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AFRICAN SAFARI NEWS

September 2008

(Page 1 of 2)

Page 1 Updates
General Safari News - General information and updates from our partners in Africa.
Wildlife News - Interesting wildlife sightings and photos.
Camp News - Camp specific news, including refurbs, rebuilds, accolades, etc.
• Monthly dive report from North Island in the Seychelles.
• Monthly update from Savuti Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from DumaTau Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Kings Pool Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Chitabe Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Mombo Camp in Botswana.
Kwando Safaris game reports from Botswana.
• Monthly update from Jacana Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Tubu Tree Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Kwetsani Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Jao Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Vumbura Plains Camp in Botswana.

Page 2 Updates
• Monthly update from Pafuri Camp in South Africa.
• Monthly update from Rocktail Bay Lodge in South Africa.
• Monthly Dive Report from Rocktail Bay Lodge in South Africa.
• Monthly update from Shumba Camp in Zambia.
• Monthly update from Lunga River Lodge in Zambia.
• Monthly update from Kapinga Camp in Zambia.
• Monthly update from Busanga Bush Camp in Zambia.
• Monthly update from The River Club in Zambia.
• Monthly update from Ruckomechi Camp in Zimbabwe.
• Safari report from Mana Canoe & Walking Trail in Zimbabwe.
• Monthly update from Doro Nawas Camp in Namibia.
• Monthly update from Skeleton Coast Camp in Namibia.
• Monthly update from Serra Cafema Camp in Namibia.
• Monthly update from Governors' Camp in Kenya's Masai Mara.


General Safaris Updates - September 2008

GENERAL UPDATES
CC AFRICA GOES GLOBAL AND LAUNCHES NEW NAME
(01 OCT 2008)

Luxury lodge and adventure travel company CC Africa (Conservation Corporation Africa) currently owns and operates numerous lodges in Africa and in India, and is soon to welcome guests to another corner of the globe - Latin America. As such, the company has changed its name to andBEYOND to more appropriately reflect where and how it operates.

Exporting their successful luxury responsible tourism model out of Africa has provided the company with the perfect opportunity to reassess their brand needs and to change their current name to one that evokes the notion of luxury adventure travel to many more beautiful wilderness places on the planet.

The company's commitment to responsible sustainable travel, a practice that has enabled them to make small but meaningful differences to their world and to that of their guests, will remain at the core of andBEYOND’s rollout to exciting new regions and countries.

In other developments, the company opened two new lodges in Botswana in August: Xudum Okavango Delta Lodge and Xaranna Okavango Tented Camp. Two additional lodges, Banjaar Tola Kanha Tented Camp and Pashan Garh Panna Wilderness Lodge, both in the central Madhya Pradesh province in India, are to open later this year.

“Delighting guests to make a difference is at the core of what we do and now we will be able to do so in more of the world’s most beautiful natural places,” said Nicky Fitzgerald, andBEYOND Marketing Director.

“Over and above opportunities in Peru, Brazil, Ecuador and Costa Rica, we have further exciting developments in the pipeline for Africa, too, including Tanzania, Kenya and Madagascar, and look forward to sharing our news with you in the coming months,” she concluded.


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WILDLIFE NEWS
Savuti Wild Dog Den
Location: Savuti Camp, Linyanti Concession, northern Botswana
Date: September 2008
Observers: Grant Atkinson

The onset of the dry season in the Savuti area has brought with it some excellent and consistent wild dog viewing. The dogs denned sometime in late July or early August and when two game drive vehicles happened upon the den site the area was immediately closed off until the pups were older.

Two subsequent visits were made by the company's environmental team and senior guides from DumaTau and Savuti Camps, and a very winding, difficult-to-follow access road was made. This was to make sure that lions or spotted hyaenas (predators that often move along roads) did not have any reason to use the access road to get somewhere easily; it has been found that roads that wind back-and-forth and circle around on themselves are not preferred by these animals.

Wild Dog puppy at Savuti      Wild Dog puppy at Savuti den site

The viewing area was marked with some logs and the den opened for game drive vehicles from Savuti and DumaTau on the 8th of September when the pups would have been approximately 8 weeks old. We were privileged to be one of the first vehicles from camp to visit the site and we were very excited to see 8 healthy looking pups playing and chasing about behind the adults that were around the den site. As the sun set the adult dogs began to move off on their evening hunt and the pup's mother accompanied them. The dogs left no babysitter behind. According to some published work on wild dogs, this happens when there are no one-year old dogs in the pack to carry out babysitting duties.

Despite this, the pups appear to be in good condition and the dog pack itself seems to be faring well, with 9 adults making up the numbers of the now 17-strong pack.

These puppies are not only cute, but invaluable - wild dogs as a species are battling for survival, and northern Botswana is one of their last viable strongholds.

Wild dog puppies get their first taste of meat in the form of semi-digested morsels regurgitated by pack members returning to the den after a kill. They soon figure out how to beg, who from, and the behaviour that will stimulate the adults to deliver the goods: licking at the jaws and mouths of the hunters.

Wild dog den at Savuti

With so many extra mouths to feed, this pack has been hunting almost daily, and they are devastatingly effective. Once they have locked on to their prey, they seldom miss, and they are relentless in their pursuit. Studies have shown that wild dogs are successful in up to 70% of their hunts, which is around twice the rate achieved by lions. Teamwork, endurance, and tenacity are the hallmarks of wild dog hunts.

The waters of the Savute Channel have presented the dogs with new opportunities, and new challenges too. They soon figured out that the water made a superb trap, and quickly mastered the art of chasing antelopes up to the edge of the Channel, in the hope that they would turn at bay and could then be caught. Each generation of animal here however represents an evolutionary peak; with every generation the impala or kudu are more alert, fleeter of foot; the dogs are smarter, more persistent. An impala or kudu that runs to the edge of the Channel with dogs snipping at its heels has a very stark choice to make: to swim across and risk a potential crocodile encounter, or remain on the bank to face almost certain death at the jaws of the pack. On at least two occasions we have seen antelope (both kudu and impala) plunge unhesitatingly into the water, and struggle up the opposite bank, only then pausing to look back once they were safely on dry land again. We actually saw a female kudu crash into the water with a dog already affixed onto her hindquarters.

The dogs can always hunt again, and this seems to be a realisation that dawns on them after a few disappointed moments of milling around on the far bank, and intense scrutiny of the Channel, presumably checking for the crocodiles that the antelope did not have the luxury of worrying about. Late one afternoon, they did summon up the courage to splash across, goaded on by the fact that one dog - perhaps hungrier or braver than the rest - had already brought down an impala on the far bank.

Amidst much consternation, first one then another, then all the dogs splashed and swam across (doggy paddle, naturally), scampering up the far bank as soon as their paws touched the bottom again. The impala was soon devoured, but it was the sounds of this encounter that were the most memorable: the exciting twittering and chirping of the dogs as they divided up the kill. One dog had obviously become detached from the pack during the hunt, and arrived on the scene very late. Jaws agape, head lowered submissively, this last dog went to each of his companions, begging for food with a high-pitched yowl. The hyaena that had been trailing the pack got a rude awakening when one dog ran at it without warning, straight as an arrow, and nipping at the hyaena's vulnerable rear end.


Tubu Tree Spotted Hyaena Den

Location: Tubu Tree Camp, Jao Concession, northern Botswana
Date: September 2008
Observers: Grant Atkinson

On a recent safari to Tubu Tree Camp we went by the den site late one afternoon, and arrived there just as the sun was setting. The den is in the base of a termite mound, and consists of a deep hole with three exit holes that the hyaenas have opened up. On two previous visits to the den, we had seen nothing more than a brief glimpse of the cubs. Two adult females were in the vicinity of the den, and almost as we arrived, the one female stood up, and looked into the opening of a hole and began calling. The eerie hoots were startlingly loud, and their effect was instant: three very small, very dark little hyenas came scuttling out of the ground. They rushed around in their excitement, falling and sliding over each other. The other female hyaena had lain down, and two of the cubs rushed over to suckle. The third was more curious and began walking around, investigating some old bones and tufts of grass that were lying about the den site. Luckily for us the little hyena stopped and posed, allowing us a really good view.

Hyena den at Tubu Tree    Hyena and pups at Tubu Tree    Hyena den at Tubu Tree Camp

At this point a third hyaena, a younger sub-adult (perhaps earlier offspring of one of the females in the den), walked into the den site, and a short altercation took place between the two adult females, with some pushing and shoving and lots of noise. It soon settled, but the cubs had vanished underground in an instant, and we took that as our signal to leave the area and its occupants for another day.


Huge swirling flocks of Red-billed Quelea

Location: Savuti Camp, Linyanti Concession, northern Botswana
Date: September 2008
Observers: Grant Atkinson

One of the bird species that seems to really thrive in the wake of a very good summer rain season are the Red-billed Queleas. The summer of 2007/8 was a good one with above average rainfall occurring in many parts of northern Botswana and right now there is an abundance of quelea to be seen along the Savute Channel and the Linyanti floodplain.

Red-billed queleas and elephants

Late afternoon flocks of these tiny birds are so numerous that the dust they stir up whilst feeding can be seen from afar. Should one of the huge flocks take to the air in flight, the dust cloud that is blown up in their wake has to be seen to be believed.

Red-billed queleas in the Linyanti      Red-billed quelea flock at Savuti

The flocks attract numerous avian predators and we have seen Lanner Falcon, Gabar Goshawk and Red-necked Falcon hunting them over the past few weeks. The flocks seem to move in smaller groups in the mornings, but start gathering from around ten in the morning to drink in huge nervous, swirling flock. By the late afternoon they coalesce into flocks several hundred metres long.

The big flocks were on the Linyanti floodplains in July and August, but as of early September, the biggest concentrations now seem to be in the Savute Channel.


Breeding record of Spur-winged Lapwing in Malawi

Location: Mvuu Wilderness Lodge, Liwonde National Park, Malawi
Date: September 2008
Observers: Wikus Swanepoel

The only place in Malawi where Spur-winged Lapwing (Plover) Vanellus spinosus has been recorded regularly is Liwonde National Park in the floodplain fringe bordering the Shire River.

This bird is normally found further north in Africa and is replaced in southern Africa by the similar Blacksmith Lapwing. Spur-winged Lapwing has thus been a very rare vagrant to south-central Africa, but not in southern Malawi it seems.

Spur-winged Lapwing in Malawi      Spur-winged Lapwing in Malawi's Liwonde NP

The first time this bird was noted in the Park was in 1994, at the mouth of the Ntangai River, just south of Mvuu Wilderness Lodge. Ever since then this bird has been seen, initially in very small numbers (adding to the confusion on the possibility of one bird only), but later, according to the guides who have been at Mvuu for more than 10 years, they've all concluded there has to be more than one individual.

Around eight years ago there was the first record of this bird actually breeding in the Park. Again the small numbers and that it associates with Blacksmith Lapwings introduced the possibility that cross breeding between these two plover species could have happened. This hypothesis has subsequently been dispelled and Spur-winged Lapwings have been recorded breeding - there have also been some chicks that have been seen with the adult Spur-winged Lapwings. For the past eight-odd years now, Spur-winged Lapwing have been permanently resident in Liwonde National Park - seen in many different areas along the Shire River.

Spur-winged Lapwing in Malawi - Liwonde

On one of my recent game drives (September 2008) in the Park, while we were having sundowners, we stumbled upon two Spur-winged Lapwings that remained curiously close to the vehicle. In addition, the birds were not alarm calling. On further inspection of the area, we suddenly stumbled upon a nest with cryptic-coloured eggs, undoubtedly the nest of the two adult birds hanging around. Needless to say, sundowners were finished hastily and we left the area. As we moved away the birds came back to the nest pretty quickly!

It is thus fascinating to note that Spur-winged Lapwings have been found in Liwonde National Park for at least the last 14 years. To my knowledge this is also the southernmost breeding record in Africa for this species.

Photo Credits: Wikus Swanepoel


Sefofane helps out with injured rhino at Mombo

Location: Mombo, Moremi Game Reserve, Okavango Delta
Date: 16 September 2008
Observers: Dr Rob Jackson, Peter Perlstein, Poster Mpho, Pelotshweu Palebotswe, Anti- Poaching Unit and Glynis Humphrey

On the 14th September 2008, Poster Mpho Malongwa, the chief rhino monitoring officer at Mombo reported that he had found Dimpho, the very first white female rhino calf born to the Botswana rhino project with a deep wound in her left shoulder which was affecting her ability to move. Poster immediately notified the environmental division of Wilderness Safaris. The cause of the injury is unknown. It could possibly have been caused by the penetration of a branch or perhaps by another rhino. The Department of Wildlife and National parks Wildlife (DWNP) coordinator Mr. Othositswe and Dr Masunga of the DWNP research division requested that Dr Rob Jackson, Maun's veterinarian and Wilderness Safaris assist with an assessment and treatment of the injured rhino. Operations were immediately mobilised to fly into the area to assess the extent of the injury. Sefofane, the main private charter company in Maun generously provided an aircraft to promptly fly Dr Rob Jackson, Peter Perlstein (Maun's helicopter pilot), the Anti-Poaching Unit (APU) and Glynis Humphrey of the environmental department of Wilderness Safaris into Mombo to attend to Dimpho.

Sefofane aircraft at Mombo      Rhino tracking at Mombo

On landing at Mombo airstrip, Poster, members of the APU and Pelotshweu Galebotswe (a DWNP MSc student studying the white rhino population in the Okavango Delta) were waiting for the party to land. We arrived at the location of where Dimpho and her mother Mmamatimpani were last seen. Poster, accompanied by the APU, set off into the bush to look for fresh tracks. He promptly radioed us 15 minutes later with a request to get ready to move into the area, as they had found them resting up in the shade beneath a tree.

Tracking white rhino at Mombo      Dimpho

Dr Rob Jackson was a little concerned as to how close we would be able to approach Dimpho, as Poster had reported that the mother was naturally being over protective of her rhino calf at this time. We were also concerned as it was noon and extremely hot and therefore not an ideal time of day to place an animal under sedation. Fortunately, they were residing in a wetland area with plenty of lush vegetation and water in the vicinity, so water was easily accessible to cool the animal down if the need arose. Dr Rob Jackson prepared the dart gun in case he needed to immobilise Dimpho. We rapidly set on foot to get a closer look. Due to the protective mother we were only able to gain proximity of 50m from the animals. With the aid of binoculars, Dr Jackson assessed Dimpho's condition and announced that the wound was a slight, but potentially deep gash which was seeping puss but appeared to be on the mend and therefore no need to dart her.

As the animals moved off we followed them for a short distance to assess Dimpho's mobility and to detect any potential lameness caused by the wound. Our last visual was of the two of them trotting off into the distance! Poster, who is permanently based at Mombo, will continue to monitor her progress and keep us informed of her condition.

What is particularly pleasing about this operation is that it is a great example of cooperation for conservation: The government (represented by the DWNP and the anti-poaching unit) working side by side with the private sector, in the form of Wilderness Safaris, Sefofane, and Dr Jackson (an independent vet). Great appreciation is extended to Sefofane for their extremely generous and short notice provision of an aircraft to transport the concerned individuals to Mombo and back.


Leopards and cubs in the Okavango Delta, 2008

Location: Jao - Okavango Delta, Chitabe, Mombo northern Botswana
Date: September 2008
Observers: Grant Atkinson & Dave Luck

There can be few animals more sought after by guests staying at our camps than the leopard. At the time of writing we are experiencing some excellent leopard sightings in many of the concession areas, and in an unusual coincidence, there are currently three well-known female leopards who are showing off young cubs.

Legadima and one of her cubs at Mombo     

At Mombo, 'Legadima', the star leopard of the National Geographic documentary 'Eye of the Leopard', is bringing up two cubs. Despite the tough competition and direct threats that she faces from the high lion and hyena density, she is doing a good job of keeping her two cubs well fed and safe. At a sighting in late September, Legadima was forced to take cover in an ebony tree in order to avoid the attention of two male lions who were marching by as this image by Dave Luck of her and one of the cubs shows.

Beauty the leopard and her cub at Jao      Leopard cub at Jao

Guests at Jao, Jacana and Kwetsani have been enjoying great viewing of the resident female leopard ('Beauty') on the floodplains there, and she has a single surviving male cub that is doing well. On a recent trip we had an interesting sighting unfold before us as she dragged a just-killed reedbuck into some cover, rested and drank. We waited, hoping for her to go and find her cub and our patience was rewarded when she set off to fetch him. He was waiting, hidden and silent, in a wooded island maybe half a mile distant. He came rushing to her excitedly when she called, and then, after an unhurried bonding session, the two cats made their way stealthily back toward the hidden kill, making sure they stayed in tall grass for cover and avoiding open spaces (see photos below by Grant Atkinson). They had to wade across a channel and only then did the little male find the food. The open floodplain terrain at Jao means that the possibilities of the leopard and her cub being seen by those lions and hyenas that do occur there is quite high. In past years this very same females has lost cubs to lions in that manner.

Leopard and cub at Chitabe

At Chitabe the challenges are a little different for a female leopard. This area boasts a fairly high leopard density which means that territorial clashes between female leopards are likely to happen more often, and females with cubs also need to be cautious of unfamiliar male leopards, who will on occasion attack cubs that are strange to them. There is a mature female leopard there that is well-known to guides and guests at Chitabe, and she is the third female leopard to be busy raising a cub at the moment. She has a single male cub left after beginning earlier this year with two youngsters, but this young male is doing well. Dave photographed them feeding on an impala that the mother had killed.

We are hoping that these young leopards make it through these exciting days and that they continue to captivate us and our guests.


South Luangwa predator melee

Location: Kalamu Tented Camp, South Luangwa National Park
Date: 28 September 2008
Observers: Petros Guwa

The area around Kalamu Tented Camp has this year played host to good concentrations of all the larger predators found in the area. A clan of spotted hyaenas is resident and are regularly seen, perhaps the most notable sighting being of six or so animals feeding on a baby hippo on the sandbank just upstream from camp late August. Leopards continue to be seen occasionally, with a shy female resident in the Chinengwe area and another more relaxed individual sometimes seen in and around camp. Last week she killed a bushbuck in camp, but moved off and left the carcass uneaten, while the Chinengwe female was seen stalking an alert Puku ram.

Lioness at Kalamu Camp      Lions eating a warthog at Kalamu

Lion sightings are regular with almost daily sightings of late. On one day last week three different grouping of lion were seen on game drive: three maneless males in the Chinengwe area, a pride of nine lionesses moving through camp and two other lionesses to the south of camp. Another two adult, thickly maned, males are known to occur in the area and are dominant over the pride of nine lionesses. The main pride are regularly in the area of camp, last week causing a delay in dinner as they moved between the kitchen and dining table, and the week before causing a stir as they brought down a warthog on the oxbow outside camp.

Activity of larger more powerful predators generally tends to exclude smaller, more specialised predators such as wild dog, but this hasn't been the case at Kalamu. A pack of no fewer than 11 wild dogs has made themselves at home in the broader area and have been seen the length and breadth of the traversing area. This past Saturday they settled down in the shade 100m from camp for the duration of the day and provided our guests with great views.

Wild Dogs at Kalamu      Wild Dogs, Kalamu Tented Camp

Even more exciting however were the following morning's events: We were on a walk along the Munina River and had just picked up tracks of six lionesses when we rounded a bend in the river and saw the pride lying in the cool sand. As we watched them they pricked their ears up and all focused intently on an area further upstream out of our vision before moving in this direction with a purpose. We expected to see an attempt on a puku or bushbuck but just then a single wild dog appeared trotting energetically down the riverbed. It was followed by the rest of the pack (only 9 this time).

We sat down quietly, hidden in the riverside vegetation and watched the standoff. Instead of running, the dogs approached the lions in a confrontational manner causing one of the lionesses to streak out after them in retaliation. She managed to separate one dog from the rest of the pack, but at this point the remainder of the wild dogs headed towards the lion pride lying in the riverbed. This gave the gap needed for the pack to reunite and then both predators simply stared at each other from a distance across the open sand, before the dogs headed on again on their morning hunt.

Photo Credits: Petros Guwa


Cheetah versus Wild Dog

Location: Savuti, Linyanti Concession, northern Botswana
Date: August 2008
Observers: Karine Aigner & Lee Whittam

In late August, we drove out of camp extra early, with the intention of finding the wild dogs. With the newly discovered den site closed to vehicles, we were going to game drive to the Rock Pan area and see if perhaps we could get a view of them coming home or going out.

Cheetah on a kill at Savuti      Wild Dogs reclaim impala

We crossed the water in front of camp. The sun was not yet up, and a francolin issued its familiar "Tak Tak Tak Tak." We stopped to listen. Suddenly, out of the dust on the road in front of the vehicle appeared a male cheetah. With surprise and excitement we followed him to the termite mound alongside the Savute Channel in front of camp. He climbed to the top and we repositioned so as to best view him. As shutters were clicking, and guests were oohing and aahing, the cheetah became instantly alert. He turned away from us and at that instant, an impala raced over the side of the mound, coming at full speed towards our vehicle. It took the cheetah not more than a split second to decide that was his meal, and in two strides grabbed the impala by the neck, both of them landing with a hard thud, about three metres to the left of the vehicle!

The cheetah lay still, his jaws tight on the dying impala. Not more than a minute later, over the top of the same termite mound and following the path of the impala, sailed an African wild dog. The dog - obviously surprised by the cheetah on his intended prey - instantly reacted. He danced around the cheetah, running close then retreating, every now and then calling in the direction of the trees in the distance beyond.

Cheetah and Wild Dogs melee      Wild Dogs chase off cheetah

As if on cue, the cheetah began to drag the impala away from the vehicle and towards the bush. He didn't get far. In what seemed seconds, nine wild dogs had the spotted cat surrounded. With tails raised in excitement, and with lots of noise, the dogs came at him. The cheetah put up a fight, not wanting to let go of the kill but he was no match for nine fired-up wild dogs. The dogs chased him off, but he did not go far. He settled about 300 metres away and had a drink at the water in the Channel, all the while watching the dogs.

The dogs surrounded the scavenged kill and in no time at all, with white-tipped tails excitedly held vertical into the air, had the impala in pieces. But the cheetah was not finished. The male left the water, took a bit of a higher route, and came back to the dogs to see if he could win back the prey. The dogs would have none of it, and for the second time, chased off the cheetah. This time the cat disappeared into the bush, and did not return until later, after the dogs had left.

Wild Dogs take the kill

Returning to the kill could be seen as bold and somewhat reckless, but this behaviour may well be defined by this particular cheetah's history. For many years he was part of a well-known coalition of male cheetahs that frequented the Savute area regularly and was once three strong. Nowadays he's the sole surviving member and it's possible that many of his actions are based on habits formed whilst living with two coalition partners.

In the end, the cheetah hung around the area, and came back to the termite mound, which was then free of dogs - and unfortunately for him, impala. Us? We got stuck in the mud while repositioning the vehicle, and lost both the dogs, and the cheetah completely! But confrontations between these particular large carnivores are quite rarely witnessed, so it was one of those exceptional mornings - the ones that are talked about for years to come.


Unusual Eagle-Jackal interaction

Location: Savuti, Linyanti Concession, northern Botswana
Date: August & September 2008
Observers: Grant Atkinson & Karine Aigner

We have made some interesting eagle and jackal observations on the last few visits to the Savute Channel whilst leading guests out of Savuti Camp.

Martial Eagle and Jackal at Savuti

On a windy and somewhat dusty morning we were close to the Dish Pan area and had been watching a female black-backed jackal near its den. The male jackal was some distance away, lying down. We moved away from the area but before moving too far we noticed an immature Martial Eagle perched in a dead tree. As we drove closer it became clear that the eagle was watching something in the bushes, and without warning it dropped out of the tree, and went into a fast, flat glide. As it passed behind some bushes we heard a loud bark and the eagle came into view, with a very agitated black-backed jackal running behind. It appeared that the eagle had made an aggressive pass right over the jackal's head or back. The jackal's hair was all erect. The eagle just continued on to another tree and perched. We never figured out what the eagle was doing, whether it was sizing up the jackal for prey or whether it was just an aggressive act toward a competitor in the food chain. Young, recently independent Martial Eagles are regularly over-ambitious when it comes to prey and it is likely that this individual had an opportunistic go at the jackal.

Tawny Eagle and Jackal      Tawny Eagle interaction with a Black-backed Jackal

A few weeks later and just a couple of kilometres further north in the Savute Channel, we were watching lions finish off eating a zebra they had caught. It was quite late in the morning and the lions were full-bellied and sleeping right alongside the zebra carcass, preventing any creatures from getting too close to it. There were several vultures waiting in the trees and some distance away on the ground, as well as one black-backed jackal, who was lying on the short grass patiently watching. A Tawny Eagle left its nearby perch in a rain tree and swept over the ground, low and slow, then landed quite close to the resting jackal. The eagle made its way closer and closer to the jackal, hopping on the ground. It appeared to be approaching with some aggressive intent, and it was almost within a foot of the jackal's rear end when the jackal leapt off the ground and turned on the eagle. The eagle started up, and landed again, a little distance away. Some time later the eagle flew away leaving the jackal and a host of vultures to wait for their turn at the zebra carcass.


'Painting the town red' - an exceptional morning at Savuti

Location: Dish Pan Clearing, Savute Channel, Savuti Camp
Date: 12 September 2008
Observers: Oganeditse Sefo

It all started with a gorgeous sighting of the Rock Pan Female Mosetsana leopard (that is, the Rock Pan Female's daughter) stretched out along the branch of a long-dead leadwood tree, seemingly watching the sun rise. The colours on her fur grew richer by the minute as the dawn light strengthened and the sky turned from dove grey to mauve. After a few moments, she stretched languorously and slinked down to the ground, stalking away into cover.

Wild dog hunt at Savuti      Wild dog and vulture      Wild dogs eating a kudu along the Savute channel

As guide, Sefo, was driving away from this sighting, he heard a huge splash from the Channel. Knowing that recently this has only meant one thing, he raced to the edge of the water in time to witness not just one, but two chases in action.

The wild dogs had latched onto two different kudu, and the pack had split as they ran both the antelopes to ground, splashing through the shallow water onto a green island in the centre of the Channel. Spray and mud flew as the kudus used every last ounce of their strength to evade the dancing, snapping dogs. Until very recently, the dogs have been extremely wary of entering the Channel - presumably due to an instinctive (and very sensible!) fear of crocodiles. In the last few days however, inspired perhaps by hunger or the frustration of watching too many potential meals swim to safety on the far bank, they have been actively swimming and splashing across, all fear seemingly gone. This of course is extremely bad news for the antelopes!

With eight hungry puppies to feed back at the den, the dogs have been killing very regularly of late. This sighting, however, proved to be quite remarkable.

Two of the dogs caught up with the soaked and exhausted sub-adult kudu, and fastened onto their hapless prey. Despite vainly struggling to its feet at least once, the kudu was doomed, and soon collapsed as the dogs tore and yanked at its soft underparts. Just 30 metres away, three more wild dogs from the same pack brought down the second kudu, an adult female.

More dogs were soon on the scene, including the alpha female with her teats swollen with milk. The cold morning air and their dip in the water had done nothing to dampen the dogs' appetites or their excitement. Their multi-coloured coats were matted with mud, and soon blood too, as they concentrated on the smaller kudu carcass first. Within ten minutes everything bar the head and the major bones had been consumed and they spread gore all around the small island.

Wild dogs with Kudu kill      Hyenas taking wild dog leftovers      Hyena with a kudu leg

With Tawny Eagles and Hooded Vultures - their faces flushed pink with excitement - dropping from the sky, it didn't take long for the buccaneering hyaenas to arrive. Perhaps sensing that the birds would attract the hyaenas, the dogs did their best to drive them off, with one in particular delighting the guests by leaping into the air at the vultures. At first the hyaenas kept their distance, giggling and calling - but as their numbers were bolstered by new arrivals, including the huge old male with the chewed-off ears, they too got the courage to cross to the island where the kills were, and chased the dogs off their prizes.

The dogs left the spoils to the scavengers, and beat a dignified retreat, their heads and necks still stained red with blood. This incredible sequence of events was witnessed by the same female leopard, who had climbed another tree to have a great vantage point over the scene. With one hyaena swimming back to the bank with the remains of the younger kudu in its jaws, and other making off with legs and other bones, it seemed that that calm was restored - the ripples on the water fading, and the blood soaking away into the grass. Until two of the dogs returned for some sport with the hyaenas.

The day's toll was still not over, however, as only a few hundred metres away, Sefo discovered the Savuti Pride still feeding on a zebra they had killed during the night, and later that morning, driving to the airstrip, we came across a very sad scene: more hyaenas, this time working on the carcass of an extremely young elephant calf.

Photo Credits: Oganeditse Sefo


Hippo clash on the Chobe River

Location: Chobe River, Chobe National Park, northern Botswana (The Great Wilderness Journey)
Date: September 2008
Observers: Grant Atkinson

Whilst leading a group of guests on a boat excursion on Botswana's Chobe River, we noticed a pair of hippo slamming into each other in the water some distance away from our boat.

As we made our way closer we saw the two hippo burst out of the water, with one animal using its lower jaw as a battering ram, punching the protruding teeth of his lower jaw into the other hippos throat. This happened on a number of occasions and after each clash they would crash into the water again and then face each other, jostling and pushing and testing until one would suddenly crash into the other. At one point one of the hippo appeared to try to escape, but it was so closely pursued by the other that it turned, and faced the attacker again.

Hippos fighting in the Zambezi river      Hippo clash      Hippo fight - Zambezi

All this activity had stirred up the bottom of the river, and there were large clouds of muddy water in the hippo's wake. Suddenly a African Fish-Eagle appeared alongside our boat, tracking the hippo as slow as it could fly, and actually at one point hovering low over the water. A flock of Grey-headed Gulls was also in attendance, and it was obvious both types of bird were looking for opportunities to pick up fish or other creatures disturbed or distracted by the hippo's actions. The gulls kept a careful eye on the eagle, and maintained a position above-and-behind the bird of prey, not wanting to expose themselves to a sudden attack by the eagle.

Fish eagle and Gull

Eventually the hippos settled, and it was still not obvious to us whether one had attained dominance over the other, as they kept watching each other very closely. Perhaps the dispute continued later, but we had to move on and never saw the final outcome


Seychelles
North Island Environmental Update - July-Sept 2008

The conservation highlight on North Island over the past period was undoubtedly the introduction of 15 black mud turtles (Pelusios subniger parietalis) on 16 July. A year after our first milestone in conservation, namely the introduction of the then critically endangered Seychelles White-eyes, we welcomed our next critically endangered endemics. After a quarantine period under the watchful eyes of Ron and Justin Gerlach, seven, five and then three turtles originating respectively from Intendence (Mahe), Cerf Island and private owners, were safely shipped from Silhouette to North Island. Here they were welcomed by the island's enthusiastic environmental team and guests awaiting them on the beach. This introduction had been proceeded by a string of preparatory work ranging from identifying the most suitable marsh, to vegetation mapping and documenting of food sources available, with field work done and advice given by conservation bodies and the Wetland Unit.

Black mud turtle reintroduction on North Island

Due to the possible construction of a new path close to their new home, the marsh is fenced off at present. Since their introduction, daily patrols around this fence have taken place. Great care is being taken (with only trained staff from ICS and North Island involved) that no animals are damaged during the patrols. The shy animals were occasionally re-sighted in the limited open water area where they were initially released. However, from 3 September onwards, a sudden change was noticed after all open water had dried up in the continued drought. Terrapins were suddenly seen walking around and digging themselves in to start aestivation. Subsequent visible movements of animals shifting locations were recorded, whilst animals along the fence were measured and weighted in an attempt to document individual behaviour where possible.

Staying with the reptiles, you might recall our previous reporting of a substantially higher number of green turtle tracks and animals seen on the beach this season. From July to September, green turtle females continued emerging on our beaches in much higher numbers than during the previous years.

Seychelles White-eye on North Island      Salp zooplankton on North Island

News from the feathered front: 15 White-eye fledglings were confirmed to be alive and healthy; so far ICS has tagged nine of them with ID rings. No sightings were made of the pair of Seychelles Kestrels once residing on the island since November 2007 and it is therefore assumed they have flown away.

End-August 2008 was characterised by a large amount of slimy things covering the beach and floating on the waves. They turned out to be salps, a gelatinous zooplankton of the order Tunicata.

From 1 to 4 October, North Island closed its doors once again for the third time its yearly Children in the Wilderness programme. During this period, 30 disadvantaged children from Mahe participated in an educational programme where conservation and nature education activities are high on the agenda.

-Linda Vanherck-


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CAMP UPDATES
Kings Pool Camp in Botswana has a new pergola - the perfect shady spot under which to relax, sip a cool drink and enjoy the oxbow-shaped Kings Pool Lagoon, complete with hippo and water birds.

Andersson's Camp's lively waterhole is proving to be one of its best attractions: situated only 60 feet from a comfortable couch on the verandah and well-lit at night. There has been an abundance of game daily - including kudu, springbok, black-faced impala, gemsbok, red hartebeest, blue wildebeest, eland, plains zebra and southern giraffe. White and black rhino also frequent the waterhole and predators like lion, cheetah, spotted hyena and black-backed jackal are occasionally seen in the evenings.

The Deck Dinner at Zimbabwe's Ruckomechi Camp is proving to be a wonderful way to end the day here: golden sunsets, cool breezes and the soft snorting of nearby hippo create a magical setting; the reflections of a thousand stars in the water form an awesome backdrop. Delicious food and good wine, combined with laughter and delightful conversation see guests lingering at the table long into the night.

EXPLORATIONS UPDATES
Kafue's Rivers and Plains, Zambia
This itinerary now incorporates a private Explorations camp, namely the new Lufupa Bush Camp. This intimate camp is set on the banks of the Kafue River under a canopy of trees next to the picturesque Kafwala rapids. Originally a temporary solution, this camp has been such a hit with guests that we've decided to keep it in the itinerary permanently.

Migration Routes, Botswana
Unusually high water levels for this time of year pushing down the Selinda Spillway, have necessitated a minor change to the itinerary - the flight from Kasane to Linyanti is now a road transfer - and the road transfer from Linyanti to Lechwe Island is now a flight. The experience has improved as a result, and this change will continue until further notice.


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

This month we have had a sneak preview of the considerably more favourable water and weather conditions of the summer months to come, with several days of perfectly calm sea and clear water visibility which is an indication of the turn in the season and the official end of the South East monsoon winds. The wind should now start to swing around and blow predominantly from the North East and we look forward to the calmer and clearer water conditions associated with this season.

The latter part of September has also provided us with substantially better diving conditions with the visibility improving steadily from a poor 8-10 metres, which we were experiencing around the beginning of the month, to 20-22 metres toward the end of the month and so we look eagerly forward to the clearer water and calmer seas that October promises.

The beach in front of the restaurant and the Dive Centre has managed to withstand the encroaching seas particularly well this season and has not receded nearly as far as it had last year when our foot wash basin had fallen away from the dive centre deck. In general the sea conditions have been somewhat calmer this year and without the frequency of large swells that were experienced last year. There is still approximately 4 metres of sand between the Dive Centre deck and the slope down to the beach which was nonexistent this time last year.

We have been in regular contact with members from the MCSS (Marine Conservation Society of Seychelles) as to their whaleshark spotting success rate around Mahé. On days when the MCSS microlight was able to fly and the boat was able to launch, excellent sightings were reported even though some of the trips had to be abandoned due to adverse ocean conditions and high wind speeds. Helicopter Seychelles has also provided us with some valuable info regarding where they have been spotting these creatures. We still continually search the water around North Island in the hope that some individuals will stray our way but unfortunately over the last two years we have not spotted any individuals this far north.

A disturbing sighting this month was that of another dead hawksbill turtle on the reef but this time off North East Point. We have now recorded three dead turtles over the last two months. One of the animals had washed ashore but the last two individuals have been found on the reef itself. This is particularly worrying as we cannot ascertain the cause of death. We had planned to remove one of the animals from the water for an autopsy by Linda, the resident environmentalist, but we were unable to return in time to relocate the turtle.

On a good note, an especially exciting observation this month was the discovery of 20 small green turtles which were spotted in the shallows off Petit Anse. This is a particularly rare discovery as it is seldom that so many juveniles are spotted all in the same location. It is thought that perhaps these turtles were all from the same nest but this is highly unlikely as the turtles split up once they enter the water for the first time and it is also very unlikely that so many from a single nest would all have survived to this size. Nonetheless we are extremely excited with the presence of these little guys at Petit Anse and will continue to monitor them as they will probably remain in the general vicinity for some time especially as this beach will be well protected throughout the summer season to come.

This month we also managed to spot a pair of humpback whales off the main beach. The pair was heading in a south-easterly direction toward Fregate Island which is the expected direction of travel for these whales during this season. The humpback whales are occasionally spotted around the waters of the Seychelles around this time of year but nonetheless it still manages to get everyone quite excited as it rather a rare sighting.

Another exciting discovery was that of a leaf fish on 'Brain Freeze'. We have spotted several leaf fish on 'Twin Anchors' near Silhouette but never before on Brain Freeze which we have been diving for over a year now. It is exciting to still be able to discover new sightings on our reefs and it encourages us to keep searching for further unrecorded discoveries.

'Aquarium', which is an excellent snorkelling and dive site between Petit Anse and Main Beach, has become a particular favourite once again due to the calmer sea conditions that we have been experiencing recently. This site is normally totally inaccessible during the brunt of the South East monsoon season as it bears the full force of the waves which causes the water here to resemble that of a washing machine!

Aquarium is named due to the fact that in one particular spot of the reef there are literally hundreds of reef fish which school in tight clusters throughout the water column. This spot is also particularly well-known for sightings of the grey reef shark which normally like to congregate in one specific spot of the reef but this month we have also spotted several large nurse sharks in this exact spot. The name 'Aquarium' could not have suited this location better.

On a rather depressing note, we have finally had to accept the fact that we will not be seeing any of our sprat friends this year at 'Sprat City'. Having waited with bated breath for almost five months, it has now become apparent that we will have to wait until next year in the hopes that the absence of the sprats has just been an anomaly this year and they will return in the following winter.

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Botswana Camps
Savuti Camp update - September 08                Jump to Savuti Camp

It has been three months now since the waters of the resurgent Savute Channel first reached the Camp, and in that time the Channel has acquired a patina of permanence - continuing to flow on towards the Savute Marsh, and at the same time becoming wider and deeper as it back-fills depressions and side-channels off the main route the waters have taken.

The fact that we have been looking down on a new river for three months has done nothing to lessen the sense of wonder we feel each day, the sense that we are experiencing natural history in its most dramatic form, manifest changes in the landscape wrought by ecological forces and not by the misguided labours of human beings. At the same time, the remarkable powers of adaptation of many of the species present in the Linyanti region mean that they have begun to exploit these new and transformed habitats, to colonise the new niches that have opened up, and to change their behaviours to take best advantage of these radical changes.

Kudus drinking from the Savute channel      Zebras and Savuti Channel

The return of the waters has thrown up many questions, the answers to which are vague at best. In the same way that this is all new to most of the animals of Savute, it is completely new to us, too. It would be impossible not to be intrigued by what we see unfolding around us, and to not be moved as the waters continue to move.

Savute has always been a legendary place, a semi-mythical wilderness - hard to reach and to fully comprehend: A harsh region, undiluted, and utterly compelling. That reputation was established through a quarter-century of dry years when fantastic game viewing really put Savute on the map. Now, however, with the Channel flowing again, Savute has gone off the graph. It is all but impossible to describe how amazing this area is now - a difficult task made mercifully easier by the inspiration that you draw in with each breath and absorb with each moment spent on - or even in - the Channel.

The new cloak of softness worn by Savute disguises the fact that this is still an unforgiving region, where only the resourceful flourish - and flourishing this winter has meant adapting to a new river and all the opportunities and menaces it has brought with it. For different species the river has become a place of refuge, an obstacle, an unrivalled food source, a navigational aid, a larder, a playground, and a graveyard. It is impossible to say yet whether the waters will persist or begin to recede in earnest as much of this will depend on the forthcoming summer rains - but there is little time to ponder these eventualities as the business of life must be conducted, and at Savuti we have front-row seats for each drama that is played out.

Wild Dog puppies at Savuti      Lion at a giraffe carcass

The rains should begin within the next few weeks, but in such a remarkable year as 2008, all bets are off, and we can only sit back, enjoy, and wait to see what happens. Certainly the harbingers of the rains are winging their way through the cloudless skies - the summer migrant birds, returning from further north in Africa, or even further afield in central Asia or Europe. Yellow-billed Kites swing effortlessly through the air, Pied Wagtails twisting this way and that as they seek every tiny updraft. Swallow-tailed Bee-eaters dart across the road ahead of the game drive vehicles, snatching insects, and Barn Swallows struggle with disorientation, having exchanged telephone wires in rainy England for a place where no phone ever rings. Perhaps the most striking summer visitors are the Carmine Bee-eaters, pink and turquoise dart hawking insects alongside the lumbering elephants and getting acquainted with their new neighbours, the waders and other water birds that have colonised the Channel. The Savuti bird list grows daily longer (in mid-September we recorded over 130 species in just 24 hours) and now includes African Spoonbills and snail-crunching Open-billed Storks.

While the waterhole in front of Camp has been relegated to the role of a diminishing curiosity, stranded on a peninsula jutting out into the Channel, the pulse of the inrushing water beats out an irresistible tattoo to the elephant herds - a call to charms as it were, for what elephant can resist the chance to slake its thirst in flowing water, or to go for a swim or a wallow?

While the Channel's arrival here has caused a degree of dispersal among the elephant herds, they have quickly established new favourite places - a notable example being "Sefo's Lagoon", a lake some 300m across just to the east of Camp. In the midday heat - and the mercury is climbing as we enter the Botswana summer - it is not uncommon to find four or five breeding herds of elephants at this lagoon at the same time, drinking in the shallows or wading out into the centre, where the water is deep enough to cover all but the biggest bulls. The Channel has also proved to be an excellent place of refuge for a lone hippo, who we suspect was forced out of his territory in a fight with another male, and is consoling himself in the pool in front of Camp. Each evening at dusk he emerges to look for grazing, and has already become a regular sight around Camp. If someone had told us this time last year that we would be seeing hippos in front of Camp now, I doubt any of us would have believed them. Now the rhythmic sloshing sounds of a hippo feeding provide accompaniment to our frogs.

Cheetah at Savuti

As well as attracting new species to the Savute area, the rebirth of the Channel has prompted changes in the behaviour and distribution of some of our longer-term residents. While the DumaTau pack of wild dogs was denning along the Channel, they had to hunt very regularly to provide meat to their eight puppies, and the banks of the Channel became killing fields. Impala and kudu soon demonstrated a capacity for risk analysis - and swimming. On several occasions we saw them leap into the water in desperation, with the dogs quite literally snapping at their heels. The pursued antelopes had clearly decided that a possible crocodile (and we have seen these reptiles in front of Camp now) was far less a risk than death by canine.

This evasion tactic at first seemed to fox the painted wolves, but they soon learnt to renew their 'dogged' pursuit and began to run down their prey in the shallows, and then to swim across themselves. Their hard work and risk-taking was richly rewarded, with all eight puppies surviving their months in the den - no mean achievement in an area made dangerous by the presence of other, more powerful predators.

At almost exactly the time that the puppies finally left their den, our guides discovered that one of the adult lionesses in the Savuti Pride had given birth to at least two tiny cubs. These were first seen when they were perhaps only a day or two old - tiny spotted fur-balls, their eyes still closed and not yet opened to the wonders of the raw paradise they have been born into. With the cubs still so young - a week old as this is written, we have declared the area where they were first observed to be off limits, so that we can give them an undisturbed start in life.

This extremely cautious approach worked very well with the wild dog den, so we are hoping that whatever dogs can do, cats can do too, and that this lioness will be able to successfully rear her precious offspring. The birth of these new cubs marks the start of a new chapter in the complex narrative of the lions of Savuti. The ten-strong Selinda pride is moving into the territory of the smaller Savuti Pride, following the bigger prey animals as they in turn follow the green flush around the river as it spreads like a blush across face of the Linyanti.

As potential conflict looms between these two prides, the cubs may get caught in the crossfire. At the same time, the tense stand-off continues between the dispossessed Savuti Boys and the interlopers, Silver-Eye and his brother - the two Selinda Males. Like the caged tigers in the song by The Cure, they pace around each other, but there is no love lost between these cats. So far we have not had the confrontation that seems inevitable - perhaps the meanders of the Channel will come to represent a mutually-agreed boundary between these rival male lions?

The fierceness of the tropical sun beating down on the Channel is now definitely having an impact on water levels. September began in an unusual way - it was extremely hazy for several days, with limited visibility, due to smoke blowing in from bushfires in the Chobe. This made for some surreal photographic opportunities, with elephant herds materialising out of the gloom and the big red sunsets diffused to a roseate glow... Once the winds changed direction however, the smoke was pushed away from us and since then we have enjoyed azure skies and steadily-climbing temperatures.

Evaporation combined with reduced inflow (now that we have passed the time of peak flood in the Linyanti / Zibadianja system - the river and lagoon system which gives rise to the Channel) and the attentions of thousands of thirsty elephants mean that the water levels in the Channel have started to dip slightly. This is actually fantastic news for grazing animals, as until recently the submerged earth - still damp and rich - soon sprouts a cover of lush new grass stems. These green fringes are proving to be every bit as alluring to game as the slowly-receding waters that have created them, from the impala nibbling delicately at the fresh shoots to the restive buffalo jutting their chins out in challenge to anyone who approaches them.

With strong, early rains it seems very possible that the Channel can resist the ravages of the sun and survive until it is rejuvenated by next year's flood. However, it is also possible that it could dry up to the extent that only the deeper pools remain as a string of isolated waterholes - a necklace of sapphires set in the golden grasslands of the Savuti Channel. Only time will tell, but what a story it will be, however it continues.

The twists and turns of ecology and behaviour we have been privileged to witness mirror the sinuous nature of the Channel itself - and like any serpent, the Channel can be deadly as well as beautiful. One of the most elusive creatures we have here is the pangolin, a nocturnal curiosity that feeds on termites and rolls into a ball when threatened. This tactic did not save one pangolin, however, which the guides were astonished to find dead in shallow water one morning. It had been largely eaten by an unknown assailant. On this occasion, the pangolin's scales (much sought-after for 'muti' or traditional African medicine) had failed to protect it. Just as this death was a mystery, so too is what happens next in the case of the Channel? This year's flowing waters could shepherd in a "wet cycle" lasting a decade or more, but there is not enough data at this point to give anything approaching a copper-bottomed guarantee of this - or indeed that the Channel won't still be flowing again in 2009.

Our hope is that it will be, because life lived off the graph, and indeed every moment lived at Savuti, is good: Awesome, in fact. Still not convinced? Then join us for a safari and let the magic of the Channel wash over you.

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DumaTau Camp update - September 08                Jump to DumaTau Camp

Management/hosting team: Vasco, Miriam, Kago and Joel with Tendani doing her Level III in management training.

Guides: Theba, Lazi, Ronald, Mocks, and Name with Bats joining us for a month doing his training. Ollie was on leave this month. Kessy and Masole worked really hard on their guide training course at Kaparota with Kessy topping the group.

September was full of exciting happenings in the Linyanti. It is very dry, meaning that the game is being attracted to the existing sources of water in the form of the Linyanti River and Savute Channel. Despite the dryness, the lengthening days have meant that the trees along these water sources have all come out in fresh green leaf.

Lion drinking - DumaTau camp      Lioness at DumaTau

Wildlife sightings have been very good with lions a highlight this month. The Selinda Pride of lions has shown that they are here to stay. About four months ago they demonstrated their arrival with an attack on the formerly resident Savuti Pride, seriously injuring one of the lionesses. Just two weeks ago this same lioness from the Savuti Pride was spotted by Lazi crossing the channel by Giraffe Bones towards where the Selinda Pride was feeding on a zebra carcass. She was alone and had no idea what was waiting for her underneath the blue bushes. As she got close to the kill, out came the Selinda females to attack her. She was swiftly cornered with the Selinda lionesses biting her from all sides making deep cuts into her skin.

The Selinda Boys (Silver Eye and Romeo), the two males dominant in the area and regular consorts with both prides, were not far away. They quickly responded to the fracas and managed to stop the fight. Was this because they had mated with her and had to protect her? This was the question and possible answer in guides' and guests' heads. She was all covered in blood and was so badly hurt she could barely move, but when the guides went back in the afternoon drive to check on her, she had moved towards Letsomo. She spent two days in this area, looking very bad. We had given up hope that she would survive. And then something magical happened five days ago when Kane, a guide at Savuti Camp, spotted her in the Boscia area with two newly born cubs! Their eyes were still closed and the very small cubs were estimated at only a day old. The sighting was only approached that day and we closed it for about two weeks to ensure the best chance of survival for these new arrivals.

The Selinda Pride of course consolidated their dominance of the area and spent the two weeks after this incident close to camp, especially the floodplain to the west. On one afternoon we were seated with guests by the pool and watched as the pride attempted to kill an impala right in front of the room on the floodplain. This was an exciting show to watch, especially the strategy they used when hunting on open land with no cover. Aside from this unsuccessful display the pride stayed around the floodplain and hunted small game. Every morning we would wake up to see their tracks all over camp. They also enjoyed the windfall of a sub-adult elephant that died in the water on the edge of Osprey Lagoon.

Cheetah at DumaTau      Roan antelope at DumaTau

Wild dogs have also been a highlight this month. The Linyanti Pack has eight new members to look after and since their birth has moved the den no fewer than three times to ensure the safety of the puppies. There have been some very good sightings around Savuti Camp, especially in the mornings when they are active and hunting. They were also seen by Lazi chasing one of the Selinda Boys across the Savute Channel. What a rare sighting this was! The dogs disappeared for the last week of the month with the guides believing that they might have gone into the Selinda Concession. We are just keeping our fingers crossed for the puppies to all grow up safely and hopefully they will return soon.

The single remaining male cheetah of the well known Savuti Coalition is still holding strong. He is seen mostly in the King Pool area around Livingstone Hide. Goodman from Savuti once spotted him with a female drinking water by Two Sausage Trees. We also had about five unknown cheetah sightings east of Savuti Camp.

Some other highlights have been regular sightings of roan antelope on the DumaTau-Chobe Airstrip road, and excellent elephant sightings all across the concession and even in camp. They have also been some good hyaena sightings around camp and it has been great to have the Yellow-billed Kites back in the area preparing to breed as they build their nests.

Some guest feedback:
- "Animal tours were wonderful, all personnel were highly friendly and professional and last night's bush dinner was the best we had in two weeks in Southern Africa. Mr T was a terrific guide."
- "Everything was excellent and accurate, our guide was very professional and the entire staff was friendly, keep up the good work."
- "Watching the lions feeding on a dead elephant and the Independence Day party was excellent. Our guide Raphael was great. Excellent experience in DumaTau, thank you so much."

This is all from us. Happy Days!
The DumaTau Dream Team

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

It's getting hotter and hotter! Temperatures have been pushing the mercury up to and over 40°C. Luckily no humidity is present in the atmosphere which makes the heat more bearable! But the evening temperatures are fantastic and cool.

The mopane woodland just inland from the river is very dry and harsh with no greenery or water available for miles. On arrival, when one drives from Chobe Airstrip to Kings Pool, it is difficult to imagine that once you reach the fault line where Kings Pool is located, vast expanses of water and greenery await you. The conditions mean that animals flock to the riverine area as life in the mopane woodland is virtually impossible! Everything has to come down to the river to drink - meaning that the location of Kings Pool Camp really comes into its own at this time of the year.

Water hole at Kings Pool     Leopard at Kings Pool      Roan antelope at Kings Pool

Game viewing has therefore been phenomenal with all the usual suspects having been present and some unusual ones as well.

We have been seeing leopards virtually every day. The mother with her two cubs often makes appearances in and around camp! We have also been lucky to see a big male leopard in the area. He is very relaxed and provides fantastic sightings. We have also been seeing some new leopard in the area which is thrilling.

Lion sightings have also been great. The regular Border Boy Coalition has been roaming around, as well as two young Savuti Males and two old Savuti Males. These males have been encroaching on the Border Boys' territory and it is possible that conflict between these various coalitions is imminent. We await the outcome eagerly.

Male Lion - Kings Pool      Buffalo at Kings Pool      Elephant swimming near Kings Pool

Elephants have of course been seen by the thousands. Elephant were permanently in and around camp for the duration of September and we see them crossing the Linyanti River every evening, proving that their aquatic skills are up to scratch! Buffalo have also been seen regularly throughout the month in great numbers, providing the lions with well-deserved protein dinners.

Together with the more commonly seen species in our area such as zebra, giraffe and kudu, we have had some exciting encounters with more rarely viewed species. The male cheetah has once again returned for a visit. He is very relaxed which allows for good up-close views of this sleek running machine. Sable and roan have also made their appearances in the Linyanti area. These rare and often shy animals have been forced out of their remote woodland ranges to drink at the river and it is always a special occasion to see these creatures.

On the feathered side we had a very unusual sighting of an Augur Buzzard in the Linyanti area. This species usually inhabits relatively mountainous areas and is not often seen anywhere in Botswana but this juvenile has strayed and is flying around the Linyanti Concession. Amazing! Pelicans of both species - the Great White and Pink-backed respectively - have also been seen regularly.

Hope to see you all at Kings Pool soon,

The Kings Pool Team

Photo Credits: Nick Leuenberger

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Chitabe Camp update - September 08                Jump to Chitabe Camp

September firmly cemented Chitabe's reputation as one of the leopard capitals of Southern Africa, and once again we fought fierce bush fires near camp. We found a side-striped jackal den complete with puppies, and there were good sightings of serval, caracal, African civet and honey badger.

Private guides the likes of Dave Luck and Lex Hes were able to witness firsthand the wealth of leopards in the concession at the moment. With the guides' help Dawson has confirmed that we can now identify eighteen individuals thanks to the spot-pattern identikits we have made up.

Leopard cub at Chitabe      Jackal pups at Chitabe

The shy mother just across the water from Chitabe Lediba continues to be elusive with her female cub but the young male cub has started to relax a little bit and guests have been able to view him properly for the first time. One group watched as he was chased first by lions and then hyaenas. Mosadi Mogolo has lost one of her cubs, and those of you waiting for news on the injured Morula female (August 2008) will be sad to learn that she has not been seen for a while, and so is presumed dead. Just two nights ago, whilst waiting to escort Rick and Leigh to dinner, I saw one of the shy females underneath Tent 1 quietly watching me in the gloom from a distance of less than three metres ?

We've also seen the wild dogs with good regularity, a healthy-looking pack of 13 consisting of six adults and seven puppies. To boot we fleetingly saw a group of five females, but they are very shy.

The Gomoti Channel, where Chitabe borders the Moremi Game Reserve in the south-east of our concession, is providing amazing game in big numbers; hundreds of buffalo, hippo and elephant. In camp, apart from the baboons and the elephant, we've had good African civet sightings as well as reedbuck and kudu to keep the resident bushbuck company.

Spotted Hyena at Chitabe      Serval at Chitabe

Chitabe's contribution to the Wilderness Safaris 'Big Birding Day' was a respectable 128 different species spotted in a 24-hour period on September the 10th.

Photo credits and thanks must go to Mike Holmes for the side-striped jackal puppies, Bill Allen for the serval cat, Lex Hes for the leopard and Dawson for the spotted hyena bathing.

See you in October,
Nick Green

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Mombo Camp update - September 08                Jump to Mombo Camp

Spring has without doubt sprung here at Mombo. The rain trees are dripping with purple blooms and the knobthorns stand out as yellow beacons on the dry islands. The acacias, sausage trees, mangosteens and many other species have all put out new leaves, sensing rain that seems far off to us. It has been a hot month, with our maximum reaching 38C and the minimum being 9C.

The floodwaters are dropping fast now, exposing large areas of floodplain which are now covered with highly productive grasses thriving in the wake of the flood nutrient deposition. Mombo is famous for its very high concentrations of game and this is a great time of the year to experience this. The new grass is attracting large numbers of plains game onto the drying floodplains. Impala, lechwe, warthog, zebra and wildebeest are all in abundance.

Blue Wildebeest at Mombo

The birds are also incredible at this time of the year. The migrants have begun to return, with beautiful Carmine Bee-eaters and Yellow-billed Kites being the first species back. The fish traps have also started as the water dries up. These occur as the drying waters isolate pools of water in which fish get trapped. These pools attract flocks of water birds and for a while the water boils with beaks probing and fish trying to escape. And then the show is over, and the birds move on to look for the next opportunity. An exciting bird sighting for us this month was a Pel's Fishing-Owl seen in camp on a number of occasions.

Predator viewing was also great through the month of September. Anyone who has been to Mombo before would be excited to hear that Legadima still has her two cubs, one male and one female. Now about 9 months old, these cubs aren't too far off the size of their mother. Legadima and her offspring were seen frequently through the month, often on kills. The suspected father of the cubs has also been seen this month, a few times actually stealing a kill from Legadima, sometimes successfully and sometimes not. The male cub showed surprising tenacity and stole the kill back the kill on one occasion. There have been a number of other leopards sighted through the month, but none on as regular a basis as Legadima.

Lions have as usual been the dominant predator in the area. The Western Pride was seen most regularly. This is the pride with the two females with the manes. They have now spilt into two groups; we suspect some of them have moved further west back into the wetter parts of the area. The Moporota Pride, numbering 19 lions, started to move back into the area toward the end of the month. Previous visitors to Mombo may also remember the Mathatha Pride, another of the large prides numbering around 20. We hadn't seen this pride for a number of months as they had moved further south on the island. This month however they moved back into the Mombo area. On one incredible morning, the guides found this pride on a giraffe kill. It wasn't long before the hyaenas did the same and an epic battle ensued, with 30-plus hyaenas battling against half that many lions. There are two females which broke away from the Mathatha Pride a while ago making up a sub-pride, which now have five cubs between them, two older ones and three very young cubs.

Unfortunately there were no sightings of cheetah this month and only one sighting of wild dogs. We hope that the dogs have been so scarce because they are denning somewhere at the moment, but only time will tell and we hope to see them with pups soon.

Crocodile and Red Lechwe at Mombo

Crocodiles have also been a feature at Mombo this month. On one evening, the Western Pride tried to bring down an old buffalo bull. They didn't succeed but they did do it serious injury. The buffalo then went into the water where it lay for three days before dying. We then had days of incredible action with crocodiles being treated to an unexpected feast. From minnow-sized crocs to monsters resembling mini-submarines, we counted at one stage around 30 crocodiles. Another crocodile sighting occurred closer to home, in fact right in front of the gym area. A medium-sized crocodile took an adolescent red lechwe at around 07h30 one morning. The animals were quite evenly matched and the battle went all through the morning, with the crocodile eventually managing to drown the lechwe at about 14h30 in the afternoon.

Rhino sightings have also been quite good this month, with white rhinos seen on a number of occasions and black rhino only once.

And so onward we go towards summer. October is likely to be hot but we know that somewhere in the not too distant future lie the first rains!

Regards

Lizzy, Jeremy, Nat, Kirsty, Martin and Nicole

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Kwando Safari Camps Update - September 08

Lagoon camp               Jump to Lagoon Camp
• A new leopard was sighted in the Lagoon area, guest were on a late afternoon game drive when the tracker and guide spotted her, the elegant cat was extremely shy and walked away, with a bit of patience and tracking the guide found her and slowly she became more relaxed with the presence of the vehicle. The Leopard slowly retreated into a large Aardvark hole when the guests left her.
• The Lagoon pack of wild Dogs have been sighted almost weekly , guide are reporting that the pack is very healthy and the new pups have been seen hunting with the main pack, but are still kept at a distance as the main pack does the final hunt. Impala and Warthog have been on the menu for the pack the last few weeks.
• Enormous herds of elephant are daily sighting in the lagoon area, they have been sighted just to the north of the camp crossing the channel into the swamp and papyrus beds.
• A herd of three hundred Buffalo are still roaming the area between the airstrip and John’s pan.
• The guests on game drives have regularly sighted raptors like the Brown snake eagle, Martial eagle and the African hawk eagle as well as different species of Vultures.
• Herds of Roan and Sable antelope are a daily sighting along the rivers edge as they come from the sand veldt and congregate along the river.
• The Carmine Bee Eaters are back near Lagoon camp and are definitely a highlight to see when they are nesting along the river banks.

Kwara & Little Kwara camps               Jump to Kwara & Little Kwara camps
• Enormous conflict has erupted in the Kwara concession as the coalition of seven male Lions had a battle with two large males from the Splash side. Due to strength in numbers, the seven won the battle but did not manage to chase the two far from the area. Guests were on the edge of their seats as they witnessed the conflict between the prides along Magwelewele road. The whole night the battle took place with an ultimatum being reached in the early morning. A few days later the two males from Splash manage to bring down a buffalo just on other side the airstrip. The single female with her cub has been weekly sighting through out the Kwara area.
• A female Leopard was seen by the guests on a morning game drive , she feeding on a Reedbuck up a tree.  The kill had been made the night before and was almost completely eaten.
• Two thousand buffalo have been repeatedly sighted in the area across the Kwara floodplain.
• Primates are almost witnessed on every activity, the local Baboon troop have been very active and amusing around the camp, Vervet Monkeys are regularly seen around the watering holes and the Lesser bush babies seen on night drives
• Guests on an evening game drive close to Peters crossing, were lucky enough to see an Aardvark digging a hole just to the one side of the road. The spray of sand went almost ten feet in the air as the animal dug his way into the ground.

Lebala camp               Jump to Lebala Camp
• Several prides of Lion have been sighted by the guest this month at Lebala camp.  A pride of four with a young female and three young males as well as a pride of seven that were located hunting Buffalo but with out any success. The two large male Lions have been regularly sighted in the area and a single young male seems to be on patrol in the area.
• An amazing week for Leopard in the area as the guests manage to see five different leopards, three were sighted on one day!! Guest were thrilled as all the leopard sighted were very relaxed around the game drive vehicle and put on their show of stalking and attempting to make a kill.
• Ten Cheetah were sighted in one week in the Lebala area - the three brother cheetahs were seen hunting along the woodland and have been reported to be in immaculate condition.  A mother and her single cub have been sighted on a daily basis and guests have been lucky enough to have witnessed a kill on one of the morning activities. Another female with her four cubs are in the area, but they still seem very shy and skittish with the vehicles.
• Daily visits to the wild dog den have enthralled guests as they get to see the five dogs and the four pups. 
• Hyena have been the highlight of the night game drives as they are regularly sighted calling each other and trying to find an old carcass or a fresh kill, so that they can gang up together and chase off the hunter -  scavenging alone does not provide enough food for them.
• General game has been phenomenal towards the twin pools area with a herd of Zebra, Wildebeest, Kudu, Warthog, Lechwe, Tsesebe, Roan antelope and Giraffe. A pair of Honey badgers were sighted during the day around an old termite mound foraging and digging.

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Jacana Camp update - September 08               Jump to Jacana Camp

Spring has sprung! However the first official day was quite a chilly one. It was almost as if winter was sticking around to say a final goodbye. We got news that a huge cold front had hit Cape Town causing snow fall in the mountain areas and angry seas. The cold icy temperature was felt all the way up into the Okavango Delta.

Little Bee-eater abd damselfly at Jacana

With winter over, we start looking forward to the rains. September and October are still considered dry months and we might not see a drop of rain until November, which is usually considered the start of the rainy season. There is still the possibility of a heavy afternoon thunderstorm. The bush gets very dry and is very easy to ignite. We had huge fires in the Chobe / Kasane areas which caused an eerie haze over the Delta. There seem to be fires all over Southern Africa - but this doesn't seem to affect the behaviour patterns of the wildlife here too much.

After we felt the chill we suddenly were hit by a heatwave for about a week, with temperatures going up to 37 degrees. This was hardly a fresh spring day. So it has been an unusual weather pattern and we are all trying to find a way to adjust.

Beauty, a leopard at Jacana

Even though we have not had any rain we have noticed some of our trees have begun to bloom and splash out their bright green leaves. The interesting sausage tree knows that it is spring and almost overnight grew bright green leaves and deep red flowers. The flowers with their sweet nectar are enjoyed by monkeys and baboons, and many of the antelope enjoy the flowers that have fallen to the ground. Amazingly, the leopard in the area seem to realise this, and were often seen up in the sausage trees, waiting for an unsuspecting impala or steenbok to come and feed on the flowers, and then pounce down on them.

The Green (Red-billed) Wood Hoopoe was often spotted sipping the delicious nectar from the sausage tree flower. It's also amazing to watch that sausage fruit - so large and heavy can form and develop in a few months. This hard fruit is eaten by giraffe, kudu, baboons and birds like the Meyer's Parrot.

Spring is also the time for the birds to start finding nests, laying their eggs and rearing their chicks. We have two Malachite Kingfisher nests on the island, a Swamp Boubou nest in front of the office, a Saddle-billed Stork nest and Goliath Heron heronry close by the camp and many more. The Little Bee-eaters are also enjoying the abundance of food, and getting ready to nest.

The elephants seemed to have drifted away from our Island and are not visiting us as often as they used to. They have managed to shake almost all the nuts from the palm trees, so nothing else is attracting them to come visit us for now, which gives our Island a little time to recover from all their pruning and landscaping. However a few of our regulars love to sleep here in their specially made beds at night, and there are ideal spots by Tents 1 and 5. Guests have been woken up by loud snoring at 3 o' clock in the morning! At first our female guests seem to think it's their husbands, but when they turn over to give their husbands a nudge to keep them quiet they find themselves staring at each other very awake and wide eyed. Elephants can sleep lying down and love using a big termite mound as a pillow. They dig up the sand to soften it and use the slope as an easy way to get up quickly if they have to. We have seen these elephant sleep down on their sides for a few hours at a time.

The water levels are getting very low and we are starting to use our boat channel route to the boat jetty and the off to the airstrip which takes a little longer than our shorter route. It's about an hour boat ride which one can say turns from an airstrip transfer into an additional activity because you will never know what you will see on the way. After this period, it won't be too much longer until we start driving to and from camp. This will allow us to leave and return to camp when it is a little darker and allow us to do night drives. This is a change from the normal rule of not leaving while it's dark, which dominates most of the year round due to the hippos moving through the channels at those times.

With the lower waters the red lechwe arrive at the front of camp. It is so nice to watch them moving through the shallow waters in front of camp at sunset. They have even started dropping their young, a little earlier than last year.

For those who have met the famous duo Beauty and her little cub, you'll be pleased to know that the cub is not so little any more and is still going strong! Beauty is making full use of the sausage trees - she has often been spotted up in one of these trees on the lookout for prey. We hope to see her cub doing the same when we return from our leave in November.

Our small resident pride of lion were also seen a number of times this past month, after a long absence. It was amazing to see how much the young male has grown up in the year since I have personally seen him last.

We leave our guests for the month of October in the capable hands of Pono and Tumi who take care of our little paradise island whilst we are away. We are sad to miss those of you who come to visit then and hope you have wonderful time.

Clint, Dom and the Jacana team

Guest comments:
Speedy our guide was great as well was all your staff, food excellent, the singing welcome was fantastic - and we just LOVED Jacana. Had all that we could wish for. Wished we could stay longer. - H, Australia

We did not expect to see so much. National Geographic and Discovery Channel for real. The adventure beginning from the most hospitable camp made it all perfect. D&C, USA

Elephant sleeping next to our room was entertaining! N&L, USA

Jacana is Paradise on earth! The singing welcome by the staff set the tone for an incredible experience and I was grateful to be a part of the Jacana family for two fantastic days and nights. It truly was the icing on the cake for our two weeks in Africa - it's a once a life time experience but I'm determined to return. Thank you all so much. I will miss you and think of you all often. - HW, USA

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Tubu Tree Camp update - September 08               Jump to Tubu Tree Camp

When the waters recede it is time for the return of the cheetah. We had some wonderful cheetah sightings this month, up far north of our territory where the land looks like East Africa's Serengeti and also further east in the area where the waters are still deep. Seeing a cheetah is a wonderful experience as only about 10 000 are estimated to still survive in the Africa.

Some of our guests were watching two cheetah late one evening when two lion suddenly appeared and started chasing the cheetah. The cheetah may be fast but it can't cope by any means with a lion's strength and determination to kill. So the cheetah did what it is best at, it sped up and got out of sight as fast as possible. The lions tried to follow a bit but soon gave up and looked quite satisfied, as once more they had shown somebody that they are the real kings of the savannah.

Hyena and pups at Tubu      Male lion at Tubu Tree Camp      Ostriches with chicks at Tubu Tree

Our lions in love had some relationship problems last month. We watched them moving towards the boat station where the deep water starts. The male looked quite upset and worried and eventually dashed into the deep water making his way towards the next island, leaving a puzzled lioness behind. Cats are known to be afraid of water but not in the Okavango Delta where water is everywhere, the cats quite obviously adapted to the conditions here or maybe this one was just in dire straits to get away? She kept calling and calling for him while we heard him splashing in the water, but her calls remained unanswered.

This also may be of interest to the Fitzgerald group who spent hours with the lions and vividly commented on every twist and turn and change of position. As promised, if they lions should manage to produce some offspring the nicest cub will be called Fitzgerald!

Pink-backed Pelicans at Tubu Tree

The Ostriches lay their eggs on the ground and one of the parents is always there to keep an eye on them. The eggs contain about forty times as much yolk as the ones we eat for breakfast, so they are of considerable size indeed and you would expect something really big to hatch when the time comes. Our guests saw the ostriches from far away and when they got closer guide and guests alike wondered why these 'francolins' kept following the ostriches. Only when they got close enough they were delighted to meet the ostrich family on one of their first days out to discover this world.

Our little hyaena pubs keep our guests entertained whenever they are found playing around the den. We usually have a good chance to see them later in the evening and as they grow and get stronger they start exploring the area around the den, providing excellent photo opportunities. One of the many things they have to learn is how to keep the den clean and where to go to the toilet. Under the watchful eyes of its father one of the pups made its way up the other side of the termite mound to find a good spot. Unfortunately, the little one lost its balance in the middle of its business and under the laughter of all watching guests it rolled down the termite mound.

To our greatest delight the Wattled Cranes arrived this month in their hundreds. Great to see this endangered bird in such numbers. We also have a few pelicans staying in the area at the moment. There was a funny encounter when we had dinner at Kalahari Pan one night: We were all out there chatting and watching the fire and the night sky when one of the guests pointed at this big bird circling over our heads - a pelican. We started talking about the distances they fly and their great sense of direction. Obviously we all expected the pelican to land in the pan just 20m away but for some reason the bird got confused and flew straight towards us, about 2m above ground, and only a second before crashing into our group the bird changed direction abruptly. Don't know if the insurance company would have believed this story...

Come and enjoy the Tubu hospitality!

Guest Comments:
"Thank you! What a wonderful way to start our honeymoon in Africa. Amazing hospitality - great staff, food and guides!" - A&J

"It was unforgettable! The elephants, the ambience and being so happy!" - Zaida

"The level of professionalism of the staff was of an extremely high caliber - every need was attended to - and then some - without anyone being made aware of the challenging logistics required to achieve this - an extraordinarily wonderful experience." - N&L

"Super staff - super game! Definitely a return destination!" - R&T

-Peter & Katrin and the whole Tubu Team-

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Kwetsani Camp update - September 08               Jump to Kwetsani Camp

Weather and Water Levels
The seasonal floodplains have receded fairly fast this month. With that comes a transformation in the landscape and the hoofed animals which have come back to the Kwetsani floodplains. The days are getting longer, hotter, the nights are getting shorter and the reptiles are coming out of hibernation.

The summer-type weather has created a great opportunity to enjoy the warmer climate and dine outdoors while we listen at the sounds of nocturnal creatures and hippo. The stars have been amazing and nothing can beat dining under the full moon near the majestic baobab tree. On occasion we have come out and danced with all the camp staff around a welcoming bonfire in the wide open spaces on Kwetsani Island.

Leopard at Kwetsani

Wildlife
The elephants have been a great treat to look at up close and personal from the comfort of your room. They come very close to the walkways and hang around camp for the shade and ample food. The occasional breeding herds come in and around camp and they are always a pleasure to see as the maternal animals protect their young ones. We have spotted a new baby that is hardly a week old and he or she (we're not yet sure) is the best loved character of the herd.

The predators are lurking around too, for they have an ample variety of animals to hunt as the number and the variety is expanding. We have experienced two lion kills right in front of camp: The lions arrived in the area in the small hours of the morning and waited until after dusk to begin their hunt. The lions swiftly and invisibly moved to ambush any game that was in their territory and in their way.

Lions in front of Kwetsani camp      Red Lechwes at Kwetsani camp

The teamwork of these magnificent creatures amazed everyone. One of the females would make a long detour to get behind the lechwe and spook them into a trap. The first kill we witnessed was a red lechwe which took the lions under a quarter of an hour to devour until the last piece. The next time it was a zebra which the lions dragged across the water to eat without being disturbed.

One exciting afternoon we went to see the lions in deep slumber in the thickets in front of camp - but they were not the only predators in the area. A male leopard was up in a tree watching in hiding. The leopard seemed content though and his belly looked as if he just had a meal. This male leopard is a fully grown adult whose territory encircles Kwetsani. He displayed a splendid and amazing performance of standing on his hind legs for all the guests to get a great photo opportunity. He was getting leverage to look out over the long grass at the lions in the vicinity.

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Jao Camp update - September 08               Jump to Jao Camp

Spring is here and summer is on the way. The sky is alight with a warming sun and patterned with winged silhouettes on the giant cloth of blue. The sands are imprinted with the roaming steps of the local wildlife; a trail of suspense to follow.

      Lions and Red Lechwes at Jao

Our resident female leopard Beauty and her cub have continued to awe our guests with their relaxed nature and exciting behaviour. Beauty is still doing all the hunting for the both of them and tells her young male cub strictly to 'sit tight' whilst she is off hunting. She is often seen on her own stalking, promoting worry and concern with our guests on the cub's wellbeing. They always reunite for a kiss and a cuddle provoking a sigh of relief from the audience.

Beauty, when not busy hunting and mothering a cheeky cub, likes to 'quality check' our preparations for outdoor meals. She strutted very confidently through our set-up site one afternoon offering viewers a new perspective with the 'living' conditions in the wild.

Our Northern lion pride, a trio, has returned to the concession after an absence of a few weeks. They had a successful kill in the area. The young male is looking more and more like a dominant lion; his mane is getting fuller and fuller.

Elephant at Jao      Fiery-Necked Nightjar and chick at Jao

The bull elephants have roamed freely over Jao Island, snoring outside guest rooms at night and obstructing walkways during the days. Wading through the channels, resembling the soothing sound of waves crashing upon a shore on coastal sands, these elephants are always stopping traffic offering a peaceful vision of what the Okavango Delta is all about.

A special sighting of a Fiery-Necked Nightjar and chick impressed guides and guests. This photo was taken by Sandra Cutmore, one of the lucky viewers of this rare sight.

We also found a nest of recently hatched Swamp Boubous. The very proud parents stand by their chicks donating a variety of insects and ground worms down their hungry throats.

Swamp Boubou chick at Jao      Newborn Zebra foal at Jao

Other highlighted bird species around this month were the Long-crested Eagle, Rosy-throated Longclaw and the Yellow-billed Oxpecker grooming a giraffe.

A 24-hour bird count was held throughout Wilderness camps on the 10th of September. Jao totalled 124 different species in this time, not even the maximum of species that are available for viewing in this giant water aviary. We challenge anyone of our visitors who would like to beat our total? the game is on!

The elusive and timid sitatunga has been seen quite regularly on Jao Island roaming in the swampy channel in front of the guest rooms. Still too quick for the 'click' though, so no photo this month - we are working on capturing this one on still.

A bit early for the season, a baby zebra was one of the first of the new additions to the Jao floodplains - it is still very attached to its mother. Thanks to Graeme for some of these photos.

Often a forgotten element of the beauty of the wild bush is the striking night sky. As most of our visitors typically dwell in cities and towns they are always taken aback by the intensity of the stars and the vivid Milky Way. Never forget to look up when you are in Africa, it will take your breath away.

Wonderful international visitors have enjoyed our beautiful Delta paradise. Here are some of their thoughts they have left for us in our guest book:

Guest Comments:
* For our Honeymoon, the dream comes true! Thanks for all. G&F
* This experience is a dream come true, nothing could top this! Wonderful staff and fabulous wild life.
C&L
* Staff, managers and guides - everyone made us feel so welcome. We are privileged to have stayed at Jao. Hope to return to catch up with elusive leopard. J&J
* Excellent! Our trip was filled with kindness and smiles. We made many happy memories! K&K

Summer is coming! See you for the Green Season.

The Jao Team.


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Vumbura Plains Camp update - September 08                Jump to Vumbura Plains Camp

The first summer visitors return after a long absence from the Delta, a flash of red as a Carmine Bee-eater swoops past a game drive, hawking insects flushed out by the moving vehicle; a shadow passing over the floodplain as a Yellow-billed Kite gently glides overhead looking for an easy meal; The first new leaves and flowers on trees, looking a bit premature in the dry-dusty heat of the Delta, but pre-empting the coming rainy season; Temperatures rising giving us a taste of the hot, dry month of October looming, and making us all long for the first rains: 'Pula' - "Let it rain"

Wildlife
It has been a great month for game viewing, with the Delta's waters having receded and areas opening up to the Land Rover safari vehicles once more. There were numerous sightings of the Marula male leopard who, obviously having had a tangle with a baboon or warthog, received a nasty cut on his face as payback. Despite his affliction he has been doing well. He was often seen moving around in daylight hours, intensely looking at every opportunity to kill unsuspecting prey. After observing him on the prowl for a whole morning recently, Matt Copham and his guests watched him stalk and kill a warthog in the midday heat. He then dragged his kill through a scattering herd of elephants and up a tree where he feasted at his leisure. This provided the rest of the guests with a grand sighting of a leopard on a kill for the next day or so.

Elephants at Vumbura Plains      Elephants seen at Vumbura

The Kubu Pride, our local lions, gave all our guests much entertainment throughout September. They were watched patiently hunting buffalo, attacking and then being chased off by the team effort of these formidable beasts. The next day they were rewarded for their efforts, when they managed to bring down one of the herd and a good meal was had by our pride. They were also seen later on in the month feeding on a sable antelope, one of the rarer antelope species, although quite regularly seen in our area.

There were also regular sightings of the Vuka male cheetah through the month as well as some great encounters with hyaenas. Who can also forget the numerous small mammal species seen here, the genets, bushbabies, African wild cats, civets and jackals to name but a few.

Our month ended off on a high, when two days running we had incredible sightings right in front of the main deck of North Camp. The first and most exciting was the reappearance of our pack of African wild dogs after an absence of about three months. They had been denning in an area unknown to us and the pups are now old enough to be running with the pack. We are proud to say that 11 healthy pups were counted and with the 11 adults this makes up a pack of 22 dogs. They killed a steenbok and a kudu in the area beyond Kaparota Lagoon in front of camp, and after a lengthy battle with hyaenas, abandoned the carcass and flopped down in the water to cool off. Managers, staff and guests all watched from camp with great excitement, welcoming back our canine friends.

The next morning a huge herd of 500+ buffalo passed by camp with the Kubu Pride once again in tow and a couple of failed attempts at bringing one down was made, in the same area that just the morning before, was occupied by the wild dogs.

Birds and Birding
Another first for us and the rest of the Wilderness Safaris' camps in Botswana was Big Birding Day, held in mid September. Vumbura North and South were considered as two separate teams as we tallied up all the different species of birds identified (by sight or sound) in a 24-hour period. Obviously, the most important reason for the event was to give us all an idea of what bird species are found in the various parts of the Delta, but the competition between camps was intense and pride was at stake. We await the results eagerly, but are happy with our total of 159 species from Vumbura North.

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