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Page 1 Updates
General information and updates from our partners in Africa.
Interesting wildlife sightings and photos.
Camp specific news, including refurbs, rebuilds, accolades, etc.
Monthly update from North Island in the Seychelles.
Monthly update from Kings Pool Camp in
Kwando Safaris game reports.
Monthly update from Mombo Camp in Botswana.
Monthly update from Chitabe Camp in Botswana.
Monthly update from Kwetsani Camp in
Monthly update from Jao
Camp in Botswana.
Monthly update from Tubu Tree Camp in
Monthly update from Vumbura Plains in
THREE Trip Reports from the Green Desert Expedition in
Monthly update from Pafuri Camp in
Monthly update from Rocktail
Bay in South Africa.
Monthly update from Ongava Lodge in Namibia.
Monthly update from Little Ongava in Namibia.
Monthly update from Serra Cafema Camp in Namibia.
Monthly update from Damaraland Camp in Namibia.
Monthly update from Doro Nawas Camp in Namibia.
Monthly Update from Desert Rhino Camp in
Monthly update from Governors' Camp in Kenya's Masai Mara.
Safaris Updates - February 2008
Safari & Adventure Company
Safari & Adventure Co., representing the roots of Wilderness Safaris’ first forays into tented camps in the late 1980s, has begun its adventures. A new website has just been launched, which gives potential adventurers a taste of some of the camps on offer, particularly Pafuri Camp, Rocktail Bay Lodge and Rocktail Beach Camp. Andersson’s Camp in Namibia has also opened its doors as a Safari & Adventure Co. camp and will be followed by two Lufupa camps in Zambia in May and June this year.
For more, go to www.safariadventurecompany.com.
The Grotesque and just Plain Ugly
Location: Pafuri Camp, Makuleke Concession, Kruger National Park
Date: February 2008
Observers: Walter Jubber
With good rains comes the awakening of what many people describe as ugly or grotesque - the armoured ground crickets, sometimes known as corn crickets. Any increase in resources allows for population explosions of certain animals and in this case the armoured ground crickets are enjoying the currently lush vegetation at Pafuri.
These strange and scary-looking insects belong to the Family Bradyporidae and were previously placed within the Family Tettigoniidae (Katydid Family) and in the sub-family Hetrodinae. They are predominately herbivorous, feeding on foliage of trees and shrubs, but in certain species even Red-billed Quelea chicks are eaten and they will scavenge. They occasionally display signs of cannibalism and this is evident in times of severe population explosions where they are found in huge numbers, crossing roads (which is literally covered by these moving crickets, almost like a carpet) and getting driven over. The dead and injured get promptly eaten by the followers and neighbours.
There are five genera within the subregion and approximately 30 species. Only the males produce sound and this is produced by reduced forewings which are vigorously rubbed together, causing the row of file-like teeth on the wings to produce a high pitched sound to attract the attention of a potential mate. The hind wings are absent altogether and the reduced forewings are present underneath the spiny, thoracic shield of the male. Males will also drop from vegetation or if feeling harassed stridulate their wings producing a series of alarm chirps. Armoured ground crickets will also release yellow haemolymph (blood) which smells unpleasant and acts as a deterrent.
Many mammal and bird species prey on these crickets and despite their defences they represent a valuable food source. This was evident at Pafuri this year when we had large flocks of White Storks, numbering anything from 100 to 500, moving alongside the Marabou Storks feeding on the crickets. I have also witnessed a Brown-hooded Kingfisher doing a juggling act and tenderising an armoured ground cricket before eventually manoeuvring its unfortunate victim down its gullet. European Rollers and Lesser Spotted Eagles have also been taking part in the feast of crickets.
With the good rains, nymphs emerge within two days, and begin their life processes, first feeding on the available vegetation. Once adult size is reached, the males begin with their romantic chirping to attract mates, at times with several males chasing after a single female at once. Once mating has occurred the female will lay her eggs in shaded soil. Anything from three to 14 eggs is deposited, depending on the species. These eggs may lie dormant in the soil for up to a year, all depending upon the next summer's rainfall.
Giraffe protects dead foal
Location: Mombo Camp, Moremi Game Reserve, Okavango Delta, Botswana
Date: February 2008
Observers: Matt Copham
On game drive at Mombo this weekend we responded to sounds of spotted hyaena activity. Arriving at the scene of the commotion we found an adult giraffe standing over the apparently lifeless body of her foal. A number of other giraffe were present (at some distance). Surrounding the two animals were five hyaenas, tails raised in excitement and low threatening calls punctuated with bursts of excited cackling laughter filling the air.
The adult giraffe was not intimidated by the hyaenas and persisted in kicking out at them with long, awkward (but deadly) legs and hooves, trying to drive them away from her offspring. One of the hyaenas had a large fresh wound on his shoulder possibly from the giraffe. The hyaenas had already begun to attack the carcass however and their blood-covered mouths probably only served to stir them up even further. In the face of this, and driven by a strong maternal instinct, the mother giraffe persistently approached the body of the foal and tried unsuccessfully to coax it to follow her. Eventually after about an hour, the cow moved off with the rest of the herd and the hyaenas moved in to finish their booty.
It is entirely possible that the hyaenas had brought down the giraffe themselves but I suspect that the giraffe had been killed by a leopard who in turn was chased off by the hyaena clan.
Great Green Season Birding at Ongava
Location: Ongava Game Reserve, Namibia
Date: February 2008
Observers: Martin Benadie
Approximately 14 species of birds are regarded as endemic, or near-endemic, to Namibia and most of these have distributions restricted to the north-west of the country. Three of these have distributions restricted to the western coastal strip and escarpment fringe. These include the Dune Lark, Gray's Lark and the Damara Tern. The remaining species are all found in the north-western parts of the country.
Ongava Game Reserve, on the border of Etosha National Park, is a hotspot for finding several of Namibia's north-western endemics and unusual bird species. On a recent visit to the reserve and Little Ongava Camp we enjoyed some exciting birding. The low dolomite outcrops found within the reserve are ideal habitat for many special birds. Here we found Bare-cheeked Babbler, Monteiro's Hornbill, Carp's Tit, Short-toed Rock-Thrush, a shy covey of Hartlaub's Francolin and Rockrunner.
Other special birds found on drives in the reserve included Eurasian Hobby, Chestnut Weaver, White-tailed Shrike, Pririt Batis, Kori Bustard, Northern Black Korhaan, Buffy Pipit and Red-footed Falcon to mention a few. Violet Woodhoopoe is seen on occasion.
Apart from the birding, a reptilian highlight was encountering an Anchieta's Dwarf Python - a beautiful adult specimen of just over one metre.
Chitabe Leopard Identi-kits
Leopard viewing at Chitabe over 2007 and 2008 has been phenomenal with a number of different individuals seen on a regular basis. As a result we decided to profile those seen most often and to provide an easily accessible database for comparison of photos to identify leopards photographed at Chitabe.
Identifying individual leopards is most reliably achieved by noting the number of whisker spots on each side of the nose and recording this combination in the 'right to left' order. In the case of Chitabe, the female leopard known as Mosadi Mogolo has the combination of 2:2 - two spots on the left and two on the right, while the Fossil Female has the combination 3:2 - three on the right and two on the left. These spots do not change in a leopard's lifetime and can thus be used to distinguish a leopard throughout its life. It is not uncommon that leopards have the same combination of whisker spots however and in cases like this the spacing and exact arrangement of the spots as well as age and also distinctive markings such as scars or damaged ears or tails, are used to differentiate individuals.
Mosadi Mogolo (Old Lady) (2:2)
Female leopard - approximately 6 years old. Has a distinctive white spot on her back, and many battle-scars on her nose and distinctive notches in both ears. Succesfully raised a cub in 2006. Lost her cub in October last year to a lioness attack. Her range is from Balance Plant Road in the west to Acacia Road in the east.
Madi Female (3:3)
Young female of approximately 2 years: possible offspring of Mosadi Mogolo. Most often seen in the Madi Road/ Dogs Pan area. Currently no distinctive scars or ear notches.
Fossil Female (3:2)
Approximately 8 years old. This female is seen from north of the airstrip to the southern area of Fossil Road. She has two cubs born in approximately August or September 2007: Fossil Cub Female (3:4) and Fossil Cub Male (4:4). Possible mother of Mosadi Mogolo: the two have been observed interacting in a non-aggressive manner. Very distinctively clipped right ear and small notch in left ear.
Mokgoto Female (2:2)
Adult female of approximately 4 years. Seen in the Mokgoto Road area. A slight scar on the upper right unmarked part of the muzzle helps identify her.
Marula Female (4:4)
Young female, approximately 2 years old - seen close to camp from River Road to Madi Road. On both the left and right side of the nose the fourth whisker spot is small and positioned above the other three.
Fossil Male (2:2)
Large, old male leopard with a obvious dewlap. Approximately 9 years old with battle-scarred ears. Seen from Fossil Road northwards to the Gomoti. A grizzled male with distinctively disfigured left ear.
Abundant emergence of Mopane Moths
Location: Ongava Game Reserve, Namibia
Date: 10 February 2008
Observers: Martin Benadie, Leon Steyn
The late summer rains brought welcome relief to all the animals in Ongava Game Reserve recently. These rains brought another wildlife phenomenon however - the emergence of hundreds of mopane moths (Imbrasia belina) every night. The moth stage of this insect is very short-lived with the primary aim of mating and depositing eggs to ensure the continued survival of the species. During this stage the insect does not actually feed, concentrating all its energies on reproducing.
At this time of year these moths are an abundant and welcome food supply for many creatures. Around the dolomite outcrop on which Little Ongava is situated we observed Striped Tree Squirrels and many bird species - notably Bare-cheeked Babbler, Monteiro's Hornbill, and Pearl-spotted Owlet - enjoying this protein-rich snack. In time, caterpillars will emerge from the eggs laid by the mopane moths and will in turn serve as a favoured food source for humans and animals alike. Its distribution in southern Africa follows that of its primary host plant, the mopane tree (Colophospermum mopane) which dominates the vegetation on this reserve and on which these caterpillars feed voraciously.
The life cycle of this moth is fairly complex. The adult moths lay a single cluster of 50 to 200 eggs on bark or on the leaves of host plants over a two-month period. After approximately ten days the larvae emerge and then pass through five instars (moulting phases where skins are shed as the larvae change shape and size) before pupation. Instars 1 to 3 of the caterpillars are strictly gregarious and will forage together in aggregations of 20 to 200 individuals. After moulting into instar 4, the caterpillars disperse immediately to become solitary. The larval stage lasts approximately 6 weeks during which time the caterpillars undergo a 4000-fold increase in body mass. At the end of the larval stage the fifth instar caterpillars burrow into the soil, where they undergo a period of diapause (inactivity). Eclosion (emergence from cocoons) occurs either one or six to seven months after pupation, depending on the generation. The non-feeding adult moth stage lasts only two to three days, during which time the only function of the imago (adult moth) is to find receptive mates and to oviposit their eggs.
Also of interest is that there appears to be a wide diversity in the colouration and patterning found on these moths. Some adults noted were richly coloured with distinct 'false eyes' whilst others were more cryptic in colour.
Mopane caterpillars are a very important food source for local people.
This local delicacy is prepared for eating by squeezing out the gut contents before they are fried in their own body fat or boiled in a little water. Most of the caterpillars are dried so that they can be stored for use throughout the year. Dried caterpillars may be eaten dry as a snack or rehydrated and cooked in a little water before they are fried in oil with onion and tomato. They may be served with pap (maize meal porridge), onion and tomato gravy and atchar (chili sauce).
Nutritional Content: The caterpillars are about 60% protein, 17% fat and 11% minerals - on a dry matter basis.
Swimming female cheetah
Location: Selinda Camp, NG16 (Selinda Concession), northern Botswana
Date: 8 February 2008
Observers: Ute Latzke, Roberto Viviani & Kim Nixon
"Cats hate water," so the age old adage goes. Well, not in northern Botswana and not during either the winter flood season in the Okavango or during high rainfall summers in the Okavango and Selinda/Linyanti area. The latter has been the case the past few months and high rainfall has caused an inundation of floodplains and swelling of channels and rivers. In cases like this lion, leopard, cheetah and even smaller carnivores are forced to ford open water in their attempts to cover their territories and to find enough food to survive.
This is potentially fatal, a case of entering unfamiliar environments with potential encounters with predators such as crocodiles perfectly adapted to this niche. More often than not low density species like cheetah are not seen indulging in this behaviour and instead only their tracks are seen entering the water.
We were really lucky at the beginning of February while visiting the Selinda Concession to come across a young cheetah just about to enter the Selinda Spillway near Selinda Camp. As we approached and spotted her we noticed her distaste and hesitation at entering the water. She was clearly nervous and scanned the water's surface, pacing up and down on the bank before finally taking the plunge so to speak. A few looks to her left and right and she was off... hissing at imaginary crocodiles all the way across the water.
Had we arrived here five minutes before or after, we would have missed this unusual scene.
Photographic opportunities in the Savuti Channel
Location: DumaTau Camp, Linyanti Concession
Date: February 2008
Observers: Bruce Rosenstiel
One morning on our recent trip to DumaTau we planned our morning game drive around photographing the amazing Southern Carmine Bee-eaters that at this time of the year hawk their insect prey in the long grass of the Savuti Channel. Using static tree perches and also mobile animal and bird perches (mostly Kori Bustards but also occasionally large mammals like zebra and also ostriches) the birds swoop through the air catching insects that have been flushed by the movements of animals progressing through the grass.
We started out early, but the bee-eaters didn't! But then, eventually they did get started. Have you ever attempted to maintain your balance while careening along a rutted, water-soaked trail while photographing very close, very fast, swooping, gliding, stopping birds? I don't think I have ever had so much fun trying to get a photo. Hurrah for autofocus zoom lenses with fast-writing flash cards and burst shooting! We had a ball and together with our guide Grant Atkinson managed to capture a couple of decent images.
But even while we were enjoying our bee-eaters, what did I happen to spot? The Savuti Boys - two of the origianl three male cheetahs who bonded at an early age to form a territorial coalition that monopolizes the prime hunting and reproductive rights along the productive Savuti Channel. That took care of the bee-eaters; off we went to observe and photograph cheetah!
The two 'Boys' were moving at a leisurely pace along the Channel and paused every now again to climb a raised view point and scout ahead for prey. They were equally preoccupied with marking their territory with long-lasting scent markings and we thoroughly enjoyed watching this natural behavior unfold in front of us. Eventually the summer rain started to fall, albeit gently, and the bemused expressions on the faces of the two cheetah amused us before we headed back to camp.
Seychelles: North Island will close for several exciting changes from May 4, 2009 until November 1, 2009.
A significant portion of these changes are geared towards investing in alternative forms of energy and a lighter environmental footprint. Once again as many of the materials as possible will be taken from the ongoing rehabilitation process, and it is hoped that additional, accelerated progress can be made during the closure time of this vital conservation work. Among the changes that will position North Island as the very best Island in the world: Villas 1 to 10 will receive in-villa air-conditioned spa facilities, while Villa 11 (Villa North) will be enhanced to become the ultimate honeymoon and romantic retreat.
Three new villas will be built – one at the existing spa, which will be converted to include three bedrooms and its own private spa and gym. The other two are set above the private beach on the western side of the Island; these will have four rooms each, and share a spa and gym between them.
Botswana: Zibadianja Camp is scheduled to reopen in April this year. This popular and intimate camp is currently being rebuilt on a new site shaded by dense riverine forest and overlooking the Zibadianja floodplain. The camp’s four new Marquis-style tents are all en-suite and furnished with handcrafted ‘campaign’-style furniture. Erected on wooden decks, each tent enjoys spectacular wide vistas. With a maximum of 8 guests, the emphasis is on intimate hospitality. The tents are twin-bedded with double beds available on request.
The minimum age limit in both Zibadianja Camp and Selinda Camp is now eight years old unless the entire camp is booked out.
Namibia: Andersson’s Camp, bordering Etosha National Park and under the Safari & Adventure Co. brand, is now operational and is looking great. There was no use of cement in the tent construction, lights and hot water are solar-generated, and most of the fittings and finishings are ‘recycled-chic’ having been previously used at the nearby Ongava Lodge or in unrelated functions. The waterhole in front of camp is the focus of the main area which is a renovated old farmhouse.
/ North Island
North Island update
- February 08 Jump
February has been somewhat exciting with regard to the sea and weather conditions and has kept us second guessing as to what to expect next.
We had hoped the fantastic conditions of early February would remain for the duration of the month but unfortunately these conditions were not a taste of things to come with a cyclone around Madagascar causing substantial swells and rough seas between 4 and 15 February. The sea was still relatively rough for a further week which put a dampener on some of the activities that were planned. When it did settle the conditions were fantastic again.
One positive effect of the rough sea conditions from the cyclone was a substantial swell that formed, which made for some excellent surfing and body boarding for guests and staff alike at Petit Anse. The swell at Petit Anse had been somewhat dormant for quite some time and the added excitement was enthusiastically welcomed.
The snorkelling at Petit Anse has also been exceptionally good especially on the western reefs toward Honeymoon Beach. The visibility of the water has been far better this side with some great sightings of White Tip Reef Sharks and several Round Ribbon Tail Rays. The reef itself on this side of Petit Anse is also particularly interesting with some deep caves and swim-throughs.
Later in the month, after the seas had settled, the snorkelling toward the eastern left-hand side proved even better with several different sightings of very inquisitive juvenile Grey Reef Sharks as well as several species of sting rays relaxing on the bottom of the sand including the rarely seen Porcupine Ray. Large schools of Humphead Parrotfish were also seen patrolling the outer ledges of the boulders on several snorkelling expeditions and huge schools of adult Rabbit Fish of up to 200 individuals have also been spotted in this area making it the #1 hotspot for snorkelling at the moment.
We also began to spot several juvenile Lemon Sharks return to the shallow water around Petit Anse.
Although we have not had many fishing trips this month, the catch-and-release fishing has been relatively good with some great catches of Bonnito, a huge Barracuda of 20kgs and a Giant Kingfish of 14kg. There has also been substantial bird activity on the water in several of our favourite fishing spots suggesting some interesting activity under the water. On one particular fishing trip a pod of about eight dolphins was spotted toward the south-west of the island. They were not very interested in any interaction with us and quickly disappeared.
As a result of the rough conditions toward the middle of the month the water visibility was been particularly poor on the close reefs around the island with only 10-15m on Sprat City specifically. The more distant sites have however been much cleaner and have warranted the slightly further trips. Toward the second half of the month the water has cleared considerably and we are now seeing visibility in excess of 30 metres around our shallow reefs and beyond.
The beaches have continued to shift quite considerably this month with the main beach in front of the piazza extending somewhat further and the beach at West Beach completely disappearing. After having stolen all its sand from West Beach, the beach at Honeymoon is now fantastic, with shallow pools forming on the spring high tides and no rocks or coral stones at all as these have all been covered by the sand. This has made some excellent swimming conditions for families with small children who can wallow in the pools.
The SOTN, (Seychelles Ocean Temperature Network) which is responsible for the placement and monitoring of the Sea Temperature Loggers, held its 3rd Stakeholder Workshop at the SFA (Seychelles Fishing Authority) headquarters on 29 February. This workshop has greatly assisted in furthering a number of our current marine projects. North Island at present has two Sea Temperature Loggers that have been placed on two separate locations on Sprat City at West Beach, which have been set to read the sea temperature on an hourly basis. The sea temperature data from these loggers, which were placed on 16 November 2008, is to be collected at six-monthly intervals by downloading onto specialised 'shuttles' that are provided by the Project Administrators. A further two loggers have been allocated to the northern beaches of Silhouette Island which are due to be released in mid-March. North Island has offered to place and monitor these as part of the programme. We have also played an instrumental role in providing assistance to the team with regard to the problems associated with the set up of the 100-metre moorings which facilitates four different loggers reading at depths of 100, 75, 50 and 25 metres.
North Island continues to conduct the Reef Monitoring Project as per the current procedures recommended by the SNCRN (Seychelles National Coral Reef Network).
Camp update - February 08 Jump
to Kings Pool
After the wettest January that any of us can remember, summer, as we usually know it, finally got off to a belated start during February. The thunderstorms that were so frequent last month seem to have rumbled and grumbled off elsewhere, and we have enjoyed very welcome blue skies and the warmth of the African sun. This was good news for the carpenters especially, who after losing several days in January have been able to more than make up for lost time, producing beautiful, sinuous examples of their art to grace our new main area.
Heavy rains in Angola and the Caprivi Strip - most of southern Africa is currently experiencing "above average" rainfall - means that the Kwando and Linyanti river systems are still very full, so there are a lot of areas in our concession which are still inundated. All of this of course is several months in advance of when we would normally expect the annual floods.
The abundance of food and water in northern Botswana means that our elephant herds are still dispersed over wide areas, but a few old regulars are still frequenting the Camp. One old bull in particular, 'Popcorn', has been amusing himself by ambushing vehicles as they come around leafy corners. This joke though is much funnier for him than for us! As the song says, the grass is indeed now as high as an elephant's eye, which makes for some interesting surprise encounters. It might not seem possible for an elephant to hide in grass, but really, it is.
Other animals are too busy delighting in the grasses and water to have time to hide. This is a great time of year, and the perfect place, to be a semi-aquatic antelope, and the herds of red lechwe along the Linyanti River are enjoying a great season. Their usual defence tactic when threatened by a predator is to make for the water, where their powerful strides ensure that they can run as fast as they can on dry land. At the moment, they are surrounded by so much perfect defensive terrain that they seem even more relaxed than usual. Clearly they feel particularly safe and they project a sense of well-being, the vivid ginger of their sleek fur contrasts wonderfully with the almost fluorescent vegetation on the river banks.
It seems that our buffalo herds are spending much of their time just over the border in Namibia. As a major prey item of our resident lions, their temporary absence has a major effect on the big cats' movements and behaviour. Our very aptly-named territorial males, the Border Boys, have been slipping unnoticed between Botswana and Namibia for years, swimming the Linyanti River and then announcing their arrival with synchronised roaring. One night recently they passed right through the Camp, perhaps curious about the unusual levels of human activity in the area at the moment? Still majestic, they did however look a little thin and bedraggled. Perhaps the hunting has not been going well, or in their search for food they may have strayed into territory occupied by other males, and had to fight their way out.
We have also had sightings in this area of the Selinda male lions from a neighbouring territory, including one distinctly piratical male known as Silver Eye, who was seen feeding on a giraffe carcass near Chobe airstrip, to the south-east of Kings Pool. This sort of incursion into a rival territory is seldom tolerated, so we can expect fireworks. It demonstrates though how animals in this area have had to adapt their behaviour - and adopt some unusual tactics - in order to cope with this new, inundated reality.
Our airstrip is still the domain of White Pelicans and African Skimmers, with minor barbel runs taking place as the catfish flush out smaller fish from the grass stems, with much splashing and excitement. The maps of this part of the world will likely have to be redrawn after this summer, as chunks of the Caprivi Strip, in the shape of papyrus islands, have been detaching themselves and defecting to Botswana, or been caught by currents in mid-channel and turning slowly in circles in no-man's land. The changes along the river affect how the water moves, causing it to either flow faster or slower, in the same way that hippos in wetland areas can alter the flow of rivers by opening or closing minor channels, and unwittingly diverting streams of water.
So much change in such a short time inevitably presents new challenges to the wildlife of this area, but also new opportunities. Animals and birds are masters of turning circumstances to their advantage, and a classic example of this has been the pair of diminutive African Barred Owlets which have taken up residence in the building site, perching high up in the rafters of the as-yet-incomplete roof, and swooping down to feed on the insects attracted to the arc-lights used to illuminate ongoing labours at night. These small owls soon learned that there was an abundance of winged insects in the pools of light, as well as excellent vantage points on the beams which will support the new roof.
With the respite from the torrential rains of January, the water level in many of the pans and puddles is beginning to drop, starting to close the window that had opened for frogs and terrapins. Cloudless skies during the day have seen a great increase in rates of evaporation, and several roads that were all but impassable a few weeks ago are now dry enough to drive along.
Even as the water levels fall, the structure in the main area rises inexorably on its slope overlooking the oxbow lake. The decking which reaches out and down to the water - fusing the Camp with its surroundings, and leading the feet and the senses gently down and out of the lodge and into the bush beyond - is nearly finished now, and the views out over the marshes and savannah of the Caprivi Strip are spectacular.
Much of the beauty of the Linyanti region lies in the fact that it is in a continuous state of flux, with so many variables changing almost constantly as the wheel of the seasons turns and turns again. Even as we are still adjusting to the wet - and, at last - hot conditions of summer, we can't help noticing that the days are drawing in ever so slightly and the early morning temperatures are undeniably slightly cooler than they were even a few weeks ago. So, winter is not all that far away, but we are happy to wait as we enjoy the long-awaited blue skies and brilliant sunshine of summer.
The sun has been a late arrival to these parts this year but now under his benevolent, fiery gaze, our new camp is rapidly taking shape and growing almost organically each day. In the wake of the owls will come all the other species which will soon colonise this new habitat we are creating. Not least of these will be the guests we are expecting to arrive in just a few weeks' time now - perhaps the best example of a species adapting to a new environment as Kings Pool gives people a chance to completely remove themselves from the stresses and frustrations of daily life, disconnect all the gadgets, and reconnect to older and deeper truths, to a more meaningful world...
As we see the new camp rise up before our very eyes, and begin to blend into its surroundings whilst at the same time retaining a distinct character all of its own, we know that this is one change that will greatly benefit us all. A change, an evolution, that will give us, and - we hope, many of you - the perfect platform from which to explore and understand the Linyanti, and the fascinating ways in which the wildlife here adjusts to every new twist and turn, and thrive and belong in a way at which we can only marvel.
And that's all from your Kings Pool January team: Nick & Kerry, Noko, and John & Erica. We can't wait to see you all very soon - in just a couple of weeks, in fact - once the finishing touches have been put to the awesome new-look Kings Pool Camp!
Camps Update - February 08
Lagoon camp Jump
• Who knows? The pride of four males are still separated for the past few weeks and still have been roaring throughout the night, a large black mained lion has been seen recently, is he the reason the pride has split up?
• Two mature female Leopards have been sighted recently towards the old Lebala camp, an amazing sighting by some guests who spent a good hour with her, hopefully we can get too see a “leap of Leopards.”
• The three brother cheetah have been at worked preying on an ostrich this month out towards the matlotse area, they seem to have a slight problem catching zebra as witnessed last week, another two males have been sighted in the area but seem to be scarce due to the dominant three, properly this is the reason for the strange behaviour last week.
• Dogs Dogs! The usual game they play, we have been seeing some phenomenal hunts this month with the lagoon pack taking a full grown male impala right in front of the game drive vehicle, other days it’s a game of hide and seek but they have been seen weekly, let’s hope we can find the den this year, its about time.
• The Elephants are returning in the numbers moving back up north for the sweet riverine forest vegetation. As we move out of our long rainy season which has been impressive this year the temperature will cool and rain will subside increasing the herds in the north.
• Night sightings are excellent, with the small predators roaming throughout the night, wild cat have been seen on numerous occasions stalking small prey such as mice and large insects.
• The Lagoon region has been keeping status as a great general game area with our herd of 50 plus Eland seen weekly up on the Mosheshe road.
• “Sebatane” the setswana name for predators have continued to be sighted in the Lagoon area with the mongoose, Dwarf and Selous seen on daily game drives. Honey Badgers were sighted on the roads during the morning game drives but what shy creatures they are.
Kwara & Little Kwara camps Jump
& Little Kwara camps
• Lions galore, the are a has constantly been great for the prides, our coalition of seven have been seen feasting on giraffe, the Splash four have kept our guests on edge hunting tsesebe and wildebeest but failing on the zebra. The tsum tsum pride have taken it easy the past few weeks , found snoozing in the flood plains around camp.
• The female Cheetah with her two female cubs and a single male cub have well indulged as they were found with full bellies relaxing under a jackal berry tree. The three brothers have been elusive in the long grass but their tracks have been seen walking to the west of Kwara.
• The pack of twenty two had an excellent hunt one morning across the Delta and succeeding on an Impala, The dogs finished their kill and were belly up for the rest of the day, retuning to their grounds for the night.
• “Kwatale” buffalo bulls have been sighted in between the islands of the Okavango, large herds are still enjoying the sweet lush grasses in the mopane forests to the north.
• Frogs and more frogs, due to the great rains the frogs are definitely the species to be out there in the wet weather. The distinct calls of the bell frogs at night have increased dramatically giving us the true sounds of the Okavango at night. Bull frogs in the rain pans are a true site too see out in the mopane forests, Foam nest frogs are seen almost at every rain pan.
• General game sightings were great throughout the month. The newborn game has been a pleasure seeing them grow day by day, a Hippo in Kwara at night has mistaken one of mekoros as a foot path and now has a huge crack in it. Hippo are still a sight out of the tents at Kwara with their snorting and moaning its equivalent to watching the ocean waves sitting on the beach.
Lebala camp Jump
• She is still around, the female lioness and her cub’s are still on the lurk around camp hoping for easy prey.
• Leopards everywhere. That is their tracks of course. The big male out at twin pools has still been seen on numerous occasions looking after his territory and hope he can find the two ladies out at Lagoon.
• The elephants are still enjoying their traditional “magobe” (setswana for rain pan ) baths out in the mopane forest’s, wallowing and doing what they love to do best.
• What a bee-eater's paradise, the blue cheeked, carmine and golden backed are still one of our most spectacular sites driving into camp and out onto the flood plains of Lebala.
• Hyena are still doing what they are good at, scavenging and bothering the other predators for the tidbits they love to chew on, a nightly assurance our guests have been seeing
• Right behind the hyena, the black back Jackal have been seen with their intent of scraping up the left overs after the main feast has finished, Side striped are still a common site on the Lebala flood plains.
Mombo Camp update - February 08 Jump
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February in the heart of the Okavango Delta has been a month of cloudy sky, light rains and spectacular sunsets. The vegetation in the area is now so lush and green that one would never believe if it if you looked at our winter landscape pictures when grasses were brown and trees had no leaves.
At the beginning of the month it really looked like the annual winter flood is already in - and yet it hasn't even started to reach us according to the satellite images of this vast drainage system. Mombo and Little Mombo were all but surrounded by rainwater and high rains received elsewhere in the subregion. In the last week of February we started noticing a drop in the water levels in all the floodplains again. Temperatures have been rather variable this month, with daytime temperatures reaching up to 34 degrees Celsius and an average of 24 degrees Celcius.
As in the past, especially February 2006, the Mombo lions have tended to start climbing trees. We are not entirely sure why they are doing this - possibly to avoid flies, or perhaps simply to keep their feet dry amidst all this water?
The prides (Mathata, Maporota, Boro and the West Pride) are all doing well and seem to have had a very productive hunting season since they could easily wage attacks on their prey from all the tall grass and thick bush at the moment. They all seem in good health and well fed.
February has been a great month for leopard sightings since we have Legadema and her cubs' den less than four kilometres from camp. She had moved her two cubs last month. Possible reasons could include safety, parasites and most probably lack of sufficient space.
The guides saw these cubs almost every day, sometimes without mom as she would leave on them to go on hunting forays. These cubs are growing fast and it is fascinating to watch them on their journey of discovery - playing and climbing. Legadema too, seems totally unperturbed by the presence of game drive vehicles, allowing amazing sightings of this sought-after predator.
It has been very difficult to find other leopards like the Tortillis Female, however a female, suspected to be Tortillis's fully grown cub has been seen, mating with an unknown male. We speculate that she is pregnant and might give birth in the next month or so. Who knows where she will hide her litter?
It has been very difficult to see rhino in the area due to the rains which made getting around the concession difficult. Only three white rhino sightings were reported by the guides and were with full assistance from the 'rhino man' - Poster. However, every white rhino seen had a newborn calf. Mmabontsho, the only black rhino in the Mombo area, has been recorded once this month.
Buffalo were found in big numbers though it was mostly away from camp. Some hippo have moved out of the permanent swamp areas into temporary pans where they are closer to there best feeding grounds. Some hippo have created seasonal territories here.
Thousands of Burchell's zebra, impala and wildebeest are all evenly distributed on our palatable grass plains. There has probably never been this many zebra in the area before - and the lions certainly aren't complaining?
A good-sized African rock python was spotted in camp. We detected its presence from all the birds and tree squirrels alarm calling. On investigating, we found an adult python of three metres long! Pythons love water, and the snake had a pretty rainbow luminescence as it just came out of the water nearby.
Bush brunches with Simon are still happening almost every second day at the famous hide facing the hippo lagoon - one of the most beautiful spots. Here you overlook peaceful floodplains with all sorts of antelope grazing and running around on them.
We have also been doing bush teas a few minutes drive out of camp around a spectacular pan called Lethaka; a natural water hole only holding water in the rainy season. This bush tea venue has provided a perfect opportunity to watch waterbirds feeding and elephant playing in the mud.
The new lounge area is still under construction - together with a sparkling blue pool and a gym overlooking our bountiful floodplains.
That's all from the Mombo and Little Mombo staff for February.
Taps, Lizzy, Jeremy, One, Alex, Albert, Pete & Sharon and Simon
Guides - Lebo, Malinga, Emang, Cisco and Tsile (Manager guide Little Mombo)
Chitabe Camp update - February 08 Jump
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The torrential rains that have been battering the northern parts of the Delta seemed to avoid the Chitabe area - we have only received 393mm for the season so far. Although the season is not yet over this is slightly below the expected average of 450mm. At time of writing however the skies are leaden once again and rolling with thunder. We had a two-week period of almost no rain from the middle of the month, which dried things out somewhat and caused a slight die-back of the rampant vegetation.
However, the rains that fell on the northern areas of the Delta, by way of geography and topography, have to end up here, as they now have. The area has more water in it than we have had since 2000. Some regions which have not seen water in eight years and which had been colonised by the pioneer species Wild Sage have once again been reclaimed by the flowing, tea-coloured waters of the Okavango. Water birds are now seen in ever-increasing numbers, and at our confluence of Kalahari and Okavango habitats the birding has indeed been extraordinary. We have seen Pelicans, Jacanas, Painted Snipes, African Skimmers, Goliath Herons, Fish-Eagles, Wattled Cranes, Knob-Billed and White-Faced Ducks, Spur-winged and Egyptian Geese, to say nothing of a host of Vultures, including a few sightings of the spectacular-looking White-headed Vulture.
In several ponds of rainwater we have watched the development of thousands of bullfrog tadpoles in their race for maturity, and their battle with a multitude of opportunistic predators (chiefly Hamerkops) until they finally were ready to hop out in their hundreds from their rapidly-drying nurseries.
The month started off with another story of die-hard guests viewing some amazing action in the middle of a downpour - this time with Luke seeing 'The Lioness Who Walks Alone' killing a young giraffe right in front of him and his guests! This lioness has been the star of the month of February, as she has indeed had cubs, although we are not sure how many as only one has been seen thus far. She has also picked up the habit of climbing high up in a dead acacia not far from the bridges and gazing in the direction of her den in the golden light of sunset before setting off for the evening's hunt.
A new lioness has moved into the area, possibly from the Gomoti Pride across the river in the Moremi, and has been seen receiving the amorous attentions of Scarface, the more dominant of our coalition of male lions. The lioness with the two cubs and their older cousin has been observed a few times this month, mostly in the airstrip area. One afternoon the airstrip maintenance crew had a great sighting of the youngsters chasing Helmeted Guineafowl (and each other) around on the strip, watched from the undergrowth by their ever-vigilant mother.
Leopard sightings, as usual, have been good this month, with the Fossil Female and her two cubs providing the most rewarding experiences - they have been seen with kills twice this month. The male cub has also taken up the habit of approaching vehicles for a closer look, and has been the subject of some pretty interesting photographs! The Leopard Project has now identified eleven individual animals, the last being a mystery female seen hanging around in a Leadwood tree with the Marula Male near Aardwolf Plain.
We have had two cheetah sightings this month, although brief, and they seem to be of a shy newcomer to the area. No wild dog sightings have been recorded this month, although their tracks were seen in the Fossil Road area.
Elephant have started to return to the area, although usually not staying for long, but continuing on their patrols of their huge home ranges. On some days we could count, in various herds, several hundred of these magnificent animals slowly progressing through the woodlands and floodplains below a dramatic cloud-filled sky.
The bushbuck "herd" we often see in camp now has two males - the lamb born last year has grown up a little, and we can now see his nascent little horns. He has been keeping company with the shy elder male as they delicately pick their way through the undergrowth.
This month's newsletter will be my last as your faithful scribe for the past five years, and my namesake, Nick Green, will carry the torch from now on. Celine and I will bid the Okavango farewell for the time being, in order to further expand our horizons with some long-anticipated travel. We also welcome Clifford Dutton to the team, and wish him and Nick every success here, imbued with the joy and wonder of life in this amazing place.
For the month of March, the guiding team will be Newman, Phinley, OT, Ebs and Andrea, Chitabe Lediba will reopen with Kenny and Josephine at the helm, while at Main Camp you will be hosted by Dawson, Cliff, Tiny and Shaa.
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