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Scenic Helicopter Flights
Sefofane Botswana offers scenic helicopter flights for our guests. These flights are a wonderful alternative to a game drive for guests and add tremendous value to the overall safari experience in the Delta. Two helicopters, one based in Maun and one at Vumbura Plains Camp, are on offer.
Scenic flights provide a bird's eye view of the Delta. They are conducted at 60mph (100kmph) at 500 feet (so as not to disturb game) - slower and lower than that of a fixed wing plane when transferring between camps. Photographic opportunities are many and the experience is both private and educational as the pilot - and guide if the guests invite him along - provides his in-depth knowledge along the way.
Linyanti Lioness Survives Snake Bite
Location: Linyanti Concession, Botswana
Date: 8 September 2009
Observer: Dave Luck & Wilmie Jansen
Photographer: Dave Luck
While on a morning game drive, not far from the Linyanti Discoverer Camp, we came across an old adult lioness lying close to the road about 50m from the nearby Linyanti River. She is the eldest of two lionesses resident in the northern part of the Linyanti Concession since they broke away from the Chobe Pride some years ago.
At first it seemed as if she was sleeping off a recent meal as her stomach was quite swollen. Some flies were buzzing around her wet mouth and she was growling softly with each exhalation. She opened her eyes and lifted her head and then we noticed that she was salivating profusely. On close inspection with binoculars, her front left lower leg and paw was swollen as well as her throat. Her breathing was laboured and fast (98 breaths per minute) and her head hung at an angle. She got up and tried to walk to the river, but she stumbled into bushes and was dragging her paws in the sand. We assumed that she had been bitten by either a mamba or a cobra as she was displaying typical neurological symptoms.
Eventually she made it to the water's edge and after turning around, she plopped down, half in the water and half on the sand, as if to cool her body down.
What happened next was quite extraordinary. Her splashing around on the water's edge attracted a fairly large crocodile (about 3m). The crocodile slowly started swimming closer. The lioness was still growling and every so often one of her paws would stir the water. She then sat up and turned to face the water, completely oblivious to the newly-arrived threat, and proceeded to noisily lap up water.
The crocodile by then had submerged and we all anticipated the lightning-fast strike that would come, but it did not happen. Instead the crocodile came in for a closer look and swam slowly to the right of the drinking lioness. It had probably assessed the risk involved and had decided not to attack at that precise moment.
We were observing a rare and very unusual sight. Two super predators, one aquatic, the other terrestrial were only two metres apart. The old lioness was completely oblivious of the crocodile's presence.
After a long and presumably painful drink, the lioness continued to lie there for some time in the now baking sun, still half-in-half-out the water. After an hour we decided to head back to camp. We returned at around 17h00 fearing that she had succumbed to either the crocodile or the venom but we found her resting back near the road. Her belly was now reduced in size but she was still groaning and her breathing was still fast and laboured.
The following morning we followed her spoor for over a kilometre down the road - a promising sign. Her spoor turned onto an elephant path and into thick mopane/appleleaf scrub and we drove around to see if they would lead us to her but to no avail. Five days later we received news that a Botswana Defence Force patrol had seen again, so she seems to have survived.
Playful lion cubs of the Moporota Pride
Sighting: Playful lion cubs of the Moporota Pride
Location: Mombo, Okavango Delta, Botswana
Date: 4 September 2009
Observer: Kago KG Tlhalerwa
Photos: Kago KG Tlhalerwa
A few days ago I decided to join guide Simon Byron on a morning drive at Mombo. True to form, it was a productive morning and we moved from one sighting to the next as we made our way around the concession. There was very little time when we were not confronted by some or other large mammal or spectacular scene and we saw plenty of buffalo, zebra, wildebeest, lechwe, giraffe and tsessebe as well as lion.
Perhaps my favourite sighting was of the Moporota Pride with a zebra and wildebeest carcass at the Letlaka Hippo Pool floodplains.
By the time we arrived at the sighting, the lions (having killed the two animals in the early hours of the morning) had already mostly eaten their fill. The zebra carcass was largely finished and most of the adult members of the pride lay around with full, swollen bellies. The wildebeest had barely been touched though and this gave the cubs an excellent opportunity to trial all sorts of new skills.
As they climbed and jumped all over the carcass, some of the cubs instinctively practised a suffocating bite to the muzzle and throat, while others ambushed each other using the carcass as cover. Growing tired of the inanimate object some of the cubs later turned their attentions to one of the adult males while a side-striped jackal looked on. Even the jackal was not spared the curiosity of the cubs and it suffered the indignity of being charged by the youngsters on several occasions.
Chelinda's mountaintop leopards
Location: Chelinda, Nyika National Park, Malawi
Date: 14 September 2009
Observer: Georgina Gallagher and Denis Stack
Photographer: Tobias Larsson
Things at the newly reopened Chelinda Camp have been going fantastically as far as game viewing is concerned. The high plateau where we are situated is one of the most iconic and unique locations in Africa and is the only place in southern Africa where big game is still found in the Afro-montane biome. The view from the camp most days is replete with roan, eland, zebra, bushbuck and reedbuck and we are regularly visited overnight by spotted hyaena and other nocturnal denizens. The area has long been renowned for its leopard viewing and it is certainly a unique habitat in which to view this elusive big cat. Before our arrival we had always been a little sceptical however and wondered just how regular the sightings were.
Well, our scepticism has been well and truly quelled. On Saturday night on our way past the campsite a lovely adult male leopard walked across the road in front of us. We were thrilled and thought that we'd wait a while before the next sighting. Not so. On Sunday night guests in camp spent 15 minutes with a male and female leopard who playfully rolled around in the grass adjacent to the road before disappearing into the night. On Monday night, another guest (Tobias Larsson, the photographer credited here) went out on a short drive and had the unbelievable luck of seeing two leopards mating!
On my way down to the main area to meet guests for dinner I was thinking to myself that our run of luck was surely over when just before Chalet 1 I saw a tail (with a tell tale curl at the end) disappear up the slope. I shone my torch from the roadway but did not see anything so went a little way up the slope and there he was lying in the grass about 8 feet away looking at me! I backed off down the slope and started making my way to the dining room, all the time checking the road behind me for the male leopard I had just seen. As I got closer the leopard joined the road and walked slowly behind me! By the time I reached the main area and got the staff out to have a look the leopard was down by the little bridge where it lay for a while before strolling back up to the steps of Chalet 1 where it lay down again before disappearing into the bush!
Tubu Tree - New Lion Coalition
Sighting: Tubu's new lion threesome
Location: Tubu Tree Camp, Jao Concession, Botswana
Date: August and September 2009
Observers: Justin Stevens & Jackie Collett
Photos: Grant Atkinson
Hunda Island in the west of the Jao Concession, where Tubu Tree Camp is located, has until recently been dominated by a single large male lion. He has fastidiously marked and advertised this as his territory for some time now. But all this changed on 8 August 2009.
On this particular day a new coalition of young male lions was observed for the first time. Two of the three are slightly larger and appear to be related, probable litter mates. The third lion is slightly smaller and may be a cousin or even an unrelated male that has joined the coalition during their nomadic wanderings.
At this first sighting they appeared slightly nervous. The resident adult male had been roaring and the three intruders were clearly unsure of themselves in unfamiliar territory. Nonetheless we enjoyed fantastic sightings of the threesome that morning and again that afternoon. They were the talk of the dinner table and everyone - staff and guests alike - was hoping this new band of brothers would stay in the area.
As if to oblige us, they did exactly that the next day. They headed north along the spine of Hunda Island and roared non-stop the entire night, clearly issuing a challenge to the foe they seemed now to have assessed. The following day they moved back south and spent the day outside Tubu Tree Camp. That night, as the sun set, they headed straight for camp, passing rooms 1-3 and the boma as we watched from the bar. They then headed west following a herd of zebra and with that seemed to have left the area.
Our immediate thoughts were that the resident male had seen them off but in the following days we heard the threesome roaring in the south and then got word that they had moved north again - this time into the core territory of the adult male near Jao Camp. A few more days went by before the three young males were back on Hunda Island and seen again on 17 August. Of course their stay was as brief as before and it was only on 11 September that they reappeared on Hunda Island at Harry's Baobab.
Their roars resounded across the island until the early hours of the morning, steadily getting closer to camp. Only time will tell if they have successfully laid claim to the territory. We are looking forward to seeing more of them and will keep you updated.
The Hyaena Clan of Mombo
Sighting: The Hyaena Clan of Mombo
Location: Mombo Camp, Chief's Island, Okavango Delta
Date: August/September 2009
Observers: Grant Atkinson, Ilana Stein, Ulrike van der Hoven
Photographers: Grant Atkinson, Ulrike van der Hoven, Ilana Stein
During a three-day stay at Mombo Camp the hyaenas proved to be perhaps the most entertaining of all the carnivores. And while some visitors to Africa may not find hyaenas as endearing as we do, they remain formidable predators in their own right and the pups are rather cute too. Spotted hyaena are also becoming increasingly rare outside of protected areas, so it was encouraging to see that good numbers are to be seen on the Mombo Concession.
One sighting took place of two spotted hyaenas found prowling about beneath a tree. In the tree an impala carcass had been carefully deposited by a leopard, and the opportunistic hyaenas were hanging around just in case the impala possibly fell out of the tree.
In another part of the concession, a southern giraffe had died, and the fallen herbivore provided a veritable feast for at least ten hyaena over several days. When we got there it was hot, dry and dusty, but two of the hyaena were doing an excellent job of chasing vultures away from the carcass. Despite the heat, and the fact that they themselves had very full bellies, the hyaena would not allow the vultures to feed for more than a few seconds. A vulture would get bolder and bolder, and start pecking away, and then explode into the air in a cloud of dust as the hyaena would charge at them.
Our final sighting, and perhaps our best, took place on our last morning when we visited an active hyaena den. As we drove up, there was no sign of life to be seen at all, but after a few minutes, out came two very small, black hyaena pups. One watched us with much interest, while its sibling concentrated on trying to chew off its ear every time it stopped moving. Then a larger cub came out from the underground burrow, and being more confident, this young animal very carefully approached our vehicle, totally consumed by curiosity. After investigating the tyres, the wheel bearing caps and the vehicle running board, the hyaena finally ended up with its nose just a few centimetres from the side of our vehicle, looking up at us with great interest. At least four youngsters and two adult females kept us entertained for some wonderful minutes before we left the area.
Mombo's Mating White Rhinos
Location: Mombo Camp, Okavango Delta
Date: 17 September 2009
Observers: Ilana Stein, Ulrike van der Hoven, Mpho Poster Malongwa, Kago Tlhalerwa, Roy Ridge
Photographs: Ilana Stein, Ulrike van der Hoven, Mpho Poster Malongwa, Kago Tlhalerwa
Mombo is famous as the location where both black and white rhino were returned to Botswana after being extinct for a number of years. (See the Botswana Rhino Relocation and Reintroduction Project on the Trust website).
Ulrike and I were lucky enough to join the Rhino Monitor Mpho Poster Malongwa (read more about him under Our People here), Camp Manager Kago Tlhalerwa and Technical Manager Roy Ridge on a 'rhino tracking drive'. We headed out, stopping every now and then for Poster to put up his antenna and search for a signal (many of the rhino have had a satellite transmitter implanted in their horns for monitoring purposes).
Finally, a faint 'click' was heard coming from the antenna and the hunt was on. Eventually the click became a strong 'beep', indicating that we were heading in the right direction. Soon a large grey dome appeared on our left: it was Serondela, a 25-year-old bull, who was clearly on a mission. He was moving surprisingly rapidly, making it difficult for us to follow him, his head down, sniffing at grass and bushes as he went.
We moved onto another road and stopped just in time as he thundered towards us. Poster spoke loudly, explaining that it was important for the bull to hear our voices, so that he would realise that there was something in front of him (rhino eyesight is notoriously bad). He duly heard us and veered around the vehicle, his large grey bulk a truly majestic figure and awe-inspiring sight, especially when we considered the privilege of seeing such creatures living once again in the Okavango Delta.
Poster felt that we should leave him alone, as he was clearly very intent on something, and resolved to return the next day to check up on him further. Kago and Poster on a subsequent tracking expedition the following day were able to discern this reason and are happy to report it is a productive one, although reproductive is possibly a better adjective.
When we located Serondela on the second day he was again far more active and agitated than normal but it became clear that he was searching the whole of his territory for any possible intruders who also had designs on a sexually receptive cow known as Lonetree 2. Once he had satisfied himself that he was the only suitor Serondela settled down with Lonetree 2 and another cow and calf (Bogale and Dithupe) and was able to mate with Lonetree 2.
In 18 years of working with rhino I (Poster Mpho) had never seen such a rare event and was thrilled. It is great news for the Mombo rhino population which continues to breed at a significant rate and to repopulate their former range. One minor cause for concern is that we believe Lonetree 2 to be the offspring of Serondela who has been the dominant bull in the area for some time now, but that is the 'nature' of nature.
North Island Turtles
Location: North Island
Date: 8 September 2009
Observers: Linda Vanherck
North Island welcomed back some of its chelonian visitors this month, thus beginning the official "Turtle Season" here.
The first hawksbill of the season was seen and tagged at Sunset Bar, after which she returned to the ocean (probably showing off her new tag!). Until the time of writing, there had been four emergences - i.e. turtles emerging from the water. Two turtles were actually seen by staff and guests, while just the tracks of the other two were evidence that they had arrived. Of the latter, one seemed to nest successfully and the other did not nest.
Hawksbill turtles conveniently come out onto beaches to nest during the day - convenient that is for guests of North Island! Villa 11 inhabitants therefore had a picnic at which they were graced with scaled company and, as always emphasised on the island, they kept a respectful distance from any emerging or digging turtles.
North Island's beaches are important nesting sites the hawksbill turtle, classified as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List 2009. Therefore every year between October and January we are thrilled to be part of and help protect this species in its fight for survival.
(The "green-bath-turtle" pic is just for some island fun)
Unsuccessful Skimmers at Jao
Location: Jao Camp, Okavango Delta
Date: September 2009
Observers: Cathy and David Kays; Ilana Stein, Ulrike van der Hoven, Kabo Kgopa
Photographer: Cathy Kays
On our way back from a superb afternoon game drive (filled with a myriad waterbird species) along the main floodplain road between the Jao and Kwetsani areas, we were almost accosted by four African Skimmers, swooping and flitting around our vehicle. Our guide 'KB' Kabo Kgopa explained that these were two pairs that had made nests on the sandbank alongside the road and they were clearly trying to protect their eggs. We took a look at the beige, speckled eggs but did not stay long as we did not want to disturb them.
This is the third year that there have been African Skimmers in the Jao area. During the first year they were seen around Kubu Lagoon, and then last year they were seen on the Jao floodplains, but did not nest. This year four pairs arrived in the area, two of which took the opportunity to make a nest in the sandbank - a really unusual location (usually they use river sandbanks in far less vulnerable locations).
Unfortunately, the floodwaters dry up at a rapid rate as it gets hotter, leaving the birds exposed and quite far away from open water - and this is exactly what happened this year. A few days after they had been seen, David and Cathy Kays went to see the nests as they were anxious to get some photos. As they approached they realised that there was a major problem as the water had all dried up on the floodplain. Where there had been water as seen by Cedric four days before, it was now all dry. There was also no sign of the skimmers around, and once they got closer they saw that the skimmers that had been sitting on each of the two nests had been killed; the bodies were still lying next to the nests. The only tracks around the area were those of an African wild cat, and this was only by the one nest but it has been surmised that this was the culprit.
Eventually a skimmer flew up from the eastern channel, which is about 500m away, and started flying around everyone as if protecting its nest - it is hoped that if they have nested, they have done so closer to one of the permanent channels. Once again, the Kays did not want to disturb the nest and left.
It is possible that the size of this year's flood was to blame - with too much water in the panhandle at this time, sandbanks have not been exposed yet, and so the birds may have then decided to try nest further south on the Jao flats.
VolunTourist joins Rhino Monitoring Operation
Sighting: Rhino Ear-notching - Ongava
Location: Ongava Tented Camp, Ongava Game Reserve, Namibia
Date: September 2009
Observer: Dr John Thornton
Photographer: Dr John Thornton
Taking a year out for travel and photography found me in South Africa, reading, by sheer serendipity, the September issue of rhiNEWS (monthly newsletter of Save the Rhino International) in an internet café in Fish Hoek outside Cape Town. In it I saw a short piece on joining conservationists and researchers in Ongava Game Reserve, and, to cut a long story short, five days later I found myself in Windhoek being briefed on joining a team in Ongava to dart and immobilise white and black rhino as part of a research project. As a consequence I was one of the first VolunTourists to take part in this exciting initiative.
I have travelled in Namibia with Wilderness Safaris before, an outstanding trip, but the highlight was clearly the time spent with the Ongava rhino darting team - certainly in my top ten experiences to date!
I was the only person that picked up the offer, probably because of the short notice, and was essentially the first for what is a new initiative to raise funds for, and raise the profile of, the successful work being done with rhino on Ongava Game Reserve, which adjoins Etosha National Park.
Joining the team to dart four rhino was the opportunity of a lifetime. After flying with Stuart, the Reserve Manager, and Axel, the veterinarian, in the helicopter to dart two white rhino selected, I joined the ground team for the on-the-ground 'processing' of two black rhino to see and experience the exercise from that perspective. It is quite something to chase across the bush amidst the all-enveloping dust, getting the large amount of necessary equipment timeously to where the rhino has gone down...
The white rhino had GPS trackers fitted into their smaller frontal horns, and all four animals darted in the operation had their ears notched for future field identification. Microchips were also placed in both horns; all such measures aid anti-poaching effectiveness. The team worked with military planning and precision, and down-time was kept to an absolute minimum. What the bright shiny silver duct-tape horns will do for the white rhino's sex lives is anyone's guess!
There will be an opportunity to do the same next year, when a larger tagging programme is planned - grab the opportunity, you won't regret it! Read more about Save the Rhino Trust on its website.
Savuti Camp Catches a Leopard Courting
Location: Savuti Camp, Linyanti Concession, Botswana
Dates: 17 September 2009
Observer: Grant Atkinson
Photographer: Grant Atkinson
Africa's big cats display some very interesting behavioural traits associated with their mating habits. When it comes to leopards, this is not always easily seen however. They are solitary by nature, and never occur in big groups, as lions do for instance. Observing leopards frequently is no easy task either. The leopards' inherently reclusive habits and stealthy natures mean that much of their behaviour takes place either in thick cover, or in the dark of night.
I have seen leopard mating before, but a recent trip to Savuti Camp delivered a leopard courtship experience par excellence! We spent an hour watching the resident territorial male, known as the DumaTau male, courting and finally mating with an adult female, right in the open, and in daylight! Let's just say that during all their loving they were so oblivious to our presence that we eventually just left them in peace...
The duration of a leopard mating session can be anything from one to four days. The pair we were watching had clearly been busy for a while, as the male appeared very tired. He lay completely flat for ages until the female walked over and tried to initiate a mating. She would do this by passing her rear end very close to his nose. Usually this would be enough to evoke a easy response, but this male was already so exhausted that it took her three or four attempts before she was able to arouse his interest. As the adjacent images show, the female appeared quite exasperated at one point, but eventually her efforts paid off and the male did his part.
The pair mated three times. Also intriguing was the ritual aggression shown by the two cats as they separated from one another. The female began to snarl first, and sometimes cuffed the male across his nose. In turn, the male attempted to deflect this painful cuffing by snarling, and growling loudly, and putting on a fierce-looking facial expression.
We left the leopards resting, and were not able to locate them the following day. With a gestation period of 90-100 days, we will be hoping to see some new leopard cubs in the area early next year.
New Black Rhino Baby born in the wild in Botswana!
by Kai Collins
A survey in 1992 showed black rhino to be classified "locally extinct" in Botswana. In October 2003 collaboration between Wilderness Safaris, Wilderness Safaris Wilderness Trust, Botswana's Department of Wildlife (DWNP) and the Botswana Government realized a dream of reintroducing black rhino into the wild in Botswana. Four black rhinos, two males and two females, were released into the Okavango Delta on Chiefs Island in the Moremi Game Reserve close to Wilderness Safaris Mombo camp.
The animals had adapted very happily to their new surroundings, but as is typical of black rhinos being reintroduced into the wild, they did not breed as readily as the white rhinos that were introduced previously.
On Tuesday 22nd September 2009, a tracking team consisting of Wilderness Safaris Rhino monitoring officer, Poster Mpho Malongwa, and 3 members of the DWNP Anti Poaching Unit set off on a rhino patrol to check up on some of the reintroduced black rhinos in the Okavango Delta. They spent several days searching, following tracks and trying to locate the owners of the tracks, until on Friday 26th September 2009 they stumbled across a sleeping black rhino female with her calf. The calf is estimated to be between 3-6 months old. The name of the new calf is ‘Boipuso’ – meaning ‘Independence’, as it was located during Botswana’s Independence week.
Davison's Camp joins the Safari & Adventure Co. Portfolio
As the tourism and economic outlook in Zimbabwe continues to improve, there has been renewed interest in this southern African country with its wealth of unspoilt wilderness and incredible wildlife. As part of their continued commitment to Zimbabwe and its people, Davison's Camp in Hwange National Park has been added to the Safari & Adventure Co. offering, thereby providing affordable access to this iconic African park.
Situated in the exclusive Linkwasha Concession, this private tented camp has 9 units tastefully hidden beneath a grove of false mopane trees, overlooking a waterhole and open plain. Game viewing is productive year-round in the Linkwasha Concession and birdlife is prolific.
The addition of Davison's Camp means that Safari & Adventure Co. now operates in six southern African countries and adds an important wildlife destination to its repertoire.
At The River Club, the snooker room has been refurbished, but the snooker table has to be re-covered (after all, it is 80 years old) so it will be a while before it is operational. The room is now air-conditioned and has its own library, creating another spot to relax, particularly in the summer months. The colonnade linking the Summer House and the Main Area has also been completed and the tennis court should be complete by the time you read this.
Construction has begun on the new site of Kalahari Plains Camp, due to open on the 1st of December this year. There are some interesting enhancements to the standard rooms. All rooms will include a star deck above the bedroom area, making it the only camp in Botswana to offer this facility. The family units will have two separate bedrooms, each with its own bathroom and entrance off the main deck. Water and lighting will be run principally on solar. The new Kalahari Plains airstrip is already being used for the existing camp, but it will be a mere 25-minute drive from the new camp, making for much shorter airstrip transfers in the future.
Abu Camp is closed from 01 Jan to 15 May 2010 for a major refurbishment (during this time, Villa Okavango will operate with the full elephant experience that Abu offers - note that the Villa is still maximum 4 guests and one party at a time). In order to provide guests with more privacy and exclusivity the tents will be spaced further apart. The 'new' Abu Camp will offer accommodation in FIVE tents from May 2010. A pilot/guide tent will also be added which can be used for a sole use group - only if the party is made aware of the fact that this room is not exactly the same in size and decor as the others.
The Palmwag Lodge sleep-outs have become one of the most popular activities on the concession and in September there were almost as many guests on sleep-outs as in the lodge! On many nights, lion and hyaena have been moving around the camp and sunsets in such a remote area are always a special moment.
North Island Dive Report - September 09 Jump
to North Island
September has been completely unpredictable with regard weather conditions and after I had excitedly declared the south-east monsoon season over at the beginning of September (after we had experienced several days of fantastically calm ocean conditions) it returned for a further month.
Being the unofficially appointed local weatherman has recently been a very unsettling job with daily forecasts reduced to reading something like this: "Today the weather is expected to be mostly sunny, but possibly clouding over sometime in the afternoon or maybe even in the morning and perhaps a passing shower or ten throughout the day, your guess is as good as mine."
The beach in front of the restaurant has also moved to the prosperous shores of Villa 11. While the south-east monsoon winds have continued later than what we had anticipated, we fortunately still have a section of beach left in front of the restaurant, library and the dive centre.
The diving conditions have steadily been improving throughout the month. Fortunately the conditions have also cleared up considerably on the northern sections of Silhouette Island. Here, close to Anse Mordon, the water is protected from the south-east monsoon winds and is therefore a great place to dive, snorkel or just laze about on the boat enjoying an afternoon picnic. Most of our dives this month have been around this small bay.
On the few days that we were able to venture further afield, we managed to explore a new site off the south east side of Silhouette Island. This particular spot, now aptly named 'Turtle Rock' (due to an extremely inquisitive resident hawksbill turtle and a very large underwater boulder) has proven to be an excellent site. The reef consists of various tiers of rock making very interesting rock formations, some of which closely resemble old temple ruins. Apart from the interesting topography, the site also has prolific marine life - vast schools of lunar fusiliers swirl mid-water while numerous chevron barracuda stealthily patrol the edge of the reef. Large white-tip reef sharks were spotted in the shallow boulders and several bonito were also seen cruising on the lower ledges of the reef. There were also vast caves glimmering with almost impenetrable clouds of slender sweepers.
We also enjoyed numerous sightings of bottlenose dolphins from the boat, calmly weaving their way through the water. Also new this season were numerous schools of the bumphead parrotfish, which, although actually very ugly, are in their own way quite beautiful. Their movement can be compared to that of a herd of elephant as they slowly and meticulously traipse around the reef and, similar to the destructive nature of elephants, the parrotfish bite off large chunks of coral, often causing excessive damage for a rather meagre mouthful. While initially angry with them for causing such widespread damage to an already struggling coral population, we have subsequently recorded that most of the branches of coral that are broken off, especially the Acropora coral species, continue to grow and thus these fish inadvertently assist in allowing the pioneer coral species to spread more rapidly. This has especially been noted on various sites on Silhouette Island.
Our resident population of juvenile spotted eagle rays has continued to shelter in the bay off the main beach. These little guys have often been seen cruising right up to the shoreline, almost surfing the waves onto the beach.
We have also recently added new information and slides to our marine presentation which highlights further interesting underwater critters that we spot from time to time around the Island. The primary focus of the presentation now being directed toward the delicate balance of the reef ecosystem and why it is necessary to protect this balance. With detailed information on selected creatures we show how diverse our marine species are and also how little we know about the marine environment, hence why we should protect it.
Kings Pool Camp update - September 09 Jump
to Kings Pool Camp
We have been blessed with the first rains of the season in September. Nothing too heavy but there have been some amazing displays of lightning in front of camp providing us with panoramic views of an electric sky. Aside from the few rainy days, the weather has been hot with clear skies and we are starting to see regrowth in the dry woodland, first signs of the green season.
General game species are common in the Linyanti during September. From the bulky buffalo all the way down to the elephant shrew and everything in between. Animals have "water restrictions" during the dry season and they are forced to come and drink along the Linyanti River, concentrating their movements. Kudu, giraffe, impala and warthog all frequent the camp and they are often seen feeding around the tents.
The LTC Lion Pride has lost all of their cubs in September. The remaining two went missing at the beginning of the month. But towards the end of September, our guides managed to locate new cubs of only a few days old. These were born to the other female of this pride, so we still have a chance for a new generation.
The Border Boys have not been seen the entire month and we suspect that they have been chased out of the area by the dominant males of the Savute area who have been frequenting the Kings Pool area.
A vast herd of elephants have been seen this month, with numbers reaching their peak during October. The sunken hide has been producing some very good sightings of these grey beasts - up close and personal. Bulls still freely roam the floodplains and wander through the camp. We are also experiencing big herds of elephants crossing the Linyanti River between Namibia and Botswana from our boat, the Queen Sylvia - truly a magical experience.
Leopards are often very difficult to find as they are solitary hunters and their camouflage is second to none. Despite this we have had a few fantastic sightings of these creatures. Often we find them on a kill as this is one of the times they remain in one general area. We have seen four different individuals this month, including a very large male we have not seen in a while. We often see tracks of leopard come through the camp and hear the baboons barking their alarms at the presence of this predator.
Carmine Bee-eaters have been the stars of the avian world this month. We have a huge breeding colony of about 500 birds nesting at our old airstrip. It's a beautiful sight to see. Birds of prey are present in large numbers especially the African Fish-eagle along the Linyanti River. We are heading into our peak birding season in the next few months and are looking forward to some serious birding opportunities.
Greetings from us all at Kings Pool!
Management; Nick Leuenberger, Kerry Croll, Olivia 0'Reiley, Eddie Msipha Guides; OD Modiwka, Moss Tubego, Kahn Gouwe and Diye Kennetseng
DumaTau Camp update - September 09 Jump
to DumaTau Camp
Weather and Water Levels
Winter is now over and summer is here. Most of the trees are flowering, but the vegetation cover is overall still quite sparse. The average minimum temperature was 12º Celsius and the average maximum temperature was 29º Celsius. We had a bit of rain as well, which measured 22mm for the month.
Water levels have gone down a bit, as is now obvious in front of camp and along the floodplain. Some of the roads that were inundated are now all driveable. The flow in the Savute Channel is still strong and moving towards the Linyanti Marsh. More water from the Selinda Spillway is also pushing into the Savute Channel.
The Selinda females have been moving around a lot with the three cubs. One of the lionesses is also looking very pregnant and should be giving birth soon. There is one male cub that has an injured hind limb.
The five females have been following the herd of buffalo that is always seen along the Channel. On one recent encounter guests followed the lionesses tracking the buffalo. The females managed to single out one adult cow that they separated from the herd and brought it down. The cow fought for about 45 minutes before the lions finally suffocated her to death.
The five sub-adult males from the same pride are looking very solid as a coalition. It's been about six months now that they have separated from the females. Our guides spotted them a few months ago taking their chances with an old bull elephant. About two weeks back Sefo (Savuti Camp guide) followed the young males for about forty minutes as they chased a young elephant bull; the young bull had wounds and was bleeding from the attack. It looks like these five young males may develop a taste for elephant, possibly even specialising in hunting elephant, following on the legacy of the Michelin Boys that used to hunt pachyderms along the Savute Channel.
The Savuti female is doing very well with her two male cubs. The three have been moving around Chobe 1 area and the Chobe airstrip. She has been hunting in the mopane woodland close to the airstrip. The Selinda Boys have been moving past Kings Pool; they dominate a big area now and were spotted with one of the lionesses from the Linyanti Pride which is due to give birth soon.
Our favourite leopard, the Zib male, never ceases to amaze us. He is always a highlight for guests and has become a successful hunter. He was spotted by Name chasing wild dogs from an impala kill close to Botsilo Pan.
The Zib female has also been seen a lot too this past month. One of our guides spotted her on the walkway from Tent 9 walking towards Tent 7! We also managed to spot her walking towards a tree were Helmeted Guineafowl were roosting. We watched her plan the hunt to catch one, which took about an hour for her to finally get her meal for the night. The guides suspect that her cubs may be dead. We tried to keep an eye on her movements, hoping to spot her and cubs but had no luck.
The Mantshwe Boys were seen erratically this past month. Our guides have spotted them close to Chobe airstrip twice in September. They have been covering a big area in the Linyanti, which makes it hard for us to find them regularly.
Strangely, wild dogs have not been seen that often this month. The DumaTau Pack was only seen once on the southern bank of the Savute Channel close to Giraffe Road, relaxing with full bellies. The Linyanti Pack was seen twice this month close to Chobe airstrip hunting.
General game has been abundant to say the least. The number of elephant herds that were seen along the Channel was certainly impressive. Guests even had good sightings from the boat at Osprey Lagoon. A big herd of buffalo has also been seen regularly along the Channel. Around DumaTau Camp we always see giraffe with young ones on the floodplain.
The Linyanti birdlife has been excellent as well. Yellow-billed Kites are back and the other day we watched one pick off a francolin chick. We have also had some good Southern Carmine Bee-eater sightings at the colony established at the confluence of the Kwando and Linyanti Rivers. Wattled Cranes are resident in front of camp. Pictured is a Verreaux's Eagle-Owl that was also often seen this month.
- 'We loved every minute. Guide Moses was exceptional - so knowledgeable and fun. We loved him, tracking lions and driving alongside a male leopard. Our romantic anniversary dinner by the pool. The singing and dance by the camp staff was beautiful. Jane the waitress was great, the food was excellent and all was glorious for words.' Susan and Arthur
- 'This is a remarkable, well-run camp and the managers and staff are absolutely first class!' Judith and Daniel
- 'A greeting by six elephants on our arrival in camp. Watching hyaenas finishing off a buffalo carcass that was killed by lions. Following a leopard hunting and observing him. The wonderful staff of DumaTau and our fantastic guide Moses. Keep up the great work! DumaTau Camp was a true African experience which we will highly recommend to our friends.' Howard and Susan
- 'Our guide and the staff at DumaTau were great. The full day safari with our guide was spectacular; he went above and beyond to get us the best photos possible. The traditional meal and songs and dancing was great.' Jim and Chris
The managers in camp were Attorny Vasco, Miriam Tichapondwa, Kefilwe Joel, Kele Mambo and Ras Mundu. The guiding team included Ronald, Theba, Mocks, Lazi, Name and Moses.
Savuti Camp update - September 09 Jump
to Savuti Camp
While the clouds linger in the almost blue sky, the guttural toads in front of camp are competing in their own bush orchestra, their throaty voices blending with the surrounding melodious reverberation of the African bush. In the distance a hyaena is prowling thoughout the night watching and waiting, while the 'prrrp' call of the African Scops-Owl lulls one to sleep.
Imagine yourself sitting on the star deck which is a part of our charming camp hidden amongst Kalahari apple leaf and knob thorn trees along the meandering Savute Channel, and then - there they are, the gentle giants of the Linyanti slowly shifting their bodies from side to side as they wander down to the water. The show that they are about to put on in their natural surroundings is as mesmerising as the best Broadway show. Just before your mind gets taken over by this African phantom your guide whispers directly behind you, urging you to sip down your gin and tonic or cup of tea as it is time to leave camp to go on your photographic hunt, it's time for game drive....
This month a lot of exciting events kept us on the edge of our game-viewing seats. Wild dogs participating in a string of victorious hunts, chasing down their prey in a ballet that only they will ever understand.
In the distance a mother lion is calling her cubs, their soft voices answer her with so much respect and fascination. As they sweep across the open grassland they follow many zebra, hungry for a new hunt. They come across the edge of the Savute Channel where a Hamerkop is having an early Botswana Independence day celebration, pounding the nervous guttural toads and grass frogs in anticipation of a well-deserved meal. As the lioness and her cubs continue on their enduring quest we finally meet up with them whilst on safari, watching them in silence. The only sound is the soft motherly grunts and contact calls encouraging the little ones to follow her. They finally disappear into the mopane woodland - possibly going to settle down for a while before night fall.
Back in Savuti Camp a friendly welcome awaits, the dark sky shows its precious jewels in Orion that is starting to display - the hunter of the skies - a summer constellation proving that the winter is a mere afterthought. Dinner becomes the next highlight in guests' minds until the sawing sound of a leopard is heard right outside camp. A promising morning lies ahead.
The DumaTau male leopard, like a ghost in the night, moved in and around camp during the night leaving only his footprints behind. Later this month he showed himself a few times even seen feeding on a warthog which he had killed himself. As camera lenses focus on this incredible predator no one notices the younger spotted predator sitting on a branch slightly higher than the DumaTau male! It is another male leopard. In absolute astonishment guides and guests start snapping away with their cameras at this rare sight - "unusual" is the first word that jumped into my mind, and then the second warthog carcass is seen draped over the branch of the large sausage tree. Two male leopards and two warthog kills in one tree and no explanation.
On the far side of the concession yet another story unfolds as the wild dog pack and their puppies are spotted feeding on an impala, all of them looking extremely vigorous. They have experienced some nail-biting episodes in the past couple of months but have survived through it all.
Before everyone could return to camp a call from a buffalo in distress caught everyone's attention. The lion pride has successfully managed to separate a young buffalo from its herd - 45 minutes later and the battle is over. Slowly but surely night falls, the skies light up with flashes of lightening and crashes of thunder. The first rain for the season, slightly early but always welcome!
As the Savute Channel still slowly wind itself through the Linyanti, the bush is alive with creatures great and small - living each day one step at a time.
- "Every drive had its dramatic moment - not a dull minute. Sefo is the best guide, very attentive and friendly staff."
- "A knowledgeable guide - Goodman - and not one but two leopards. The rooms are fabulous."
- "Lions killing buffalo was incredible to witness, but they need a bit more practice!"
-"Wonderful view from our room - the Savute Channel in its glory - beautiful."
- "Passion and friendliness of the guides, staff and management - THANK YOU FOR THE BEST TIME OF MY LIFE!"
- "The birds were out of this world?"
Diana Eades, Terri Krause, Tumoh Morena,
Kane Motswana, Sefo Onagaditse, Goodman Mafwira, Lets Kamogelo
Zarafa Camp update - September 09 Jump
to Zarafa Camp
The heat of September, with temperatures into the early forties, was a bit of a shock to everyone. Welcome relief came though with a spectacular three-day storm. It started in the middle of the night where 5.5mm fell in an amazing light and sound display we usually associate with summertime, not September. The next day was completely overcast and only reached a very pleasant 30º Celsius. After a night without rain, we thought it was all over, until the following night where another 10mm fell and the rain continued into the morning. The sun is now trying desperately to burn its way through the thick clouds. The wonderful rain has caused a fresh flush of green everywhere.
The highlight of this month must be seeing the African wild dog puppies. There are nine of them with the six adults that spend a lot of time between Zarafa and Savuti and up towards Twin Pans. Our guests have had an amazing time watching the young ones learn about eating meat and watching the hunting, but often keeping quite a distance away. Some guests, after being asked about their activity, have answered that they saw the 'usual' sightings: impala, warthog, giraffe, wild dog, and kudu! It is an honour and a treat to have the wild dogs spend so much time around us.
We've also had some interesting leopard sightings, including a mating pair. They were high up in a tree when she gently brushed past him and made her way down the tree. He followed and were seen mating in the open. The male is one we have not seen often, but is found around Old Zib and up towards the airstrip and west towards the woodlands. The female seems to be new to the area and is moving around a lot: one day she's seen near Zarafa, the next she's mating up along the transit route and the next she's back around the headquarters.
Amber's young sub-adult male is now completely independent and is no longer seen with Amber (a very well-known leopard). He roams over a huge area from the Savute Channel, past the headquarters and even up northwards of the airstrip. He's now a lot bigger and was seen the other day with a fresh kill - a big impala male. He later hauled it up into a nearby tree, allowing our guests fantastic photographic opportunities in the late afternoon light.
Interestingly, we've seen a lot of our summer migrant birds already. We've spotted a number of Yellow-billed Kites cruising the air and calling their whistling call. We've also counted many Carmine Bee-eaters and even saw a couple of Broad-billed Rollers calling in a tree above the kitchen.
Camps Update - September 09
Lagoon camp Jump
• Lagoon camp is teeming with Elephant and Buffalo herds, which have been attracted by the permanent waters of the Kwando River. One only has to take a drive from the airstrip to the camp to appreciate the density of game in the area at the moment.
• For those who have been following the progress of this years Wild Dog puppies there was an exciting spectacle towards the end of the month. The puppies were involved in their first hunt and kill thus completed their transition to full pack members. The pack will now spend the summer hunting far and wide through the Kwando region before the cycle of denning comes round again in May.
• Otherwise, a Leopard cub was seen drinking with its mother by Zebra pan and the three brother Cheetah are a regular sighting in the area stalking unfortunate Impala or panting under the shade of a Kalahari Apple Leaf.
Kwara & Little Kwara camps Jump
& Little Kwara camps
• The seven Kwara Lions have been sighted regularly this month all around the concession. At times they break off into threes and fours and patrol different parts of their territory. There preferred diet varies between Tsesebe, Zebra, Buffalo and Wildebeest but they are yet to tackle Elephants as some larger prides have done elsewhere in Botswana.
• Another excellent month for Leopards and Cheetahs. A family of Cheetahs with four cubs have been spotted several times recently. The cubs are slowly learning the art of the hunt with mixed success. Two Leopards managed to kill a large male Lechwe close to Charles’ crossing and were eagerly photographed by guests over the following two days.
• A pack of five Wild Dogs are occasionally seen near the eastern side of the area and there are plenty of Elephant bulls in and around the camp to keep guests and staff entertained.
• For bird lovers –a Long Crested Eagle is often seen on the Maunichira channel bordering Moremi Game Reserve. Elsewhere, Fish Eagles, Saddle Billed Storks and the return of the migratory Carmine Bee-Eaters has added considerable colour to game drives at Kwara.
Lebala camp Jump
• Lebala has once again been witness to some world-class game viewing this September. All the big cats have been seen on numerous occasions including a now resident male Leopard which is often spotted at night with the spotlight. The Wild Dog puppies have began to hunt and enormous herds of thousands of Buffalo and Elephant are commonly seen passing to and from the floodplains to feed.
• As if that wasn’t enough the migrant birds have returned from central and northern Africa to brighten up the place with there breeding plumages. The place is buzzing with life and expectation of the incoming rains.
• The unexpected rain brought a sprinkling of green to the parched pans towards the end of this month and guests witnessed the joy at which the desert game greets such good fortune. Elephants, Hyenas and Lions were all seen playing and wallowing in the bulging Nxai Pan water hole.
• We also had our first sighting of the rare Pangolin since opening Nxai Camp earlier this year – it was thought by guides to have been persuaded to come out of hiding by the early rains which will activate the ants and termites the Pangolin feeds on.
• There is a pride of Lions living on the main Nxai Pan that most people have had the fortune to see. Four cubs are with the family which spans three generations.
• The two Cheetah brothers are also a common sighting in the area and never give up in harassing the Impala and Springbok populations. One such hunt ended in them taking a Springbok each. The first was swiftly eaten before a clan of Spotted Hyenas, using their usual uncanny ability to sniff out a free meal, chased the brothers away and devoured the second.
• Late September has brought us some surprising days of rainfall in the Kalahari. We would usually not expect the rains to start until November but some showers have provided welcome relief to the thirsty animals around Tau.
• Our resident Leopard has been seen and heard around the camp on several occasions along with a mating pair of Lions that frequent the Tau water hole. Additionally, we have been having consistent sightings of Brown Hyena in the early mornings lapping up the fresh water in front of camp.
• On the Pan itself Cheetahs are still seen from time to time sitting atop of mounds looking for plains game such as Springbok and young Gemsbok or Red Hartebeest that can be seen in the Kalahari.
Mombo Camp update
- September 09 Jump
to Mombo Camp
Weather and Vegetation
The month of September is usually very warm and dry but this year has been full of surprises. Towards the end of September we had three continuous days of rain and we recorded up 10mm. The rest of the month has been fairly warm and we have reached maximum temperatures of 36º Celsius with a minimum of 14º Celsius.
We have seen the floodwaters receding, opening up most of our roads that were not accessible. A lot of animals have been grazing right in front of Mombo Camp. As September is our spring month many trees have started sprouting and most of the acacias have already turned green inviting a lot of giraffe and other browsers. As it is also time for the sausage trees to start dropping their flowers we have seen the delicate impalas congregating under the sausage trees for these tasty flowers.
Good news from Mombo is that Legadima was found with two new cubs hidden in a big jackal berry tree. Now that Legadima has new cubs she has rebuffed her sub-adult cubs (Pula and Maru). It took a long time for her to do this however and Pula and Maru still associated with her up to a few days before she gave birth to the new cubs.
Legadima, Pula and Maru have, in the past month, been seen around Mombo Camp. There has also been a lot of interaction between leopard and hyaena as many of their kills have been snatched away by hyaenas on several occasions. In general, Legadima and her cubs are doing very well, as almost every week we see leopard kills.
Mombo is always a great area for game viewing and one of the prime areas for lion. Most of the 'breakaway' prides from the Mathata and Moporota prides have been seen on several occasions now. Some of the sub-adult males of the Moporota breakaway have gotten themselves into trouble by overlapping into their mothers' territories and have got a beating from the big dominant males.
The Moporata Pride continues to be the most successful in the area in terms of hunting, dominance and mating. One morning, at the Letlaka hippo pool floodplains, the pride was found feeding on a zebra and there was also a dead wildebeest on which the cubs were practising their killing tactics. The guides think that the unsuspecting wildebeest was killed when it walked too close while they were feeding on the zebra.
In another sighting, the guides together with some of our guests, found one of the Moporota lionesses mating with one of the dominant males. One of the Mathata lionesses was also seen mating with one of the dominant Western Pride males.
The lone wild dog that we have been seeing is still surviving. Not just surviving other predators, but she has done well in keeping healthy and she has turned out to be a very good solo hunter.
A few days ago we found one of the dominant male rhinos (Serondela) and he was not looking happy at all. He was sniffing and running around and we were not sure what was going on with him. Two days later he was found mating with one of his daughters (Longtree 2) and we suspected that he had been patrolling the area trying to keep away any other males that could have been close. One of the other big bulls (Sergeant) decided to come closer to try and mate and that resulted in a big fight between these two males, with Sergeant being the loser.
Sitting at the current hyaena den has been a most interesting place to observe hyaena behaviour. One day we went over to the den and did a count of the puppies and we managed to count 15, but we could hear some smaller puppies making noises from inside the den so there were definitely more.
Hippo Hide has been a good area to spend some time watching hippos, some very big crocodiles and a pair of African Skimmers that stayed here for about two weeks. Some of the migratory birds that have just came back to the Delta are the Yellow-billed Kites and the Southern Carmine Bee-eaters.
Mombo is also renowned for its density of general game, and we are now seeing large buffalo breeding herds. Mombo Camp has also been a great place to just to sit on the decks of the rooms or at the lounge area and observe red lechwe, zebra, buffalo, giraffe, impala and elephant grazing on the floodplain; together with birds like African Fish-eagle, African Marsh Harrier, African Jacana and Open-billed Storks.
Managers in camp this month were Lizzy, Kago (KG), Martha, Martin, Nat (Little Mombo) and Marleen. Cilas, Tsile, Doc, Lebo, Simon and Pete were the guides who helped me come up with the news this month. It has been a great month at Mombo and thanks to all the people listed above and the brilliant staff of Mombo that I did not mention for making Mombo the special destination that it is.
Images by Kago (KG) Tlhalerwa
Xigera Camp update
- September 09 Jump
to Xigera Camp
The weather has been rather surprising this September. The temperatures started rising and then suddenly, a few days before Independence Day we got clouds, thunder and rain! This unusual weather continued for nearly a week and we measured a total rainfall of about 8mm.
The water levels have dropped considerably (by the Xigera Bridge, about 20cm in a month) which make the game drive routes in our area more accessible. With the water in the channels dropping we have found a new little picnic spot.
At this time of the year a lot of our trees - knobthorns and other acacias - have come out with their beautiful flowers, while the rain trees and the sausage trees are adding some more colours to our lush surroundings!
September has been a busy month. Most of our guests have had the opportunity to go on full day boat and picnic trips out towards Chief's Island.
We didn't have to go too far to see game this month as we have had lots of wildlife visitors right in camp. Two bull elephants have been seen around camp on several occasions and have been keeping our guests entertained. Excited guests at breakfast have been telling us about the munching noises they had heard outside their rooms at night. For those of you who didn't know, elephants do also lie down and sleep from time to time, and when they do - they snore!
One day while we were having tea in the main area, the bigger of the two bulls decided that he was going to spend some time inside our boma. And then, as if that wasn't enough, he wanted to go on the other side of the boardwalk and decided to do so by breaking his way through!
Our usual troop of baboons still come onto the island and the vervet monkeys now have a few small babies as well. We have counted at least four!
Hippo often pass under the bridge in the evenings around dinner time, splashing around in the water.
In that same water, just in front of camp, we have also seen a family of otters swimming along and looking for fish. Spotted hyaena have also been seen around Xigera Camp and crossing our bridge in the evening.
One of the absolute highlights was when KD, one of the Xigera guides, and his guests spotted a white rhino on Chief's island! We only believed their luck when one of the guests, Jonathan Littlefield, showed us his photos. This is the second only rhino sighting ever at Xigera!
From the boat around Chief's Island different prides of lion have been seen on several occasions. A couple of times they were seen stalking or hunting, other times resting under a tree or feeding.
Herds of elephant and buffalo have been seen from the boats, mekoro and game drives. It has been a usual sight to have elephants, adults as well as babies, crossing in front of the boats. There have also been numerous sightings of game like hippo, zebra, lechwe, crocodile, reedbuck and giraffe.
Our guide Ndebo had an extraordinary sighting of a massive python killing a young red lechwe when he was out with some guests on a morning boat cruise.
The leopards in the area, especially the young female have also been seen on occasion while on game drive. Bushbuck are also seen occasionally near camp and the very rare sitatunga was also seen on two occasions.
Seeing a Pel's Fishing-owl has been a highlight for many this month. We even had one perching over the curio shop one morning! African Skimmers are still being seen at Xigera Lagoon, and the guides have seen a lot of eggs around that area. A number of the migratory bird species have returned, for example Diderick's Cuckoo and Southern Carmine Bee-eaters.
- 'Every day was fantastic, swimming in Xigera Lagoon on our last afternoon and our amazing candlelight dinner will be treasured however. Thanks! Keep doing what you are doing because you do it so well! You have amazing staff members. See you all again sometime soon.' Stu and Katie
- "Everything was just great! The staff, facilities, food - all tremendous; we look forward to our return." Nancy and David
- "The camp itself is beautiful, the staff very friendly and helpful, the guides are great and the traditional dinner with songs and dancing was lovely. Nothing should be changed; it is perfect as it is. Thank you!" Nathaly and Ute
Managers: Virgil Geach, Gideon Mvere, Gabriella "Gabbi" De Moor, Matshelo Nkwe, Tendani Van der Est and Mia Ives.
Guides: Lemme Dintwa, Ace Gabanakitso,"KD" Malatsi and Ndebo Tongwane
Chitabe Camp update
- September 09 Jump
to Chitabe Camp
Vumbura Plains Camp update
- September 09 Jump
to Vumbura Plains Camp
The sun has just risen over a typical Vumbura floodplain bringing with it the mild to warm September weather. A gentle breeze blows through a nearby sausage tree causing the large, maroon flowers to drop gently to the ground, which in turn has attracted a small herd of kudu to the immediate vicinity. All of a sudden, a small movement of white appears from deep within the foliage of the tree and the kudu break the silence of the early morning as they make a frantic dash to escape from under the canopy. Once the excitement and the noise dies down, a somewhat disappointed sub-adult male leopard climbs slowly down from the sausage tree and disappears into the tall grasses below.
This is how the month of September started here at Vumbura Plains South.
The remainder of the month continued in much the same manner, with frequent sightings of the shy male leopard. The majority of trees shed their leaves over the month and the maroon sausage tree flowers continued to drop to the ground below, attracting antelope such as kudu and impala. The main inland areas of Vumbura Plains have dried up considerably, and the game has moved onto the dried-out floodplains where new shoots are beginning to sprout.
Sightings this month include two prides of lions, the Kubu and the Eastern prides. Guests were lucky enough to watch these lions on three different kills: two buffalo kills and one zebra kill. Two of the lionesses from the Eastern Pride disappeared later in the month; they were last seen on the zebra carcass near Boundary Crossing, and it is suspected that they may be having cubs.
Our wild dog pack of ten has also been seen fairly regularly - on almost a weekly basis. The dogs have been seen on impala kills on two separate occasions this month, with some spotted hyaena not too far behind. Vuka, the Vumbura male cheetah, who left for a dry area when the flood came up, returned at the end of the month with a very large belly - clearly he has been eating well.
With the water drying up rapidly, trapping fish in the fast-dwindling pools, bird sightings have been amazing. Most small pans have had large amounts of pelicans feasting on the trapped fish all month.
The big highlight for this month has to be the two white rhino that were last seen at the beginning of the year. Obonye (OB), our head guide, tracked and found both rhino at the top end of the Kwedi Concession, close to the buffalo fence. OB called in the sighting, allowing the majority of Vumbura vehicles to witness this amazing sighting from a safe and unimposing distance of approximately 150 metres away. The rhino were not bothered by the vehicles and tolerated all the excitement without any fuss - true star quality!
September was a great month for game here at Vumbura and we are expecting to have an even better October.
The managers and guides at Vumbura Plains in September were:
Managers: Warren Baty, Cheri Marshall & Kgabiso Lehare at South Camp.
Gordon Karovsky, Tanya Karovsky & Phenyot Tlalenyane at North Camp
Guides: Obonye Kamela (OB), Setsile Chikusi (ST) & Banyatsang Shakwa (Ban) at South Camp.
Onamile Lekgopho (Ona), Sebonta Thekiso (Zee) & Keraetswe Bosigo (Madala K) at North Camp.
Little Vumbura Camp update
- September 09 Jump
to Little Vumbura Camp
Summer is on its way with a few hot days to prepare us for October. Some early thunderstorm activity late in the month brought some unexpected rain and brought the temperatures down again.
Most people enjoy the game drives the most as the variety and abundance of different animals keeps everyone entertained. Sightings of the big cats are regular enough to give nearly everyone their feline fix and this month Sevara showed a group how a pride killed a mother and calf buffalo whilst Lazarus and his guests experienced four lions dealing viciously with a hyaena.
The birding is excellent as there is still plenty of shallow water on the floodplains and the summer migrants have started to return.
With the mangosteen trees dropping their flowers on to the tent roofs the elephants find it convenient to amble from tent to tent in the night, sweeping the small flowers into a tasty bunch for a midnight snack. They are blissfully unaware of the sleepless occupants who cannot quite believe the managers' previous reassurance that this is a unique experience to be enjoyed!
A single sighting of a cheetah is a sign that everything has not been disrupted permanently and the discovery of a pair of rhinoceros by Vumbura Plains guides once again showed that the bush is always capable of surprising even those who spend a lot of time here.
Judging by the comments from guests, Little Vumbura is still one of the most popular camps because of the variety of activities available and the enthusiasm of the staff who work here. And to me it is not just the amazing wildlife that makes this camp special but the all encompassing beauty that surrounds you wherever you are in this special corner of the Okavango Delta.
Duba Plains Camp update
- September 09 Jump
to Duba Plains Camp
In general, September was a very good month, both weather-wise and sightings, except some light rainfall that we experienced towards month end.
Temperature-wise, September is normally a very good month to visit, as the temperature has been very good both at day times and night. However during the last week of the month we experienced a change: it became very windy and dusty. We also received about 9mm of rainfall in the last week of the month, which is very common.
As we mentioned last month, the elephants were coming into the area in large numbers. This was still continuing to happen throughout September; we have been seeing large breeding herds of elephants on game drives and in camp. The bulls that always come into the area at this time of the year have been seen most of the month sleeping around the camp perimeter. This is an amazing behaviour to see as they sleep on the edge of low-lying termite mounds, so that when they wake up all of a sudden, they just roll over down the mound! Not only they were in camp to feed and sleep, they have been very destructive as well, several times we did not have water in mornings as they have been pulling up water pipes at night and draining the water tank to the ground!
One bull is particularly destructive: he comes into camp to feed on the jackal berry trees that shade our tents - and sometimes the showers are in his way so he simply pushes them down so he can reach the delectable fruit. Other destructive behaviour is the ring-barking of the huge ebony trees around camp - this is quite sad as when this happens the tree will normally die.
Bird life has been interesting in September; with fish being trapped in the drying water pans, we have been watching storks, pelicans and other water birds in large flocks fishing efficiently from these drying pans. September is normally the month when summer migrants start to come in the area, and it is always very nice to see them back here. The first to be seen around were Carmine Bee-eaters, Yellow-billed Storks and Yellow-billed Kites. We have also had regular sightings of other local birds of prey like the Martial Eagles, Tawny Eagles and Black-breasted Snake Eagles.
Other smaller animals like bat-eared foxes, aardwolves, honey badgers and side-striped jackals still continue to dominate most of the game drive sightings in the area; thanks to the open grassland habitat we have here it is relatively easy and fascinating interesting to watch these small animals.
The buffalo seem to have spent the whole of this month in the easily accessible areas. They are still in an excellent condition, although some old cows in the herd have not been able to keep up with the rest of the herd and have been left behind to fall prey to the lions. Despite this, only eight kills were seen by guests this month, but the relentless activity between the buffalo and lion has still been the most regular attraction. Clearly the buffalo are still defending themselves against the lions strongly.
The pride still consists of nine lionesses and the dominant Skimmer Male, the pride has been in their prime territory and seen together almost the whole month, especially when hunting. Every now and then they will separate because of the tension between them. The tension is mainly between Silver Eye and the rest. In fact the hatred of Silver Eye by the other lionesses seems to have intensified recently and she has clearly become the most unwanted lioness in the pride. It seems her past has caught up with her as this originated from the time when she was the main culprit in the high mortality rate of the cubs.
Thus, she has been isolated often from the rest of the pride and every time she tried to get close to them there has been a serious fight to keep her away. Being a very successful hunter herself, during this time of isolation, she has never had a problem feeding herself. She has been spotted several times hunting alone, and catching calves. She now has teamed up with one of the lionesses which will probably make her life much easier.
However, cannibalism seems to have become a habit now in this pride and recently guests saw one lioness pick up a cub belonging to another, kill it and eat it, and then quite a graphic sighting of another female feeding on one of her own, while her second cub watched - a sad and horrific sighting. The remaining cub is still alive; it has been seen around very often and is in good condition.
The dominant Skimmer is still managing the pride well, he has been seen mating with two other females recently, and seems to be playing a very important role in the pride by trying his best to protect the cubs. As we know, many cubs get killed especially when feeding at kills, but in the presence of this male it this has not occurred. A few days ago, a lioness brought her two cubs to feed on a kill that she had hunted. The other lioness who is known for killing cubs growled and snarled at the cubs, keeping them at a distance from being able to eat. The Skimmer male, lying close by was not happy with the situation: he got up and stopped the female and then kept all the lionesses away while the cubs fed and were satiated. He then safely lead them to their mother, still keeping an eye on the other lioness. This was fascinating to watch - to see a male lion being so responsible and caring for his offspring is extremely unusual.
Some bonus sightings in September included those of leopard. A female leopard was sighted on two occasions with 2 six-month-old cubs. This was an amazing sighting since she and both cubs were very relaxed. This leopard has been seen before in the area but not with cubs, so the guides were thrilled to see them. Within the same period of time another male leopard, alleged to be the father of the two cubs, was seen in the area as well. Several days after this sighting of the leopard male, one morning while on a game drive, his tracks were picked up from the previous night. The guides tracked him with confidence and excitement all looking forward to see this well-relaxed male leopard again. But they were very disappointed to find him lying on the road dead. From their assessment it appeared that he was killed by lions and there was very significant proof of this: claw marks and teeth marks around the neck and throat, which is the typical killing way of a cat.
Another sighting that really thrilled our guides and guests was a large grey mongoose killing a night adder - an unusual sight that even the guide after years of being in the bush had never seen before.
Managers in September were Moalosi, Bonang and Uno (Uno usually works at Little Vumbura and came for a month to assist us), while the guiding department was teamed up with Spike, Reuben and Carlton; James 007 was also out on his leave. I would like to take the opportunity to welcome Spike to our guiding team with pleasure. Spike is young, knowledgeable and passionate about his profession; he has been with us already three months now and is fitting in very well in the area and at Duba Plains Camp.
Jacana Camp update
- September 09 Jump
to Jacana Camp
Summer is here - warm sunny days are complimented by flashes of lightning and rolling thunder in the evenings. The rain is here and soon all plantlife in the Delta will start sprouting shades of green. The Egrets and colourful dragonflies gather in their multitudes along the waterways. The dust has settled and the air is clear - any photographer's dream.
Wild splashes and confused alarm calls - two hundred red lechwe running for dear life. Two female lions explode from cover, closing the gap to dinner. The sound of thudding hooves is evident but the kill is swift. The resident pride of lion will survive for another week; the meal was small but sustaining. The long winter is over and two weeks ago an appearance by two lion cubs had us all excited. Now the fight for survival is on not only hunting for themselves but supporting a large male lion and two cubs.
Closer to the camp the crickets and frogs keep the night alive and mysterious, complimenting the rhythmic sounds of a bull elephant crossing from island to island. In the distance a hippo grunts, somewhere in the channel another hippo answers and so the chorus continues. In the morning the signs are there to see, their tracks fill the pathways.
Large shoals of mottled catfish with swooping tails swim these waters, feeding on insects and smaller fish as they go along their well known routes to the deeper water where they spend the warm days. Basking lazily in the sun a crocodile displays his teeth and when startled slides effortlessly down into the water waiting for that unsuspecting passerby to surprise with deadly precision.
The liquid bubbling 'Doo-doo-doo-doo' of the Coppery-tailed Coucal fills the air in the morning and late afternoon, and is an introduction to the multiplying morning sounds. Two graceful Wattled Cranes have made the waters in front of Kwetsani Camp their home and are regularly seen courting along the waterways. African Pygmy-geese are gathering in small flocks and add colour to the clear Delta water. Around the corner Open-billed and Saddle-billed Stork probe the shallows in search of stranded fish and amphibians. An African Fish-eagle calls above and gently touches down to sit proudly high above scoping his territory for intruders. A startlingly-turquoise Malachite Kingfisher frantically works to complete his burrow for the breeding season, diving in the water to clear the mud and sand from his plumage; not scared at all he shows his best side to the camera and the patient photographer gets his prize as the sun sets on another day in the Delta.
- "Beautiful camp, game and water drives and staff! Food is delicious! Tau Phenomenal! Tau Tau!"
- "Love this camp! Great birds, lions and staff. Second visit just as good as first."
- "Enjoyed every minute, loved the camp elephant! Thank you so much."
- "Came back second time - still wonderful!"
- "Fantastic stay. Great wildlife, great staff, great times! Thank you!"
- "A Robinson Crusoe experience with a distinct Botswana twist!"
Managers: Pieter Ras, Danielle van den Berg
Guide: Mike Tebogo
update - September 09 Jump
to Kwetsani Camp
Weather and Water Levels
September saw the beginning of spring where there were some very warm days followed by the welcoming cool southern breeze. The mornings were still nice and cool though, warming up as the day progressed. Around midday, everyone and everything is looking for shade.
The annual floodwater has dried up for most part except for some channels. Every morning the herd of elephants move from the island forest to the eastern side of camp where there is more water, only to return in the cool afternoon to spend the night on the island.
The channels are also drying up and sand banks are becoming more visible. Most of the roads are now accessible again. We have been treated to some dramatic and spectacular thunderstorms followed by some rain to settle the dust. We have had some 10mm of much-needed rain marking the beginning of the rainy season. Scenes of running and playing impala greeted the rain to the delight of guests.
Guests in camp have been treated to a spectacle this month. One male and two female lions have been frequent visitors to Kwetsani Camp. Guests have been serenaded to sleep on various nights by their roaring. It has been a favourite talking point over breakfast this last month. We have also had two new additions to the lions in the Kwetsani area, which we are excited about.
Some of the Kwetsani guests have been lucky enough to see cheetah on Hunda Island where a female and two sub-adults have made the area their new home. Leopard have also made their appearance on quite a few occasions.
Elephant are still around and we sometimes have up to 35 in camp. Some of the guests have decided to just spend the day in camp with all the animals around. The bushbuck also kept guests amused for hours as the males chased each other around camp. Baboons and monkeys are always worth watching as they are constantly up to mischief.
The fishing has picked up with the drying of the channels. There are currently a lot of African pike and bream around. They all go straight back into the water of course, as we practise catch-and-release fishing.
The birdlife is still out of this world and a pair of African Skimmers made their nest near one of the roads on the floodplain. Unfortunately they did not survive. African Fish-eagles are plentiful and Malachite Kingfishers are all over the place. Hartlaub's Babblers invite themselves to brunch every day and amuse guests. A Giant Eagle-owl has made himself at home in one of the trees in the main area of the lodge; one can hear him calling every night.
Management: Iván Phillipson, Ilze van der Vyver,
Guides: OB, OP and Jonah.
update - September 09 Jump
to Jao Camp
Weather and Water Levels
September has now bowed and surrendered with deference to the searing heat of October. Light breezes dust the ground with leaves like sugar on cake and dust flies around rebelliously while the anticipated rains are still at bay. Daily temperatures have averaged between 30 and 35 degrees Celsius, complimentary to the magnificent surrounds. But near the end of the month the skies offered some refreshment to the dehydrated land beneath: a sensational thunderstorm tamed the dust and settled the leaves.
The floodwaters are doing their yearly parade out of the Delta, leaving shallow channels behind that are straining to accommodate our motor boats but are perfect for the peaceful Delta mokoro rides. It looks as though mid to end of next month the motor boats will rest for the summer season until next year.
With the island opening up with the receding floodwater, the Jao mongoose troop has widened its horizons, thus remaining quite elusive for the majority of the time. However, when they have graced us with their animated presence it is evident that the warming weather has revived their vigour for play and courtship. Early December is typically the month when the local troop has its first litter so September is a very busy and lively time for the mongoose. We are anticipating some swollen bellies in the coming months with a two-month gestation period. A recent count of them numbered 29 in the troop.
The mongoose aren't the only species in the reproductive news. Our resident leopard beauty, Beauty, had mated with a local male leopard. However, her 'beau' has suffered a mild leg injury and has been limping slightly; no cut or gash is visible so hopefully he will heal shortly. Beauty has been quite discreet and on edge of late due to the nearby lion pride moving through the area. This is a time when Beauty needs to take extra care when roaming and especially when making kills and feeding. She is pictured left, looking very pregnant.
There is a tangled web with our lion lately. These dominating predators have entangled themselves in each other's lives. To begin with, our Kwetsani Pride male has been mating with Broken Nose, a female who has an adult daughter, Star, who he is also mating with. The courtship between them is quite a sight and an equally impressive sound. The young male is full of energy and keen to share his handsome genes with the mother-daughter duo.
The Kwetsani Pride adult female has finally revealed her two young cubs and is sharing the caring responsibilities with her juvenile daughter. With her son off with the Broken Nose females they have full bellies, not having to share with him. A nomad male lion sired her two cubs.
A handful of breeding herds of elephants passed through the Jao area and Island, stirring up the bulls. Our bull elephants who adopt Jao as their home during this season have been roused by all the 'ladies' moving through. Usually their revived energy is taken out on each other in a battle of egos; providing spectacular swirls of sand accompanied with the battle sounds of tusks colliding in forceful aggression. Once the excitement is over, they usually find a peaceful place to rest - in the speckled shade of the surrounding trees or camp.
Our local female spotted hyaena has introduced us to her two pups. She has been roaming cautiously with them near the airstrip where she dens. Typically a nocturnal animal, these fascinating creatures have been seen only during night game excursions and only when she chooses to be seen.
And, of course, our birdlife is fluttering. An abundance of storks, herons, and cranes, among some, are having a field day with the low water levels as they reveal luscious meals like snails and small fish. The Ground Hornbills have also been regular visitors, especially around the airstrip, where they are busy clearing the runway.
Some sad news: our regulars to the island, a family of hippo, have lost their youngest calf. The three-month-old hippo was found dead at the Jao Bridge early in the month. It is likely that the youngster became caught up in a territorial battle between bulls. Unfortunately the animal kingdom is not all lilies and leaves. Nature can at times be cruel but it is always fascinating.
Love is in the air with an array of couples celebrating their recent marriages with a safari honeymoon. What better way to remember your honeymoon than experiencing Africa together?
- "2 lion females walking over the bridge, a leopard on termite mound, 3 hippos walking through the camp at night, a big male elephant crossing the channel on speed boat ride and the food and lodging- we will miss the night sounds." KATIA & CHRISTOPHE.
- "The Delta water ride, the night ride and the staff remember your name! This is a great place, well done and keep going. Thanks for taking care of us so well." PAUL.
- "This is the most extraordinary travel experience we have ever had. KB is a wonderful guide. Our room is beautiful, the food and service is outstanding. All the activities were everything we could have hoped for! Thank you." DAVID AND CATHY
- "Everything- food fantastic; staff so welcoming and friendly we felt part of one big family." ROB AND JULIE
Botswana's Independence day was on the 30th of September, a significant day for the locals and everyone enjoyed celebrating such a day with our international guests. African rhythms and beats accompanied the beautiful voices of the staff as they performed enthusiastically for our many visitors.
Management: Chris Barnard and Tara Salmons, Shane Dietricksen and Noeline Geyser, Jost Kabuzo and Joanne Davies (Spa Therapist)
Guides: Maipaa, Cruise, TJ, Kabo (a.k.a. KB), David
Tubu Tree Camp
update - September 09 Jump
to Tubu Tree Camp
As the sun sets, the skyline explodes into oranges, yellows and pinks that illuminate the sky as far as the eye can see. This created spectacular sunsets when sitting in Tubu Hide - silhouetted palm trees, large herds of zebra and hippo grunts all adding to the scene. As the sun sets the moon and stars became visible, and out comes the fire flies to give us our little own fireworks show...
Summer is here. The mornings and evenings have been perfect game viewing temperatures and midday just right to take full advantage of the camp pool! We had a big surprise this late September we were treated to a couple of overcast days with even a small amount of rain.
Did someone say cheetah? The female cheetah and her two sub-adults have returned to Tubu. The first sighting was early in the month and quite by accident. As guests were photographing zebra these cheetah suddenly appeared out of the grass catching everyone by surprise. They were a little shy but have become used to the the game viewers, providing us with some amazing viewing opportunities and even a couple of feeding sightings. To top it off they spent over an hour in front on the Tubu Tree Camp floodplain!
It has been a month of cats as the Tubu lion trio are still trying to establish a territory and have been in and out of the area. They were observed and heard often. One day while playing, a lion suddenly pricked his ears and went into the stalking position. A couple of warthogs came running by. The one lion started to crawl closer and then quickly gave a short run after them - just because he could.
Leopard sightings were abundant and in all sorts of places - on the ground running, walking, hunting, sitting on termite mounds and up in the trees. We also had several sightings in and around camp too. On one night drive we had three different leopard sightings including one with a baboon paw in his mouth and a short distance away another leopard with a baby zebra in a tree.
- 'The architecture, the cleanliness, the food, the staff. Shadreck was very educational, delightful and the best spotter. A most relaxing place.'
- 'Excellent and personalised service, friendly and genuine staff, breathtaking room views, cosy relaxing atmosphere, professional and knowledgeable guide, delicious food and wide range of activities. We will definitely miss it all and will be tough to get back to the city lifestyle.'
- 'We will certainly recommend Tubu Tree camp. We are here because of a recommendation from Australian friends who were here about 3 years ago.'
- Fabulous leopard and cheetah sightings - guides tried so hard to find them and made huge efforts to get good views. Accommodations spotless and comfortable. Bush lunch fun. Jackie and Justin very attentive.'
Management: Justin and Jacky
Guides: Kambango and Shadreck
Kalahari Plains Camp
update - September 09 Jump
to Kalahari Plains Camp
September has been a very interesting and enjoyable month in the Kalahari. The weather was clear and dry most of the time, although temperatures were extremely high reaching the 40s on many occasions. Nights have been pleasantly cool, with one night dropping to a lovely 7º Celsius. The temperature during the day became slightly more comfortable when clouds started building up a bit, and we finally received our first rain on the 24th.
Wildlife sightings for this month have been good. We have had sporadic sightings of the cats, with the highlight being several sightings of a cheetah mother and her two sub-adults cubs. It is fantastic to view the youngsters hunting springbok and learning meticulous stalking and hunting skills from their mother. This period of time, before the pair leave her for their own home range, is vital in their development: what they learn from her now will ensure their survival in the future.
The resident Lekhubu Pride has been fairly scarce during the month, but the Deception Pride was almost always around the Valley. We recently saw the two females with three sub-adult males. They appear to be very strong young males and we think they might have fought and displaced Deception Pride's dominant male, who had only been king for about a year. It is not unusual for this to occur - a single male will seize the opportunity to gain a territory from an older weaker male, only to be chased out within a year by a coalition of males.
The females seemed very unhappy with the new males, keeping their distance and growling every time they were approached. The first time we saw them, the males were full-bellied while the females looked hungry. One female had bloodstains on her face and neck, evidence that the two lionesses made the kill but had it stolen by the males. Well, no wonder they were irritated! We shall watch with interest to see what comes next for this pride.
Cape fox have been sighted a lot this month. They are rarely seen during the heat of the day, and tend to be seen frolicking by their den sites in the early morning, or at dusk.
Most reptiles are getting active in the warmer weather with good sightings of black mamba, Cape cobra, puff adder, mole snakes and a plethora of lizards, agamas and geckos.
The Kalahari is an intriguing and unique place - this thirsty land will be transforming in the months to come, and we are witness now to the first tentative signs of summer. We await the water birds that visit each summer with some having been seen already. Egrets and Yellow-billed Kites have returned: a pair of kites has been seen preparing a nest at Owens' Camp and large numbers of them are seen foraging in the Valley daily.
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