix, who almost every evening put on a different show as they try to dominate the waterhole.

Lioness at Andersson's Camp

A camera trap was placed at the waterhole to record on film what has been frequenting the waterhole during the night when everybody was in bed. A number of animals including hyaena, lion, rhino and most of the antelope species were caught on film. The camera takes pictures without using a flash so disturbance to the animals is practically zero.

A curious young lion decided however that this camera would be more functional as a play toy and ripped the camera off the tree to which it was attached - chewing holes into the casing and dragging its 'kill' under a tree 500 metres away where it lost interest. The last picture the camera took was of the lion ready to pounce...

Camp Award
Eco awards Namibia paid Andersson's Camp a visit and we are proud to say we have received 'three flowers' for the camp. The eco awards Namibia are intentionally modelled 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, landscaping, guiding, staff development and social responsibility. With room for improvement in some of these areas we are now striving to be a 'four flower' camp in the near future!


Malawi Camps
Kaya Mawa Lodge update - August 08                Jump to Kaya Mawa Lodge

The 'Mwera season', in mainland terms, means the 'windy season'. To be honest, apart from the last few days where we even managed to get out on the paddle skis and go surfing, the weather has been pretty kind to us with the days being hot, the nights cool and clear. This all made dining on the beach a little cooler than usual but still the best place for stargazing and pondering whether to do anything at all the next day.

Chizimulu and Likoma dance-off at Kaya Mawa      View onto the lake at Kaya Mawa

Nkwazi Village is full of life as we have entered the Chioda and Malipenga season, beating drum, vibrant costumes and dancing competitions. Kaya Mawa sponsor both the men's and women's local teams. Last weekend about 1000 people turned up at the far end of Nkwazi Beach to watch as teams from Chizimulu and Likoma had a dance-off over the two days. Chizimulu took the prize - this has been the result for as long as we can remember! But the competition is not everything, as each Chioda member plays host to the opposing team and the village in the evening is a buzz of activity. For guests at Kaya Mawa it is always a treat to be able to go and watch one of the competitions and be welcomed in by the islanders. We usually do much better in the men's event!

New Quad Bikes at Kaya Mawa

What has been fun is to see the reaction to the latest attraction here at Kaya Mawa. We have purchased four four-stroke quad bikes. We have spent the last week fine-tuning them and we have worked out the best routes to take. We now 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!" As for the guests, our first went out yesterday and arrived back full of praise.


Kenya camps
Governors' Camp update - August 08               Jump to Governors' Camp

Throughout August we had cool mornings and evenings around camp and out on the plains, but by midday the temperatures had climbed to a sizzling 30ºC. We had very little rain which came as two storms which fell out on paradise plain.
The big news to report from the Mara this month is the abundance of Mara River Crossings. The wildebeest herds have been crossing the Mara River on an almost daily basis, much to the delight of our guests and guides alike. On some days huge herds have taken the plunge into the swirling crocodile infested currents. On the 3rd of August a big herd of zebra and wildebeest assembled on the far banks of the River, they began to cross at around 07:30am and by 12:30pm the last wildebeest had made it safely across and on the 17th an estimated 5000 wildebeest crossed the Mara River. The resident Nile Crocodiles have been enjoying their annual feeding frenzy snatching a few unfortunate zebra or wildebeest, one or two lucky animals have also managed to jump free from the jaws of an over ambitious crocodile making it safely to the far bank.

Wildebeests crossing the Mara River      Aerial entrance for river crossing!
  All these crossings have resulted in hundreds of thousands of wildebeest covering the plains and ridges around Governors’ Camp. It is quite a sight to behold!

The resident family units of elephant continue to feed in the forest on the banks of the river during the day, often coming into camp at night to forage on bushes and the low lying branches of trees. Some families head out into the grasslands of the neighbouring savannah or into the acacia woodland to feed on the sweet bark; a favourite of theirs. The soft lush grasses surrounding the Musiara Marsh and the grasslands of the plains continue to support large herds of topi, Grants Gazelles, waterbuck and of course big herds of zebra and wildebeest. The breeding herd of buffalo with many young calves continue to graze on the fringes of the Marsh and the woodland between the camps is home to herds of impala. We have seen loose herds of giraffe with calves in crèches or journeys filing out across the plains in search of alternative feeding grounds; with the young males spending their time jostling for dominance and hierarchy.
In the long grass on the edge of the woodland Serval Cats have been preying on mice, ground birds and on two occasions on Thomson gazelle fawns. Large families of Olive Baboons have also been out foraging on the edges of the marsh coming back to the forest to roost overnight in the large Warburgia trees close to the river.
The Bila Shaka/Marsh pride of three males of which one dark manned Lion is called ‘Pavarotti’ and seven females continues to grow. The pride now has ten cubs of varying age groups which is a fantastic sign of the health and strength of the pride. The whole pride has now moved and taken up residence on the edge of our airstrip much to the delight of arriving /  departing guests and pilots who don’t have to travel far to see this magnificent family. They have also been causing some of the local pilots lot of frustration as the young cubs have been chewing on the tyres of parked light aircraft! The arrival of the migration into our area has meant that the pride has been feeding well on wildebeest and zebra which are in plentiful supply. On the 26th some members of the pride came across a hen ostrich that was sitting on around 30 precious eggs. The lions charged the mother ostrich and stole three eggs They then cracked open them and ate the yolks. The poor mother hen got such a fright that she took off and never returned.
The Ridge/paradise pride of two young males and five other males who were part of the former Bila Shaka pride and the two females with three cubs estimated at four months old, they are feeding regularly off the many wildebeest who move into their territory which includes the crossing points and paradise plain.
With plenty of long grass to stalk in and lots of young wildebeest to hunt, the resident cheetah are also thriving at the moment. They have all been feeding well and there have even been some new additions to the cheetah population which is fantastic!
The leopards of our area continue to fare well. Kijana and his mother Pole Pole have been making their presence felt often in the woodland between our camp and Kijana was seen hunting a female bushbuck in the woodlands near the BBC camp towards the middle of the month. This is very close to the territory of the new large male who has been seen often in the woodlands around the BBC camp site. At the other end of paradise plain near the wildebeest crossing points another male and female leopard have been feeding regularly. Both have been hunting Thomson Gazelles which prefer the short grass plains and often travel with the migrating wildebeest herds. Indeed we have seen the female on several occasions with her kill draped over the branches of a favourite Diospyros tree close to the river.  

Walking Safaris
With the dry weather we have had some wonderful walking safaris this month together with our clients in our private walking concession. We have seen journeys of giraffe moving across the plains in search of different habitats and feeding grounds. The Acacia lion pride of three females and five cubs of varying ages have been feeding off well on Zebra and wildebeest. Elephant families have spent much time in the acacia woodlands feeding off the bark with its high content of sucrose.

The Gorge clan of Spotted Hyena which numbers around 16 members have spent much of their time on the escarpment overlooking our walking concession feeding frequently on wildebeest. Spotted Hyenas are cursorials, they have tremendous stamina and will run their prey down as was seen on the 15th on the open plains above the small plateau when an adult female loped towards a group of wildebeest, she singled out one wildebeest which she accelerated on to and ran it down in 20 minutes, she pulled it down by biting and holding into the stomach muscle until the wildebeest surrendered. Within seconds ten other members of the clan joined her to feed. A silver- backed Jackal bitch with her three pups are also doing well with the male and female both working hard together to rear their young.

A small breeding herd of forty Cape Buffalo are resident on the grassland plains above the plateau and there are many young calves in this herd. During the night the Aardvarks and Pangolins have been busy digging for insects and small grubs and together with our guests we were delighted to enjoy two lovely early morning sightings of a pair or Aardwolves, a female and her cub. Aardwolves are a Hyenid and have adapted an insectivorous diet and out on the open plains below the plateau there is alot of activity from the resident the harvester termites which has been keeping the Aardwolves interested.

We hope to share the magic of our corner of the Mara with you sometime soon.


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Eyes on Africa is proud to be a certified Fundi - a South Africa Tourism Specialist                           Eyes on Africa is endorsed by IATAN - International Airlines Travel Agent Network           Eyes on Africa is a member of the Better Business Bureau             Eyes on Africa is a member of ASTA - The American Society of Travel Agents (member #900143776)

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Eyes on Africa, Ltd.
1743 West Fletcher Street
Chicago, Illinois 60657
Tel: 800.457.9575 / 773.549.0169    Fax: 773.327.2977    Email: Eyes on Africa

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