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AFRICAN SAFARI NEWS

May 2009

(Page 1 of 2)

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

Page 2 Updates
• Monthly Dive Report from Rocktail Bay in South Africa.
• Monthly update from Kings Camp in South Africa.
• Monthly update from Makalolo Plains in Zimbabwe.
• Monthly update from Little Makalolo in Zimbabwe.
• Monthly update from Ruckomechi Camp in Zimbabwe.
• Monthly update from Toka Leya Camp in Zambia.
• Monthly update from Lufupa Tented Camp in Zambia.
• Monthly update from Desert Rhino Camp in Namibia.
• Monthly update from Doro Nawas Camp in Namibia.
• Monthly update from Skeleton Coast Camp in Namibia.
• Monthly update from Serra Cafema Camp in Namibia.
• Monthly update from Ongava Lodge in Namibia.
• Monthly update from Little Ongava in Namibia.
• Monthly update from Little Kulala in Namibia.
• Monthly update from Governors' Camp in Kenya's Masai Mara.


GENERAL UPDATES
US lifts travel warning for Zimbabwe
24 Apr 2009

This is as a result of the current coalition government that has seen Morgan Tsvangirai instituted as Prime Minister and which has brought new optimism to the country. According to Germany's ambassador to Zimbabwe, Albrecht Cronze, the prevailing situation in Zimbabwe now no longer justifies the travel warnings and other countries besides the three mentioned here are expected to follow suit in due course. The US government has noted the improving conditions in Zimbabwe and a State Department spokesperson says it lifted the warning because "there was a return of basic medical, food and fuel services."

The decision has brought renewed interest in Zimbabwe as a safari destination and now is the perfect time to take advantage of our newly rebuilt camps. Zimbabwe offers some of the best wilderness areas on the continent and Wilderness Safaris has remained committed to the country's people and wildlife. Over the past few years, Wilderness Safaris has kept its Zimbabwe camps operational, confident that when things improved the company would be perfectly poised to welcome increasing numbers of guests back.

A complete rebuild of Little Makalolo Camp in Hwange National Park has included more spacious rooms and main area which offer amazing views of wildlife coming to drink at the camp waterhole. The distant coughing of a leopard is heard quite often in camp and the waterhole has been home to many animals such as zebra, sable, kudu, as well as buffalo and elephant.

The newly-rebuilt Ruckomechi Camp in Mana Pools National Park has been totally redesigned taking in the spendour of the mighty Zambezi River: low walkways connect the tents to the main area, the décor takes inspiration from recycled materials and hand-decorated furniture, and tent views maximise the Zambezi River floodplain. At Ruckomechi, elephants are in and out of camp and game drives in the area are productive for lion, wild dog and a variety of general game species. For both camps environmental sustainabilty has been key in the new design.

Toka Leya and The River Club, also part of the Wilderness Safaris offering, are conveniently located on the Zambian side of Victoria Falls. The current water levels of the Zambezi River are affording a spectacular display at this 7th wonder of the world.

-Wilderness Safaris operates and markets three camps in Zimbabwe: Ruckomechi, Makalolo Plains and Little Makalolo.
-These camps are located in two different, complimentary areas: Mana Pools National Park and Hwange National Park.
-The Mana Canoe Trail, a Trails Exploration is run on set departure basis in Mana Pools National Park as well.
-In addition Wilderness Safaris operates a large transfer business in Victoria Falls ensuring seamless aiport transfers and a variety of tours ranging from Victoria Falls to as far afield as Chobe National Park.
-Two Wilderness Safaris camps are located close to Victoria Falls on the Zambian side of the Zambezi River: Toka Leya and The River Club.



Wilderness Safaris Launches Wilderness-Brochures.com
Wilderness Safaris Launches "100% Tree-free" brochures:
www.wilderness-brochures.com

Wilderness Safaris has created Wilderness-Brochures.com - a brochure website that is the first step in a new strategy. This strategy marries newly available digital technology with the aim of being true to our environmentally-friendly mandate.

For many years now we have battled with the contradiction of being an environmentally responsible conservation and ecotourism organisation and annually producing substantial quantities of printed material in the form of brochures, newsletters and books.

The new brochure website - www.wilderness-brochures.com - means that they can finally straddle the worlds of environmental responsibility and business priorities, where both sides will greatly benefit.

While they recognise that it is important for many of their trade partners to have at their disposal printed collateral in order to convert prospective clients and make the sale (and they will continue this), they have decided to launch an enhancement. The brochure website does all this by ensuring ease of use, a faster channel from trade partner to consumer and up-to-date details that are not dependent on the next - sometimes delayed - print run.

The website allows immediate download of specific country or camp brochures as high quality PDF files that can either be printed by the user (although they actively discourage this) or shared with others via email.

In this way, they continue to work steadily towards further reducing their carbon footprint and providing ever improved tools for their trade partners.


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WILDLIFE NEWS
Legadima's cubs come of age
Location: Mombo Camp, Moremi Game Reserve, Botswana
Date: 4 May 2009
Observers: Tapera Sithole
Photos: Peter Myburg

Pula and Maru are the 18-month-old cubs of the famous Legadima, female leopard star of the multi-award winning National Geographic documentary 'Eye of the Leopard'.

As they reach their age of independence and are spending less and less time with their mother, all three leopards have of late been very difficult to find. This all changed towards the end of April when Legadema decided to bring both cubs into camp where they spent about three days. Pula, went so far during this time as to climb onto the main lodge deck while we were seated by the camp fire. Following a short, sniffing investigation, Pula turned back and walked down the walkway to the vehicle turning circle in front of camp.

Pula catching an impala      Pula the leopard catching an impala

The next day, Maru (the sister) and Legadima left but Pula stayed within the vicinity and was then followed to Limpy's Island. She was found on a sub-adult impala carcass. Our initial thoughts were that Legadema must have made the kill but try as we might we could not locate either Legadema or Maru. It was then that we began to suspect that Pula had upgraded from squirrel kills to impala kills.

When Pete and Malinga later went to check on the carcass to see how much was left, the story unfolded further. On arrival they found Pula busy feeding and as they sat and watched, she suddenly bolted out of the tree in which the kill was hoisted.

Pula the leopard catching an impala at Mombo camp

Not knowing what was happening, the guides quickly manoeuvred sufficiently to notice a sub-adult impala ram that had wandered into the sighting, blissfully unaware of the leopard. Pula managed to leap up and grab the impala by the throat, pulling it down after a few seconds.

The inexperienced huntress then left the impala as if she had given up. The impala of course tried to run away and Pula sprang back into action, almost playing with the impala and practising all her inexpert techniques. Her instincts then told her that there might be someone hungry and bigger nearby and she finally dispatched the hapless impala and decided to take the whole kill up the same tree in which she had her first kill - and placed it right on top of the first kill without disembowelling it.

This was four days ago and today she was still in the same area with some of her bountiful windfall remaining.



New lion on the Jao Floodplains
Location: Kwetsani Camp, NG25, Botswana
Date: 12 May 2009
Observers: Grant Atkinson
Photos: Grant Atkinson

Good news from the Jao Concession is that once again there is a mature male lion walking the spectacular and lechwe-covered open floodplains that lie between the three camps of Jao, Kwetsani and Jacana.

Since the unexplained disappearance of the resident pair of territorial males from the area in the second half of 2008, most lion sightings have been provided by two lionesses. Right around the beginning of 2009 though a new, handsome blonde-maned adult male lion joined the females.

Male lion at Kwetani camp      New male lion at Kwetsani

On a recent trip to Kwetsani Camp we were treated to excellent viewing of all three of the lions in this small pride casually walking across the plain in front of camp. In the early evening, their intent quite different from the morning, they stormed through the camp island scattering impala and sending baboons racing up palm trees. Later that same evening, all three lions put on a show of loud roaring, and it was good to hear the sound booming across the floodplains from the comfort of our tents.

As might be expected from this new coalition and an extended liaison, the older lioness is lactating and appears to have recently given birth to cubs. We have not had any sightings as yet since the tiny bundles of fur will be secreted in some secure palm thicket but it is only a matter of time before guests at Kwetsani and Jao are treated to views.

The high water levels in the area have had the effect of restricting the lions' movements somewhat, which has resulted in Kwetsani Camp in particular enjoying excellent viewing of the pride.



Genet-hunting leopard triplets
Location: Abu Camp, Abu Concession, Botswana
Date: 8 May 2009
Observers: Dana Allen
Photos: Dana Allen

It's not every day that one gets to spend an hour with leopard triplets. In fact it is not often that one gets to see leopard triplets at all. More usually a female leopard gives birth to one or two cubs (usually two) and on the rare occasion that three cubs are born to the same female it is common that one or even two of the cubs die at an early age. It was for this reason that we were so relishing our sighting of three leopard cubs during a recent trip to Abu Camp.

Genet at Chitabe camp      Leopard at Chitabe

The cubs - already quite old and approaching the age of independence - had clearly been left in a secure spot by their mother who we had encountered the evening before in the same area. Large trees - both living and dead - and a dense palm shrub understory provided plenty of cover for them and in this secure environment they relaxed in our presence and posed and played to their hearts' content.

After about an hour of this treat we decided to move on and moved away from the position, pure luck making us turn around and look back towards the copse of trees from a couple of hundred metres away. In that glance we picked up a large spotted genet perched high in a dead tree.

Laopard climbing to get a genet at Chitabe

This in itself was highly unusual in the daylight hours and we knew something was up. Racing back to the spot we just caught one of the leopard cubs clambering up the same tree in pursuit of the genet. At first the ascent was quite comical and the genet looked secure, but the cub kept doggedly to its task and as it seemed to conquer the climb, the genet lost its nerve and leapt straight to the ground and disappeared into the undergrowth, no doubt more than a little shaken.



A new world discovered
Location: Vumbura Plains, Kwedi Concession, Botswana
Date: 12 May 2009
Observers: Grant Atkinson
Photos: Grant Atkinson

This year's annual flood in the Okavango Delta promises to be one of the biggest in many years. The water has recharged many dry areas, and there is new green growth to be seen all around as can be seen from the air when flying over the Delta.

Jumping spider

On a recent trip through Vumbura Plains I was intrigued by the wonderful variety of colourful and interesting insects and arachnids to be seen, especially on the edges of the water. The perfect time for walking around in camp is between game drives and admiring the brilliantly coloured array of dragonflies, hoverflies, butterflies and many other insects as they went about their business of gathering food, whether it be pollen or other insects.

Violet dropwing dragonfly      Heady maiden day-flying moth

Another highlight was a jumping spider that showed off its ability to walk on the vertical surface of a breakfast juice glass one morning, providing an interesting background for a photograph. Jumping spiders are completely harmless.

The other images here are of: Heady maiden day-flying moth (above right), and violet dropwing dragonfly (above left).



New lion cub for Mombo's Moporota Pride
Location: Mombo Camp, Moremi Game Reserve, Botswana
Date: 11 May 2009
Observers: Kago (KG) Tlhalerwa
Photos: Kago (KG) Tlhalerwa

It was a great Mombo moment for Garth Thompson, Martin and me while sitting with the Moporota Pride between Derek's Crossing and the Triple Baobab.

New lion cub at Mombo camp      Lioness and new cub for Mombo's Moporota pride      Little lion cub at Mombo camp

When we arrived only a few of the lionesses and three cubs of about three months old were present. This was as expected. While we were busy enjoying the moment however a tiny addition to the lion population of Mombo and the Moporota Pride came out of some dense bushes.

It was a very young cub probably only about three weeks old and much smaller than his larger relatives, the three-month old cubs. From the reaction of the cubs and the adult lionesses this might well have been the first time the youngster had been introduced to the pride.

The Jao Boys, male lions at Mombo camp      One of the Jao Boys with the Moporota pride

As if this was not enough, and while we were still excited about experiencing such a great Mombo moment, the two dominant territorial males of the pride, the Jao Boys, came into the sighting and started grooming each other before moving to join the rest of the pride. It was really a magical moment for us and the other guests at Mombo.



Cheetah Cubs of the Kalahari
Location: Kalahari Plains Camp, Central Kalahari Game Reserve, Botswana
Date: 15 May 2009
Observers: Thuto Moutloatse
Photos: Thuto Moutloatse

I have just spent the last week in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve and had some wonderful wildlife sightings. We had a small thundershower earlier on in the month and in consequence the Kalahari seemed to burst into life. We had good sightings of honey badger, black-backed jackal, groups of bat-eared fox, meerkat (suricates), lion and numerous general game species like gemsbok and springbok.

The highlight of our recent visit had to be that of the cheetah sightings in Deception Valley. There are three different female cheetah that have cubs of different ages at the moment and we were lucky enough to see them on several occasions.

Cheetah and four cubs in the Central Kalahari      Cheetah and four cubs in Deception Valley

One afternoon just after the rain had stopped and the sun started coming out from behind the clouds, we set out for an afternoon game drive. There were big herds of springbok and gemsbok in the Valley which made for great landscape photography.

I then noticed a black-backed jackal running around and calling in a very alarming way - when we moved closer to take a look, we spotted a cheetah mother and her four small cubs very close to the road. Following the rain these cheetah had moved in to the open to get some sun and drink from the water-filled puddles in the road.

This was an incredible sighting as we do not often see cheetah with such young cubs. When they are this young, the cubs have thick grey fur on their backs, and closely resemble the aggressive honey badger from a distance. This is thought to be a defence mechanism, as honey badgers are fierce animals, left alone by most predators, and the vulnerable cheetah cubs need as much protection as possible.

This female was very relaxed in our presence and she afforded us a rare opportunity to take some great "family portraits" of her and her cubs.



Comical Baboon Behaviour in Hwange
Location: Little Makalolo Camp, Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe
Date: 15 May 2009
Observer: Martin Benadie
Photos: Martin Benadie

On a recent morning game drive in Hwange National Park, the African bush and its inhabitants slowly came alive after a pretty cool night. Sitting quietly at Scott's Pan, which is surrounded by expansive grassy plains, large herds of wildebeest and Burchell's zebra were making the most of the warming sun, peacefully feeding oblivious to our close proximity. Two stately Secretarybirds hunted in the distance, elegant Grey Crowned Cranes added colour and the deep booming calls of Southern Ground Hornbills provided the background chorus. Idyllic.

Baboon with a wter-lily      Baboon with a wter-lily at Hwange      Baboon with a wter-lily at Makalolo

Wilderness Safaris guide Douglas casually mentioned that a troop of savannah baboons was slowly moving to the waterhole. To us they looked like a ragtag unit of poorly trained marines led by a large male baboon. They casually sauntered past our vehicle looking for anything to eat.

The troop settled behind the waterhole - grooming, screaming, and squabbling as only baboons do. "There goes the serenity," we thought, chuckling quietly. Suddenly one of the baboons made a hell-bent dash into the water - his target a lone waterlily. Within seconds the waterlily was in his mouth and he made a dash back for terra firma. I managed to shoot off a few frames capturing these comical images, the baboon certainly looking out of place and very nervous in the water.

Baboons feed on all edible plants and in the Okavango for example regularly enter shallow water to reach their prizes, but this was a first for me in Hwange where there is very limited permanent water. The prize was devoured before other troop members could get in on the action.

Meanwhile, the troop continued its 'sortie', soon meeting up with another troop coming from the other direction. A fight ensued, baboons chasing each other up a big leadwood tree, the losers being flung screaming back to the ground several metres below.

Baboons may be a common inhabitant of our savannah ecosystems, but they are certainly interesting to observe!



Exciting record of Shelley's Sunbird at Lianshulu
Location: Lianshulu Lodge, Mudumu National Park, Namibia
Date: 10 May 2009
Observer and Images: Martin Benadie

Shelley's Sunbird is a highly sought-after bird on most southern African birders' life lists. This sunbird species has most of its range in the moist miombo woodlands of south-central Africa (Malawi and Zambia), with only very infrequent sightings in southern Africa. Even in countries like Zambia, which is one of this species' strongholds, it is not commonly observed and is considered a special sighting.

Whilst enjoying a leg stretch in Namibia's Mudumu National Park, approximately 100km west of Katima Mulilo in the Caprivi Strip, an adult sunbird was noticed feeding on the nectar of mistletoe (Tapinanthus sp.) flowers quite high up in a tree. Having seen a number of the more common Marico Sunbird that morning, I discounted it as simply being another one of this species.

Shelley's Sunbird      Retz's Helmet-shrike      Arnott's Chat

Its vocalisation sounded different though and a closer investigation was warranted. Upon taking a closer look, the bright red breast band, black belly and green rump was certainly apparent and I excitedly took some identification shots with my camera. The bill length and size also looked different to that of Marico.

Having returned home and consulted the literature and various experts, the bird was indeed confirmed as a Shelley's. The area of this sighting is not far from that of other records in the Katima Mulilo area of the Caprivi Strip and suggests that it may have been overlooked in the area. Only time and investigation will tell.

African Scops-Owl

On the subject of birds, Mudumu offers some excitingly varied habitats. The riverine fringe along the Kwando River is refuge to many papyrus swamp specialists more typical of the Okavango Delta, including Swamp Boubou, Hartlaub's Babbler, Chirping Cisticola, Greater Swamp-Warbler and Coppery-tailed Coucal. Quiet lagoons off the main channel are swathed in water lilies creating perfect habitat for Lesser Jacana and African Pygmy-Goose.

Away from the Kwando River, gallery mopane forest, silver clusterleaf woodlands on deep Kalahari sands, teak and burkea stands all offer other interesting bird species. Other notable finds included Fawn-coloured Lark, Lizard Buzzard, Stierling's Wren-Warbler, Retz's Helmet-shrike, African Scops-Owl, Yellow-throated Petronia and musical flocks of Arnott's Chat.

Lianshulu Lodge is certainly a worthwhile visit for any birder exploring Namibia, with game viewing and cultural experiences providing further dimensions to your stay here.



Aquatic Cheetah at Savuti
Location: Savuti Camp, Linyanti Concession, Botswana
Date: 8 May 2009
Observers: Gregg Hughes
Photos: Gregg Hughes

Cats hate water, or so the conventional wisdom would have us believe. Of course tigers are well known swimmers and there are numerous records of leopard preying on fish and other water-living species, not to mention the 'swamp lions' of the Duba Plains area featured in the National Geographic documentary 'Relentless Enemies'.

Clearly then, cats do swim and can overcome their supposed distaste for water. In all likelihood this has more to do with necessity than anything else and recent observations in the Linyanti Concession would appear to support this.

Cheetahs crossing the channel at Savuti camp      Cheetahs swimming the Savute channel      Lions in the water at Savuti camp

For the past 25 years (longer than individual lion and cheetah live in the wild), the legendary Savute Channel has been bone dry: a ribbon of grass used by both herbivores and their predators. In 2008 this all began to change. The Channel is once again flowing and is currently more than 50km from its source at the Zibadianja Lagoon. What this has done is to bisect the territories and home ranges of various large mammal species with a width of water that is just under 1m deep in most places, although considerably deeper in others.

In order for predators like lion and cheetah to continue to patrol their ranges and even pursue their prey, they have had to adapt and to learn behaviour that only their ancestors used. Regular water crossings are now seen on game drive, making for some superb photographic opportunities and interesting behavioural observations as Gregg Hughes' images illustrate.



Vagrant Palm-nut Vulture seen on the Zambezi
Location: Ruckomechi, Mana Pools National Park, Zimbabwe
Date: 2 May 2009
Observers: Kevin van Breda
Photographer: Kevin van Breda

A cluster of perched Hooded Vultures - a relatively low flying scavenger that is often first to locate predator kills (and which even follows some diurnal predators) - led us to a pack of wild dogs feeding on a fresh impala kill in our concession at Ruckomechi Camp in Mana Pools National Park.

Palm-nut Vulture at Ruckomechi camp      Palm-nut Vulture in northern Zimbabwe

Shortly after positioning the vehicle for the best photographic shots for the guests, I looked up to see an unusually coloured bird in amongst the dark Hooded Vultures. Although I had never encountered this species before I immediately recognised it from the illustrations in my field guide as a Palm-nut Vulture. It was very nervous and flew as soon as it realised it had been noticed. I did however manage to take a couple of identification shots as it flapped its way out of sight into the nearby riverine vegetation.

I was thrilled at the sighting. As a result of its very specific diet (the main constituent is fruit of the Raffia palm), it is a rare bird in southern Africa with maybe 50 birds resident along the KwaZulu-Natal coast in South Africa and less than 20 estimated for southern Mozambique. Despite this, the species is notorious for turning up in out of the way localities all over southern Africa. There is even one prior record for the species in Mana Pools, both that bird and this possibly having followed the Zambezi River inland from the Mozambique coast.



The Selinda Spectacular - predator hierarchy in action
Location: Selinda Camp, Selinda Concession, Botswana
Date: 27 May 2009
Observer: Dana Allen
Photographer: Dana Allen

One morning we were out before dawn as usual and early in the morning came upon a lioness that was stalking waterbuck. We spent the morning with her, watching several fumbled attempts to hunt the waterbuck and a close call for a warthog that narrowly escaped her desperate efforts. We then returned to camp for the midday siesta, heading out again later.

Wild dogs with a kill      Hyena at Selinda camp      Hyena and crocodile

As the afternoon drew to a close, we encountered the lioness again, half-heartedly stalking a herd of mixed game only to retire to the shade of a nearby sausage tree for some rest. In an instant the scene changed drastically as a herd of impala came flying through the bush directly at us. Giraffe, kudu, zebra and impala all scattered quickly and quietly in such a manner that we instantly knew that only one creature could be involved: Lethalerwa, the Tswana name for the endangered African Wild Dog!

Galvanized into action, we started the vehicle and as we broke cover and came into an open grassy plain we saw one wild dog crossing the Selinda Spillway and race around the corner out of sight. We crossed the spillway at the nearest shallow point and as we rounded the corner saw the pack, six altogether, feeding on a young kudu that they had brought down just moments before near the edge of the water. We watched and listened as the scene unfolded before us.

After about twenty minutes an adult spotted hyaena arrived at the kill. As soon as the wild dogs saw him, they growled fiercely and chased him to the perimeter of the clearing where he remained. By this time a troop of baboons at the edge of the woodland were sounding loud alarm calls and climbing into the tops of nearby trees. The dogs went back to the kill, and now having devoured much of the kudu started playing with each other and giving displays of dominance and submission. As we watched and photographed this activity a flash of tawny fur just visible through the bushes caught our eyes. It was the lioness from earlier in the day! She had no doubt heard the commotion of the kill and the calls of the baboons and realized that here was her next meal. As she saw the dogs with the remains of the kill there was no hesitation. She leapt into the water at full speed, bounding through the deep water and across the Spillway. The wild dogs scattered before she even reached the other side, found the remains and started to feed.

Our group was in shock and delight and as the sun was setting, we were all happily recounting the charge of the lioness, the hungry hyaena and the spectacle of the dogs. We moved off the kill site, about 100 meters to the west where we started to photograph the wild dogs as they headed off into the glorious African sunset. At that moment our guides - Steve and Moats - quietly said "leopard."

Lioness at Selinda camp      Lioness in water      Obscured leopard image

Off to our left and across the water was a large male leopard. We could not believe our good fortune! We made our way over to the leopard (a magnificent specimen) and followed him as he made his way along the water and toward the kill. As he saw the lioness, he kept to the cover of the bushes. He gazed longingly at the remains of the kudu but realized that there was no way around the lioness.

Darkness was now falling and to the west we heard the eerie and distinctive whoops of the hyaenas gathering. The sound grew louder and suddenly through the dim light we caught sight of a group of about ten hyaenas charging at the lioness. The lioness needed no further incentive and was out of there quickly. The hyaenas took charge of the kill site, running around feverishly trying to find the leftover bits from the many predators before them. The excitement of our group grew to levels that rivaled even the hyaenas! No one would believe this incredible tale!

As our guides reached for their spotlights to illuminate the scene, another pair of eyes was spotted in the now dark water of the spillway. A large crocodile, perhaps about 2 - 3 meters long was making its way to the kill! We watched in disbelief as the crocodile slowly pulled itself out of the water and up to the place where the kudu had been devoured, smelling some of the blood stained grass and eating some of the remaining intestines. Several hyaenas came near the crocodile, but after a short while determining that nothing much else was left, the crocodile headed back into the water and departed the scene with a brisk splash disappearing back into the darkness of the water.

Our hearts were pounding, jaws open in disbelief; our minds were going over this unbelievable spectacle of wildlife that had presented itself in the past hour. As we drove back into camp we all knew that this day would never be forgotten.


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CAMP UPDATES
BOTSWANA:
High water levels at Little Vumbura Camp
Little Vumbura, which is situated on an island in a private concession in the northern reaches of the Okavango Delta, is experiencing one of the highest levels of water in the past 30 years.

It seems as if every year for the past five years or so, we have anticipated a high flood in the Okavango; most of the time it has not lived up to these expectations. 2009 seems to be the year however and flood levels of the Okavango for this time of year are higher than any time in the past decade. It is an exciting time environmentally, with exceptional recharge of groundwater taking place and there have been no negative effects on the environment itself.

Boating at Little Vumbura      Hippos at Little Vumbura

The experience on offer at Little Vumbura has always been focused on the fact that it is predominantly a water camp. Ironically, the last few years have presented us with drier conditions than normal, resulting in large numbers of general game and predators moving out from the surrounding wooded islands and riverine woodlands onto the dry floodplains. We thus adapted our activities in line with this movement of game. With the cycle currently moving back into wetter conditions, this has now reversed, and the animals are moving back onto the islands as they had done years before. Following their lead, we have once again adapted.

Logistically, this means that we have had to modify some of our "traditions" - ways in which we have operated over the last number of years. None of these changes are negative; we are merely adapting to the current state of the Okavango Delta in which we find ourselves.

Until this year, guests would access the island and its camp via a 40-minute road transfer/game drive from the airstrip followed by a 10-minute boat ride. Access is now a much shorter stint in a vehicle from the airstrip, followed by a 20- to 30-minute boat trip through some remarkable areas. (The same combination works in reverse on the way out of camp.)

Pristine water channel at Little Vumbura

This same trip is what guests will take to access the game viewing areas from camp on their activities. When returning to camp after an afternoon's game drive (coupled with a night drive if guests prefer), this means returning back to camp by boat at night. This currently gives guests a different perspective of their surroundings with the thrilling possibility of seeing nocturnal birds and animals. As a precaution, a lead boat is sent ahead.

These changes are all due to natural cycles in the Okavango Delta and will not prevent us from being flexible, while adhering to safety, so as to ensure that our guests' expectations are being met. Those guests who want to spend a little longer in the bush can still do so by either doing a full-day trip or altering game drive times where possible to maximise time spent in the bush. However, at present, we are thoroughly enjoying the amazing changes that have come to our little camp, where 'transfers' become tranquil rides through sparkling waters lapping on the sides of the boats!


Exciting new canoe trail in the Selinda Concession
The Selinda Canoe Trail is a brand new canoeing and walking adventure safari, replicating the safari experiences of old as it navigates along the Selinda Spillway in the heart of the Selinda Concession.

The high waters flowing through northern Botswana in 2009 have caused the Selinda Spillway, in northern Botswana, to flow like it has not done for nearly three decades and this will enable adventurers the opportunity to experience a rare pioneering first. The Spillway is now an ideal setting for Botswana's newest canoeing and walking adventure safari. Navigating the length of the private 135 000 hectare Selinda Concession, the route will begin in the extreme north-east of the Okavango Delta and travel eastwards along the Selinda Spillway through towards the Kwando and Linyanti Rivers close to where Selinda Camp is located.

The three-night/four-day safari covers approximately 70km with nights spent in fly camps along the way, camping along the banks of the river wherever the canoeists find themselves at the end of the day. The days are spent paddling eastwards along the Spillway, stopping whenever there is something of interest to be seen along the banks, such as the many wildlife and bird species found in the area. This is a magical canoe experience appealing to travellers of all ages.

The area is well known for elephant, buffalo, sable antelope, roan antelope, wild dog and guests could very well come across cheetah, lion, leopard and variety of other species.


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Seychelles
North Island Dive Report - May 09              Jump to North Island

No report this month.

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Botswana Camps
Kings Pool Camp update - May 09               Jump to Kings Pool Camp

Weather
Winter has arrived! The temperatures in the early morning and evenings drop to around 12 º Celsius, which is not as cool as it will get in June or July but the winter woolies have definitely come out of storage. The weather has been clear and warm during the day with very little cloud cover. We did have a surprise late thunderstorm during the beginning of the month with delivered over 40mm of rain overnight. This kind of rain during May is very unusual and astonished us all with its force!

Wildlife
With winter, our peak game viewing season has begun. The areas situated away from the river are slowly drying up, and animals become more concentrated along the riparian areas. Large numbers of general game including giraffe, buffalo, kudu, zebra, impala, warthog, waterbuck, vervet monkeys and baboons are frequently seen on safari drives. The rare larger antelopes like roan and sable are slowly coming out of the mopane woodland and we have had a few, short glimpses of these magnificent creatures.

Leopard at Kings Pool camp      One of the Border Boys at Kings Pool      African wild dog at Kings Pool

Lions have been plentiful. We have a small pride of three which we often see around Kings Pool Camp. This particular pride has specialised in hunting warthogs and on numerous occasions we have seen these lions with recently caught warthogs. One of females is pregnant and we are expecting her to give birth in the next few weeks; we can't wait for the cubs arrival as they are always a joy to watch in play with each other. Our dominant male lions, known as the Border Boys, have been patrolling their territory frequently this month. The two Savuti males have also been lurking in their territory, but they have not encountered one another yet.

We have also been having a lot of fun with leopards in May. Last year's cubs are fully grown and are now independent. They seem to know how to pose for photographs which they must have learnt from their mother, who we still see around Kings Pool Camp from time to time. Guests have been regularly fortunate enough to get spectacular shots of these beautiful creatures in striking poses up trees. Every morning we see leopard tracks and the guides diligently follow the spoor in search of these spotted beauties.

We have been very fortunate with wild dog sightings this month. The pack of 18 has been seen on a few occasions around camp. It is always a bonus seeing these endangered dogs. It is often difficult to keep up with them, however, as they are always on the move. They do hunt twice a day, in the morning and the evening, with great success. Due to large pack sizes and high metabolic rates, these carnivores need to eat daily to keep up with their energetic lifestyle.

Elephants are the speciality at Kings Pool Camp during the dry season. We are seeing hundreds of these impressive, grey beasts along the Linyanti waterways where they often swim across the river to the Caprivi and back again. Herds move between the mopane woodland (where food is still abundant) and the Linyanti River to quench their thirsts.

Leopard posing in a leadwood tree at Kings Pool      Verreaux's Eagle-Owl with a Guineafowl kill at Kings Pool

Birding
Birding has been good with sightings of Wattled Crane, Slaty Egret, Southern Ground Hornbill, Martial Eagle and Verreaux's Eagle-Owl. All of the migrants have now departed but we still have a huge variety of bird life in the area. We have been seeing fantastic raptors lately, which is common during the drier months of the year. Many birds can be seen from the camp itself - African Openbill, Little Egret, Yellow-billed Hornbill, Giant Kingfisher and many more.

We are still doing Sundowner Cruises on our double-decker boat. There is not much that can beat watching the sun set over the Linyanti Marsh, sipping a glass of champagne and listening to the hippos sing their grunting song.

We have had a fabulous month and we hope to see you all at Kings Pool sometime so we can share the magic!

-Nick and Kerry, Gabbi and Olivia and Eddie the Chef-

Images by Nick Leuenberger

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DumaTau Camp update - May 09               Jump to DumaTau Camp

Temperature & Water Levels
The month started with fairly cool mornings and evenings, with some late rainfall of 51mm. The temperatures for the month ranged between a minimum of 10 Degrees and maximum 25 Degrees Celsius.

The water levels in the Savute Channel are rising once more as flood waters surge from the Kwando River. The Kwando River's depth has now matched that of the 1969 flood at its highest peak, so we are expecting a large amount of water to flow into the Savuti Channel throughout June. At the moment we are busy looking for sandy patches in the Channel where we can cross to the southern bank for more game viewing.

Lion cub at DumaTau

Wildlife
Lions

The Selinda Pride has been very active this month, seen on three occasions. This pride of ten has been moving into new territory, which is that of the Border boys near Kings Pool Camp. They appear to have specialised in hunting buffalo, seen following the big herd in the mopane woodland around the Tona Pan area and shortly thereafter guide Mocks and his guests found the pride as they had just brought down a female buffalo. The sub-adult males in this pride are steadily maturing, becoming good hunters under the tutorship of the three lionesses. The last week of the month we had the whole pride including Silver Eye and his brother around DumaTau Camp, roaring around us. One morning just before wake up, we heard a chase behind the staff village - the guides dashed off to check the scene, and found the Lions had just killed a zebra. The two males took over the kill and the rest of the pride had little to eat. The pride then left and moved on killing a juvenile wildebeest later. Quite a morning!

The Savuti female has been doing very well at rearing her two cubs; these two juvenile males are looking healthy and growing strong every month. She was spotted by Ronald feeding on a wildebeest, when the two males showed up. Disturbed off her kill and wanting to protect her cubs, she moved to Kubu Lagoon, where unfortunately for her six wild dogs came out from nowhere and spooked the cubs up a tree. She is proving herself to be a very able hunter, as a few days later we spotted her on a female kudu kill. The kill was well concealed from hyaena and vultures beneath a thick stand of fever berry trees.

Then there was also the reluctant water-crossing lion. Kai Collins captured a young male lion crossing the shallow backflow of the Savute Channel between DumaTau and Savuti Camps. He took his time following the rest of the pride across, and when he eventually did, he made his displeasure known by hissing at the water. The rest of the pride, obviously more used to crossing water, had already continued on their way.

Leopard at DumaTau

Leopard
Leopard sightings have been fantastic in May. The DumaTau male was seen a few times mating with an unknown female, and subsequently with the Osprey female. A week later we saw him with another, shy and unknown female. Vasco was fortunate enough to be at the boat station to witness him stalking a male warthog, a failed attempt. The Zib male is doing well too, seen several times and always very relaxed around vehicles. Some of his sightings have been of him hunting Helmeted Guineafowl. His mother, the Zib female, was also seen hunting impala. The Moporota male was also seen; he is looking healthy and strong. Mmamolapo was spotted around Rock Pan Area feeding on a baby impala.

Mmantshwe Boys - cheetahs at DumaTau

Cheetah
The two new males in the area, the Mmantshwe Boys, have been doing very well, and have often been seen swimming across the Savute Channel. They appear to be fairly successful at hunting - the guides having witnessed a few hit and misses over the course of the month.

Elephant and wild dogs at DumaTau

Wild Dog
Wild dog sightings have been the highlight of the month at DumaTau Camp. We finally got to re-identify the DumaTau pack. The pack comprises four males and two females. We have noticed that both female dogs are pregnant which is highly unusual. The norm is for only the alpha female to produce puppies, so there is some debate as to whether both will successfully give birth or not. We wait to see where they will den this year. Ron saw one dog just as he left camp for the Boat one afternoon and saw that it was the Alpha male chasing an impala. The dog killed the hapless impala in the water right in front of Room 1. He left the kill for about 40 minutes, looking and calling for the rest of the pack. The entire pack finally showed up; this made for a spectacular sighting with dogs running in the dust towards the kill - completed with a male elephant that chased them around the floodplain! The next morning while we were having breakfast with the guests, the pack chased a shy female Leopard up a Fever berry tree by the entrance point in camp.

The LTC pack has been hunting between Duma Tau camp and Kings Pool. Ronald saw the dogs chasing Kudu and noticed that on this hunt one of them was badly injured. A branch was impaled in its thigh and it was limping. The dog was left behind by the hunting pack and we have not seen it since. As there are always hyaena that follow closely behind the dog packs, we are concerned that the injured dog fell victim to a possible attack by hyaenas.

General Game Species
General game has been abundant as usual. Big herds of elephants are seen along the Savute Channel and by Kubu Lagoon every day, all day. Guest who love elephant and have visited the Linyanti for this reason have been left speechless with the vast numbers they were seeing. Most of our resident adult bull elephants are not friendly at the moment as they seem to be in musth (a condition of heightened testosterone levels). They have also kept us busy repairing the walkways as they break sections of it every night! Large numbers of zebra are present as well, and the buffalo are a common sight in the mopane woodlands.

Theba, having been a guide for thirty years, was over the moon to have spotted a rarely-seen pangolin. This was the fourth time in his guiding career to see one.

Birds & Birding
Bird life is always unbelievable along the Savute Channel, especially now with the influx of water birds into the area. Wattled Cranes are now resident just in front of DumaTau Camp by the pool, and the diversity of raptors have also been a highlight.

Guest Comments
'Elephant right next to our tent, Mr T, lions roaring all night, bush dinner, friendly smiles by the staff and cannot think of anything to be changed. Thank you. Bunny and John.
'The care consideration and thoroughness shown by individuals and the team. Mocks is a great guide and a fine ambassador for Botswana. Keep going just as you are.' Sue and Alan
'It's a warm and wonderful place. I hate to see putting wild dogs above the lovely staff and guides at DumaTau Camp. We missed seeing the dogs at the last camp and we had given up on seeing them ever in our life but Mocks did it. Keep it as it is, a saying in the US, if it isn't broken, don't fix it.' Anne
'The wild dogs and Theba, the best guide in Africa! The people of DumaTau Camp are our new friends' Melissa and Tom.

Staff
The managers in camp were Vasco, Miriam, Joel, Kele and Karen. We also have Maatla doing her management training and the guiding team was Ron, Theba, Lazi, Name, Mocks and Moses as the trainee guide.

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Savuti Camp update - May 09               Jump to Savuti Camp

May has once again come and gone, the browning of the leaves tell us that yet another chapter is finished. For those that visited our piece of Botswana paradise many fond memories were savoured, some with great joy and some with a slight twinge of sadness. Needless to say, emotions were rather high during May's many unforgettable safaris.

Something special is happening deep in the heart of the wilderness. It might be the bellowing sound of a hundred buffalo crossing our famous Savute Channel, or the male impala in full rut defending what is his, proving to his harem that he is the only one for them. Or is it the two young male lion cubs at age six months, following their mother through the cold of the morning and the heat of the day, waiting for her to lock onto their new prey? The only people who would know are those waking up at 05h30, as the old saying goes "the early bird catches the worm".

Lioness at Savuti      Cheetah brothers at Savuti camp      Lions with a lechwe kill at Savuti

After a good cup of filter coffee to warm up the body and wake up the soul everyone heads out in hope of finding something, something that they have dreamt of for a very long time in its natural environment - the holistic African safari experience. Throw in a couple of lions or spotted cats and for some, this might be the winning recipe. For others, watching a Pied Kingfisher hover in a perfect position, waiting for that split second that his prey has moments between life and death was enough. Searching for the elusive honey-badger or porcupine, it doesn't really matter, in the end everyone has come here for the same thing. And for the last four weeks, I think everyone that's come here has found exactly that.

Moments after we spoke about the 'painted wolves' (the African wild dog), they surprised us with a wonderful outburst right in front of Savuti Camp; this almost felt like an action replay of last month's happenings. We were watching them in awe - one, two, three dogs running like the wind, crossing the Channel like there is nothing in their way. They came to a stop only once they had their prey in full grip, no time wasted. As the sun set against the pink, yellow and blue backdrop the smears of colour and the textures of the Linyanti dust settles as a large herd of elephants come to drink. Expect the unexpected - with no expectations. In the distance a lion is making sure everyone knows about his presence. An African Scops-owlet entertains us with its unmistakable "Prrp, pause, Prrp", the fireflies settle as they advertise themselves with their passionate glow to find a mate. Yet another day is now only a mere memory. The Milky Way paints a new picture in the Southern Hemisphere night sky - the winter constellations and the Magellanic Clouds poised like rough diamonds. Lighting up the unknown wonder-world of an amateur astronomer sipping on a glass filled with creamy Amarula liqueur. Make a wish on a dying star - burning out into the depths that attract us to this vast and unspoilt Promised Land.

As morning breaks, everyone is gathered around the 'bush television', flames bursting and wood crackling of an African campfire. It is cold! The morning temperatures took us by surprise; winter came quicker than we thought Hot water bottles make great companions as you set out on you morning photographic hunt. The wind is chilly against your face, but somehow you don't even notice. Eyes widened, searching for anything that moves. Finally, there they are; 10 healthy lions feasting on black and white stripes, the eagerness in their body language showing that these were ten hungry lions: growling and grunting, hissing and clawing - a never ending tug of war - survival of the fittest.

Zebras at Savuti      Elephant at Savuti camp      Wild dogs and hyenas at Savuti camp

In another section of our large untouched unspoilt safari area is another interesting show. Two male giraffes doing what seem like a never-ending ballet - a graceful staccato dance of dominance. As their necks entwine, the thumping sound of the solid bone in their horns rings out across savannah. Combat of the most graceful kind, not too pugnacious, but still a serious battle between two males with one goal: finding out who is the brawnier of the two...

In the distance another pack of wild dogs wake up from a taunted night - hyaenas lurking, lions lingering in the shadows and a leopard on the prowl. These wild dogs are going to have an interesting month ahead. Two of the females are pregnant: ready to bring new life into the animal world. They will have to find a safe den site, out of view of their enemies. Soon we will be a part of a magical event, watching these animal parents nurture and protect their prospective leaders.
Up in the trees an orchestra of sounds, a cacophony of contrast is humming us to sleep. It's time to come and experience the passion, the expert guiding, great food and homely welcoming atmosphere - not to mention the indescribable beauty - of our home nestled alongside the Savute Channel: Savuti Camp, where who knows what will happen next!

Guest Comments
We appreciated all your kindness, caring and concern for our well being - you made our Savuti home feel like home to us.
Yes, it was our favourite camp overall!
Concentration of elephant was unexpected and exciting; service and quality was excellent, and hospitality was warm and wonderful.
Fantastic guides, staff and management! Please don't change.
Our guide Kane's understanding both of animal behaviour and photographic lighting - he set us up for amazing shoots.
Goodman was an excellent guide - we enjoyed the safari experience!
Really appreciated all the efforts made to accommodate our dietary needs - the camp chefs went above and beyond to help with this!
Our romantic meal for two on the deck - perfect!!
Traditional night was lots of fun and staff was very friendly!
Highlights: puff adder, rain storm, camp setting, cheetah, rainbow, light, all good!

As we finish off the fifth chapter in the book of 2009, we look forward in welcoming you into our little piece of Eden in the near future!

Images by Kane Motswana
-Diana, Terri, Tumoh, Khutse & Shady-

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Kwando Safari Camps Update - May 09

Lagoon camp               Jump to Lagoon Camp
The Lagoon pack of fifteen Wild Dogs has been a regular site again this month. The female is heavily pregnant and expected to give birth some time late in June or early July. The search for the den site continues into June.

A fortuitous sighting of a caracal was recorded close to Johns Pan while on a night drive an African Civet was seen hunting a feeding on a millipede.

May has also been a productive month for Cheetah sightings. Three brothers who are resident in the area were followed and they managed to kill a sub adult Impala.

Kwara & Little Kwara camps               Jump to Kwara & Little Kwara camps
Kwara is home to a new Leopard cub after a month old animal was spotted with its mother several times over the last few weeks. The pair are still understandably shy and defensive but lucky guests at Kwara have still managed to get some spectacular shots of our newest addition.

The rising flood water into Kwara lagoon has reached almost all the way up to the fireplace enabling guests a close up view of wallowing Hippos and basking Crocodiles.

An abundance of plains game is congregating in the area now that the distant pans have dried up. Zebras, Buffalos, Impalas and returning Elephants have all been observed by the camp.

Lebala camp               Jump to Lebala Camp
This May we have found two packs of Wild Dogs in the area. The first, numbering seven, were hunting Impala south of the airstrip but missed and failed. The second was a group of twelve animals that were seen at various intervals throughout the area. Both groups seem well fed and females are pregnant.

Elephants have been returning in large numbers to the permanent Kwando channel by Lebala from the backcountry and Mopane woodland now that the pans have dried up.

Breeding herds and bachelor groups are a common site in and around the camp.

Some interesting Lion Hyena interaction took place on the floodplains when a Lioness was spotted running away from three Hyenas one evening.

Hundreds of Buffalos have moved through Lebala mating and mud bathing as they go followed by countless Cattle Egrets and Oxpeckers.

Nxai Pan
An extraordinary few days of late rain has given new life to the pans giving resident Elephants, Springbok, Wildebeest and predators welcome relief from the draught. Zebras have been sited leaving the Boteti River and heading back out into the pans – almost unheard of at this time of the year.

Two cheetah brothers have been a regular site on the main Nxai Pan. They are consistently stalking Impalas and Springboks. The quiet winter nights are disturbed only by calling Hyenas and ‘the cry of the Kalahari’ Jackals.

Botswana’s biggest eagle – the Martial Eagle, killed a Red Billed Francolin and proceeded to prey on it on a tree close to the swimming pool at the camp.

Tau Pan
A very interesting conflict was witnessed recently at Tau Camp. A Brown Hyena was found with a Jackal in its mouth close to Tau Pan. It is unclear whether the Jackal was killed by the Hyena or if it died by some other cause.

Elsewhere, four Lionesses led a successful hunt on a Gemsbok (Oryx) close to the camp which was witnessed by some lucky guests. The rare Cape Fox was also seen. This tiny omnivore is roughly the size of a cat and is endemic to the Kalahari of Southern Africa. In Botswana it can only be seen in the Central Kalahari where Tau is situated.

As winter kicks in the Kalahari has been transformed into a golden paradise as the old grass has faded for the year. Water has dried out in most areas leaving a stark landscape occupied by only the most hardy desert animals.

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Mombo Camp update - May 09               Jump to Mombo Camp

Weather and Vegetation
The month of May is usually a very cold month at Mombo but it has been really warm in the area and most of our repeat guests were really surprised as they had come prepared for the cold month they have grown accustomed to. It only started getting cold towards the end of the month where we so minimum temperatures of 11º Celsius and the maximum going to highs of 32º Celsius at the beginning of the month. We have had an average low of 15º Celsius and average high of 29º Celsius for the whole of May. Usually our last rains before winter are in mid April, but this time around we did get some rainfall in May and the maximum recorded was 19.5mm, this was a big surprise for everyone at Mombo. The rains also helped increase the flood water, which were already early as compared to the past years. The floods are usually at their peak in June but this time around we had more flood water than we usually do, but it was only beginning of May.

It is the time of the year when trees start dropping their leaves and we have seen most of the dryer parts of Mombo turning from green to browner wintry hues. Botanically, it is quite interesting to drive along the floodplains, as you now get two different coloured vegetation bands. The tree line along the floodplains being brown and the hippo grass in the flooded areas being very green - a visually beautiful contrast.

Red lechwe leaping at Mombo camp      Burchell's zebra at Mombo

Wildlife
Mombo Camp has always been a great lion area as they follow the big diversity of general game that exists in this area. They still haven't proved this fact wrong as there are a lot of additions to the lion population. The latest addition is a cub estimated at about two to three weeks old that belongs to the Moporota Pride. This pride was seen with this little cub between Derek's Crossing and Triple Baobab (don't you just love the place names on the concession!). The pride has three other cubs that are about three months old and they are cousins to the smallest cub. This pride is controlled by the two Jao Boys who are the fathers of the four cubs.

The Mathata Pride which has four lionesses and two cubs are mostly seen around the Simbira area and Suzie's. One of the lionesses of this pride has been seen this month mating with one of the Western Pride males.

The Western Pride has been seen around camp and hunting in camp as well. One morning just when we were about to go out on our morning drive they had killed an impala just in front of the Mombo Camp curio shop. This is the same pride that has the female with a mane reported some time back and she seems to dominate the other females. This was witnessed when they killed the impala in camp as she was the only one eating with the rest waiting for her to finish. She is not just dominant but also a very good hunter and fearless when out hunting.

Western pride "maned" female lion with an impala kill at Mombo      Lioness at Mombo camp      Lion with a kill at Mombo camp

Legadima has been a very successful leopard in this area of lions and she has done very well when she passed it on to her cubs (Pula and Maru) that are about eighteen months old now. We have been very lucky to have all three leopards around camp as they are now no longer together most of the time. Legadima is now comfortable to leave them on their own so they can start fending and learning for themselves. Pula has shown that she is doing very well as some of our guides and guests witnessed her take down an impala when she had another one up the tree already! She had just reailised that she could take down a big animal like an impala and she was having fun doing it. She was then seen again two days later. While playing with a squirrel, two fighting male impala caught her attention. She decided to go for one of them and again our guides and guests witnessed Pula take down an adult male impala. She unfortunately failed to drag it up the tree and hyaenas scavenged the kill from her.

The lone wild dog that we have been seeing is still surviving. Not just surviving other predators, but she has done well in keeping fit and she has turned out to be a very good solo hunter. Martin and some of the other managers here were even lucky to see this wild dog catch an impala.

Mombo is also reknowned for its density of general game. Big numbers of red lechwe have been seen by Thompson's Crossing where we usually have our bush brunches and also zebra, wildebeest, giraffe, impala, kudu and warthog. Big herds of about around two hundred buffalo are been seen at Moporota Floodplains; elephants and buffalo bulls seen in camp have also been a great highlight for us.

On the 28th of May our guides and guests enjoyed a great sighting of rhino courtesy of Poster: three rhinos, one of them being a calf (Tshepo) together with a male (Serondela) and female (Warona).

Verreaux's Eagle-owl at Mombo

Birding
Birding has also been simply fantastic and this was proved when we scooped first prize for the annual Birding Big Day competition (see how many birds can be identified in a 24-hour period). We were also very lucky, while enjoying brunch at Thompson's Crossing, when a Verreaux's Eagle-owl was spotted feeding on a francolin, and it was not even bothered that by our presence or talking.

Staff
Managers in camp this month were Lizzy, Kago (KG), Martha, Martin and Marleen. Thapera was on leave. Cilas, Tsile, Dr, Lebo and Pete were the guides that helped me come up with the news this month, and Steve was the Head Chef for the month. Thanks to all the brilliant staff that I did not mention and for making Mombo what it is.

All images by Kago (KG) Tlhalerwa

-Kago (KG)-

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Xigera Camp update - May 09               Jump to Xigera Camp

Weather and Water Levels
So far we have had warm winter weather, with even some rainfall on three occasions at the beginning of the month. We have found only in the last two weeks of the month that it has started to cool down.

The recorded minimum temperature was 15°and maximum temperature 24° Celsius. At some places in the Delta the water is apparently still rising, but at our bridge we have noticed otherwise. Over the month there has been a small drop in the water level.

Wildlife
During the mokoro rides there has been a lot of general game, with some beautiful sightings of elephants. The boating activities have also heralded some extraordinary stories of the abundance of game, and especially the beautiful sightings experienced during picnics on Chief's Island. The best sighting has to be the pride of nine lions crossing a broad channel. Before crossing, they continuously and nervously looked over their shoulders, but eventually jumped through the water and swam across. It was an amazing event! Together with Kai Collins, our Environmental Manager, we had a close look at the video filmed by guests, and we assume it was the Western Pride crossing into the Jao concession.

Leopard taking an impala kill up a tree at Xigera      Pel's Owl at Xigera camp      Redd frog at Xigera camp

On the drives and even during the guests' pickups from the airstrip, there have been regular leopard sightings. This leopard is very successful and is often seen with a kill in the trees along the riverine forest. There has been a hyaena den spotted on the game drives, with one pup. The local hyaena family is however making it difficult for the leopard to keep kills for itself. One of these events was very exciting, where the leopard killed a female impala and managed to take it up into the tree, just before the hyaena walked onto the scene. However, this particular tree had fallen over and thus not very high! The leopard, worried about its kill, tried to take it higher up in the tree, balancing itself on the thinner, weaker branches. Unfortunately, with the hyaena jumping up and disturbing it, the leopard couldn't hold on to the carcass any longer and had to drop it into the waiting jaws of its foe.

The amount of elephants around this time of year has been very entertaining. There is a big family herd sighted on drive on a regular basis and elephants are still crossing through the camp quite often. This month a whole family has crossed through camp on a few occasions (besides the often lonely bulls) keeping guest awake during the night. The family has got a few young calves.

The bridge to camp has had regular hyaena crossings, as the sand patch called 'The Sandy Times' has shown us; and two leopard crossings - one during pre-dinner drinks!

Birds and Birding
The birding has been very good as usual with Slaty Egret, Wattled Crane, Southern Ground Hornbills, Openbilled and Saddle-billed Storks, a Long-crested Eagle and the exquisite Malachite and Pied Kingfishers.

The most amazing bird sightings were right in camp though! For over two weeks, there were two beautiful Pel's Fishing-owls residing at Room 10. It was an amazing sight, especially when sitting in the palm tree. There is also another pair of these birds on an island north of Xigera Camp.

Guest Comments
"Herd of elephants crossing right before us. Beautiful sunrises, sunsets and amazing birds. The elephant feeding outside our door our first night. Last but certainly not least the surprise anniversary dinner for the two of us - WOW! Thank you!" Ron and Nancy

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Vumbura Plains Camp update - May 09               Jump to Vumbura Plains Camp

Weather & Water Levels
This month has been amazing with regards to annual floods; the water has stopped rising and we are experiencing a vast wetland wilderness. In general, the flood has had an impact on wildlife distribution, with animals moving to new inundated areas and causing the guides rethink their strategy in finding wildlife.

Wildlife
In the beginning of the month we had numerous sightings of the lion pride dubbed the Eastern Pride. One of the females has introduced her cubs to the pride. She has however lost one, with two remaining. The other lioness in the pride also has a cub. This new pride has been trying their luck in hunting buffalo, and they were witnessed finishing off the carcass of a young bull. They are spending most of their time around Vumbura Plains and towards the north-east of the Kwedi Concession.

The Kubu Pride was also seen again towards the end of the month, after a long absence. They have been resident around the airstrip area and the cubs are doing well and look very healthy. Two cubs are now about 10 months old and the youngest one is about four months old. The 10-month old cubs have already started to show interest in practising hunting by play stalking each other, as well as their younger sibling. This pride has also been seen on different occasions trying their luck on taking down buffalo, though no kills were actually witnessed.

During May there were many diverse animal sightings such as black-backed jackal, serval, pangolin, wild dog and leopard. Exciting to note was the new leopard discovered near Kgokong Loop. She was very skittish and shy initially, but as she was found with an impala kill up a tree, she remained for a few days, becoming relaxed and more tolerant of vehicles. Another unknown leopard was found in the Xhakhwetshaa Pan area, hunting impala. Selonyana, our resident female leopard, has been regularly seen throughout the month.

The Golden Pack of wild dog, which used to consist of 22 dogs, looks like they have split up. The pack that was seen comprised five dogs - three males and two females. They were watched killing a female kudu, which was stolen by hyaenas before the dogs could feed.

The pangolin sighting came as a nice surprise, as one had not been seen in ages in our area. Guide Ban found it when he was following a sub-adult leopard, which was slowly heading towards the Kgokong Loop area.

General game sightings were fairly quiet in the beginning of the month due to the movement of animals away from the floodplains and into the woodlands. As time progressed, and our road network allowed us greater access to new areas, giraffe, kudu and different elephant herds were all sighted.

Birds & Birding
A great bird sighting this month was a Giant Eagle-owl with a springhare kill in the afternoon. A plethora of water birds are seen daily, and it is always entertaining for us to watch the Southern Ground Hornbills we see so regularly here, a threatened species in Southern Africa. All in all a great start to the winter!

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Little Vumbura Camp update - May 09               Jump to Little Vumbura Camp

Little Vumbura continues to live up to its reputation of being one of the best camps in the Okavango Delta and this year's floods have certainly brought us a lot of excitement and unusual experiences, which we hope continue.

Water Levels and Environmental Changes
Little Vumbura has seen an increase in the flood water levels in May and this continues to cause excitement here at Little Vumbura as it has started something completely new in history of the camp - guests now get to boat from the airstrip right to camp!

Leopard at Little Vumbura camp      Lion cubs at Little Vumbura

The boat ride starts at Vumbura Paradise, a unique part of the Kwedi Concession, which is basically a permanent lagoon with a wondrous variety of wildlife and birds. The boat ride is approximately 20 minutes to Little Vumbura Camp through a beautiful floodplain where we also see loads of birds and animals such as sightings of elephant, red lechwe, common reedbuck, buffalo and even lion. This is certainly a great welcome to Little Vumbura and is also a nice start and end to the day, travelling to and from the other wildlife viewing areas that are explored by safari vehicle.

Wildlife
Despite having more water inundating our floodplains than previous years, we still continue to enjoy exceptional wildlife sightings. Wild dogs have been seen consistently almost every other day, which is very exciting. We are seeing three different wild dog packs ranging in size from five animals to as large as 18. Some of the dogs have very young pups and other pack females are expecting.

Lion sightings have also been excellent with three different prides seen. One of the prides has three small cubs - two are about six months old and one about three months old.

African wild dog at Vumbura      Pel's Fishing-owl      Carmin bee-eater at Little Vumbura

Even after having lost our resident male leopard last year we continue to relish in ample leopard sightings and are finding 'new' leopards - in other words, not seen before. I guess the contest for the territory has begun and we are quite keen to see who will settle here. The male cheetah in the area has also been seen a few times this month, which is good news.

General game sightings are good too - we have seen various herds of elephant, Burchell's zebra, blue wildebeest, buffalo and impala. Journeys of giraffe are often sighted too, their collective name aptly describing the almost-continual procession somewhere.

Birds
Birding has also been outstanding. Seeing special birds like Pel's Fishing-owl have also been one of the highlights of our mokoro trips at Little Vumbura.

Staff
Managers this month were Boyson, Max, and Unoziba and the guides were Kay, Lazarus and Sevara.

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Duba Plains Camp update - May 09               Jump to Duba Plains Camp

Weather
May has been a relatively cool month, with temperatures dropping considerably when compared to April. Typical of May, as we approach winter, most of the nights and mornings have been very cool with a light cold wind. Average temperatures ranged between 13 and 15º Celsius minimum, and a maximum temp of between 30 and 32.

We have experienced an increase in flood water on the concession in both April and May. Despite the amount of water, we can still operate game drives without any limitations and are still able to cover most of our prime game drive areas. With most of the floodplains inundated, this has reduced the area over which the buffalo roam, forcing them to spend more time on certain dry floodplains and islands which we can access easily. The flood water seems to be stable at this stage; we expect water levels to start receding in the next month and a half.

Wildlife
Buffalo have been seen on a regular basis in May - the herd still in great condition. There is a large amount of palatable grasses in the area which is what the buffalo and other grazers like tsessebe and red lechwe prefer. As mentioned before, we have witnessed buffalo abandoning their newly born calves in fear of lions and this behaviour continues to happen. The guides have reported that this has occurred numerous times in the month of May, and the abandoned calf will always fall prey to the hungry lionesses.

Lioness crossing water at Duba Plains camp      Rosy-throated Longclaw at Duba

One of the highlights of the month was the sighting of the sub-adult male leopard that has been seen twice in different occasions on a single game drive! The most exciting aspect of this sighting is how relaxed he has been towards vehicles, making it very easy for us to view him. We have seen leopards before at Duba Plains, but this sighting is by far the best in recent history due to his relaxed behaviour towards humans. The guides estimate his age to be between 18 and 24 months.

As usual, the Tsaro Pride has continued to provide the majority of the lion sightings this month. They still consist of nine adult females and a juvenile female cub. The poor breeding success rate of this pride sadly continues with about eight cubs killed in the last four months. Out of the four cubs that were in the pride only two months ago, only one has been seen alive. Silver Eye, the lioness generally thought to be responsible for much of this cub killing seems not to be tolerated by the other lionesses and she has been isolated from the majority of the pride for much of May.

She has been most regularly seen close to the camp island with one of the females who has been a companion of hers for many years; the pair have been very successful at hunting, seen on two occasions on kills. The rest of the pride continues to be together on most occasions. They have also hunted successfully in May, and we have witnessed many interactions between the pride and the buffalo herd. Most guests have been amazed at watching how these lions have adapted to living in the flooded areas, and manage so successfully. Viewing swimming lions is a very common sight at Duba Plains!

Birding
Bird sightings have been outstanding, with lots of water birds and raptors everywhere like Martial Eagle, Brown and Black-chested Snake-eagles. The African Fish-eagles appear to have been on a fishing frenzy given the number of fish now present in the flooded areas.

The guides have also recently reported the significant increase of Wattled Cranes, and a flock of five frequent the floodplain in front of the camp. We also have been having frequent sightings of another uncommon species, the Rosy-throated Longclaw.

Staff
The managers at Duba plains in May were Moalosi, Tebby and Bonang as usual, working with a very strong team of guides - Reuben, Lets and Carlton.

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Jacana Camp update - May 09               Jump to Jacana Camp

Weather
It has been a month of stark contrasts but mostly warm days with little wind. The change in season is here however. The colour of the grass has changed into its golden winter dress - similar to the sandy colouring of lions.

The annual flood water has come and now starts its age-old passage into the far reaches of the various fingers of the Okavango Delta. For the first time visitor, this annual occurrence is not a raging torrent of brown water but rather the gradual inundation of floodplain areas that eventually peters out into the thirsty soils of the Kalahari Desert. With it is brings life, drama and one of the top wilderness spectacles left on the Planet today.

The splendour of the flood is coupled with red sunrises and stunningly visual sunsets which are unequalled elsewhere in the world. There has been no rain for weeks and this is nothing to be complaining about as we have water plenty for all to see. This world of reflections amazes us every day with surprises like hippos and elephants walking through the channels to get to palm trees that have ripened sufficiently to their taste.

Lioness at Jacana camp      'Beauty' the leopard at Jacana camp

Wildlife
The wildlife has been nothing short of spectacular - lions hunting water-loving red lechwe on the floodplains with water spraying everywhere is just one of the highlights this month. Scenes like these test photographers' skills to the limit, with suitable photographic subjects around every corner.

Mother and youngster are holding their own in the secret world of the leopards. Our resident female leopard and her young, but almost mature male cub, never ceases to amaze us with their sudden appearances and the disappearances, not to mention the large male leopard in the area who was spotted three times this past month becoming more and more accustomed to the cameras.

Lions and leopards were however not the only ones making their presence felt. There was a particular morning where one of our guides stumbled upon a large female spotted hyaena chasing red lechwe with surprising agility and managed to take one down. Just shows that they really are the apex predators of the African wild, and not merely scavengers as many people are lead to believe.

Apart from all this action there has been a breeding herd of elephant staying around our island making themselves heard but not seen. Loud splashes and trumpeting make for rather interesting evening sounds around the campfire.

Western Banded Snake-eagle

Birding
102 bird species recorded on only three game drives and one mokoro outing. Amazing - the birding these last few weeks has been nothing short of special. We have had some good sightings including Slaty Egret, Pel's Fishing-owl (almost daily), Rosy-throated Longclaw, and Black Heron. We have also had some phenomenal eagle sightings including Martial Eagle feeding on a mongoose, African Harrier Hawk raiding Meyer's Parrots nests, Bateleurs eating snakes and Western Banded Snake-eagle (pictured).

Guest Comments
"What a wild island we came to: elephant in the bathroom, monkeys on the roof, we enjoyed it so much!" Christene and Horst
"Fabulous time, great wildlife, amazing singing and outstanding staff. Thank you!" Erick and Sarah
"A fantastic experience, great friendly staff and service, beautiful location." Bob And Rhonda

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Kwetsani Camp update - May 09               Jump to Kwetsani Camp

Weather
The mornings are pure bliss as we wake up to the amber light of the rising sun out on the horizon. Breakfast is a pleasant meeting place for guests, guides and the hosts as we absorb the first light of the day in awe of the brilliant colours forming on the clouds and the skies.

In the beginning of the month the weather was very unpredictable as we had days which would start off as windy and cloudy and clear up as the sun started to warm the day up. We even had a recent storm which is very unusual for this time of year. The after effects of the rain and short-lived storm was the most beautiful sight as there were bold and bright rainbows spread out against the backdrop of the expansive Kwetsani floodplains.

The most bizarre weather we experienced though was a heavy hail storm that came after a quick shower of rain in the mid afternoon. As the guests were busy watching leopard Beauty that was hidden behind some thick bushes, enjoying her afternoon meal of an impala, some hail came down on them a few minutes after their sighting.

Rainbow at Kwetsani camp      Kwetsani sunset

Wildlife
Our resident Kwetsani lions never cease to amaze and entertain us, as this month we have had many visits from them on the island and on the floodplains in Kwetsani Camp. The two females have been very active which means that they need to eat a lot more to sustain their energy levels. There have been a number of spontaneous kills that we have witnessed right on the perimeters of our camp. The male lion has been spotted walking and wondering about the wide floodplains, roaring in vain in search of the females which seem to leave him behind at any opportunity they get.

The higher flood waters do not seem to bother the lions as they have been forced to adapt to wading through the deep waters to cover their territory and in search of food. Food sources are plentiful as their preferred prey, red lechwe, are thriving at this time of the year. For the lions to get across to different areas they walk and swim through kilometres of water channels (sometimes quite deep) and floodplains.

Bull elephant at Kwetsani      Leopard at Kwetsani      Lion in deep water floodplain at Kwetsani

Our resident male leopard has been less elusive this month as we have spotted him a number of times in and around Kwetsani Camp. His behaviour is quite unpredictable - he sometimes is relaxed giving wonderful picture-taking opportunities. At other times he does not seem to like the attention and he will dash off. The one evening he was spotted by the staff in the sausage tree in between Rooms 1 and 2 while he was resting. It was the first time that we had ever seen him so close to people and also so relaxed about it. It was amazing to watch him as he lay there with his paws hanging on either side of the tree branch. One day we spotted him walking across the floodplain in front of the camp heading north. We tried to follow his movements as we all watched him through our binoculars and the deck telescope. We all lost sight of him at one point and gave up on looking for him. Later that day one of our guests staying in Room 5 saw him and this time he was walking with a female leopard, a possible mate.

On the afternoon of the 18th of May as we were preparing a surprise dining experience for our guests an interesting guest was spotted nearby - a large male lion! The plans continued as we all thought he would, as usual, go in search of his female lions who had been lying in the exact spot we were setting up the night before. We finished setting up and left to get the food ready and fetch the guests. We all drove out of camp in a convoy to the bush dinner spot and on our arrival there was the same male lion. He had returned and was now approaching the set up area. He started to stalk the curious looking torches, the fire and obscure looking objects (the tables and chairs) that he had never seen there before. He walked around the dinner table sniffing, eventually walking away. All the guests and staff were silent, stunned and staying put on the vehicles. That night we made a unanimous decision to dine back in camp!

-Tumi, Pono and the Kwetsani Team-

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Jao Camp update - May 09               Jump to Jao Camp

Weather and Water Levels
A pinch of chill and a dash of sun is the perfect recipe for a perfect month. The days are cozy and warm in the generous light of the sun which encourages guests and wildlife alike to bask in its bountiful beams. One of the biggest floods in history has receded slightly, but still providing the greatest opportunity of all here to get out on the motor boats and mekoro.

Wildlife
The wildlife is continuing to be challenged by the wet terrain here in the Jao concession.

Lions are sighted regularly crossing the flooded plains, quite miserably yet majestically, to get to the other side. The pride of three have been roaming around the concession but always heading back to the north-west where it is suspected that the adult female has safely hidden her cubs, which we are yet to be introduced to. These two female lions seem to be struggling to get a decent meal with their hungry male family member. Some lucky Jao guests witnessed them kill a red lechwe, and the females devoured as much as they could until they were chased off by the male who had rounded the lechwe towards them for their premeditated ambush.

Lovely Jao scene      Baby banded Mongooses at Jao

Our leopards, as always, have delighted safari goers. The naughty male youngster, Motsumi, has been in and out of camp daily. Our resident African civet encountered him for the first and last time, unfortunately being killed by his playful antics.

His mother, Beauty, seems to be giving him space and freedom, ultimately to detach themselves permanently when Motsumi is proficient at surviving on his own in the wild. For now, his hunting skills are fairly good but he does meet up for a 'home-cooked meal' with his mother; like all good teenage boys.

The resident genet was seen swimming from one side of the road to the other - nature has a superb way of adapting to the natural challenges it presents to all living creatures.

Some of the wildlife that welcomes the flooding has been around Jao Island. A family of sitatunga - an adult male, female and their fawn - were sighted regularly at dawn. The morning light silhouetted the trio perfectly for a spectacular way to begin a morning safari. The sitatunga is the only antelope which can swim before it has the ability to walk, they are a rare sight here in the Delta.

Also, Cape clawless otters are popping their noses out of the water in front of camp. Every year they spend some time around camp, but you have to be quick because as soon as they are up, then are they under once again.

The thriving birdlife has maintained its intrigue and surprised first-timer safari-goers. There is a certain expectation when coming to Africa but the birdlife is always an unexpected addition to exciting sightings. Pels Fishing-owls, kingfishers, Rosy-throated Longclaws, Slaty Egrets, Saddle-billed storks, Yellow-billed Ducks to name just a few.

Mongoose Manor Update
The receding water on the island has opened up a little more scavenging space for the banded mongoose group.

The pregnant female gave birth to 'seven little dwarfs'. The new additions are slowly being introduced to the wild outside of a termite mound where they were born. They have since, dwindled to five in number, suspecting that the baboon troop has been responsible for their demise.

A feast provided, surprisingly enough with the help of the baboons, of an impala carcass left by Beauty, filled the bellies of the group. While the carcass was left unattended the mongoose troop could not resist the meal planted on their doorstep.

Guest News
As always a safari is one of the most significant ways one can celebrate birthdays, honeymoons and anniversaries. Amongst all of our excited guests we have had these merriments to add a little celebration to an already wholesome adventure here in the Okavango Delta.

Guest Comments
Although our stay was brief we could easily fall in love with Jao and its beauty. Thank you for looking after our every need. Keep up the great work you do. Richard and Susan

Driving across the floodplain with a male lion walking side by side with us for at least a half an hour. Also, being charged by an enraged elephant! Oh and the baboon who paid us a visit in the shower! Betsy and Susie

Dusk viewing of a leopard, sunset boat ride and just sitting and watching elephants. I can't believe I didn't mention the lions on the waterway, magical!! Dean and Ann

Seeing lions crossing the Jao floodplain; the mokoro ride; watching leopard hunting. Talking to Chief about many things, the great food (but we need to eat less of it!) Staff extremely friendly and helpful. George and Gayle

The camp is great - staff kindness and service are way above standards and expectations. The diversity of activities is very interesting and the nature is beautiful. Wine cellar is great - having such a wine choice all included is a great concept. Great animal sightings with lot of incredible close-ups. Odile and Fred

Great location and architecture of the site coupled with great game viewing of leopard. Wonderful food! Overall, great photographic opportunities and phenomenal experience!! Nevid and Myriam.


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Tubu Tree Camp update - May 09               Jump to Tubu Tree Camp

Weather and Water Levels
Winter has almost arrived, and the chill in the air slowly creeps through the camp as soon as the sun goes down now. However, mid-day is still lovely and warm, and the sun quickly warms limbs frozen by the cold air that rushes through the Land Rovers during game drives.

At the beginning of the month we had our "kgogolammoko", the last 'cleansing' rains of the summer. This Setswana word specifically describes these final rain showers that are vital to agriculture as they wash away the itchy dust ("moko") released when the sorghum crops are harvested. In the bush the word takes on a slightly different meaning, referring more to the cleansing quality of Nature, as the season turns from summer to autumn. We watched the storm form and build for a few days before hand, and we were treated to some wonderful sheet lightning displays inside towering purple clouds during dinners. When it finally rained down, it rained hard, pelting down 19mm of water within the space of approximately two hours.

Mekoro safari at Tubu Tree      Bushbuck at Tubu Tree

The rain water from this storm merely added to the still high flood waters forming our transitory aquatic landscape. Guests remain able to enjoy leisurely and tranquil mokoro rides right from the front of camp, where amazing bird species, fascinating frogs and gorgeous flowers can be enjoyed along the way. Many mokoro trips have also included great 'up-close and personal' sightings of elephant, buffalo and red lechwe in the water. Afternoon trips always finish on a high note, as every sunset is more spectacular than the last, especially when enjoyed from a seat at the open-air 'sausage tree' bar after disembarking from the traditional dug-out canoes.

Motor boat trips also form a part of the enjoyment of the flood levels. Nipping through narrow channels, lined by walls of tall papyrus certainly gets the adrenalin going, and emphasizes the absolute beauty of the landscape.

Wildlife Highlights
Leopard sightings abounded this month. During one three day period, seven different leopards were seen on various parts of the island. Certain guests spent a whole day tracking leopard with their guide, and enjoyed 11 leopard sightings on that day alone. As one can imagine, various behaviours have been observed by all of the Tubu guests who enjoyed the many sightings - leopards on kills, leopards climbing trees, leopards stalking, leopard cubs playing with their mum, and hyaenas stealing leopard kills.

Warthog at Tubu Tree      Lilac-breasted Roller

As usual, the hyaenas have been around the camp and all around the island every night. Guests have enjoyed the loud, eerie calls of these creatures underneath their rooms as they patrol for scraps.

The spectacular night life has been supplemented by hippos feeding in and calling from the shallow water in front of camp, large spotted genets running nimbly along tree branches as they hunt small insects, fruit bats swooping through the main area as they squeak out their contact calls, honey badgers rustling in the bushes, elephants continuing their constant feeding from the foliage around the tents and, most impressive of all, the roar of the lion in the distance on most nights.
This lone male lion has continued to mark the Tubu territory as his own. Hopefully he will be able to find a few females to join him in creating a new pride. He has been quite successful in hunting on his own, and had quite a lucky find one night as he came upon a dead impala that was killed during rutting, before the hyenas discovered it. He devoured the welcome meal within minutes.

The view from camp can compete with any of the experiences had from the safari vehicles. Elephant herds numbering up to 40 individuals of all sizes have been moving through camp on a regular basis, trumpeting and rumbling at each other as they go. Ostrich, herds of buffalo, slender mongoose, warthogs, baboons, bushbuck, impala, herds of zebra and kudu have all formed a part of the changing landscape.

Fruit bat

Birding
"Water, water everywhere and plenty of food to eat", seems to be the sound of the bird calls from the front of the lodge. There have been beautiful sightings of Wattled Cranes, Rufous-bellied Herons, Hamerkops and Saddle-billed Storks feeding in front of Tubu Tree. The insect eaters such as the rainbow-coloured Lilac-breasted Roller have been dive bombing the water's edge for tasty morsels.

The floodplains (now transformed into a grassy lake) have attracted many of the general plains game species. The numbers of giraffe, gnu and zebra on the plains have been remarkable. The 'tall, blonde models' of the animal kingdom have impressed many as they have been strutting their lovely long legs close to the vehicles, and showing off their tiny babies.

While all of these beasts feed, they keep one eye out, knowing that behind any bush could be the seeker in this harsh game of "hide and seek" - where if you don't hide well enough the seeker shall find you?and eat you.

Guest Highlights
"The game drives of course. But also the wonderful camp setting, the attentive and generous staff and the food. "- BOB & KATHLEEN
"The game expeditions, last night especially with hyena pack taking a carcass from a leopard. The scene was spectacular. " - TEX & MAREVLYN
"The animals, especially the leopards and the kill in the tree. Also the delta environment and opportunities to explore by boat rides. " - JOEL & SHARON
"The tent itself, photographing fighting male lechwes in the water, being here during the flood, seeing the Baobab trees?AND the beautiful songs on our final night!" - TOM & MELISSA
"The view from our room was stunning. Spotting a leopard within 20 minutes of our first drive was also amazing! Really friendly and knowledgeable staff." - ANTHONY & ANTONIA
"The 'real' Africa!" - MARILYN
"The camp itself is a real highlight. Most beautiful scenery, familiar and warm atmosphere, lovely setting, outdoor showers - all perfect! And plenty of delicious food. Real honeymoon atmosphere! The highlight is to be here! Helicopter transfer out? Can't believe it! Fantastic!" - CHRISTINA
"We loved the relaxed, "visiting old friends" atmosphere here." - NEAL & HELEN
"3 days have felt like 3 weeks of holiday back home. Activities, food and service were all fantastic." - RENAUD & CHARLOTTE
"Awesome! Leopards everywhere!" - CHUCK & CAROL


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Kalahari Plains Camp update - May 09               Jump to Kalahari Plains Camp

Weather
We have just entered the dry winter season, though some surprise rainfall was experienced at the beginning of the month, recording 22mm. The first week of May was very cold; the remainder of the month remained fairly temperate. Following the wet season, animals have started to disperse a little.

Wildlife
Sightings of cats have been splendid in the area. The two prides of lion mostly seen are known as the Lekhubu and Letiahau Prides, with some unknown nomads that do roam through the area as well. The dominant male in Lekhubu Pride has recently been ousted and killed by another lion, now the reigning king of the territory. This new male in the pride has been witnessed mating with one of the females in the pride, so we look forward to seeing the cubs once they are born.

Cheetah with cubs at Kalahari Plains      Lions mating at Kalahari Plains, Botswana

We also have wonderful sightings of cheetah. One cheetah has been sighted recently with three cubs that are about two months old. Read more here. Watching this family at play has been a delight for all who are fortunate enough to witness it.

We are very lucky to have a leopard that regularly visits Kalahari Plains Camp and is often seen drinking water by the bird bath! Caracal have also been seen which is a rare sighting anywhere.

And last, but not least, the Kalahari speciality - the brown hyaena. These hyaena are shy and secretive animals and so their presence in any given area often goes unnoticed. In addition, their numbers are negatively affected by the spotted hyaena. We are very fortunate to be able to view them here, although sightings of them are still quite sporadic. While they are widespread in the Kalahari, they are rarely seen animals due to their mostly crepuscular habits.

Crimson-breasted Shrike with a mouse kill      Bushmen at Kalahari Plains

We have had few sightings of meerkats (suricates) this month, which has been most exciting. Much more common in our region is the quirky little southern ground squirrel. These squirrels, which live in colonies of up to 30, prefer the open ground and sparse cover of the Kalahari, spending their day foraging for tsamma melons, berries and insects. As we approach mid winter, we should witness them digging up 'naba' truffles(rare underground mushroom only found in the Kalahari likened to a white truffle) for sustenance. In the colder weather we are also now starting to see the squirrels sunbathing more often, whereas in summer we would watch them lying on the sand, flicking sand onto their backs for cooling. They also use their long, bushy tails as a sunshade.

Birds and Birding
A variety of birds species have been sighted in front of the main area by the bird bath. Crimson-breasted Shrike, Red-eyed Bulbul, Red-headed finch are just to mention a few. Crimson-breasted Shrikes can be photographed fairly easily and one was sighted recently with a mouse kill. Pale Chanting Goshawk and Black Crows are common distractions out on game drives.

Community
The staff working in Kalahari Plains Camp gives a fascinating demonstration about the way of life of the San bushmen. This is extremely interesting and gives great insight into the survival tactics of the bushmen living in what is a very harsh environment. As a cultural experience, this is a must and all guests seem to really enjoy it.

Central Kalahari Game Reserve News
The park has been operating with one borehole at Letiahau and they are planning to open another at Sunday Pan. The borehole at the latter does exist but it has had a mechanical problem which they are going to fix it shortly. This can only bode well in attracting more animals in the dry season.


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