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July 2008

(Page 1 of 2)

Page 1 Updates
General Safari News - General information and updates from our partners in Africa.
Wildlife News - Interesting wildlife sightings and photos.
Camp News - Camp specific news, including refurbs, rebuilds, accolades, etc.
• Monthly dive report from North Island in the Seychelles.
• Monthly update from Savuti Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from DumaTau Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Zibadianja Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Selinda Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Kings Pool Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Chitabe Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Xigera Camp in Botswana.
• Safari report from The Great Wilderness Journey in Botswana.
Kwando Safaris game reports from Botswana.

Page 2 Updates
• Monthly update from Jacana Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Tubu Tree Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Kwetsani Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Jao Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Duba Plains Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Vumbura Plains Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Pafuri Camp in South Africa.
• Monthly update from Rocktail Bay Lodge in South Africa.
• Monthly Dive Report from Rocktail Bay Lodge in South Africa.
• Monthly update from Shumba Camp in Zambia.
• Monthly update from Lunga River Lodge in Zambia.
• Monthly update from Lufupa Tented Camp in Zambia.
• Monthly update from Kapinga Camp in Zambia.
• Safari report from Kafue's Rivers and Plains (12-19 July) in Zambia.
• Safari report from Kafue's Rivers and Plains (15-22 July) in Zambia.
• Monthly update from Little Makalolo Camp in Zimbabwe.
• Monthly update from Lianshulu Lodge in Namibia.
• Monthly update from Governors' Camp in Kenya's Masai Mara.

General Safaris Updates - July 2008

2009 child policy for Safari & Adventure Co. and Wilderness Safaris
Wilderness Safaris Classic and Premier Camps have reduced the 8 year minimum age for children to 6 years of age in most camps (Abu, Selinda and Zibadianja remain at 8 years and Seba continues to welcome guests of all ages). Where the party size is six guests, private activities are an automatic service, but for families with fewer numbers, private activities must be booked and paid for on every booking that includes a child of 12 years and younger.

Safari & Adventure Co. Camps have a minimum of 6 years of age in wildlife areas, but take kids of all ages in Beach, Lakeshore and Desert camps. The camps in this brand encourage social group activities and family travel and therefore no private activities need to be booked - children are welcome on activities with all guests.


Winter birding at Pafuri Camp
Location: Pafuri Camp, Kruger National Park, South Africa
Date: 15 July 2008
Observers: The Pafuri TeamPafuri is well known as a South African birding Mecca and perhaps the most exciting birding destination in the Kruger National Park. The huge biodiversity of the area (a result of the meeting of various ecoregions at this point) means that a number of species reach the southernmost extremity of their afro-tropical range here and in addition a good dose (20) of southern African endemics occur. As a result more than 400 species have been recorded (~90% of Kruger's total), of which 33 are Red Data Book species (1 Endangered, 14 Vulnerable).

Gorgeous Bush-Shrike      White-crowned Lapwing

A number of sought-after regional and South African specials occur: Three-banded Courser, Racket-tailed Roller, Grey-headed Parrot, Mottled and Böhm's Spinetails, White-crowned Lapwing, Dickinson's Kestrel, White-breasted Cuckooshrike, Arnott's Chat, Meves's Starling, Tropical Boubou, Pel's Fishing-owl, Crested Guineafowl, Bat Hawk, Ayres' Hawk-eagle, Crowned Eagle, African Yellow White-eye, Black-throated Wattle-eye, Gorgeous Bush-shrike and Lemon-breasted Canary.

Pel's Fishing-owl      White-fronted Bee-eater

Birding is generally better in summer between November and April when all the migrants are present and many species are in spectacular breeding plumage and signing and calling vociferously for mates and breeding territories. Winter does not mean that birding is not spectacular however and in fact some species, such as Pel's Fishing-owl, are more easily seen. Typical winter bird parties also allow easier sightings of small inconspicuous species like Green-capped Eromomela and others. Another interesting sighting has been Chestnut-vented Tit-babbler, which is an uncommon record for Kruger National Park due to its more westerly distribution.

Ayres's Hawk-eagle

It is in winter that the more than 1km of raised decking at Pafuri Camp comes into its own. This decking allows guests to cover riverine and floodplain environments unescorted during the day (despite being in a big game area) and camp birding is excellent.

In the last two weeks we have managed to capture decent images of a number of characteristic bird species and feature these here, compliments of Hanel de Wet, Walter Jubber and Wilderness Safaris stalwart Mike Myers.

Mombo - Land of Plenty

Location: Mombo Camp, Moremi Game Reserve, Okavango Delta
Date: 10 July 2008
Observers: Garth Thompson

Our stay at Mombo Camp had been punctuated by so many predators; our first day was more spots than I had ever seen in any one day of 29 years of guiding in Africa. The morning started off with a male cheetah that looked like he had a whole impala in his belly, nothing like the athletic greyhound profile that they normally present. Then during the course of the day, five leopard sightings, two with cubs and two with kills. Two hyena sightings, one waiting patiently for the leopard to drop morsels of its impala from her tree top dining room. And if that wasn't enough spotted animals for one day, we then had a pair of civets courting each other next to the boardwalk as I walked my guests to their room for their first night in the wilds of Africa.

Lions attacking giraffe at Mombo      Giraffe kill at Mombo

The following day we were fortunate to see a pride of 21 lion, then two lionesses basking on a termite mound in the rich evening sun. While watching her, our guide Emang heard over the radio of a sighting from one of the other Mombo vehicles of lions that had killed a baby giraffe. We made our way to the scene, taking at least 15 minutes to get there. On arrival we watched a lioness with her three 7 month old cubs feeding off a young giraffe while the mother giraffe looked on forlornly. I know you are not meant to be anthropomorphic in the wild, but her behaviour over the next 40 minutes and following morning certainly led us to this way of thinking.

The lions had been eating the calf for nearly 20 minutes when we arrived; we presumed it was dead as a sizable amount had been eaten from its front right leg and rump and there was no movement from the animal. All of a sudden the young giraffe stood up, lion cubs fell in all directions. The lioness crouched, sizing up this seven foot baby, allowing her cubs to come in for the attack, obviously teaching them how to hunt and bring down prey.

Lions attacking giraffe - Mombo camp      Lion attack at Mombo

According to the other Land Rover that had been there since the beginning of the attack, this was the fourth time the giraffe had stood up; the incredible power of adrenalin. The lioness stood on her hind legs with paws clasped beneath the giraffe's head. She and her cubs formed a perfect pyramid of feline force; fangs and claws eventually wrestling it to the ground. Looking at the giraffe I noticed there was still an umbilical cord; this can still be present in a young giraffe for up to 8 weeks after birth. Judging by the size of the baby it looked like it was at least 2 months old.

The little lion family then began to feed of the giraffe again. During the next 45 minutes it raised its head, bleating and staring at its nearby mother no less than four times. It was possibly the most traumatic thing I have witnessed in the wild.

The mother giraffe stood looking on all the time that the young giraffe gallantly came to life so many times. The lioness would then try to suffocate it with multiple bites to the nose and neck. We were willing it to die each time its long rearing neck and head raised up to a pleading stare at its helpless mother and just as we thought it could never still be alive that long the neck would lurch up again and its baby face would stare and bleat. It had taken over an hour for the giraffe to die, during this time a fair amount of flesh had been eaten from the right rump and front leg, along with a lot of blood on the neck and head. The following morning we went directly to the site, all that was left was a patch of blood on the grass, with the mother still standing there looking at the site where her calf that had spent 14 months growing in her belly had met its end. Such is the savage cycle of life in Africa. Such are the sightings that Mombo can present you within two days, standing up to its bold statement of 'Land of Plenty.'

Leopard takes cheetah's kill

Location: Kings Pool, Linyanti Concession, northern Botswana
Date: 10 July 2008
Observers: Khan Gouwe

Cheetah with impala kill      Female leopard at Kings Pool

On the afternoon of the 10th of July 2008 I was on a game drive from Kings Pool Camp heading towards Nkwe Hide when I spotted a female leopard, well known to the guides as the Boscia Female. This old and quite small female was standing on top of a termite mound. She appeared unsettled and was calling repetitively and looking in a northerly direction. My immediate thoughts lead me to think that she was calling to contact her cubs or possibly advertising her presence to a male leopard in the nearby vicinity. I followed it up and drove around a small bluebush to assess her object of interest. Right on the opposite side of the bush, to my surprise and that of the guests, was a male cheetah (Savuti Male) feeding on a young male impala. This was only 3m away from the leopard.

Leopard steals cheetah's kill      Cheetah gives up his kill

We waited and watched the cheetah, which was glancing around nervously. Typically cheetah are very vulnerable to other larger predators once on a kill and as a result feed rapidly to avoid the chances of their meal being stolen. All of a sudden the leopard appeared from behind the bush and charged the cheetah, chasing him off his kill.

Having established the degree of the threat the cheetah reciprocated and charged back at the female leopard which ran back towards the termite mound. The cheetah reclaimed its meal. We stayed with the cheetah for a further 45 minutes whilst the leopard hung back a short distance away. Over this time the leopard gained confidence and gave charge for the second time from 4 metres away emitting an intimidating 'roar'. We watched in amazement as the leopard slowly stalked then rushed towards the cheetah. Usually when leopards stalk their prey they rely on their camouflage and painstakingly slow movements to conceal their presence. On this occasion the female leopard stalked the cheetah with her necked arched and with a confident and aggressive stance, seemingly knowing that this time she would succeed. Reluctantly the cheetah moved off to a short distance of 3m, allowing the leopard to pick up the impala carcass and drag it between her legs across an open grassy patch. She then effortlessly ascended a tall tree and cached her kill up high in the branches. Game, set, and match for the leopard!

Swimming Wild Dogs

Location: Savuti, Linyanti Concession, northern Botswana
Date: 27 July 2008
Observers: Kane Motswana & Glynis Humphrey

It was ostensibly a quiet Sunday morning spent meandering along the water-filled Savuti Channel. What Kane was really looking for was the tracks of the Savuti male cheetah which had been seen in the same area the day before. Having had no luck Kane decided to stop for fresh morning coffee along the banks of the Channel with his guests. We were joined by another guide, Ronald from DumaTau. He came in alongside us and he and his guests proceeded to clamber out of the vehicle to stretch legs and watch a journey of giraffe on the southern bank of the Channel. A male red lechwe was quite comfortable in our presence and carried on drinking and grazing nearby. We commented on the presence of a red lechwe this far along the once dry Savuti Channel - a rare sight indeed. The recent influx of water has attracted a myriad of animal and bird diversity into the area.

Wild Dogs and Red Lechwe in the Savuti Channel      Dogs and Lechwe at Savuti

All of a sudden, while the rest of us were lost in contemplation, Kane's keen eyes noticed the painted patterns of a pack of wild dogs against the back drop of a termite mound on the southern bank of the Channel. The dogs were nonchalantly moving along the bank when they caught their first sight of the red lechwe, coat glinting in the morning light. The lechwe, at first standing motionless, had sensed the presence of the dogs and now began to move further downstream.

Lechwe and Wild Dog swimming in Savuti Channel

Having acquired a target the dogs flattened their ears and lowered their postures. The chase began. The pack picked up their pace in a north easterly direction and soon they were out of our sight. We soon caught up with them however, and in utter astonishment watched the dogs begin splashing through the water from the southern to the northern bank of the Channel. In itself this was unusual behaviour given the aversion of the species to water and their extreme caution in entering anything that might contain crocodiles. Sure enough as the Channel deepened, the dogs hesitated and regrouped, three on the northern bank, five on the southern bank. The lechwe, now swimming for life, entered deeper water. All eight dogs were hesitant to follow, the risk of crocodiles now patent. One dog couldn't resist however and dived in after the lechwe, the others followed suit. The lechwe lurched forward through the deepest water, the dogs lost their nerve and stuck mostly to the edges, but as we watched they relentlessly swam back and forth, the lechwe appearing to tire. We waited patiently on the edges of our seats, but eventually the dogs conceded defeat, settled on the bank and then began to wander off, leaving the lechwe to emerge on an island in the Channel.

Following the pack, we watched them swim across a narrow section of the Channel and regroup on the southern bank. We left them and heard the last patter of their feet over the dry mopane woodland leaves. This is the first time that Kane has seen wild dogs swimming in the Savuti Channel, pursuing prey, the first time, too, that these dogs have experienced water in the Channel. In the past they chased impala into the Linyanti River, but never entered the river.

Late that afternoon we found them, again on the hunt, hurtling after impala. We followed them through a dusty sunset into the mopane woodland. Darkness descended, Kane switched off the vehicle engine, only to hear the haunting contact call, 'whooo, whooo'. Another guide discovered the remains of a fresh impala kill indicating the dogs' success, however a single hyena had dispossessed the dogs and was enjoying its free meal for the night. No rest for the wicked it appears.

Ferocious Wild Dog and Spotted Hyena encounter

Location: DumaTau, Linyanti Concession, northern Botswana
Date: July 2008
Observers: Grant Atkinson

Whilst on an early morning drive along the Savuti Channel, out of DumaTau camp, we came across some members of the well known local wild dog pack known as the DumaTau Pack. They were moving through the woodland at a fast trot, and were followed by a single spotted hyena. At one stage two of the dogs turned and chased the hyena.

Wild Dogs and hyena encounter at Savuti      Hyena in the Savuti Channel

Even though the dogs were moving quite quickly we managed to get some pictures of them as they ran by. Then, in seconds they turned into the woodland and raced off. We were unable to keep up and lost track of them. Just minutes later another game drive vehicle found the dogs again, this time on the south bank of the Savuti Channel. We forded the now quite deep channel on one of the old inundated roads, and pulled up near the dogs, who were rapidly devouring what was left of an impala they had just brought down. A Tawny Eagle - a notorious low flying scavenger - flew into a tree nearby, watching for an opportunity to steal a morsel. At the same moment the same spotted hyena that had earlier been following the dogs entered the scene, and began moving closer and closer toward the dogs who were feeding rapidly.

The dogs tolerated the hyena's approach for only a short period before they attacked it in a group, and drove the hyena right into the water of the nearby Channel. The retreating hyena made sure to keep its vulnerable rear end toward the deeper water, protecting its rump. The dogs backed off and resumed feeding. On two more occasions the hyena tried to approach, and on one occasion it made off with a small piece of bone from the kill. The dogs again drove it into the water.

When all that was left of the impala was skin and skeleton, the dogs lost interest and wandered off. Another hyena had appeared on the northern bank, across the water, but strangely enough, it did not cross the channel. At that point the original spotted hyena quietly grabbed what remained of the carcass and made off with it. The dogs had made their way one by one south, into the woodland, led by the heavily pregnant alpha female.

Lufupa Leopards!

Sighting: A leopard, an elephant, a puku - and a kill and robbery!
Location: Lufupa Tented Camp, Kafue National Park, Zambia
Date: 10 August 2008
Observers: John Chibwantu

John Chibwantu, hot on the trail of a leopard's tracks, was explaining to his guests the stealth that these creatures are capable of. Moving through the bush in complete darkness, their hunting success depends on utter silence. It is this hunting trait that produced the need for after-dinner night drives at Lufupa. It was on such a night that John's guests, full bellies from dinner, headed out into a cool August evening.

John's excitement was evident when he first saw the tracks. He knew they were fresh and indeed, after following them for 10 minutes or so, the spotlight illuminated the cat. An adult male, fully grown but quite a small specimen, was lying on the side of a termite mound.

The animal was relaxed with the vehicle and happily posed for the intermittent flashes from cameras. It was short-lived however as nearby an elephant bull was feeding, his intended pathway moving straight through where the leopard was lying. A shake of the ears and a loud trumpet was enough to scare the leopard away. John too wasn't intending getting in the way of a fully grown adult elephant and decided to follow suit.

The route the cat had taken was impassable for the vehicle so the only choice was to carry on up the road until a suitable spot was found. In the spotlight John saw some eyes reflecting back at him, he stopped and turned off. The eyes were coming closer and identified as a rather skittish-looking puku. John took the opportunity to point out that the puku would be a prime target for a leopard; slightly bigger than an impala, a leopard could feed for days on such an animal. With all eyes focused on the antelope, John was suddenly silenced in mid-sentence by the small male leopard launching himself at the hind flank of the puku. Chaos erupted and in a few seconds, once the dust that had been kicked up started to settle, the guests saw the leopard in the throes of suffocating its victim.

For a leopard of his size, an adult female puku was a triumphant kill. He started feeding almost immediately and the guests, adrenaline still rife, were watching in silent amazement. John, after spending 25 years in the bush, had finally seen his first leopard kill. With all watching the leopard feed, a sudden deep growl was heard out of the darkness. Another male had arrived on the scene and hearing the commotion he had come to investigate.

Realising his adversary was smaller than him (and possibly encroaching on his territory) he lunged forward and succeeded in scaring the smaller male away.

This is survival of the fittest at its peak; with the area drying out in the winter months, the prime territories for predators are along the river frontage and are held aggressively. For the smaller male, his search will have to continue to find an area not dominated by a larger cat.

Wild Dog vs. Kudu at Savuti Camp

Flickering patterns in the grass, rocking horse motion, bird-like chirping and cotton-bud tail tips streaming in the wind and signalling all the exuberance and joy of life - wild dogs are possibly our most thrilling predator. Their effortless running down of prey, and the carnage that ensues when the chase ends make for utterly compelling viewing. In contrast, the camaraderie and tenderness within the pack suggest an emotional intelligence and loyalty at odds with the outmoded view of these painted wolves as bloodthirsty sadists.

Wild Dog at Savuti Camp      Wild Dog near Savuti

Cry havoc, and let slip the dogs of Savuti. The tired drumming hooves and heaving flanks of a flagging kudu bull as it hauls itself up the bank of the Channel; the incongruous twittering of a lethally focused killer - it had to be the night of the 13th.

A single wild dog bitch, driven to eat, ran the kudu to the point of exhaustion, and then tore into the soft flesh as it stood hard against the walkway, gasping for air and incredulous that it was being eaten alive by just one dog. With the sudden realisation in the mind of the living of the probability of death, a tremendous leap, splintering wood and the kudu crashed through the handrails and ended up lying across the walkway, with the dog still ripping frenziedly into its belly and genitals. The kudu somehow got back onto the ground, and began to fight back, executing a double back-kick which caught the dog under her chin, flipping her over backwards. This happened twice, and it seemed that the kudu, despite bleeding heavily, might yet evade death. Sloping shapes slinking through the shadows had other ideas, but for now the hyaenas held back.

Both animals were tiring fast, but the kudu had realised that the only way out of this bloody predicament was to use its horns, and it tried to out-turn the dog to bring them into play, and seemed to score several hits, including stabbing the dog in the neck. Meanwhile she was doing her best to attack the antelope again from the rear.

Eventually they fought each other to a standstill, and both collapsed, so that by the time the guests returned home from their bush dinner there was an uneasy lull in camp. Just minutes later, there was more commotion outside the kitchen, and we raced there to see that the very same wild dog had hit an adult female impala. It was a gruesome spectacle, and it was happening immediately in front of us. We raced to collect the pyjama-clad guests and we stood there in shock as the wild dog ate through to the impala's spine before the stricken antelope expired. As the dog lapped up warm blood with the single-mindedness of one who has known true thirst, the hyaenas made their move, swooping in and running off with the remains of the impala.

During the night they moved in and administered a bone-crunching coup-de-grace to the stunned and unresisting kudu. We were speechless as the dust settled and we contemplated the splashed blood, ploughed earth, and shredded vegetation. Nature can indeed be red in tooth and claw, and any sentimentality that exists there is no doubt painted on by humans unwilling to admit to violence perpetrated by animals, for fear that such recognition will hold up too accurate a mirror to our own natures.

The onrushing waters will wash away the blood, the August breezes will smooth away the agonised tracks in the sand, and - perhaps - the regurgitated flesh will sustain a new generation of our rarest carnivore. That is perhaps the explanation for such intense hunting behaviour; this was a bitch that had to feed, suggesting that she had puppies in a den in the area. But, if so, why was she on her own? Where was her pack?

The LTC pack of nine ran into camp a few days ago, nipping at the heels of another kudu bull, but they lacked the urgency of our lone female killer, and lost their nerve when the kudu turned at bay, corkscrew horns slashing in the late afternoon sunlight. This is exactly the time of year when the dogs will typically den; we are keeping our fingers crossed. From nomadic free spirits on the road again, to home-tied responsible relatives.

Seychelles White-Eye Update

Location: North Island, Seychelles
Date: July 2008
Observers: Linda van Herck, Gerard Rocamora and Andre Labiche

In July 2007 North Island finally received 25 Seychelles White-eyes that had been specially flown into North Island from Conception Island via helicopter. Andre Labiche and Gerard Rocamora from ICS (Island Conservation Society) confirmed that all survived. As previously reported, it was then found that these reintroduced birds have in fact bred, which was excellent news.

Ringing newly fledged Seychelles White-eyes on North Island      Measuring a Seychelles White-eye

Now North Island's white-eye population has grown by 15 birds thanks to very successful breeding. The Seychelles White-eye is a critically endangered small passerine species, with a global population estimated at around 400 individuals (in 2006) on three different islands. 15 new birds added to such a small, localised population is very significant and quantifies the significance of North Island's white-eye project: 15 fledglings on an introduction of 25 adults equals a 60% increase in our population and an estimated 3.75% increase in the global population.

Nine of the 15 fledglings (young birds that have just learnt how to fly) were measured and ringed recently. To catch the Seychelles White-eyes, Gerard and Andre used a strategically placed mist net and this gave them a chance to ring some other species that flew into the nets besides white-eyes.

Seychelles Sunbird on North Island

One such bird was a Seychelles Sunbird. Currently there are only a handful of records of this species for North Island and this might hopefully even suggest residency. Out of the 12-odd Seychelles bird endemics, we have now recorded the following birds on the island: Seychelles Blue Pigeon, Seychelles White-eye, Seychelles Swiftlet, Seychelles Kestrel and Seychelles Sunbird.

An excellent and constantly improving track record!

Play behavior observed in young lions

Location: DumaTau Camp, Linyanti Concession, northern Botswana
Date: 14 August 2008
Observers: Grant Atkinson

Whilst on a game drive out of DumaTau Camp we were called to a sighting of lions along the upper reaches of the Savuti Channel. We were driving on the north bank, and the lions were on the opposite bank. They had blood on their faces and were coming to drink from the flowing channel. We made out four in all and decided to try drive around to the southern bank for a closer look. This meant a fifteen-minute detour towards the upper end of the channel where it was still just possible to cross the water which has been getting steadily deeper.

Lions playing - Grant Atkinson      Lions playing in the Savuti Channel

We barely made it through the deep water and then drove quickly back towards the area where we first saw the lions, which were now on the same side of the channel as we were. We came across ten lions in total: several adult females and the rest sub-adults of varying ages that were feeding on a recently caught Burchell's zebra.

These lions are known to frequent the neighbouring Selinda Concession, although on many occasions they venture further east which brings them into the DumaTau and Savuti Camps game drive area.

Lions playing in the Savuti Channel

Although it was interesting to see them feeding on the zebra, the real fun was to be had watching the full-bellied youngsters drinking and play-fighting. One young male in particular was exceedingly playful, and couldn't seem to resist chasing an adult female, or even more so, two other young lions of approximately his own age. He would hide in the slightest depression on the ground, and stalk them patiently for minutes before charging up to them, or leap onto their backs when they were drinking. The show of play went on for nearly 45 minutes, interspersed with bouts of drinking, until finally the rising sun and the heat of the morning brought an end to it.

This play behavior is essential for young lions to hone their skills necessary for capturing prey later in life - a simulation of stalking, ambushing, wrestling and killing. Adult females often never lose their playfulness whereas males older than three rarely join in.

We returned in the evening to find all ten lions still at the zebra carcass, either full-bellied or still feeding on the remains.


The ever-flowing Savuti Channel
30 Jul 2008

Yesterday evening, July 27th, the water (or at least the Saddle-billed storks patrolling in it) was clearly visible from Savuti Camp - a mere 590 metres from the camp's main area, in a straight line. There is a new water crossing on the main Channel Road to Boscia and Python Pan Road is nearly impassable now. For those of you who know the area, the water is almost as far as the elephant skull on, well, Elephant Skull Road. A mere matter of days now: we estimate now that at current rates of flow - and the water is still visibly pushing in - the water will reach camp in approximately 5 days time. Clear your diaries for August 5th!

The water of the savuti channel approaches camp    How far will the water go?

On the 24th of July, the tip of the advancing channel was 1.05km from Savuti Camp with the water advancing some 850 metres in the previous week, or a remarkable 120 metres per day! Bear in mind too that this is straight line distance, and the water has moved much further than this in reality as it negotiates the meanders of the channel bed. Looking at the Channel bed, it seems most likely that the water will swing across to the northern bank, missing the pan at the logpile hide and sweeping around the curve immediately below camp.

Aerial image of the advancing waters

Some wonderful sights to be seen at Savuti - Black-winged Stilts probing the mud; flights of Red-billed Teal; skeletons of long-dead leadwood trees getting their feet wet for the first time in a quarter of a century; zebra and wildebeest herds delicately picking their way through the water as they cross; and the dawn light glowing golden on the wings of Spur-winged Geese as they fly overhead, honking with excitement.

Recently we also had a pack of wild dogs killing and eating an impala and later chasing a kudu right through camp. Our first three metre crocodile was seen in the Channel and a cheetah casually strolled past camp. Also, at least three separate herds of elephant at the pan in front of camp and blocking the road into camp. So we got the guests into the logpile hide (before it is on an island!) to get up close and personal with these pachyderms!

It really is only a matter of time now before the waters reach camp. We have the champagne on ice already!

-Noko and the Savuti Family-

Savuti Channel reaches Savuti Camp!
Date: 02 August 2008


New water in the Savuti channel      Marabou Storks in front of Savuti Camp

The photographs say it all! Sometime during the night of 1 August 2008 the waters of the Savuti Channel finally pushed past the log pile hide to once again reach the northern bank of the ancient Channel. Here it dammed up a little and formed a small lagoon in front of Tents 7 and 6, but by early morning had pushed as far as Tent 5!

As has been the pattern for the last month or so, the front of the flood has been well supported by various bird species. A substantial flock of Marabou Storks have now moved right into position in front of camp as can be seen in the adjacent image with the shadow of a tent in the foreground.

Water coming past camp

The water is flowing in very strongly now and this evening will be the big one in Savuti Camp - champagne all round to celebrate the first water in front of Savuti Camp main area for the first time since 1984. If that isn't reason to celebrate, we don't know what is!

We'll save a few bubbles for those of you coming into the camp over the next few days. After all, it's not often that this happens....

Namibia Camps
Palmwag Lodge in Namibia has joined the Safari & Adventure Co. camp portfolio. The area is best known for its desert-adapted wildlife such as black rhino, elephant and giraffe, but also for the unique culture of the semi-nomadic Himba people. All aspects of this stark and remote destination are easily accessible from Palmwag Lodge which offers an array of guided or independent excursions for its guests.

The lodge is easily accessible by either road or air to a private airstrip and boasts a wide variety of accommodation options from the lively campsite, to comfortable family room chalets and Meru-style tents situated along the banks of the ephemeral Uniab River. A swimming pool, restaurant and cozy bar complete the facilities.

Zimbabwe Camps
Ruckomechi Camp now has 6 tents (an extra twin has been added). The camp is slowly expanding, one tent at a time until we reach 9 tents which we hope to do in fairly quick succession this year.

Zambia Camps
More good things happening at The River Club, where a new Summer House has recently been completed. Overlooking the famous croquet court, it provides an alternative dining area for 12 people and a relaxed lounging area. This follows on the recently completed Wellness Centre and multi-use Gazebo.

The new Toka Leya Camp continues to delight guests with its funky pizza oven and adventurous experiences. And if that wasn't enough, the spa is now open for business, offering a wide variety of beauty and massage treatments.

The camps in South Luangwa (Kalamu Tented Camp) and the Busanga Plains (Shumba Camp, Kapinga Camp and Busanga Bush Camp) are open for the 2008 season and already producing great wildlife sightings, including lion, leopard, cheetah and wild dog!

Botswana Camps
Zibadianja Camp is settling down nicely after the recent rebuild. The camp design direction is unique in many respects: the use of campaign-style furniture; a solid feel through the reuse of railway sleepers as decking; the hollow-fiber tent canvas aiding greater temperature control. This is coupled with superb wildlife viewing from the main area and tents as one gazes out on the Zibadianja Lagoon.

For photography fanatics, a Canon 40D and 100-400mm lens is provided in each tent, while at both Zibadianja and Selinda Camp, a specially adapted photography vehicle can be booked specifically for guests who want to photograph unhindered.


Seychelles / North Island
North Island Dive Report - July 08              
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Weather, Visibility and Water Temperature
Due to the relatively rough sea conditions we have predominantly been diving Sprat City with only a couple of dives on Coral Gardens and North East Point. This has been mainly due to the fact that this is one of the most protected sites around the island and provides the best opportunities with regard to sightings.

The visibility of the water has dropped quite drastically with some dives with visibility of only five metres. While this means that we cannot see as much of what is happening on the reef it does however keep us constantly surprised as one cannot see something until it is right in front of one. A few close encounters with several Napoleon Wrasse as well as the ever-present Black Beauties have been the main culprit for these surprises!

The water temperature has now dropped to around 25°C with several sites showing readings of a chilly 24°C. In general this is warm water, but having become accustomed to the summer water temperatures of the Seychelles, this is now rather cold. Some of the dive team have even resorted to diving with additional layers of wetsuits and have been spotted donning shortie wetsuits over their full suits in an attempt to stay warm. Most of the guests, however, do not share our concern about the water and find the temperatures very comfortable.

The beaches have again continued to shift around the island and the beach at the West Beach Bar is now quite substantial. This beach is now the perfect place for an afternoon volleyball game followed by an exotic cocktail made by Karl, our resident West Beach Barman.

Marine Life
We are a little worried about the fact that we have not seen any sign of the Sprats. This spawning phenomenon usually begins around the middle of June and so far we have experienced the low water visibility, which is characteristic with their arrival, but no Sprats as yet! This site has however been extremely exciting even without the presence of the eagerly awaited Sprats and has proven to be a favourite with the guests who have repeatedly requested to dive there.

There have once again been several encounters with the Yellowfin Kingfish which, as previously mentioned, are legendary for their extraordinary behaviour of circling in a tight school around the divers, which provides the most fantastic diving experiences. It is believed that the Kingfish mistake the bubbles of the divers as Sprats and thus they form this tightly-knitted ball around the divers in anticipation of the food source.

The ever excitable Bluefin Kingfish have also been resident on Sprat City for some time now and although they do not provide the same exciting interaction as the Yellowfin Kingfish they nonetheless are still fantastic to see and especially in the numbers that now frequent the reef during this winter season. Several large adults have been repeatedly spotted in one area of Sprat City which is where the sprats normally tend to congregate, hopefully in anticipation of their arrival? We have also spotted several impressively-sized Napoleon Wrasse which cruise up and down the length of the reef like large, serene airships.

This month has also been especially exciting with regard to sightings of the White Tip Reef Sharks. These sharks, which usually tend to prefer lazing on the sand flats below the reef during the day, have been increasingly spotted swimming out over the reef, possibly in investigation of the now bustling activity in the shallows of this reef.

With the South East Monsoon winds now blowing more from a southerly direction, the usually calm water off the West Beach is quite bumpy which coupled with the low visibility of the water has meant that the only possible snorkelling location on the island has been directly in front of the restaurant along the rocks. Here, the snorkelling has again been particularly good this month with sightings of the Spotted Eagle Rays, Feather tail Rays and the Thick lip Mullet which are often spotted swimming in dense shoals close to the shore.

The Spotted Eagle Rays specifically have been a great attraction as they play in the shallows, sometimes coming right up to the beach, or otherwise floating peacefully at the surface and then leaping clear out of the water in random spurts of chaotic energy. There have again been several sightings of the Lemon Shark in the shallows in front of the restaurant but not as frequenly as we have seen them in the past and they disappeared altogether toward the end of the month.

One particularly rare sighting around the middle of July was that of several Bottlenose Dolphins whilst we were diving on Sprat City. The dolphins hung around for some time before deciding that we did not warrant any further investigation and moved off into deeper water. It is quite special to see dolphins whilst diving and especially for so long a time period, although it is normally a case of the dolphins checking us out as opposed to the other way around.

We also managed to spot a glimpse of another pod of dolphins on a sunset cruise later in the week which were not as inquisitive and quickly disappeared soon after we spotted them.

Along with all of this action we have also experienced the arrival of the seasonal Bluebottles (Physalia physalis). The Bluebottle is normally quite small but the floats can reach 12cm in length and the tentacles can reach as much as ten metres in length. These jellyfish are at the mercy of the wind and are often blown into shallow waters and onto beaches and although they are mostly unwanted visitors due to their painful sting, they are in fact quite fascinating creatures. There are two distinctly different variations of the Bluebottle; those with floats that face to the left and others that are angled toward the right. This means that the same wind will push the two variations in different directions, avoiding all the colonies becoming washed up on the beach and dying.


Botswana Camps
Savuti Camp update - July 08               
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The Savuti Channel
Some places have a seemingly limitless capacity for change; they are so dynamic that to look away for a moment is to miss something happening or evolving. The Savuti Channel has always been a wilderness in a state of flux, with the change of the seasons and even the progress of the hours throughout a day heralding changes significant enough that you begin to doubt things that only a few months ago - even a few hours ago - you held to be true. This year however we are seeing a whole new side to this area, involving perhaps the most dramatic change of all: the return of the waters.

Amazing - the channel is flowing past Savuti Camp!      Savuti Channel water at Savuti Camp

It is no exaggeration to say that we are witnessing historic events. Living here, we are the first people in a quarter of a century to see water this far down the Channel, to be kept awake at night by the chorus of frogs, to thrill at the wing beats of birds as they land right in front of Savuti Camp.

Nothing we have experienced could have prepared us for what is happening in the Savuti Channel right now. The signs were probably there: over the last few years, the water has pushed just into the Channel, perhaps three or four kilometres, before retreating. The records we have suggest that the Channel turns "on" or "off" every 25 to 30 years, and as it last flowed in 1982 (and had dried up completely by 1984) we were perhaps due for it to return.

Why this year? Yes, we had heavy rains, particularly in January and February, but not so heavy that they can entirely explain the resurgence of the waters. It must have taken something more, some additional trigger to set these epic events in motion. The most plausible theory is that there have been some slight seismic shifts.

As the spear point of the water began to approach the Camp, there was a palpable excitement in the air. The water has travelled some 21km (13 miles) on its journey from Zibadianja Lagoon, the proximate source of any water that flows into the Channel. Our Camp is around one third of the way to the Savute Marsh, which the Channel once flowed into, so the water has some 40km (25 miles) still to go before it can truly be said that the Savuti Channel is flowing again.

Water in the channel flows past Savuti Camp      Water in front of Savuti Camp

The speed at which the water is advancing is quite remarkable: easily more than 100m (110 yards) in a straight line each day, which of course means that it is flowing much faster than that as it teases out a serpentine path across the dusty channel bed, and the land reawakens out of its dry torpor. Only after soaking into the sand to refresh underground aquifers can the water advance, initially oozing more than flowing, with the very furthest point it has reached marked by a halo of darker, damp earth.

We were pretty much correct in supposing that the water would go around the logpile hide (which now sits in splendid isolation on a spur of slightly higher ground). Having circumvented the hide, the water swept round the curve below the guest tents and reached the main area on the evening of August 2nd, which was all the excuse we needed to raid the wine cellar and pop open a few bottles of champagne! The guests in Camp that evening included a few who were not even born the last time that the Channel flowed so we got them all to take off their shoes and stand in the water, which at that time was only ankle deep.

Our dearest wish came true the very next day - we awoke to find that the water had pushed beyond Savuti Camp, and formed a large lagoon in front of our fire deck. From ankle-deep to waist-deep in just 24 hours! We now have large, deep pools at each bend in the river, so it may not be too long before we are lulled to sleep by a little night music with the base notes of the hippos and the alto frog chorus.

The water has opened up and expanded habitats for many species we almost never see this far down the Channel. The birds were the first to arrive - not only Saddle-billed and Marabou Storks patrolling the front of the flood, but many other species that we typically only see in the Okavango and other wetland habitats. How about Red-billed Teal, Pied Kingfishers, White-faced Ducks, and even a Reed Cormorant for starters? In their wake come the waders, the probers and ambush specialists: Grey Heron, Little Egret, Great White Egret and Black-winged Stilt. As the channel advances, it seems that the best spot for feeding also moves forward, and the flocks are now to the south of camp, striding and fluttering towards the Savuti Marsh. While none of these species are uncommon in the Delta, to see them at Savuti Camp is very special indeed. The slightest disturbance along the banks (such as an awe-struck camp manager walking along to measure the distance the flood has moved on overnight) provokes a tremendous clatter of wings as every single bird takes off at once, wheeling round and honking their displeasure, before alighting again to continue enjoying the bonanza.

Little Egret in the Savuti Channel      Wild Dog in Savuti's waters

We have frequently been asked what we think will happen now, and the honest answer is: we don't know. The water could lose momentum, stall, begin to dry up and form fish traps, or it could flow all the way to the Marsh and begin a quarter-century of annual floods embellishing a year-round river. Certainly there is more water to come: recent measurements at the Botswana border with Namibia suggest that the near-record levels of water flow recorded earlier this year are being maintained, although the rate has declined slightly over the last few weeks.

With so much history flowing and swirling at our feet as we look down from our vantage point on the camp's deck, perched up on the northern bank of the Channel, we could be forgiven for being too absorbed in this to be too aware of what else is happening around us. Some events, however, demand attention; some animals will not be ignored.

Game Viewing
This sudden profusion of water has perhaps had the most noticeable effect on our elephant populations. Whereas in previous years they were compelled to come down to the pan in front of camp as it was the only reliable source of water for miles around, they now have a plethora of places to drink and wallow. Evidence that elephants are creatures of habit: even with a new river swirling past the pan, some matriarchs have persisted in leading their herds to the waterhole, in some instances even splashing through the Channel to reach it. As the breeding herds approach the water, young elephants often break into a run as the excitement becomes a little too much.

In previous years, elephants have made a real nuisance of themselves in and around Savuti Camp, digging up pipes and destroying plumbing fixtures in their desperation to drink, resulting in a lot of pre-dawn leak repairing and a hefty bill from the Maun hardware store. This year in contrast the bill has been precisely zero - it would take a pretty mischievous elephant to attack our pipes now that there is a whole new river just yards from the camp.

Many thanks to our guests who shared the anticipation and the excitement, and got their toes muddy as the Channel swept by Savuti Camp!


DumaTau Camp update - July 08                Jump to DumaTau Camp

Temperature and Water Levels
We have had fluctuating temperatures this month, with temperature lows going down to 7° Celsius and highs of 29° Celsius. The average temperature was 10°C (lows) and 25°C (highs) for the month. The water levels are also continuing to rise in the Linyanti, and it has made it impossible for our vehicles to access and use the southern bank of the Savuti Channel. Crossings that have been used before like the Mopane Bridge Crossing are now too deep and inaccessible.

The guiding team here have has been very busy, not just with guiding but with the clearing and making of new wildlife viewing roads.

Bush braai      Elephants at DumaTau Camp

There are always a lot of great sightings around, but this time it was a very beautiful, unusual sighting that went on for about a week: great snake-like patterns in the sky of Red-billed Queleas flying back to their roosting place every day just before sunset; the dust they made was very similar to when elephants march towards the water. Blue wildebeest is now commonly been in the Savuti Channel area, but we have three males that stay around DumaTau Camp and also two male buffalo around Osprey area.

Silver Eye and his brother have shown that they are here to stay in the Linyanti especially around the DumaTau area. They are mainly seen around the Mopane Bridge area and we often hear their roars around camp. Silver Eye has also been seen a couple of times mating with one of the Savuti Pride females. We have also been so lucky to get to see some sightings of buffalo in the Savuti Channel mainly around Rock Pan and the Letsomo area.

We always have amazing sightings of elephants, but this time I (Kago) was lucky to actually see elephants mate and two males getting into a fight over the female. It has also been great to see them crossing the water right in front of camp. We have seen an increase in the numbers of common reedbuck along the floodplain and also now see a lot of waterbuck along the Savuti Channel.

Our guests have enjoyed seeing hippo that are always moving and feeding around camp and African Fish-eagles fishing while they are having tea (the guests not the birds). Visitors were also excited to see the DumaTau male leopard hunt in the Elephant Valley area though he was not successful. Eland are not commonly seen in this area but Ollie and his guests were lucky to see one.

It is sad to mention that recently we have only been seeing one of the two Savuti Boy cheetah pair and we suspect that the other cheetah may have died after fighting with two young males in the Selinda area. Wild dogs are always fun to watch and this time it was Grant Atkinson and his guests that got to see the wild dogs getting into a fight for food with a hyena. I was also lucky to see a caracal on the way to Chobe airstrip on my way to Savuti Camp.

Bennett's Woodpecker      Young Francolins

Birding in this area has also been great as we have seen an increase in water bird numbers in the Savuti Channel - Reed Cormorant, Pied Kingfisher, White-faced Ducks, Spur-winged Geese, storks and the exciting sighting of a Giant Kingfisher at Bottle Neck in the Savuti Channel. We have also had some wonderful sightings of raptors in this area including two Martial Eagles feeding on a baby baboon. (Pictured is a Bennett's Woodpecker and juvenile Red-billed Francolin)

The DumaTau team has received good feedback from the guest for the bush dinners, brunches and sundowner setups that we have made for our guests.


Zibadianja Camp update - July 08                Jump to Zibadianja Camp

Living out in the wilderness, you experience many magical moments that will stick with you for years. Most recently for me it was watching a huge elephant bull sleep. I followed one as it was browsing its way through camp one day, gently stripping fever berry leaves from the branches, slowly moving from one bush to the next. It then walked between the log screens around tent 3 (a gap of around a metre) and began feeding on the bushes there. I walked around onto the deck of the tent to get a better view. His trunk felt around for the most succulent leaves and stripped them off, curled them into his trunk, then plucked them up into his mouth.

Elephant herd at Zibadianja camp      Elephants drinking at Zib Camp

From this distance I could make out all the wrinkles and fissures of his skin and the light picked up all the coarse hairs along his tail. He then moved slowly forward into a bush, pushing his way until his head was buried deeply into the foliage. This is when he stopped moving, his penduline tail halted and his active trunk rested quietly on the ground. It took me a while to realise, but all activity had ceased, only the gently rise and fall of his body made me realize he was fast asleep!

I continued to watch him; occasionally his tail would twitch, but he never moved. For around five minutes he stood motionless. Then the end of his trunk moved to the left, then right, then to the left again and picked up a small piece of grass and then dropped it. Maybe he was dreaming?

Elephant at Zibadianja

The lions have been very active around the northern section of the Selinda Reserve near the Zibadianja Lagoon this past month, with two prides moving around the area. One is the Selinda Pride of the three females and five youngsters. The other has a similar pride make-up and we're not quite sure who they are yet. They have both also been hunting successfully, with each pride bringing down a giraffe on the same day, one very close to camp and the other near the headquarters. Two days later one pride took down a buffalo close to the airstrip.

The Selinda Pride spent a day around the Savuti Channel. They were spotted early in the morning out in the open, with the young males play-fighting and chasing each other. They moved off a bit when the day heated up and lay in the shade of the fever berries and blue bushes. After brunch we headed out again to see what they were up to. They had not moved and still lay in the shade. Later that day they unsuccessfully chased some waterbuck, impala and warthog.

Despite all of the lion activity, we've still been seeing wild dogs between the old and new Zibadianja Camps. Often we see the two females and they have killed many impalas by themselves.


Selinda Camp update - July 08                Jump to Selinda Camp

Game sightings in July have been outstanding with plenty of elephant, giraffe, lion, cheetah, wild dog and leopard. As far as lions are concerned, a new pride moved into the area during the last six weeks and the Selinda Pride has moved further east into the Savuti area.

Hippo at Selinda      Around the camp fire at Selinda

Game viewing has been very exciting with loads of predator kills being one highlight. Out of 12 kills reported, five where seen by our guests while on game drive. A cheetah was also seen with her four-month-old cub. She had killed an impala but a spotted hyaena then came and stole it.

The same cheetah was also spotted by the guides on a morning drive - stalking impala that were grazing in an open area near camp. According to the guests and their guide, this mother cheetah used the tree line and long grass to get herself close enough without being detected. She then came out at full speed towards a male impala, which did not even see her approaching. The cheetah was successful and our guests saw the whole saga from start to finish. What made it even more special was seeing the young cheetah running beside its mother at the same pace!

Channel crossing at Selinda      Lion viewing at Selinda

Two wild dogs took down a male impala near the boat station just before sunset, but a spotted hyaena came in and took the kill. The following day, the same dogs killed another male impala in front of Tent 1 and Selinda Camp staff watched them from the main deck as well as from Tent 1. When the guests returned from the afternoon drive they found them sitting in the grass between Tent 1 and 2. One of the guests commented, "This is a splendid wild Africa experience for each and every one of us."

On the birding front a Martial Eagle was also seen killing a mongoose.

Our hide is now finished and it has already been used for sundowners to the enjoyment of all.


Kings Pool Camp update - July 08                Jump to Kings Pool Camp

July at Kings Pool Camp is traditionally one of the coldest months of the year. The mornings and evenings have been very cold but midday temperatures were very warm. But nothing works better than Gluwhein and a bush campfire!

We had a lot of heavy rain this year so couple of natural waterholes still have some water but they are drying quite fast, which has caused the general game to start concentrating along the Linyanti River for cleaner water.

Red-billed Queleas at Kings Pool

Game viewing has been spectacular this month with great predator and herbivore sightings.

The Border Boys (coalition of three male lions) are all still in great shape and they have proven that they are able to be the fathers of the cubs from the LTC Pride. They fathered four cubs from two females, but two other males arrived in the Border Boys' territory last month and killed three of the cubs. We have only been seeing one cub only and it is unfortunately badly injured. One of the Border Boys was subsequently spotted mating with one female from the LTC pride at Nkwe Hide, so we're holding thumbs for new life.

We also had a very interesting sighting of two young male lions from the Savuti Pride chasing one female lion from the LTC Pride up a tree where she stayed for more than three hours. When we left the sighting the two males were still sitting under the tree.

Savuti Pride male at Kings Pool      Zebras at Kings Pool

A solitary male cheetah has been seen a couple of times in the Kings Pool area which was exciting because we haven't seen a cheetah around here for a long time. We found a pair of Southern Ground Hornbills nesting up on a tree hole. The vegetation is getting very dry out here and we are now seeing massive flocks of Red-billed Queleas feeding on grass seeds - the noise and dust from these little birds is incredible.

Thonningii male leopard with a warthog kill      Elephants at Kings Pool

Our resident male leopard (Thonningii) has been an absolute superstar this month with regular sightings and we have seen him a couple of times hunting during which he has sometimes been successful. He loves hunting warthog.

Our resident female leopard is still around and one afternoon was seen robbing an impala from a single male cheetah which was fascinating to watch. We also have seen one female leopard with two cubs to the western side of camp. We have seen her three different times this month and she was even spotted very close to camp with her two cubs.

Elephants are around, but not in great numbers yet because we still have some water in a couple of the natural waterholes. We still have great sightings of elephants crossing the Linyanti River into Namibia or coming from Namibia and some single bulls have been destroying the walkways and chasing staff around camp!

A couple of unusual nocturnal animals have been seen this month like African civet, serval and African wild cat. One of our guides, OD, found a caracal that had killed a sub-adult male impala. The caracal is the African version of the lynx and a formidable predator, often killing antelope over twice its own weight.

-Alex Mazunga and the Kings Pool Team-


Chitabe Camp update - July 08                Jump to Chitabe Camp

There was so much action in and around the concession that we have almost been left breathless.

Notable highlights include three cheetah kills witnessed by guide Andy and two leopard kills. The resident breeding herd of elephants have been in camp every day.

Cheetahs at Chitabe    Leopard making a kill at Chitabe

Dogs making a kill at Chitabe    Mating lions at Chitabe

There has also been a battle for lion supremacy as our one remaining adult male lion was threatened and attacked by three younger males from across the Gomoti Channel. These three new arrivals have now set up camp on a buffalo kill barely fifty metres from the nearest staff house, and divide their time between eating and mating with our resident lioness. This lioness is presumed already pregnant by the possibly still-alive-but-injured Chitabe male, and she has made it her business to mate with all three new males within a week so that when the cubs are born the odds of them being killed are possibly far less...

Phew - quite a month. (All photos courtesy of Andy who has been close to the action all month.)

-Nick Green-


Xigera Camp update - July 08                Jump to Xigera Camp

July had a maximum average of 22° Celsius and a mean minimum of 11° Celsius. The month has been one of relatively clear weather. There has still been a steady drop in flood levels measured at the bridge in front of camp.

Wildlife Sightings
Early one morning, the first guide out found drag marks zigzagging down the road. In the soft sand they could clearly make out the tracks of an African wild cat, its paws straddling the prey that it was dragging. A little further on they found the remains of a scrub hare that was left after being consumed by the small cat. This is sizeable kill for the wild cat that is only the size of an average domestic cat.

From the boat, guests have seen groups of warthog feeding on the grass in the shallow floodplains along with troops of baboons and zebra. Giraffe were found browsing on the acacias while hyper-active vervet monkeys played in the tree tops. This is a typical scene here in the Delta, where different species of prey animals feed together, numerous watchful eyes looking out for predators. They all benefit from the increased eyes and ears able to detect dangerous predators.

Interestingly, a small python was seen in the shallow waters where guests got out of the boat onto an island to enjoy their evening sundowner. Not many snakes are seen this time of year, where the cold forces them to slow their metabolism through the winter months. The python is completely at home in water and will often ambush water birds from below.

A big, black-maned lion was spotted from the boat one afternoon on an island. On closer inspection, the guide noticed a lioness close by, both resting at the time. Suspecting what might be going on here, the guide waited for a while and sure enough they eventually started mating. The big cats will mate almost continuously for several days. If the mating is successful the lioness should give birth by November to a small litter of cubs.

Our bridge across the channel onto the island on which the camp is situated was productive once again this month. There is a small sandpit at the camp end of the bridge which allows us to determine, from tracks left in the sand, what has crossed onto the island during the month. Since the bridge is visible from the campfire and dining room table we also often see these creatures sneaking across after dark. This month we had several spotted hyena sightings, as a well as one of a male leopard and no less than three of the same female leopard. The guests were obviously blown away by these sightings enjoyed while having dinner.

Birds & Birding
African Skimmers were sighted at Xigera Lagoon on the 14th of July which is very early for them to be seen here; perhaps a sign that the flood was a small one and water levels are dropping fast, exposing sandbanks. The skimmers arrive in this part of the world after the flood to nest on the sandbanks, but unfortunately their nests are often robbed by Nile Monitors and crocodiles that eat the eggs and even chicks. Last year they were seen in large flocks at the lagoon, but sadly none managed to successfully breed here. We hold our thumbs that this year we will witness greater success.

Aside from sightings of Western Banded Snake-eagle there were a couple other birding highlights this month:

Two African Fish-eagles were seen locked in aerial combat, tumbling from the air and then flying back up to resume the fight. Fish-eagles are known to be highly territorial (especially here where the productive habitat is able to sustain a very large population) and this particular altercation was no different. The pairs can often be seen perched on tall trees on the ring islands near the water and by doing this they are clearly advertising their presence to any other fish-eagles that might be in the area, eyeing out the territory.

Marleen, one of our camp managers, was sitting on her porch one evening overlooking the water channel that runs past the front of camp and under the bridge. She suddenly noticed a Pel's Fishing-owl dive down with talon's stretching into the water. The big owl successfully grabbed a fish and then flew off to a big sycamore fig tree where it perched and started eating its catch. This is a rare sight by any standard and a very lucky and happy Marleen got a goods night's sleep after all that excitement.

Other News
Other news this month was an extremely interesting presentation by Poster on the Wilderness Safaris Rhino Relocation and Reintroduction Project. We had the pleasure of hosting this large (in height and character) man at Xigera for two nights, and he had guests, staff, guides and managers alike all mesmorized by his work. He was also able to join Marleen, Glynis and John on an all day bird transect where they recorded all the species of birds identified on the trip as well as the number of each species. This is part of a monitoring project that is continually looking for data to add to their database. Through regular monitoring and bird counts such as this, the experts are able to keep track of species diversity, any changes that may occur as well as seasonal fluctuations in bird species.


The Great Wilderness Journey Safari report - July 08                Jump to The Great Wilderness Journey safari

'Nkwe!' (Setswana for leopard) - that was the first word we heard upon disembarking the plane at Jao airstrip. We had just landed near Jacana Camp and were not even seated in the Land Rover yet. The afternoon light was golden; the trees, palms and the grass seemed to glow from within and in the middle of it all there she was: a female leopard together with her cub. They were both feeding on a steenbok she had killed earlier that day. What a start to the safari.

Leopard on termite mound      Leopard cub - Great Wilderness Journey

Obviously there was no doubt about the activity the following morning. We headed out to see the leopard and her cub again, and were lucky to find them playing in the first morning light.

Sightings of these two accompanied us through our entire stay at Jacana Camp. The last morning we didn't hold out too much hope of seeing them again though since there were no tracks to be found and all their favoured lying up spots were vacant. Then she reappeared again, this time in full view and standing proudly on a termite mound. So we joined up with her one more time while she was leisurely strolling from termite mound to termite mound before finally deciding on following a small herd of red lechwe.

Leopard feeding - Great Wilderness Journey

As she began to stalk the herd, all we could see was the tip of her tail popping out of the long grass here and there. She got closer and closer to the lechwe, and then some antelope began running. All of a sudden she pulled one down: a large lechwe ram double her size. What a hunter! Needless to say we were all clicking away, taking picture after picture, realising much later that it all had happened in very tall grass.

Elephant at Jao

We left Jao Concession with wonderful memories and headed on to Motswiri and then the Linyanti region. Sightings of roan, sable, buffalo and huge elephant breeding herds playing at the river, splashing about and swimming past our boat made the days speed by all too quickly.

I should also probably mention that just before we finished our safari we discovered a beauty of a male leopard under some bushes feeding on a warthog!

-Andrea Staltmeier-


Kwando Safari Camps Update - July 08

Lagoon camp               Jump to Lagoon Camp
• Tragedy at the wild dog den this month as they were raided by a pride of lion resulting in the pack being split up, originally we thought six pups were gone but fortunately after three days the rest of the pups navigated their way back to the rest of the pack. The lagoon pack now is settled at a new den with the eleven puppies.
• Two large male lions and a lioness with two cubs had an amazing hunt on a herd of Buffalo. The small pride took hours to precisely judge the attack on the herd resulting in the perfect kill.
• One afternoon game drive had the guests see a Leopard dragging an Impala kill a few hundred meters then hauling it up a tree. The guide seems to think that it was a new young leopard in the area as they have never seen him before.
• Elephant numbers are still on the increase with bachelor herds, single bulls and large breeding herds. One young bull elephant has taken up residency in lagoon camp, he is found thoughout the night foraging in between the camp tents and resting against the trees during the day.
• A herd of four Buffalo also seem to like the shade from the trees in camp and mow the lawn at night in the camp. Morning drives this month have daily seen the large herd in the Lagoon area which has amounted up to about four hundred.
• Saddlebill storks have been foraging in front of the camp with the Openbill storks feeding on fresh water snails.
• Hippo have always been a highlight in front of Lagoon camp with them during siesta time coming out of the water and feeding on the grass on the opposite bank of the lagoon.
• A very big highlight and rare occurrence one evening activity had a sighting of a very large Porcupine walking down the road  and almost from the opposites direction was an Aardvark and with no confrontations they both split and went off the road in opposite directions.

Kwara & Little Kwara camps               Jump to Kwara & Little Kwara camps
• The Lion down in the Kwara concession have been al over, the coalition of seven is now down to five, two of the pride of seven have not been seen for a while, a female with two cubs have been feasting on a civet cat, three females
• The single wild dog had great opportunity out towards Paul’s crossing with and impala kill, amazing how versatile the dogs can be even when they on their own.
• This single male dog also put on a spectacular show in front of camp chasing the where the Lechwe, guest were able to witness this from the luxury of their tents.
• The one eyed female Lion with her pride have been lazing around the camps the past few weeks chasing Impala and Lechwe around camp but with no luck.
• The three Cheetah brothers have been very active the last couple of days with them marking out their territory. They managed to kill an Impala out on Magwelewele road on the one afternoon drive with guests.
• Generally the game reported by the guides has been described as brilliant! Hyena have been common around the area and our guests have had many sightings of them scavenging around the kills and camp. Twenty two Giraffe have been in the area and been seen by numerous guests.
• A male Stitunga was spotted by guests this month, the guide says that it was well hidden but with a bit of patience the guests were able to great photos and brilliant view of this aquatic mammal.
• The absolute highlight of this month were the three Cheetah hunting Impala and out of the blue came two Wild Dogs straight for the Impala resulting in the dogs taking the kill. The annoyed Cheetah gave a full charge towards the dogs and they were chased of the kill for the Cheetah brothers to feed.

Lebala camp               Jump to Lebala Camp
• Absolutely phenomenal evening game drive found two Leopards up in a tree with a civet kill. The guide said the one leopard was very skittish. The same group of guest managed to see two more leopards during their stay at Lebala.
• A new pride of Lions in the area with two large males and five sub adults Lions have been creating havoc with the wildlife. On an afternoon drive the guest were astonished to see them provoking a Crocodile and then moved on in the evening killing a young Leopard.
• Sightings of the three wild dog have been superb on a regular basis, the guides have had incredible opportunities with the guests on numerous occasions of them hunting and just lazing around. The most spectacular hunt was seen this month with the dogs hunting a Steen buck through the scrub mopane. The speed the dogs hunted at were only glimpses to the naked eye.
• A huge herd of a thousand buffalo have been moving between the Selinda concession and Lebala.
• Roan antelope have been sighted in the area with and the local Carmine Beeaters have been coming back in the numbers.
• The sightings of small predators have been great; Civet sightings along the roads have provided guests with great sightings. Honey badgers, black footed wild cat, Caracal and the Mongooses have been highlights on the evening drives. Aarvark tracks but no luck like Lagoon.

• Planes were diverted and delayed for a few minutes as there were Wild dog on Maun airport, The Wildlife department there to catch the dogs and release them back to the wild.


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