(Page 2 of
Jacana Camp update
- July 08 Jump
to Jacana Camp
It was a great start to a typical winter's month in the Delta. The early morning wake-up calls make it difficult to crawl out of your cosy bed and out into the crisp morning air, but the beautiful sunrises in front of the camp make it all worthwhile. Winter is also an idyllic time for photographers with beautiful clear blue skies and the sun reflecting off the clear water in the floodplains. The night skies are also incredible, and with no cloud cover or light pollution, it is truly unforgettable.
The flood is not as high as it was last year and the water seems to be receding earlier. We should be seeing all the red lechwe in front of the camp soon.
Beauty, the resident leopard, has been very active and spotted many times with her cub who seems to be thriving. We are so relieved that the cub has made it this far and gives us some hope that it may grow up to be a strong male leopard. Some very fortunate guests from Germany had a wonderful sighting with Beauty. They tracked her down and saw her stalking a very large male red lechwe which she succeeded to catch and kill very swiftly and silently. We thought that due to the size of the kill that she would struggle to pull it up a tree to keep it away from hyaena and lions. This prize kill can easily last this leopard and her cub over a week. So we couldn't wait to see if she managed to keep the kill overnight. It was a pleasant surprise to see the kill still under the tree with Beauty and her little cub feeding on it the next day. She managed to keep the kill for a few more days until the resident lions caught the scent and devoured the remains.
In and around camp, our resident elephant bull, Jack, has been a regular visitor to the island. The big attraction is all the palm trees with their ripe fruit. The elephants have learnt how to shake the palm trees to dislodge the ripe fruit. Jack is very experienced at shaking the palms and he has often been seen accompanied by two younger males who seem to follow him around as if they are picking up tips on how to shake the palm trees in order to get as many palm nuts as they can. They all have their own method of shaking the palm trees, and whereas some inexperienced males tend to head-butt the tree, Jack curls his trunk around the trunk of the palm and then slowly starts to build momentum and then ends up vigorously shaking the palm tree. He then steps back to avoid the heavy rain of hard palm nuts. The great noise it makes also makes us aware of the location of the elephants on the island.
Another frequent visitor to our island, particularly at night, is a young male hippo. Guests have been amazed that whilst sitting at the fire having pre-dinner drinks, to have a hippo casually walk past the front of them and then into the thicket past the kitchen to his favourite grazing spot. It is rare for guests to see hippo out of water and it's usually on a boat or vehicle that they are seen - not whilst having a chat and a drink in camp. It's always exciting when he comes to visit but we mustn't forget that hippo are considered one of the most dangerous animals in Africa.
Despite it being winter, the birdlife is still incredible! The African Fish-eagles are a daily sight, and breeding pairs have even been seen having aerial combat with other pairs in defence of their territories, right in front of camp. The uncommon Western Banded Snake-eagle has also been seen, and other rare birds such as the Wattled Crane are often seen on the game drives or boating activities. The elusive Pel's Fishing-owl has been spotted a number of times on the mekoro activities. A particularly memorable sight was watching four Meyer's Parrots feeding on the fruit of a sausage tree, right in camp. They were seen feeding on the same fruit for about four days, and it was amazing to watch the adults feeding the now almost fully grown chicks.
Despite the longer nights and shorter days of winter, there never seems to be a shortage of wonderful sights and experiences in the Okavango Delta. We hope to see you soon to share in the beauty of this pristine wilderness.
Tubu Tree Camp
update - July 08 Jump
to Tubu Tree Camp
Tubu Tree Camp guest tents now have some nice improvements: new sliding doors leading out onto the deck instead of the zips which the tents originally had. The rooms are also more spacious yet still taking in the magnificent views of the Delta with easier access onto the veranda from where you can sit and relax as you watch nature go by.
The general game has been brilliant with an endless list of animals. We have had giraffe, buffalo, kudu, impala, red lechwe, hyaena, warthog, zebra, hippo, blue wildebeest, tsessebe, and steenbok. If you are vigilant during the early hours of the evening you might get a chance to see honey badger, porcupine, scrub hare, serval, genet, civet and bushbaby.
Guests have also had an opportunity to see these creatures of the night up close: one evening we were down stairs at the boma enjoying the inviting warm fire when we saw a porcupine walking very close by to us. When he first took notice of us it was a funny and enjoyable experience as he immediately turned his quill-filled back towards us. Minutes later we spotted a Verreaux's Eagle-Owl that was perched on a nearby tree and posed for many photos for everyone. The evenings are enlivened with the enchanting sounds of the pinging fruit bats and piping reed frogs.
The Jao lion pride were seen on a number of occasions - on the prowl and twice stalking ever-so-alert impala. The sub-adult male has grown and seems to be taking charge of his mother and sister and together they make a great trio for hunting.
A good number of leopard kills were observed this month and the first one almost happened in front of camp just before midday while we were having brunch. It was a quiet and normal day in camp with only the sounds of bird calls and the sights of red lechwe grazing in the shallow water of the floodplains in front of camp. All of a sudden there were lechwe leaping and splashing in the water, barking alarm calls and gathering closer to each other. We all immediately jumped up and went onto the deck where we could have a better view of what the commotion was about. Suddenly one of the guests spotted a leopard in the grass as it scampered off limping with what appeared to be an injury to the left leg. He was not successful in making a kill but the excitement was enough to call it a great day in camp. The leopard was identified as a young male resident of the area.
A couple of days later the same young male leopard was spotted up in a tree - this time with a kill. He had managed to catch a baboon and was feeding on it. He was clearly not willing to share this meal because there was another female on the ground that he growled at not to come any closer to him and his food.
Exciting is a way to put it as in one week there were several kills that a female leopard had made very close to camp. Two of the kills were abducted by hyaenas that cleaned it all up in a matter of minutes. The sounds of the hyaenas eating were rather gruesome and left the guests cringing but none of them could resist to take photos of this amazing sighting as they ripped and tore the carcass apart. On the leopard's third attempt she was more successful at keeping the food to herself. This time she dragged her food into some thickets where she spent all afternoon feeding on a red lechwe uninterrupted by other predators. She then made another kill a couple of days later in front of camp and she was wise enough to carry her food up the tree and eat it in there in peace.
On another occasion, having just returned from a bush brunch, a troop of vervet monkeys had invaded camp. They had thrown things around the camp and so we started to tidy things up. While we were busy with our heads down and cleaning up the main area we heard a lot of alarm calling from different animals. The red lechwe were leaping, running and splashing profusely as they fled in various directions. We took a hard look and guests came out of their rooms onto the balcony to see what all the noise was about. The adult male vervet monkeys started to alarm on the branches above us and we immediately knew that there was a predator lurking: a stalking leopard had managed to kill a red lechwe. The sight was brilliant and the most amazing thing was the strength of the leopard as it dragged the carcass of the dead antelope to the other end of the camp with great ease.
There have been numerous sightings of elephant breeding herds in and around camp too. They created a beautiful picture as they walked in the dust and splashed in the water with the sunset backdrop in front of camp one evening. There are a few male bulls that regularly visit our camp. They are a great sight to enjoy without having to leave camp.
update - July 08 Jump
to Kwetsani Camp
The month of July started with slightly lower temperatures than June, but just when we thought we were going to experience a winter period, the weather warmed to once again produce wonderful warm days with minimum temperatures of around 15° Celsius. Temperatures have been variable but have not dropped below 11° Celsius, generally a couple of degrees warmer with beautiful calm evenings and sunny days.
As the months pass by we are always amazed at the wonderful experiences we see and hear of from our guests on a daily basis. It is these wonderful experiences that undoubtedly have a life changing effect on visitors to our home deep in the Okavango Delta. As we review the past month we realise yet again how many amazing experiences July has produced, we feel so privileged to be part of this dynamic environment every single day of our lives and even more so we feel privileged to meet such wonderful people with whom we can share these experiences and who in turn share their worlds with us.
After an extraordinary June, the month of July did not disappoint. We have again been treated to wonderful sightings, probably some of the most exciting moments being on our mokoro activities where we do not really expect to see big game. This is a time to drift peacefully within the waters of the Delta; looking at the wonderful reed frogs and experiencing the amazing scent of water lilies; it is a time to recharge your soul and to soak up the mood of the Delta. Imagine the excitement when Michael and Rosie Chambers and their daughters Camilla and Carmen saw Broken Nose, our resident lioness, and her cub passing in front of them while enjoying a sundowner on the waters after a peaceful mokoro outing.
It seems the idiom "It never rains but it pours!" is all too true as the family then had a wonderful sighting of our enormous male leopard on the way back to camp. This was certainly a mokoro activity with a difference.
Our resident leopard Beauty and her cub have been ever obliging this month, we have had numerous nervous moments when the cub has disappeared for days without being seen, and then just as we are beginning to fear the worst he appears full of energy to delight guests. The little one is growing fast and relishing the mouthfuls of meat from kills made by Beauty. We loved the picture of the youngster enjoying mouthfuls of the fresh kill, thanks for the CD Cliff and Mary!
We are still enjoying the waterways and wonderful game drives however, the water is definitely receding fairly quickly now. Despite this our roads are still very wet with some deep crossings and they continue to offer interesting drives and some extraordinary experiences such as this elephant that forced us to wait while it stopped to consume the wonderful clear waters of the Okavango Delta from the tracks of our path.
The birds too are absolutely wonderful and 'litter' the roads as far as the eye can see. Saddle-billed Storks glide gracefully ahead of the vehicles where they snatch a plump frog or some other delicacy. Out on the floodplains African Snipe, with their amazing long beaks, fill the evening sky with their characteristic drumming call.
It is also that time of the year when the elephants are starting to knock the fruits from the tall makalani palms. The nights are filled with the sound of trees being shaken and falling palm fruit. This will increase in the months to come as nutrient-rich food becomes scarcer on the parched islands.
After wonderful experiences this month, and just when we thought we had had some of our best moments, guests Graeme and Jean from the UK, along with Elena from the USA, were relaxing on the pool deck when they spotted three lions on the plain in front of them. Of course we immediately passed on the word to the other six guests in camp who all enjoyed the scenario playing itself out over the next hour and a half.
The interactions were absolutely wonderful with the large herd of lechwe on the plain approaching the lions in defiance - guests were absolutely fascinated that the lechwe were so bold. As this action was unfolding a male giraffe appeared on the scene and on seeing the lions became very indignant. Imagine the surprise on everyone's faces when the large giraffe walked to within 20 metres of the lions where it stopped to lower its head and stare at theese predators. The lions however know all too well that one kick from the giraffe will end their days. These lions are unknown to us, so we will wait to see what happens in the weeks ahead. Have they decided to make a home around Kwetsani Camp or are they just passing through?
The lion trio finally crossed the plain and the channel on the far side. At this stage we were starting our afternoon tea and looked up with utter amazement when we heard the loud whooping of a hyaena on the plain. The very large female had obviously been disturbed by the lions and was not waiting around for a contest; she herself crossed the channel in the opposite direction to the lions and walked gradually towards us, whooping loudly. She ambled around for half an hour before she finally passed below the raised walkway 30 metres from the deck where we were finishing off our tea. To hear this nocturnal species calling like this in broad daylight was amazing.
The remainder of our guests who were watching the action from the decks of their rooms were also surrounded by elephants, particularly Jack and Sue in Tent 6, who had the tiniest baby elephant below them.
Our world in not only our animals, it is our water, our insects, our flora and of course, most importantly, our culture. While you are here we will share the wonderful and colourful Botswana culture with you, we will share the song and dance, the crafts and the broad smiles of our happy nation that will be sure to make your stay enjoyable, relaxing and exciting. And how excited our staff will be if you take time to sit and learn about their skill and crafts over tea.
update - July 08 Jump
to Jao Camp
As we enter the second half of the year and the flood waters start to recede, the Delta is slowly transforming as spring and summer beckons. As the peak of winter passes, we realise that this has been a very pleasant season, with excellent day and night temperatures (some guests even managing to have a splash in the pools). With these moderate temperatures we have all enjoyed dining outside under clear skies.
We have had wonderful and exciting guests at Jao Camp this month. Meals have been extraordinary, with many brunches and dinners being served out in the bush. Everyone has enjoyed these special occasions, along with the amazing pre-set sundowners.
The new Entertainment Room has been a hit as well, complete with a digital projector for guests and guides to show off some of their best images, and a number of games available for the children in camp to enjoy. The room was inspected right after its opening by one of our Jao regulars - a huge bull elephant.
The reason why many people visit the Okavango Delta is that it is one of three wildlife areas to have the largest number of free-roaming animals in the world. The sightings of game and birds at Jao Camp have been outstanding, and have included many breeding herds of elephant, giraffe, dazzles of zebra and some memorable sightings of greater kudu. Hunda Island has also provided guests with many magical experiences.
Back on our island, the newcomers to the avian world (the francolin and crake chicks) have made for great viewing.
We are not forgetting the very special leopard cub belonging to our resident female leopard. The little guy is now four months old and doing very well; with each passing day he gains confidence. On numerous occasions we have spotted his tracks next to his mother's as they silently roam the camp roads at night.
Jao Camp is the spot where new friends meet. To all we have met and to those that are on the way, we cannot wait to spoil you with a wonderfully relaxing time in our small paradise.
Duba Plains Camp update - July 08 Jump
to Duba Plains Camp
Weather and Water Levels
July temperatures have been typical with cold evenings and early mornings and the daytime temperatures also relatively cool by African standards. Remember to bring a few layers if planning a visit at this time of the year.
We have been observing the annual floodwater level since beginning of the month, and there has been a significant drop in levels at most of the deeper crossings we go through; the floodplains are also starting to dry up.
There have been some exciting sightings of general game in July: large bachelor herds (ranging from 100 to 150) of red lechwe grazing on the open Duba Plains; elephants seen in big numbers as well, which is typical for this time of the year as the mopane woodland has dried up and the Delta remains the only place with a bit of greenery left. Lone elephant bulls and matriarchal breeding herds have also been seen coming into camp very often, both at night and during the day.
There have been a few interesting dynamics within the Duba Plains lion pride this month. The pride still consists of ten lions including one adult male (the Skimmer Male). Another male, Junior, has been seen around the pride too, although mostly alone. Junior seems to be doing very well at hunting alone as his maturing physical condition has shown a significant change compared to last month. The Skimmer Male still does not tolerate Junior at all - often chasing him away from the pride. Another adult male has caught up with the pride again after disappearing for a while, this happened after they had a big fight among themselves that left with severe injuries on the back legs, the chest and back.
The two lionesses that had cubs (one had two cubs, the other three) have unfortunately lost all their cubs; they seem to have been killed by the other lionesses.
About three weeks ago, we had a new male lion on the concession - this male has been coming in and out for some time and although hardly seen, his presence has been betrayed by his roars and tracks in the area. Initially he looked uncomfortable at being here, but seems more confident now. This lion has been identified as one of the five Skimmer males that were last seen close to two years ago and estimated to be about five years old.
End of an Era - the death of the 2nd Duba Boy
We are very sad to announce that the second Duba Boy recently died on the 28th July 2008. This follows on the passing of the other Duba Boy on 28th of January 2008.
Since the death of the first Duba Boy, the remaining lion in this formidable duo has always struggled - he could not stay with the Tsaro Pride anymore since the pride was taken over by the Skimmer Male and as he could also not hunt effectively any more his body condition deteriorated badly.
He also disappeared for a period of ten days and was seen in a very bad state after that. One morning, the Tsaro pride has just killed an adult buffalo. The dominant Skimmer male chased Junior and the females off the kill, but surprisingly allowed the old Duba Boy to feed with him.
He finally met his fate one night while trying to hunt buffalo. He got badly wounded on the chest, and could hardly move from the spot where the incident occurred. After three days he managed to get to a waterhole, but as he knelt down for a drink, he took his last breath of life....
The Duba Boys made history for themselves in two ways: they were one of the few male lion coalitions known to have held the territory for that long (approximately 11 years) and they lived to reach an exceptionally old age of approximately 17 years. To put it in context, males in coalitions have a normally brief reproductive reign over a female pride. Pride tenure on average lasts no more than two years, four at the most.
May the Duba Boys rest in peace - they will certainly be remembered by all of us (guides and guests) who have been privileged to see these legendary lions.
Vumbura Plains Camp update - July 08 Jump
to Vumbura Plains Camp
July has been the month of cold, clear nights, encouraging stories around the warmth of the glowing fire, whilst we watch the constellation Scorpio rising into the ebony sky. Daybreak, however, brings the warmth back, with spectacular sunrises watched from our lounge, reflecting off the floodplains and lagoons in front of us.
There have been several sightings of the spotted variety with a male cheetah making a number of appearances at the airstrip as well as the spectacular scene of a female leopard with her impala kill up in a tree. A male leopard also made his presence known with a warthog kill near Imbishi Pan. Keeping with the cats we have had an interesting time with the Kubu Pride consisting of four male lions and three females, they managed to take down a giraffe directly in front of our mokoro station. This put a dramatic stop to any mokoro activity from Vumbura Plains, however with the help of our neighbors at Little Vumbura we managed to co-ordinate mokoro trails from the front of this beautiful camp.
We have had the pleasurable company of a small breeding herd of elephant who seem to have made Vumbura Plains their home throughout July. They have happily provided guests with a number of close up photographic opportunities and have even visited our office on occasion. This is nothing quite like explaining to guests that their luggage may be a little late arriving to their room as they have been held up by an elephant road block. The elephants have also not discriminated between guests and managers as they have taken up residence on many a night gathering jackalberry fruit off the North Camp management houses, their gentle rumblings serving as a wonderfully soothing African lullaby.
Adding depth to the African night sounds have not only been the giggle of numerous hyaena but also the grunting and snorting of two hippos that took up residence in the Kaparota Lagoon. They have been gracious enough to show their faces in the early mornings once again providing wonderful photographic opportunities with the candescent backdrop of the rising sun glinting off the mirror-like water.
July also brought a welcome addition to the Vumbura Plains family in the form of Johannes, our new Executive Chef. He has brought with him both experience and a passion for food that has been clearly evident in his creation of new menus and many waistlines have fallen prey to the spectacular works of culinary art that have been presented at the table.
All in all July, although a little chilly, has provided the warmth of shared experiences and lifetime memories to keep the cold at bay, of course with the assistance of an Amarula coffee round the inviting fire after a sumptuous bush dinner.
update - July 08 Jump
to Pafuri Camp
As we have approached the pinnacle of winter here in Pafuri, we have received a paradoxical 'heat wave' of animal sightings of all kinds. The warm winter sun pushed the mercury up to a high of 39° Celsius but as soon as the sun was swallowed by the western horizon the temperatures would quickly plummet to the opposite side of the thermometer with a monthly morning minimum of 2° Celsius on one or two occasions.
This month was characterised by a major influx of elephants into the concession. All in all there were in excess of 95 confirmed elephant sightings for the month! Many of these sightings consisted of matriarchal breeding herds and preoccupied bulls in musth. The concession will be inundated by these large numbers of elephants up until the first soothing summer rains arrive to alleviate the everlasting hunger and thirst of many animal species. This year we plan to fit several elephants with satellite GPS collars to determine where they roam to in the summer months and what this means for regional conservation initiatives. I think that this is going to be a really exciting programme for us here in Pafuri.
Buffalo numbers have also shown a seasonal peak with no fewer than 52 confirmed sightings this month. There is an estimated number of 20 000 buffalo in Kruger National Park. Following trends in the Park, in the dry season the buffalo herds break up and form splinter herds in search of adequate resources. The average buffalo herd size at Pafuri now is about 50-60 animals. With the buffalo being water-dependent, all of the activity concentrates around the riverine areas.
The cats also made a noble appearance throughout the month. We averaged a lion sighting once every 1.5 days. We had some new ingredients added to our recipe for lions during this month. These ingredients came in the form of a new female with three cubs which appear to be at the age of three to four months. We assume that this female has entered the concession from the Kruger side of the concession, but what we have seen from her since her arrival at Pafuri has been interesting. This female has been seen replying to the Pafuri male's resonant calls and she actively searches for this male. The male has been in contact with this female and her cubs have not suffered from infanticide (the general behaviour with male lions when they come into contact with another male's offspring is to kill the cubs in order to bring the female back into oestrus).
A real spike in the graph for leopard sightings was reached this month as well. On one occasion we had six different sightings of leopard on one night drive amongst all of the guides. One leopard took the spotlight for the month. On the Manqeba Floodplain there is a female that has a cub which is in the region of 4-5 months of age. These leopards are often seen late in the afternoons around the drinking point and are very relaxed in the presence of the vehicles.
In terms of the general game, Pafuri continues to impress: there has been large numbers of impala, nyala, kudu and even regular sightings of eland as well as the diminutive Sharpe's grysbok which is generally very secretive and easily overlooked.
Other interesting sightings for the month:
- Two sable antelope bulls near Lala Palm windmill
- A single sighting of a rarely-seen aardwolf in the west of the concession
- A lioness with three cubs were chased up a koppie by an old buffalo
- Cape clawless otter seen at Crooks' Corner
- African wild cat
- Two honey badgers
Birds & Birding
Many people believe that the winter months are not good for birding, as all of the migrant birds have left, but the absolute converse was true for this month. The winter months are extremely good for viewing raptors, as most of them breed and nest at this time as conditions are more conducive for their hunting habits. Some of the more special bird sightings which we had for the month were: Dickinson's Kestrel, Crowned Eagle, Pel's Fishing-owl, melanistic Gabar Goshawk, Eastern Nicator, Böhm's Spinetail, Three-banded Courser, White-breasted Cuckooshrike and White-backed Night-Heron.
As one can see July was an absolutely fantastic month here in the Pafuri triangle. Next month is the beginning of summer as August brings in the winds of change. I'm sure August will have many exciting sightings and experiences for all at Pafuri Camp.
Rocktail Bay Lodge
update - July 08 Jump
to Rocktail Bay Lodge
July has been a fairly typical winter month on the KwaZulu-Natal coastline with fairly strong winds, the occasional sprinkling of rain and a lot of moderate, yet very sunny days. The night winter chill has subsided and even the early mornings have not been too cold.
With the slight increase in daily temperatures (and even slighter increase in ocean temperatures) there has been an increase in animal activity. A number of reptiles have been spotted around camp including a stunning eastern Natal green snake which was viewed and photographed feeding on a gecko.
On the mammal side a brief view of a single samango monkey around camp caused a major upset amongst the resident vervet monkey troop who alarm called as if being approached by some sort of a predator. The competition for food and 'living space' in this conserved area of a diminishing habitat type is obviously very stiff.
Humpback whales continue to pass by as they move north away from the Antarctic winter where they have been for a number of months feeding on the rich micro-foods that occur there during the short summer season.
A nightly show of nocturnal, aerial stunts in camp has been a great entertainment each evening. Unknown species of epauletted fruit bats swoop down over the swimming pool just close enough to the water to have a drink but without ending up taking a bath. Then they turn away in a sharp bank to avoid a reed wall and flawlessly manoeuvre through the thick forest to circle back for another 'fly-by'. These bats navigate perfectly in the dark using eyesight (as apposed to echo-location used by insect feeding bat species), dispelling the old saying "as blind as a bat."
It has been another month of great bird viewing at Rocktail Bay. There has been a group of up to five Palmnut Vultures patrolling up and down the Rocktail Bay beach. They have even been seen hunting and feeding on the large population of ghost crabs that scurry around in the wave wash. The first Narina Trogon sighting in a while was seen on the way to the Lala Nek snorkelling beach.
Finally, the in-camp bird hide has also been very productive with sightings of Eastern Olive Sunbird, Dark-backed Weaver, African Yellow White-eye, Blue-mantled Crested Flycatcher, African Pygmy Kingfisher, a Livingstone's Turaco bathing and even a single sighting of a Buff-spotted Flufftail.
Rocktail Bay Lodge
Dive Report - June & July 08 Jump
to Rocktail Bay Lodge
Traditionally during the winter months, we do not expect to see many shark, big ray or whaleshark sightings, but this year has been the exception to the rule. During June we had a few dives at Gogos where we got the chance to see grey reef sharks. The middle of the month produced one of those 10 out of 10 days: The weather was hot and sunny; the sea was calm and the visability was crystal clear, approximately 25 to 30m. Our first dive of the day was at Pineapple Reef where we enjoyed watching the three resident potato bass as they tried to compete for our attention. Under various ledges we saw three sharp-nose rays and best of all - a huge manta ray swam past us before slowing right down and circling back to us! This was just the beginning; our second dive was at Aerial. When we eventually settled on the sand bottom we looked around and there it was - a four metre long tiger shark. We swam a bit closer to get a better look before it slowly swam away.
"Having thought I would faint if I actually saw a shark, you take me right up close to a tiger shark! I loved it, thank you so much. Let's not forget the mamta ray: awesome." Alice and Hugo - Glasgow, U.K.
Towards the end of the month we were spoilt with another excellent dive - this time at Elusive. The dive began with four Spanish mackerel (couta) swimming slowly by, tiny mantis shrimps in their holes, various sized scorpionfish, paperfish, firefish and eels but the main event happened in the last five minutes of the dive. As we crossed over a ledge out to sea we saw a huge honeycomb ray lying on the sand, as we swam closer we were joined by three potato bass, then we saw two green turtles lazily feeding on seaweed. It was almost time to ascend and as we turned to go a manta ray, with four remoras attached to it swam across the ledge straight toward us! We hung there watching as it circled and flicked, trying to get rid of its free riding remoras! We waited till the last minute before we had to slowly ascend, still watching until it swam away.
The last day of June produced another magical manta ray sighting, diving at Aerial with guests Charles and Charlotte. Charles grabbed my arm as the manta swam past, I grabbed Charlotte and the three of us swam arm- in-arm observing the manta. Charlotte and I could not stop laughing as we tried to get our breaths back. Well done Charles, it was great to dive with you both again.
June and July is also a very special time of year for us: we get the chance to see humpback whales during their migration, heading northwards towards Madagascar. The 16th produced the best sighting during June. We were travelling southwards on our way to dive at Coachman's Ledge when we saw three humpback whales heading towards us. Everyone had their cameras out and tried to get some pictures but just as the cameras were packed away one of the whales breached! A spectacular jump right out of the water followed by an impressive splash back down, with a spray of white water - the picture everyone would have loved to get! Well, by pure chance, Slavomir got the shot, not just a picture but a full video clip of all the action. He had his video camera tucked under his arm, not realizing that it was still switched on and that it just happened to be pointing in the right direction!
July continued to produce spectacular humpback whale sightings and some very lucky guests even go the chance to quietly slip into the water and snorkel with them: there were four adult whales and one very new baby, all resting together and the guests got so close that they could see the whale's eyes watching them. The whales did not seem worried at all and just lay there resting - in fact it was the humans who eventually swam back to the boat as they had seen enough of these beautiful creatures and left them to rest.
"We went out for two dives on a cloudy day and came back with an experience of a lifetime! Darryl made a special effort to let us get into the water with the whales, and swim with humpbacks we did! A baby to boot!! Thanks so much for your knowledge, care and extra efforts!" - Michael & Sara, New York, U.S.A.
Another occasion saw guests snorkelling with humpback whales, when three bottlenose dolphins suddenly came and joined them.
"Amazing diving: Had a wonderful four days, especially snorkelling with a humpback whale and three dolphins" - Becky, Mark and Andrew, Cardiff, U.K.
Although people expect to see humpback whales along our coastline at this time of year, they do not expect to see whale sharks; everyone tends to think of whale shark season as being during our summer months. We had two whale shark sightings at the end of July. The visibility was only about seven metres because the water was full of plankton, which the whale sharks feed on.
Last but not least we had some great shark sightings. A tawny nurse shark was seen at Pineapple Reef. Angel Cordero, from Madrid, Spain got this great picture.
We also had two different ragged tooth shark sightings, one at Pineapple and one at Elusive. These sharks usually stay in the Eastern Cape and then the adults move northwards towards Durban where they mate, around June and July. The males then spend a bit of time here before heading back southwards to the cooler waters, while the females continue northwards up to our shores to rest during their pregnancy in our warmer waters. We normally see the females start to arrive from end November and December, so these could easily have been a couple of males.
Yours in diving,
Darryl, Clive, Michelle - The Rocktail Dive Team
Camp update - July 08 Jump
The temperatures on the Plains are on the increase with the afternoons rising into the lower 30°Celsius on occasion. The mornings were a cool 6°Celsius. No problem for the guests or the team here as we huddle around the fire in the morning with our cup of tea or coffee talking about the sounds of Africa heard by all during the night; watching the sun rise it's magnificent orange just front of camp.
We have witnessed one major change and that comes in the way of our Busanga Pride that we have come to know so well - Evidently the abundant herds of lechwe and puku are no longer enough to satisfy their insatiable appetites!
This lion pride has now moved onto larger mammals and that comes in the form of our 400-strong buffalo herd that roam the Plains. The pride has become very successful in hunting buffalo and this has given our guests ample opportunity to see them hunting and feeding on these bulky herbivores. It has been exhilarating watching the lions stalk and attempt to pull down a ton of sheer strength but unfortunately as it is in nature, one of the lionesses felt the full wrath of a bad-tempered bull and was fatally wounded as a result.
Throughout July we have also been delighted to find cheetah on numerous occasions. They have taken up hunting in the short grass and open plains between Shumba, Kapinga and Busanga Bush Camps respectively. This has allowed for excellent sightings of these beautiful cats, sometimes very close to the game viewing vehicles! We have also sighted the female cheetah from last season that gave birth to six cubs - she was spotted south of Shumba Camp with four surviving cubs. This was a wonderful surprise to all of us here and we look forward to many more encounters with her and her offspring in the coming months.
Our wild dogs have been appearing from time to time, roaming their enormous home ranges. We have seen them hunting puku and then in turn being chased by the much larger roan antelope obviously not happy with their presence or reputations as being the most successful hunters around. This same wild dog pack was later seen around Kapinga Island - this time it was a lioness that did not like the competition and they were once again chased off into the miombo woodland to roam 'friendlier' areas.
A bizarre sighting came in the form of African Fish-Eagles perching on the backs of hippo. The best fishing areas it seems are not always within range from perching on tree!
Lunga River Lodge update - July 08 Jump
to Lunga River Lodge
At the beginning of July, the nights have been quite cool. The second half of the month was windy and sometimes cloudy, but during the day there was always a time when you could warm yourself in the sun. Now at the end of the month we notice that especially the evenings are getting warmer.
In this month we opened some new game drive routes and discovered new areas around Lunga which resulted in interesting wildlife sightings.
Exploring these new game loops around Lunga, guests have enjoyed varied game: herds of buffalo, zebra, puku, impala, roan antelope, reedbuck, Lichtenstein's hartebeest, Defassa waterbuck and blue wildebeest were often seen this month.
In June we had our first sightings of wild dogs for the season. These dogs are still around in the area and in July we had sightings of them a few times a week. More than once guests could see how the wild dogs were hunting: on one of our night drives, guests were even lucky to see the wild dogs kill a common duiker.
A few days later, guests saw a very brave female warthog chasing at least thirty vultures away from a zebra carcass. Of course the vultures were reluctant to go, so the warthog had to put a lot of effort into this. After she had the carcass all to her self she started feeding on it! (This is bizarre behaviour for warthog, as they are entirely herbivorous. What can often be misconstrued as a warthog eating meat could actually be the warthog feeding on the rumen (stomach) contents of the dead zebra. As these contents are only partially digested it has a high nutritional value and thus easy pickings. Ed)
It seems that more and more elephants are being seen in the Lunga area. Almost every day the big bulls come for a mud bath at the waterhole in front of the guest rooms. But also during the drives elephants are a regular sighting. In June we had sightings of mostly solitary bulls, in July we also had a sighting of a breeding herd with five youngsters.
The most exciting sighting this month was definitely the six lions that guests saw during their walking safari. Not only did they see them from a short distance, the lions started roaring as well and the sight-and-sound was something that the guests will not forget in a hurry!
The bird life around Lunga River Lodge is amazing. During breakfast, Ross's and Schalow's Turacos often sit sunning themselves on top of a fig tree in the garden. Besides these stunning birds, almost every day we enjoy Black-backed Barbets, Collared and Scarlet-chested Sunbirds and Red-throated Twinspot in the camp grounds. During the game drives and boat trips there are many other birds one can find: Wattled Crane, Bateleur, African Fish-Eagle and different bee-eater species are just a few of them. On several drives the guides even spotted Lapped-faced Vultures, which is a rare sighting for us.
Special Guest Experiences
Relaxing boat trips on the crystal-clear waters of the Lunga River, with the option to try your hand at some fishing and walking safaris along the Lunga River and through the Miombo woodlands other activities that makes a visit here unique. Day and night drives further enhance one's stay here.
The river brunches continue to be a success: A morning boat trip takes guests takes guests to a beautiful area from which to start a walking safari. After the walk the guests continue on the boat to the Rapids, where brunch is waiting.
Lufupa Tented Camp update - July 08
Currently the dry season seems to enhance our stunningly beautiful sunsets. The cold is still with us but the winds have settled and the days are becoming warmer. Almost time to start unpacking our summer clothes! The camp pool has been filled in anticipation of summer and between JD and Laura, our camp managers/pool technicians, I am sure we'll have the pool looking all sparkly and inviting in no time!
Leopard and lion sightings have yet again been excellent, with many guests lucky enough to see such events as leopard kills or lions mating. Lufupa is one of the best sites in Africa for finding leopard, and our night drives have been very productive in this regard.
The Kafue River is a very appropriate locality at the moment for seeing and photographing African Skimmer. At this time of year, these birds breed on the exposed sandbars, and it is wonderful to have them around.
The afternoon boat trips on either the Lufupa or Kafue Rivers have been very productive for wildlife - from hippo and aquatic monitor lizards to freshwater terrapins and some impressive specimens of Nile crocodiles.
Mammals often seen out on game drives have included greater kudu, Defassa waterbuck, big numbers of puku and herds of African elephant.
Kapinga Camp update - July 08 Jump
to Kapinga Camp
We've experienced typically cool July weather with some windy days but warming up pleasantly in the afternoons. Guests however still had to use the blankets on the game drive vehicles on the morning drives!
At Kapinga Camp we enjoy frequent sightings of red lechwe, puku, hippo and warthog; one or two herds of roan and blue wildebeest have also moved onto the Busanga Plains. Reedbuck and bushbuck have also been seen occasionally.
A lone lioness was seen hunting puku one afternoon: she made three attempts on trying to catch puku, wildebeest and roan; we watched her stalking and chasing for six hours! The guest absolutely loved it and soon realised that to be a lion and find food is actually pretty tough going.
A male leopard was sighted close to Kapinga 'harbour' one evening. The next morning the Busanga Pride of lions was seen close to the central helipad where they found the Kapinga male leopard on a reedbuck kill. One of the male lions chased the leopard onto a large termite mound whereafter the leopard retreated straight up a large appleleaf tree. The leopard stayed in the tree for a few minutes but then in a very surprising move came down the tree where the large male lion was waiting. A fight resulted which ended with the leopard fleeing up the tree again. The rest of the lion pride now joined the male under the tree. At this point the leopard executed another jump from the tree - straight into the lion pride. Once again a fight ensued with one lioness looking very bloody and scratched. The leopard then lay low in some bushes under the mound before sneaking off.
The Busanga Pride was then seen on several other occasions, roaring, walking, sleeping and hunting. Another great sighting was of a herd of about 150 to 200 buffalo. A lone honey badger was also seen and we had a few sightings of serval close to Kapinga Camp with our resident large spotted genet still sneaking around camp. Whilst sitting around the fire one evening at the bush dinner we also heard a hyaena call in the distance - quite a treat as we don't hear them calling so often in this area.
We had some excellent birding in July. Some of the raptors seen this month were Lappet-faced Vulture, White-headed Vulture, White-backed Vulture, Bateleur, Tawny Eagle, Martial Eagle, African Fish Eagle, Black-chested Snake-Eagle, Black Kite, African Hawk-Eagle and Brown Snake-Eagle. Other birds seen around camp included African Barred Owlet, Orange-breasted Bush-Shrike, Yellow-breasted Apalis, Green-backed Camaroptera, Yellow-bellied Greenbul, Black-collared Barbet, Collared Sunbird, Greater Honeyguide, Crowned Hornbill and Coppery-tailed Coucal.
Kafue's Rivers and Plains Safari report - 12 to 19 July 08 Jump
to Kafue's Rivers and Plains Safari
Lufupa Bush Camp: 12th - 15th; Musanza Tented Camp: 15th - 17th; Lunga River Lodge: 18th- 19th
This was the first visit to Africa for some of my guests and a repeat visit for others. We were treated to a mating pair of lions for two consecutive days. On our way to the lions the next day we found four cheetah. They were shy and did not give us time for photography, so we then continued and found that the mating pair of lions had been joined by another lioness which tried to lure the male too. This did not work as the male chased her away. We left the pair and continued with the drive and found another lioness with three healthy cubs.
Our transfer to Musanza Tented Camp on the fourth day was one of the highlights of the trip. We were rewarded with three different leopard sightings in different areas in one day. Over our stay in Musanza we watched another male leopard on a kill which was the fourth leopard of the trip.
Generally wildlife viewing was excellent on the Busanga Plains. We saw good herds of roan antelope, wildebeest, zebra and red lechwe. On one of the days we watched an African Fish-eagle on a kill. How the bird had managed to pull this six-pound catfish out of the water was a mystery. This was awarded 'sighting of the trip' by one of the guests.
Our transfer to Lunga River Lodge was fairly quiet and cool. The afternoon river cruise and night drive was very successful however: we found a relaxed elephant bull along the banks of the Lunga River and finished off the night drive with wild dogs hunting - a fitting end to a great Exploration.
Cheetah, lion, leopard, elephant, wild dog, roan antelope and hundreds of puku were just some of the sightings.
Daily wildlife diary
Transfer to Lufupa Bush Camp: warthog, impala, puku, Lichtenstein's hartebeest, hippo and Nile crocodile. Afternoon boat cruise: warthog, impala, hippo and puku. Great birdlife.
Morning game drive: mating lions, cheetah, puku, impala and Lichtenstein's hartebeest. Afternoon game drive: puku, bushbuck, oribi, Lichtenstein's hartebeest, lioness with cubs, impala and grey duiker.
Morning walk: honey badger, Defassa waterbuck, Sharpe's grysbok, impala and warthog. Afternoon game drive: lions, Lichtenstein's hartbeest, warthog, grey duiker, puku, small spotted genet and lesser bushbaby (a very cute nocturnal primate).
Transfer to Musanza Tented Camp: kudu, puku, female leopard, Defassa waterbuck, warthog, impala, and a male leopard. Afternoon game drive: young male leopard, kudu, lechwe, zebra, blue wildebeest and common reedbuck.
Morning drive: puku, impala, bushbuck, roan herd of 24, wildebeest, zebra, Defassa waterbuck and common reedbuck. Afternoon game drive: Sub-adult male leopard, lechwe, hippo, bushbuck, roan, Lichtenstein's hartebeest, zebra, blue wildebeest, civet, white-tailed mongoose and banded mongoose.
Morning walk: puku, impala, kudu and waterbuck. Afternoon game drive: puku, impala, roan, zebra, Lichtenstein's hartebeest, blue wildebeest, civet, white-tailed mongoose and small spotted genet.
Transfer to Lunga River Lodge: puku, roan, hartebeest, warthog, hippo, kudu and grey duiker. Afternoon boat cruise and night drive: elephant, hippo, puku and three wild dogs.
"Trip was enhanced by the attention, knowledge, humour and versatility of the guide." - KC & JS (UK)
"The staff at the camps were very friendly and encouraged conversation, especially at Musanza" - RF (USA)
"One more night at Lunga would have been fantastic -that is how much we loved it." - T&NB (Canada)
Kafue's Rivers and Plains Safari report - 15 to 22 July 08 Jump
to Kafue's Rivers and Plains Safari
These trips never cease to amaze me. We have had another great one! After picking up six guests at Lufupa airstrip, we proceeded to Lufupa Bush Camp. We had a great transfer, which is a drive that I always thoroughly enjoy, giving the guests a chance to get to grips with the area. On the way the drive goes along the spectacular Kafue River, providing the opportunity to see large basking crocodiles and hippos, as well as a high diversity of antelope and bird species. We were also lucky enough to see a female cheetah with three sub-adult cubs on the way. The cheetah were very relaxed and happy to watch us while enjoying the shade of a nearby tree in the heat of the day.
At camp enjoyed a sundowner on the river watching the amazing rapids near the camp. After dinner we went for a short night drive and had amazing sightings of both thick-tailed and lesser bushbabies. The latter just about jumped into a tree right next to the vehicle. A pair of mating lions was also on the order for the night. We had a magnificent sighting of them in the road. This particular male is one of two male lions in a coalition and is easily one of the biggest lions I have ever seen. It is a privilege to see lions still left in the world in such a healthy condition.
The following morning we had a very pleasant drive along the Kafue River with spectacular birds and high numbers of game species in the form of puku, Defassa waterbuck and diminutive oribi. We spent a lot of time with a particularly boisterous troop of vervet monkeys, which always provides a lot of entertainment.
In the afternoon we decided to take a boat ride on the river, finding a lioness with three cubs en route. The boat was spectacular as always. We saw two young elephant bulls coming down to the water to drink, as well as hippo, very large crocodiles and antelope coming down to drink. We also managed to rack up African Finfoot and Schalow's Turaco on the boat: a birder's delight. After that amazing boat ride, we managed to relocate the lioness with the cubs and were lucky enough to see her hunting a puku after dark, albeit unsuccessfully. She then approached the vehicle with her cubs and was quite content to lie a few metres away from us with her cubs playing with her and each other. It was a very special experience! As is always the case with such experiences, conversation at dinner revolved around the excitement of the day and came fast and easily, swapping stories of Africa and the world in the best setting possible around a warm fire under the stars.
The following morning we went on a walk along the river and back through the woodland. The area around Lufupa Bush Camp is a perfect area for walking. A lot of antelope such as puku, bushbuck and kudu can be seen in open areas, and the relaxed nature of the puku allowed us to walk virtually through the herds - a unique experience. Birds along the river are also magnificent and being on foot allows one the opportunity to really appreciate them. The day ended with another incredible sundowner on the river.
The following morning we left Lufupa Bush Camp and continued with the next leg of our journey on the way to Musanza. En route we were lucky enough to watch a lioness hunting puku and come very close to catching one. A large area is covered on this day and with it comes a fascinating change in landscape and diversity of flora and fauna. Once we were close to Musanza Camp, we found a large male leopard walking close to and then cross the road in front of the vehicle: A special welcome into the area. We relaxed at the camp for the afternoon, and went on a short sundowner drive along the Lufupa Channel enjoying a lot of hippo action as they prepared for their night's grazing.
The following morning we headed out to the Busanga Plains, which is a dramatic change in landscape and a unique experience. While on the plains we saw great herds of zebra, wildebeest and the rare roan antelope, as well as spectacular birding on the swamps surrounding the Lufupa Channel where we also saw the handsome red lechwe. We had a coffee stop at a particularly special place on the Lufupa Channel at the beginning of the plains. A large group of hippo was basking in the sun on the banks and at least 20 crocodiles were lying on the bank not far from them. Birds at the spot included Crowned Cranes, Wattled Cranes, Open-billed Storks, Yellow-billed Storks, Grey Herons, Goliath Heron, Black-winged Stilts and Red-billed Teals to name just a few.
In the afternoon, we returned to search for a large male leopard of which we had seen tracks in the morning. We spent some time searching for it but had no luck; however we did spot a Ross's Turaco, which is a birder's dream. We had our sundowner over the Lufupa Channel with the Busanga Plains as a backdrop and enjoyed the huge diversity of life in the area as well as magnificent light that only the plains can offer in the golden hour before sunset.
The following morning we had an amazing wake-up call from an enormous bull elephant who courteously visited nearly all the rooms to remind the guests that game drive hour was approaching at the tender time of 05h30! Once we got all the guests to the main area safely, the very well-mannered elephant decided to join us for breakfast. He then hung around the main area for the rest of breakfast, a delight for all to see. Due to the elephant excitement we left quite late, but were lucky enough to see a birding 'special', the Grey-headed Parrot. On the drive we also saw Lichtenstein's hartebeest, kudu, bushbuck and another elephant. We had an entertaining experience with some warthog which were determined to chase each other and couldn't seem to understand why our vehicle didn't want to play as well.
In the evening we had a short drive for a sundowner of which we spent most of the time with a very relaxed breeding herd of elephants that had come down to drink at the river and seemed very happy to be there, playing with each other and swimming. After dinner we went on a night drive and saw white-tailed mongoose, genet, civet and two spotted hyaena.
The following morning we left Musanza and headed out to Lunga River Lodge. Just as we were leaving Musanza we found a female leopard at her den with a six-month-old cub. We had a great sighting of both in fantastic light. The female was particularly relaxed and walked right past the vehicle and sat in front of it for at least ten minutes. Just outside Lunga River we found two large elephant bulls feeding close to the camp.
In the afternoon we went out on the river and had a wonderful trip on the boat. The Lunga River is spectacular with plenty of crocodiles, hippos, and monitor lizards to be seen. We also saw a troop of yellow baboons feeding in one of the large jackalberry trees close to the water. Birds on the river are really good and we managed to see Black-backed Barbet, Ross's Turaco (again), African Finfoot and many more. Lunga River Lodge is a beautiful camp and guests were very happy to relax in the camp in the morning enjoying the diversity of life on the river from their rooms and the main area until their flight out of the Kafue and the end of our trip. As is usually the case with these trips, guests on the trip had developed excellent rapport and were all sad to see each other go. It was a great trip and thoroughly enjoyed by all.
Daily wildlife diary
Transfer to Lufupa Bush Camp: Warthog (12), Impala (100+), Puku (100+), Wildebeest (1), Greater Kudu (15), Defassa Waterbuck (10), Bushbuck (3), Cheetah (4: mother & cubs).
Evening game drive: Thick-tailed Bushbaby, Lesser Bushbaby, Lion (2: male & female mating)
Morning Game Drive: Puku (50+), Impala (50+), Defassa Waterbuck (10), Oribi (2), Vervet Monkey (20), Yellow Baboon (20).
Afternoon boat ride & evening game drive: Lion (4: mother & cubs), Elephant (2 bulls), Nile Crocodile (5), Hippo (20), Puku (40), Bushbuck (3), African civet.
Morning Walk: Puku (20), Bushbuck (1), Impala (20), Hippo (10), Nile Crocodile (1).
Afternoon boat ride & game Drive: Puku (30+), Impala (20+), Warthog (3), Greater Kudu (3), White-tailed Mongoose (1).
Transfer to Musanza Tented Camp: Puku (150+), Impala (150+), Defassa Waterbuck (20), Warthog (20+), Greater Kudu (15), Lion (1 lioness), Hippo (30+), Nile Crocodile (10), Leopard (1 male).
Afternoon Game drive: Puku (150+), Impala (150+), Warthog (6, Greater Kudu (15), Hippo (20), Nile Crocodile (3), Vervet Monkey (20), African Civet (1).
Morning Drive: Greater Kudu (3), Roan (20), Plains Zebra (20), Blue Wildebeest (20), Warthog (10), Hippo (20), Nile Crocodile (20+), Bushbuck (6), Impala (30), Puku (40), Red Lechwe (50), Vervet Monkey (20).
Afternoon Game Drive: Greater Kudu (6), Impala (30), Puku (30), Hippo (20), Nile Crocodile (5), Vervet Money (20), Yellow Baboon (20), Large-spotted Genet (2), African Civet (1).
Morning Drive: Greater Kudu (3), Elephant (2), Warthog (10), Hippo (20), Nile Crocodile (20+), Puku (30), Impala (40), Bushbuck (6), Lichtenstein's Hartebeest (10).
Afternoon Game drive: Puku (30), Impala (20), Warthog (10), Elephant (20), Hippo (15), Spotted Hyaena (2), Africa Civet (2), Large Spotted Genet (1), White-tailed Mongoose (1).
Transfer to Lunga: Lichtenstein's Hartebeest (15), Puku (200+), Impala (150+), Warthog (30+), Vervet Monkey (40+), Hippo (25), Greater Kudu (10), Nile Crocodile (3), Leopard (2: mother & cub).
Afternoon boat cruise and Night Drive: Puku (50), Hippo (20), Nile Crocodile (4), Monitor Lizard (1), Common Duiker (1), Bushbuck (2).
Camp update - July 08 Jump
to Little Makalolo
The weather was typically cool and we even saw some rain around the Mbiza area. Our lowest recorded temperature was 9°Celsius while the highest was 33°Cesius for the month.
Vegetation and Water
The vegetation is getting drier by the day but thanks to the yellow leaves of the ordeal trees there is still some colour to the landscape. Water levels in the pans are looking very good as we are pumping water every day. With Madundumela Pan dry, this will see Airstrip 2 Pan getting busy once again.
Game has been excellent with elephant and buffalo dominating the pan at Little Makalolo Camp. Lion and leopard were also seen drinking from the camp pool and bird bath respectively and then walking right through camp on more than two occasions.
A white rhino bull has been sighted on walks and drives in front of Makalolo Plains and at Linkwasha Vlei. A rhino cow and young calf was also sighted at Amandundumela but was quite shy. On the evening of the 24th we were privileged to witness quite a show: lion, spotted hyaena, side-striped jackal and black-backed jackal all competing on a buffalo calf kill that was just behind camp.
We have good news, and that is the Spice Pride of lions (now 16 individuals) still has cubs. These female lions seem to be very mobile at the moment in an effort to protect their cubs against the two males that recently moved into the area. They have not lost their buffalo hunting skills as they have killed between Airstrip Pan and Amandundumela.
Chacma baboon, elephant, black-backed jackal, vervet monkey, plains zebra, hippo and blue wildebeest were all commonly seen this month. Other good mammals recorded (although less frequently seen) include Cape buffalo, spotted hyaena, side-striped jackal, leopard (a few sightings), lion, striped polecat (rare), roan and sable antelope.
With a little birding time stolen out on activities and around the camp a total of 120 species was recorded for the month. Linkwasha Vlei was the special area of the month where a Tawny Eagle was sighted with a snake kill. As these large raptors are territorial, probably the same eagle was found feeding on an African Darter at Madison Pan.
Lianshulu Lodge update - July 08 Jump
to Lianshulu Lodge
2008 has seen a dramatic peak in the Caprivi rainfall pattern. The Kwando River achieved near-record-breaking levels this year with the river peaking in March at 3,82m and the current flood peaking at 3,77m. Historically the river level has only been higher once in May 1969, peaking at 3,99m. The floodplains are submerged up to 1.5km from the river bank.
Despite a number of game drive routes being under a metre of river water, Mudumu's wild dogs have been spotted several times in the last two months. Sightings have typically occurred in an area of roughly 5 000 hectares - between Lianshulu Lodge and the ranger station to the east. This is a different (all adult) group to the pack found denning earlier this year.
Lianshulu's resident (and slightly shy) male lion was recently spotted late at night and seen to be in very good condition. Although he is somewhat camera shy, he is very vocal and adds to the lodge's nocturnal sounds.
The giraffe that were released by the Ministry of Environment and Tourism in late 2007 have been thriving in the park. One group of seven, all in very good condition, are frequently seen close to the Nakatwa Ranger Station. We hope to see new members added to the family by next year.
The local sable and roan antelope have become well habituated to vehicles and are making more and more appearances along the main road that runs through the Mudumu National Park. The eland population are tending to stay isolated in the north-eastern corner of the park.
Elephant sightings are becoming more frequent, now that most of the standing water in the park is drying up. One regular visitor to the lodge couldn't wait to get back to his pet landscaping project and bulldozed two mopane trees across the lodge entrance. Clearly bored with carpentry, the elephant headed next to the precious vegetable garden, walked straight through the electric fence and ate all the leaves off the banana trees. In an act of unlikely generosity he left the bananas in place!
Finally, news of Lianshulu's more or less permanent 'fixtures'. The resident spotted hyaena has moved from Room 4 to the thatch storeroom. Like clockwork each evening when the dinner drums are played, the hyaena calls and continues long into the night. "Ouma", the lodge hippo, is also keeping up her side of the bargain. She comes out every evening to mow the lawn which is a real treat for the guests and the gardener (who has only had to cut the grass twice this year).
Governors' Camp update - July 08 Jump
to Governors' Camp
July brought some localised rain to the Mara which helped keep the dust down and bring good grazing to areas of the plains. We experienced cool early morning temperatures as low as 12ºC, but by midday temperatures reached around 30ºC.
The big news to announce this month is that the first herds of the wildebeest migration have started to arrive. The 15th of July marked the start of the River crossings, and towards the end of the month our clients and driver-guides were seeing crossings on an almost daily basis. The large Nile crocodiles of the Mara River have been feeding well, snatching many wildebeest in the first few days of crossings. As we write this, numbers of wildebeest are gathering on the west bank of the river and we estimate it will be a large crossing. At lunchtime today (31st July) an estimated 2000 crossed the river. This year’s river crossings have brought the usual blend of suspense, drama and a few surprises. On the 18th July our clients had an extremely unusual sighting of a large male hippo eating a young wildebeest at the Paradise crossing point. This behaviour is very unusual as hippos are herbivores who crop grass using the horny layer on their lips and then process it with their molars. They do possess large canines but these are normally used purely as weapons of defence.
The large breeding herd of buffalo with many young calves continues to graze the plains around the Marsh. Giraffe along with many young in crèches of varying age groups are within the Marsh and riverine woodlands, moving out into the conservation areas occasionally to browse in the Acacia woodlands. The woodland fringing the marsh is also home to herds of impala with young fawns. We continue to see families of elephant with many young calves feeding on the soft, lush, nutrient rich grasses of the Marsh. The elephant families often move out to the grass and woodlands to feed, with some even crossing the river. They have also frequented the camps at night feeding in the forest and leaving signs of their presence for us to find in the morning.
Photos courtesy Richard Denyer
Large numbers of topi are resident out on the plains along with Cokes hartebeest in smaller herd groups. The elusive male and female bushbuck can be seen on the woodland verges close to the river, appearing in the evenings and early mornings much to the delight of all who are lucky enough to see them.
Three black rhinos, a cow, her calf and a male (known as “Jackman”) were seen out on the Paradise Plains on 23rd July. They have also been frequenting the areas near the river bed, crossing in the croton thickets at Paradise on a few occasions. We have had lovely sightings of silver-backed jackals with their pups in and around termite mounds where they raise their young. They can have from 3-5 pups and the male pays a large role in the raising of his offspring. Just beyond the Marsh there is a couple with three three-month-old cubs in a termite mound. Towards the end of the month the mother was seen with the remains of a Thomson gazelle fawn which she had caught herself. Serval cats have been seen more frequently in the last month especially in the long grasses, and clients returning to camp after their balloon safaris have had many wonderful sightings of these beautiful cats. On the 22nd July a female with two kittens (estimated at three months old) were seen crossing a dry river bed. On the 16th some of our clients were fortunate enough to see a caracal near the rocky escarpment north of the marsh, Caracals are very shy cats and are not often seen. They are Africa’s version of a lynx, the heaviest of the small cats, tawny in colour with long tufted ears, and prey on young impala fawns.
The Bila Shaka/Marsh Lion Pride consisting of three males (one of which is a one dark manned lion called ‘Pavarotti’) and six females, now has a total of nine cubs of varying ages. They have been seen feeding off zebra and wildebeest. Four females and two male lion all from the pride were frequently seen on the fringes of the reserve where they were hunting wildebeest every other day. The pride, strengthened by the leadership coalition of three strong males, continues to grow. Two young lionesses have four tiny cubs (2 - 3 weeks old) hidden in long grass outside of the Marsh. We expect them to be introduced into the Bila Shaka pride soon, as these young females are probably the daughters of the lionesses in the pride.
The Ridge/Paradise Pride also has young members. Two of the breeding females have three cubs which we estimate to be around three months old. These lionesses are often seen towards the wildebeest river-crossing sites - a prime spot for hunting as the wildebeest migration begins to arrive.
The five young males ousted from the Bila Shaka pride and the old Bila Shaka male have been occupying the ridges overlooking the plains and we have seen them hunting zebra and wildebeest.
We have had lovely sightings of cheetah this month; a lone female has been seen hunting on the fringes of the marsh and out on the plains there are three other females. The shorter grass areas provide perfect grazing for Grants and Thompson gazelles - a cheetah’s favourite prey - and guests have had grandstand views of these three hunting out on the plains.
The leopard sightings have been extraordinary this month. The two handsome adults, “Pole Pole” and “Kijana”, have been seen regularly around the Marsh and on the fringes of the forest, often languishing in the branches of a favourite old dead tree. Towards the middle of the month Fred, the assistant Head Driver at Little Governors’, and his guests had a wonderful sighting. He was driving along the edge of the Marsh when they spotted a leopard moving in the long grass. They stopped and quietly observed this large male, then moments later were delighted to see a second leopard appear. This was a smaller female and the two greeted one another, and proceeded to mate. A herd of buffalo grazing nearby unwittingly moved closer to the amorous couple, then noticed the leopards and stampeded them. The leopards hastily retreated to safer ground and restarted their courtship. But the unlucky couple were disturbed once again, this time by a troop of foraging baboons. Baboons can pose a dangerous threat to leopards and when the leopards became aware of the baboons, one leopard slunk down and disappeared in the long grass whilst the other was chased up the tree by the baboons. It was getting late and as dusk fell Fred had to head back to camp with his clients. We all spent a nervous night wondering what would happen to the leopard stuck up the tree with a troop of aggressive baboons below. But the next morning we are happy to report there was no sign of any of them..
The Wildebeest Migration has arrived in the Masai Mara. This photo was taken on the 26th of July and since then we have been seeing almost daily river crossings. The Governors’ Collection of Camps are located in the heart of the best game viewing area of the Masai Mara, only 30 minutes away from the regular river crossing sites.
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