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Safari Updates - May 2008
Intriguing Leopard Observations
Location: Chitabe Concession, Okavango Delta, Botswana
Date: 15 May 2008
Observers: Grant Atkinson and the Eyes on Africa Digital Safari
While guiding a specialist photographic trip (James' note: This was one of the sightings during our May 2008 Digital Safari) at Chitabe recently, we found a female leopard (the leopartd named "Mosadi Mojolo" by the guides at Chitabe) on a half-eaten impala ram kill which she was guarding agressively from vultures as well as another female leopard. For hours she paced up and down around the carcass, growling and staring.
The following morning we returned to find her with two young cubs, which were some distance from the carcass. Over the next few hours she proceeded to drag the carcass right to the cubs - a distance of several hundred metres and into some very thick bush. Whilst we were watching we heard another leopard calling nearby, and any alarm calls from francolins would cause the cubs to hide and the female to continue pacing around on guard.
When we arrived early the next day we found the cubs out in the open feeding on the carcass, and the impala carcass almost stripped clean. While we watched the youngsters we noticed a few impala walking closer; the female slipped off into the long grass unnoticed, and minutes later, she pounced, managing to bring down a young impala ram - leopards being typical ambush and stalking predators. She killed it swiftly and efficiently (as leopards mostly do), dragging this fresh kill under cover too.
Returning out into the open she called both cubs to suckle. Returning that evening, they were all still observed feeding on the first impala. The mother leopard then climbed a tree and began to growl aggressively. She then descended the tree and tried to chase off a male leopard that had showed up in the area, The cubs were startled and both immediately climbed trees escaping any unwelcome attention from the newly arrived male. He did not show any undue interest in them however and when we left, the male leopard was feeding on the old carcass.
Next morning there was no sign of anything - no impala carcasses and no leopards, but what spectacular leopard viewing these events provided! Although probably the most widespread of all the African cats, their generally secretive nature makes observations like these so special.
Giant Legless Skink at Rocktail Bay
Location: Rocktail Bay Lodge, Maputaland
Date: May 2008
Observer: Martin Benadie
After coming back from a morning drive the camp staff alerted us to an unusual 'lifeless snake' seen on one of the sandy paths leading to the main lounge area. On closer inspection it was confirmed as a giant legless skink (Acontias plumbeus).
You may ask however what is so special about this reptile. It is in fact an unusual burrowing reptile that is not often seen. They usually only come to the surface at night or during rainy, overcast weather as was the case when it was seen. It is rare to see the giant legless skink above ground: It prefers to burrow in rich, soft soil where it hunts for earthworms, beetle larvae and other invertebrates. But given the chance, it will take frogs and other small vertebrates. Not only is it the world's largest legless skink but it is the world's largest skink. The specimen observed was approx. 30cm; but they have been recorded to grow up to nearly 55cm and although docile-looking can inflict a painful bite. Although the skink photographed was quite pale, they are often darker in colour - slate grey to almost black.
The skink is perfectly adapted for burrowing. It is stocky, has a flattened blunt head, a cylindrical body and a very short tail and obvious blue-grey snout. The eyes are small and the body is covered with tight-fitting glossy scales.
Great White Pelican at Sossusvlei
Location: Kulala Wilderness Reserve, Namibia
Date: May 2008
Observers: Little Kulala Camp
Pelican in the desert? Disbelief was my response when Little Kulala guide, Michael, came back from a nature drive with his guests to tell us that he spotted a Great White Pelican just by our bridge; he had come to pick up all of us to have a look.
As it was a juvenile and probably exhausted from being blown off course from its usual coastal haunts, the question arose: do we interfere or not? Lesley, our chef who had just come back from chef training, answered, "Feed it of course!" So we obliged and gave our newest addition to the family some fresh hake hoping it would regain some strength and return to where it belonged.
Amazingly as we approached with the fish the pelican walked up to us and very happily took the fish out of Michael's hand and then continued to follow him around for a while before it took off. Quite happy with ourselves we thought we had saved one lost pelican but soon realised it had just relocated itself to Room 7! So off we went again to look at this very unusual visitor. On our way there we came across a spotted hyaena that was stalking the pelican - so again the question of whether to interfere or not arose. We decided that there was more than enough to eat for the hyaena and so picked up the bird and promptly returned him in the main pool of the lodge. There he swam around for a while before getting out just before the staff came out to sing for the guests.
With all the drumming and feet stomping, the pelican stretched himself to his whole length (I never realised pelicans have such long necks - he looked like an ostrich with short legs!). Seemingly unimpressed with the staff singing he decided he'd had enough and jumped off the deck. We then decided not to interfere any longer and thought that all we would find the next day would be feathers. The next morning arrived and we were relieved that there were no feathers - just webbed-feet tracks all over the camp. The intrepid pelican was later seen close to the staff village before taking off into the distance. Bon voyage!
Who said southern Namibia is only a scenic destination with its impressive landscapes? Wildlife viewing has been pretty good lately: two brown hyaena were spotted at our waterhole last week and this morning (23 May) we had four guests, Hulda (one of our waitresses) and Clifford (one of our guides) in the lapa (dining area) when a herd of springbok were chased by something that looked very much like a leopard! Unfortunately no photos were taken as it all happened so quickly. A cheetah was also spotted on the reserve a few weeks ago which is very exciting indeed - we will keep our eyes peeled and everyone updated!
The 'new' Little Makalolo camp in south-eastern Hwange National Park is now complete. The new camp has been totally rebuilt and the large false mopane tree in the center of the camp now shades a separate dining and living area as well as a raised platform for views of the much-visited waterhole and famous log-pile hide. Even the newly reintroduced white rhino have been seen at the waterhole recently! The new, more spacious tents feature solar powered geysers and electricity and are nestled in the tree line on the edge of the narrow plain in front of camp.
Toka Leya proudly opened its doors in May. The main lounge, dining area and pool of the camp are shaded by jackalberry and waterberry trees and overlook the majestic Zambezi River just 12km upstream from the Victoria Falls. The camp's 12 en-suite tents (including 3 family units) extend on both sides of the main area and are linked by raised wooden walkways. Situated in the western sector of the Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park elephant, hippo and other large mammal species move through camp and activities include boat cruises, game drives and visits to the Falls.
Ongava Tented Camp
Ongava Tented Camp, in line with the renewed focus on our Classic camps in Namibia, has totally revamped its 8 tents. The new tented units are larger and are raised onto low wooden decks to match the main area, which was rebuilt in 2007.
As always we have been as environmentally conscious as possible and wherever possible wooden decking is comprised of Prosopis, an alien invasive plant that has impacted on both biodiversity and productivity in Namibia and which we encourage the eradication of by providing a use for its wood.
In the Linyanti Concession, LIFE Interiors and Wilderness Safaris architecture team Silvio Rech and Lesley Carstens have totally revamped the main area of Kings Pool Camp.
The camp has evolved several times since the King of Sweden first pitched his royal tent here all those decades ago. The new design maximizes a sense of place and the appreciation of the vista out onto the Linyanti floodplain. It is centered on a custom-made wooden bar and features cool, clean lines that create a sanctuary from the sometimes harsh conditions in this very large concession.
/ North Island
North Island Dive Report
- May 08 Jump
After an early, rather abrupt, beginning to the south east Monsoon season which was experienced last month, we are left wondering as to when the winds will actually arrive as both the winds and the seas have settled for some time now. With the brunt of the south east winds still to come, we enjoy the last remaining days of comparatively calm seas.
The sea temperature has also changed quite dramatically and we are now experiencing temperatures of around 26 degrees with thermoclines dropping the temperature to below 24 degrees in some places. For most this is still relatively warm water but for those of us who have now become accustomed to the warmer water of the summer, these temperature decreases come as somewhat of a shock.
Even though the winds have been relatively still, the sand has continued to shift from in front of the restaurant at a steady rate. The beach in front of Villa 11 is now quite substantial. Honeymoon Beach is also gradually disappearing and has now been spread over the entire West Beach making it perfect for an afternoon stroll while watching the sun settle on the horizon. The beach at the West Beach Bar is however still yet to start developing.
The fishing this month has been completely sporadic with some trips, in excess of five hours, with not even a bite and other trips producing seven bonito in the space of an hour. We have managed to catch the occasional dorado, wahoo and yellowfin tuna which always provides some excitement.
There have again, however, been fantastic sightings of the juvenile spotted eagle rays in the shallows off the East Beach. The water here is protected from the south east winds and provides excellent snorkelling conditions throughout the winter and especially on the high tides. These rays have been spotted by snorkellers on a regular basis with families of up to 15 individuals being counted at any one time.
There has also been a large school of fringelip mullet (Crenimugil crenilabis) which have been congregating in the corner of the East Beach against the pool area, providing some excellent viewing for snorkellers. These fish literally scrape the algae off the rocks with their particularly thick lips which are rather an unusual sight.
We have only first spotted the juvenile lemon sharks cruising up and down the shore break in front of the restaurant toward the end of the month which is rather late as these sharks were consistently spotted in early May in previous years. Currently we have only one individual patrolling the beach.
There have also been some fantastic sightings of the pink whipray (Himantura fai) which have been spotted cruising the boulders below the Spa. These rays have been spotted in large groups, often resting on the sand. These rays tend to prefer deeper reefs and thus it is quite unusual that they have been spotted in such shallow water and so close to the shore.
Another ray which has been spotted rather frequently is the feathertail ray (Pastinachus sephen). This particular ray is characterized by an extremely broad tail, hence the name, and is commonly seen in shallow water near the shore. The individual which has been spotted on the island is close to this size and is also extremely inquisitive, often swimming right up to the divers or snorkellers.
Pat Banks, a dive site four nautical miles off the East Beach, has again provided some phenomenal dives. This site, which was regrettably only dived several times this last month, continued to provide excellent sightings. Several large nurse sharks as well as huge round ribbon tail rays as well as several other smaller rays were repeatedly spotted on a particular section of the reef which we have come to call 'The Ledge'. We look forward to what surprises this reef will have in store for us during this winter season.
Sprat City is slowly but surely coming alive as we near the time when the 'sprats' are expected to make their appearance. While the sprats continue to keep us holding our breaths, the reef has not been without action as several different species of deep water game fish have started to investigate the happenings on the reef. There has been a trio of extremely patient dogtooth tuna patrolling the reef for some months now, slightly over enthusiastically awaiting the arrival of the sprats, as are we. The bluefin kingfish have arrived this month and have also adopted the behaviour of patrolling the reef searching for food. Some of the smaller juveniles have even been spotted chasing the Lunar Fusiliers which are far too big a meal for them. There have also been several large Job Fish spotted on the outer edges of Sprat City which have also displayed quite determined behaviour.
There have been an increase in the number of slender sweepers (Parapriacanthus ransonneti) also known as glass fish, prevalent on this reef which normally indicates the arrival of the sprats but we are in great anticipation for the arrival of the sprats themselves (Atherinomorus lacunosus) which is expected around mid-June.
We are also looking increasingly forward to the month of June as this heralds the start of whale shark season in the Seychelles. The sharks are attracted by the increase in the nutrients in the water due to the upwelling associated with the start of the winter season. They feed specifically on plankton and a particular species of krill (a small type of shrimp). Although it is not likely to spot these creatures this far north of Mahe (they tend to prefer to congregate in the southern regions of Mahe) we have already spotted an individual around the East Beach of Silhouette which caused quite some excitement. Ironically, the whale shark season coincides with the windy south east Monsoon season, but this is when the ocean is the most alive with plankton which is an important food source for our whale sharks.
Camp update - May 08 Jump
Savuti Camp seems to be ever changing. Last month we thought that the water in the Channel was slowing down, but much to our excitement it has picked up again. It is now nearly three kilometres from Savuti Camp and edging closer by the day. Rock Pan waterhole, now connected to the river system, has developed into a favourite sun-bathing spot for Nile crocodiles, with sometimes up to five there at one time - in the area which was used this time last year by the elephants to quench their thirst!
The waterhole outside camp is visited by a variety of plains game daily, though this year we still say "wow" when one or two elephants approach. It all makes sense - when you are flying over the Linyanti you still see many waterholes left from the rainy season and more than enough water in the Savuti Channel. As the natural waterholes slowly dry up, we anticipate the presence of elephants in the area to gradually increase.
May has brought in some exciting sightings, in and outside of camp. Wild dogs were a pretty regular sighting this month out of camp and we experienced the pack killing an impala in the camp itself. The kill was then taken by the Munchwe male leopard, who dragged it up one of the trees near the raised walkway. The wild dogs had no other option but to hunt again. They were successful the very next day and could feast on the impala without the interference of the leopard.
Two females from the Savuti Pride seem to have accepted Silver Eye and his brother into the area. They have been sighted resting in the same area as Silver Eye and the Selinda female with five cubs. The Selinda Pride has been seen a lot more in the Savuti area, often with Silver Eye, causing us to believe that some day soon we will have two resident prides in the area. The rest of the Savuti Pride are avoiding Silver Eye and his brother though as they still have three young males in the pride. The Savuti Boys seem to have disappeared for the moment, but we hope they will pluck up the courage to stand up for their territory sometime soon.
The francolin chicks are all growing up nicely but don't quite look like mature adults yet. They still hang around their mothers most of the time, but some are almost like cheeky curious teenagers daring to venture apart every now and then.
We have spotted a Slaty Egret on occasion which is a special sighting in itself as they are waterbirds and not common in this area. With the Savute Channel flowing again, hopefully this will change. The pools within the mopane woodland also had some interesting birds like this photographed Hamerkop, a bizarre bird in its own family.
Winter has officially arrived! As the sun sets the chill begins to set in too. The colder it gets the further the night sounds carry. We have often heard the distant calls of the wild until the late hours of the night, which is comfort for our souls, knowing that this is home.
We are looking forward to all the excitement and natural wonders that June has to offer for our guests.
-The Savuti Team-
DumaTau Camp update - May 08 Jump
to DumaTau Camp
Winter is here with the average temperatures for the month being 13° Celsius (minimum) and 29° Celsius (maximum). It is that time of the year where we check how many blankets we have in order to survive the cold period. All-in-all May has been a good month.
The game viewing this month has been very exciting. Driving on the new road along the northern bank of the Savute Channel, we came across two honey badgers, which even allowed some photos to be taken. After 30 minutes of watching these honey badgers, some splashing was heard in the water on the southern bank. This was ignored, thinking it was just elephants crossing the water. The sound continued and a barking noise was heard prompting us to drive around the loop again to see what was going on. There were ten wild dogs (the DumaTau Pack) trying to catch some impala on the southern bank. They succeeded in bringing down one impala. The rest of the guides were called to the sighting and as the dogs were feeding on this impala, they suddenly left the kill, running away and alarm barking. The reason: A pride of seven lions arrived chasing the wild dogs away, and causing them to flee across the water for safety. It was the Selinda Pride with two females and five cubs. They fed on what was left of the carcass before drifting away again into the bush.
One morning at 03h00 we also heard lions fighting south of the camp towards Mopane Bridge. The guides later went out on the morning drive, tracked them and found the Savute Pride sitting with one of the male lions known as the Selinda Boys and a few metres away the Selinda Pride including the now legendary Silver Eye, the other Selinda Boy. This was a great sighting for guests as the guides explained the intricate pride dynamics of the area. Theba, who has been guiding in this area for eleven years, suspected that these two prides might be related as the Savuti Pride used to be a big pride of about twenty or more before splintering into smaller prides. There was speculation that the Selinda females might be sisters with the Savuti females. We had hoped that they would be one big pride, as this would increase the number of lions in the area.
The two Selinda Males have been seen with the two prides on several occasions in the past month - these two are always busy patrolling their territory and roaring every single morning. At the moment they are mating with one Savuti female and being sighted mostly between DumaTau and the Mopane Bridge. On the other hand, two of the previously dominant Savute Males were seen further downstream at the Livingstone Hide.
Leopard sightings have also been good: The DumaTau male has been seen hunting zebra by Green Pan with no success. Mocks, one of the guides, followed it as it was moving along the roadside making a contact call with a female which was not far away. It was an unknown female, and very skittish. The Rock Pan sub-adult leopard has also been seen on occasion hunting catfish along the river bank.
There is one female leopard which has been seen with two cubs that are of different ages - one being smaller than the other in size. She seems to be very shy when approached. She was spotted by Mr. T feeding on nothing other than a big caracal (very unusual prey) with one of the cubs. When approached she ran off with cub in tow, picked the small cub from the grass and moved into the thickets. The Rock Pan female has also been seen hunting around Blue Bush area. Lazi also spotted the Zibadianja female attempting to hunt Helmeted Guineafowl one evening.
Cheetah were only seen once this month - by Long Island East - feeding on a warthog. A civet (a stunning creature in the mongoose family) was spotted by Ronald drinking water by Middle Pan and an African wild cat was spotted in camp where it had caught a tree squirrel.
Wild dogs have been seen almost every fourth day. It appears that there have been two different packs of dogs in our area. The Linyanti Pack was spotted hunting greater kudu. They were also seen resting at the DumaTau sunken hide. Most of the time the DumaTau Pack have been spotted between camp and Mopane Bridge hunting impala and kudu. Last month the Alfa female in the DumaTau Pack was very sick and looking quite skinny. Since then she has not been seen with the rest of the pack and we are unsure as to her exact fate.
General game sightings have been excellent this month too. One of the highlights has been the presence of herds of buffalo on the DumaTau floodplain. Lion have been tracking them for almost a week but have had no luck yet with a buffalo kill. The elephants are back, and we see them every day in camp around tea time. Guests doing the boat trip after brunch always have good sightings of elepant herds crossing the lagoon and once in a while they get to spot Nile crocodiles on the banks of the river. Lazi went fishing with some guests, and they had a lot of fun catching-and-releasing fish at Osprey Lagoon.
The managers in camp for June are Vasco, Miriam, Kago and Gabbi. We also have Martin, doing his Level Two on management training and Sandra is on leave. The guides this month are Theba, Ollie (head guide), Ronald, Lazi and Mocks. We have two trainee guides Ace and Shadreck who have been doing their front-of-house service training with us, Kessy in the curio shop and Masole is doing his best in leading the service team.
Chitabe Camp update - May 08 Jump
to Chitabe Camp
For the last four or five years our two resident lion male brothers have had the Chitabe Concession and the lion females to themselves. Things changed somewhat when one of them disappeared two months ago and other signs that younger males from outside territories are starting to threaten their status quo.
Last week one of our guides, Ebs, saw the absent Chitabe male up near the Gomoti Channel and looking very ill. Three young males also crossed into the concession from Moremi Game Reserve. After a few days scouting round they decided against staying and returned to Moremi.
Our lone 'film star' leopard, Mosadi Mogolo, is so far successfully raising two small cubs that are now two months old and very photogenic. First spotted by Newman tucked away from prying eyes in a tree hollow, their mother now keeps them very much on the move to protect them from other predators. Operating north of the airstrip, out towards Fox Pan is another female leopard (last seen with Grant Atkinson's photography group - James' note: This was the Eyes on Africa Digital Safari), and two other males who we don't recognise have been seen on several occasions.
Also on the move is another lone female, a cheetah with two tiny infants the same age as the leopard cubs that has been seen a few times.
Not to be left out, one of our lionesses is very pregnant and could give birth any day now. Our other resident lioness is carefully bringing up her litter of three - two of her own and one of her sister's cubs after it's mother was killed in a zebra attack gone wrong last year.
The game viewing really has been phenomenal. Any drives out towards the Gomoti Channel, which has held water all year, have been richly rewarded with large buffalo herds, hippos in rafts of thirty or forty, plus cats and birds galore. Guests on one morning drive came back jubilant that they'd seen four of the big five (minus rhino) all before breakfast; which included three different leopard, two lion and one cheetah sighting. Wattled Cranes have been seen in groups numbering twelve to fourteen, and we've had plenty of Yellow-billed and Marabou Storks too. Not bad, even by Chitabe standards.
Fresh tracks of wild dogs have also been seen together with evidence that the pack had killed an impala on their way out of Chitabe heading towards a neighbouring concession area.
In camp, life goes on as normal. Tsunami (our semi-resident Bull elephant) visits most days, coming on cue to the main area at tea time and then disappearing as if, by magic, once everyone has finished taking his photo and left for the afternoon safari. Buffalo splash around at night as we are serenaded by Verreaux's Eagle-Owls and the close-by roaring of lions. Footprints and mysterious walkway sounds indicate that the Marula male leopard visits every evening after we have all gone to bed.
Nighttime continues to be cold, but so far nobody has beaten the life out of the 'surprise' hot water bottle with the tent umbrella - one of those stories that has now entered the realm of safari folklore.
Thanks very much to Gary Winseck for the photos.
Mombo Camp update - May 08 Jump
to Mombo Camp
The onset of May in the Okavango Delta has brought the cold winter months ever closer. So far the anticipated drop in temperatures has been very mild but there is a chill in the air that indicates that summer has definitely lost its hold on the land. Rain is now a thing of the past and there is none to be expected until later in the year. However, the increased push of the flood into the area presents a real paradox. While there is no water falling from the sky, the floodplains have continued to fill up as water from the highlands of Angola finally begins the end of its journey. These floodplains around the camp are now full up and attracting a myriad of amazing birdlife. From the noisy African Jacana to the shy and beautiful African Pygmy-Goose, one can spend hours on the camp deck with binoculars in hand. At night, it is the only the sounds of hippo in front of the tents that may trouble your sleep.
At the time of the flood, the traversing area of land-dwelling animals is reduced, meaning that game is often seen in higher concentrations. This applies regardless of the time of day and a walk back to your tent at night may well reward you with sightings of porcupine, genets or a civet, all of which are elusive nocturnal species. Another exiting sighting this month was that of an aardwolf, another usually nocturnal species which some guests were lucky enough to view in the afternoon.
Regardless of the time of the year, Mombo is a place where we are lucky to have consistently excellent general game viewing and May has been no different: Herds of zebra, impala, wildebeest, giraffe and red lechwe abound and there is rarely a time at Mombo when you are out of sight of a living thing, which is part of what makes this area so special.
At this time of the year we have also had the elephant herds moving back into the area, providing amazing viewing of these intelligent giants and the odd rush of adrenalin as a young bull sizes up a game viewing vehicle. The African buffalo is another giant of the bush and anyone who as been to Mombo before will most likely have met the resident herd of old males that lives in and around the camp. These old boys are still around, although there has been the odd casualty to the lion prides of the area. We have also seen a number of large buffalo breeding herds through the month, although the size of these herds means that they have to be on the move constantly and are their movements are therefore very unpredictable.
As with every month for the last number of years, lions continue to dominate the Mombo area. However, this is the first month in a long time that there appears to have been some breathing space for the other smaller predators, such as cheetah and wild dog.
There are still three lion prides seen (and heard) regularly in the Mombo area - the Mathata, Moporota and West prides. The Mathatha and Moporota prides continue to be the largest, with both prides numbering upward of 15 individuals whereas the West pride has around 10 individuals. Each pride has two beautiful males associated with it.
The West pride is the most commonly seen as the camp itself falls within their territory. This pride seems to have honed their buffalo hunting skills and have killed a number in and around the camp in the past month, the most exciting of which happened on the doorstep of our curio shop! The West pride is also incredibly interesting to observe as it has the interesting (very unusual) phenomenon of two females with manes (see adjacent image)! Visitors to Mombo in the past may remember a lioness with a mane called Martina and these two could be showing her genes. The Mathatha pride has been seen less this month as their territory appears to have continued to move south. The Moporota pride is the dominant pride to the north-west of the camp.
All the lion prides have cubs at the moment which have provided us with non-stop entertainment, especially when the adults sleep through the day. The Moporota and West prides both have three small cubs, adding further to our lion population!
Here is the very good news! Legadima, our resident leopard, has continued to guide her two cubs safely toward adulthood. This is despite many dangerous encounters with hyaenas and baboons over the past six months. As they have got older and bolder the danger has increased. They do not have a permanent den anymore and so move around with their mother. They have started to eat meat from kills but are still completely reliant on mom to do the killing. Early on in the month she actually killed an impala metres from the staff village and so we were lucky enough to observe her right on our doorstep! We continue to hope that she will be able to keep these cubs safe until they are old enough to claim their own territory in this paradise.
Cheetah and Wild Dog
As mentioned previously, it was a good month for cheetah and wild dog sightings, albeit that there are still only a small number of individuals.
The male cheetah who lost his brother late last year has continued to do well in the Mombo area, despite being on his own. He seems to have maintained a similar territory to the one that he and his brother traversed so we were lucky to see him a number of times. A more recent addition to the cheetah population at Mombo has been a female who appears to have moved up from the south. She was seen a number of times through the month and we are holding thumbs that somewhere along the way boy will meet girl and the rest will be history.
There have been a good number of sighting of the wild dogs in the Mombo area this month, many times with the dogs on kills. There are still only three dogs that are moving in the area - two females and one male. They have been mating though and so we are hoping that somewhere down the line there may be some additions to the pack. These dogs still need to be incredibly vigilant as are always on the move with the lion and hyaena activity in the area and so sightings are very unpredictable.
Rhino sightings were also good through the month of May. This is only due to commitment on the part of those in search of these prehistoric looking beasts as they continue to frequent an area some distance to the south-east of Mombo Camp. Despite this, many of those willing to make the journey have been rewarded with sightings. There were a number of sightings of the more commonly seen white rhino as well as one sighting of a black rhino.
And so ends the month of May, and as usual we wait to see what the next month in this amazing place will bring and what stories we will have to tell at the end!
Jeremy, Taps, Lizzy, Kirsty, Nat and all at Mombo Camp
Xigera Camp update - May 08 Jump
to Xigera Camp
May has seen a sharp rise in the flood levels and boating has become much easier with so much water around. We have started day trips towards Chiefs Island again as we can now get to those isolated spots by boat. On these trips there have been great sightings of Cape buffalo, African elephant, Burchell's zebra, southern giraffe and red lechwe on a regular basis. The elusive sitatunga antelope was seen once this month as when the water levels are higher these antelope tend to disperse more widely. Lucky guests on this occasion did however get to see two male sitatunga very well from the boat.
Another Delta special, the spotted-necked otter has been seen often. Much to the delight of the guests sitting on the deck they often cruise past the front of camp - a pair has even been regulars around camp. They're often seen hunting on the edges of the small channel, occasionally popping their heads up to have a look around before diving down again.
Our territorial female leopard has also been seen many times during the month. On one occasion she killed a big impala ram and impressively hoisted her prey (about 50kg dead weight) up into a marula tree to keep it out of reach of other predators like hyaena. She fed on it for several days before leaving the remains in the tree, where the hyaena could still not get to it. She has crossed onto the camp island leaving her tracks in the sand on the bridge and was even seen by Marleen early one evening as she crossed back over, calmly walking along the bridge just beyond the main deck.
Apart from regular sightings of Pel's Fishing-Owl on mokoro trips close to camp where a pair and their still partly dependent juvenile are resident, we have also seen Verreaux's Eagle-Owl, African Barred Owlet and Pearl-spotted Owlet in camp. The Pel's signature low-pitch booming call can often be heard close to camp.
-Anton, Carrie, Marleen, Kgabiso, Question, Teko, KD, Ndebo, Diye, Master & the Xigera team. (Francois has moved on to Malawi and we wish him all the best with his new adventure)-
Camps Update - May 08
Lagoon camp Jump
• Lagoon had great luck after tracking two male lions for 40 minutes towards old hippo pools, they found the two male lions feeding on a buffalo which they had killed that night, these two male lions are part of the collision of four males which are regularly seen in the concession.
• Two lions were seen close to the Lion den, a male and female in courtship.
• Three young male cheetahs were located near sable road, they could be the new coalition of cheetah.
• The three brother cheetahs have been seen hunting Zebra and blue wildebeest generally on the morning game drives.
• The female cheetah with the tiny cub was seen close to Diolo road.
• The lagoon pack of wild dogs have been seen throughout the area on impala kills and a kudu kill near the Kwando airstrip. Pack size does not seem to be constant and Mmuso says that the alpha female is heavily pregnant.
Kwara & Little Kwara camps Jump
& Little Kwara camps
• The coalition of seven male lions have split up the past month with the two still full of wounds but seem to be getting better day by day. The other five lucked out right in front of Hobbs with a Giraffe kill. The clients saw the kill happen out towards Splash, after the hunt the five sat down to feast on the young Giraffe.
• The female Cheetah has not been located this month by the guides in Kwara. There has also been a band of three cheetah in the area. Hobbs and the guests found them stalking on the flood plains, the hunt ended up with great success where the three managed to bring two Impala down on the same hunt.
• The large pack of Wild dogs have not been seen the past month but a single male has been seen often buy the guides. A pack of four were reported and said that they could be a break away from the big pack of Dogs.
• Watteld Cranes, Saddle Bill storks, Cattle egrets and a large variety of water birds have been in the areas with the new flood water.
• The general game reported by the guys has been described as excellent. Waterbuck, Steenbuck and Reedbuck and a very large herd of Buffalo have moved through the area towards the east.
• Honey Badgers also seem to be a favourite this month in Kwara. Reports of single Badgers have been seen in the area. No sign of Snakes this month from Kwara as we are heading towards a chilled winter.
Lebala camp Jump
• Huge breeding herds of elephant have been seen along the various floodplains and woodlands. Bachelor herds have been causing a stir amongst the breeding herds and single bulls have been reported to be in musth.
• Herds of buffalo have been through the area which shows that the rain pans have being drying up over the past two months since the rain has ceased. Fighting amongst the bulls has been a common sight.
• Lebala saw two Secatary birds towards Johns pan, lots of ground Hornbills and Kori bustards have been reported buy the guides.
• Night drives have been fantastic, Chameleons have been spotted on most night drives with the Spotted Hyenas on patrol thought the area and the side striped Jackal following closely behind.
• Honey badgers and Porcupine are seen on most safaris this past month both in their groups of four.
Camp update - May 08 Jump
It has already been a very exciting two months for those of us on the ground and the guests that began arriving from the 1st of May.
The team arrived in the Plains on the 7th April, the 6th being a full day of preparation and packing in Lusaka. We left early in the morning in our open vehicles, a convoy of three Land Rovers and a film crew, all anxious to see what the Busanga Plains had awaiting us.
Luckily the Kafue welcomed us and allowed us entry uneventfully. The drive took us 13 hours to the last dry point of the plains where we were met by a small contingent of staff in mokoros, as excited to see us as we were to see them. We unloaded all of our luggage and began the 2 ½ hour wade to Shumba Island, Shumba has never looked so inviting.
Preparation to unpack the camp began the following morning after a good night's rest - on the floor in the main area, our home for a few evenings. The camp itself was then to take a solid three weeks to prepare our opening after a long rainy season.
Over the course of the summer months (November to March), we recorded a total of 1385.5mm of rain, a great deal of water falling on the black cotton soil that makes up the Busanga Plains. In addition to this local rain and the on flow of the Lushimba and Lufupa streams on to the Plains, the swollen Kafue River further downstream effectively dams the Lufupa, the backflow further spilling out onto the Plains. After the rainy season when the rivers return to normal flow rates the water returns back to the rivers, coupled with evaporation from the mighty Zambian sun, the plains slowly begin to dry.
The temperatures through April were moderate, averaging 30°C during the day and cooling in the evenings. Through May the temperature dropped off, averaging around 25°C during the day and dropping down to a mild 10-15°C at night.
The months of April and May are a truly extraordinary time to be on the Plains. Our only mode of transport on the inundated floodplains is a boat straight out of the American Everglades, aptly named the Go-Devil. This incredible machine is able to operate in very shallow water and whisks us through the floodplains on old hippo paths, opening to the larger channels where the bird life is extraordinary. We are seeing Open-billed Storks in their hundreds, Saddle-billed Storks, seven species of heron, African Fish-eagles and kingfishers everywhere, Crowned and Wattled Cranes, Reed Cormorants, Greater Painted-Snipes, Lesser Jacana, Common Moorhen and Allen's Gallinules,the list goes on and on - a birding mecca.
The sense of wilderness is awe inspiring, being the handful of humans in an area, previously unexplored, the pioneering spirit runs through us all, perhaps what Dr Livingstone was searching for all along.
Perhaps one of the most unique experiences we have been able to pioneer in the area is our full day outing in our Go-Devil. On this excursion we head out to where the Lufupa Channel widens, to an underwater forest area that houses a nesting colony of Open-billed Storks, African Darters, Reed Cormorants, Great White Egrets and Yellow-billed Egrets. This is also an area where we see the elusive White-backed Night-Heron. A description any further would do it no justice at all.
The resident Busanga Pride has made many an appearance over the last months gone by. Awaiting the drying Plains, we first saw them from camp in mid-April when the pride was across the Lufupa channel, in front of camp. As it happens they were seen throughout the rainy season, hopping from island to island, to prey on unsuspecting game. We are also very pleased to confirm that two of last years cubs have made it through the wet season. We were lucky to catch a glimpse of them walking through the tall grass one May afternoon.
During May we met some very interesting people and had a ton of laughs. Here are some of their comments:
We are all looking forward to the coming month and seeing what the Plains have to offer over June, so a warm winters goodbye to all, until next Month.
The Shumba Team
Camp update - May 08 Jump
to Little Makalolo
As we entered into the month of May this was a turning point in terms of weather, with our lowest temperature recorded on the 9th as 14 Degrees Celsius and highest on the 18th at 35 Degrees Celsius. The month of May had some changes as the temperatures kept rising and then dropping, with some days getting very cold especially in the mornings.
Vegetation and Water
What a surprise on the 4 May when we received some rains and we recorded nine millimetres which is uncommon for this time of the year. The trees, grass and other vegetation were very happy on this day when the rains visited them in most areas but after the downpour the grass still looked tired from the heat.
What a great month in terms of game viewing. Elephants dominated in May, with wildebeest, zebra, steenbok, kudu, spring hare (often called 'African Kangaroos') were some of the animals that visited our front pan. The highlight for the month was probably our lions; these were seen twelve times in May on different days and six times at our pan in front of camp. A pride of sixteen lions spent two good days within 600 metres from camp. We also saw spotted hyaenas, southern giraffe and large herds of buffalo (between 250 - 300 head) on the concession. Our resident leopard called twice at night on different days, but was not seen - the closest was fresh tracks down the road one morning taking some guests back to the airstrip.
As good as game viewing, this month we witnessed a Lanner Falcon taking an African Mourning Dove as an early breakfast on the 14th just in front of camp. We also witnessed an African Fish-Eagle being tormented by a Tawny Eagle in front of camp with guests. Some of our amazing bird sightings included Ostrich, various francolin species, Grey Crowned Cranes, Dark-capped Bulbul, four species of vulture (Lappet-faced, White-headed, White-backed and Hooded), Dickinson's Kestrel, Bradfield's Hornbill, Chestnut-backed Sparrowlark, Black-smith Lapwing and White-crowned Shrike. Our resident family of Red-billed Francolins in camp has a new family of two young chicks about three weeks old. Although not rare, the Lilac-breasted Rollers continued posing beautifully for cameras.
Until we meet again in our next journey, enjoy,
-Cosam and the Little Makalolo Team-
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