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South Africa camps
Pafuri Camp update - November 09 Jump
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The barren, dry environment suddenly transformed into a beautiful, green wonderland, with the sulphur yellow fever tree's colours intensified by the green beginnings of the grass. This transformation started after a downpour of 100mm in 48 hours on the 19th and 20th November - a quarter of Pafuri's annual rainfall in 48 hours!
The resin gardenia have begun to flower, with their sweet fragrance drifting on the breeze as you drive past them in the late afternoon. The purple pod terminalia have also started flowering - and their smelly sock scent is not nearly so pleasant! It has a purpose though - it attracts flies and other insects to assist with pollination. The Woodland Kingfishers started their trilling from the 11th November and are heard calling over the full and strongly-flowing Luvuvhu River.
The cute impala lambs are now seen following their calling mothers - bounding and running at every sound or threat. Unfortunately, the big dominant male baboons have taken a liking to the youngsters, with sightings in November of baboon eating lambs (two nyala and an impala).
An unusual sighting was a black-backed jackal feeding on a genet carcass.
An African civet, a mammal related to the mongoose family, was seen hunting Helmeted Guineafowl during the morning daylight hours, which is not a common sight as civet are secretive and elusive nocturnal mammals. They specialise on millipedes because they are resistant to the millipedes' hydro-cyanide compounds; but they also feed on fruit, birds, eggs, small mammals and will scavenge.
We had an old buffalo bull die in front of Pafuri Camp on the 20th November from old age. The crocodiles took their time, but eventually fed on his tough old hide.
Bvekenya, one of our collared elephant bulls, unfortunately got a snare wrapped around the upper section of his trunk. Dr Steve Henley (one of the elephant researchers who is heading the study on the movements of the elephant in the Pafuri / Makuleke Contractual Park), Dr Markus Hofmeyer (Kruger National Park vet), Wilm Schaeuer (Pafuri Camp staff) and myself successfully tracked the elephant and removed the snare, at the same time readjusting his collar.
The migrants are creeping back and the bird count is going up, with some good specials coming back. We had an impressive count and here are some specials seen in November 2009:
Pink-throated Twinspot; Ayre's Hawk-Eagle; Racket-tailed Roller; Blue-cheeked Bee-eater; Thick-billed Cuckoo; Bohm's Spinetail; Mottled Spinetail; African Barred Owlet; Southern White-faced Scops-Owl; Pennant-winged Nightjar; Senegal Lapwing; Arnot's Chat; Osprey; Crowned Eagle; Lanner Falcon; Bat Hawk; Eurasian Oriole; Retz's Helmet-Shrike; Black-throated Wattle-eye; Black Saw-wing; Eastern Nicator; Yellow-bellied Eremomela; Pale Flycatcher; African Dusky Flycatcher; Scaly-feathered Finch; African Quailfinch; Lemon-breasted Canary
Special thanks to Werner Hefer for sending in these unique images from Pafuri.
Pafuri Walking Trail update - November 09 Jump
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Kings Camp update - November 09 Jump
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The summer rains are here! The bush has now fully changed color and the green scenery is absolutely gorgeous. The Impalas have started lambing and there is an ultimate freshness in the air. The Giraffe, Zebra and Wildebeest populations are on the increase again with all of them following the greener pastures.
I have an amazing story to share with you regarding the Machaton Lion Pride. One of the lionesses from the pride disappeared in 2004/5 into a fenced property next to the greater reserve. We thought after so many years that all was lost for her survival as she was alone. Goodness knows what happens on neighboring properties that are not part of the conservation area. Since then, this property has joined the conservation area and to our great surprise a “foreign” lioness appeared back in the Machaton’s territory. It soon became evident that she was indeed the lost lioness and was accepted back into the pride by her Mother, Aunt, and Cousin (who was only a cub when she went missing). She was in estrus when she came back and was seen mating with one of the Timbavati boys towards the end of the month and hopefully we will be able to report the birth of new Machaton cubs towards March or April 2010.
The Leopard sightings this month were “Out of this World”
Let me start with some really great news. Rockfig Junior has given birth to her first litter of cubs toward the end of the month. The two bundles of fluff were hidden in a large fallen Leadwood log for quite some time and Mommy was very proud and happy to allow us a few sightings of the little ones. We will limit the activity around the den sights so that the youngsters gradually get used to the movement of vehicles. We will keep you updated with their progress!
Nkateko has shown that even though she is already a good hunter she still has the urge to “play” as a young leopard. She caught and toyed with a baby impala for almost One and a half hours before she eventually killed it. She killed two adult female impalas in the week before, but with this baby impala the urge to play was to big and she entertained her spectators with her little toy.
Kuhanya has also delivered some amazing sightings. We had a very strange phenomenon that caused the Impalas (especially females in a weaker state due to pregnancy) to die. Research showed that the sudden burst of nutrients in the much greener vegetation caused the deaths. It was a case of too much good nutrition too quickly. Now as you can well imagine for the leopards it was like having an open buffet with all the carcasses around. Kuhanya was one of them that did not hang back on being greedy; she ate two impalas in six consecutive days! Talk about opportunism…
IMAGES OF OTHER SIGHTINGS THROUGH THE MONTH
Morné & the Kings Camp guiding team!
Written by: Morné Hamlyn
Photography: Morné Hamlyn
Rocktail Bay Dive Report - November 09 Jump
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Rocktail Bay Turtle Report - November 09 Jump
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Welcome back to all you budding turtleliers! November generally marks the beginning of the busy nesting season, from the turtles' point of view that is! This has been our first full month of monitoring and for all but one evening the committed Gugu and MB have laboured to capture all the necessary data. The newly trained turtle monitors, Muntu and Siphiwe, spent some quality time learning the finer details of what is required of them as far as the turtle monitoring goes. Muntu is likely to start taking out drives unassisted very soon, Siphiwe on the other hand is anxious to get out on his walks to share his new found knowledge and experiences.
Though the turtles are extremely tough creatures by nature the weather held them at bay for a good few days this month. The seas were rough and the unrelenting waves pounded the coast for the better part of three weeks. The leatherbacks seem not to worry that much about the weather, however, their smaller cousins preferred to sit tight until more favourable conditions permitted a hassle-free march up the beach.
Hassle-free is a relative term though, as we have begun noticing nest predation by both honey badgers and monitor lizards. The principles of natural selection may be difficult to accept, especially when we apply our human emotions to them. The most devastating effects on turtle populations are by far the human impact (both directly and on their environment), so look beyond the badgers, lizards and birds and try to see where you can make a difference to turtle prosperity... Adopt a turtle!
On a more positive note: the turtle monitoring officials up in the Kosi-Bangha Nek area have been recording up to 40 turtles a night! This is fantastic and it goes to show that the conservation efforts of everyone involved are really paying off. This localised mass nesting is thought have been caused by a nest relocation programme some years ago, where vulnerable turtle nests outside protected areas were moved into the sanctuary of the Kosi-Bangha Nek area. The mass nesting also helps to prove that hatchlings return to nest on the very beach where they were born.
Turtle fever has reached new levels of enthusiasm, and we now offer a kiddies' turtle research training activity - complete with the actual tags and tagging equipment used for the real thing. The objective of the activity is to "learn while having fun", and we're sure it's going to be a real hit! No more on this, I don't want to spoil the surprise...
Monthly summary: (Percentages are of the total recorded)
113 recorded - 89%
62 nested - 55%
21 tagged - 19%
5 micro-chipped - 4%
14 recorded - 11%
12 nested - 86%
4 tagged - 29%
4 micro-chipped - 29%
The weather has settled down and the water temperatures are at a stable 24°C (75°F), all of which means that things are only going to get better. If we will be seeing you in December don't miss out on a turtle activity; we will have daily, (rather nightly) walks and drives so everyone will get a turn.
P.S. Don't forget that we have many mothers looking for loving homes, so do the right thing and adopt a turtle! Or two ... or three ...
Look after yourselves over this festive season and we will see you back here next month!
Makalolo Plains update - November 09 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
Makalolo Plains Camp has experienced some refreshing summer rains, which have turned our landscape to a kaleidoscope of different shades of green. The mighty thundershowers have been intimidating, with the pitch-black skies being sliced by bright streaks of crackling lighting.
Due to the rains over the past few weeks our dry open plains are now looking lush and natural waterholes are developing all over the large plains. The teak, silver leaf terminalia and ordeal trees are now growing thick and providing a lot of cover around Makalolo.
Many species have been wandering across the open area in front of camp, with a new summery outlook and looking very vibrant and full of life. A variety of wildlife has been grazing and browsing on the 'greens' in front of camp. Impala and blue wildebeest are all having their young, with the first impala lamb being seen on the 11th, along with the first wildebeest calf. It is so breathtaking to see the new abundance of life that comes with the first rains. Elephant numbers have dropped a little, but the occasional family still comes to drink by the pool. Lion activity has been very good in the Makalolo Concession and the kids we hosted for Children in the Wilderness were entertained non-stop by these magnificent and proud cats.
Resident birds, such as Egyptian Geese, Spur-winged Geese and Red-billed Teals have been frequenting the natural waterholes at Makalolo. Paradise-Flycatchers have arrived and are breeding around camp. We had a Martial Eagle give us a great display at the water in front on the plains. Yellow-billed Kites have engaged in a feeding frenzy of the frogs that liven up the silence of our nights at the pans. The Red-headed Weavers are in full parenting mode, with young occupying all the nests and constantly chirping for their next meal.
Staff: Nathan, Jordan, Jerry, Seliot, Ephraim, Emmanuel, Charles, Andrew, Konani, Nyajani, Christopher, Freedom, Casper, Alois
Stores: Mr. Sibanda, Leonard
Guides: Theunis, Tendayi, Douglas, Victor, Obert, Sam and Khule
Host/Hostess: Nelly, Rania, Angeline, Belinda
Management: Willem & Trish
We wish a sad farewell to the Botha Family: Willem, Trish and Trevor will be greatly missed and we would like to say thank you for the eight wonderful years you dedicated to Wilderness Safaris. You really changed people's lives here in Hwange. SIYABONGA! We will be reliving your legacy every day spent here at Makalolo Plains.
Little Makalolo update - November 09 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
This month we have been blessed with wonderful rain in the middle of the month giving us a total of 64ml. Towards the end of the month we had lots of sunshine and humidity, with temperatures at their highest.
Thanks to the rain, the Hwange Concession is lush and beautifully green all around, from the smallest grasses to the highest leaves. Because of this, the animals have more cover to protect them from the elements and to hide them away from guests. There is quite a bit of surface water and the natural pans are filling up.
Because there are more natural waterholes due to the rain, we start to see fewer animals at the man-made pans. The once-elephant-infested waterholes are now open again so that the zebra and impala can drink in peace. Large herds of buffalo have been very active.
We had a beautiful cheetah sighting towards the end of the month. One of the GPS-collared Sicheche Boys was seen mating with the Back Pans female on the 9th in front of the Linkwasha Vlei. The honeymooners could still be seen a week later at Little Mak. Some other honeymooners, known to all as Mr and Mrs Tortoise, were spotted mating at the salt licks on the way to Madison....
The Red-headed Weavers have built their nest close to our office, giving us an excuse to leave the computer every five minutes and take a peak at the fluffy bundle inside, which consists of three little chicks. The Babblers and the Red-billed Spurfowl (or Francolin, as they used to be called) continue to serenade us with wake-up calls as early as 4:30am. Who needs an alarm clock with them around? With all the surface water around, our traffic jams are now caused by ducks in the road, as opposed to elephant.
- "Charles and Lewis are fantastic guides! They are so knowledgeable and passionate about the local wildlife. Also Tammy and Angie are great hostesses; they always have a smile on their face and are anxious to please. We can't wait to come back in a couple of years!" - Matthew and Jamie, USA
- "It our first safari and we both love it, love it! Love it! Thank you for making our honeymoon so very special and we will be back for sure. To Angie, Charles and Lawrence - thank you for your company. To the chef and the waiter Alex - thank you for superb service. We will never forget you." - Itmam and Jocelyne, Singapore
Manager: Charles Ndlovu
Guides: Godfrey Kunzi, Lewis Mangava, Lawrence, Theunis
Hostesses: Angeline Mhlanga, Tamlyn Smith
Chef: Mayisa Mpala, Sendy Nkomazana, Alex
Maintenance: Charles, Never, Babusi
Waiters: Jabulani, Tawanda, Alickson, Makeyi
Housekeepers: Jibani, Tawanda, Pagiwa
As the beautiful African sun sets and makes way for a new day, we say goodbye to the Botha Family who have been with Wilderness in Hwange for the past eight years. We are going to miss them and would like to take this opportunity to thank them for everything they did for us as a team out here.
Davison's Camp update - November 09
Weather and Landscape
November had some huge storm build-ups, a few of which blessed us with rains, the rest being noise and nothing else. We have had high temperatures during the day, but thanks to the Kalahari sands, nice cool evenings. We had a total of 67mm of rain and more is on the way.
With the little rain that we have had so far, everything has turned lush green. It's amazing what just a few drops of water can do to Mother Nature. Every tree, shrub and blade of grass is now singing with life. The teak trees are transitioning from red to green. The rains have also brought life to the fireball lilies, ground lilies and crinum lilies. Beauty is everywhere. Water levels have improved greatly and the mud pools are slowly coming back to life.
The best single day for the month for wildlife sightings was the 19th - when we saw a total of 26 different species.
The rainy season brings with it new life and a sense of hope for the bush. Most of our seasonal breeders are now birthing their young, making this a very special time of year. The predators feel the same way - but for different reasons! The Back Pans Females (a pride of lioness) have discovered a delicacy in baby warthog. On three different game drives we saw these lion feasting on the baby warthogs, and once witnessed them outrunning the mother in pursuit of her young.
Not many endangered species have been seen this month. The rhino and its baby were only sighted once, although their tracks have been seen on numerous occasions, showing that they are in the area. Fresh rhino tracks have also been seen, almost on a daily basis, at Scott's Pan - a big male, three females and a calf. A cheetah was seen at Ngamo, chasing after a warthog, which made a grand sighting as it spent the whole day feasting there.
The migratory birds are back. We saw a huge number of Lesser Spotted Eagles gorging themselves on termites on one occasion. The Black, Jacobin, Red-chested and Diderick Cuckoos have arrived with their never-to-be-forgotten calls. The open plains are the place to be if you're a birder as huge numbers of White Storks have settled there.
- "Camp personnel, including the guides were wonderful. Great knowledge, Bas, great interpersonal skills. Loved their sense of humour and dedication. - Mcbride, USA
- "Obviously the animal sightings were great but the friendliness and talent of the staff were extraordinary." - Randol, USA
Guides: Thembelani Sibanda, Douglas Muyambo and Tendai Mdluli
Managers: Nelly Chinyere and Rania Mutumhe
Ruckomechi Camp update - November 09 Jump
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Mana Canoe Trail update - November 09 Jump
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No report this month - Trail re-opens again in May 2010.
Toka Leya Camp update - November 09 Jump
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Lufupa Tented Camp update - November 09 Jump
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Kalamu Lagoon Camp update - November 09 Jump
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Shumba Camp update - November 09 Jump
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We are all sad that here on the Busanga Plains we have reached the end of the season. Now, in November, the Busanga Plains are once again filling with water, after a few dry months. The storms are now drawing closer so it's time to pack up the camp and leave the beauty of the Busanga Plains behind for a while.
The first rains have already arrived and the Plains are slowly changing from brown to green. The channels are filling up, the birds are building their nests and the Busanga Pride will probably have some new cubs again. Unfortunately, it will be too wet to keep operating in the coming months, but how exciting it will be for the staff and the guests to return again next year!
On most afternoons this month we see beautiful cloud formations developing around Shumba Camp. Storms were building up and, thanks to the openness of the plains, we had great views of thunderstorms in the distance. We didn't have a lot of rain at Shumba, with most of the water falling on the edge of the Busanga Plains. This was perfect for our guests since they could still go out on game drives without getting wet, and at the same time enjoy the dramatic skies.
November was a very exciting month. Besides the guests, game drives and wildlife sightings there were other things happening at Shumba...
We had the opportunity to test-fly a hot air balloon over the Busanga Plains! For a couple of days Eric and Nancy, the owners of a balloon company in Sossusvlei in Namibia, tested the possibility of flying in Zambia. On one beautiful early morning in November, for the first time in the history of the Busanga Plains, a hot air balloon took to the sky. Almost in complete silence the balloon took off and even the animals on the ground stood still and watched this magical 'bird'. It was fantastic!
On the 14th of November we said a sad farewell to our last guests of the season. This meant also saying goodbye to the helicopter, which arrived with the first guests. (Guests transfer into camp from the Busanga airstrip by helicopter - something a little different for most guests, the only complaint being that the flight is too short!)
- "Bravissimi! Thank you for a wonderful, memorable honeymoon!" Mundy, Italy
- "Wonderful experience and very enjoyable team of people. Couldn't ask for a better time! Great weather!" Large, USA
- "We are honoured to be the last guests of the season. Rob, Ingrid and Isaac were superb!" Cardinal, USA
Managers: Rob and Ingrid
Relief manager: Sjani
Guides: Sam, Lex and Isaac
Kapinga Camp update - November 09 Jump
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Busanga Bush Camp update - November 09 Jump
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Desert Rhino Camp update - November 09 Jump
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Palmwag Camp update - November 09 Jump
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Doro Nawas Camp update - November 09 Jump
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It has been a very warm month, with the maximum temperatures reaching 43° C (110° F)! The evenings always cool down nicely though, to a very enjoyable 18°C (65°F). We almost had a few drops of drain, but then it went away again, so we didn't get to see (or smell) the drops falling onto the dry Damaraland soil. We are hoping that it will rain properly soon.
This was a very successful month for tracking the desert-adapted elephant. We spotted both Oscar and the Rosie Group, which is mostly settled in the Huab River and feeding on the pods of the ana tree.
About two years ago, the Doro !Nawas Conservancy introduced a number of red hartebeest to the area, and their numbers have been growing steadily. Staff at Doro Nawas Camp had great sightings of the introducted antelope from the veranda in the early mornings. These beautiful creatures seem to have made their home about two kilometres from camp.
We had some special and rare sightings this month: Michael, one of the new guides at Doro Nawas, was very lucky to spot giraffe on his way to Twyfelfontein on an afternoon game drive. The guests knew how rare this was, and were very excited to spot these graceful giants in the area.
Richardt, one of our newly promoted guides, spotted two cheetah on one of the elephant afternoon game drives, which made all the guests extremely happy.
Just as the sun was setting, Coenie, our Camp Manager, spotted the two cheetah crossing the road in front of the camp, while he was on his way back from one of the local villages. This is really a very rare sighting as cheetah don't normally come close to places where there are a lot of vehicles and people, so we were very pleased to see them that close to camp!
- "My Nature Drive with Michael (Guide) - he's the best. Pamela, Shelvia and Danize were extremely friendly, efficient and kind" - DP
- "We saw the "Oscar Desert Elephant Group". That was really a highlight for us. Thanks, Arthur! Thanks for everything. Now I know why my guests who stayed here come back so happy" - HK
- "We had a perfect guide - Richardt - he knows a lot about animals, is a good driver and very friendly. Shelvia and Theodore were very friendly and helpful - always a smile on their faces" - ME
- "Sleeping out under the stars was one of our highlights as well as the wonderful staff. With two punctures on our journey here, we are very grateful to Festus for checking and repairing our car. Thank you so much!" - JM
We would like to sincerely thank Jack Bonde from Belgium for the displayed images. Special thanks to Mr Bill Attwell from the UK for capturing the cheetah sighting.
Coenie van Niekerk (Camp Manager)
Danize van Niekerk (Camp Manager)
Agnes Bezuidenhout (Assistant Manager)
Morien Aebes (Assistant Manager)
Steven Jones (Assistant Manager)
Arthur Bezuidenhout (Guide)
Michael Kauari (Trainee Guide)
Ignatius Khamuseb (Guide)
Richardt Orr (Trainee Guide)
Damaraland Camp update - November 09 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
Mild temperatures were recorded earlier in the month, however, temperatures are now rising to 40° Celsius in the early afternoons. The days have been warm although we enjoyed the overcast conditions on certain mornings. The evenings have been cool and pleasant.
We were thrilled, as usual, with the great elephant sightings during November. Both Oscar's and Rosie's Groups have been seen consistently through the month primarily sticking to the ephemeral river systems of the Huab and Aba-Huab at this time of year. This has made finding the elephants a lot easier for the guides, and one can easily spend half an hour admiring and observing these unique pachyderms. They were also often seen at De Riet, drinking at the water reservoir of this community.
Herds of gemsbok (oryx) and springbok were also seen consistently, together with some impressive greater kudu bulls. Smaller predators included bat-eared fox and black-backed jackal. We have also been lucky with some cheetah sightings as these cats move through the area at times.
Of special interest was a Marabou Stork sighting - which is quite unusual for the Damaraland area, more typically found in the savannah areas of the country. The Torra Conservancy is an excellent locale for finding many of Namibia's endemics and specials. Along the Huab and Aba-Huab Rivers, which is fringed by majestic ana and camel thorn trees, we enjoyed regular sightings of Damara Hornbill, Bare-cheeked Babbler, Ruppell's Parrot, Acacia Pied Barbet (pictured) Carp's Tit and Swallow-tailed Bee-eaters. The migratory Madagascar Bee-eater (pictured) has also returned to the area. Around Damaraland Camp itself vocal groups of Ruppell's Korhaan are often heard while Mountain Wheatear, Lark-like Bunting, White-throated Canary, Ludwig's Bustard, Secretarybird, Yellow-bellied Eremomela and Benguela Long-billed Larks were common sights. Travelling just north of the concession one enters some different habitats where birds like Rosy-faced Lovebird, Herero Chat, Monteiro's Hornbill and White-tailed Shrike can be searched for - and found, if you're lucky.
Perhaps the most intriguing from a birding point of view this month was finding a Cape Penduline-Tit nest being actively built by these birds. The nest is a cylindrical bag of tightly constructed woolly plant material with a tubular entrance spout at the top. An attention-grabbing fact about these nests is that it has a 'false entrance' to help deter predators from entering and raiding the nest.
Our Boma evenings are always a highlight of the guests' stay - with beautifully clear night skies and dinner by paraffin lamp invoking a true sense of Africa. THese were often made even more special by the occasional visit of a Cape fox.
Community visits to the nearby settlement of Fonteine were very interesting for guests to gain insight into the local way of life for the people living within the Torra Conservancy. One can learn from the local people about how they milk their goats and even protect them from the smaller predators. All their fresh produce is grown locally thanks to the ever-flowing natural spring that is found here.
Taking a walk right from camp, for example along the guided Damarana Trail, can be quite strenuous but the rewards of seeing the sweeping vistas of the surrounding Damaraland landscape more than makes up for this! (picture top left)
Managers: Duane and Karen Rudman.
Assistant Managers: Elfrieda Hebach and Marion MacArthur.
Guides: Raymond Roman, Daniel Uakuramenua, Johann Cloete and Rosie Haraes.
-Images by Martin Benadie-
Skeleton Coast Camp update - November 09 Jump
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"To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived, that is to have succeeded." Ralph Waldo Emerson
Summer is here in full force! Although the evenings and mornings are still chilly enough to wear a jersey, the days are warm, sunny and very enjoyable - especially after all the cold and misty months we had.
We had our first proper rainfall this month. It was incredible to lie in bed and listen to the sounds of rumbling thunder coming closer and closer, with the ocean crashing in the background. It's a very nice way to fall asleep.
Waking up to an overcast sky, the fresh smell of rain and a wet ground is amazing to experience in a dry environment like this. It is an early Christmas present for the plants and animals, big and small - we all know how scarce water is here and how necessary it is for survival.
Wildlife conservation has always been one of the most important aspects of what Wilderness Safaris does, and this month at Skeleton Coast Camp we had an enormous challenge. Dr Flip Stander, a highly respected conservationist who has been studying desert-adapted lion since 1984, has been back in the area since the beginning of October and has been working very hard to keep the Hoarusib lions out of trouble and out of harm's way. Things started taking a turn for the worst, and drastic times called for drastic measures.
The lions' home range is west of Puros in the Hoarusib River. There has always been a lot of game in the river, like gemsbok, springbok and zebra, but early rains in the area caused the game to move out of the river onto the nearby plains. This gave the lions limited hunting opportunities and they started moving towards Puros in search of food. This was bad news for both the local community and the lions.
Because there was very little food available, the lions started killing livestock and donkeys, which are easy prey for them. This caused major havoc within the community.
It was decided that something had to be done before the lions killed more livestock, and were in turn killed. A decision was made to translocate the lions to Sarusas Springs in the Khumib River, within our Skeleton Coast Concession. The idea was to try and break the lions' habit of going to Puros in search of easy prey, and to encourage them to move back to their home range and explore the different terrain outside the river where there is sufficient natural prey for them. Plans were made quickly and with the help of various people things started working out in our favour and operation "save the lions" was under way.
Logistically only two lions could be moved at a time. So, mission number one, the translocation of one adult female and her cub to Sarusas Springs, started on the evening of the 9th. All went well and the lions were recovering well by the following morning. The adult moved towards the coast during the morning while her cub, the young female, stayed at the Springs.
Mission two - the translocation of the big male and one adult female - was carried out on the evening of the 10th. This was no easy task as our anaesthetics were running out and the new batch would only arrive the following day. Nevertheless the lions were darted, loaded and transported to Sarusas Springs. Now, to be totally honest, when you are sitting in a car with a big male lion that weighs about 200kg (440 lbs) and his paws are as big as your head, you are thinking only one thing - "how fast could I jump out of the window?" Both lions recovered well and were reunited with the female that had wandered to the coast. (The lionesses are sisters.) Tears were brought to many eyes as seeing such love between animals is breathtaking.
To our surprise, as we were sitting watching the translocated lions, the camp radioed to tell us that there were tracks of a lion moving through the camp and upriver. We immediately knew it was the young female cub as she was not there when we arrived to offload the other two lions. The search for her began in earnest as we were very concerned - she is too young to be on her own and cannot hunt for herself yet. After tracking her for 22km (14 miles) we found her, but in the heat of the day it was difficult to get close enough to dart her as she was lying in a cliff. Our patience finally paid off in the late afternoon, and the cub was darted and reunited with the rest of her family at Sarusas Springs.
On the 12th the new batch of anaesthetics arrived and we could finally start the third mission - the translocation of the two large male cubs. They were darted early in the evening and were taken to the traditional Himba village and into the Puros community, so that they could see and feel the lions, which was a first for many of the people.
Plans were made for the lions to be taken to camp so that data could be recorded and the lions could be brand marked. Guests had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to study, touch and smell the lions. Some were even treated to listening to their hearts beating. Once all the data recording was finished, the lions were loaded and taken to Sarusas Springs, where they were finally reunited with the rest of the pride. For all of us involved this meant SUCCESS.
The lions stayed at the springs for about two days before they started moving back towards the Hoarusib River. They were observed and monitored close to Leylandsdrift where they tried hunting. Unfortunately there was very little for them to hunt - so they hadn't eaten for four days, and out of desperation and hunger they started moving towards Puros. This was not part of the plan! But lions do have minds of their own.
A barricade of vehicles and bonfires was constructed where the Hoarusib Canyon meets the Puros Plains to prevent the lions from moving into the community area. But one of the lionesses outsmarted us and somehow managed to get into Puros where we were certain she would kill livestock. She was tracked and found about two kilometres north of the traditional Himba village. Flip stayed with her the rest of the day and by early evening she was darted and loaded into the conservancy vehicle. It was decided that she should be moved to the Hoarusib River mouth where there is plenty of prey. So the long drive was made down to the mouth of the river. Luckily she did not kill any livestock while she was in the village - this could have proved fatal for her as the community cannot tolerate any more loss.
The blockade at the entrance of the canyon continued for five consecutive nights, which prevented the rest of the lions from entering Puros. Eventually, after not eating for almost ten days, the lions decided to move west and away from Puros, and a gemsbok was killed! The very hungry lions finally ate.
In the past week, the lions have tried to move back to Puros once, but were unsuccessful as the Puros lion officers were right there at the barrier, forcing the animals to turn back.
While this operation is probably not the most ideal solution to the problem, it was the only choice at this time. We were desperate that no lions should be shot as problem animals, and that no more livestock be lost. We had to act fast, and learn quickly from our mistakes. We wouldn't usually interfere with the natural course of events, but the conflict between human beings and animals means that sometimes difficult choices need to be made.
- "FANTASTIC!" - PM
- "One of the most amazing places I have ever been, a truly unspoilt wilderness. I hope you all have many years to continue all your excellent conservation work" - LG and PvdB
- "OUTSTANDING! Thanks to all staff for an unforgettable experience. This is a very special place"
- "This is such an amazing place. We are so glad to have seen it and enjoyed it. It's truly unique and special. Thanks" - KF and RF
- "Africa remains my favourite continent and Namibia my favourite country, and within Namibia now the Skeleton Coast my favourite destination. I will be back and soon!" - BB
One of our housekeepers, Berlinda, gave birth to a beautifull baby boy. Congratulations!
Managers: Willie, Monica & Neil
Guides: Gert, Kallie & Elaine
Serra Cafema Camp update - November 09 Jump
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Ongava Tented Camp update - November 09 Jump
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The rains were expected to start in full swing but have so far stayed away - much to the delight of all the guests, as this ensured a wonderful month for game viewing.
The rains are not all bad though. They mean seeing fewer animals, but they also mean the landscape slowly transforms into a vision of green with flowers slowly blossoming. The rain provides the animals with much-needed respite and somehow evens the playing field for the antelope as they do not always have to go the waterholes where they are more likely to be preyed upon. Once the rains start the guiding becomes more difficult as the Ongava terrain becomes harder to traverse. A few flat tyres will undoubtedly add to the adventure of it all!
November is usually the last month where game viewing can be described as prolific, with much rain expected from December onwards. A prolific month it has been though, with a number of great sightings reported from guests and guides alike.
There have been numerous occasions where lion, white rhino and black rhino have been seen... all on one game drive! Cheetah have also been spotted on the odd occasion, although this is quite a rare sighting.
Another rare sighting this month has been a caracal. This cat must surely rate as one of the most beautiful cats around with its exquisite facial markings and delightful ears. Although it is a very widespread cat - ranging from the Middle East to Southern Africa - it is a special sight in the wild, especially considering its nocturnal nature.
It's not all about the big animals at Ongava Tented Camp however - sightings of chameleons while driving back to camp in the dark are becoming one of our specialities!
Little Ongava update - November 09 Jump
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Ongava Lodge update - November 09 Jump
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Andersson's Camp update - November 09 Jump
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Little Kulala Camp update - November 09 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
Sandstorms have been keeping our housekeepers and service staff on their toes this month. Late afternoon wind and sandstorms, lasting not much longer than 30 minutes, still managed to cause havoc in all areas. White floors turned red and landscapes disappeared in the haze... This is all part of the extreme weather we get to experience in the desert, and definitely something any traveller in Namibia should experience.
So far, the summer has been a mild one. Fog in the desert still surprises us every now and again. Star-gazing, and even sleeping, on the rooftops is a popular and regular event these days.
A strange "alien" made himself at home in the lapa. What a strange character! He truly looks like he comes from another planet, but he is a praying mantis enjoying the hospitality of Little Kulala!
- "Agnes' depth of knowledge is extraordinary. Add to that warmth, humour and open-mindedness. She made our Kulala experience! Theresa was a BONUS!"
- "Extraordinary pilots. Olga was exceptional. Efficient and always on schedule."
- "People make the place. Andre and Lezil made us feel welcome and in capable hands. The guides made Sossusvlei come alive. This was a dream come true."
Governors' Camp update - November 09 Jump
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GOVERNORS' CAMP COLLECTION LAUNCHES BIG CAT UPDATE
The Governors' Camp Collection is delighted to announce the launch of our latest documentary film project Governors' Big Cat Updates.
For the last 16 years Governors' Camp has played host to the BBC Natural History Unit as the location for their famous Big Cat Diary and Big Cat Live Productions. The BBC chose Governors' Camp and the surrounding area of the Masai Mara National Reserve to film the episodes because of the incredible diversity of wildlife here and in particular, the amazing and consistent Lion, Leopard and Cheetah sightings.
The Governors' Camp area of the Masai Mara is one of the best places to see the spectacular wildlife of the African savanna in its natural environment. Many of our clients have got to know these animals personally, follow the drama of their unfolding lives and learn of their histories and are asking us for updates and news of these magnificent big cats. As a result Governors' Camp Collection together with Screaming Reels Productions have joined forces to film and produce Governors' Big Cat Updates a series of documentary films where we hope to bring you regular updates on the big cats of our area of the Masai Mara. The series is filmed by Warren Samuels an accomplished and highly respected wildlife filmmaker with over 11years experience filming for the BBC, Big Cat Diary and Big Cat Live.
We are now launching episode 1, which can be seen on YouTube at:
We hope you enjoy following the drama of the Big Cats of the Masai Mara as it unfolds and hope to welcome you and your clients on safari to the Governors' Camp Collection in Masai Mara to see the action live out on the great savannah plains.
Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge update - November 09
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