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Tour de Tuli a double success
This year the Medscheme Tour de Tuli 2010 - Mapungubwe Route attracted 420 cyclists, 54 cyclist leaders, 150 staff and volunteers in the adventure of a lifetime. Many different nationalities were represented, including Australia, Botswana, Namibia, Seychelles, Slovakia, South Africa, Zimbabwe, USA, and the UK. The increasing popularity of the tour in 2010 saw, for the first time, two consecutive starts and an increase by 54% of the number of cyclists that had participated in 2009. Over four days, the cyclists covered 310km of predominantly single track, travelled through four different National Parks and crossed through three 'informal' country border posts. The highlights of the tour included some excellent elephant sightings (including some close encounters that definitely got the cyclists' attention!), hyaena sightings and even a lion kill. The warm welcome of the communities along the way will long live in the memories of many cyclists.
My most sincere gratitude to Wilderness and all the organisers and people involved for putting together such an amazingly well-run event. It was a privilege to have been able to participate as well as contribute and in return I know that my own life has been considerably enriched by the experience. -
Alan Mason - cyclist
Wilderness Wins World Savers Award
Wilderness Safaris was the overall winner in the category of Health Initiatives in the 4th Annual US Conde Nast Traveler World Savers Awards. The award recognised their innovative HIV/AIDS programme whereby all staff across the seven countries have access to HIV/AIDS-related education, medication and counselling. This is monitored by an HIV taskforce established in each country and has seen a significant drop in new infections since the project began.
Wilderness Safaris' HIV mission is: "The removal of the stigma and mystery of HIV/AIDS, the creation of a safe, unprejudiced environment and the testing and treatment of all infected and affected members of the Wilderness Safaris community." Other community programmes for which they were recognised include the building of clinics in Zambia, Malawi and South Africa. Wilderness Safaris was also a finalist in the Wildlife Conservation category in recognition of its efforts in the protection of Africa's biodiversity.
Wilderness Safaris is honoured to have been recognised for its efforts in managing the health of its people and ultimately, through hard work, aims to become a better organisation. The awards are featured in the September issue of Conde Nast Traveler.
Wild dogs denning at Vumbura Plains
Location: Vumbura Plains, Kwedi Concession, Okavango Delta, Botswana
Date: 04 August 2010
Observer: Simon Dures
Photographer: Simon Dures
A couple of months ago the wild dog pack known as the Vumbura Pack was frequently seen around the Kwedi Concession, even observed hunting around Vumbura Plains Camp. Seen with this pack was the heavily pregnant alpha female, but, it would seem, she was also busy searching for a suitable den site.
Then, in early June, she was no longer seen with the wild dog pack when out on their hunting forays. The rest of the pack would also no longer spend time at the kill site during the heat of the day. Now each time they were seen, the pack would make a kill, gorge themselves and then run directly in a northerly direction. The only sightings were fleeting glimpses and shadowy shapes flashing through the bush during the early hours of the morning, or in the late afternoon as the sun set. It was clear that pups were on the way, if not already born, and that food was being taken back to the den to be shared with the mother.
Just over a week ago Ona, one of the Vumbura Plains guides, and Mike, doing research on sable antelope, picked up tracks of the dogs in mopane woodland. They then followed the tracks deep into the bush. Amid the thick mopane was a small clearing, not far from one of the many pans. In the middle of the clearing, below the still-standing skeleton of a dead tree, they could see two piles of freshly excavated soil and two openings into a den. All around were fresh tracks of wild dogs and amongst them miniature examples of the same spoor - thrilling, but no sign of the pups on that day.
A few days later Mike and I returned to the den site, leaving camp well before first light. It took us two and a half hours to find the site again, only arriving well after sunrise. We parked the Land Rover a good distance from the den so as not to disturb them and simply sat and waited. At just after 8am we heard the squeals of the pack returning from their morning hunt followed by a clear response from within the den. As the pack approached, another dog emerged from the den and greeted them. A few seconds later a small, fluffy-faced peeked out from below the ground, looked at us, and then ran with a clumsy stumbling gait to the waiting adults, immediately followed by a mêlée of more black, white and tan, pups. We guessed that they were between six and eight weeks old and to count them seemed an impossible task as they bumped and jostled for attention from the adults, completely ignoring us sitting 30 metres away. This sighting was a rare privilege.
Eventually we worked out that there appear to be nine healthy new wild dog pups that will no doubt be visiting the pans of Vumbura very soon. For now we will just leave them in peace and allow the pack to do what they do best and raise a new generation of this rare and charismatic species.
Rhino Relocation - Namibia
Location: Desert Rhino Camp, Palmwag Concession, Namibia
Date: 11 August 2010
Observer and Photographer: Conrad Brain
In July 2010 a successful rhino translocation took place in the Kunene Region of Namibia. This is now being followed by an intensive monitoring phase which will assess the wellbeing of the rhino in their new areas within the vast 450 000-hectare Palmwag Concession.
The operation was essentially an airborne exercise: the rhinos were located by a spotter aircraft which acted as an overall coordinator for calling in the darting helicopter and the larger Huey helicopter - which then transported the animals out of the extremely rough terrain. Each animal had a transmitter implanted in its horn, was notched, measured and loaded into a crate for road transfer to areas close to the release sites. The animals were again tranquilised and taken by the Huey helicopter to the release sites.
Post-release aerial tracking has already commenced and one animal has been recorded moving more than 100km in four days! The critical monitoring phase will continue for some time to ensure the animals settle in and are safe in their new areas.
The operation was a huge coordinated effort with personnel from multiple organisations, including Save the Rhino Trust, Namibian Ministry of Environment and Tourism, Wilderness Safaris and the IRDNC (Integrated Rural Development and Nature Conservation). There have been no mortalities amongst the rhino which is a testament to the expertise and skill of the people involved in the operation.
Tagged Vulture Re-sighted in Mana Pools
Location: Ruckomechi Camp, Mana Pools National Park, Zimbabwe
Date: 11 August 2010
Observers: Sean Hind and Guests
Photographer: Sean Hind
An adult Lappet-faced Vulture was sighted in Mana Pools on the 28th of July 2010 by guide Sean Hind whilst out on a game drive. This vulture was seen at a recent impala kill by cheetah amongst White-backed, Hooded and White-headed Vultures.
On closer inspection it was discovered that the bird was tagged. The number visible on the tag was J042. What has been really interesting subsequently was to discover that this particular bird was initially tagged at a nest in Namibia back in October 2009 - a considerable distance from Mana Pools!
In recent years, over 1 000 vultures of five different species had been fitted with tags at various sites throughout southern Africa, with over 3 000 re-sightings of these birds being recorded. This ambitious project has yielded some interesting findings as to their movements and will hopefully assist in the conservation of this family of raptors that face numerous threats. Poisoning by farmers, electrocution and collision with power lines, habitat destruction and traditional medicine (muti) markets have all unfortunately taken their toll on vulture numbers in southern Africa.
Leucistic Hamerkop observed on Busanga Plains
Location: Shumba Camp, Kafue National Park, Zambia
Date: 04 August 2010
Observers: Mike Myers and Isaac Kariwo
Photographer: Mike Myers
The Busanga Plains is a fantastic birding area. The likes of Rosy-throated Longclaw, African Marsh Harrier, Secretarybird, good numbers of Grey Crowned Crane and endangered Wattled Crane, Saddle-billed Stork and Red-capped Lark are just some of the species found in the open grassland areas.
Setting out on morning drive on the 4th of August we saw a very unusual bird, snow-white in colour, at Shumba Bridge midway between Kapinga and Shumba Camps. It was feeding alongside a small stream amongst 15 or so Hamerkop - an odd-looking bird in its own family and genus, mostly restricted to Africa. On closer inspection this bird also turned out to be a hamerkop sporting a pale plumage - very different to their usual brown colouration.
This bird was displaying a colour aberration known as leucism which is the lack of the colour pigment melanin. There was a faint hint of brown in a few feathers only and the bill, eyes and legs were mostly dark. Another colour anomaly, albinism, is the total lack of any pigmentation with bare skin and eyes appearing pinkish.
Although this phenomenon has been seen in various bird species, seeing a Hamerkop like this was a first for me; indeed I could subsequently find no other references to this mutation in this particular species.
Elephant cow mourns, lions celebrate
Location: Tubu Tree Camp, Okavango Delta, Botswana
Date: 4th August 2010
Guides: Johnny Mowanji and Kambango Sinimbo
Management: Justin Stevens and Jacky Collett-Stevens
Photographs: Dr. David Agard & Lisa McConlogue
One species' loss is sometimes another family's gain; this was the story that unfolded at Tubu Tree Camp on August 4th.
Just off the road, an elephant cow waited with two sub-adults. They stood very quietly. The cow did not move and eventually, the observers spotted a tiny baby elephant lying in the grass nearby. We initially thought it must be asleep but eventually realised the new-born was dead. The cow looked a little uneasy and we decided to leave her to mourn. As we moved off, however, she lost her temper and charged - perhaps distraught at her loss.
The following morning, after a night filled with lion roars, we tracked a male lion to the elephant carcass. He feasted on his own all day. In the evening, he was joined by his three cubs, very unusually without the two adult females of the pride. The following morning, the whole pride was together, their bellies distended. The fat stomachs did not stop the cubs playing with the elephant trunk and their father.
As an elephant herd lost a baby, a lion pride was able to feed for four days - indeed, they left nothing for the hyaenas, jackals or vultures.
Ballooning on the Busanga
Location: Kapinga Camp, Busanga Plains, Kafue
Dates: 1 - 3 August 2010
Observer: Marian Myers
Photographer: Mike Myers
A flight to Busanga Plains in the northern part of the Kafue Game Reserve reveals the miombo woodlands opening up into golden plains, a truly spectacular sight. We arrived at the airstrip and, because the water levels are still very high, we had to "helicopter transfer" to Kapinga Camp. The five minutes in the helicopter were exhilarating - probably more so because Mike was hanging out the open door photographing and I am not so good at heights! Our pilot was pointing out lechwe, impala, buffalo - and I was just trying to keep up with the fun of it all. Not being in the habit of flying around in a helicopter, I was beside myself with excitement. Kapinga is very comfortable and the view from each of the rooms, as well as the main area, is really beautiful causing guests to want to linger in camp for a bit.
For our first night we transferred to Shumba Camp. En route I saw my first porcupine! The little chap rattled across the road right in front of us - the best sighting ever!
But then, the second morning, we were up really early for a hot air balloon flight. I cannot really explain in words to do justice to the experience. The feeling of lifting a few centimetres off the ground and then hovering over the game is quite a different feeling - you just get this sensation of being so light and free. The balloon silently whistles through the air, leaving only a shadow and the occasional burst of the flame into the balloon. Rising just enough to fly over the canopies of the acacia trees and peering into African fish-eagles' nests, floating along with flocks of sacred ibis, and then descending again just a metre or so above the ground. This is an absolute MUST. If you are in Busanga, my recommendation is that you do at least ONE balloon ride - maybe two.
That afternoon we spent time on the plains where we went through to the waterways and played on the water with hippos and crocodiles! So, all in all, we did boats, balloons and helicopters, as well as game drives. What a way to end the trip. The game was plentiful. There were lots of puku, lechwe, warthog, wildebeest, roan antelope, oribi and of course the biggest hippos and crocodiles I have ever seen.
We missed the lions, but we did hear them calling on the last night. We know they are there, they just didn't show themselves to us on this trip. I have failed to mention the abundance of bird life that is really spectacular. We saw Lillian's lovebirds, pink-throated longclaw and more.
Elephants saved from snares in Hwange
Location: Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe
Date: 25 August 2010
Observers: Courteney Johnson, Jaelle Claypole
This week we found two elephants that had picked up snares. One of them, a young bull, had caught his foot in the wire and it was digging hideously into his skin. A slightly older bull had somehow managed to ensnare his trunk. The snares were set by poachers probably hoping to catch some meat for the pot - for some the only way to add meagre protein to their diets.
The National Parks Capture Unit was called in and after two days of patient waiting at Back Pans, the young bull arrived and he was quickly darted. We removed the terrible leg snare from him and injected him with long-lasting antibiotics. He seemed to be alright when he rose from the anaesthetic and we will monitor his progress very carefully as the wound on his leg was cut right through the flesh almost to the bone.
We then found the older bull at Scot's Pan and once again the capture team was highly efficient. He was darted, the snare cut and medicines applied, all in a matter of minutes.
We were very impressed with the Capture Team from Zimbabwe National Parks. They were willing, helpful and efficient and we are grateful for the effort they made to come here and help.
We are hoping to obtain permission to be able to dart without the capture unit, in this way being able to help the wildlife of Hwange in a timeous manner.
Chelinda Lodge is looking truly amazing - rustic yet elegant. The cabins are complete; each constructed of stone and pine, and fitted with an en-suite bathroom, fireplace, and an upstairs seating area and strategically placed viewing deck. Staff are extending the greatest care and service to guests and a specialised chef has been serving an array of tasteful and refined dishes which can be enjoyed in the warmth of the indoor dining area or, on the grand outdoor deck that overlooks the grasslands. The chill we experienced in August made those fireplaces very useful!
Plenty of wildlife - particularly leopard - has been spotted on game drives here. The highlight was three leopards in one night, seen by Whyte Mhone towards the end of the month:
"We started our afternoon drive at 3:30 pm and around 5:00 pm we were observing red-winged francolin when we noticed something sitting right in the middle of the road. When we drove closer we realised it was a big male leopard. He watched us and then he moved off the road and looked at us as if to say 'what are you looking at?' He then lay down in the grass. My four guests happily observed him for the next 30 minutes, their cameras busy all the while.
We then proceeded uphill towards Chosi View Point and stopped a while for a sundowner.
It was almost dark and I was serving beer and snacks when we suddenly saw a female leopard watching us. Not far from her, we noticed a second sub-adult leopard. Both of them started moving towards us, advancing very slowly under the spotlight. They drew closer and the sub-adult came to within three metres of us, all the while looking into our eyes. After about 30 minutes of very inquisitive behaviour they moved on.
This was the best leopard sighting I have had as a guide and my guests were absolutely thrilled. The most enjoyable moment for us all was when the leopards were closely observing the beer being served. It was just as if they were thirsty and needed to be served too!
Banoka Bush Camp
The camp construction is going according to plan and will be open as per its opening date: 20th September 2010. The camp has been built along the tree line which overlooks a lagoon and comprises a main area with five rooms on either side. The equipment for activities went up to camp this week and include two motorised Delta swamp boats, four traditional mekoro and four 4x4 game viewing vehicles. This will allow morning, afternoon and evening game drives, and water activities all year round - water level dependent of course.
Like Kalahari Plains, Banoka Bush Camp will be 100% solar powered but has a backup generator in place should it be required. The word on the ground is that Banoka Bush Camp already has a great atmosphere - along with five hippo floating in the lagoon, unperturbed by the building - and with the planning and support structures already in place, this promises to be an outstanding addition to Safari Adventure Company's suite of camps.
A reminder about the platform Hide on the Jao floodplain (about 20 minutes from Jao) which can be used for sleep-outs for guests who stay three nights or longer in the concession. It sleeps maximum four guests and has bed rolls, mosquito nets and long-drop facilities. Generally guests are transferred to the Hide after dinner, staying overnight on the Hide platform with their guide, a radio, torch and a flask of tea/coffee! They return to camp in the morning in time for breakfast. It is possible that dinner can be arranged at the Hide also if requested in advance.
Located on the sparkling shores of Lake Malawi, Chintheche Inn is carrying out refurbishments, which include a facelift for all rooms, new paintings commissioned from a local artist and even bathrobes for guests using local chitenje material and made by a tailor from a nearby village. The old wooden boat has been remade to become a new beach bar which will be perfect for sundowners.
Game Capture at Liwonde a success
A game capture operation took place in Liwonde National Park, where wildlife was translocated to Majete National Park. Dozens of sable, waterbuck and impala have already been translocated so far, with more to follow in the next few weeks including hippos and crocodiles. This is a means of assisting other parks in Malawi in building up their animal populations. Wildlife populations at Liwonde will continue to be monitored and managed with the long-term aim being to create an environment that will be conducive to the successful reintroduction of the lions that once inhabited the area.
Rocktail Beach Camp Turtles return
15th October marks the official start of the Turtle Season at Rocktail Beach Camp. Loggerhead and leatherback turtles begin to nest from now until approximately February / March next year.
Kalamu Star-bed Camp continues to be immensely popular and indeed was recently voted one of "The top five places in the world to go camping", featured in Highlife, British Airways' in-flight magazine. As it stated, "These scenic sites do away with the tent completely - instead, comfy beds are set on raised timber with nothing but a mosquito net between you and the stars."
Victoria Falls Half-Day Tours
Between September and November, Victoria Falls' water levels tend to be at their lowest. For Zambian guests, we therefore offer the opportunity to see the Falls from the Zimbabwean side, where the views are better at this time of the year. Two custom tours have been designed:
AM Half Day Custom Tour to Victoria Falls (Scheduled Daily) excluding visas and drinks at lunch
- Ex Royal Livingstone and Zambezi Sun at 07H30 to Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe.
- Tour of the Falls, Living Village and three-course set menu Lunch at the Victoria Falls Hotel. Bottled water provided for the guests throughout the tour.
- Return to Royal Livingstone / Zambezi Sun approx. 14H00.
PM Half Day Custom Tour to Victoria Falls (Scheduled Daily) excluding visas
- Ex Royal Livingstone and Zambezi Sun at 13H00 to Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe.
- Tour of the Falls and High Tea at the Victoria Falls Hotel. Bottled water provided for guests throughout the tour.
- Return to Royal Livingstone / Zambezi Sun approx. 17H30.
Last month the Namibian Chefs' Association competition was held in which three WSN chefs took part. Congratulations to Lesley of Little Kulala who won first prize in the Senior Category for best dessert and Bertha of Serra Cafema Camp won the prize for most hygienic kitchen during the entire competition.
North Island has spent some time redeveloping its spa concept. While the finer details of individualising treatments are being worked on, a 'Spa Suggestions' menu has been introduced which is being enjoyed by many guests. North Island has also begun working with Dr Hauschka, a natural and holistic product that has received much international acclaim, and one that blends perfectly with the North Island wellness offering.
North Island Update - August 2010 Jump
to North Island
The sea conditions this month have been traditionally unpredictable and have ranged from a handful of beautifully calm days with nothing more than a slow gentle swell and a few wisps of wind to extremely rough conditions that have been very exciting indeed. We quietly tolerate the last few months of volatile ocean conditions in great anticipation of a slightly quieter September and then the calm October as the south-east monsoon season comes to a close once more.
The sand movement has been substantial again, especially during the new moon tides at the beginning of the month. Almost all of the sand in front of the library and dive centre has left on its usual migratory adventure north. The sand below the boardroom has also been removed and the dining area is now literally stilted over the water at high tide - the waves licking at the last remaining sands before whisking them away to more exotic destinations further down the beach.
A rather exciting highlight for August was the sighting of a bow-mouth guitar shark at Coral Gardens toward the end of the month. While we have spotted these sharks at both Sprat City and Twin Anchors in the past, it is nonetheless an extraordinary sighting. These sharks can attain a maximum length of almost three metres and the individual spotted was almost this length. Currently these sharks are becoming threatened in several areas around the globe - being taken as a target species as well as by-catch. This problem is also exacerbated by the species' slow reproductive rate (reproduction occurring only in very mature adults) and population turnover, which make it extremely vulnerable to over-fishing. A lack of information about this species and its distribution also hinder its protection.
Another favourite discussion point this month has been the repeated sightings of marbled electric rays on various reefs but primarily on Boulders and Twin Anchors. This is one of only a handful of rays that use an electric shock to stun their prey (small fish and occasionally octopus and shrimp) before devouring them. The process of defending itself from above entails an interesting manoeuvre of curling over in order to expose the shock producing kidney shaped muscles in the pectoral fins. While this ray has a masterful way of subduing its prey, it also has excellent camouflage skills and can disappear below a thin layer of sand in a second. The unusual pattern on the top of the ray and the strange shape of the anal fins help to identify this unique creature.
Boulders has been a particularly interesting dive site this month. While the south-east monsoon winds have blown consistently for the duration of the winter, the current on this particular site pulls in a westerly direction along the side of Spa Hill to beyond the moorings at Petit Anse. This phenomenon has provided us with some great drift dives.
An exciting discovery on this reef was an Indian Ocean walkman. The walkman is a strange type of scorpionfish that has a protrusion of 'legs' that can be used to literally walk over the sea floor. The most striking feature of this fish is the iridescent red colour and pattern of the pectoral fins when displayed. A large school of pick-handle barracuda have also been spotted from time to time, patrolling the outer ledges of this reef.
Unusually, several lobster were spotted on Sprat City. These creatures have been recorded literally swarming over this reef during the night but have remained completely elusive during the day. Even after peering deep into the caves and overhangs, we have still not been able to catch even a glimpse of them. Yet, on various other reefs nearby including Boulders and Brain Freeze, the lobster are clearly visible throughout the day as their long protruding 'feelers' wave from side to side from under the ledges. It is unknown where the lobster have previously resided during the day but nonetheless there are several brave individuals that have now decided to make a day time appearance.
Sprat City has once again been the host reef for our annual sprat spectacle which commenced around June this year. While there are still several large schools of sprat being herded from place to place by the associated game fish, their numbers have dropped substantially and will probably have been completely devoured by the end of September. The combination of the sprats and the array of deep water game fish that are attracted ensures that this reef never fails to impress even the most travelled and experienced of divers.
Thanks to Andrew Howard for the images.
Kings Pool Camp update - August 2010 Jump
to Kings Pool Camp
DumaTau Camp update - August 2010 Jump
to DumaTau Camp
Savuti Camp update - August 2010 Jump
to Savuti Camp
The sun drops lazily towards the horizon, spilling shades of orange and red across the Savute Channel and outlining a breeding herd of elephant as they splash about in the cool water while crossing from the eastern bank. The older elephants make their way out of the water on the southern side and immediately grab a trunk-full of soft Kalahari sand to throw over themselves. For a few special seconds the setting rays of sun are reflected in a shimmer of loose sand particles. A lone hippo softly 'laughs' further down the channel as the younger elephants splash and roll around in the water. The youngsters ignore the summoning trumpet-like calls of the older elephants, who are now dust-covered on the sandy shore. Guests watching the elephants at play during their sundowner stop from a steep bank downstream find it hard to believe that the channel they face was completely dry only two years prior.
The month of August unquestionably belongs to the elephants; the big lone bulls, the females, the teenagers and the small calves have all been hanging around this month and no game drive is complete without a brave teenage trumpet or a practice mock charge.
Summer has arrived here at Savuti; we feel a slight chill in the early mornings but the temperature rises steadily to welcome the day's heat as early as 10 o'clock. Shallow seasonal pans are starting to dry up, leading big herds of game to begin congregating along the channel. Guests on game drives along the Savute Channel over the month have seen large herds of buffalo, zebra and wildebeest. The afternoons are sometimes made a little darker by all the dust in the air, which is kicked up by these big groups of animals.
With all the plains game about, the teeth are not far behind and guests have had wonderful sightings of lion, seeing the Channel Boys and the Savuti Female with her two sub-adult cubs. Leopard sightings have been spectacular; guests have been lucky enough to witness numerous sightings this month, including a territorial dispute between two females.
Another big highlight this month has been the wild dogs. Numerous guests have had great sightings of all three packs on the concession. The Savuti Four have been seen with six new pups, the LTC Pack have been seen with five pups and we suspect that the Zib Pack also has pups, but we have not seen them yet.
Guests have also been lucky enough to view three honey badgers on a regular basis as they are often seen scampering around camp in the early evenings and again in the early mornings. As always, the camp's resident dwarf mongoose have been entertaining us all month long.
So, life is again plentiful here in the great garden of Savuti and we are eagerly waiting to share more great tales and adventures from our camp and its surroundings next month. Until then...
Cheers from the August Savuti team:
Managers - Cheri Marshall, Anna Butterfield and Warren Baty
Guides - Sefo Oganeditse, Goodman Nglovu and Lets Kamogelo
Zarafa Camp update - August 2010 Jump
to Zarafa Camp
Selinda Camp update - August 2010 Jump
to Selinda Camp
Camps Update - August 2010
• The relative dryness of the Kwando Linyanti region following extremely high flooding in the neighbouring areas has led to consistently good game viewing throughout the season. This promises to improve as the season progresses and the extremely mild winter hints at a long hot and dry summer. These conditions will all contribute to spectacular wildlife viewing throughout the northern regions of the country.
Lagoon camp Jump
• As one would expect at Lagoon, the wild dogs provided guests with daily excitement either sitting watching the pups growing and beginning to explore the world around them or following the adults as they venture out hunting. The large numbers of impala, tsessebe and warthog in the area, mean that they don't have to go too far to find prey and inevitably guests were in the thick of the action!
• One such drive saw the dogs literally ran into a leopard. After much chaos and dust clouds, the leopard fortunately managed to escape up a nearby tree – many leopards are not so fortunate when coming across wild dog!
• The massive herds of buffalo and elephant have returned with the arrival of summer and makes for spectacular viewing from camp itself as the herds come to drink along the river!
• Other game spotted includes the three cheetah brothers on impala kills, lions hunting and mating, spotted hyena with young, reedbuck, water buck, wildebeest, zebra, kudu, giraffe, jackals, wild cat, genet, honey badger, civets and porcupine.
Lebala camp Jump
• The incredible variety of species sighted at Lebala continues as the last of the trees lose their leaves and the dry grasses are now trampled into the dust. The range of diverse habitats present within a relatively small area is one of the main reasons for this range of species present in the area. Wetlands provide good grazing and the ample water supply attracts large herds of buffalo. The adjacent woodlands are home to notoriously shy species such as roan, sable and eland, all of which are becoming increasingly regular sightings in the area. Both bachelor and breeding elephant herds continue to be present in large numbers and general game has been excellent.
• Two prides were on the losing end of their ongoing battle with spotted hyena this month. A pride of four females and four cubs killed two zebra and were quickly pushed off their prize by a large clan. Elsewhere another two females lost their kudu kill to hyena.
• The cheetah have seemingly had a far more successful month! The three cheetah brothers moving down from the Lagoon area have been sighted successfully hunting impala, warthog and tsessebe. The two brothers often seen in the Lebala area were also seen hunting impala and warthog.
• Leopard have been spotted regularly throughout the area though only one with a kill, this being rather unusually, a civet!
The summer migrants have also begun to arrive on again, notably the brilliant carmine bee-eaters in their hundreds and the swooping yellow-billed kites. The arrival of these birds is the official announcement that summer has returned!
Kwara & Little Kwara camps Jump
& Little Kwara camps
• Receding water levels in some areas of the concession has led to rich grazing and browsing areas for large numbers of herbivores including zebra, tsessebe, kudu, giraffe, lechwe and reedbuck.
The incredible density of general game naturally results in a high concentration of predators, and the Kwara concession continues to offer guests excellent opportunities for predator sightings, notably lion and leopard.
The many lions have been hunted a wide variety of prey this month including juvenile giraffe, buffalo, tsessebe, wildebeest, zebra and warthog. The area actually appears to be somewhat congested with lion as there are, in a addition to the three different groups of females and young, a coalition of two males, who have to be on the look out constantly to avoid meeting the members of the coalition of seven males
The death of a hippo, from his wounds following a fight with another hippo, very close to Little Kwara also provided some spectacular sightings for several days. Large numbers of hyena, jackal, lion and a female leopard were all seen at the carcass.
• The female leopard appears to be very old and is seen in the vicinity of the camp regularly. She has reportedly been unsuccessful in her hunting attempts and the hippo carcass seems to be keeping her going at this stage. When a leopard relies on carrion, it suggests that she is either sick or old and therefore unable to hunt successfully.
• A large buffalo herd of about 100 has also been seen in the area as well as several lone bulls.
• The concentration of bull elephants is incredible and there appears to be a bachelor herd feeding on each tree island, enjoying the lush vegetation which has followed the high floods. The more nervous breeding herds remain in the mopane forests and only venture down to the water at night.
• The Pans continue to offer excellent wildlife experiences in a unique and pristine habitat. The water hole continues to attract large numbers of general game including springbok, wildebeest, kudu, gemsbok, impala and giraffe and jackals as well as the always impressive bull elephants.
• The camp's resident leopard continues to spend most of his time near the camp, becoming increasingly relaxed around vehicles and people.
• Away from camp, guests have seen a pride of seven lion, a large male, three adult females, a sub adult female and two cubs quite regularly near the government water hole. The females were spotted hunting but never managed to make a kill while our guests were observing them.
• More successful were a pair of leopards, which provided an unusual sighting of two leopards sharing a springbok kill, as well as a single female leopard and two cheetah brothers, who all managed successful kills of impala and springbok.
• At this, the harshest time of the year in the Kalahari, with cold nights and windy days, it seems that all life is in semi hibernation awaiting the arrival of summer and the beginning of the new season. Despite the fact that the rains are still some weeks away, as early as September the grasses and plants will begin to grow and flower once again. This new growth and rising temperatures will signal the start of the summer season.
• Two lionesses and two male lions from the Tau Pan pride have been mating on the pan and have therefore not moved far from camp throughout the month.
• Other game spotted on the pan includes three cheetah (female and two young cubs), a single male cheetah, gemsbok, red hartebeest, springbok, steenbok, a large number of honey badgers and an incredible number of jackals – there appears to be at least one pair under each bush!
• At Deception Pan four cheetah were sighted often and a male cheetah was seen feeding on an ostrich at Deception Valley.
• The wild dog pack has, for reasons as yet unknown by the research team operating in the area, reduced from over ten dogs in late 2008, to seven in mid 2009, and now to only four. These adult dogs continue to move through the region and were spotted at Sunday Pan feeding on a springbok. The reasons for the pack's demise are unclear - disease is a possibility, though the pack could also have split into two smaller groups.
Mombo Camp update
- August 2010 Jump
to Mombo Camp
Weather and Water Levels
August is the beginning of spring here in Botswana, and aside from a possible last cold front bringing cooler conditions, the maximum daily temperature has constantly hovered around 34ºC. Even the mornings are now relatively mild. All in all, it is probably one of the best times of year here at Mombo. The annual flood also continues to recede, opening up more of the floodplains, resulting in the return of grazing animal herds to these areas.
This month has been all about lions. Our prides have been active all over the Mombo Concession, to the point where certain guests have seen over 35 lions in one day! This has provided some great sightings, even including a few kills witnessed by those guests willing to track the lions for extended periods.
A Maporoto female has recently introduced four new cubs to her pride. There have been numerous sightings of them, tagging along with the pride, or playing around whilst the adults are resting. The little growls that they make whilst playing are something to hear, especially when compared to the roar of a full grown male lion, a noise which reverberates for miles around it.
The leopard, Legadima, has been seen again regularly through August. She has been in the company of a male, so hopefully in a few months we could get to see a new cubs. We hope she will have more success bringing them up this time. This mating pair shared a lechwe kill recently, which they stashed in a large jackalberry tree near the entrance to Mombo Camp, for about four days. This was quite a way to start and finish a drive, either watching them mate, or feeding on the kill. Legadima was only allowed the scraps that fell from the tree however, and their growls while contending for a piece of the meat could be heard from camp through the night.
We have had big herds of buffalo back in the area too, obviously attracted to the nutritious grasses found on the floodplains. A particularly large herd of about 300 or so spent an afternoon feeding on one such a floodplain right in front of Mombo Camp. Current speculation is rife as to whether the lion prides will start actively hunting them again, as they did last year.
With the floodwaters receding, this has reopened some great game drive routes - awesome roads meandering through open floodplains with a view of far off tree lines and isolated palm trees, and various animals grazing in a lush green landscape.
Another certain sign of the approaching summer is the returning migratory bird species. One of these birds, the Southern Carmine Bee-eater has already been seen, heralding the start of an influx of these crimson-coloured birds into our area, where they will breed in large colonies nesting in river banks. Yellow-billed Kites have also already returned, their distinct v-shaped tail distinguishing them from other raptors.
Managers for the month were:
Gordon, Tanya, Kirsty and Max at main camp, and Martha at Little Mombo.
Guides for the month were:
Moss, Doctor Malinga, Moses and Tshepo at main camp, and Cisco at Little Mombo.
Xigera Camp update
- August 2010 Jump
to Xigera Camp
Weather and Landscape
It appeared as if summer had arrived early - until the second week of August when the winds arrived and temperatures dropped giving us morning lows of 11 degrees Celsius and a fresh crisp breeze. This continued for a week or so before the wonderful spring weather returned and although we have had a couple of cool mornings, the days have been exceptionally pleasant with temperatures reaching 31 degrees. The morning lows are currently around 16 degrees.
The water level in the channel has only dropped 2cm this month, but this is a little misleading as water on the floodplains has receded noticeably with large patches of vegetation now visible in front of the tents. The subsiding waters bring new and exciting experiences. The fish traps formed by the receding waters have brought enormous flocks of open-billed storks and other birds. The red lechwe are also moving into the shallower waters and are now frequently seen running through the floodplain in front of the tents.
One evening while having dinner we had some furious courting activity by two genets running back and forth across the bridge. Their excited calls caught everyone's attention. In a split second every guest left the dinner table to investigate the action with Ace. While following the genet activity on the bridge, reflections in the water drew our attention to an enormous crocodile in the channel below. It was over four metres in length. The large reptile lay there seemingly unperturbed by the torches that were beaming down on it. Eventually he emerged partially from the water and has subsequently been seen on three occasions, usually during or after dinner.
Elephant activity is peaking as the fruit of the real fan palms ripen, ready to fall when the elephants shake the trees from below to release a rain of ivory kernels. The thin outer layer of the fruit, only a few millimetres thick, is like ginger bread to the elephants. The remainder of the fruit comprising an extremely hard fibrous shell, within which lies the prized ivory kernel, passes through the elephant to be deposited in a fresh pile of manure that will hopefully provide sufficient nourishment for germination. Apart from fire, which will also facilitates germination, these tough seeds will not be productive unless they are aided by the elephant's digestive tract - an incredible example of nature's symbiotic relationships.
As the waters recede and our floodplains and savannah areas begin to dry out, the lions are returning to this part of their territory. We found fresh tracks and heard their calls during the night on a couple of occasions this month. Although we have had some wonderful lion sightings they have all been deeper into the channels when we have been out on full day activities. As the summer approaches and our driving area expands, we hope to have more regular visits closer to the camp.
Leopard sightings have been excellent this month, both on the island and in the surrounding areas. In one instance, a guest who had decided to enjoy a morning relaxing around the camp, woke to find a leopard stalking a lechwe on the floodplain in front of the tents. He called his wife excitedly which alerted the leopard and it disappeared into the surrounding cover. This animal has visited us fairly regularly this month; however, it usually teases us by leaving its tracks in the sand pit on the bridge. We have listened to the excited alarming of the vervet monkeys as they watch the leopard pass below on many nights.
Xigera has once again not disappointed the many birdwatchers that have visited this month. Ken, a frequent visitor to Botswana and avid birdwatcher, has recorded more than 6000 bird species on his trips that have taken him to all corners of the globe. Notwithstanding his vast knowledge and sightings list, Ken was able to add quite a few new species to his life list while at Xigera. He had sightings of Pel's fishing owl, Luapula's cisticola, swamp boubou and quite a number of others.
The exciting news is that the skimmers are back. As the waters recede, we have small stretches of white sand exposed at Xigera Lagoon where we have so far seen up to 20 skimmers. Xigera Lagoon is one of the few spots in the Delta that is pristine enough for these marvellous birds to nest. We are keeping well clear of the limited sand banks at this stage.
Finally, another special sighting is our heronry, where large numbers of grey herons have gathered to nest. We are really excited about this as it is one of the few places where this occurs and has not been seen for the past two years.
We are now able to visit the subsiding waters of Xigera Lagoon to open our aquatic bar and enjoy a late afternoon swim. We are currently avoiding the exposed sand banks so that they are available for the returning skimmers, however, as the waters continue to drop we will have large expanses of white sands available for afternoon sundowners and swimming in the crystal clear shallows of Xigera Lagoon.
A number of our guests have also had the opportunity to demonstrate their poling skills on mekoro this month. It is of course always difficult to compete with the younger generation who seem to master these challenges instantaneously, as was demonstrated in front of the camp by Katy and Ryan who literally took to the task like ducks to water.
The all-day boat ride was one of the best days we've ever had on any safari. Gorgeous scenery, incredible game, bird viewing with great opportunities for photography, the most elegant picnic and a guide who was incredibly competent, knowledgeable and a pleasure to be with. Fabulous staff from the management team and all others. Special thanks for the wonderful special gluten-free food for Jennifer.
Mokoro ride and getting a chance to learn how to pole; the full day trip and seeing hippos and crocs; enjoying time with guide and staff - everyone is so warm and helpful. Things are done so well ...
Managers: Mike and Anne Marchington, Kgabiso Lehare and Frank Maule
Guides: Teko, Barobi, Ace, Onx and Luke.
Chitabe Camp update
- August 2010 Jump
to Chitabe Camp
Vumbura Plains Camp update
- August 2010 Jump
to Vumbura Plains Camp
Weather and Water Levels
The winds have come this month and the trees are losing their leaves, especially the rain tree, whose leaves are falling around camp. The weather has been great; the temperatures have been a minimum of 18 degrees Celsius and maximum of 32 degrees.
The water levels have dropped quite a lot and more areas in the floodplains are accessible now. There are also some areas that look like they will become permanent water features. The resulting game viewing has been very exciting for our guests.
Wild dogs have been the highlight as the area pack has puppies. To see the numbers of wild dogs increasing and successfully raising all their puppies is fantastic. The guides had great sightings out on a game drive with guests as they drove back into camp from a leopard sighting. When they saw ten wild dogs hunting with the moonlight, the guests expressed how beautiful it was to see these "dogs running in an open area with a bit of dust in the picture as well". This was around the Jacky's Pan area after hyaenas stole the impala kill from them. All ten puppies are still alive and looking very healthy.
The leopard that used to come at Vumbura North Camp at night and chew on books and knock down the tea station has not given us any problems this month. We packed a lot of things away and this seems to have stopped his visits. Out on drives, the guides have been spotting Mosimanyana hunting close to the airstrip. The young male was also spotted feeding on a guineafowl close to Zambezi Pan.
Selonyana the female leopard has also been very active this month. She was spotted looking very pregnant while hunting a porcupine just behind the workshop. Just a few days ago she was seen by Little Vumbura guides hidden behind a big fallen log, were she stayed for over two days. Guides have now told us that she has given birth to two cubs. We have therefore closed the area for sightings to give her time and space to care for the two cubs without disturbance.
An unknown male leopard has been passing through camp in the night and early hours of the morning on a weekly basis. During one night we heard impala making alarm calls close to the management tents at North Camp and we found a big male leopard walking past the tents. It seems he is moving along the same route that we have seen his tracks on between the helicopter pad and the camp.
Vuka is the only male cheetah that is left in our area and this lone hunter is still strong. We hardly get to see him in the tall vegetation, but we did spot him this month feeding on a baby kudu.
We were very surprised on the morning of the 27th to spot five new cheetah close to Jacky's Pan. What excitement this sighting brought that morning! The five unknown cheetah were feeding on an impala, and looked very relaxed when approached by game viewers. These cheetah are in good condition and look healthy. They are sub-adult and the group consists of one male and four females. After two days they were spotted on an impala kill. Hyaena came and stole the carcass from the cheetah and they have been on the run since then. Most recently they killed three impala in one morning around Kaporota Lagoon.
Plains game have been ample around the concession. We have seen big herds of buffalo in the area, especially around North Camp and moving towards Kaporota Lagoon. We also had some great sable sightings from three different herds. As the water levels are dropping, little fish are trapped in mud and become easy prey for Slaty Egrets, Little Egrets, Hamerkop, White Stork, Woolly-necked Stork, Yellow-billed Stork and many more.
The August Vumbura Plains team:
Managers at North Camp: Attorny Vasco, Miriam Tichapondwa and Graham 'Tjokkie' Simmonds
Guides at North Camp: Ollie Porote, Zee Tshekiso and Moronga Kandondi
Managers at South Camp: Nick 'Noko' Galpine, Virgil Geach and Katie Horner
Guides at South Camp: Obonye Kamel, Setsile and Banyatsang Shakwe
Photos are courtesy of Michael Hensman and Graham 'Tjokkie' Simmonds.
Little Vumbura Camp update
- August 2010 Jump
to Little Vumbura Camp
Weather and Landscape
As the sun moves south across the sky, the floodwaters from Angola have begun to disappear. Multitudes of fish find themselves trapped in pools across the plains, providing a feast for aquatic birds and reptiles.
We can no longer travel to the airstrip by boat and are once again using our boat station.
Temperatures are climbing and the days are clear and hot, with the evenings wonderfully cool.
Where water once spanned the horizon, green grass now grows - drawing massive herds of buffalo to feed on the succulent shoots. Birds and mammals are flocking to the Delta where food is plentiful on the floodplains.
Wading birds gorge themselves on fish trapped by the receding water, providing fantastic photographic opportunities of pied and malachite kingfishers, squacco herons and slaty egrets.
Migratory birds are also returning. We have seen carmine bee-eaters and red-breasted swallows.
Fishing has picked up recently. Receding waters have forced all the bait fish back in to the main channels where many pike, catfish and other predatory fish lurk in wait. A paradise for fishermen with up to 20 fish being caught in an afternoon- all catch and release of course.
A female cheetah with her four sub-adult cubs in tow is frequenting our area at present. They are all very relaxed.
The female leopard Selonyana gave birth to two cubs just over a week ago. They were found in a hollow log just near the boat station. Her two little ones showed their faces for a moment, before she wrapped herself around them as they slept peacefully.
We have since closed the den site offering her and the cubs the best possible chance of survival at this crucial time. Selonyana's tracks show her moving between a kill she has made and the den on a daily basis.
Managers and Guides
Managers for August were One and Alex Mazunga, Sean Matthewson and Lopang Rampeba.
Guides for the month were Kay Bosigo, Rain Robson and Sevara Katsotso.
Duba Plains Camp update
- August 2010 Jump
to Duba Plains Camp
Jacana Camp update
- August 2010 Jump
to Jacana Camp
The cold weather has left us. The short winter is past and the woolly clothes are packed away. The flowering acacia trees are the most prominent indicator of the coming spring. Midday temperatures have reached a comfortable 30 degrees Celsius with evening temperatures cooling to around 15 degrees. The August winds have faded to dusty red sunrises.
Full moon was on the 24th of August and Mars has completed its journey through Leo. Spica and Venus will be joined by Mars and the moon in September for a short period.
August has always been the month of the elephant. This year, the number of elephants in our area was astonishing. Day and night the island was surrounded by large bulls clearing the dwindling greenery. Hardly an activity passed without an elephant sighting. Lone males, breeding herds and the odd bachelor group were spotted regularly.
The lions are back after a short absence - there is a new pride on the floodplains. It consists of two females and one young male. The group seems to have settled in and they give us great sightings, moving across the plains surrounded by an abundance of skittish red lechwe and impala.
The receding water of the upper Delta region where we are situated creates a niche for water birds and hippo. Dwindling water causes these animals to concentrate in certain areas which is marvellous for photographers. The increase in birdlife along the water channels is amazing as small fish, forced to move to larger water masses, are picked off by egrets, herons and kingfishers.
With spring in the air the birding is unmatched. Breeding plumage is brightening the drab winter colours and the mating displays are now in full swing. The floodplains are drying and the open-billed storks are back to breed. The first African skimmers have been seen and to top it off the wattled cranes and Pels' fishing-owls have also been sighted a lot of late. We are building a small bird hide that should be finished by mid-September - just in time for the greatest show in birding.
Beautiful - peaceful - paradise! Loved every moment. Thank you all! - Ueli and Susanne, Switzerland. 3rd time here - LOVED IT! See you next year! - June, USA.
We had an amazing stay. It was a perfect way to end our honeymoon. Thank you! - Anna and Matt, USA.
What an amazing place! We've loved every minute. Stunning scenery, superb food and wonderful staff have all helped make this an experience we will never forget. - Sharon and Paul, USA.
Managers: Pieter Ras and Danielle van den Berg
Guides: Joseph and Florance
update - August 2010 Jump
to Kwetsani Camp
The weather patterns in August were highly variable. We had some windy and cold days interspersed with warm and calm conditions. The last few days of the month warmed up considerably and winter seems to be on the way out.
The area continues to dry out rapidly. The track in front of camp is now completely dry and the marsh to the south of the island is shrinking as the stream feeding it has stopped flowing. We are now able to drive around the north of the island and on the floodplain in front of Kwetsani. The elephants tend to push trees over at this time of the year in order to feed on the roots or the softer twigs at the tops of the bare trees so there are fallen trees all over the place.
The game viewing around Kwetsani has changed markedly with the drying of the water. We now have regular sightings of lechwe herds on the floodplain in front of camp. The elephants are still abundant and they are causing extensive destruction on the island. There are two large bulls who have spent a great deal of time in camp of late. They are not worried about people and allow vehicles to approach to within a few metres. They move right up to the main building and have also started walking under the walkways.
The small pride of two lionesses and a sub-adult male have been sighted throughout the month. They normally stay for a few days before heading north out of our range or heading south to Jao Island. Both females look in very good condition but the male is very thin and mangy.
Most of the leopard viewing this month has centred on Hunda Island with some tremendous photo opportunities.
Kwetsani Island has been a birding paradise in August. The highlights included a black-breasted snake eagle hovering over the floodplain and then swooping down to catch its dinner. We have viewed a pair of Dickinson's kestrels in the marsh area on regular intervals.
The Kwetsani floodplain has been a great place for viewing large flocks of open-billed storks, different heron species and various egrets and other water birds.
A hippo come right into camp the other night and he walked right under the walkways. His back and flanks were covered in cuts and gashes from a fight with another bull.
Every moment during our too short stay was a highlight. From the airstrip collection to the game drives, the dinners, our hosts, Michélle and Ian, the outdoor shower, the elephants below our terrace and on and on ... We are sad to leave and will always remember this experience. Eric and Michele - Nederlands
Seeing leopards, being chased by mamma elephant, seeing the male lion, the mokoros and OP! Also liked the daily night time story. Jim, Michele, Jessica and Jenny - USA
Seeing hippo, elephant, zebra, lion etc, etc in the natural habitat. This is so much more exciting than our local zoo. Michélle and Ian and staff were warm and gracious and most accommodating - terrific! Tony, our guide, was great. Our compliments to the chef - the food was delicious! Thank you for a memorable and fantastic stay. Robert and Abby - USA
Warm reception. Wonderful managers. It's obvious that there is a lot of respect between managers and staff. That suggests a warm and healthy "vibe" here, and because of that, I would definitely consider coming back here. I saw more game on other places but REALLY enjoyed the atmosphere here. Lilian Kanai and Janice - USA
We appreciate OB's expert guiding and sensitivity to Franklin's photographic wishes. We did enjoy the special treat of the only guests for one day - the undivided attention by OB and the staff. I also appreciate your consideration of my special lactose problem and this consideration made my stay even better. We learned so much about the environment and how the company is so conscience to the ecosystem. You made our stay a memorable one. We feel so spoiled! Thank you so much!
Franklin and Janice - USA
Ian and Michélle Burger
Rheinhardt and Mia Schulze
OB Morafhe, and, Anthony Mochoni
update - August 2010 Jump
to Jao Camp
Weather and Water Levels
It is hard to keep up with the August weather in the Delta. Cold, windy days, interspersed by hot and cloudy days and then suddenly clear warm days keep everyone on their toes. We are forever awed by the diversity of the season and are never quite sure whether to wrap our hands around a hot cup of coffee or reach for an ice cold drink.
The flood has subsided, but not enough to hinder our boating or mokoro activities, nor does it diminish the spectacular views of the Delta - although the area is forever stunning, no matter what time of year it is. The channels are still holding plenty of water and we anticipate that this will remain the case in the following few months.
Mokoro is still one of the best ways to experience the area. Silently floating down the still channels and through open, shallow pools you can take in the best of the Okavango Delta.
The new lion pride in the area has conquered its shyness around an audience and has given us some magnificent viewing over the last month. They have been seen successfully hunting lechwe and Saddle-Billed Stork. The two adult females, mother and daughter, and sub-adult male are novices in this concession but have shown us their apt hunting ability and their bold ambition. We hope to see a lot more of this charismatic lion pride in the coming months.
The Jao Island hippo family who lost their calf last year due to a territorial battle, are protecting another newborn. Now with three adults nurturing the little one they will surely keep out of trouble. The calf, only knee-high, seems to be quite skittish, randomly taking off and leaving the bewildered adults chasing after the startled youth. Hippopotamus have never been known for their graceful ways, but they are certainly entertaining creatures.
While some may mistake the recent noise for thunder, it is only the elephant rattling the palm trees and not the sky howling. The palms are abundant with fresh nuts and very much out of reach from even the most nimble of elephants. So with a bit of force and momentum, the flexible tree gets a vigorous shake to release the nuts which come raining down. As delicately as a weaver builds a nest, the elephant will pick up each nut, one by one, with its busy trunk to swallow the nuts whole. When our bulls aren't busy with the palm trees they are trailing behind the breeding herd that settled around camp and the island for part of the month.
A male leopard in the area has been getting more and more comfortable with onlookers. He has been seen from a distance, resting in the branches of dead trees, and allowing for fantastic photography opportunities. Typically our resident males are very elusive, so it is a pleasure to see that this may not always be the case.
For those of you who knew Beauty, our female resident leopard, we are sad to say that she has not yet been seen this year. We can only conclude that she has lost the battle due to her age and blindness in one eye. She won't be forgotten in the Jao Concession as she delighted us and our guests endlessly with her 'beauty', relaxed nature and fascinating behaviour.
On a wider scope, trips to the western side of the concession are great at this time of year. The glorious boat ride, the diverse landscape and wildlife have left our guests in awe. Lion feeding on a baby elephant, lion cubs, leopard, vast herds of zebra and wildebeest, giraffe and elephant have entertained our guests for hours.
Birding is always great in the Jao concession, with a mixture of regulars and migratory birds. The first Yellow-Billed Kites of the season were spotted circling over the island in the last week of August. In no time, there will be many more. Each year they reduce our mongoose litter while still predating on their more regular reptiles or rodents.
We had the opportunity to see some chicks of a Spur-Winged Goose as they followed their mother across the road. Our Francolins have already started hatching, which is early. One of our regulars has four tiny chicks animatedly trailing her as they learn the area in which they reside. And of course the Coppery-Tailed Coucals and Black Crakes, to name a few, are always around to sing to us; but the most haunting of all has been the Ground Hornbill! Although seen close to our airstrip or plains area, we don't often get them on the Jao Island. However, last month saw one particular Ground Hornbill lurking in the south of the island, with his poignant and almost foreboding call.
Activities and guests
Young families have been a common sight in camp recently which has kept our staff busy with kids activities, like mokoro lessons and elephant dung paper making. Honeymooners, anniversaries and birthday visitors have kept the celebrations ongoing. And, we were honoured once again to receive a regular guest, visiting for her ninth time - Trisha Wilson. We always have a great time with her and look forward to her return.
The greatest staff of all. Great experience - John & Eileen
Beautiful place for our honeymoon safari. Thanks for making it a great time! - Linsay and Chris
Amazing place - we had a truly unforgettable experience. Thank you! - Steve and Carly
An amazing experience- fab wildlife - unreal waterway experiences - great guide, food exceptional, staff unreal, what a place - Mal and Cheryl
Wonderful place, wonderful people and the leopards, WOW! We'll be back - Alastair & Louise
Couldn't imagine a more beautiful place, thank you all! - Kathy, Joe, Sarah & David.
Thank you for this wonderful experience and hospitality. We loved every minute of it! - Paul and Wilma
Chris and Tara
Andrew and Lauren
Joanne and Marina as the Spa Angels
Tubu Tree Camp
update - August 2010 Jump
to Tubu Tree Camp
As is often the case, August was a windy month with steady breezes cooling things down. Temperatures have reached up to 30 degrees Celsius. That said, there was a cold snap in the middle of the month which was made even colder by the breeze.
The wildlife has been spectacular this month at Tubu Tree Camp. It seems that the animals wanted to visit the guests in camp! The highlight was the duel between a spitting cobra and a chameleon. In reality, there wasn't much of a fight. The chameleon relies on camouflage and no amount of hissing and climbing were ever going to be effective. The snake followed its quarry up a tree and devoured it in just 15 minutes.
Two ten-month-old leopard cubs have spent much of the month in the camp. Their mother leaves them there constantly, apparently thinking it safer for them. We were treated to one of them sitting on a termite mound right in front of the curio shop one evening. A number of shoes left outside have been chewed up and one guest woke up to find one of the cubs taking a peek at who was on deck!
A herd of elephant pass through camp on a daily basis and the bulls have spent a good deal of time bashing the palm trees for their fruit. Likewise, buffalo herds have wandered past the front of the camp, their numbers increasing as the water diminishes.
During the day, the herds of lechwe, impala, zebra, wildebeest and kudu that fill the floodplain, come right through the camp. At night it is the genets, honey badgers, civets and porcupines that visit regularly.
The famous lion pride of the Jao Concession is still calling Tubu Tree Camp home. This month we've watched them feeding on zebra, wildebeest and even a deceased elephant. The cubs delighted us while they played on a termite mound.
A pair of lilac-breasted rollers teased the photographers in camp flying from one tree to another in front of the lounge and making it difficult to catch both of them together in mid-flight. The wattled cranes flew right over the bar as guests were enjoying their sundowners one evening. Four Meyer's parrots seem to be looking for nesting sites in camp. The birding highlight of August belonged to the open-billed storks. Flock upon flock of these birds have flown displays over the camp and settled in front of the main area.
The room is very nice. Our guide was amazing (Kambango) thanks to him. We saw a beautiful lion and two leopards that we will never forget. It was my favourite camp since we arrived in Africa - merci beaucoup! Sophie, France.
Justin, Jackie and the staff were outstanding. A special nod for all those extras that has made Tubu Tree our best camp yet. Very grateful for the small luxuries (ear buds, butt coals, Jackie giving me her razor!). Animal wise, tough but... the spitting cobra vs. the chameleon have a clear win! Great job Tubu Tree Team!. P.S Keep the Porcupine Ridge! Maxime and Krupali, France.
Very warm and caring atmosphere in camp. Excellent guide Kambango who found animals in unlikely places and had a great depth of knowledge. Overall great service and we leave with fond memories. Mark and Lilia, UK.
Management: Justin Stevens and Jacky Collett-Stevens
Guides: Jonny Mowanji, Kambango Sinimbo and Esekia Ntema
Special thanks to Grant Akinson for the photos.
Kalahari Plains Camp
update - August 2010 Jump
to Kalahari Plains Camp
The good viewing of some of the larger carnivores of the Kalahari has continued unabated.
The Kalahari is now in full winter plumage and the silky bushman grass creates a glorious white-flecked sea of tawny brown fading into the distant horizon. On a recent game drive we were admiring one such scene when a magnificent Kalahari lion appeared. He sat not far from us contentedly catching the warming rays of the early morning winter sunlight. What made the view so strikingly memorable was the magnificence of this great beast against the stunning auburn backdrop of Kalahari grassland. He was relaxing on a slight ridge which dropped off into a long sloping valley of grassland with the distant Deception Valley a faint caramel smudge beyond.
Even without the lion's presence, the scene would have been riveting. The scenery is such a central aspect of the Kalahari experience and we cannot help but share the freedom enjoyed by the creatures that inhabit this area. As we slipped into daydreams, mesmerised by scene, the lion fixed his gaze on the distant horizon. He had spotted a herd of oryx grazing on a fold in the landscape and immediately went into hunting mode. Adopting a low crouch, he loped toward the cover of a distant patch of sickle bush. We watched transfixed until his tawny form was enveloped by the neutral landscape.
We sat watching for ages until the oryx disappeared over a ridge. How the drama finally played out we will never know. Such was the beauty and magic of it all that our group was unanimous that we should not disturb the lion. Our senses sang with the exhilaration of the encounter and I aimed the vehicle for the valley and another soul encounter with the desert. But fate had another plan for us.
No sooner had I started the engine than the radio crackled to life. Another game drive had just found a leopard a few kilometres from our position. We changed direction. Soon we were in the presence of what is arguably nature's most concentrated form of beauty - the leopard. The cat did not so much walk as flow across our path to settle on the edge of a termite mound. From here he surveyed us with as much interest as we did him. There was a definite sense of sharing with us the more privileged. He allowed us into his space and we devoured his presence as he might a springbok.
The Kalahari is truly a remarkable area and provides so much more than just a physical safari experience.
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