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South Africa camps
Pafuri Camp update - August 09 Jump
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Along the riverine areas the scarlet flowered flame creepers are in full bloom providing a pretty contrast to the sulphur yellow fever trees and lala palms, with the flowering woolly caper bush adding a wonderful fragrance to the air. The vegetation cover is not as dense as we enter the peak dry season, so game viewing has been very good.
Eland have been seen regularly in fairly large herds, with some good sightings on foot. There have been several sightings of honey badger this month too. A sable antelope bull, with his sweeping horns and jet-black coat was seen by guests coming to Pafuri Camp, on the southern bank of the Luvuvhu River.
Big cats been seen quite regularly and even heard from Pafuri Camp, with the coughing sound of the solitary leopard announcing its presence. One however cannot forget the bone-chilling and heart-stopping roaring of the lion, with the Pafuri Pride announcing its presence. The seven pride members have increased their number to ten, for three new fluffy, tanned and flecked cubs were discovered in August, which is excellent news.
We also watched in amazement as the two sub-adult lions began to dig up a warthog from its burrow, and eventually that evening under the blanket of stars and after many hours of work they got their prey. The Mangala female leopard has been using the second lookout point from the Luvuvhu River as her hunting grounds, with several nyala being taken around this area.
Birding, as always, was highly productive at Pafuri Camp this month with several special sightings. Read about the Three-banded Courser nesting record here.
Racket-tailed Rollers were also seen performing their courtship displays, and will probably move into the mopane nesting sites soon. It was interesting to note that they nested in dead lala palms last year, which was a first.
We also enjoyed some incredible raptor encounters this month. A Martial Eagle was found feeding on a monitor lizard, one of its favourite prey species; a Tawny Eagle feeding on an unfortunate Helmeted Guineafowl and a Crowned Eagle ripping at its helpless vervet monkey victim.
The bird list for the month included: Scaly-throated Honeyguide, Green Twinspot, Pel's Fishing Owl, Racket-tailed Roller, Grey-headed Parrot, Bohm's Spinetail, African Barred Owlet, Common Sandpiper, Common Greenshank, Three-banded Courser, African Cuckoo Hawk, Bat Hawk, Dickinson's Kestrel, Arnot's Chat and Bronze Mannikin.
Visit soon, cheerio from the Pafuri Camp team.
Pafuri Walking Trail update - August 09 Jump
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We had an exceptional month of walking trails this past month, with eight three-night departures taking place in a row! As spring creeps in, the local flora and fauna are donning their best outfits and the scents wafting through the bush are fabulous. The woolly caper bush in particular is putting on a beautiful show, and once the sun has gone down its jasmine-esque smell is hard to resist. Sunbirds litter the flowering bushes, and the scarlet flame creeper looks stunning draped over surrounding trees. Walking through the hypnotic fever tree forest is always an unforgettable experience, and at this time of year even more so as the sweet aroma of its blossoms lingers in the cool morning air.
All our guests have been stunned by the unique experience that the Pafuri Walking Trails offer, with the chance to view this concession from a different, exciting and often exhilarating perspective.
Several August encounters certainly fell into the exciting and exhilarating category. With the water levels in seasonal pans beginning to dwindle, many of Pafuri's four-legged residents have been frequenting the banks and the surrounding bush of the Luvuvhu River. As a result walking the river course proved to be eventful with frequent encounters with herds of elephant and buffalo. General game was in abundance and sightings of a range of species like nyala, kudu, impala, bushbuck, baboons and monkeys quenching their thirst in a single location were common.
The Limpopo River is currently neither great nor greasy: it is in fact almost dry and provided an apt location for cooling tired and worn-out feet at the end of a day's walking. Strolling barefoot through the sand while the sun winked its goodbye at dusk was an unforgettable highlight for many of the Pafuri trailists.
Lions were seen frequently on trail this month. A sighting that will stick in my mind from the August trails occurred after discovering fresh lioness tracks along the base of Houtwini Mountain. Deciding to follow them, it was not long before we found her lying in the shade of a vast nyala berry tree. We spotted her at a distance of approximately 40m, and we watched, almost holding our breaths, as she lifted her head and fixed us with her piercing gaze. We grouped together and got down on our haunches, remaining silent all the while. She began to relax and shortly afterwards settled down into a sleep. This was more than we could have bargained for, as lions will usually move away quickly when approached on foot. After spending some time taking in this incredible sight, we decided to move away and leave her in peace. A cautionary glance from the lioness saw us off.
However, whilst moving away from her, a sudden movement caught our attention from under a thick bush. A quick look through the binoculars revealed a heart-stopping sight: another lioness with three tiny cubs, no older than three weeks. Knowing that this was potentially a charge-inducing encounter, I decided to move away before she became aware of our presence. As we retreated, she saw us. We needed no more than a deep, thundering growl to tell us that we were highly unwelcome, but as she took a few quick steps towards us as well this impression was confirmed! We were already around 50m away from her and slowly kept backing away until she lost interest in us.
Tracking the rhinos this month was eventful as always and we found them on almost every trail. They are frequenting the dry sandveld region on the higher ground and with only a few springs in the area, their movements become more predictable. Tracks of a very young calf were seen but this new addition is yet to be glimpsed.
Comments from our guests, such as "beauty like no other," "diversity beyond belief" and "impossible to beat," confirm to us all that the Pafuri region truly is the ultimate place to walk in the greater Kruger Park, and we head into September and October hoping that guests continue to share this opinion.
Photographs by Terence Ossin and Ilana Stein
Kings Camp update - August 09 Jump
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The winter months are finally drawing to a close and although it is dry, the bush condition is still good. The beautiful dark green trees along the rivers create an immense contrast between the dry veld and the non-perennial river lines lined with evergreen trees.
Sunbirds like the White-bellied Sunbird feeds in typical sunbird fashion clasping the edge of the flower or taking up a perch close to the flower into which it pokes its long curved bill. It moves around quickly from flower to flower. A truly beautiful sight often seen in and around the camps flower gardens.
Lion sightings made this month a very special one.
The 3 young nomadic lions know as the Hhlatini males that have been hanging around since February this year are showing strong signs that they are here to stay. This is a good indicator and hopefully will create a stable environment for the resident prides from the north, which as you know has been in turmoil this year. I suspect that our young 3 males lions from the Shobele pride will more than likely loose their home ground to these new males. This is not necessarily a bad thing as this will force the 3 youngsters to leave their home range and someday when they are adults males establish their own territory elsewhere. This ensures that the gene pool remains healthy and strong.
Besides these 3 sub-adult Shobele males I don’t really see any other male competition in the northern area for the “Hlatini Boys”. I hypothesize that we might in the future see the 3 Timbavati males from the south make an attempt to move to the north once they have depleted all the reproductive opportunities in the south.
Above is an image I captured during a game drive a day after the strong Hlatini males killed an adult male giraffe deep in the northern territory. Feeding lasted a total of three days only. An abundance of meat was still visible on the carcass and I am not sure why they males abandoned the carcass. This meant that the ever-present hyenas could move in for a great meal.
The hyenas feeding turned out to be more spectacular than the lions feeding. Hyenas are highly underrated animals and we are often given the in correct impression of this specie. The clan fed for 3 days before the vultures had their turn.
Our oldest and most commanding resident leopardess seen by thousands of guests is fine. I reported to you several months ago about her health that was in question. She obtained a severe blow to her ear from an aggressive interaction with a challenging female leopard. Rockfig won the fight but the wound sustained to her hear slowly over time got infected to the point that we actually thought that she might loose her ear.
However I have been watching her carefully during the last few weeks and I am happy to inform you that she is fine at the moment. She is had good feeds recently and does not appear to be in pain. The wound however still looks terrible.
Her daughter little Nkateko is doing very well. Nkateko managed to kill her first adult impala during the month. Unfortunately she lost her prized kill the same night to a clan of hyenas. The adult impala proved too much for her to take up in to a tree and had to feed on the ground with the hyenas lurking nearby.
She is impressive and her skills are well honed.
Another interesting discovery was when Kings Camp trackers by chance found a hyena den. The clan is a group that we are very familiar with and have seen them on many occasions out in the bush. This discovery was special as one of the adult females of the clan is a mother to two very small hyeana cubs. Estimated age of the cubs at the time of the discovery is approximately 4 weeks old. This den is still active and we are planning to use it as a add on for guest that will be visiting the camp in the next few months.
Take care from Patrick and the rest of the rangers and trackers.
Report By Patrick O’Brien (Head Ranger)
Photography by Patrick O’Brien.
Rocktail Bay Dive Report - August 09 Jump
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Makalolo Plains update - August 09 Jump
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August has been sunny with some wind, whilst the mornings and evenings are still chilly making sure that jackets have to be kept handy. Temperatures: Max 31.2º Celsius, Min 0.3, Mean 17.4.
Vegetation, Landscape and Water Levels
The leaves are gradually falling off the trees with the usual August windy weather. Game water demand has risen sharply, noticed by the larger number of animals coming to use the water holes, particularly elephants.
As mentioned above most natural pans are dry. This has driven many animal species out of the broadleaved woodlands to nearby pumped pans. These animals include white rhino, which have been found loitering at the front of camp on a number of consecutive days usually at 08:30am. Roan antelope have also started coming out at places like Little Samavundla, Broken Rifle, Ngweshla and Mbiza. These shy creatures have been seen in small numbers of two to seven individuals.
Cats sightings were also good with the Spice Girls (lions) taking their toll on buffalo (twice) at neighbouring Little Makalolo Camp, a zebra at Madisons, and a young elephant at the airstrip.
The death of a young one and a half year old elephant at Little Samavundla gave Judah and two other male lions plus two females an easy dinner. He was shy though and walked off, leaving the two females to the other males. Later during the day, he took over the females again, with the other two males in hiding.
Leadwood Alley was also a hive of activity for a male leopard, being spotted twice, once hunting baboons near 'Twin Palm' area, and the second time with a mate.
Highlight for the month was spotting a big, old pangolin by the Broken Rifle area. It was an exciting moment for the guide as it was the first pangolin sighting for him in the wild.
Birds and Birding
Mainly the usual residents, such as Egyptian Geese, Red-billed Teals at the waterholes while the Grey Crowned Cranes are still loitering around the front waterhole. Meyers Parrots have been spotted in false mopanes eating the outer peal of the red seeds. A breeding Ostrich pair now has eight beautiful chicks. Another pair of Ostriches have been seen courting and the male has been vocalizing at night. Maybe more chicks can be expected in two months? Kori Bustards have also been noticed puffing up their necks also starting to breed.
"Sam was a great guide. Personal service was outstanding. We very much appreciated your accommodating our specific food requests. Thanks to David and Willem and the entire staff for a wonderful four days!"
Guides: Dennis, Khule, Sam
Host/Hostess: David, Cosam, Tammy
Management: Willem and Trish
Little Makalolo update - August 09 Jump
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August haze, cobalt blue sky and dust transform the sunsets into red tapestry of colours. The cold is sill imprisoned in the early sluggish light. Sharp howling winds scatter the dried leaves that the hoof pounded crescendo of buffalo has trampled all the grass. As the leaves are falling, they leave carpets of rich earth colours.
Vegetation, Landscape and Water Levels
As natural waterholes are drying up due to the heat that is intensifying we are seeing more and more Cape buffalo coming to the waterhole in front of Little Makalolo Camp - some only a few metres from the camp pool!
The yellow leaves of the ordeal trees catch the eye at the moment. Herds of elephant are congregating around mineral rich areas; a need for extra sodium in the diet is met by visiting 'mineral licks' - where elephant excavate hollows in search of nutrients to supplement their diet.
Sightings of baboons, Cape buffalo, elephant, giraffe, spotted hyaena and lion have been almost guaranteed this month. We have also enjoyed frequent white rhino and eland sightings. Night drives have also turned up smaller creatures like foraging scrub hares and small spotted genets.
Around the camp waterhole the landscape has been turned into the favourite 'meeting spot' for zebra, giraffe, kudu and majestic sable. Afternoon siestas in camp are very much enjoyed because of the hive of activity at the pan which can be viewed from the comfort of your tent veranda. The congestion at the waterhole occasionally causes a 'traffic jam' leading to the more timid or smaller animals waiting patiently, sometimes for hours, before attempting to drink.
On the lion side, the Junior Spice Girls were also sighted in front of Little Makalolo at the waterhole with their cubs drinking water before disappearing again.
After the almost unbeatable pangolin encounter we still had some highlights for this month which included all the lion sightings. On the 14th of August, a pride of 13 lion killed a buffalo right in front of camp and voracious hyaenas, never to be ones to miss out on action, came to clean up the carcass the next morning. The Spice Girls were also seen feeding on a dead elephant calf.
Birds & Birding
Migratory species have already returned to Hwange this month with flocks of White Storks congregating on the ground near the pan. Normally silent, their odd, primitive calls have been interesting to hear.
One of the bird highlights this month was seeing a Martial Eagle killing an Ostrich chick at Ngweshla Pan; a Dark Chanting Goshawk feeding on a twig snake, both spotted by guide Lewis and his guests. A total of 79 bird species were seen this month.
'Congratulations on having such high calibre guides and staff, our guide was very passionate, experienced and informative.'
'From start to finish our days here were fantastic! Walking safaris, game drives and shared conversation around the fire, your hospitality can't be beaten.'
Manager: Charles Ndlovu
Guides: Gofrey Kunzi, Lewis Mangava, Dennis Nyakani
Hostess: Angeline Mhlanga
Chef: Mayisa Mpala, Sendy Nkomazana
Maintenance: Charles Mdluli, Never Nyoni
Waiters: Jabulani Mpala, Babusi Ndlovu
Housekeepers: Jibani Ngwenya, Tawanda Tshuma
Ruckomechi Camp update - August 09 Jump
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Almost the entire Ruckomechi team has been in Camp this month, Graeme and Caro returned from Tour de Tuli at the beginning of the month with tales of hard work, new adventures and a great sense of accomplishment for a good cause. Caro and her team worked hard with a full camp for several weeks, with all 10 rooms occupied. Tammy Smith has been with us for Training and it was great to have her around for a few weeks, we wish her well on her new undertakings at Makalolo. Clea and Jeremy have shared the hosting this month, and Clea has thoroughly enjoyed the Mana Canoe trips she has been hosting!
Sibs, Tendayi, Mat and Kevin have continued to provide first class game viewing experiences to their guests, with some great sightings of lion, wild dog, leopard and hyena. Graeme and Jeremy have been at their books, writing their learner guide exams in mid-September and hopefully returning to add their own individual touch to the guiding team. We wish them all the best.
The winds of August are definitely upon us, on a few days hindering any potential canoe trips down the river. The heat and haze are also upon us, adding a special aura to the Valley floor. The early mornings remain crisp and very pleasant for walking. The warmer weather later in the day has lead to the swimming pool becoming more popular amongst our guests during siesta.
Vegetation, Landscape and the Zambezi River
The surrounding vegetation has dried out considerably, and the dense undergrowth of earlier months no longer hinders our game viewing efforts. The animals are beginning to congregate closer to the river, an indication that most inland water is becoming scarce. The albida trees continue to produce their pods. Several large albidas collapsed this month, one near Parachute Pan and another up the Ruckomechi River. It was amazing to observe how quickly the elephants descended on these felled giants and proceeded to devour all but the large branches. The Zambezi has returned to its normal levels and the water is flowing clearly: a large silver serpent cutting through a blanket of haze as it makes its way east.
The resident pride of three lion has been seen regularly, even walking through the workshop a few nights ago. Later that day they were seen on an impala kill on the outskirts of camp. Earlier in the month five lion were spotted on a buffalo kill, with numerous hyaena lurking in the vicinity. The same hyaena then proceeded to hunt down a warthog which they then lost to the lions. Two male lion have been seen regularly as well; hopefully they will take up permanent residence in our concession and bring some stability to the lion population.
We have also been seeing a of pack of six wild dog regularly in the vicinity of the airstrip, usually hunting but also looking full and content after a successful hunt. It is assumed that these dogs are part of a bigger pack of 22 that were often seen earlier in the year. We are sure they have denned in the Vundu area but are yet to establish the exact location.
The elephants have descended upon the camp in large numbers and are almost a continuous presence around the main area. This continues to be a highlight for many of our guests and a special feature of Ruckomechi. Cheetah have been sighted a few times this month, while leopard remain very elusive - although one or two quick glimpses remind us that they are out there.
136 species of birds were recorded this month, and with the arrival of some of the migrants, we look forward to seeing more. The Carmine Bee-eaters have arrived and have been seen almost daily flying over camp and in the vicinity of their colony near the harbour. It is great to have them back! Tendayi recently saw two large Giant Eagle Owls fighting on the ground in the Cathedral area, apparently over a third bird nearby, a presumed female. Two days later they were spotted again, still squabbling however this time with no third bird in sight.
Fish-eagles have been spotted successfully swooping down on unsuspecting fish in the channel in front of the camp. Goliath Herons, Cattle Egrets and Pied Kingfishers are seen regularly from the deck. On the raptor front, Martial Eagles, Western Banded Snake-Eagles, African Hawk Eagles and Little Sparrowhawks have made up the majority of sightings.
'Tiger' time has descended upon the Valley and the fishing has been great so far with some great fish in excess of 13lb being landed. The fish are coming on quick and aggressively, enticed by the warmer weather and greater visibility; fishing is becoming a popular option in the afternoons. We have successfully returned all fish caught to the river, bar one that was too badly injured to do so. We are yet to try the bream spots but no doubt they too will also start becoming more productive. We look forward to a few more months of great angling.
Toka Leya Camp update - August 09 Jump
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"Mulibuti!" Greetings from the Upper Zambezi.
As the steady rhythms of the bush continue to transform the African landscape, we never cease to marvel at the many changes that are apparent as the land becomes drier and the bush less dense. The lack of rainfall has certainly had an effect on the lie of the land, as well as the flow of the river, where many rocks and sand banks continue to expose themselves as the river recedes into vigorous channels and whirlpools where the depth allows the water to flow into more definitive waterways.
The vegetation in and around the Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park has become very sparse, but this seemingly negative decline in the flora around the camp has allowed for great sightings of the animals that are now making their way into the immediate vicinity. Here a refreshing mix of grasses and trees remain and provide some sustenance to elephant, buffalo and white rhino to name a few. We are certainly not complaining, as it does result in a great spectacle and we are spoilt to have a vast and regular array of these animals to view daily.
Elephant seem a lot more adventurous than before, and have taken a liking to the recently-planted palm trees around the camp. Not so good for the gardeners, but then again, who's going to confront the largest land mammal in the world and question their eating habits? The very young calves stay close to their mothers and family groups, and all delight in observing these young animals learning the art of trunk and leg manipulation. These calves will continue to grow and learn from all members of the herd, and become fully independent after as long as 15 years.
Mornings are becoming a lot warmer now, especially once the sun has risen over the canopy of trees to the East. Each day the sun-baked earth comes alive with birds and insect life: White-fronted Bee-eaters for example take the opportunity to "snap" insects right out of the open skies, as they leave their retreats to find food for themselves. Eat or 'bee' eaten they say! Giant Kingfishers, competing with great vigour for the most productive fishing spots have also provided entertaining viewing with many splashes into the waters of the Zambezi producing small fry eaten with relish on favoured perches. Not all these attempts are successful however, and one guest witnessed six failed attempts to land a fish before the bird was successful.
Game drives have been equally entertaining and one terrestrial sighting was particularly fascinating. Whilst on an afternoon game drive, one of the guides came across a troop of baboons, some foraging on the ground for tasty morsels, while a few were observed in the tree tops. On closer inspection, it was apparent that those in the trees were eating the remains of a small warthog. This was rather unique, and further reading suggests that, amongst other animals, baboon have been known to hunt and kill warthog. We have never seen anything like this at Toka Leya before and witnessing such an event is rare. It does beg the question as to how many more remarkable events take place away from the human eye?
So whilst the sun sets on another month past, we look forward to sunny September. The crocodiles can bask, and the band will continue to play. The fat lady however will not sing, as we continue to deliver these experiences and share them with all our guests that we have the privilege of hosting in this amazing environment.
Till next time, from the Upper Zambezi: "Tuyabonana".
- "Absolutely beautiful camp in a gorgeous setting! Fabulous food and kind staff top it all off!! And we got to approach a rhino on foot - totally cool." [USA]
- "We had an amazing experience. Thank you to all the staff especially Mike (the guide) and Justice. I loved the animals and the camp, basically everything. Thanks so much!" [UK]
- "Just perfect, thank you for a most memorable anniversary - I'm glad all the animals came to celebrate." [USA]
Staff in camp: Marc Harris; Justice Chasi; Mulenga Pwapwa; Jacqui Munakombwe; Amon Ngoma; Mike Muvishi; Dean Morton; Leza Morton
Lufupa Tented Camp update - August 09 Jump
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After what feels like a long, hard winter, we welcomed the warmth this month with open arms and faces upturned to the sun's rays. The mornings and evenings have remained cool, but the days have been fabulous. Even the swimming pool, which has been painstakingly cared for during the cold winter months, was well visited with midday temperatures often verging on a comfortable 30°C.
As the landscape begins to dry up, walking safaris have been popular, with many guests being privy to sightings of rather intimate interaction between the lions during their walks! Our bush brunches have also been a huge hit, with guides and hosts having a hard time getting guests to return back to camp after a festive meal in the best 'dining facilities' imaginable! Our guests have been touched and moved by the effort and thought that gets put into these special surprises - nothing like having a good stroll to work up an appetite only to come round the corner in the African bush and find the waiters and chef awaiting you with a mouthwatering array of salads, fresh breads and divine pasta, not to mention the ice cold drinks to quench the thirst.
The wildlife this month has, yet again, not let us down. Game viewing has been outstanding, with almost all our guests having a feline sighting of some kind, if not all three of the most exciting predators (lion, leopard and cheetah). The lions have been feeding themselves well, with several sightings of lion on a kill - the biggest and smelliest being a hippo! Bonus sighting on the very last day of the month was a pack of wild dogs with three miniature pups with the biggest ears ever!
Our resident elephant bull can literally be classified as part of the camp landscape as he now spends his days harassing the palm tree near the main area and kitchen for its delicious nuts. He is clearly very comfortable and at ease in camp and one morning he decided he'd take a nap. After a good fill of nuts, and a few gallons of water from the river, he found himself a little mound in the thickets right by the staff village, lay down and had a good snooze. Typically all our photographers were absent at the time so we were unable to get a snap of this enormous beast lying on his side! As beautiful and breathtaking a sight as it was, we were nonetheless all relieved and when he did eventually get up and meander down into the bush again leaving our camp palm trees safe again!
No day is the same as the next in the bush. Every animal, each bird and the daily sunsets each have their own beauty and charm - we definitely continue to appreciate this wonderful piece of Africa we call home. We look forward to sharing it with many more like minded, adventurous, nature loving and appreciating guests. Here below a taste of what some of our guests have felt this month:
Lufupa guest comments
"Wonderful location. Great staff. What a win!" (UK)
"Words inadequate but: peaceful, heart stealing, friendliness, an experience never to be forgotten. Will return for the people and animals" (UK)
"What a magnificent place, incredible wildlife drives, wonderful hospitality and food, fantastic staff." (USA)
The Lufupa Team
Kalamu Lagoon Camp update - August 09 Jump
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Most deciduous tree species have now lost their leaves making wildlife viewing much easier. The Distinctive sausage trees are all in flower and sprouting new leaves ahead of spring. A few of the migratory bird species, which include the beautiful Yellow-billed Kite, have already returned.
This month we have had many exciting sightings with the first one being a small herd of elephants that our guide Luxon found a few minutes after one of the females had given birth with a pride of lions on the scene. What a way to end an afternoon!
The tiny elephant could however not stand up and guests later watched helpless as the whole elephant herd surrounded the female and the baby as the mother tried tirelessly to lift the baby. When we returned the following day the baby had been moved a few metres from where it was born and the whole family were still waiting, hoping for a recovery. At the same time the pride of lions which at this stage had increased to seven was also still waiting for the elephants to move on. Continuously the lions were chased by the elephants but they always came back and sat in the nearby scrub. By midday almost midday the elephants had not drank or fed since the previous day and the thirst must have been getting the better of them so eventually they accepted the baby was dead and started to move off. In a flash the lions descended on the dead calf but they made such a growling noise that the mother came back to drive them away again! Eventually the whole herd of elephants turned and left trumpeting wildly. Read more on this fascinating encounter here.
A pack of seven African wild dogs were seen one morning hard on the heels of a fleeing impala. The stricken antelope made a survival jump across a part of the lagoon when strangely the dogs stopped and changed direction! They definitely had one thing in mind, and within a few minutes, they were on another chase. This time it was a male bushbuck that ran towards an open area making it easy for them to pull it down and was reduced to a few bones in no time at all. The guests who witnessed this couldn't believe that all this happened in front of their eyes and with such speed.
A few days later in almost the same area, a leopard killed an impala but abandoned his almost guaranteed meal to a flock of vultures. We had a few other sightings of these elusive cats this month which was really exciting with some of the guests on the drive having three separate leopard sightings on one drive.
Whilst it was definitely one of those months where a lot of the predators were seen in action or doing unexpected things, the general game was not to be out done. Elephants were also in abundance this month - in particular a herd of 40-plus elephants that added to the beautiful sundowner drinks set up by the guide one afternoon. Relaxing on the bank of the Luangwa, enjoying a cool beverage, guests could not believe their luck when the huge herd started to cross the river.
Look out from camp, across the lagoon, herds of elephants and buffalo have been a daily sighting coming down to drink. Porcupine, civet, lesser bushbaby and genets were amongst the nocturnal sightings this month.
With temperatures warming, our bush dinner experience on the Luangwa River banks under the stars has added another dimension to a Kalamu stay. The guides end off a perfect evening with a talk on the night skies.
'We have spent something like 35 nights in Africa already and we have never learnt as much as what we learnt during these three nights here. We learned about the smells, animals, sounds and the people. We have had a wonderful time and will never forget all the attention. We will miss everything here.' Annelise and Jean - France
'What wonderful hospitality in an incredible environment. The extra care and attention both at the camp and on the game drives was much appreciated.' Christine and Geoff - Australia
Camp Managers - Petros and Gogo
Guides - Petros , Luxon and Sandy
Junior Manager - Frank Tobolo
Shumba Camp update - August 09 Jump
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The month of August is the month of change in weather and season as we leave the cold months of June and July behind. The first sign of change is the wind and of course the rise in temperature. At the end of July the wind started and was with us on several days through August during which time day time temperatures at times reached over 30°C and the nights averaged 10°C.
Shumba means 'lion' in the local language (Kaonde) and certainly not without a reason. Our resident Busanga Pride is often in the vicinity of the camp and this month we were also visited by the two adult male lions who dominate this territory. One early morning in the beginning of August we could hear the two big male lions roaring far in the distance at 03h30, but as time passed the sound became louder and louder. At 06h15, just before the guests arrived for breakfast, the two settled onto the Shumba helicopter pad and roared loudly for the rest of the pride. The sound was amazing!
After that the lions decided to pay Shumba an even closer visit. They walked under the boardwalks of the camp and spent some time under one of the tents. With a cup of coffee in hand on the main deck of Shumba we finally saw 'the brothers' passing by and crossing the open area in front of Shumba.
The lion sightings have been great all month in fact. Every guest that has visited Shumba has seen our lions. Not just lazy and sleeping lions, but a lot of action as well! On several drives the guests saw the lionesses hunting in the tall grass (and even partly in the water), and they enjoyed the three cubs playing with each other or with the two big males. We were amazed to see how the mother lioness would go out to hunt whilst she left the three young cubs in the care of the Busanga Brothers. The two now had to deal with the playful cubs; we think that has caused them a few grey mane hairs!
For almost half the month the whole Busanga Pride conveniently camped out at the nearby Hippo Pools where they fed on a hippo carcass. With binoculars we could easily see them from the Shumba deck, the cubs playing with the hippo hide and the adults gorging themselves. We are sure that the lechwe on the bank were happy that it wasn't them!
During the month of August the buffalo herd moved more into the area around camp. On the 9th of August we had a herd of 300 buffalo south of Shumba and on the 13th of August a herd of at least 600 buffalo passed by to the east. It was a beautiful sighting late in the afternoon and with the sun just setting everybody could take stunning pictures of these powerful creatures.
Although the Busanga Plains is not well known for its leopard sightings, we had nine days of leopard sightings this month. A few times the leopard was spotted in the openness of the plains, but most of the time in the tree line during one of the full day activities. We had several sightings of a female leopard with her two small cubs. One of these sightings made a huge impression on one of our chefs, Kingsford. He went with the guests on a full day activity, so he could prepare a delicious lunch in the bush. On the way back the guide spotted two small leopard cubs on a warthog kill. The cubs were very curious and came close to the vehicle. The mother leopard was resting, but suddenly realised that the cubs were just a little too comfortable with the vehicle. Within a second she jumped and growled at the vehicle. Giving especially Kingsford quite a scare since the jump and growl seemed to be aimed at him!
Aside from lion, leopard, buffalo and myriad antelopes species on the game drives, we also had a few 'first of the season' sightings this month. During the game drives we saw our first Pelicans in the drying pools on the plains, a herd of sable antelope and last, but not least, sitatunga in the papyrus!
Most of our guests in August enjoyed the full day activity that we offer. This means leaving early in the morning and heading to the tree line of the Busanga Plains. From there the guests drive slowly in a southern direction through the beautiful miombo woodland of the Kafue National Park. At Musanza, a Wilderness Explorations Camp, the chef prepares brunch along the Lufupa River. From there it is back to Shumba. The sightings during these trips were great. Lion, leopard and even cheetah were some of the sightings on the full day activities. On the 8th of August our guests saw a female leopard with her cub feeding on an impala. 'Unbelievable! So relaxed and so close' said one of our guests when he returned at Shumba.
With the plains drying up quickly it was also possible to drive to the papyrus in August. The papyrus area is all the way in the north of the Busanga Plains. If guests are lucky they can even see the rare sitatunga: a beautiful antelope that spends most of his time in the watery areas of the papyrus. There is a possibility to see the 'Papyrus Pride' as well, a pride of lions consisting of one male and five females. It happened twice this month that our guests were lucky to see this pride hunting in the wet areas of the papyrus.
- 'Fantastic place! Real wild, peaceful AND we felt like home! From Russia with love! [Russia]
- 'A wonderful experience which we will never, ever forget. We learnt so much, saw so much from Blacksmith Plovers to lions and very special cheetah. Shumba is perfect in every way, the team are so friendly and caring and knowledgeable.' [UK]
- 'Everything was perfect. Fabulous management team, staff and guides, beautiful environment!' [UK]
- 'Thank you! Our room with a view, wonderful drives with great guides. Ingrid and Rob were superb hosts. A truly memorable experience.' [Canada]
Staff present at Shumba in August
Management: Rob and Ingrid
Assistant managers: Phineas and Mwami
Guides: Isaac, Lex and Sam
Until next month,
Rob & Ingrid
Kapinga Camp update - August 09 Jump
to Kapinga Camp
Finally my favourite time in the bush has arrived! The nippy winter days of the last few months have given way to warm 30°C days and pleasantly cool spring evenings. The sweet smell of mahogany trees in flower fill the air around camp and vivid pink ink flowers dot the dusty plains. Colour and new life have returned to the Busanga Plains once again!
Most of the game drive roads around the Busanga Plains have now dried up after the floods from our last rainy season. This means that we are finally able to access some of the more remote areas in the area such as the papyrus swamps to the north-west of camp, as well as the stunning island-dotted plains south of Shumba camp.
With all of the water now finally dried up in the forested areas of the park, elephant have returned to the plains in search of water and food. We are happy to report that a breeding herd of 34 of these wonderful creatures, as well as two big bulls, have been spending a great deal of their time here on Kapinga Island. We have looked on in delight as they play and cavort at a muddy waterhole not far from camp whilst we are enjoying our bacon and eggs at brunch time!
Our resident herds of roan antelope seemed to be more relaxed than ever, always posing just so for beautiful photos. Puku, warthog and bushbuck are a regular sight from the Kapinga pool deck. Interestingly enough, we've also had two very rare sightings of eland and blue duiker close to Kapinga this month too. Eland are usually seen in other areas of the park, and it's been years since they were last sighted on the Busanga Plains.
Idos spotted the little blue duiker darting off into the thick underbrush whilst on a walk on the island one morning. This was the first time that anyone has seen blue duiker on the island - so we are very happy to discover a 'new species' here on our door step! We've also had a record sighting of sitatunga during August when Idos and our guests spotted no less than six of these elusive aquatic antelope, including two young calves, on an afternoon outing.
The Kafue National Park has one of the highest diversities of antelope species in Africa and with sightings of lechwe, sitatunga, eland, blue duiker, oribi, roan, Defassa waterbuck, Lichtenstein's hartebeest, bushbuck, kudu, impala, puku, buffalo, wildebeest and zebra it's absolute paradise for any avid naturalist. Other mammal highlights for the month included six water mongoose in a group, baby warthogs, jackal, civet and serval hunting.
The resident male leopard with the strikingly large black rosettes has been quite shy and was only sighted once during the month after he called just outside camp. Idos and Essie quickly jumped in the vehicle and found him just on the outskirts of camp before he melted back into the forest maze. However, we have often discovered his tracks all around the camp in the mornings as he quietly sneaks around, sniffing out the resident bushbuck seeking refuge in the camp. He even brought a lady friend with him on one occasion! It was hugely exciting finding the tracks of both leopards walking up and down the pathways to rooms one, two and four whilst we were having dinner in the camp dining room. We hope that we will soon see a set of little cub tracks too!
Of course the Busanga Pride has been an utter delight to watch during the month of August too. The three little ones are now growing up quickly and are in great condition. Their playful clowning around with mother lion's tail has brought many a smile (and some tears) to our guests' faces. Their mother and the two Busanga males have been spending most of their time together in the Hippo Pools area whilst the remaining four lionesses have split off from the pride for the time being.
Idos and our guests were watching the mother and cubs one morning when she suddenly and quite intently looked up and gazed off into the distance. She soon started walking quite determinedly towards a termite mound, not far from where a mother puku was watching on. It turned out she flushed a jackal from the tall grass where it had been stalking a baby puku, carefully hidden away by its mother. Idos soon realised that the mother puku had tried to chase the marauding jackal away and all this activity had alerted the watchful lioness. The puku and jackal could only watch on as the lioness sauntered away with the prize.
The start of summer has also brought about a flurry of activity on the feathered front. Yellow-billed Kites have returned to the plains and flocks of Great White Pelicans have also been seen near the water's edge. Strikingly beautiful Crowned Cranes have been seen in flocks of up to 150 strong, elegantly flying over the drying plains, their strangely haunting calls echoing on heat mirages in the distance. Idos also spotted the rare and brightly colorful Ross' Turaco for the first time this season on a full day activity towards the Ntemwa area further south in the park. Martial Eagles have been continuing their on-the-wing pursuits of Open-billed Storks in the Lone Fig area. But the most exciting news of the month is that we heard the Narina Trogon's lonely call on the island again - a sure sign that he is still around even though he's proven to be a challenge to track down!
We look forward to letting you in on more of the wonderful tales unfolding on the vast and dusty plains of the northern Kafue National Park at the end of September.
Until then, best wishes from the Kapinga team
Sjani, Essie, Idos and Sam
Busanga Bush Camp update - August 09 Jump
to Busanga Bush Camp
August has been a month of warm sunny days and pleasantly mild evenings on the Busanga Plains. We've begun to pack away the extra blankets and hot-water bottles as midday temperatures have ranged from 25-32° Celsius and have not dropped below 8°C on even the chilliest of evenings.
The past month has most certainly belonged to the big cats of Busanga. Very early in August, guests at Busanga Bush Camp were treated to an unforgettable morning as the entire Busanga lion pride took a direct route through the camp. The lions strolled past various guest tents, followed by the main area and eventually decided to climb the stairs to our viewing deck. This is where the 'kings of the plains' spent the rest of their morning - perched aloft the viewing deck, from where they could enjoy sweeping views of their watery domain. They sat on the deck for hours almost as though they too were guests and wanted to survey the beauty that lay before them.
The rest of the month has produced more fantastic lion viewing, with the lioness and her three new cubs fast becoming the stars of the show. A few guests have been lucky enough to witness this lioness calling and fetching her cubs from their hiding place before leading them purposefully towards a freshly made kill. The greeting ceremony that unfolds as the mother meets her young is truly one of the most endearing spectacles one could hope to witness in this magical area.
The elusive leopards of the plains have done their best not to be upstaged by their bigger cousins and have treated guests to a few breathtaking sightings. A male leopard was found with a freshly killed puku draped in the fork of a small sausage tree while later in the month a different male was spotted hunting in the open areas very close to Busanga Bush Camp. Uncharacteristically, this lethal hunter took no notice of the vehicle as he weaved his way between thickets, his senses honed in on anything that dared to move.
As the fruit on the camp's numerous giant sycamore figs has begun to ripen, large herds of elephants have left their dense island retreats to take advantage of this sudden glut. These massive herbivores come blundering into the camp every night to feast on the tasty little treats, their piercing squeals of excitement filtering out into the night.
The first wildebeest calf was seen late in the month, wobbling on its feet as it tried desperately to stay close to its mother. It has since been followed by many others, creating a smorgasbord of easy prey for the various predators of Busanga.
As the sun rises above the grassy expanse of the plains, guests have been pulled from their sleep by an incredible cacophony of sound. The unmistakable call of the White-browed Robin-Chat is joined by an astounding variety of others to create a dawn chorus worthy of an acoustic award. A walk around the camp is a must-do for any enthusiastic birder. The fruiting fig trees have become a magnet to a wide variety of strikingly coloured birds including Green Pigeons, Black-headed Orioles, Scarlet-chested Sunbirds and Spectacled Weavers.
The skies above the plains have been graced with the presence of the first Yellow-billed Kites as these acrobatic raptors have just recently returned from their intra-African migration. Raptors large and small are now a common sight as they soar on the thermals created by the rising temperatures - Tawny, Wahlberg's and Martial Eagles have been joined by White-backed, White-headed and Lappet-faced Vultures - together they perform awe-inspiring aerial displays in the bright blue skies above us. Some of the rare species recorded this month include Temminck's Courser, Kittlitz's Plover and Great White Pelicans.
As the inundated floodplains have gradually dried out, it has become increasingly easy to access an incredible variety of habitats whilst out on game drives. The sun has eventually eaten away at the last of the major channels and it is now just a short drive from the camp into the adjacent tree-lines - no canoeing required.
Within this spectacular miombo woodland one often encounters Lichtenstein's hartebeest, oribi and the elusive sable antelope. A drive to the southern tip of the plains produces great sightings of large herds of Burchell's zebra, buffalo and the stately roan antelope, most of which have an accompanying calf. A short drive towards the papyrus swamps can reward patient guests with a glimpse of the most aquatic antelope in Africa - the sitatunga. This shy creature can sometimes be seen sneaking through the dense stands of papyrus reed that make up this watery wonderland. A boat ride along the Lufupa channel remains the best platform from which to view the plethora of birds, crocodile and hippo that litter the banks.
Night drives after dinner have been extremely popular as it allows guests the opportunity to experience a completely different side of the Busanga Plains - the creatures of darkness. As the sun dips behind the horizon, white-tailed mongooses, genets, servals and civets all venture out of hiding in search of prey. Guests this month have been fortunate enough to watch servals hunting in the tall grass, civets patrolling the wetlands and Marsh Owls circling overhead.
- 'An outstanding stay. The warmth of our welcome, the excellent food - and game drives which never failed to provide something exciting and new - we will treasure our time here.' [UK]
- 'Brilliant - fantastic sighting of lions on a kill and leopards as well! Had a wonderful time - thanks to the Busanga Team!' [UK]
- 'Thank you so much for a fantastic African experience. The wildlife, staff and entire experience was the best of this trip!' [USA]
Desert Rhino Camp update - August 09 Jump
to Desert Rhino Camp
Temperatures are currently ranging from 5ºCelsius in the mornings with midday highs reaching 30-35º Celsius. The weather has been mostly pleasant - just on some occasions we had the east wind blowing. Another strange phenomenon has been morning mists enveloping the landscape.
This month we enjoyed numerous rhino sightings but the real surprise was the new calf of Desery. Desery was spotted with her new calf and Deborah her previous calf.
Other black rhinos seen included Huaketi and Harry, the Khai-as bull, Variety with her calf, Tensie, Teabag and Ben. Stella was also seen but at a distance and another two yet unnamed females.
Other unusual wildlife included spotted hyaena and two elephant bulls seen in vicinity of Desert Rhino Camp. Certain guests had the pleasure of watching a desert-adapted elephant strolling right past the camp - an amazing sight.
The usual game is also seen in big numbers: oryx, springbok, Hartmann's mountain zebras, giraffes, and steenbok. The Shackelton's lion pride was also seen - nice to see the young cub surviving in this harsh area.
Staff in Camp
Camp managers: Ignatius and Daphne
Assistant managers: Kapoi and Helen
Guides: Ali and Harry
Palmwag Camp update - August 09 Jump
to Palmwag Camp
The days have been rather hot and the east wind been quite prevalent. The evenings have been magical however.
Game sightings this month were amazing. Black rhino was seen regularly on our full-day drives and numerous desert-adapted elephant are passing through the Palmwag Concession at the moment. Cheetah, lion, hyaena, aardwolf and African wild cat were the predatory species recorded this month.
August is traditionally the busiest month of the year and up to 80 meals were served during lunch times at the Poolbar and dinner often ran into the hundreds of plates per day. Our chefs were up to the task however.
We almost had more guests on sleep-outs this month than staying at Palmwag Lodge. Everybody seems to love sleeping out in the wild and there were quite a few nights when lions and hyaena were prowling around the camp! Sunset on the rocks above camp is always a special moment? Mr Menno Bonkenburg from Holland captured the moment in the adjoining photo.
An Acacia Pied Barbet and Common Scimitarbill were found partially stunned after flying into a window. We kept them safe until they recovered. It was interesting to study them up close though.
On the reptilian side not such a welcome guest was a zebra snake or western barred spitting cobra that was found in the reception area.
Excursions to visit the local Himba community also remain popular. The adjoining picture shows baby Katiti in his mother's arm, the newest member of the Himba Family we visit almost daily.
Doro Nawas Camp update - August 09 Jump
to Doro Nawas Camp
Wildlife and landscape
On 31 July 2009 around 09h15 Doro Nawas experienced a mild earthquake which measured 5.1 on the Richter scale. It sounded like an aircraft flying very low, suddenly the whole building was shaking and then the sound disappeared, leaving us perplexed. Ignatius was out with six guests on an elephant drive and had been watching the herd for about 30 minutes when suddenly the earth moved underneath the wheels! The elephants reacted immediately, raising their heads and tails and started trumpeting. No one was sure of what was happening but seeing the elephants' reaction, Ignatius decided to leave the sighting, giving the elephants their space. Looking back in the mirror, 15 members of Rosy's herd were following - it seemed that they didn't want to be left out there on their own! As earthquakes do not occur often in this area, it was an unusual experience for us all and I am sure for the wildlife as well.
Since the earthquake the elephants have moved out of the riverbeds into the open fields and mountains perhaps in anticipating that rain is on its way. The guides now have their work cut out, as they try and track down the elephants. It's an adventure for guests and guides alike and so far, they have been very successful in tracking between 12 - 24 elephant on game drives.
If you are interested in reptiles, the ground agama (Agama aculeata) is very common in the Damaraland area. They are mostly seen in the early mornings with sunrise and in the evenings with sunset. Guests also enjoy hearing the barking geckos with every sunset while enjoying a nice sundowner drink on our deck.
We have not seen the spotted hyaena again after the donkey kill last month, but still hear them and the black-backed jackals in early morning hours between 04h00 and 06h00.
After a full game drive our guides will treat you to sundowners at a great view point, called "On Top of the World". It is about 500 - 600 metres above sea level with a 360-degree panoramic view. While staring down into the valley with your feet in the red sand of the dunes and a drink in your one hand you just cannot believe that there are such beautiful landscapes in the world and that you are right here at one of them.
We had quit a lot of warm sunny days throughout the month of August, with a few overcast foggy mornings. The temperatures varied between 18 and 32 C but dropped to between 5 and 15 C during the night.
- "Lister (Guide) was outstanding. We had a blast! The little extras like the sundowner spots, especially the lunch in the bush were incredible. He is a great credit to the guest experience at the camp. We sincerely hope that there will be an opportunity to return." Bell family, USA
- "The welcome was superb - lovely to be greeted and the welcome drink was just what we needed after hours on the road. All staff were superb!" M. Haynes, UK
- "We had a lot of fun and learnt a lot. The knowledge of the guides was fantastic, did not disappoint us. Thanks for the Great Time!" Thomas, Canada
- "As a Coeliac travelling can sometimes be ruined by eating Gluten. I was most appreciative of the attention paid to ensuring I ate safely and the correct food. The bread and muffins were a real treat. I shall recommend this accommodation to the Coeliac Society in the UK."
The official opening of the Heritage Site at Twyfelfontein was held on 1 August 2009 and most of the Conservancy and Community Members were invited. It was a very successful day and everyone enjoyed seeing what the Site was all about.
We would like to welcome the following new staff members to Doro Nawas: Norman Jagger - Waiter, Shelvia !Aebes - Scullery, August Gariseb - Housekeeper, Ramona Dawids - Chef. We wish them all the best and look forward to working with them.
Till next month it's over and out from the Doro Nawas team: Coenie & Danize van Niekerk (Camp Managers), Agnes Bezuidenhout (Assistant Manager), Steven Jones (Assistant Manager), Lena Flory (Area Manager), Igantius Khamuseb (Guide), Johann Cloete (Guide), Lister Kolokwe (Guide) & Arthur Bezuidenhout.
Damaraland Camp update - August 09 Jump
to Damaraland Camp
Spring is around the corner. Guests can prepare themselves for rather pleasant and comfortable temperatures with an average low of 14º and a high of 26º Celsius. Typical of this time of the year, conditions have been somewhat windy around midday.
Torra Conservancy and Wildlife
A visit to Damaraland Camp remains a life-changing experience: The uniqueness of the landscape, the history of and interactions with the local community, and to learn of the hardships and ways of survival in this semi-desert habitat.
As the Torra Conservancy (where Damaraland Camp is situated) has evolved over the years, we have seen wildlife, domestic stock and humans sharing rather than competing for natural resources. The adjoining photo seems to confirm this sentiment as unique desert-adapted elephants and cattle congregate at a water source.
"Maybe I will ask my wife to get married again, just to come back here for our Lune de miel."
"The barbeque boma dinner was fantastic!"
Managers: Duane and Karen Rudman
Assistant Managers: Efrieda Hebach and Desire Coetzee
Guides: Everest Adams, Albert Goaseb, Raymond Roman and Elaine Hatton
Skeleton Coast Camp update - August 09 Jump
to Skeleton Coast Camp
WILDLIFE AND LANDSCAPE
Skeleton Coast is notorious for its dry, yet beautiful landscapes and with water being very scarce in the National Park, staff from the camp have to drive for several hours to collect water from a borehole several kilometres away in the Purros area. During August a new twist to a sometimes gruelling water collecting schedule developed when the local lion pride decided to take up residence at the exact spot where the water is collected from! At that stage they hadn't had a kill for a while, resulting in a convoy travelling to the borehole at Leylandt's Drift with managers acting as lookouts whilst the water was being collected. This type of experience reminds you that survival in such a unforgiving landscape for these desert-adapted animals depends on making the most of any opportunity... and shortly after the pride was spotted with a fresh gemsbok kill - the first time that guide Gert has seen them actively feasting!
The local brown hyaena, which has always been in the area, has become bolder in the past few months, however this month he has taken it to new heights, making his break-ins into the kitchen at Skeleton Coast Research Camp a regular occurrence. We don't encourage him and never feed him left-over food, but the mouth-watering aromas from bush barbeques are evidently too much to resist and he successfully ripped the canvas and wooden lattices from the kitchen's structure, continuing with his efforts well into the night.
He managed to break into the kitchen on a few occasions, but we have now put up iron sheeting to prevent his burgling ways, but his visits haven't quite yet finished. He now makes his disapproval very clear by dragging anything from metal buckets, camping chairs and tables past the rooms in the evening. We are hoping that he will realise that no food is to be found at the camp and rather see this area as a safe haven to establish a den!
Birdlife in the Skeleton Coast has also delivered some wonderful sightings with guests spotting a Martial Eagle, Cormorants and a family of Egyptian Geese with their chicks in the riverbeds of the Hoaruseb River and at Surusas Springs.
The weather in the Skeleton Coast is as temperamental as the inhospitable desert, enticing guests with a sparkling winter sun one moment, and the next a thick fog setting in, covering the whole camp in a dense blanket. The unpredictability and harshness of this environment has brought guests indoors, with dinners in the main area by atmospheric candle light.
The arrival of the "bush babies" in guests' bedrooms has been very welcome, these hot water bottles keeping everyone warm well into the night as they listen to condensation dripping unto the dry, barren earth outside, providing much needed moisture in the desert.
Guests visiting Skeleton Coast have been very enthusiastic, not only about the area, but also up for a bit of good old fashioned fun! A photo competition was held amongst a group of guests and their guide on safari. They were allowed to choose two pictures each from their whole two-week journey through Namibia with Explorations guide, Richard, with the brief: Capture the Essence of Namibia. After much deliberation about the judging process it was decided that the staff at camp - chef, waiter, scullery, housekeeping and maintenance - would be the judges as they truly understand Namibia - the beauty and the stark reality of survival of the fittest better than most. They were told that there were a few categories to choose from: Landscapes and Scenery, Fauna & Flora, "Tugs at your heartstrings" for the cutest picture and Best Overall winner.
All the entries were beautiful, but the competition turned serious on the last few days with guests retiring to their rooms after each activity to go through their pictures to find the perfect one! The last evening of their stay we had a barbeque and suspense was mounting around the fire as the final judging was made before dinner. Before dessert we started the ceremony and winners were each presented with a certificate along with beautiful singing from the staff.
The overall winner was Shirley, the dark horse of the group, with a beautiful picture of the desert-adapted elephants in the Hoaruseb. Shirley kindly gave us permission to use her picture - and we would like to congratulate her again on her achievement. Picture bottom left.
MANAGERS AND GUIDES
Relief Managers Dries and Trix have been supported by Skeleton Coast guides, Gert, Kallie and Jonathan. Sadly, Jonathan has now bid farewell to the Skeleton Coast to pursue his career as a freelance guide and will be based in Windhoek. We are sure that he will be back in the bush, entertaining and educating guests visiting Namibia in no time. We wish him all the best and hope that he carries the memories from his time in the Skeleton Coast fondly in his heart for years to come. We will miss his back flips on the dunes that he always entertained Wilderness Safaris guests with!
As a temporary replacement, Gotlod has joined Skeleton Coast. He's quickly jumped in and started perfecting his dune-driving skills and we would like to welcome him to his new home for the next few weeks.
Serra Cafema Camp update - August 09 Jump
to Serra Cafema Camp
Ongava Tented Camp update - August 09 Jump
to Ongava Tented Camp
Temperatures are just about perfect at the moment. It is the end of winter/start of spring and temperatures in the mid 20's centigrade certainly typifies this.
Wildlife and Landscape
As the colours of winter are fading, the sounds of spring can be heard all round Ongava Tented Camp. The bird song is a sure sign that spring is upon us. On the subject of birds, we are currently enjoying sightings of Bare-cheeked Babbler amongst many other Namibian specials.
Relaxing at the main area with the camp waterhole in close proximity is certainly well worth the effort especially between the productive game drives. The waterhole is still the best place to be to observe many mammal species and their various behavioural traits, from the aggressive behaviour of the oryx to the nervous approach of the kudu.
The camera traps at the waterhole is still proving to produce interesting results. The cameras are activated at night to record what comes to visit while everyone is asleep. It has since picked up a variety of animals that are otherwise extremely difficult to see including numerous sightings of brown and spotted hyaena, porcupine and even two leopards on one occasion. This is in addition to the sightings of lion and rhino (black and white) that we have come to expect at the camp waterhole.
"Best natural wildlife experience in our live. We wish we will be able to come back"
"Having the opportunity to see the lions: males, females, cubs and rhinos was very special - thank you to our local guide for this (and his patience). The staff was very welcoming. A lovely camp waterhole to sit at and watch the animals come to drink. It was wonderful - can't think of anything that would improve it."
"A unique experience, it was like being in a big family. Not members but friends! Excellent food and extraordinary game drives. Lions are lucky to have you as neighbours!"
Paul and Gerda (Camp Managers)
Gregory, Alfonzo, Inge (Assistant Managers)
Rio, Regan, Festus (Guides)
Little Ongava update - August 09 Jump
to Little Ongava Camp
Ongava Lodge update - August 09 Jump
to Ongava Lodge
It seems another winter is behind us and spring is creeping with several trees blooming, notably the bright yellow, sweet smelling flowers of the Acacia Nebrownii (Water thorn acacia). Giraffe are currently enjoying feeding on these flowers in Ongava Reserve and in Etosha National Park.
As we move into September the temperatures are already reaching 30° Celsius during midday, but the mornings remain cool. The nights are warmer too and very pleasant as you have dinner on the Ongava Lodge deck overlooking the camp waterhole.
Game drives on Ongava Game Reserve are currently producing almost guaranteed sightings of black rhino, white rhino and lions. The Ongava Game Reserve is one of the few places where you can get to see both rhino species in Africa.
The lion population on the reserve continues to increase, as three new cubs from Stompies Pride have been seen. The pride has 23 members in total now and it seems there favourite place is the camp waterhole at the moment. It's amazing to see all the members of the pride together. This is what happened recently. As guests were on their way to Etosha National Park, they found the whole pride lying in the road. Eventually starting to move, they passed the vehicle allowing incredible views. These days it's not unusual to see lions at the camp waterhole for several days.
Most of the the current white rhino sightings are in the western part of the reserve (Sonop), as there is enough water and grazing in this area. It's a bit of a drive from camp, about an hour, but usually worth it as you have a very good chance of seeing them.
A female cheetah with her three cubs was seen while feasting on a freshly killed black-faced impala. This was rather a pricey meal as the black-faced impala is rare and nearly endemic to Namibia. A male leopard was also seen this month, being quite at ease and allowing sufficient time for pictures before he slinked away into the thickets. Leopard and cheetah are rarely seen and this could be attributed to the large population of lions on the reserve.
The camp hide overlooking the waterhole remains a popular spot to while away a few hours with lion and black rhino frequently coming at night to drink. Other infrequent visitors include giraffe, eland, common duiker, porcupines and hyaenas. Imagine seeing all these animals just a few feet away from you - for many guests one of their best wildlife experiences.
The game drives in Etosha National Park continue to provide a complementing experience to a stay at Ongava Lodge.
Adriano has been managing the lodge assisted by Jack and George. Five,very knowledgeable and dedicated guides(Henock,Abner,Kapona,Teacher and sometimes Jack) have been taking care of our guests.
Governors' Camp update - July/August 09 Jump
to Governors' Camp
‘THE MIGRATION’ July & August
The weather & the plains
We have had a fairly cool and dry couple of months leading up to mid August. The wind came up and dried out the long grass which had grown so high the month before, picking up the dust with it. We had a few of our guests coming back from game drives looking like they had great tans. Mid August brought with it a few showers, settling the dust and bringing steady rains in the evenings, this lasted for five or six days.
The grassland around the marsh was steadily grazed by the majority of the Loita migration of wildebeest and zebra in July. Towards the east where they originate from did not receive the rain that the Maasai Mara benefitted from in the April/ May rains. They have gradually moved back into Maasai country after having their full, making way for the Serengeti migration.
The first large groups came up into the Maasai Mara in early to mid July, moved up through the sand river and on to Keekarok fairly rapidly. Then feasting their way through the long lush grass eastwards and westwards towards the Talek river. Large numbers were around ‘look out hill’ and there were some early crossings. This all seems like the typical run of the mill migration, but they then surprised us by heading back south towards Tanzania for a while out of our reach. This did not matter too much to us at Governors’ as the Loita migration which was still very concentrated, were right on our door step enjoying the marsh.
Part of the migration eventually made up their minds to move on up back to the Talek River, hop across as the river was low and in some places dry, and come towards Rhino Ridge. In the mean time the other part of the migration heading in our direction had crossed the Mara River either in Tanzania or on the southern end in Kenya.
The first couple of weeks of August we saw some incredible herds moving up through the Mara triangle on the west side of the Mara River and some large, but scattered herds coming up over Rhino Ridge. At this stage the Loita migration had left us.
There are some good numbers of wildebeest and scattering of zebras up near Little Governors in the Mara triangle, but many of the large herds are moving back into Northern Tanzania. They have recently had good rains, and as any good, quick witted wildebeest knows there will be water and food. With our recent bout of showers we are sure they will be back. News flash: There has just been a crossing in front of the bar at Governors’ Camp over lunch time.
Our resident herds of wildlife are still settled around the camps, the waterbuck have had calves, very hairy and inquisitive and the warthogs have tiny pocket sized piglets. The Thompson Gazelles have been rutting and have seen some strong fights with a few flesh wounds and tears.
The buffalo are not as plentiful as when the grass was high and the elephant are moving further distances in search of nutritious leaves and branches. We have had more elephant in the camps recently, browsing in the forest as the grass has dried out and has mostly been grazed. There is still some lush broad leafed grass on the river banks which is usually harder to get to, but with the river being so low the elephants are grazing it with ease. There is a theory that elephant are not so keen on the cacophony of noise that the wildebeest produce and prefer peace and quiet else-where, this may be true, but I always think food is their priority.
Photos courtesy of Chala Cadot and Mrs. Valdivieso
Some of our guests have been lucky enough to have spotted Black Rhino, they have definitely made themselves more invisible as they are of a solitary sort. With the increase in animals they are probably happier sleeping the day off in a thicket and having the odd bite to eat. Black Rhino are the only indigenous Rhino to Kenya, white rhino which can be found elsewhere in Kenya were brought in from Southern Africa as part of a conservation effort. In fact the last time a Northern White Rhino roamed through Kenya of its own free will was 8000 years ago.
The Quinine trees (Rauvolfia caffra) started fruiting in late July, flocks of Olive pigeons which have the most beautiful markings came in to the big mature trees to feed. As the fruit became riper, Ross’ & Schalows’ Turacos, Double toothed barbets, Black and white Hornbills, Speckled mouse birds and bull bulls have all come in to take advantage of the season. Governors’ Camp have been lucky enough to have welcomed the arrival of 5 new Jacksons Francolin chicks, which are a rare sight in the Mara.
Jackal & Hyena
Both these animals have been very active, hunting as well as recycling what is left by everyone else. They have also been denning throughout July and August, making use of old Aardvark and warthog burrows, the Jackals preferring termite mounds with the larger chimneys which the pups can retreat into whenever there is danger. Yes, hyenas can be cute, to a certain age anyway. They are very small and black when they first arrive on the scene and after a few weeks become quite fluffy and develop their spots. There is only one type hyena in the Mara the spotted hyena (Crocuta crocuta). There are three types of jackal, the common black or silver-backed Jackal (Canis mesomelas), Sidestriped Jackal (Canis adustus) which has a wolf like face and a white tip on its tail and the Golden Jackal (Canis aureus), this being a very rare sighting.
The lion have been particularly happy that the migration is at full steam, gorging themselves on wildebeest. Lion mostly prefer to hunt during the night as it is cooler and they have the advantage of being able to see better than prey animals at night. Nocturnal animals have an extra sensory layer which allows the light of the stars and the moon to be absorbed and refracted through their retina a second time, giving them better night vision. As there are huge numbers of wildebeest always on the move it is not infrequent that a lion may try her luck at any time. This just requires patience.
Photos courtesy of Chala Cadot and Mrs. Valdivieso
The Marsh/ Bila Shaka pride
The 4 older lionesses are still doing very well with their 9 cubs, which have grown very rapidly and are already about a year and a half old. The younger lionesses (daughters), one having 2 one year old cubs, another having 2 one month old cubs and the third without. They have not had such luck. There was a serious fight between three of the lionesses an older one and two of the younger, during this skirmish one of the 1 year old cubs was badly injured on his right back leg. He is still doing ok, but has a very bad limp. The lioness with the 2 one or so month old cubs, lost one and actually left her other one with the lioness with the 2 one year olds. She has since been seen mating again, obviously having gotten over her loss and coming back into season. The same two pride males are still with them and in good condition, this is very good news for the continuation of the pride and the youngsters.
The Paradise pride
The 3 lionesses all have cubs, one with 3 two month old, one with 3 three week old and the last with only 1 remaining two month old. The lioness with only one cub has strangely been seen mating with Notch’s one son, picture attached. This is very unusual, as she should not be coming into oestrus at this stage. She will leave the cub, mate and then return. Notch and his son seem to be the dominant males of the paradise pride. The other 4 sons having moved across the river and are not seen on a regular basis.
The 3 brothers have been moving large distances, not interested in mating with any females at this time, just hunting. An easier life in comparison to any female cheetah, having to live a solitary life, and put food on the table. Shakira, with her 3 cubs who are now nearly fully grown has been in the area during July. She has recently been seen going down the river.
Photos courtesy of Penny Adamson and Dave Richards
There has been a new female in the area, presumably ‘Kikes’ daughter as she jumped up onto a vehicle just yesterday. Cheetahs do not ordinarily jump onto vehicles, unless they have been taught by their mother. There has been another stranger through the area recently, a female which may have crossed over from the Mara triangle as the Mara river is so low.
Our local beauty queen has been seen fairly often between Governors’ and Ilmoran. ‘Kijana’ the young male has not been seen recently, maybe preferring the other side of the river. There are three active Leopards near the river. A seriously large male who has been mating with one of the females, and another female. Male leopards, especially a large one tend to try and overlap their territory with as many female territories as he is able, increasing his chances of reproducing.
We hope to share the magic of our corner of the Mara with you sometime soon.
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