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AFRICAN SAFARI NEWS

January 2008

(Page 1 of 2)

Page 1 Updates
General Safaris 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.
• North Island Dive Report from the Seychelles.
• Monthly update from Mvuu Camp & Wilderness Lodge in Malawi.
• Monthly update from Kings Pool Camp in Botswana.
Kwando Safaris game reports.
• Monthly update from Chitabe Lediba Camp in Botswana.

Page 2 Updates
• Monthly update from Kwetsani Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Jao Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Jacana Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Tubu Tree Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Vumbura Plains in Botswana.
• Trip Report from the Green Desert Expedition in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Pafuri Camp in South Africa.
• Turtle news from Rocktail Bay in South Africa.
• Trip Report from Desert Rhino Expedition in Namibia.
• Monthly update from Governors' Camp in Kenya's Masai Mara.


General Safaris Updates - January 2008

GENERAL UPDATES
Zambian Government revokes Visa Waivers
Effective January 26, the Zambian government revoked all visa waivers. This came into effect without any advance notice and with an added increase in visa fees for some countries. In addition the new regulations have seen an increase in visa fees for many countries. Most foreign guests travelling through Zambia for any length of stay (even in transit) now must pay these fees. The following visa fees are now payable upon entry for visitors to Zambia:

United States of America citizens: US$135 (Please note that for Americans, a multiple entry - at the same price as a single or double - is valid for three years and thus is worthwhile for those who travel often to Zambia.)
Canadian citizens: US$55
British citizens: £75 single entry; £260 multiple entry
Other nationalities: US$50 single entry; US$80 double entry; US$160 multiple entry

Zambia Immigration has advised that presently Southern African Development Community passport holders will not have to pay any fees. Although this has already been enforced, final approval of the visa waiver decision is only due at the end of February.


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WILDLIFE NEWS
Narina Trogon sighting at Jao Camp
Location: Jao Camp, NG25 Concession, Okavango
Date: 15 January 2008
Observers: The Jao Team

The Narina Trogon Apaloderma narina is a member of a family of about 40 species of really colourful and spectacularly plumaged forest birds found in Africa, Asia and South America. This is the only species to occur in southern Africa and is not commonly encountered due to its secretive habits and deep forest habitat found mostly along the eastern part of the region and along major river courses where the dense riparian vegetation provides good cover. Birder relish a sighting of the species as a result of this and also the striking plumage of the male: deep crimson underparts, emerald back and head, bright yellow bill and electric blue facial markings. The female is more cryptically coloured but also an impressively plumaged bird. Francois Le Vaillant, the French naturalist and explorer who covered parts of present day South Africa in the 1700s was so taken with the bird when he discovered it that he named after one of his attendants - a beautiful Khoi girl by the name of Nerina with whom it is thought he was enamoured.

Narina Trogon at Jao Camp, Botswana

In northern Botswana the species is only seen with any regularity in the Kasane area on the Chobe River and also in the panhandle area near Shakawe along the Okavango River. Anywhere else it is considered an unusual and extremely irregular vagrant. Still, the Okavango Delta and its forested islands would seem to hold suitable habitat for this species and it is odd that it is not found there.

Imagine our excitement on 20 November 2007 when we encountered a bird right in the middle of camp on Jao Island! For the next three weeks into the middle of December we regularly found our visitor in camp and it was seen by many of the staff and guests at the pool and between rooms 6 and 7. It seems to have disappeared since then, but not before Clinton Geyser was able to snap this photo as a record of his presence!


Aberrant coat patterns in the Plains Zebra
Location: Vumbura Plains (NG25, Botswana), Etosha National Park (Namibia), Makalolo Plains (Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe)
Date: 15 January 08
Observers: Peter Anderson, Courtney Johnson, Martin Benadie, Rosta Janik & Matt Copham

The Plains Zebra (Equus zebra super-species) contains a number of subspecies that occur through east and southern Africa and which are distinguished based on their coat patterns; the degree of so-called shadow striping, the thickness of the stripes and width between them and so on. This is what distinguishes Burchell's Zebra (Equus zebra burchelli) from Crawshay's Zebra (E. z. crawshayi) and so on. A number of hybrids between the various subspecies are recognised in particular areas of geographical overlap between the core distribution areas but every so often completely aberrant coat patterns emerge in isolated populations that are not related to hybridisation.

Over the past couple of years a number of individuals of this nature have emerged in various areas covered by Wilderness Safaris guides in their concessions and also in national parks which we visit. These coat patterns display varying degrees of melanism and aberration and allow insight into the lives of particular individual zebra given the ease of certain identification.


"Marble", a zebra from Makalolo Plains

The first of these, photographed by Peter Anderson in the Makalolo Plains traversing area in Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe, has been nicknamed 'Marble' by the guides. He has been around for 5-6 years now and is well known to Wilderness Safaris staff. Depending on the time of year, it moves around with other zebra herds, as well as blue wildebeest between Ngamo Plains, Makalolo Plains, Linkwasha Vlei, Somavundla Pan and even as far as Ngweshla. The last location, together with Linkwasha Vlei tend to be the dry season headquarters, while in summer, the fertile plains of Ngamo are the main area frequented by this animal.

Etosha Zebra - M. Benadie
Etosha Zebra - M. Benadie
Etosha Zebra - R. Janik
Etosha Zebra - R. Janik

Two other very striking examples of partial melanism come from adult mares photographed in Etosha National Park by Martin Benadie and Rosta Janik. Both animals show a merging of the stripes on the flanks giving a very dark appearance. Striping on the face is also unusually pale, while the shadow stripes are quite prominent in comparison with the Hwange animal. The first photo was taken by Martin Benadie at Etosha waterhole north east of Halali Camp in July 2007, while the second, by Rosta Janik, was taken between Salvadora Spring and Halali Camp on 9 November 2007. On this latter occasion the zebra was associating with a congregation of plains game numbering around 300 wildebeest, scattered springbok and about 500 zebra.


Kwedi Concession Zebra

A similar pattern, albeit more chocolatey and far more extensive across the body, was found in a young zebra foal in the Kwedi Concession in the Okavango Delta, Botswana, in late 2005. The foal was well known to guides, but its short life (it disappeared from the area after only a few months and is presumed to have been preyed on) may indicate the risks of unusual markings in a species that is thought to rely on disruptive patterning to help avoid predation. Of additional interest here, is the very obviously broader stripes on the foal's mother that may have hinted at the potential for the increased melanism in the youngster. A second chocolatey foal born to this same mare in late 2006 provides support for both theories, it too having been killed by predators at a relatively early stage in its life.


Lions up to monkey business
Location: Pafuri Camp, Makuleke Concession, Kruger National Park
Date: 3 January 2008
Observers: Walter Jubber

On the 3rd of January 2008 we all headed out for our morning game drive from the camp. As we were making our out of camp, Alweet Hlungwane who had left ahead of us called on the radio that he had located the young coalition of three sub-adult lions as well as the 2 young cubs which had strangely joined up with the three on the airstrip.

Pafuri Lions      Lion cubs at Pafuri

As Warren Ozorio and myself arrived at the sighting we were excited to see the lions getting up to all sorts of monkey business. The three sub-adult lions, approximately 3 years old (2 females and a blonde-maned male), were chasing a troop of baboons into the trees then disappearing into the lush, grass, before surprising and harassing some other troop members which were attempting to make their escape, sending them back into the tree canopy. The baboons loudly barked their irritation and displeasure at their harassers from the safety of the tree tops and leapt from branch to branch and tree to tree during this game of 'cat and baboon'.

It is not the first time I have seen these three youngsters engage in such antics. In a previous sighting in the fever tree forest east of camp I watched them run energetically at a troop of baboons, sending them all scurrying up into the tree canopies of the fever trees, the lions then standing below them - the target of vocal abuse hurled down from above.

It isn't unusual for lions to catch and eat baboons and we have had a couple of observations of this behaviour at Pafuri. In one case an adult male caught a mother and very young baby, still covered in black fur. On another occasion we watched as a troop of baboons congregated in the tree canopies, barking at a pride of 4 lions (an adult female and her three sub-adults) below as the lioness released an injured sub-adult baboon for the cubs to toy with and hone their hunting skills.

The two, scraggly-looking, skinny and malnourished cubs we found with the three sub-adults (a male and female cub of approximately 7 months old) appear to have joined up with the sub-adults to increase their chances of survival after presumably being abandoned by the mother or even orphaned. This was not the case though and a few days after this sighting we found the lifeless body of one of the cubs, while the other has not been seen again since - no doubt having suffered the same fate. Nature can be said to be cruel, but in fact it is also very fair.


The legendary 'Legadima' gives birth to two cubs
Location: Mombo, Moremi Game Reserve, Okavango
Date: 28 January 2008
Observers: Dereck & Beverly Joubert

A few weeks ago we were jumping from Mombo to Duba trying to decide where to best film what was going on. In Duba, the male of long standing came to a violent end by the hand of buffalo, probably a fitting way to go for a lion at Duba Plains. Across in Mombo we were trying to follow Legadima, possibly the most famous leopard in the world right now, and when we did find her she seemed to show no signs of that fame going to her head at all. She is still Legadima, a small bodied young female with a unique spot in her whisker pattern and we can tell her apart at a glance. She has posed politely for what must be a few million digital and film images by now, and in December Beverly and I were paying special attention because she was looking just a little bulkier in the body that we imaged. Of course the three baby impala in the nearby trees may have been responsible, but we debated with the guides when exactly she had been mating last and whether this one may actually take or not. December 29th the Duba male was killed, and we flew out to see the aftermath. A week later we returned to Legadima and what was now becoming very difficult tracking..

We went back to Duba convinced that Legadima was pregnant at last ... maybe, but impossible to follow now. Lizzy, the manager at Mombo called late on the 20th January. She and Jeremy arranged our vehicle to be left at the airfield in case we did a late sunset runner under the clouds and by midday the next day we were in action, looking for this single leopard in a sea of Irish green grass and forest.

That afternoon the francolin and squirrels conspired to point her out and we followed her back through miserably thick bush around the old Mombo site. She ducked down in to the grass when she came across baboons but then something strange happened. She stood up and charged the male baboon,completely catching him off guard and the last sign I saw of him was the grass parting as he bolted off towards Maun. She stepped up out of the grass onto a fallen log just as a hyena arrived and she saw him off as vehemently.

Legadima and her new cubs      Legadima and newborn cub at Mombo

Then we understood. Hidden in the fallen tree was something more important to her than even her own innate fears of baboons and need to hide. When she ducked into the log we finally hear the voices of at least two hungry little leopard cubs and as I write this (in the rain) we have confirmed that there are two cubs, of around five days old. She has allowed us to stand up on the vehicle (watching us with only one eye) and peer into the den from about 40 metres away. Twice she has come out, looked around and then come to the vehicle, rubbed against it and then left, walking off into the bush and leaving us at the den.

We always wanted to follow this story until at least this point and thanks to Mombo, Lizzy. Jeremy and the guides, we got here on time and into position to continue this journey. Thank you. It is a very special time for us. As I look into the milky eyes of these cubs, I shudder to think, and am ashamed, that anyone may actually feel joy and pleasure at being able to kill an animal like this for fun. Thank goodness there are still places like Mombo where the last of just 100,000 leopards in the world can live without ever hearing a gunshot.

Dereck and Beverly Joubert


Marabou Stork snaps up African Bullfrog
Location: Little Vumbura, Kwedi Concession, Okavango
Date: 29 January 2008
Observers: Russel Friedman

Frequently branded as ugly and grotesque, the unique appearance of the Marabou Stork (Leptoptilos crumeniferus) is as well known as its habit of urinating on its legs to keep them cool in hot weather. This results in white marked legs in total contrast to many of the region's other storks bright red or black legs.

Marabou Stork eating a frog     Marabou Stork eating a frog

Primarily a scavenger, this species is often seen congregating at large carcasses where they feed on carrion or beetle larvae emerging from the carcass. This has led to the habit of the species in the modern age of congregating at the municipal dumps or abattoirs of rural towns. Their long necks, heavy bills and absence of feathering on the head and neck make them well adapted for this task.

Marabou Stork eating a frog

Marabou Storks are most often seen either soaring in thermals or perched motionless for long periods in dead trees. They are not only scavengers however and do actively forage, particularly in the summer months. It is during this time of year that the formidable bills come into their own. Moving through the grass the stork may flush rodents or insects such as grasshoppers which are quickly snapped up and dispatched. They also focus at concentrated food sources such as the nesting colonies of the red-billed quelea where they greedily gorge on the defenseless nestlings, or at drying pools of water where stranded fish become a windfall.

While on game drive out of Little Vumbura last week we came across a single bird that was moving through one of the shallow rain-inundated flood plains typical of the area. We then noticed that the bird had something substantial in its bill and stopped to take a closer look soon identifying an African Bullfrog, Pyxicephalus edulis that had inflated itself to try and prevent being swallowed by the stork. The efforts of the bullfrog were in vain however and in due course the bird had tilted its head back and managed to swallow the amphibian, later standing quite proudly, obviously happy with its efforts.


Chitabe - Summer sightings 2008
Location: Chitabe Camp, NG31, Okavango Delta, Botswana
Date: January 2008
Observers: Matt Copham

Recently, I spent 10 days at Chitabe and thought you would all be interested in the highlights the concession had to offer. These days when somebody mentions the name Chitabe, the first thing that comes to mind is leopard. Yes, did the leopards appear? During my guiding stint, I observed nine different leopards from big males to small cubs. It was evident that were a lot more leopards around than were seen, I was finding tracks on virtually every road. One of the highlights included viewing three leopards in one tree. I managed to shoot off one picture of the Chitabe vehicle before Laz, the guide pulled out the sighting. The second shot I decided to shoot in monochrome due to the low light conditions of the late afternoon: A sight that might take a while to be repeated, three leopards in one tree.

Leopards at Chitabe      Lions playing at Chitabe

Some more highlights included that of two lions killing a giraffe not too far from the airstrip. A solitary lioness had also taken up a temporary residence close to the airstrip making the airstrip the focal point for lion spotting. This particular lioness is nursing three cubs. The mother of the older cub was killed by a zebra a few months back, the reason for the size differences between the cubs.

Lion and giraffe kill at Chitabe

I suppose it does not matter where you are in the Delta the birding will be great,but I have always found birding at Chitabe exceptional. Due to the acacia woodland and Gomoti River system you could classify this concession an eco-tone between the Kalahari and Okavango. Black Coucal were a common site around the camp. Every morning at 5:30 their fluid, melodic call would start and there would always be one particular Coucal sitting on a palm as we left the camp. A wonderful sighting for me was that of a pennant-winged nightjar, even though it was a female who lacks the spectacular trailing feathers. The cool weather grounded many of the larger birds of prey allowing us great sightings of many raptors. I also spotted both lappet-faced and white-headed vultures.

Wildebeests at Chitabe

The rain brought out many amphibians and general game viewing was good too: herds and herds of giraffe, large groups of zebra, wildebeest and tsessebe.


Mombo Camp celebrated a New Year baby in the form of baby white rhino! The special baby, born to mother Piajo, is the 14th rhino calf born since the animals were reintroduced in 2004, and was discovered in January by Poster Mpho.

Baby Rhino at Mombo Camp


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CAMP UPDATES
Camp refurbs and closures
Zimbabwe: Construction of the new Ruckomechi Camp is behind schedule due to the above average summer rains. The Mana Pools valley has had in excess of 700mm of rain since December! Due to the muddy conditions contractors cannot utilize any roads into the camp, and although all sorts of ingenious plans are being made, the opening date of Ruckomechi Camp has been delayed by a month to June 2008. The renovation at Little Makalolo is on schedule, although it has also been very wet and quite a challenge.

Botswana: Kings Pool’s main area is being completely redesigned and rebuilt, and is scheduled to open on 15 March – slightly later than anticipated due to the rains which have also submerged the Kings Pool airstrip. Until the airstrip is operational again, guests will use the DumaTau/Savuti airstrip instead and will be transferred by road to the camp. The good news is the Savuti Channel is flowing for the first few miles of its length and this is a unique time to see this area.


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Seychelles / North Island
North Island Dive Report - January 08               Jump to North Island

The weather for January has been somewhat erratic with several days of rain around the beginning of the month followed by some calm weather and sea conditions around the 10th of January and then further rough seas and rainy weather from the 19th to 24th. Nonetheless, the diving conditions throughout the month of January have been exceptionally good. Now approaching the middle of summer the diving conditions have been expected to improve and so they have. The visibility has increased from an average of 15 to 18 metres to an average of approximately 22 to 28 metres consistently. The seas have also now begun to settle toward the end of January and we look forward to some easy relaxed diving conditions for the months ahead.

We have seen numerous sightings of the White Tip Reef Shark, especially on 'Sprat City' where they tend to like to congregate as well as several enormous Nurse Sharks that have also been sighted in this area as well as in a cave toward the rocks around Petit Anse. Although the Nurse Sharks look particularly intimidating due to their size, they are completely harmless, eating only small crabs and crustaceans and molluscs that they literally suck out of the sand.

Petit Anse has obviously been well protected from the northerly winds this month and with the drop in the swell has now also become the favourite spot for snorkellers and swimmers. There are several juvenile Spotted Eagle Rays that have been sighted in the area as well as the rare sighting of a pair of juvenile Orbicular Batfish seen hiding in clumps of seaweed near the shore.

Almost exactly as expected we have already begun to sight the arrival of the Green Turtles. The Hawksbill Turtles are expected to stop coming ashore to lay their eggs at the end of January and we expect to start to see the Green Turtles come out to lay; this has begun almost on cue as an attempt at laying has already been sighted on West Beach on the 30th of January by a large Green Turtle.

The fishing this month has also been particularly good with numerous catches of the usual Bonnito but also numerous Wahoo, more so than we have recorded on other months. The favourite spot for fishing has been off the west side of the island at a spot recently discovered by our fishmaster, Angelin Sanders, which has proven to be the new hotspot for our fishing trips.

The marine observation records which have now also been adopted by the Environment Department, who have compiled the data into a comprehensive spreadsheet, has continued to provide valuable insight into the behaviour and frequency of the marine creatures recorded over the last 4 months. Guests are also encouraged to document their sightings thereby gathering more comprehensive and diverse data than would have been recorded previously.

Further data and observations have also been captured and recorded with regard to 'Sprat City' which have now been included in the final working document. This provides a comprehensive array of observations and data capture that facilitates an excellent view into the specifics and importance of 'Sprat City' to the reefs around North Island and perhaps the Seychelles. This reef has proven repeatedly to be particularly unique.

This month the Activities Department conducted a very successful staff Diving/Snorkel trip combination. The trip was conducted on North Wave with 5 divers and 5 snorkellers. The weather and wind on the day forced us to travel to the south eastern side of Silhouette which resulted in the exploration of a new dive site that proved to be particularly interesting with several deep gulleys and pinnacles and numerous swim-throughs. The reef is situated right against the cliffs of the island and therefore the snorkellers are also able to find a depth that is suitable for them. After the dive the staff had the opportunity to swim ashore at a different location to explore some unchartered territory.

Patrick Armstrong

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Malawi Camps
Mvuu update - January 08                Jump to Mvuu Camp & Wilderness Lodge

January in Malawi is traditionally the middle of the rainy season - and this year has been rainier than most! As the road leading to the usual 'ferry point' across the Shire River is inundated, guests embark on a boat at a point 45 minutes further upriver. Far from an inconvenience, this provides a superb cruise on the river, with sightings of hippo, crocodile, African Fish-eagle perched on branches high above and the wonderful sight of African skimmers skimming the smooth surface of the river in search of prey. It's a great introduction to the water-world of Mvuu Lodge and Camp!

The Shire River at Mvuu in Malawi

The Shire River has been very high and this combined with muddy ground has the effect of changing the nature of game viewing in the area. For example, the elephants have left for high ground, so that only occasionally has one been seen moving through the thick bush. Buffalo have been equally scarce.

But rain aside, the bush in Liwonde is bursting with life, both plant and animal. Everything is coloured different shades of green, from grass to leaves and reeds. A walk near the camp is filled with quite-close sightings of many mammals that in other parks would sprint away; here they let us take a good look before they move off in a dignified manner! Regular sightings have included impala, warthog, kudu, yellow baboons, waterbuck and bushbuck.

Böhm's Bee-eater at Mvuu in Malawi

What hasn't been scarce at all of course has been the birdlife. Regulars such as Böhm's Bee-eaters and Collared Palm-Thrush seemed happy to settle on bushes in the camp, waiting for excited twitchers to tick them off. Brown-throated Weavers were enthusiastically making their nests in the reeds just outside the 'loo with a view' of Mvuu Lodge. A very large Nile monitor has taken to draping itself along the low wall that surrounds the campfire area, lazing in the sun that comes through the clouds every now and then.

The days usually begin with that early morning walk, followed by a relaxing river cruise - after a hearty breakfast of course. The Shire is full to the brim and smooth as glass on many a day, with the clouds perfectly reflected in its brown depths. White-breasted Cormorants, Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters, African Fish-eagles, and of course the requisite hippo and crocs abound on such a cruise. Sailing gently past a large fig tree covered in roosting White-breasted Cormorants is fascinating as beneath the tree are at least five Nile monitors waiting to scavenge eggs and other bits that have fallen from the nest sites and roosts.

The afternoon/evening game drives have seen such regulars as hippo leaving the water of the Shire River to graze on the banks. At one point, McCloud's guests sipped sundowners while watching no less than ten of these animals leave the water in single file - including a very tiny baby!

It is during the evening that lesser seen animals come to light - spotlight that is: side-striped jackal, white-tailed mongoose, water mongoose and large spotted genet were all seen in one drive, while scrub hare and chameleons are always great sightings.

Special sightings this month included that of an old sable bull in the mopane forest area, White-breasted Cuckooshrike and also a Broad-billed Roller peering out from the bottom of a bush - not its usual habitat! Finally, a female crocodile laid and hatched her eggs across the way from Tents 1 and 2, and occasionally the tiny critters can be seen amongst the grass and reeds, squeaking as they wriggle about, being watched protectively by their mother.

All in all, January and its rains mean that this is a life-filled month here in the place of the friendly hippo.

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Botswana Camps
Kings Pool Camp update - January 08                Jump to Kings Pool Camp

These are exciting times in the Linyanti! Kings Pool is currently undergoing major renovations and the new-look Camp is set to open in March. From the plans we have seen, and the work that has been carried out already, the new Camp will be truly spectacular.

The only problem is that no-one seems to have told the birds and animals that the Camp is closed, and we have still been having some great sightings. Perhaps the most incredible experience of all, however, has been just to experience the majesty and beauty of a Botswana summer, and the profound effects that the weather has had on our environment here.

Rainbow at Kings Pool, Botswana

Summer in northern Botswana is of course the rainy season, and this year the rains have come with a vengeance. It is hard to detect patterns in the rainfall that we receive, as last summer's rains were relatively poor. This year, in complete contrast, we have had almost daily downpours and so far in 2008 we have received a remarkable 387mm of rain.

There have been heavy rains in other parts of southern Africa too, and our rivers here in the Linyanti have been swollen by water running off from the Caprivi Strip and the Angolan hills. So much so in fact that the Linyanti River has burst its banks, and so too has the oxbow lake in front of Camp. The staff soccer pitch is completely inundated and we have had to temporarily close our airstrip as much of it has been submerged.

African Skimmer

What was once the exclusive territory of Cessnas and other small aircraft is now a happy hunting ground for water birds, and we are regularly seeing African Jacana, Slaty Egret, and Knob-billed Duck there. A small flock of Pelicans has been seen cruising sedately over the apron and best of all, we have spotted African Skimmers at the airstrip for perhaps the first time in Kings Pool's history. This gorgeous bird, a specialised relative of saltwater terns, has its own unique feeding technique as you can see in the image presented here. Skimmers gave our company its logo and are one of the most evocative species in pristine, untouched wilderness areas. To see the dark V of a skimmer's wings reflected in the mirrored surface of the water, as the bow wave from its scarlet beak creates another perfect V behind it, is to know that you are in a very special place. What this picture doesn't show, is that the skimmer had just flown past the metal stairs we keep at the airstrip for assisting guests in and out of aircraft. Those stairs are now a handy lookout perch for Pied Kingfishers!

As well as localised flooding, the heavy rains have sparked profuse growth from many plant species, and there are many flowers in bloom with zephyrs of fragrance dancing in the air. Everything has been transformed for the young warthogs and impalas which were born late last year into a world which was just beginning to awake from its dry season torpor: now they are lost in a labyrinth of grasses all far taller than they are. Although a common occurrence, it's still a surprise when a young warthog comes hurtling out of the grass to cross the path at your feet.

The greenery contrasts wonderfully with the bruised flinty skies above, and the mewing calls of Yellow-billed Kites provide a counterpoint to the rolling thunder - or was it the roar of our dominant male lions, the Border Boys, who have crossed the river in pursuit of the buffalo herds? The storms themselves are spectacular to watch - the ultimate "son et lumière" show. But once the rain has finished hissing down, somehow the sun's rays always seem to find chinks in the clouds' armour and the golden light that suffuses everything after an afternoon deluge is breathtaking in the way that it gilds everything and turns faces, petals, water, all to molten bronze. Leaving us to ponder the question, is it asking too much to expect two pots of gold, if there are two rainbows?

Not to be outdone by meteorological events, the wildlife at Kings Pool continues to delight. Yes, it is true that the vast elephant herds have dispersed, but we still do see elephants here - sometimes looking almost bewildered by the sudden bonanza of food and water. And the intrigues of elephant life continue apace - the rhythm of the seasons matched by the rhythms of the herds, although for one bull in musth, the hormonal overload became too much and he caused serious traffic congestion one afternoon by refusing to let any vehicles pass him - while he was standing in the middle of our only dry road!

Wild Dog at Kings Pool

The Camp remains the exclusive preserve of warthog and impala by day; lumbering, curiously impassive hippo by night. Perhaps the impala would be wise not to stray too far, as we have again been seeing a pack of wild dog in the vicinity of the airstrip. The floods present special challenges to the Linyanti's predators but also opportunities; with their teamwork approach to every aspect of life, wild dogs are ideally placed to exploit even the half-chances that fall their way. They are perhaps our most elusive predator, and certainly one of the most thrilling to watch. We are hoping above all that one of the packs of wild dogs we have been seeing will den in the Kings Pool area this year, a hope we are nurturing especially at this time of new life. Everyone seems to be nesting, and we regularly see squirrels scaling dead trees with their mouths stuffed with leaves and twigs, or hear Glossy Starlings raucously scolding anyone who comes too close to their nest. Sometimes noisy remonstrations are not enough, and we watched spellbound one afternoon as a Gymnogene (African Harrier Hawk) tried to raid Red-billed Hornbill nests in an old leadwood tree.

Mushrooms at sunset

This is a real time of rebirth and rejuvenation, with the beams of the new Camp rising out of the curdled, muddy earth (some of them of course will be timbers from the old Camp, so that the new Camp will be imbued with something of its spirit) mirrored by the mushrooms and fungi thrusting out of the wet mulch in the mopane woodlands. It's fascinating to watch the construction crews at work, their skilful hands turning the architects' vision into a reality which will form the frame through which we gaze on the ever-changing masterpiece laid out before us - and the home into which we look forward to welcoming you all in the months and years to come.

Kings Pool has evolved several times since the King of Sweden first had his royal tents pitched here all those decades ago, bequeathing us much more than just a name - a legacy of awareness, conservation, and of being awed by being in one of Africa's true remaining wilderness areas.

Fortunately the recipe for "maboa", the large, fleshy white mushrooms which only grow in termite mounds was also handed down, and we have been feasting on those (cooked in garlic and butter, naturally) as we peer out from under our umbrellas and await the passing of the storms, and our new Camp.

And that's all from your Kings Pool January team: Nick & Kerry, Noko, Eddie & Penny, and Dave. We can't wait to meet you all in March in the stunning new-look Kings Pool Campo in March!

Photo credits: Nick Leuenberger

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Kwando Safari Camps Update - January 08

Lagoon camp               Jump to Lagoon Camp
• The coalition of four males got separated. One of the males was seen regularly and he could be heard roaring in the night, looking for his mates.  
• A young male leopard was seen hunting Impala. He was very relaxed and the game drives managed to stay with him for more than an hour. He was unsuccessful in his Impala hunt as they saw him and ran away.
• The three new male Cheetah were seen acting very strange during this month. They moved around the area a lot and kept on calling and acting stressed. On the same day that they started acting stressed one of the game drive vehicles picked up tracks of a single male Cheetah and the guides suspect that this might be the reason for their behaviour.
• The Lagoon pack of dogs is doing well and was seen on numerous occasions during the month. Unfortunately it seems as if the injured sub-adult dog might have died from his injuries caused by the Leopard attack, as he was not seen during this month.  
• Some of the smaller breeding herds of Elephant has returned to the area and were seen feeding on the flood plains. Bachelor groups of bull Elephants were also seen taking mud baths and drinking from the river.    
• Night sightings were good, with Bush baby, Chameleon, Side Striped Jackal and Black Backed Jackal being seen. The family of Bat-Eared Foxes were also seen regularly. The family consists of the two adults and four young ones.
• General game sightings were good during this month with even a small herd of Eland being located. Zebra, Giraffe, Kudu, and Tsessebe were also seen. Large groups of Hippo have now also moved in to the waterholes in the forests.
• Excellent sightings of Porcupines, Dwarf Mongoose, Civet, Serval, Wildcat and Honey Badger were also reported.
• Frog sightings were excellent during this month with many Painted Reed Frogs, Giant Bull Frogs and Foam Nest Frogs being seen. Also sighted were African Rock Python, Spitting Cobra and Spotted Bush Snakes. Martial Eagle, Osprey and Brown Fire Finches made up some of the bird species that were found.

Kwara & Little Kwara camps               Jump to Kwara & Little Kwara camps
• Lion sightings were again very good this month with the coalition of seven males being seen on a regular basis. The pride with four males and tree females was also seen and one of the males was mating with a female. Two unknown males also put in a brief appearance and were seen walking through the area.
• The well-known female Leopard and her cub were together again this month. The mother managed to kill a Reedbuck, which she took up a tree. The following day the sub-adult was seen feeding on the same carcass with her mother. The youngster also managed to make her own kill when she took down an Impala in camp, close to where the guides stay.
• Cheetah sightings at Kwara remains amazing, with no less than three groups operating in the area. The three brothers were seen on numerous occasions as well as another coalition of two males. A female and her male cub were seen hunting and killing an Impala.
• One lonely Wild Dog was seen a couple of times hunting on Tsum Tsum plains before he disappeared from the scene.
• Lots of Bull Elephants were seen around the camps and feeding on the flood plains. Two big bulls were seen crossing the channel in to Moremi Game Reserve from the boat cruise.
• After a long absence, two small groups of Buffalo Bulls were seen in the area. One of these groups consisting of four Bulls was viewed swimming across the channel.
• The Side Striped and Black Backed Jackal were very active hunting frogs during this rainy month. Hyena were also seen on almost every drive and heard during the night. Flapped Neck Chameleons were seen regularly as well
• General game sightings were excellent throughout the month. The Impala, Tsessebe and Wildebeest are busy dropping their young, so lots of newborn babies around. Lots of Zebra and Giraffe around as well and a good sighting of one lone Sable bull.
• Night sightings were good, with Serval, African Wild Cat and Hyena being seen almost every night.
• Birding continues to be very good and also many species of frogs around. One of the drives was lucky to see an African Rock Python kill a Springhare.

Lebala camp               Jump to Lebala Camp
• A Lioness were seen hunting and killing an Reedbuck and her cubs were found, not to far away from where she made her kill. The cubs were running around and franticly calling their mum. She came to fetch them and they were all watched feeding on the kill.
• Two male Leopards were spotted on one day. The first sighting was that of a young male Leopard in a tree with his baby Impala kill. Later the afternoon a big male Leopard was seen relaxing in a tree near Twin Pools.   
• Big breeding herds and bachelor groups of Elephant were seen feeding on the flood plains. They were also seen drinking in the river as well as having mud baths in some of the waterholes in the forest.  
• Birding has been very good this month with lots of the summer migrants still in attendance. An unusual sighting of some Stanley’s Bustards as well as Kori Bustards was also reported.   
• Clans of Hyena as well as Black Backed and Side Striped Jackal were seen on almost every night drive during this month. Flap-necked Chameleons were also seen regularly.
• General game sightings have been very good through out the month, with lots of Impalas, Wildebeest, Warthogs and Tsessebe with their young ones being seen. Zebra, Giraffe and Steenbok were found more in the wooded areas.
• A mother Porcupine and her young one was spotted walking along Main road very close to camp. African Wild Cat and Honey Badgers were common sightings during this month. A very relaxed Caracal was also seen on old Lebala Road.

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Chitabe Camp update - January 08                Jump to Chitabe Camp

Landscape & environment
This month we had over 200mm of rain (just below half of the season's average total) with spectacular results. The grasses and undergrowth responded with enthusiasm and pushed skywards at an incredible rate, covering the landscape with a million shades of green until the area came to resemble a jungle. In some areas the grass is more than six feet high already, creating an almost impenetrable verdant wall on either side of the roads. Flowers are everywhere: Wild Stockrose, Poison Apple, Devil's Claw, Cat's Tail and the striking Flame Lilies bursting out all over.

All the woodland pans are full to capacity, and other low-lying areas have become marshy plains. Towards the end of the month, the waters of the Santantadibe Channel pushed outwards into the surrounding floodplains towards the camp, and as we watched, day by day, the waters first pushed their way past Trails Crossing, then north towards and under the bridges, and finally into the floodplain behind the camp, linking with the water of the crossing channel, once more making Chitabe Camp an island. Due to our geographical location on the outer fringes of the Delta and thus at a slightly lower elevation, all the rainfall over the eastern side of the Okavango eventually flows down to our area, creating a "summer flood" six months before the "real" flood arrives.

Leopard using the bridge at Chitabe

Even the leopards have taken to using the bridges to avoid the flowing waters below as the image from Ryan Green shows.

A delicious addition to the menu here has been the seasonal speciality of Termitomices mushrooms - these huge fungi erupt from termite mounds after the rain to release their spores, and are devoured with great relish by many species, humans included.

Birds
The huge amount of food and water has attracted hundreds of species of birds to the area, from seasonal migrants to raptors and residents in their multitudes. Most are involved in a frenzy of nest building and breeding activity - on a walk around the camp you can see Grey and Red-billed Hornbills busily catching insects and then flying them back to their broods, locked inside their hatching chambers. On some days the floodplain next to Chitabe Lediba was filled with thousands of storks while the sky above swarmed with their endless wheeling. Waterbirds have flocked to the open areas transformed to marshes by the rain - from Wattled Cranes to Knob-billed Ducks, Pelicans, Purple Gallinules, Lesser Moorhens, Painted Snipes, Black Egrets, Spur-winged and Egyptian Geese, White-faced Ducks, African Skimmers and a multitude of others.

Red-billed Hornbill at the nest

Other sightings include Red-necked and Dickinson's Kestrel, Gymnogene, Marsh Harrier, Tawny and Steppe Eagle, Bateleurs in their hundreds, and a host of Vultures.

Reptiles
This month we have seen black mambas, an eastern tiger snake, and a tree monitor hanging out in the fork of a tree watching the activity in camp with a regal reptilian gaze. We have also seen many baby monitor lizards scuttling about the island, feasting on termites. The rains brought bullfrogs out of their underground lairs, and the nights reverberated with their calling - now we have seen a tadpole frenzy in several puddles out there as the young bullfrogs desperately try and consume as much as they can, grow as much as they can before setting off for their life on land before the water dries up.

Mammals
Despite the attentions of a multitude of predators, the impala lambs born after the first rains are seen in huge numbers in their crèche herds, as well as wildebeest, giraffe, tsessebe, zebra and kudu youngsters.

Leopards at Chitabe

Leopard sightings have been good this month with 16 days of recorded sightings. We found the Marula Female one afternoon with three kills hanging in various trees around her - an impala lamb, an adult impala, and a kudu lamb. Another female with two almost-grown cubs has been seen on several occasions - all three are very relaxed (as can be seen in this image from Matt Copham), and have been seen with kills in the Airstrip and Fossil Road areas. The Marula Male has been sighted on several occasions - Newman found him in the Elephant Pan area with two impala kills.

We have had three cheetah sightings this month - one male in the Gomoti area, and a female in the Old Chitabe area.

The lions are doing well. The two males were seen on a giraffe kill near the airstrip, and have been busy patrolling their territory and filling the night with their roars. The solitary old female has had cubs, we think, although we haven't seen them yet. She was last sighted with a kill stolen from a leopard on Madi Road. The other lionesses with the two cubs are doing well, and the cubs are healthy and strong.

The wild dogs are now down to two puppies, and have been seen five times this month. Lazarus went out one afternoon in the pouring rain with some very determined guests (the Bender family!) and they were lucky enough to witness an entire successful hunt from start to finish. Determination certainly paid off in this case!

Lion with a wild dog it has just caught and killed

On another occasion we were witness to a most unfortunate sighting - the Chitabe pack of wild dogs on a hunt through the long grasses north of the airstrip ran straight into the lions. One pup wasn't fast enough to evade them in time, and was caught and killed right in front of Ebs' vehicle (see photo from Tara Salmons). In a classic example of inter-specific competition, the young dog was grievously injured by the lioness's powerful beating, and put down with a neck bite. After the dog went still, the lions resumed their lounging around, showing no more interest in the motionless dog just metres away.

The temperatures here have been rather mild, with the mercury only touching 32°C on a couple of occasions, largely due to almost total cloud cover and rain for the month, although the humidity levels hovered around the 80% mark for much of the time - leading some of us to comment that we are slowly turning into mushrooms?

This month we bid farewell to Lazarus - he will be transferring to the Kwedi concession to further his experience after four years here. We will certainly miss his quirky sense of humour and his excellent guiding - Tsamaya Sentle Lazzie!

Phinley, OT, Luke and Ebs will be guiding here for the month of February, and Ryan, Celine, Kenny, Shaa and Josephine will be looking after the camp. We look forward to seeing you all in our little slice of African paradise, and eagerly wait to see what new adventures February will bring.

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