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South Africa camps
Pafuri Camp update - September 09 Jump
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The concession is becoming quite dry as the peak of the dry season comes upon us in Pafuri. This is excellent for game viewing as visibility is easier and the attraction of the remaining water points is huge for the large mammal population. This has been exacerbated by the heat with some very hot days experienced this month and of course no rainfall or persistently overcast days to cool things down.
This month was full of excitement with a lot of predator sightings. Both leopard and lion were seen regularly while spotted hyaena and wild dog were seen less often. It appears as if the local wild dog pack has been reduced to only one animal, a male. We had hoped that when the five animals were first seen here towards the beginning of the year that a small breeding nucleus would establish itself. Soon only three animals were being seen, and now since July we have only been able to confirm this single male - a former member of what was known as the Punda Maria Pack. He is being seen in the western parts of the concession in areas of low lion density and there is always the outside chance that he is hunting for a partner who remains at the den site with the puppies, but we have almost had to give up hope in this regard.
Lion and leopard were seen on a number of kills this month - both on nyala carcasses - while a leopard was seen stalking and catching a scrub hare close to the well known Twin Baobabs at Mangala. Another young leopard thrilled guests when spotted in a large baobab tree.
White rhino sightings have been good as have those of eland, the largest antelope in the world - this species was seen very regularly, virtually daily. Their clip-clopping sound made when walking or running is a strange, almost ventriloqual, sound, believed to be produced either from a tendon clicking over the knee joint or the hooves clicking together. In addition it is thought to play a role in the advertisement of dominance in the senior adult bull in the herd.
An exciting sighting for the month and only recorded once before here in our four years of operation was a pangolin, which was seen along the Limpopo floodplains. This is a very rarely seen, secretive, nocturnal mammal, which feeds on specific species of ants and termites and is also known as a scaly anteater, due to its scaled armour which is exceptionally sharp-edged. These scales have many traditional uses in southern Africa including use in circumcision ceremonies. Almost as exciting was a one record of an aardwolf, another secretive nocturnal mammal rarely encountered in the Kruger National Park. We also had a number of sightings of water mongoose.
An interesting interaction was a black-backed jackal (possibly a parent protecting pups) seen chasing away a spotted hyaena who got too close to its den site.
A good variety of bird species including some local and regional specials and returning migrants was seen in September. The list included: Racket-tailed Roller; African Barred Owlet; Pel's Fishing Owl; Arnot's Chat; White-faced Scops-Owlet; Crested Guineafowl; Scaly-throated Honeyguide; African Cuckoo; Senegal Coucal; Grey-headed Parrot; Mottled Spinetail; Bohm's Spinetail; Three-banded Courser; Crowned Eagle; Retz's Helmetshrike; Black-throated Wattle-eye; Eastern Nicator; Stierlings Wren-Warbler; Orange winged Pytilia; Lemon-breasted Canary.
Pafuri Walking Trail update - September 09 Jump
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Kings Camp update - September 09 Jump
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Welcome back to all our readers! Spring time was here and it is also gone again. We’ve been experiencing some intense summer heat and it almost feels wrong being out there and not seeing any green vegetation yet. The rains have not arrived yet, but hopefully it will not take too long to reach us.
The Machaton pride spent a lot of time around Kings Camp during this month. They killed well and were seen feeding on Buffalo twice. The two cubs are also holding up nicely and experienced a tough week when they were left alone close to the camp for nearly 7 days! Their mother left them behind to join the pride and the “Timbavati boys” for a long distance hunt. Reports came in of sightings of the adults over 10 km away from the youngsters. Quite amazing to witness the ability of the youngsters to survive without food and milk for such a long time! She has collected them in the meanwhile and they were rewarded with a good drink!
The Schobele’s spent most of the month separated from each other. We had frequent sightings of 3 of the 4 sub-adults around the Makulu dam area. This grouping, consisting of two brothers and one female cousin, keeps themselves alive by hunting mostly impalas and bushbuck and for the three of them it is quite rewarding as there are not many mouths to feed. The adult female and the third brother were seen a few times up in the extreme Northern parts of our traversing and it seems like the female is in estrus and being courted by one of the Mahlatini males. We’’l keep you updated on the happenings…
Leopard sightings were phenomenal with M’bali, Ntombi and Rockfig Jr. being the stars of the month… The paths between M’bali and her daughter Kuhanya have now finally parted and each are now concentrating on their own needs to survive in the Timbavati wild. M’bali is looking fit and sharp as ever and she was seen on a few kills during the month. Because of her smaller size she doesn’t pull her kills up into trees very often. Therefore she looses it quite often to Hyenas on the second or third day of feeding. This does not stop her and one would often find her on another kill the very next day!
Ntombi has been spending more days around the Eastern side of her territory in the past month which has produced plenty sightings of her. She still loves to hunt the smaller things like steenbuck and grey duiker and was seen on kills often throughout the month.
Rockfig Jr. is spending a lot of time in the area she grew up in… much further North than her normal territory. Two months ago we thought she had cubs hidden away somewhere but it was false alarm! This month we saw her much more frequently than normal because of her presence in the North and following her closely led us to believe she is pregnant. Maybe she is looking for a suitable den close to where she was born. We will keep you updated in the coming month or two on the happenings…
Elephant and Buffalo
Sightings of both species were plentiful! Especially the Cape Buffalos… The only route traveled throughout the month was between three dams on our traversing. Machaton dam in the South-east, Makulu dam (Central) and Mbali dam in the North. This large herd (about 900) gets a lot of attention usually from the Timbavati boys / Machaton pride in the South and the Mahlatini males from the North.
Great sightings in our Southern traversing! Crashes of up to 7 seen from time to time. The most frequent sightings were from Mtenge-tenge, the Nhlangula male and a group of 4 that frequent the South Eastern parts.
Two specials this month!
1. Hippo out of the water in good daylight.
2. The Spotted Hyena den was moved to a new location by the adult members of the clan. We are not sure what the reason was (maybe fleas!), but they seem well settled and welcoming at their new home!
Written by: Morné Hamlyn.
Photography: Morné Hamlyn.
Rocktail Bay Dive Report - September 09 Jump
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September has been a mixture of lovely sunny days and quite a few overcast days, with the month ending on a rainy note. The water temperature hovered at 20º Celsius. Visibility was also varied, with most of the month averaging from 15-18m but with pockets of low visibility of around 8-12m. These 'bad visibility' days proved to be 'excellent sighting' days due to the fact that the bad visibility was caused by lots of plankton in the water - and we all know what likes to eat plankton - yes, whalesharks!
The first whaleshark sighting of the month was on the 9th. The divers did their backward roll to begin their dive at Aerial Reef, and as they started to descend they saw an 8m whaleshark slowly cruising along next to them. They followed it for a while before continuing their descent.
The following day they saw a smaller whaleshark, approximately five metres in length. The divers were travelling back from a dive at Yellowfin Drop and enjoyed their chance to snorkel with it. As the divers got back to the beach they excitedly told the guests who were waiting to go for an Ocean Experience what they had just seen. Everyone boarded the boat quickly. Sure enough the whaleshark had not moved very far and these guests also got the chance to snorkel with the same one. That was just the beginning of their incredible Ocean Experience - they saw lots of humpback whales as they travelled, many of them breaching and having a 'whale of a time'; then they saw a greater hammerhead shark swimming along the surface, its big dorsal and tail fin sticking clearly out of the water for all to see; then they saw a pod of bottlenose dolphins actively hunting garfish. These small, thin fish dart through the water and actually jump out of the water trying to avoid becoming a dolphins' meal. All the guests hopped in and snorkelled next to the dolphins watching them as they turned on their sides to catch these agile fish.
The next whaleshark sightings were later on during the month - another Ocean Experience provided lots more guests with their first-ever encounter with a whaleshark on the 21st. Then the long weekend arrived and the excitement began! A weekend spent with lots of 'Rocktail Regulars' and a few new additions to the family - and what a weekend it was!
On our first day of diving we were travelling back from a wonderful dive at Pineapple Reef when Clive spotted a whaleshark, divers scrambled to put fins and masks on and got ready to jump in. Everyone was in the water swimming alongside the whaleshark when chaos erupted. Travis, the newest diver in the group, entered the water right in front of the whaleshark and had the best view of all - face to face with the gentle giant! This scared him silly and he almost crawled on top of the water to get back to the boat.
When Clive saw the second whaleshark, Travis decided to stay on the boat, stating that he did not like whalesharks. After lots of laughter and joking, Travis changed his mind and decided that if he ever saw a whaleshark again he would get in from behind the shark so that he could get a look from the back first! Well, the following day gave him his opportunity. We had just launched the boat and were starting our journey to Yellowfin Drop when Clive spotted yet another whaleshark. Everyone immediately told Travis he had to get in as he had stated that he would - dubiously he put his fins and mask on and waited until he was sure that he was behind the whaleshark before jumping in. He swam with it for a while before Clive shouted out that he had seen another whaleshark just ahead. After clambering back on the boat, everyone including Travis jumped in to see it. After this experience Travis proudly proclaimed that we could leave him in the sea with the whaleshark while we all went to do our dive - that's how 'over his fear' he was. Well, as we travelled south we found another four whalesharks within a short distance - that's a total of six whalesharks in one trip - an all-time record for Rocktail. Other first-timers were Nikki and Lee - Nikki had never seen a whaleshark before and has been diving for at least 15 years!
Diving has also been very rewarding this month with schools of baitfish racing down the reef, chased by kingfish and couta (King or Spanish mackerel). A dive at Pineapple saw three giant kingfish, hiding out under one of the ledges. These are the largest and most aggressive kingfish and can range in length from 60cm to 100cm, with some reports of even bigger fish.
On the 16th, while driving along the beach to the launch site, we noticed that the tide mark along the beach looked a little different. We got out and on closer inspection saw that there was krill washed up on the beach! This was the second time in the nine years that we have been here that we had seen this. I decided to look back in our records and found that the previous time was 20-22 September 2004 - almost the same date five years ago! At that time, millions of dead krill had been washed up on the beach while many were still alive in the water. We even scooped up a bucketload and fried them for dinner. Delicious! There was so much that we found dead krill on the beach for two days. This year we only saw dead krill on the beach for one day and unfortunately no live krill for dinner!
Towards the end of the month, Darryl came across an unusual find at Elusive. Out to sea, hidden in the sand at the edge of the reef, he spotted a wide, diamond-shaped ray with a tiny tail. He knew what it was immediately: a diamond ray or diamond skate. These rays are normally found further south in cooler waters and are commonly caught by shore fishermen. Diamond rays feed mainly on bottom living fish, such as sole, but also like sardines, mole crabs and marine worms. This is the first time any of us has seen one of these rays along our coastline, very exciting indeed!
Next month is the official start of turtle nesting season and true to form we have spotted the first eager male loggerhead. He is hanging out at Pineapple Reef, as he has in previous years. We can identify him as the same turtle by the configuration of barnacles that are on his shell and because we have had up close and personal encounters with him in previous years. So, make sure to be on the lookout for him till his female turtles arrive, he is looking for attention!
Yours in diving,
Darryl, Clive, Michelle and Ondyne
-The Rocktail Dive Team-
Makalolo Plains update - September 09 Jump
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Makalolo Plains has experienced the old days of September weather: dry, windy and the start of rain cloud build up. Temperatures: Max 38 degrees Celsius; Min 6.9 degrees Celsius.
Vegetation, Landscape and Water
Even though this is the dry time of the year, the signs of life are visible with the teak, terminalia and various other trees starting to shoot in bright green. Water demand by wildlife is still on the rise, and keeping up with the replenishing of the pans from our underground water sources has been a challenge we have faced so many times in the past. We know it's that time because of the larger number of animals coming to use the waterholes, particularly elephants and great numbers of Cape buffalo.
Many animal species have been gathering at the pumped pans to quench their thirst in the blazing African sun. White rhino have been seen regularly along with cheetah at the front of Makalolo and Little Samavundla pan. Other sightings included sable, giraffe, eland, wildebeest and the ever present waterbuck. Then there have been large herds of elephant drinking from our plunge pool and Cape buffalo painting the open grasslands black in their numbers. A regular sighting at Madison Pan has been the proud roan antelope considered a protected species in Zimbabwe.
Ostrich hatchlings are a common display with the proud parents strolling the semi-open areas. Lion sightings have been good with their usual hunting teqnique and successful kills around Madison Pan. Two wild dogs have been spotted at Broken Rifle four times during this month.
Birds & Birding
The usual residents, such as Egyptian Geese, Spur-winged Geese and Red-billed Teals, have dominated the open water of the pans at Makalolo. The Grey Crowned Cranes have been present in their elegance of display. Martial Eagles have been a regular sighting along with the Yellow-billed Kite getting ready for the feeding frenzy on frogs at the pans as we are heading into the rainy season. Kori Bustards have also been noticed puffing up their necks for a possible start to breeding season. Thanks to Russel Friedman for capturing this unique image. Lilac-breasted Rollers have been common and our guests having the chance to photograph their bright colors in flight and display. Blacksmith Plovers being over-protective of their young has been fascinating to see - their courageous and bold way of letting guests know of the boundaries between them and the young.
"We had a fabulous time and our list of sightings filled the day. The staff and our guide Dennis were wonderful. I especially loved getting an insight into Zimbabwe and its history. Will tell of our friends to come and visit."
"To the staff of Makalolo, this year of 2009 is again the highlight of our stay."
Staff in camp
Seliot, Emmanuel, Jordan, Nathan, Charles, Andrew, Jerry, Casper, Eliot, Dumisani, Freedom, Shadrack, Alois.
Stores: Mr. Sibanda, Leonard
Guides: Dennis, Khule, Sam
Host/Hostess: David, Cosam, Tammy
Management: Willem & Trish
Little Makalolo update - September 09 Jump
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Ruckomechi Camp update - September 09 Jump
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Mana Canoe Trail update - September 09 Jump
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Bryan and Mathew continued to ably guide their guests down the mighty Zambezi in the month of September, whilst Jeremy and Graeme shared the hosting on the trips. Bhobho and his team of staff once again made sure that the camps were beautifully set up and welcoming to the happy paddlers when they arrived in the evening.
September has been very warm and dry. There has been quite a lot of wind but fortunately this is usually over by the midday period when everyone is having a lazy siesta under the shade of a tree.
Landscape and the River
Bushfires on both the Zimbabwean and Zambian escarpments have ensured that there is a certain amount of haze in the air all the time. The sun disappears behind this curtain of haze as a bright red ball each evening, making that part of the afternoon most scenic.
Due to a breakdown in the electricity generation plant at Kariba on the Zambian side, the river level has been very low all month. The channels have been quite shallow and large sandbanks have appeared all over the river.
The wildlife in September has been spectacular throughout the park. Many lion have been seen on morning walks and wild dog have also been spotted regularly. Large herds of elephant and buffalo have been seen by the canoeists down by the river's edge while eland and kudu are a common sight on the floodplain. As the inland water dries up further, more animals are moving down to the river's edge to drink and sightings during the day's paddling are getting better each day.
The Vincent party were lucky enough to glimpse a leopard one morning on their return journey from Ilala campsite. This secretive creature dashed across the road in front of them and disappeared into the thick bush along the road.
Two cheetah were spotted near the Ruckomechi Channel just after the start of a trip in September, giving the excited canoeists a great start to their trip.
118 bird species were seen in September. Many waders and water birds are seen along the river all day, these little creatures fascinating in their quest for food in the shallows. Black Crakes and pairs of Egyptian Geese are common sights while Pied Kingfishers hover over the water waiting to swoop down on unsuspecting fish. Africa Spoonbills are occasionally seen and these can be found in the shallow channels in front of Chessa Campsite where they forage along the edge of the water.
Yellow-billed Kites abound at this time of the year and they are regular visitors to the breakfast table at some of the sites. Large birds of prey such as Wahlberg's Eagle, Black-breasted Snake Eagle, Brown Snake Eagle and Martial Eagles are often seen along the way.
Guest Comments and Highlights
"Paddling on the river, the guides were exceptional."
"Mathew as the canoe guide was safe, calm, knowledgeable and a joy to be with."
"Bryan is exceptional with his knowledge of the bush and animals."
Toka Leya Camp update - September 09 Jump
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Spring has arrived with its warm days, balmy evenings and light afternoon breezes; many guests are enjoying the camp pool after their Victoria Falls tour before feasting on the lunch delights that our kitchen continues to produce. With the summer menu now in full swing, guests can tuck into an array of scrumptious delights (one of our desserts pictured).
The amount of water coming over the Falls on the Zambian side is certainly not as prodigious as previous months, giving many guests the opportunity to delight in the wonders that Livingstone Island has to offer, complete with a sight of the main falls, as well as a plunge in the famous Devils Pool!
With a fire that raged through the national park this month, we have seen a change in the movement patterns of certain large mammals. Buffalo have been a less frequent visitor to camp, whilst we have seen many elephant. The large area that was burnt by the fire is showing signs of new growth, although hampered somewhat by the lack of rain.
White rhino have been accommodating as well, making frequent trips into camp, usually at night, feeding on the grasses that surround the open areas in front of guest tents in the northern part of the camp.
The Zambezi River has been the focal point for many great animal sightings, with swimming elephants crossing the river a common sight. The large Borassus palm trees that dot the islands along the length of the river seem to be popular for vervet monkeys and baboons, that use these vantage points to alert the troop of any birds of prey which may pose a danger, especially to the young and inexperienced members of the foraging families below.
Hippopotamus have been seen wading in shallow waters, and crocodiles spend most of the day basking on the banks, making for great photographic opportunities. Hippo and crocodile seem to tolerate each other in the habitat they share, and frequent squabbles are witnessed, where crocodiles unwillingly make a slow retreat when hippos are in close proximity.
With the weather making a turn to the balmy, we have witnessed a vigorous uptake of many birds seeking to breed in spring. We have seen many Scarlet-chested Sunbirds hovering amongst the large sausage tree around the camp lounge and beach areas close to the water's edge. Whilst saying farewells to departing guests, we saw two Yellow-fronted Tinkerbirds, looking for a suitable nesting site!
Half-collared (pictured) and Brown-hooded Kingfishers, and the less frequently seen African Finfoot (pictured), have been seen darting and weaving in between the trees on the receding riverbanks, scoping out bait fish trapped in small pools that have formed away from the main channel of the river. Other sightings worth mentioning include African Skimmer, Rock Pranticole, Collared Pranticole, Wooly-necked Stork, Violet-backed Starling, Spotted Eagle-Owl and Diderick Cuckoo.
With clear nights, stargazing has been enjoyed whilst walking guests back to their suites following fireside tales of guest travels, where a nightcap is always welcome. Our pool is seeing more people cool off in the midday while enjoying the homemade Sangria on offer at lunchtime. Livingstone Island has become a popular activity with guests too, with the famous Devil's Pool accessible to those brave enough to swim over to enjoy a photographic opportunity with nothing but a rock outcrop separating them from the over-138m drop of Victoria Falls!
So as this month comes to an end and the frogs slowly begin to croak their way out of their winter slumber, and the fire flies illuminate the evening, we await with eager anticipation for the rains that will bring a new season to pass.
- "We had a terrific stay. After a two-week journey in South Africa, this was the perfect finale!" C and R S, USA
- "The most amazing and wonderful start to our honeymoon. Thanks to all the great staff that show so much attention to detail and have fabulous local knowledge. Thank you so much! M and P B, UK
- "This has been a great experience! Staying at your camp and experiencing Victoria Falls. I love the place and will be sure to pass the good news on to others" J and B V, USA
Lufupa River Camp update - September 09 Jump
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Our staff firmly announced that "Kisalo" is now here. Kisalo means 'summer' in KiKaonde, and we've certainly been having that 'kisalo' feeling this month with maximum temperatures of over 35º Celsius.
A sure sign that summer has come is the sound of the cicadas. They have come out in hordes and are making their presence known with their renowned acoustic talents - sometimes deafening around midday! Despite them being a little imposing, and always uninvited at the dinner table, attracted to the candles and lanterns, the cicadas have proven an interesting topic of conversation between guests and guides.
We've had two spectacular python sightings this month. One enormous specimen was found sleeping high up in a tree (think Kaa from Jungle Book!), and the other seen twice, once swallowing a squirrel! Our five-year-old daughter, who is fast becoming a budding wildlife photographer managed to capture (albeit not 100% sharply) the squirrel consuming python, whilst Dad succeeded in getting a beautiful shot of Kaa.
Whilst father and daughter were chasing snakes, I thought I would focus on our prettier feathered friends! We are privileged enough to have a mum and dad Giant Kingfisher pair decide to set up nest below our Riverside Café deck. They are a wonderful sight to watch, fluttering and calling enthusiastically to each other whilst they bounce from one branch to another, and swoop around infront of the deck. A couple of days later, we came upon a gorgeous specimen of a Bateleur eagle who was kind enough to pose for us too - now this is more my cup of tea!
Our guests continue to be treated with regular showings of our beautiful lion pride dominated by the big Lufupa Brothers. The cubs are growing by the day and becoming more adventurous and even more entertaining to watch whilst they rough and tumble with each other. And let's be honest, hanging onto dad's ear has got to be the best game ever!
The assumption is that because it has remained wet longer than usual in the north, the cheetah have decided to honour us with their continued presence in the area instead of moving north as they have done in previous years. Two of our guests had been out for just over an hour one morning when the guide called in to say they were returning to camp. "We've already seen a leopard and three cheetah," he reported, so the guests decided to return to camp and relax! Other guests came upon a rather bloody kill on their first afternoon with us, and that night heard lions mating only metres behind their tent.
A few nights ago, our campers held their breaths as a leopard fed on the most scrumptious meal of freshly served puku in the middle of the campsite! So despite the heat, this month has been teeming, yet again, with predators.
As if that all isn't enough to get your blood racing and sense of adventure awakened, let's throw in another pangolin sighting, an aggressive honey badger, the cutest little timid blue duiker, a regal sable or two, and I think you have, as a result, another awesome month of game viewing!!
"A return trip for me, a place unlike any other, the friendliest staff, like home". (COE, USA)
"Excellent facilities, great food, wonderful country and first class staff". (KENNEDY, USA)
"Best meat dishes in Africa, compliments to the chef. Thank you for everything, you guys are great." (LIEBENBERG, USA)
-Bas, Nathalie and the Lufupa Team-
Kalamu Lagoon Camp update - September 09 Jump
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Spring has arrived - as is clear from all the vegetation either in full bloom or with visible lush green leaves. The inland water pools have mostly dried up with the exception of the major lagoons which are at their lowest levels. The same applies to the Luangwa River which has dropped considerably. This has created a new pattern in the feeding regimes of most game in the area, and an increase in the variety of game including roan antelope, which is a special sighting for us.
We have had some really exciting moments in September starting with excellent leopard sightings in the first week and towards the end of the month. This was followed by lion and crocodile competing over the same hippo carcass! We suspect the hippo was killed as a result of water bodies getting smaller which results in the competition between hippos for these territories intensifying. These hippo are known to fight to death or until one of them is badly wounded. It was an unbelievable sight to see so many crocodiles thrashing around at the carcass but the lions braved it and waded into the water to get their share. (Pictured below left).
Breeding herds of elephant are coming to feed and drink at lagoon daily and can be easily viewed from the camp deck. Whilst a considerable amount of game is now drinking from the Luangwa River, the river banks are a bit too steep in most areas and as a result the Luamfwa Lagoon, which the camp overlooks, is absolutely pulsing with wildlife activity.
All along the lagoon, crocodiles lie sunning with their mouths wide open and African Fish-Eagles calling to their partners in the heat of the day is a characteristic sound.
With all the inland waters now dry, the valley floor has become a playground for most herbivores as they concentrate along the river. This has had a positive impact on the predators, and leopard sightings were on a definite increase this month. They were seen on several occasions on a kill or simply lying in the middle of the game track. Buffalo, Thornicroft's giraffe and puku are other daily sightings.
In the last few months a pack of six wild dogs have been seen on several occasions in the area. One of the females is either suckling or at the late stage of her pregnancy. These dogs were seen in the month with six pups which confirmed our initial suspicions and they were all in great shape.
Birds and Birding
The birding has been stunning and a very healthy Southern Carmine Bee-Eater colony is breeding in one of the banks in the area. These beautiful migratory birds are definitely a sight not to be missed as they fly around their nesting site and perch in nearby trees (pictured aboveleft). Southern Ground Hornbill, Saddle-billed Storks and a host of birds of prey were seen in the month like the pictured Tawny Eagle. We also enjoy excellent sightings of the beautiful Lilian's Lovebirds as they fly around in large flocks.
- "We had a wonderful time and your camp is beautiful. The staff was very friendly and took great care of us. Thank you for great memories!" - S.A., US
- "Wonderful time. We really felt we were in the bush! Everybody was great and game drives wonderful!" D.B., US
- "Thanks for a lovely stay and some unique game - wild dogs, white-tailed mongoose and gorgeous birds!" C.M., New Zealand
Managers: Petros and Gogo
Relief Managers: Brent and Gina
Junior Manager: Frank Tobolo
Camp Guides: Petros, Luckson and Sandy
Shumba Camp update - September 09 Jump
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September heralded the start of summer. Daytime temperatures often reached 34º Celsius, although a light breeze helped cool things down a bit. The nights were mild with temperatures around 17º Celsius - ideal for staying awake a little longer and enjoying a nightcap around the campfire whilst listening to the evening sounds of the bush. This warm weather also brought the first cloudy days of the season, which is the first sign of the rains that will probably arrive towards the end of October.
During September we often had elephants right in Shumba Camp. These were not breeding herds but rather the big bulls paid us long visits. Enjoying the fruits of the fig trees they spent hours next to our guest units. One night a bull elephant felt so comfortable that he decided to sleep next to Tent 5. Luckily the guests enjoyed his snoring and they told us that it was very special to fall asleep together with this giant!
With the Busanga Plains getting dryer the number of different antelope species on the Plains has increased. On a few occasions we even saw good numbers of sable antelope, a very uncommon species here on the Busanga Plains. Pictured is what looks like a bachelor herd. It is a stunning antelope species with sweeping recurved horns and distinctive black and white markings. Roan antelope, blue wildebeest, eland, oribi, reedbuck, bushbuck and zebra were also seen this month.
Buffalo were also seen more regularly in September on the Busanga Plains. With the water disappearing from the woodlands the buffalo are attracted to the water still on the Plains. Buffalo herds numbering 300 are not rare and we even saw one herd that was 700 strong.
Our lions, the Busanga Pride, were seen on an almost daily basis. These ten lions are doing well and we often see them together. The three cubs are growing by the day. It's funny to watch them playing hide and seek between the two giant males and for our guests this is one of the highlights of their stay. With the temperatures rising the lions often climb one of the fig trees (to catch the cooling breeze and get away from annoying flies or to perhaps get a hunting vantage). This tree-climbing behaviour is what makes the Busanga lions famous, because it is very special to see a whole pride up in a tree! Some guests even experienced the first climbing lessons of the cubs. They weren't always very successful, and although they would finally manage to join the rest it was hilarious to watch all the failed attempts.
This month we were also fortunate to have some excellent leopard sightings on the Plains, which is unusual, and in the woodlands. These beautiful cats were observed a couple of times relaxing or hunting right in the Busanga Plains. On one of our morning drives the guests were very lucky - on one game drive they spotted five different leopards. The first leopard jumped out of a tree just in front of the vehicle. This young leopard disappeared quickly into the thickets, but the guests could still see that it joined another leopard.
The drive continued and the guide spotted a female leopard walking towards the water of an open dambo area. This female was very relaxed and the vehicle could follow her to the water. When she reached the water her eye fell on some pukus grazing close by. The guests watched her for some time whilst she tried to stalk the puku, but finally the guide and guests decided to leave her alone so they would not disturb her hunt. With all guests excited about this sighting the drive went further into the woodlands. Not far from the hunting leopard the guide spotted a beautiful leopard cub on top of a termite mound. Waiting for his mom to come back he was very curious and alert. He did not mind the attention at all! After seeing four leopards (amongst other wildlife) it was time to return back to Shumba Camp. But not without spotting leopard number five on another termite mound!
The far southern part of the Busanga Plains is home to lions other than our Busanga Pride. Up until now we have spotted three different prides in that area. Because of the fact that the lion population is so high on the Busanga Plains, it has been more challenging finding cheetah this season. But they are definitely here and we were lucky enough to see them on several game drives. It seems like the cheetah are getting a bit more relaxed and we saw them twice this month feeding on a calf of a wildebeest.
Guests were offered varied activities this month. The obligatory game drives in the morning and afternoon are always followed by a night drive back to camp. Full-day activities with a picnic lunch in the bush were also offered which covers a greater area and proved quite enjoyable. With the water levels on the Busanga Plains dropping, our boat activities are getting more and more restricted. The short boat trips on Hippo Pools were very popular with our guests.
Children in the Wilderness (CITW) News
"Mwela mwela, Mwela mwela o yoyo!"- We could hear the children from Kamakechi singing and screaming long before we reached the school. In September, Rob and Ingrid (Managers of Shumba Camp) did two follow-ups for CITW. The first follow-up was for 18 children from the Jifumpa Basic School who had their first CITW camp in October 2007. The second follow-up was with the 18 children of the Kamakechi Basic School that had their camp in November 2008.
Since the schools and the children have been involved in the CITW programmes there is a very good relationship between the schools and the camps in Kafue National Park. With the follow-ups we try to keep the relationship strong and it is great to see how the children and the schools really get involved with conservation and wildlife. Rob and Ingrid often receive letters and drawings from the children and both schools have started a CITW vegetable garden for all the schoolchildren to use.
- "Thank you very much for a wonderful stay. The food has been delicious and we particularly enjoyed our meal in the Boma. Our tent was always so nicely laid out and ready for us and the presents each evening were delightful. Everything has been perfect: clothes washed and ironed, drinks delicious and service excellent. Finally, special thanks to Isaac who made every trip interesting and rewarding. We will be back!" Tordoff - UK
- "We had a wonderful time in your camp and take back a lot of happy memories that will probably last our whole life. Everybody was very friendly! We enjoyed your company!" Knecht - Switzerland
- "Wonderful experience! The camp and the staff are both first rate. Lex and Aaron do a great job getting you to the right places to see the beautiful wildlife. Wish we were here longer!" Cory - USA
- "You guys manage to create a feeling of truly being in "Africa" like few other camps are able to do. I wish each and every one of you the best of luck for the future. Stay safe and stay well! Liebenberg - USA
Management: Rob and Ingrid
Assistant Managers: Phineas and Mwami
Guides: Isaac and Lex
Kapinga Camp update - September 09 Jump
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With the arrival of September and summer on the Busanga Plains, we have experienced some radical temperature extremes. At the beginning of the month we still enjoyed moderately warm days of 30 degrees and cool nights in the region of 7 to 10 degrees. But as the month drew to a close, the mercury spiked at 40 degrees Celsius and the difference between max and min temperatures was at times as much as 25 degrees in one day! Towards the end of September we started seeing a few lone clouds building and teasing us with the promise of rain - and relief from the stifling heat.
With the Busanga Plains almost completely dry, we've been able to access most of our immediate areas on game drive. A few of the highlights this month included watching adorable warthog piglets playing on the edges of the waterhole close to camp, while bored-looking warthog parents soaked up the cool of the muddy water. We've also welcomed a number of young wildebeest calves to the Busanga Plains, some still a little unsure of their footing whilst galloping and kicking on match-stick legs across the dry plains. Zebra have returned to the southern edges of the plains and can often be seen joining their wildebeest friends, their distorted black and white shapes swallowed by heat mirages. A large herd of buffalo totalling a few hundred have been moving through the area and the resident herds of roan with their large donkey-like ears have been a constant delight.
The resident breeding herd of elephant has been sighted often this month and clearly enjoys cooling off in the little waterhole not far from camp. Often they come right up the perimeter of camp, grazing on succulent new shoots and branches. One memorable sighting comes to mind - a large herd of elephant walking across the floodplain in front of camp, kicking up dust in the red glow of a setting sun.
We've seen quite a number of lion in our area - besides the resident Busanga Pride, we have also regularly come across lions south of the plains on the edge of the treeline. This is normally the area favoured by cheetah, but we have been seeing fewer cheetah than previous years and we account this to the higher density of lion in the area. Sam and our guests did however come across a skittish female cheetah on a morning drive, but she disappeared again shyly into the cover of the forest.
As usual, the Busanga Pride has been amusing many a guest and guide. The pride seemed to spend more time together with the lioness and her little cubs joining the rest of the pride lionesses and males. One of the younger brothers has also been mating for the first time with two of the pride lionesses. He's certainly been making up for lost time as it seems like his big brother is quite content after the arrival of his three young ones! Sam and our guests even saw the younger brother running and chasing after a fully grown hippo, eventually jumping on the back of the now very confused hippo. The hippo stumbled a little and the lion managed to slide off the hippo - staring on with a disgruntled look as the hippo took off across the floodplain. Maybe all the mating that the lion has been getting up to has made him a tad big for his boots!
The Kapinga leopard has been very shy and we only know that he is still around when we find the occasional spoor through camp and hear his raspy call late at night.
During September, we continued to have great good luck with sitatunga sightings in the papyrus area. We also had a sitatunga and lechwe research couple who stayed with us for a while and they excitedly reported back to us sighting no less than nine sitatunga in one afternoon! The Busanga Plains has really proven to be one of the most productive areas in Africa to see this rare and super-specialised antelope.
We've continued to see serval hunting on the plains this month, a few sightings of the somewhat comical looking porcupine as well as civet, large grey mongoose and our resident four-toed elephant shrew.
With the last of the water drying up, quite a few shrinking pools have turned into fish traps, attracting a myriad birds. At these pools one can sit for hours and watch Saddle-billed Storks, Hamerkops, Marabou Storks, African Fish-eagles and Pink-backed Pelicans feast on the hundreds of trapped fish. We still see large flocks of Open-billed Storks on the water's edge, searching for snails as well as great numbers of Sacred Ibis.
Some other bird species seen this month out on the Busanga Plains and around Kapinga Island included African Harrier Hawk, Black-chested Snake-eagle, Martial Eagle, Böhm's Bee-eater, Red-billed Firefinch, Schalow's Turaco, Rosy-throated Longclaw, Secretarybird, Lappet-faced Vulture, African Barred Owlet and Pennant-winged Nightjar.
It is with a heavy heart that the Kapinga team now bids farewell to the 2009 season. It's almost unbelievable that the time of year has arrived again where we need to pack up camp and get ready for the rains that will soon breathe new life into the parched plains.
From me, Idos, Essie, Sam and all the Kapinga staff we eagerly await the start of the 2010 season and the chance of bringing you more wonderful news of the truly unique and beautiful Busanga Plains.
Busanga Bush Camp update - September 09 Jump
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Temperatures in September have been rising steadily. The mercury has climbed as far as 41 degrees Celsius by mid-afternoon and only drops as low as 9 degrees Celsius on the coolest of mornings. Menacing clouds have been rolling in throughout the month signalling the arrival of the first summer rains - but none have yet been recorded.
The blazing summer heat has eventually sucked dry the last of the various pans dotted throughout the area. As a result, numerous species have been attracted to the Busanga Plains by the life-giving channels that snake their way through the grassland. September has seen the first cheetah sightings of the season - a lone female was found with a freshly-killed puku, while later in the month a coalition of three males was seen hunting wildebeest and their new-born calves. These lightning-fast cats have been forced to leave their usual tree-line habitat in search of water and hence their prey.
The Busanga Pride has provided guests with yet another month of fantastic viewing. The lioness and her three young cubs are faring incredibly well; the cubs growing quickly now as they've begun to eat meat. Early one morning this lioness killed a large male lechwe directly in front of Busanga Bush Camp. We had the pleasure of being able to watch from the fireplace as this powerful huntress dragged the heavy carcass through the swamp towards a thicket, her enormous muscles bulging from her shoulders. She wrenched the kill over a gruelling 500m stretch of mud and water whilst the cubs, convinced it was all a game, jumped on her back, clawed into her rump and made general nuisances of themselves. The angry mother would occasionally whip around and launch a series of growls and snarls at the playful youngsters.
The rest of the pride have begun to take to the trees, possibly to find reprieve from the searing heat. It's a spectacle one is not likely to forget - seven lions draped nonchalantly in the upper branches of a huge sycamore fig tree.
On one occasion the little cubs decided to test their own tree-climbing abilities with amazing results. Two adventurous cubs managed to haul themselves up into the branches of a small sausage tree, leaving the third on the ground gazing longingly up at them. The cubs constantly explore their exciting new world and one evening we were amazed to find the three confused youngsters staring intently at a few unlikely shapes on the edge of the wetland. The shapes disappeared momentarily before surfacing a little closer. In the fading light three lion cubs, a vehicle full of guests and a family of Cape clawless otters were trying to figure each other out.
Serval have been seen regularly over the past month. As their avian prey has become scarcer, some have even taken to fishing and can be seen stalking through the wetlands in the early evenings. A very small kitten was seen late in the month following closely behind its mother, a welcome new addition to Busanga's already thriving serval population.
An enormous herd of buffalo has become resident along the marshland as they can no longer wander too far from the last of the withering rivers. This massive fortress of horns often swims across the channels in a scene reminiscent of the river crossings during the great wildebeest migrations. Dozens of antelope species, including large breeding herds of roan, wildebeest and zebra, can now be found grazing on the open plains. Unusual species recorded over the last month include tssesebe, steenbok and common duiker.
The remnants of the last channels on the plains are still home to an incredible array of wetland species. African Openbill, Yellow-billed and Saddle-billed Storks can be seen picking deep into the mud in search of the elusive freshwater snails on which they've been feeding all season. One morning a group of over 80 Marabou Storks descended on a receding pan, attacking the hundreds of catfish trapped in the shallow water. The birds gorged themselves, their bulging crops hanging down to the ground and the strong smell of fish lingering in the morning air.
The most unusual sighting of the month occurred late one afternoon when a snow-white Hamerkop was spotted patrolling the river-banks. The albino has been seen regularly since then, blending in perfectly with the flocks of Little Egrets and African Spoonbills with which it feeds. The first Pennant-winged Nightjar was found during a late night-drive, its elongated primaries trailing wispily behind it as it disappeared into the darkness.
Most species have young chicks at this time of year - juvenile wattled and crowned cranes are seen regularly, never straying too far from their watchful parents. Young African Jacanas, Blacksmith Lapwings and Black Crakes can be seen scuttling nervously over the water-lilies. A Southern Black Tit has chosen our camp lounge in which to rear her three youngsters and is often seen carrying large grasshoppers back into her nest-hole. An Osprey was sighted for the first time this season, perched high in an acacia tree, carefully scanning the wetlands below. Rare sightings this month include Long-crested Eagle, Pallid Harrier, Fulleborn's Longclaw and Black Coucal.
As temperatures in the evenings have become ineasingly pleasant, night drives are fast becoming the most popular activity on the Busanga Plains. As darkness cloaks the open grassland, an astounding variety of nocturnal creatures begin to stretch and yawn - soon the area is crawling with white-tailed mongooses, porcupines, civets and servals.
A pack of wild dog were the latest predators to enthral guests one evening as the entire pack raced past the vehicle, hot on the heels of a fleeing reedbuck. A night drive offers the best opportunity to witness the Busanga Pride in action as the big cats are active all night, many an unfortunate antelope being caught deep in the blanket of darkness. Morning and afternoon drives reveal the other wonders of this incredibly diverse area - everything from giant flocks of storks to tree-climbing lions.
Guest Book Comments
- "Had a wonderful time! Thank you to JD, Laura and the staff for their wonderful hospitality. Thank you JD and Benny for the fantastic lion sightings! And also the hippo adventure!" - Minnesota, USA.
- "I'll never forget this introduction to Africa, and the superb treatment by the staff. A perfect three days! Lion, elephant, hippo and cheetah!" - Kansas, USA.
- "What a nice and peaceful place. We enjoyed our stay very much. A lot of lovely details and excellent food. Thank you very much!" - Switzerland.
- "Wonderful camp - our favourite. Great game drives, lots of lion and cheetah!" - USA.
Desert Rhino Camp update - September 09 Jump
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The weather has been quite unusual this month with foggy mornings and cool nights. During the day, the cool breeze blowing in from the Atlantic coastline helped make the daytime temperatures quite pleasant. For the month, the minimums mostly ranged from 8º Celsius at night to 24º Celsius during the day. On certain days we had east winds blowing which made daytime temperatures increase to 38 degrees. In the last few days of the month, clouds started to build up and in the east you could hear thunder and see lightning; to our amazement we got few drops of rain - it didn't even make up a millimetre.
Wildlife and Landscape
Just about 2km from Desert Rhino Camp guide Kapoi witnessed a leopard kill a young zebra and then watched in amazement as he dragged the carcass up into a mopane tree.
The black rhino sightings have been very good in September. Tensie, Teabag, Ben, Huaketi and her calf Harry were all regularly seen. Desire's sub-adult calf Deborah has been driven away because Desire has a new calf (mom and baby pictured left) that we have named 'Dave' - in honour of Dave van Smeerdijk, currently Wilderness Safaris Marketing Director. (Dave, I think the camp staff needs a raise! Ed)
Other animals seen regularly on drives through the vast Palmwag Concession include gemsbok, Hartmann's zebra, greater kudu, springbok, steenbok, black-backed jackal, spotted hyaena, lion, giraffe and a lone elephant bull was seen on a drive as well right from camp (pictured top left).
'Very enjoyable, wonderful staff and hospitality.' - Dana Allen
'Warm and friendly welcome from camp managers Daphne and Ignatius. Excellent and professional team of staff - loved the welcoming note on the bed. Relaxed evenings around the campfire and of course seeing black rhino.' - Fiona Eyre
Daphne and Igna - Camp Managers
Harry and Alli - Camp Guides
Palmwag Camp update - September 09 Jump
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Sightings have been slow this month but still exceptional in short bursts, with lion, leopard and elephant sightings, as well as a rhino sighting near Awaxas Spring, the closest a rhino has been seen this entire month.
We would just like to welcome all the newborns in the Palmwag Concession. We have had reports of five new rhino calves in the concession and a pair of our lions has just mated so we will be expecting some more cubs to be added to the pride of eight - probably around Christmas. The gemsbok (oryx) in the area have just had a lot of young and are confusing guests with their brown coloured coats, which very similar to the colour of a lion!
Visitors to camp have included one of the young bull elephants - and some guests were lucky enough to say hi to him.
The weather this month has been almost unbearable at some stages, ranging from hot muggy days to windy and dust-swept afternoons. But between these terrible days of weather, there are always good days to make up for it, where we have had thick layers of fog to keep us cool during the day, not even getting to take off our jerseys.
Other days have been nice and overcast, but at times making it difficult for our guides to find animals as they could not see further than 10m from the road. The most exciting event of the month was when we got our first rain on the 29th of the month. It wasn't much, but it was still rain.
After expecting a quiet month, it has been nothing but that. Guests have flowed into and out of camp, each person having had wonderful experiences while here. Activities have been running strong and a highlight has been the Himba trips; there was a marriage ceremony this past month and one of our guests was lucky enough experience the entire ceremony.
Palmwag Lodge assisted the Desert Lion Project this month by delivering fuel to Hoanib Camp. This aided the project as Flip Stander had run out of fuel and with this delivery he was able to continue his research.
At the beginning of this month we had a farewell party at the sleep-out for Durr and Heidi. They have left our little Palmwag family and we sent them off in fine style.
Doro Nawas Camp update - September 09 Jump
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Throughout September the minimum temperatures were between 15 - 18 degrees Celsius and the maximum between 30 - 38 degrees Celsius! We had a few foggy mornings which covered most of the surrounding mountains. Most arid-adapted plants like Ruellia need these foggy conditions, because it is their only source of moisture. As a result, this specific plant is green all year around and can bloom at any time. Animals like steenbok, and Cape hares also lick the water droplets that accumulate on this plant.
Wildlife and Landscape
A caracal, which belongs to the cat family, is a very rare sighting here but one was seen close to camp. Particularly interesting about this cat species is the way they catch their prey. It is best known for its spectacular skill at hunting birds - sometimes even catching more than one bird in flight. They can climb exceptionally well too which enables them to catch rock hyraxes better than any other carnivore.
Bat-eared foxes are often seen early mornings and late afternoons when it is cooler. We often enjoy watching foraging bat-eared foxes, using their acute hearing to locate their termite prey. This species often visits active termite mounds, follows locust swarms and stays close to herds of springbok in order to feed on the insects landing on their fresh droppings in search of moisture. They have beautiful big ears and stand about 55cm tall. They are not aggressive in any way and we love to sit and watch them.
Oscar (a young elephant bull), has been part of one of the elephant herds in our area for the last 15 years, but has now been chased away by the cows in this group. Oscar subsequently joined a bachelor herd. He won't be able to compete with the other males in this herd in terms for searching for cows because he is the youngest. In the meantime another elephant bull, Reed, has joined the same herd that Oscar left. Reed is about 18 years old.
'We really enjoyed the Elephant Drive. Lister was brilliant - he worked hard to find the elephants but also gave us information on lots of other things. Your staff is a good asset to the Camp, very friendly and helpful. The food is excellent!' Debbie & Martin, England
'A perfect place for simply relaxing.' Jorg, Switzerland
'The staff are all professional and cheerful, they make you want to take them back home with you. The camp is an amazing oasis in the middle of nowhere!' Murray, South Africa
'The camp service was even better than the food - very professional, friendly, warm, helpful and attentive! Ignatius (Guide) what a Star! He is Mr. Damaraland! The serving staff were amazing - the singing and dancing was a treat! Special thanks to Susan - for her smile; Agnes and Sannie - for their kindness and fantastic voices; Richardt for his warmth; Coenie and Danize - for their superb management. Thanks a million!' Richard, London
Coenie van Niekerk (Camp Manager)
Danize van Niekerk (Camp Manager)
Agnes Bezuidenhout (Assistant Manager)
Morien Aebes (Assistant Manager)
Steven Jones (Assistant Manager)
Lister Kolokwe (Guide)
Arthur Bezuidenhout (Guide)
Michael Kauari (Trainee Guide)
Ignatius Khumises (Guide)
Thanks to Vazken Davidian for the Twyfelfontein and Organ Pipes excursion images.
-Lister and Danize-
Damaraland Camp update - September 09 Jump
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Skeleton Coast Camp update - September 09 Jump
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The Skeleton Coast receives some weird and wonderful weather and this month was no exception. Here we can experience all four seasons in one day: misty mornings, clearing up to what looks like it might be a perfect day, but looks can be deceiving. We have had the strangest cloud cover and late afternoons a lot of cloud built up and the thought of early rains came into mind, but then the cold westerly wind shows his presence and the night turns into yet another chilly, misty night.
Strangely enough, one day when guests visited the local Himba village in Purros, a few raindrops made their way from the scattered clouds above.
Bruno, the resident brown hyaena, is still up to his tricks breaking into the kitchens at night. Marieta found him in the staff kitchen early one morning when she was on her way to Skeleton Coast Research Camp. She did not find it very amusing though when she saw him with his head stuck in the coffee tin and pots and pans lying everywhere.
Two black-backed jackals are new residents of the Khumib River. They are being spotted in the afternoons, walking around camp and later in the evening are often heard as they call one another.
Loads of springbok and gemsbok (oryx) have been seen on a regular basis all along the Khumib River and on the airstrip too.
On a recent photographic safari, while driving down to the Hoarusib River to photograph the dunes close to the river mouth, guests enjoyed a pleasant additional photographic subject. To everyone's surprise a lone elephant bull was also there - in the dunes. It was amazing to see an elephant so close to the ocean and with a dune as backdrop. One always wonders what goes through the animal's mind at a place like that, it certainly goes through mine. (Photographs by Dana Allen)
Skeleton Coast thought it would be fun giving guests a Dune Dinner for the first time. We found a spectacular barchan dune that gave us a bit of protection from the wind. Guides Kallie and Gert played their part well in talking the guests into taking a drive with them after their pre-dinner showers, only to suprised seeing a white gazebo in the middle of nowhere, a big fire and lots of candles.
"Truly wonderful experience. The staff was warm and welcoming and our day trips were gorgeous."
"Had a wonderful time. A very memorable experience. Good food, good company, wonderful scenery."
"A little bit of paradise nestled in the dunes. Great staff, guides and activities."
"Fantastic time. Will be back soon..."
"Silence is golden."
Managers: Willie, Monica and Neil
Guides: Gert, Kallie, Godlod and Elaine
Serra Cafema Camp update - September 09 Jump
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Ongava Tented Camp update - September 09 Jump
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September has always been a good month to visit Ongava Tented Camp. The days are hot, but more manageable than the heat of the summer months. It cools down quite nicely in the evenings resulting in mild temperatures. We have also had our first rains towards the end of the month which is a little unusual for this time of the year but it did leave the air with a refreshing feel.
Wildlife and Landscape
Ongava literally means 'rhino' in the local Herero language and the focus this month on the Ongava Game Reserve has definitely been on rhino. Seven guests of Ongava Tented Camp had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get up close and personal with these magnificent beasts. Ongava is already known to be one of the best places to see rhino, not only in Namibia but in Africa. It is also one of a few places where one can see both black and white rhino.
The guests had the opportunity to take their experience a step further and substitute one of their activities with something very different. Six guests had the opportunity to witness the translocation of four white rhino bulls from Ongava. The rhino numbers on the reserve have increased over the last couple of years, allowing certain bulls to be moved to another reserve in Namibia. Another guest had the amazing opportunity to be part of the ear-notching process of two white and two black rhino. This is used in the identification process of individuals.
Not only did the guests have the opportunity to interact with the veterinary team, they also assisted the team with regulating the rhinos' body temperature amongst other things. All of the funds raised from these two projects went back into the conservation and management of the rhino population on Ongava.
The rhino has historically been one of the most persecuted animals in Africa with numbers of both species dropping dramatically. Their numbers have however increased exponentially over the last decade or so and reserves like Ongava have had an important role to play in this. Guests that come to Ongava Tented Camp can know that by just coming here they are directly contributing to the conservation of the 'Ongava'.
"Nothing except more time could have improved our stay at Ongava Tented Camp."
"There is no single highlight, the whole experience was outstanding. The environment, the team, the care, the friendly and knowledgeable approach of all, conspired to give a magical stay!"
"The highlight was the incredible diversity and proximity of animals and the fabulous camp hosts. Keep it as it is!"
Camp Managers: Paul and Gerda assisted by Gregory, Inge and Alfonso
Guides: Rio, Festus and Regan
Little Ongava update - September 09 Jump
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Ongava Lodge update - September 09 Jump
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Andersson's Camp update - September 09 Jump
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We have been experiencing some hot days this month coupled with fairly high humidity. Towards the end of the month, thankfully, the occasional light rain shower started to break the heat.
Wildlife and Landscape
Sightings (both in numbers and species diversity) at the waterhole have increased due to the current dry conditions and rhino have even been seen wallowing in the mud. All the adjoining images were taken by a camera trap at the camp waterhole this month - showing what has been seen day and night. Pictures courtesy of Ken Stratford.
The grass and other vegetation on Ongava Game Reserve are very dry at the moment and fire is a major concern. Trips into adjoining Etosha National Park also continue to gain momentum as the dry season ensues and animals congregate in numbers around the waterholes.
While the lion incident mentioned below is not a frequent occurrence, it deserves a mention.
Late in the month, as guests were ready to start dinner, two male lions chased another male right into Andersson's Camp. The fleeing lion entered camp between Tent 1 and the main area and walked towards Tent 6. Guides in camp immediately started looking for the lion as one guest was still in Tent 1. As the guest was not ready for dinner yet we notified him to stay in his tent until we had assessed the situation. The lion retraced his steps towards Tent 1, walking straight towards the guides. A warning shot was fired, but to our surprise the lion did not even flinch. Thankfully he slowly changed his course and went to lie down between Tent 1 and the camp birding spot.
We kept spotlights on him and then sent a vehicle to fetch the guest. It was then decided to cut the fence (Andersson's Camp is one of the few Safari & Adventure Co. camps that has a perimeter electrified fence) behind Tent 1 and attempt to 'herd' the lion towards the opening with our safari vehicles. He eventually moved to the opening and got out. Immediately the two other lions (they were waiting outside the fence) started moving towards him again and he then ran off in the direction of the reserve airstrip.
Although it was a serious situation, it thankfully ended well and some guests even joked how we would top that the next evening! Although the lions roared most of the night we had no further incidents.
"Excellent guides, they really care about what they do. Overall: Fantastic."
"Our guide, Agnes, was outstanding. Very sad to leave. Two days in Etosha we will always remember. Warm, efficient, outstanding and helpful management and team.
Camp guides were extremely knowledgeable, Top marks!"
Governors' Camp update - September 09 Jump
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The weather & the plains
Whilst Kenya is going through a particularly bad drought this year, the Mara has at least had some relief. We have received localised afternoon rain showers, greening the parched grass that has been grazed and trodden down by the migration. Mostly the Southern and Western part of the Mara has benefitted from the rain, whilst northern areas towards the Aitong hills and beyond still remain fairly dry.
The new green growth has brought all the grazers together in large concentrations and the Musiara Marsh area around us is full of life. At the start of the migration into the Mara, the grass is long and the grazers move more or less in a particular order depending on how they evolved or developed. The bulk grazers (the zebras) and to some degree the wildebeest come in first, eating the larger leafy mass of the grass stem. They are then followed by the topi and gazelles who are more specific about what they eat, preferring the shorter sprigs at the base of the stem. In this way the animals compliment the other species instead of being in competition with each other.
The Marsh has started to fill up, much to the delight of the River frogs, Reed frogs and Guttural Toads who have added to the chorus of night sounds.
This month has seen large concentrations of wildebeest and gazelles mostly in the Musiara area, continuing down the Mara River to Paradise plains and over to look out hill. After some initial indecisiveness and a little rain, large herds of wildebeest have decided to spend considerable amount of time with us.
The Mara River runs North to South from its water shed the Mau Forest into the Serengeti, then deviates West into Lake Victoria which in total is a 395km journey. A large portion of the migration move westward towards the river in search of grazing, even though there is still grass where they have come from there is an unexplainable driving force to cross the river.
Photo courtesy of Catherine Rouse
The viewing from the balloon has been exceptional this month as their flight path takes in the Mara River, the Olpunyata swamp and the Eluai plains in the Mara triangle. They have had great sightings of the migration, lion, leopard and the occasional rhino.
The main herds of zebras numbering somewhere in the region of 200 000 have remained mostly to the East of the reserve, with scattered herds along the river.
During September we have been lucky enough to have seen the birth of a variety of species in the Mara. The zebras have their fuzzy brown foals, two topi calves have been seen up at the air strip following their mothers very cautiously, tiny piglets following the mother warthog in a train, tails high in the air and the gazelles who lay low, ears flat in the grass hiding from their predators.
Photos courtesy of Mr Springer and Catherine Rouse
We are still awaiting the ostrich chicks which, often hatch in large numbers as they have communal nests. Some of the eggs have however been targeted this season and eaten by lion and hyena.
There are a few hyena dens out on Paradise plains, one of which the pups have become very accustomed to the vehicle and come right up to investigate, sometimes chewing the tyres to see whether they are edible or not - no punctures yet!
The Marsh pride of lions have been spending their days under the shade of the trees around the Marsh, lying out on the grassed termite mounds or sleeping in the shade of our airplane on the airstrip! They have no need to move very far at all as the wildebeest have been in the area all month. The pride is doing very well and is stable with the two big boys ensuring the territory is safe from other males and the cubs nearing adulthood are secure. The younger members of the pride had an interesting encounter with a porcupine this month. After about half an hour of trying to discover whether the porcupine would make a decent meal the lions gave up and left the terrified porcupine to escape!
Photos courtesy of Stephen Mutua and Richard Long
The Paradise pride are fat and happy too. With the arrival of 8 new cubs into the pride in August their numbers are increasing rapidly and with plenty of antelope coming down to the crossing area; they seem to be very content. Notch remains with his one son in the paradise pride; the two other sons have moved across the river and have been seen with other lionesses. The remaining two sons are still nomadic and have not been seen with females.
'Shakira' the female Cheetah and her 3 cubs are doing very well. Her cubs almost fully grown (20 months old) are learning very quickly and will soon leave their mother and forge their own way. As the cubs are females they will split after some time and become independent of each other, each having to raise a family alone.
Photos courtesy of Catherine Rouse
'Malaika' the other female, Kikes daughter is in the area and has been seen less regularly...
The three Cheetah boys have been roaming the plains with their usual confidence as they have a strong coalition. They, like Shakira have to hunt daily as there are more mouths to feed and the success rate is not normally that high.
The mother Leopard 'Olive' out in the Talek river area has been seen most days. She has been bold enough to bring out her cubs which were born mid August from hiding and lead them to various resting and feeding spots along the river.
The young male leopard which has mostly been across the river in August whilst the river was low has been spotted a few times above the Little Governors crossing along the forest. He is a fairly relaxed young chap, posing perfectly on the fallen logs in the forest giving our guests some great sightings.
The leopardess that frequents the river line between the camps has been seen frequently as well as the odd sighting of the rather large male that resides near the rocks past the main crossing point.
We have had a couple of rare sightings of Caracal, once a mother with a cub. The cub was very curious and ran right to the vehicle and then returned to its shyer mother; an incredible sighting.
The Caracal is a smaller, tawny coloured cat with long tufts on its ears resembling a lynx.
Serval cats have been spotted periodically as well, a beautiful animal with extraordinary markings. It has long legs and large elongated ears aiding them in hunting birds and mice in the grass.
Elephants have been travelling longer distances in search of food as the grass has mostly been grazed and plants are less nutritious. We still recognise some of the characters that come through the camps, sometimes spending the whole night if they find a few trees worthy of their attention.
The elephant sightings this month have mostly been matriarchal herds with few bulls moving through the area.
On the whole, it has been an amazing month with the Mara continuing to support huge amounts of wildlife despite the droughts in Kenya.
On the community front we are delighted to announce that water was pumped to Aitong Primary School for the first time ever on the 16th of September. This was done thanks to a new windmill purchased by Mararianda Charitable Trust working in partnership with Governors Camp. We have also built a water distribution system at the school. This is a momentous moment for the school as previously the school had no running water and all water was collected by hand from a spring on site. If you would like to visit or get involved in any of our community projects whilst you are on safari with us then please let us know and we would be happy to arrange this.
Photos courtesy of Richard Long
We hope to share the magic of our corner of the Mara with you sometime soon.
Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge update - September 09
Herewith news from Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge and the Gorilla families of the Parc National des Volcans in Rwanda.
The weather pattern in the Virunga Range remained very pleasant for most of the month, with morning temperatures between 9º and 14º C at 6 a.m. and day temperatures reaching up to 25ºC in the early afternoon. Many mornings were beautifully clear, offering wonderful views from the lodge towards the Eastern Virunga volcanoes of Visoke, Mikeno and Karisimbi. Usually, clouds would build up rapidly in the afternoons, releasing their first drops well after our guests were back from gorilla trekking. The first of the rains arrived on the 2nd of September with a short sharp afternoon shower and the rains then continued until the middle of the month, when we received on average 21- 23 mm per day. From the middle of the month onwards the rain then tapered off. The prevailing winds came from the East and South-East, bringing in moisture from Lake Victoria. Though the long dry season was definitely over, it seemed that the heavy rains of October - November were still far away.
In Volcanoes National Park, the return of the rain brought new growth to the bamboo forests triggering the bamboo to sprout new shoots and leaves. All this growth meant that many of the gorilla families became less mobile, than during the previous three months of the dry season, when they had to wander further afield in search of food.
The Susa Group, one of the largest of the gorilla groups in the park, remained split this month and we think that this will probably lead to the creation of a new, totally independent gorilla family group in Mt Karisimbi area. The dominant males of the two groups (still considered as sub-groups within the Susa Group), seem to be avoiding each other more and more.
The most significant and very sad event in the park's gorilla population was the death of Titus, leader of the group of the same name. This legendary silverback, aged 35 (he was born on 24 August 1974), was found dead in his nest on the morning of 14 September by trackers of Karisoke Research Station. Titus had been followed and studied since his birth. The newborn baby was first discovered by Kelly Stewart, an American student working with Dian Fossey at Karisoke at the time. It seems that the death of the old dominant silverback was hastened by the return of his son, 'Rano', another adult silverback male, who returned to the group after having lived as a lone silverback for a long period. Persistent challenging from Rano apparently exhausted the old leader, who fought for his status position until his end. Titus, may be the most famous gorilla in the Volcanoes National Park, was buried in the gorilla cemetery on the site of the former Karisoke Reaearch Camp during a special ceremony on 16 September;
Back in the lodge Bernard, our new, manager has been hard at work creating beautiful new organic vegetable and flower gardens. Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge's property extends over 7 hectares (around 17 acres). We are still in the process of landscaping the gardens, to give a true "forest feeling" we are planting more native trees, shrubs and plant species. In one corner of the property never visited by our guests, we have created our own vegetable garden. Carrots, cabbages, cauliflowers, onions, potatoes and other vegetables are taken care of by our gardeners. The produce appears almost daily on our tables. Bernard plans to extend our vegetable garden, so as to be as self-sufficient as possible in the future. All the homegrown vegetables are organic: we never use pesticides or chemical fertilizers in our vegetable garden.
Sabyinyo gardener at work in the organic vegetable garden
In another corner of our property Bernard has planted an organic flower garden to ensure a regular supply of fresh flowers to be used at the lodge. Lots colorful flowers are grown and cared for by our gardeners. Flowers are cut daily by our staff and made into attractive arrangements that decorate our cottages and the tables in the dining area. Favorites are the elegant Arum Lilys, Geraniums, Hyacinths, Aster Daisys, Lupins, Dahlias and Nasturtiums. We use no pesticides or chemical fertilizers in the flower garden and as a result our flower garden attracts numerous birds and insects, of which many are beautiful butterflies in all shapes and patterns. We have also invited our community neighbors to put bee hives along the edges of the garden to pollinate the vegetable and flower gardens and in turn provide delicious organic honey.
Sabyinyo organic flower garden
We hope to share the magic of the Virunga Volcanoes with you sometime soon.
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