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South Africa camps
Pafuri Camp update - June 09 Jump
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Winter has moved into Pafuri, but with an interesting twist - with rain falling during June. This is very unusual for this time of year, which questions the effects of cyclonic patterns and climatic changes at a grand scale. We definitely have brought out some winter woollies for the morning chills during the morning drives, but game viewing has been no less exceptional, as the winter opens up the bush to reveal the feathered and furred, some with teeth and claws.
It is always a privilege to see the ever-changing seasonal patterns of Pafuri, from lush green, shoulder-height grass, to virtually no ground cover in certain areas as winter moves in. Walking is exceptional this time of year, with temperatures being good for our Pafuri Walking Trails. Elephant and buffalo are seen regularly and traillists sometimes can track white rhino on foot.
On some of these tracking expeditions recently, Masuku (tracker and second rifle for the walking trails) and I have come across the exceptionally small tracks of a white rhino calf, which suggests that reports of a young calf being seen the beginning of this year are true. This means that this would be a new addition to the Pafuri rhino crash (the collective noun for a group of rhino). However we have had no confirmed visual of the warthog-looking youngster, only the elusive tracks. Who knows, you could be one of the first guests to find and see - even better, photograph this new Pafuri addition!
Five white rhino were successfully reintroduced to the Pafuri/ Makuleke Contractual Park in 2005, the first time in over a hundred years that rhino walked the hills and valleys of the Pafuri/ Makuleke area. Recently we were all smiles w when one of the cows had a male calf. Later last year we welcomed another two additions and hopefully this year we have number nine.
While Pafuri guests get to see the grey giants - elephant and rhino, as well as buffalo and sometimes lion and leopard, there is plenty more to see here. There are rare or special antelope species that are must sees - including the eland, the largest antelope in the world, and the silver grizzled Sharpe's Grysbok which can be seen in the sandy regions with rocky outcrops. Another interesting and rarely seen antelope is the nyala - rare in other places but regularly seen here at Pafuri. Klipspringers are also seen on the rocky outcrops, on the road up to Lanner Gorge.
The Pafuri lion pride is doing very well. Its dominant male is known as Nkanu and the rest of the pride consists of two adult lionesses, one accompanied by her two cubs, at about 8 months old. The pride is then often followed closely by two sub-adult lions, a male and female, but with the young male sub-adult having reached an age when he must move out of the pride (2 years), Nkanu is showing the youngster who is boss.
Some other excellent sightings during June included bushpig seen on several occasions during June and a serval, a majestic and acrobatic spotted cat.
Guests saw an incredible interaction on one game drive through the fever tree forest: a Crowned Eagle came swooping through the trees sending a vervet monkey troop into a panic, with grey bodies and black faces diving for the thickest cover in an attempt to avoid the outstretched talons. But one wasn't as quick as the rest and fell victim to the raptor...
Meanwhile the increasing numbers of Red-billed Quelea have provided other birds of prey with a meal - a Lizard Buzzard for example. Meanwhile, swooping at great speed from the sky, a Peregrine Falcon was seen hunting Crowned Hornbill.
As always, with virtually every month the Pafuri bird count being over 200 birds, June had some excellent feathered friends to be viewed by many a binocular-clutching birder. The list includes:
Greater Painted Snipe
Just to name a few!
Kings Camp update - June 09 Jump
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he winter has finally knocked at our front door this month with temperatures ranging between 10-27 degrees Celsius during the day. Still warm for a winter’s day if one compares it to most European countries. It is the early morning drives that bite with the coldest morning recorded at 3.8 degrees Celsius. Pretty chilly!!
The bush is looking beautiful with a collection of strong yellow colours. It is not dense which makes game viewing and photography just outstanding. Game viewing was very good during the month with several unusual sightings recorded.
However it is with great sadness that I bring you the tragic news that one of the Adult Shobele lionesses was killed in an attack by 3 male lions. On the positive side our newly born lion cubs are still alive and are doing well. Our leopard sighting were at their best this month with Nhkatheko being the star of the month again. Wild dogs have made return to the area however there is one dog less in the pack but are all healthy and looking great.
ion sightings were very good. In this report I bring you an update concerning one of our most important prides namely the Shobele pride in our area. It is with great sadness that I inform you that we have lost an adult lioness from the Shobele pride. She was sadly killed in combat as she tried fearlessly to defend her pride.
The details concerning her death is very out of the ordinary. The new 3 young nomadic male lions that have been frequenting our area for the last 6 months attacked her. We are not sure what the reason for the attack was but I am speculating that it might have been unintentional.
Often lions do not realize the power that they exert and have been know to kill a member of their own pride unintentionally. One reason for the attack could be that the 3 male lions merely wanted to make a statement and in the process killed her. It is therefore assumed that it was more than likely dominance related.
I watched in horror and disbelief when she lay injured and helpless in front of us. She appeared to have difficult in breathing and tried on a few occasion to stand up but failed to get on her feet again. It felt terrible not being able to help her but as hard as it seems we have to remember that this is Mother Nature’s way.
I have followed this lioness from a cub and it is a sad loss to her pride and as a guide that has got to watch her grow up. I am also not sure how this will affect the dynamics of her pride in the future as the young sub-adults of 5 are still seen in our area. As it has been proven countless number of times that when an adult member is removed from a pride that it has effects the stability of the pride long term. Keep on watching the blog for updates. www.kingscamp.com/blog
The young mother of three cubs from the Machattan pride is doing very well and her litter are well and healthy.
The three Timbavati male lions are entering their prime of their life. I have no doubt that they will be the next most important attraction for our lodge and guests in the future. They have already replaced the notorious Shobele male lion collation, which has, came to an end. I am willing to predict that these male lions are going to produce spectacular sightings in the future. They are now starting to expand their range and have been seen moving further north where the Shobele pride operates. I am hoping that they will put pressure on the nomadic three males lions that killed one of the Shobele lionesses this month. Dominant males lions don’t tolerate nomadic males in their area especially if they are posing as a threat to their reproductive possibilities.
This is again a very interesting chapter to monitor during the next few months.
The two most important female leopards in our area Mbali and the Rockfig leopardess kept on dominating the scene. Mbali and her daughter produced sightings daily. It is generally rare not to see a leopard in ones stay at Kings Camp but imagine seeing two at the same time at a sighting everyday. This is what we have been seeing just about daily.
Mbali is the daughter of the most famous female leopard to roam the Timbavati ever, the Java leopardess. Those thousands of guests that had the pleasure to be part of her life will know what I am talking about. Mbali is the daughter of Java and is no different in her behaviour. It is very rewarding to see three generations of female leopards during my time in Timbavati.
Rockfig and her daughter Nkateko also produced a great quantity and quality of sightings this month. She frequents the eastern sector of our range. They are healthy and doing very well. Mother and daughter were also involved in a fight with another female leopard. One of our neighbouring lodge field guides told me that he had witnessed Rockfig in a fight with another female leopard. I think what happened was that Rockfig found the intruding female leopard in the core of her territory with a kill. This is looking for trouble if you are an alien leopard in an area that is dominated by a leopard. Knowing Rockfig she would immediately try to chase the intruding leopard. Naturally the female leopard tried to defend herself and her prized kill. This is a big mistake as Rockfig unleashed her dominance and power and blew the intruding female leopard off her feet. She only sustained a few scratch marks on her face. Interestingly though, Nkateko obtained a rather deep wound on the side of her face. I am not sure if she was also involved in the catfight or was injured in a hunt. I know the Rockfig leopardess better than any another guide and she is one very strong female leopard. I have personally witnessed her fighting on 4 different occasions. She is brutal in combat and I have even seen male leopards act submissively towards her.
We are just happy both mom and daughter are fine and will continue their domination in the area.
That is all for this month bush friends. You have noticed that the cats dominated the report this month. This is because they produce the best sightings. I promise to bring you more images of them and general wildlife in my next few reports. Till then take care
Patrick and the rest of the ranger team.
Report By Patrick O’Brien. Head Ranger
Photography by Patrick O’Brien
Rocktail Bay Dive Report - June 09 Jump
to Rocktail Beach Camp
June turned out to be an exciting month for us. The first two weeks of June saw no diving due to the expansion of Rocktail Beach Camp, which now boasts a great curio shop, kids' playroom, an additional four guest rooms and a magical honeymoon suite. The most exciting addition is the elevated 7m-high deck, giving a view of the forest and the sea - a great place to enjoy lunch, sundowners or a wonderful dinner!
The first dive day of the month was on the 12th and what a magical day it was. Chris, Debbie, John and Natasha had come through to dive with us for the day; after years of hearing about the diving at Rocktail they decided to come and see what all the fuss was about. Our first dive was at Gogo's, a magical coral dive with lots of fish life. First we saw Tyson the resident potato bass, then schools of yellow snappers against the backdrop of colourful corals. Then as we explored the rocky areas Chris found a Leafy Scorpionfish. While we excitedly exchanged hand signals about how rare this sighting was, Debbie spotted a big black pipefish sitting right next to it! Both very exciting finds!
Our second dive of the day was at Pineapple Reef, where Mrs. Casper and Boris, the two resident potato bass, came in for some attention - everyone who has dived here knows just how friendly they are! We then found lots of paperfish, nudibranches, whip corals with little gobies and shrimps living on them, eels, slinger and a hawksbill turtle that was oblivious to us as he munched away at the reef. The dive ended with a huge loggerhead turtle just as we were about to ascend. What a wonderful day, we even got to see some humpback whales breaching while we were enjoying our picnic breakfast on the beach between our dives.
In previous years we had noticed that most of our bigger ray sightings were during the summer months, with a few of the smaller rays such as the bluespotted stingray and the marbled electric ray remaining here throughout the year. This year seems a little different as we have still been seeing some really big rays during our dives. Some huge black ribbontail rays, found at Aerial reef, resting in the perfectly-shaped holes that have formed along the reef; a leopard ray was seen at Elusive, swimming around on the out to sea side of the reef; and a couple of honeycomb rays have also been seen this month.
Towards the end of the month we took all the hardworking builders - Bruce, Phil, Dave and their team - out for a boat ride to say thanks for all their great work. They were thrilled to see two adult humpback whales breaching! The whales played for a while, jumping and splashing down with a thud into the water as the men excitedly discussed and applauded these huge creatures.
A snorkelling trip at Island Rock produced a first sighting for diver-guide Michelle. On the shore side of Island Rock were three huge "sea hares". These are a type of nudibranch and normally people are excited about how they found the tiniest nudibranches, well Michelle was very excited because these were nearly 20cm in length! So excited, that she swam back to the boat to fetch a camera so that everyone could see what these 'things' looked like.
The last day of diving for the month was on the 25th, when Louis senior and Louis junior completed their PADI Advanced course - just in time as the sea turned out to be rough with big swells, and we could not dive again for the remainder of the month! The conditions we had for the course were also not the easiest with quite big swells making for very surge-filled dives. Well done to you both - you certainly earned your Advanced certification!
Yours in diving,
Darryl, Clive, Michelle & Ondyne
The Rocktail Dive Team
Makalolo Plains update - June 09 Jump
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June has generally been quite temperate this year, with it being rather chilly in the early morning and evenings once the sun has set. For a few days we had some true winter weather, with cool winds from the south-east. Frost and mists are a common occurrence right now in the vegetated Kalahari savannah of Hwange. In June though this came with very unusual light showers and afternoon downpours. The average minimum temperatures were in the doldrums hovering around 3°C, with the afternoons warming considerably and reaching 28°C. We received 17mm of rain over the three days of overcast weather.
Striking contrasts in the panoramic colours displayed in the clear skies are breathtaking, ranging from crimson and mauve to an opaque pink and finally the deep blue which is magnificently unblemished this time of the year.
Vegetation and Surroundings
The Linkwasha Vlei is now sparse with burgundy and bronze bush cover, as the shrubs and bush dry out. It is a beautiful sight to behold as one arrives in the area, with the rolling hills extending to the horizon, providing amazing sunsets from places such as Madison Pan. In front of Makalolo Plains Camp the bush has dried out considerably and allows vast views of the great open plain.
The waterholes are hives of activity as greenery remains around these sites, thus attracting large numbers of wildlife. The elephants have also since embarked on their paths of destruction, which is usual for this time of the year as they tear and rip at the remaining succulent branches on combretums and acacia trees. As they carry out this annual undertaking we see the bush thinning out considerably from the thick woodland which prevailed during the summer, rainy season.
Rhino # 43 was sighted in front of camp on the 16th, and was viewed for several hours by guests visiting at neighbouring Little Makalolo Camp. It was drinking from several pans and then wandering off into the cover of the woodland for the night. There have been large herds of buffalo meandering across the concession as they seek the refreshment of mud rolling in the waterholes as well as satisfying their thirst.
Not far behind these large herds are several coalitions of opportunistic lion prides, which are preying off unfortunate members of the herd. There was also a case of some hyaena which raided a lion kill - eight hyaena drove the lions from their kudu kill! This was just outside camp and when the staff heard the commotion they rushed out to find these cats being driven off their meal and the hyaena being the triumphant scavengers.
Often seen are herds of kudu, waterbuck and eland drinking from the waterhole in view of the Makalolo Plains Camp. We often hear our resident hyaena calling through the night and then had the privilege of seeing it during the daytime. It was seen from the veranda area of Room 4. We have also frequently heard the 'grating' call of a leopard that has found sanctuary in the area.
Birds and Birding
A flock of Arrow-marked Babblers are nesting in the vicinity of camp enjoying the spoils and leftovers from our meals. Their group behaviour has become as entertaining to watch as that of the baboons. We have also had numerous Crimson-breasted Shrikes around camp, as well as the Eastern Paradise Whydahs. Grey Crowned Cranes and Blacksmith Lapwings are regulars at the waterhole too and they keep the numbers of frogs and water-breeding insects in check.
'What a lovely spot. The view day and night is spectacular. The hospitality here was great. We hope to return one day!' The Leupps - USA
'We couldn't agree more! (to the above comment). The staff are what make Makalolo Plains so special! Wonderful experience - we needed more than two nights! The unseasonal rains made it difficult to view the usual game animals, but we still saw a lot! Thank you all.' Bill and Jeannie - USA
'Thank you so much for taking us on a magical journey through Africa - from the animals, the African food to most especially the warm and welcoming people! Our wish is that our children and grandchildren will follow in our footsteps and also experience the hospitality shown to us by the staff at Makalolo Plains! We will miss all of you and especially Lewis, our humorous and experienced guide!' The Smiths - USA
Camp Managers: Willem And Trish Botha
Hwange Mascot: Trevor Botha
Central Storesman: Mxolisi Sibanda
Wildlife Researcher: Jaelle Claypole
Little Makalolo update - June 09 Jump
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June has seen a lot of cold mornings yet it warms up in the day. Towards month end we had some windy and overcast conditions. Our lowest recorded temperature was -2 degrees Celsius and a maximum of 36 degrees Celsius. On activities one has to come dressed in layers, removing them as the day heats up.
Vegetation, Landscape and Water
In winter the Hwange Concession remains a beautiful sight. The vegetation is not as lush and the grass is shorter - ideal to see game and to take nature walks. Some severe frost on the 25th caused most trees to shed their leaves, improving visibility further.
The season has been very productive and offers an intriguing diversity of animals. The sighting of the month was a double whammy - cheetah and caracal both seen on a single game drive! Our resident leopard and hyaena seem to be back around camp as betrayed by their tracks where we enjoy morning tea and on the sand road leaving camp.
There have been quite a number of leopard sightings in June. A leopard with a cub was sighted between Airstrip Pan and Madison Pan. Large elephant herds also have been seen at Madison Pans as the seasonal waterholes start to dry up. Lions were seen infrequently, although fresh tracks were everywhere. We seem to have nomadic male lions moving through the concession since the departure of the Ngamo Boys.
Rhino sightings were mostly of Number 43 who was sighted four times during the month.
Wildlife sightings as percentages for the month were:
White rhino - 10 %, zebra - 97 %, vervet monkey - 60%, aardwolf - 7 %, red hartebeest - 40 %, reedbuck - 45 %, elephant - 90 %, lion - 61 %, black-backed jackal - 68 %, side-striped jackal - 29 % and spotted hyaena - 77 %.
A total of 101 different bird species were seen this month. Listening to the call of the Red-billed Francolin being cheered up by the Arrow-marked Babblers as the Blue-grey Flycatcher cheeps in the background all combine to create that typical bird song at Little Makalolo. On the 11th June a Jacobin Cuckoo was seen - very unusual for this time of year. The Barn Owl fledglings at Mukwa have been seen taking their first flights.
'We loved the elephants in camp while we sat by the evening fire. The meals were great and the guides and staff were excellent.' James, USA.
'The wildlife, outdoor dining, candle-lit bath with champagne were some of the highlights!' Mr and Mrs Lewis.
Manager: Charles Ndlovu
Guides: Lewis Mangava
Host: David Stephens
Chef: Mayisa Mpala, Sendy Nkomazana
Ruckomechi Camp update - June 09 Jump
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June signifies the first signs of winter with cool mornings (12º Celsius) maturing into glorious days with temperatures reaching highs of around 25º Celsius. With the cooler temperatures, activities have been very pleasant.
Vegetation, Landscape and the Zambezi River
There has been a noticeable thinning in the 'woody' ground cover with the soft carpet of Spheranthus continuing to provide its pleasurable scent.
The ana trees on the concession are now mostly bearing young fruit and probably have the entire resident animal population eagerly awaiting the usual shower of pods to descend like 'Manna from Heaven'.
Many of the older ana trees on the concession have been heavily ring-barked by elephnats. Mana Pools typically conjures visions of bull elephants reaching skywards beneath these majestic trees in search of the snack-sized, protein filled pod.
The concession is drying out rapidly including the seasonal Ruckomechi River. The Zambezi River has a high flow at present, shifting silt more efficiently.
Although the general feeling amongst guides at present is that the game has been fairly 'quiet', the concession has continued to provide unexpected gem sightings from Southern Ground Hornbills with unusual chameleon prey to the elusive Ruckomechi female cheetah showing herself on six different occasions and seen twice on kills.
Our lions persist with their lack of visual presence, moving under the cover of darkness and leaving only spoor to keep the guiding team inspired and devoted to discovering their whereabouts. Also not particularly 'showy' this month, leopards have merely sounded their rasping 'coughs' around Ruckomechi Camp from time to time, reminding us that they are around. We are confident that as the season progresses, game sightings will only improve.
Nature walks into new areas have also been exciting. Finding herds of buffalo and eland, of which the latter have, on occasion, numbered forty.
Although the Zambezi Valley is experiencing cooler weather, tigerfish still seem eager to feed! A number of fair-sized fish have been caught this month with an 8.5lb beauty caught by a female member of a visiting fishing group! Nkupe still continue to fascinate guests not only because of their size and different looks but also in the way they bite baited hooks which is actually intended for tigerfish! Bream have been caught less, probably due to a constantly fluctuating river volume!
Birds and Birding
126 species of birds were recorded this month. Highlights of hunting Bathawks, Western Banded Snake-Eagle, African Fish-Eagle, Giant Kingfisher and African Hawk-Eagles, topped with a gracefully choreographed 'Ballet du Sigone' (Ballet of the Storks), reminds us how privileged we are to live and work in this avian heaven.
An African Harrier-Hawk found on the ground near Parachute Pan with an injured wing more than a month ago, is now capable of short flights and is clearly on the road to full recovery.
Ruckomechi looks forward to soon being able to expand its scope of wildlife viewing opportunity for guests with a viewing platform overlooking Parachute Pan! Site selection is superb as the pan is always a 'hive' of activity.
Caro and her team of managers and assistants steering the Ruckomechi 'ship' along its course in a professional and enthusiastic manner. Graham and Sibs have been handling their various responsibilities confidently while Alistair has been persisting with a constant onslaught of challenges in the workshop.
With only a handful of guests to juggle amongst themselves this month, Kevin Sibs and Tendayi have eagerly scoured the concession in search of interesting sightings and experiences. Since safari guiding is more of a 'way of life' to be enjoyed. Mathew has lent a hand in the guiding department when not on Mana Canoe Trails.
Hosting by Clea Bridges has been confidently executed this month with a peak of logistical tests being merely take into her stride. Assistance from Jeremy (host for Mana Canoe Trail) in this field has been greatly appreciated. Clea has also overseen a portion of the training of Nikita and Lance, two students of the Ruckomechi Safari Training Programme.
A compliment of colourful, multi-talented personalities ensures that Ruckomechi not only operates, but flourishes! The staff are looking forward to the near future awaiting busier times.
-Kevin and the Ruckomechi Team-
Toka Leya Camp update - June 09 Jump
to Toka Leya Camp
As one wakes in the morning, the chill of winter is quickly swept away by the rise of the morning sun. The mist is burnt off the river, and the vervet monkeys descend to commence their communal feeding and group antics, entertaining and enquisitive as always.
With temperatures dropping into the single digit figures, we have seen a transformation of the flora and fauna here at Mosi-Oa-Tunya National Park. Our breeding herds of elephant have remained within the close vicinity of camp and buffalo have been a regular occurrence in the late evenings. We have seen a second resident male bushbuck at Toka Leya Camp, which often results in the two squaring off for territorial dominance and any new growth that shoots from where the river level has receded.
The Victoria Falls is spectacular at the moment, and the "must do" activity here at Toka Leya. The roads are being upgraded, and this will mean a much smoother drive through to this Natural Wonder of the World. The curtain of falling water still allows for spectacular morning and afternoon rainbows, and guests who have braved the trip to Livingstone Island for lunch cannot believe their proximity to the drop, as well the perspective gained by being so close to the edge of the Falls.
The food served on this outing is good, but the pizzas at lunchtime back at Toka Leya Camp still remain the best lunch on the Upper Zambezi!
Game drives have been popular as guests are keen on trying to see the white rhino we have here at Mosi-Oa-Tunya National Park. Sightings have been regular this month, with guests seeing them on seven separate occasions. With the news that another four rhino will be released in the coming weeks, this is great news, and a good indicator that the habitat and environment is ideal for these prehistoric African mammals; good to be home on territory they once roamed.
From a birding point of view, African Skimmers have made a welcome return on our stretch of the river, and sightings of Giant Kingfishers, African Finfoot and Goliath Herons are common. We have also seen a return of the Rock Pratincoles, Spectacled Weavers and even the first sighting of a Racket-tailed Roller this season. While birds of prey are still plentiful, we have been seeing many Lizard Buzzards and African Harrier Hawks perched on the dead white thorn trees at Toka Leya.
Guest activities, although centred on the Victoria Falls, have not been limited to this alone. Many Simonga Village trips have been conducted, and guests get a great understanding of the relationships that exist between private enterprise and local communities. Hosted by the Simonga Village guide, guests get an in-depth look and understanding of these local communities, the daily tasks and challenges faced, as well as the work being done by Wilderness Safaris Zambia and guests alike to assist where possible.
The "Konjila Band", with their pulsating rhythms and traditional sounds, with instruments made from oil cans, animal hide and bottle tops, provide a fantastic backdrop around our campfire, where Amarula coffees after dinner (or even before) are the order of the day. Children delight in the mix and match of marshmallows to be toasted, with toppings ranging from coconut, chocolate sauce and vermicelli for those with an even sweeter tooth.
Kakunka Island, a short boat cruise downriver, has been the setting for more spectacular "pit stops" for guests on the cruises, and provides a welcome respite where they can stretch their legs, camera lenses and quench their thirst. The proximity to camp affords a wonderful display of colours before the sun says farewell and bids another day goodbye.
So as the sun sets once more, with the horizon as far away as your mind allows, we foresee a busy and exciting month in July. With the animals moving in, and the waters heading back, fishing will only get better, and our intensity to deliver on this magical wilderness unwavering.
Till next time, from the Upper Zambezi... "Tuyabonana".
"One of the most marvellous camps we've ever stayed at in Africa, and we've been to many! This is mostly because of the setting and the warm, friendly, FABULOUS staff!" A and M M, United States.
"A wonderful, relaxing, pampered, exciting and educational experience! The rest of our trip can only be an anticlimax." R and E W, United Kingdom.
"We had an absolutely fabulous time. The camp is gorgeous and we could not have asked for anything better. Thank you." G and J M, United States
"Awesome camp, first class staff, and a wonderful setting on the river! Hope to make a trip back." W, A and L B, United States
Lufupa River Camp update - June 09 Jump
to Lufupa River Camp
Chilly mornings with mist over the serene Kafue River are currently the norm as the birds start the day with a wonderful dawn chorus. Evenings are cold enough to warrant jackets and blankets on the night drives, but during the day, the weather has been simply glorious. It is then warm and sunny, and relatively little wind, which made for very pleasant midday lunches on the deck of the River Café. It has even been warm enough to lounge in the hammocks at the pool.
It's been a special month as far as wildlife sightings are concerned. The highlights having been pangolin, aardvark and numerous honey badgers! Guests have also enjoyed lion sightings, as proved by the images if the lions silhouetted against the backdrop of the setting sun. The cubs in this pride are doing well.
Cheetah and wild dogs have been kind enough to entertain guests too this month, and certain guests were lucky enough to see a side-striped jackal on their road transfer into camp.
"Words don't often fail me but??!" (M, Sawubona Magazine, SA)
"A great place to experience raw Zambian wilderness. Wonderful people, expert guides. Everything just perfect. One day I will be back. Thank you all for this unforgettable stay" (DE, Switzerland)
"A wonderful intro to Zambian bush, the staff was incredible! I hope our next destination is half as good!" (LS, USA)
Kalamu Lagoon Camp update - June 09 Jump
to Kalamu Lagoon Camp
Construction of Kalamu Lagoon Camp is finally completed and a beautiful camp overlooking the Luamfwa Lagoon opened on the 30th of May.
The rains were not as heavy as last season although a reasonable amount of rain was received at the end of May. This was not enough to keep the inland water pans full for too long with the exception of the major dambos which now have low water levels. Despite being winter, we had a very mild month with the afternoons being fairly warm resulting in quite a few animals ending up at the lagoon in front of camp.
The game sightings have been very exciting this month despite the fact we had just finished building. We had elephants coming down to the dambo everyday to drink as the inland water sources have dried out.
Elephants and hippos were not the only guest entertainment from the main area deck. The bird life has been equally fantastic from here with one of the memorable happenings being a Martial Eagle that landed just across from our deck getting the vervet monkeys seriously agitated. We watched as the one monkey ran backwards and forwards trying to chase this big bird of prey with no success at all. Then a troop of yellow baboons moved in and one of the baboons went in to help the monkey - the team effort finally driving the bird away. Other water birds including Yellow-billed Storks, Saddle-billed Storks, African Open-bills, African Spoonbills, Comb Ducks and White-faced Whistling Ducks are just a few of the daily sightings at the lagoon in front of camp.
We had a few visits from lions which at one stage roared all night before settling down in front of a guest room one afternoon. Leopard sightings have also increased this month. Other mammal specials of the area such as Thornicroft's giraffe were seen on several occasions and herds of buffalo are also starting to be a usual occurrence at the dambos as the water dries up elsewhere.
The highlight of the month has been African wild dogs - we had five sightings this month alone. One of the packs seen had a female who had very swollen teats, a good indication of a lactating mother. One of the pack headed south whilst the rest carried on entertaining us for a while before they trotted away in an easterly direction. From the research team that we are also working closely with this season, we learnt that two of these dogs were positively identified as those that had been seen in the Nsefu Sector last year - a distance of about 80km as the crow flies.
On one of the night drives camp guide Sandy spotted a caracal, a very exciting encounter, while on a couple of occasions, guide Luxon saw bushpigs.
Back in the camp our new boma area has been a great success and popular for evening dinners under the stars with hippo grunting behind us in the lagoon.
'Wonderful camp, staff and country. Thank you Petros, Gogo, Sandy Luckson and everyone else for such a warm and memorable stay.' M - USA
'Great welcome and a wonderful introduction to the wilderness. Thanks to the team! Lions, girraffe, hyaena and above all wild dogs.' W - UK
'An experience of a lifetime. Thanks Petros and Gogo.' MS - Phillipines
Petros and Gogo (Managers)
Frank Tobolo (Junior Manager)
Petros, Luxon and Sandy (Camp Guides)
Shumba Camp update - June 09 Jump
to Shumba Camp
The first month of a new promising season at Shumba Camp was fantastic! Our first guests enjoyed the beauty of the Busanga Plains in this period of the year. Thousands of birds, hundreds of hippo, red lechwe and our lions, the Busanga Pride, were all part of the package. Navigating with a little boat through the water channels of the green Busanga Plains and having a memorable sundowner on one of the palm islands is something unique and will only be experienced by those safari goers that visit Shumba Camp in the beginning of the season - the tail end of the wet season.
Temperatures in June went up to average around 27º Celsius with a minimum of around 7º Celsius. Mornings have been beautiful with guests sitting around the Shumba campfire enjoying their breakfast marvelling at a stunning sunrise.
With the temperatures dropping the Busanga Plains is enveloped in a layer of mist in the mornings, making the sunrises even more magical. Having breakfast on the main deck, looking out over the misty plains with red lechwe jumping through the water and lions roaring in the distance is what makes the Busanga Plains so special.
In the beginning of the month the activities were mostly by boat, but on the 21st of June the Busanga Plains was dry enough to go on the first game drive of the season. Both boating activities and game drives are now offered.
With the channels drying up in the second half of the month, we are now able to visit a water bird breeding colony in the south of the Busanga Plains. It is a full day adventure and the guide ensures that everything is prepared to make the guests comfortable. Travelling through the channels one experiences a water-world full of exciting species. Several kingfishers, African Jacana, Allen's Gallinule and Black Heron are a small selection of the birds that the guests encounter.
Lots of hippo look very surprised when the boat slowly moves through their home. Some of the hippo are curious enough to come a little bit closer, which creates an opportunity to shoot some nice pictures. Reaching the breeding colony it is as if you are entering a bird's paradise. It is a stunning locale where hundreds of Open-billed Storks, White Egrets, Grey Crowned and Wattled Cranes are all nesting in close proximity. Even crocodiles of the Busanga Plains know this spot. With so many nests in the trees there are also many nestlings. Some of the chicks fall into the water and are an easy meal for the patient crocodiles.
The sightings of lions have been very special this month and brought great news for the Busanga Plains and for Shumba Camp! On the very first game drive of the season, guide Leckson saw a lioness just outside camp. The lioness walked slowly towards a little bush and when Leckson and his guests got a little closer they could hear the sound of lion cubs. Suddenly the lioness came out and three cubs followed her. When Leckson eventually drove away after a period he realised that the lioness started to stalk some puku antelope. Lex turned around immediately and within a few seconds the lioness running towards the puku.
The same lioness and cubs was later seen from a boat activity. Being on the same level as the lioness and cubs they witnessed how mother was trying to get her babies across one of the channels. First the lioness wanted to take each cub in her mouth to bring them to the other side. But the cubs were heavy and not patient enough to remain still. After 30 minutes of trying she decided to swim across. The cubs didn't seem to happy with that decision of their mother and needed a bit of encouragement but finally all four lions were crossing the channel in front of the boat.
To see a lioness swimming followed by her three cubs is something unbelievable. When the guests returned from the boat they were all amazed, quiet and impressed by the sighting they just witnessed. This lioness is part of the Busanga pride - a pride with two adult males and five females.
Wildlife around Shumba Camp
Our resident Goliath Heron became a big friend of the Shumba staff in the month of June. Every day this huge heron fished in front of the Shumba deck. Cunning African Fish-Eagles watched his fishing attempts carefully, only to mob the heron and steal his fish! This has been happening almost daily. Luckily the heron often managed to swallow his catch before the fish-eagles arrived. We were definitely backing the heron!
In one of our big fig trees we have a resident vervet monkey. Although he is all by himself and probably had to travel a long distance through the wet Busanga Plains, he seems very content with all these ripe figs ready to hand. The vervet monkey has to share his tree however with a Martial Eagle that likes to sit on the branch to look out over the Busanga Plains.
- We couldn't imagine a more wonderful place to spend our 20th wedding anniversary. Thanks to all of you. - Lang, South Africa
- Thank you, Rob, Ingrid and Isaaq for sharing this amazing experience with us. Shumba is awesome! We have been blessed to spend time here. Absolute Magic! Thanks to all the staff. - Ruhrmund, South Africa
- Outstanding. Thank you. - Steuber, USA
- An experience that will last a life time! Thank you for your wonderful and warm hospitality. - Dizon, Philippines
Kapinga Camp update - June 09 Jump
to Kapinga Camp
It was with great expectations that we returned to the Busanga Plains for the start of the 2009 season. Not only because we were eager to witness the striking metamorphosis of this vast plain over the course of the last few months, but also because we have missed the sights and sounds of a wilderness so close to our hearts.
Weather and Water Levels
Driving up in May on our return to the Busanga Plains, we were met by a mirage of shimmering white in the distance - water lilies as far as the eye could see. It left us breathless at the marvel of nature. We remembered the Busanga Plains as dry and dusty at the end of last season - now fully transformed into a blossoming oasis. The northern sector of the Kafue National Park has received about 1 500mm of rainfall during our rainy season that stretched from November to April.
Due to the high water levels this season, we have been quite limited as to the areas we could reach by vehicle around Kapinga Island. Nonetheless, we were still able to share the enchantment of the Busanga Plains in flood with our guests - a truly special time to visit. We had a few new residents arrive on the island during our absence and we were more than happy for them to welcome us to our beloved camp. With the plains in flood, the nighttime sounds of a thousand frogs along with the gentle purrs of the resident African Barred Owlets lulled us happily to sleep.
It seems that the fairly comfortable nights and warm, sometimes hot, sunny days that we have been experiencing in June have come to an end. The last few days of June arrived coupled with chilly nights and very cold mornings. Luckily there is always a snug warm bed and cozy hot water bottle to look forward to after a long and satisfying day on safari. To all of our future guests visiting in July, pack those winter woolies!
We're pleased to report a few sightings of two elephant bulls close to Kapinga Camp, one of these old timers sporting a magnificent pair of tusks. But these old beasts are a bit shy and enjoy staying in the safety of the dense island forest. Most of the time we are reminded of their presence only by broken branches, excavated tree roots and their distinctive smell that lingers long after they are swallowed up again by the woods.
For the greater part of the month we heard the Busanga Pride roar in the distance, claiming back their gradually drying territory in the heart of the plains. With much delight we woke one morning to find the tracks of a lone lioness right outside camp! Unfortunately, we were unable to get close to her. These lions are true swamp dwellers that do not fear water as they simply swim from island to island, following their preferred prey of red lechwe.
As an alternative option, we have been traversing the game drive areas on the much drier treeline towards the south of the Plains and further along the banks of the Lufupa River. Here we had regular sightings of the woodland residents such as roan antelope, Defassa waterbuck, kudu, impala, Lichtenstein's hartebeest, warthogs and sable. These drives have proved to be quite productive on the predator front too with sightings of a pair of beautiful male lion, a few sly leopard and even four quite relaxed male cheetah! We have not seen these masters of speed and agility in our area before and hope that they will stay for the duration of the season, moving onto the plains once they start drying up.
The resident herd of roan antelope from last season has been more than eager to return to its old stomping grounds. Earlier in June we saw the first roan 'scout' arrive on the island presumably to report back to his herd mates on the water levels of the Busanga Plains. Alas, it was clearly still too wet for his liking and he returned again to the treeline a day later. About mid-month our guests came across the whole herd of 23 late one afternoon here on the island, but still the timing was not perfect as they promptly turned around and grudgingly trekked back through the waters of the Lushimba channel to dry ground. The following night they were back, but we haven't seen them since and can only assume that they have - once again - returned to the forest. We're hoping that next time we see them it would be for good. The wildebeest are also just hovering on the edge on the floodplains, biding their time to return to the plains.
We've taken full advantage of the plains in flood by making use of the boat based at Shumba Camp to explore the waterways where we would be driving in a few months from now. Around Mukambi Island, thousands of Open-billed Storks and nesting Collared Pratincole can be seen soaring overhead. This area has proven to be a true birders' delight with a plethora of storks, egrets, cranes, kingfishers and fish eagles everywhere you look. Curious hippo pop up around the boat and lethargic crocodile can be seen soaking up the weakening winter rays on the banks of the channels.
Back on the feathered front, a pair of Schalow's Turacos have also claimed Kapinga Camp as their new foraging ground. Even though these birds are notoriously shy and difficult to spot, their brilliant blue, green and red iridescence has captivated many a guest, even if they are not such avid birders! The most exciting birding news this month has been the sighting of the rare Narina Trogon here in the dense woodland of the island. This was our second sighting only of this uncommon and beautiful bird but we can now also claim that Kapinga Island as a 'stakeout' for this elusive bird- with a bit of luck and much determination of course!
We've also taken much pleasure in our surroundings and gorgeous views and have set up an array of sundowners overlooking the pool as well as in the bush and have served many a dinner under the unpolluted African night skies to amuse our guests. Sitting around a camp fire in the bush always evokes wonderful story telling - from guides and guests alike!
Assistant manager: Essie
Guides: Idos and Sam
Busanga Bush Camp update - June 09 Jump
to Busanga Bush Camp
Weather and Water Levels
Early mornings have been a sight to behold on the Busanga Plains in the last month. The grassland is cloaked with a thick layer of snow-white mist. As the sun rises it adds further ambiance - golden rays cut through the dense layer illuminating a vast expanse with brilliant streaks of ruby and sapphire. Temperatures this month have dropped to as low as 5º Celsius and reached a comfortable 24º Celsius by midday. No rain has been recorded but the plains are still wet after an above average rainy season.
The beginning of the month was an exciting time at Busanga Bush Camp. The resident pride of lions almost became part of the family as they frequented the camp daily (pictured are lion tracks through the main area!). Early in the month they killed a red lechwe just in front of the main area and proceeded to feed as all the staff looked on in amazement. The pride has three new members this season - the little cubs were seen hiding in a dense thicket before being carefully moved across the Lufupa Channel by the mother.
The grassland in front of the camp was turned black one morning as a herd of 300 buffalo moved in from the treeline. This enormous group of bovines spent days in the area before being chased off the plains by hungry lions. The sound of the herd moving at high speed through the water was awe-inspiring and could be heard and seen from camp.
This month has also seen a peak in red lechwe births and the tiny lambs are now common amongst the huge herds of these amazingly aquatic antelope. The majestic roan antelope are beginning to return to the open grassland in small groups and have provided many fantastic photo opportunities. Larger herds consisting of many young calves have been seen waiting patiently on the tree-line for the deeper channels to recede before making the crossing onto the vast plains.
Full day game drives into the southern sector of the plains have been fantastic this month. The route winds its way through a variety of habitats and have rewarded guests with sightings of oribi, bushbuck, reedbuck, elephants, wildebeest and zebra. A short mokoro ride is required to get across a large channel and has proved one of the best ways to creep up to the areas incredible bird life.
Night drives have been similarly productive and have provided rare opportunities to view some of Busanga's more secretive nocturnal species. A serval was seen early in the month hunting egrets along one of the many small channels. This agile little cat is a specialist bird hunter as this time of year and the remnants of many a successful hunt can be seen scattered throughout the area. Other sightings have included civet, white-tailed mongoose and side-striped jackal.
Viewing the area from the boat is the ultimate experience as one can get unbelievably close to an astounding variety of birds and reptiles and mammals. This activity has afforded guests the opportunity to really feel part of this watery wonderland and its abundant life. As the area begins to dry, many more interesting species should return to the rich grazing offered by these remarkable grasslands - July is bound to be an incredible spectacle.
Birds & Birding
The small channels that criss-cross the grassland are bursting with life. Hundreds of Great White Egrets, Squacco Herons and Reed Comorants line the banks, all patiently waiting for prey to swim by. Huge flocks of Open-billed Storks crowd the small islands turning the sky black as they move between feeding grounds.
Some of the rarer wetland species recorded this month include Allen's Gallinule, Lesser Jacana, Black Heron and Lesser Moorhen. Rosy-throated Longclaws, Wattled Cranes and African Marsh Harriers have been seen regularly on the endless plains. A Black Coucal was flushed from the grass during a game-drive; the elusive bird quickly disappeared but left a vehicle of very excited guests in its wake. Rufous-bellied Herons, Saddle-billed Storks and Grey Crowned Cranes can be viewed on every activity and are surprisingly relaxed with both the boat and vehicle. This magical area is paradise at this time of year for anybody with an interest in birds.
'The late rains added to our enjoyment of Busanga because of the boat rides - especially the mokoro rides through the wetlands. The viewing of the bird life and huge variety and sizes of some of the flocks of birds was a thrilling experience.' TJ
'The unique and never-ending hospitality; the fabulous food; the wide grin of a hippo! The magic of Africa.' MS
'Hearing lions at night, the wonderful staff, fantastic food! Laura and JD were amazing hosts, and the entire staff made us feel welcome. Obstinacy of buffalo - 300 strong. Star gazing - all left big impression.' PH
Desert Rhino Camp update - June 09 Jump
to Desert Rhino Camp
It has been typical winter weather for the month with temperatures ranging from 6º to 27º Celsius during the day. On some days we had cloud cover which is strange for this time of the year. Some mornings and evenings we experience fog coming in from the Atlantic coastline. The west wind makes the days cool and comfortable.
Wildlife and Landscape
The month was filled with cat sightings. Ricky, one of the Explorations guides, was able to see a male leopard just 3km away from Desert Rhino Camp. The leopard had killed a young oryx. Dr Flip Stander wanted to dart this leopard to monitor his movements but was unfortunately unable to find it for a day and a half.
The Shackleton Pride of lions is back in the area and was seen around the Groot Axab, Khai #gams and Salvadora Springs. They were also seen feeding on an oryx at Salvadora Spring. Visitors in the day were able to experience a phenomenal sighting with these lions.
The black rhino sightings were also numerous this month including the likes of Teabag, Tensie, Ben, Desire and Deborah all being seen. Camp guides and SRT trackers were able to find Stella, a young female, that hadn't been seen in a long time.
Elephants are back in the area - we've seen one bull with two short tusks at the Groot Axab spring. The usual game was also seen in big numbers including oryx , springbok, Hartmann's mountain zebra, giraffe, kudu and steenbok. Black-backed jackal and ostrich were also spotted on several occasions.
Food for Thought
"To cherish what remains of the earth and foster its renewal is our only legitimate hope of survival." Wendell Berry.
Managers: Igna and Daphne
Assistant Managers: Kapoi and Helen
Guides: Gotlod, Harry & Ali
Palmwag Lodge update - June 09 Jump
to Palmwag Lodge
The coastal fog reached the Palmwag Concession a couple of times this month, so the mornings have been rather cold. During the day however, temperatures have been pleasant and mild, allowing for effortless activities.
Good sightings of predators as well as black rhino were enjoyed this month. Our old friend, Sebastiaan, a bull elephant that frequents the Palmwag area during the dry season, was spotted close to camp for the first time this year. Quite a few of the streams to our north are still flowing, which means elephant sightings are scarce in our area.
One of our groups saw lion, leopard and cheetah in a single morning drive! On a walk along the river trail Salomon saw two leopards with his guests. An aardwolf has been seen regularly too.
An afternoon drive produced lion, aardwolf, cheetah and elephant. A harmless brown house snake was also seen around the lodge.
Researcher extraordinaire, Dr. Flip Stander, presented a course on the desert lions at Palmwag Lodge. We had a great turn-out with Wilderness Safaris staff from as far south as Kulala Wilderness Reserve attending the course. One of the fascinating facts shared by Dr. Stander is that the Kunene desert-adapted lions live much longer lives than their savannah counterparts - despite the harsh conditions in which they have to live.
Doro Nawas Camp update - June 09 Jump
to Doro Nawas Camp
Maximum temperatures were 32º Celsius and minimum 16º Celsius. It is not uncommon to experience four seasons in one day though.
Wildlife and Landscape
It is the start of winter on the Doro !Nawas Concession when foggy mornings become more frequent and the south-westerly winds makes their presence felt after midday. The mid-days are very comfortable however, mostly with blue skies this time of year. As the sun rises the heat banishes the mist, revealing a spectacular landscape that was non-existent a few moments ago creating the perfect venue for elephant tracking.
The guides of Doro Nawas Camp have made all their drives a successful and adventurous experience for guests who visited us throughout the month of June 2009. Elephant sightings have been enjoyed almost every day.
We had a wonderful stay, which we will never forget. Thank you for making it so good. We enjoyed our three activities with Arthur (Guide) - he is very helpful and knows a lot. Christine, UK.
We loved the hot water bottles in bed and the welcome note, towels and drinks after a safari. We loved our guide, Arthur. He engaged our interests and went out of his way to accommodate us. Lisa, AUSTRALIA
Never stayed anywhere like Doro Nawas before! Beautiful location with good environmental policies implemented by company. I'll make sure to tell all how wonderful this camp and area is. Thank you! Emma, UK.
Will definitely return and recommend Doro Nawas Camp to friends and family. Nicola, UK.
Pasella, a weekly South African travel programme, came to visit us for two nights recently. They filmed the unique Damaraland area, the desert-adapted elephants and the famous Twyfelfontein World Heritage Site. A sumptuous bush lunch was also prepared specially for them by our head chef Judy, a perfect end to their stay and programme at Doro Nawas Camp. We are all looking forward to the programme to be shown on television shortly. By visiting us, you too can experience all this; all typical activities and adventures at Doro Nawas!
Eco-friendly Camp Enhancements
All our geysers have been changed to solar powered versions as we have ample sun to utilise as a resource. We are noticing a large difference in our energy usage already!
Ever wondered what Doro Nawas Camp looks from the sky. The main building is built in a pentagon shape and offers amazing views!
-Johann Cloete and Danize van Niekerk-
Images courtesy of Roland Ernst
Damaraland Camp update - June 09 Jump
to Damaraland Camp
Temperatures have been colder ranging from a high of 33,7º Celsius and a low of 8º Celsius.
Wildlife and Landscape
Elephants galore at Damaraland Camp, that's what you can expect at the moment on a game drive. Our guides have been finding them quite successfully. The young bull Oscar seems to be reaching maturity as he is constantly being 'picked on' by the elder herd members. Perhaps he will be ousted out of the herd in due course - only time will tell.
Although not a frequent sighting at Damaraland Camp, we are enjoying more and sightings of black rhino towards the western area of our concession, which borders on the Skeleton Coast Park. This is certainly an exciting value-add to staying with us, and let's hope it continues.
It is not all about desert-adapted elephants here at Damaraland Camp. The opportunity to go mountain biking from camp is a popular activity. The energetic Hansen family from the U.S.A decided to enjoy the spectacular Damaraland landscape from a saddle rather than a Land Rover!
"We had an excellent guide and to see the elephants was a wonderful experience. We were shown many animals and birds we would not have observed on our own - my expectations were fulfilled and exceeded."
"Outstanding scenery, friendly camp hosts, a knowledgeable guide, and the boma dinner - we loved it all."
Images courtesy of Graham Ahmeb and Elaine Hatt
Skeleton Coast Camp update - June 09 Jump
to Skeleton Coast Camp
To sum it up short and sweet - it is cold. Thick fog rolls in most nights and the mornings are very cold. This all adds to the charm and appeal of Skeleton Coast Camp at this time of year though when one can revel in the harshness of ekeing out an existence on the Skeleton Coast.
Wildlife and Landscape
Daytime hours are quite enjoyable and in stark contrast to the early mornings and late afternoons. The fog clears at about 9am and then everyone imitates the reptiles - baking in the sun.
A brown hyaena visits Skeleton Coast Camp most nights affording great views of the seldom-seen desert denizen.
One can easily get lost in one's own thoughts with the spectacular faces of the landscapes here. Minimising our environmental footprints in this spectacular area is of high priority for us here to retain the special essence of this remarkable area.
We were visited by Barbara, a keen photographer who seemed to have luck on her side. With her guide Kallie they took on the Hoarusib River and came across a herd of desert-adapted elephant - sleeping, snoring and doing what elephants do. Upon Barbara's departure she said to us that she never sheds a tear when leaving an area, but she left us with a tear of sorrow rolling down her cheek. Other than elephants, wildlife sightings were exciting and diverse - including the likes of Namaqua chameleons to crabs along the coast.
Elaine also visited us with a passion for life like you can't believe. Every night, after dinner, we built up the energy and went for a walk under clear, starry skies. She had guides Jonathan and Gerald huffing and puffing the one morning, walking from Skeleton Coast to Sarusas Spring.
Ian and Choon came all the way from Singapore to have their honeymoon in Namibia and Botswana. They were treated to a picnic lunch in the Hoarusib River and a private dinner on their deck. Norman and Hillary also celebrated their 42nd wedding anniversary with us.
The birding in this part of the world is equally exciting with a profusion of 'little brown jobs' sure to challenge your field guide to the extreme.
We know that saying goodbye to camp managers Daleen and Charl has been sad for the staff and we know that they treasure the good times that they enjoyed here.
Serra Cafema Camp update - June 09 Jump
to Serra Cafema Camp
The climate here along the Kunene River has been amazing with only a few cold mornings. Guests took some time to enjoy the luxuries of their rooms - relaxing in their hammocks whilst a cool breeze from the river complemented the mild sun. Out on activities guests still experience the heat of the Namib, so when they return to Serra Cafema Camp it truly becomes an oasis where all weariness just ebbs and flows away along with the river.
Wildlife and Landscape
Several of our guests managed to sneak a peek at the elusive small spotted genet that has taken up residence on the rooftop of one of the rooms close to the main area. The beautiful 'cat-like' creature even surprised guests and staff alike one evening when he snuck into the main area and had a peek back at us!
Between Rooms 6 and 7 a large warm rock lured an enormous crocodile out to the delight of one of the guests who happened to be in camp at the time. Guide Franco got staff very excited with a tiny western keeled snake. We released him in the dunes a little later on returning it to his natural habitat.
Even though we live in one of the most breathtaking spots in Africa, the guests that visit us in this isolated corner of the world ensure that there is never a dull moment. We love their sense of humour, passion for Africa and all that this continent offers and the sense of awe shown by guests ensuring that we never forget how special Serra Cafema Camp is and how lucky we are to wake up to the rush of rapids and the call of African Mourning Doves each day.
It seems like love is in the air with Serra Cafema Camp being visited by several honeymoon couples in the past few weeks. We hope that the magical memories from their visit will last them for the rest of lives together - some even deciding that they would return to Serra Cafema for their anniversary!
"To have a superb, knowledgeable and pleasant guide as Franco and experienced this wonderful landscape. Also having been extremely well taken care of by very friendly staff and management"
"The camp's awesome location, layout & design; our guide's kindness, knowledge and passion (Gerhardus); the visit to the Himba village which was organised in a very respectful and sensitive way; the quad bikes and the warm, friendly and welcoming team."
Ongava Tented Camp update - June 09 Jump
to Ongava Tented Camp
Wildlife and Landscape
June has been a month of transformation on Ongava Game Reserve. The soft hues of autumn have disappeared and winter has now truly set in. The cooler weather makes for pleasant nature walks, which we do in the mornings and afternoons. The trees have now shed most of their leaves in anticipation of the colder dry season that lies ahead.
The Ongava Tented Camp waterhole has been transformed, with a plethora of animals frequenting it, especially waterbuck, kudu and gemsbok. The waterhole is especially busy in the late mornings and early afternoons and is worthwhile for anyone needing a break from game drives to just sit and relax. It also presents endless opportunities for close up photography of antelope.
The waterhole is also a source of constant bird activity. Red-billed Quelea are congregating in huge flocks and keep all the drinking animals alert with their uncanny behaviour of flying off all at once. Helmeted Guineafowls have also been entertaining us with their funny antics. You can't help but feel astonished at how these creatures seem to be always on the move. The appearance of Double-banded Sandgrouse before daybreak and after sunset is also a near guarantee. It is so constant and accurate that you can just about set your clock by it.
Both black and white rhino now routinely make their appearance at the camp waterhole. They surprise us with their unexpected appearances though - their quiet and sudden emergence from the dark night into full view of the floodlit waterhole. The ability of these prehistoric beasts to move around in virtual silence is simply amazing. Lion sightings, including cubs, are now also reported daily.
"The 'tents' itself was very comfortable - felt like we could live here forever. The best part for us was the drives in the Reserve and Etosha. It surpassed all our expectations. We loved being here. 'OTC' is a magical place, we will most definitely return!"
Little Kulala update - June 09 Jump
to Little Kulala
It seems that winter has arrived in Sossusvlei. Late evenings and mornings have been significantly cooler of late with sub-zero temperatures and misty mornings on occasion. Enough layers is the order of the day if you will be visiting at this time of year. During the day however, the temperatures are very pleasant.
Wildlife and Landscape
In May, two cheetah, a male and female, were released on Kulala Wilderness Reserve, around 2km from Little Kulala. They appeared to be settling into the area and were seen hunting regularly. On the morning of Monday 15th a springbok kill was found just outside of camp. It was narrowed down to be the male cheetah's kill.
Much to everyone's disappointment, the feline was found dead a few days later. Florian Weise, the tracker who had been monitoring the cats' progress, found him slain by two spotted hyaena. This was deduced by the evidence and tracks found around the dead cheetah. Florian explained that this is not unusual and that the spotted hyaena is territorial and probably saw the cheetah as an intruder.
A few unusual bird sightings were recorded during the month too. Camp guide, Sebastiaan recorded an African Darter and a Black-headed Heron at Little Kulala's waterhole. Two Secretarybirds were also spotted casually hunting about 3km from camp.
- 'Everything was fantastic; great way to end our honeymoon.'
- 'Little Kulala is a paradise. Everything was wonderful! Staff were gracious hosts.'
- 'Best staff of any camp in Namibia, SA, Kenya, Tanzania or Botswana!'
- 'We loved our stay! The surroundings were simply amazing. We will be back some day!'
Mvuu Camp update - May & June 09 Jump
to Mvuu Camp
Weather and Water Levels
May and June in Liwonde National Park at Mvuu Camp have been wonderful months. Summer has come and gone and we have seen a progressive drying out of the environment even though the levels of the Shire River and even the lagoon in front of the lodge remain high. The weather has been gorgeous: sunny warm days and balmy evenings with the odd chilly night.
With the drying out of most areas we have been able to access our full road network and of course the rhino sanctuary and as a result we have covered most areas and had some exceptional sightings. Birding has, as always, been phenomenal even without the palearctic migrants. Some rarely seen specials like Pel's Fishing-owl and Racket-tailed Roller were spotted on more than one occasion and the African Skimmers - with sandbanks becoming more exposed in our part of the Shire River - have also been seen in the area. Böhm's Bee-eaters and Collared Palm-thrushes continue to enthral all visitors to camp with their confiding behaviour, while regular sightings of even more exciting species like Livingstone's Flycatcher and Black-throated Wattle-eye have satisfied the hard-core birders.
Game viewing has also been good. Towards the beginning of June, elephants returned in numbers to the Shire River and both herds and bulls have spent plenty of time in Mvuu Camp especially after dark but also during the day. This included one particularly large 'tusker' (adult male bull), with only one tusk. The floodplains, particularly to the south of camp, continue to be dotted with abundant waterbuck, impala, kudu, warthog and loads of yellow baboons. Even the hippo got in on the act and spent some time basking and even feeding on the river banks, some sightings on game drive or even at sundowner stops being able to take in many of these species within one view.
The woodlands and the Rhino Sanctuary (which is now accessible by vehicle), produced spectacular sable sightings as well as regular zebra and roan and occasionally the other species like hartebeest. Some exciting nocturnal encounters included elusive species such as water mongoose and bushpig and of course the more regularly seen spotted hyaena, white-tailed mongoose and large-spotted genet.
All of this is not forgetting the Shire River of course on which we have conducted regular boat based game viewing excursions. The 1000 hippos of the Shire River have of course been ubiquitous and obliging, and we have had some great sightings of some of the very large crocodiles for which the river is famed. One such individual - large and unusually dark and nicknamed after a well known and controversial political leader in southern Africa - frequented the lagoon in front of the neighbouring Mvuu Lodge and was often seen either basking or creating consternation amongst the fish.
Governors' Camp update - June 09 Jump
to Governors' Camp
The long rains of April and May came to an end in the first week of June, or so we thought. The puddles dryed out and the tracks turned from slushy tramlines to hard baked earth and the tall grasses on the plains all dried out. We had a few showers of rain through the month which settled the dust and then the last three days of June brought some fantastic storms, with huge grey Cumulonimbus clouds, thunder and lightning.
The game this month has been excellent despite the challenge of the long grass which the animals can quite easily disappear into.
Towards the end of the month the Loita Wildebeest and Zebra migration arrived from the North-East. This is a small migration, paling in comparison to the Serengeti migration moving through the open grasslands of Masai country. This has brought with it well needed nutrition for our hungry predators.
The big news to announce this month is the arrival of the Serengeti Migration into the Mara. The wildebeest migration has crossed the Sand River and is moving northwards. They are still fairly distant, but will not be long until we are able to drive out and lose ourselves amongst the massive herds of wildebeest and zebra. The Mara grasses are a huge attraction to the Wildebeest Migration as a few of their favourite grasses are here, namely red oats grass (Themedia triandra) and Couch grass (Cynodon dactylon.)
Photos Courtesy of Michael Poliza and Dave Rogers
Elephants were in abundance at the start of the month with herds of between 100 and 250 individuals converging into the Musiara Marsh and spreading up towards the ridges. The new growth of grass and sedge in and around the marsh is a mouth watering draw for these huge pachyderms. As the grass and the surrounding area dried out a little the herds have become less and spread around the Mara, seeking different vegetation to graze and browse on.
Two massive herds of buffalo are moving slowly through the plains around us. One of approximately 300 and the other of about 450 members. Buffalo are bulk grazers, they eat the larger leafy part of the grass and settle down to ruminate like cattle although they are certainly not as mild mannered as cattle.
The numbers of plains game was fairly sparse at the beginning of the month. They were more concentrated just out of the reserve where the grass is shorter, having been cropped by Masai cattle. The shorter grass is preferred by most plains game as they have adapted to more selectively graze. The smaller the animal, the more selective they are on the level of grazing and type of graze, hence less competition on any area. There have been resident and territorial herds of topi all year round in the reserve, always alert and maintaining their 'Leks.' Other plains game that are ever present are the herds of waterbuck and impala that live alongside the marsh and riverine forest of the Mara River and the dikdiks who spend their time in the shadows of the forest.
Unknowingly, the warthogs who are seen mostly trundling off through the grass with their tails high in the air like little radio antennas have been targeted by the lions.
Photos courtesy of Daryl Black
The river has dropped to its lowest since rains stopped. Hippos have congregated in larger numbers in order to get the best pools of water in which to laze in during daylight hours. This creates some tension amongst the territorial males when they return to the water after a long night of grazing and mowing the camps lawn. Hippos are foregut fermenters; their digestive system is not quite as efficient as a ruminant antelope for example. For such a large animal (males weighing up to 3000 plus kilograms) they need to eat around 40kg during the night.
Hyena have been denning in a couple of different locations with a few pups, black in colour. They have been scavenging a lot more of late as it has been difficult for them to hunt because of the scarcity of the game and the long grass. Soon there will be plenty for everyone with the arrival of the wildebeest migration.
The 'big cats' have been seen more readily in the early mornings, whilst they are on the move. When the grass is long they like to follow existing animal tracks and roads, as they prefer to stay out of the dew and the nuisance of grass in their eyes. They will then flop down when it warms up at midday disappearing in to the grass or seeking shade under a tree or a shrub.
The Marsh/ Bila Shaka pride of lions have had lean times of late spending the first couple of weeks of the month coursing the plains, looking for prey. The arrival of the Loita migration has brought new prey to their area and they have settled in one area. One of the lionesses has two new arrivals, tiny one and a half month old cubs, which she is hiding in the long grass. The two pride males are spending more of their time with the pride as one of the males is mating with one of the three sisters.
The Paradise Pride have had better pickings in the last month as there have been more plains game on the lower plains near the river, where the grass is slightly shorter. Notch is still with his 5 sons. The younger males have been mating with three of the pride females. One of the females has three cubs which are thought to be two and a half years old.
Photos courtesy of Daryl Black
Shakira and her three cubs are still doing very well, she has been working hard to keep all her cubs well fed and out of harm's way. During the month she made a Grants Gazelle kill but the moment was short-lived as unfortunately for her, before she or the cubs could tuck in hyenas sleeping in the nearby grass caught sight of them and she had to forego her meal and take her cubs to safety.
Honey's three boys have been regular visitors to the Marsh and Bila Shaka area. They are looking in great shape and very confident, as they have less cares than any female cheetah.
There is another female cheetah in the area which jumped on the pilots bonnet the other day on his way to work postponing his flight a while. She is very pregnant at the moment and will probably give birth anytime soon. She made a Thompson Gazelle kill and had her fill just days ago, so she seems to be doing very well too.
A roaming male cheetah has been through the area, spending most of his time on the short grass plains out in Masai country.
Kijana, the young male leopard has been seen regularly between the forest and the Marsh. He is good condition, although has a small flesh wound on his left fore-leg. He was spotted hunting a Dik dik in the forest fringe with-out any luck, maybe his inexperience or just a smart Dik dik.
There has been a leopardess close to Kijana's territory. She was seen twice in the month the first just relaxing near some croton bushes and then slinking away, the second with a reedbuck kill up in a tree which was very fortuitous.
We have had another sighting of a separate pair of leopards, a male and female near the river line. Generally this indicates that they are more than likely a mating pair, but due to their elusiveness no one will ever know.
Serval cats have been seen quite regularly on game drives, stalking through the long grass. One tenacious hunter has been ambushing birds on the edge of Musiara Marsh and acrobatically leaping into the air to catch them.
Walking Safaris in Masai Land
Huge herds of wildebeest and zebra from the Loita migration have come into the area all the way up to the northern part of the reserve.
New shoots and leaves are appearing on the trees along the river lines and acacia forests. The elephants are dispersing a little more from the marsh area to supplement their diet of grass for the nutritious vegetation of the trees. We have had two sightings, of 2 male elephants slowly wandering the plains, following the female groups checking if they are in season. Unable to get too close we circumnavigated both herds with one male following us at a steady rate seeing us off.
A large pack of hyena are on the top plains denning in an old aardvark digging. The youngsters are just getting their spots, so will probably move on soon. They have been making a few wildebeest kills of late and are fat and happy.
We are picking up tracks of lion activity in the area, but no sightings yet this season. The Masai have come and gone with their cattle, the plains game have returned in force so we are expecting our local pride to settle in again soon.
We had a great sighting of a male cheetah hunting gazelle. He was spotted early on in the walk with gazelles sprinting off in different directions and topi snorting their alarm call, he gave up the hunt. We managed to follow at a distance for about half an hour. We saw him again about a week or so later in the distance, ably hunting again.
Four jackal pups are denning in a very large termite mound.
The Acacia gerradii (maasai chewing gum) has become a lot stronger in flavour since the rain has ended. To the disgust of some of the walkers, but favoured by the maasai.
After the walks we have enjoyed the constant churring of woodland and grey-headed kingfishers around the breakfast sight on the Olare Orok river.
Back in the Game Reserve open-billed storks have been in the Musiara Marsh and the Madagascar Squaco Heron is changing to white, ready to migrate back to Madagascar. A Marshal Eagle was seen feeding on a white-backed Vulture, which was an unusual sighting. Crowned Cranes, Secretary Birds and Ground hornbills have all been commonly sighted on the open plains. The Ground hornbills are very vocal with the recent flush of rains, some say they can predict the rain and their call is the first sign
The birdlife around the camps has been very good as usual with alot of birdsong to enjoy. A Narina Trogon has been perching up at Il Moran calling for its mate with a low 'Oh oh' song. Black and White Hornbills have been making raucous calls in the forest canopy and the ever present Tropical Boubou has been making its presence felt with its loud piping call. Double toothed barbets have been eating the ripening fruit of the coacoa bean bush.
Photos courtesy of Dave Richards
Around the camps and riverlines thousands of butterflies (Brown-veined Whites, Green- banded, Mocker, Noble swallowtails and Citrus swallowtails) have been flitting from bush to bush attracted by the riverside flowers (Vernonia and Merua).
We hope to share the magic of our corner of the Mara with you sometime soon.
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