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South Africa camps
Pafuri Camp update - August 2010 Jump
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Temperature and Rainfall
The Pafuri dry season signals a time of plenty along the banks of the dwindling Luvuvhu and Limpopo Rivers. This month has been no exception. As large herds of elephant and general game frequently meander down to the river near to and in front of camp, guests line the boardwalks with their cameras while guides attempt to conduct game drives from the tea station. Temperatures have been rising to 35ºC by midday, but it is still quite chilly in the mornings and evenings with an average temperature of 10ºC. The lack of rainfall this month has allowed for spectacular dusty sunsets and the mopane trees are pulling out all the stops in their golden spring robes.
Along with general game such as nyala, impala, warthog, zebra, waterbuck, vervet monkey and chacma baboons being seen on a daily basis, elephant and buffalo were seen almost as often, and the growing pride of lion was seen on average every second day. The leopard continue to live be elusive but we did have six exceptional sightings of them this month so we can count ourselves lucky. On one occasion a female leopard managed to kill a nyala between Tents 2 and 3. As the carcass was discovered only partially eaten, we predicted that she would return to her meal and we were not disappointed. While walking guests back to the safety of their tents the following evening, we managed to catch a glimpse of her lying under a thick bush 10 metres from the boardwalk. As we stood in awe she slowly relaxed and made her way back to feed on the remains. A perfect end to another day at Pafuri and convenient proof for the guests that we don't give them a check-in safety briefing for nothing!
The Pafuri Pride of 12 lion has been harder to track down than the two sub-adults that are seen more regularly around the camp area. Exciting news for us this month came in the form of a sighting of two new cubs from the young sub-adult female: her first offspring. We estimate that they are about ten weeks old, but as she continues to hide them in thick bush it is difficult to be certain at this point. The next month should deliver more sightings of them and will allow us to confirm their age. The dominant male on the concession has been seen regularly this month as he patrols his territory and his booming call has been heard often from camp at night.
Other interesting mammal sightings for the month include: porcupine, reedbuck, a herd of 30 eland, two lion cubs (ten months old) trying to kill a porcupine, spotted hyaena, wildebeest (a rare species here), bushbuck, four bushpig in a single sounder, white-tailed mongoose and a female nyala with horns.
Pafuri bird life continues to intrigue us, with some migratory species already returning for summer breeding. The highly sought-after Pel's Fishing-Owl has been uncharacteristically obliging; seeing the bird nine nights in a row fishing from a roost close to camp was extraordinary and 17 sightings of an estimated six different birds over a month have satisfied many a birder's dreams. Some other interesting bird sightings this month included:White-breasted Cuckooshrike; Thick-billed cuckoo; Wahlberg's Eagle; Wood Sandpiper; Green-capped Eremomela; Yellow-bellied Eremomela; Steppe Buzzard; Bat Hawk; African Cuckoo Hawk; African Cuckoo; African Barred Owlet; Grey-headed Parrot; Kittlitz's Plover; Horus Swift; Mottled Spinetail; Böhms Spinetail; Great White Pelicans; Grey-rumped Swallow; Red-backed Mannikin; and Lemon-breasted Canary.
Summer is well on its way and the birding at Pafuri is really only just beginning for this year. With more frequent sightings of unusual mammal species as well as increasingly habituated large charismatic mammals, we are revelling in the opportunity to keep surprising our guests with life-changing wildlife experiences.
Pafuri Walking Trail update - August 2010 Jump
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What a beautiful time of year this is. August is one of those months where the bush explodes with countless evocative colours and scents. Along the rivers your senses takes in the scent of Jasmine, which is wafting from the woolly caper bushes, and the bush even appears to be ablaze as the flowers of the flame creepers spread across the vegetation.
As you walk along the Limpopo floodplains, the yellow grassy plains merge with the oranges, reds, creams, greens and yellows of the baobab and mopane hillslopes. The mopane leaves begin to take on their autumn hues and the knobthorn acacia starts to reveal its veil of cream flowers. One often finds oneself standing and watching scenes unfold as vervet monkeys snack on the flowers animatedly, and the Marico and White-bellied Sunbirds probe at the flowers of the knobthorn.
The walking trails were definitely filled with some interesting moments to say the least. One particular experience fulfilled one of many dreams that I have had since I began working as a guide in the Makuleke Contractual Park three and a half years ago. I decided to head out one morning and walk across the Luvuvhu floodplains to a sandstone range called Hutwini, which would take us through an ancient gorge system that had been traversed for aeons by large and ancient herds of elephant and buffalo. This 'bush highway' was then used by Portuguese traders sailing up the Limpopo to trade with the Venda people from the 1550s at and around Thulamela.
Our morning walk took us past Magomugomu Pan, overlooked by the Hutwini cliff-face and scattered with fever trees. Just before reaching the entrance to the gorge I decided to loop up onto a small hill next to the entrance and then go down into the gorge. It was a good decision for, seconds later as we began our ascent, a familiar sound reverberated around the gorge's entrance: a rumble that, when close enough, provokes your sternum to rumble too ... a quick glance back at the eyes looking questioningly up at us, and Fraser (the second guide) and I raised our fingers to our lips, motioning to the guests to keep quiet and move quickly. We moved up the hill and observed a small herd of elephant at the entrance. Their trunks were up - a sign that they had got our scent before we'd noticed them. With a quick glance around, a broad smile enveloped my face as I looked at Fraser and then at the guests anticipating my next move, which would be to clamber up Hutwini's one slope and make our way to the gorge entrance to watch as the herd entered the gorge from a safe vantage-point above.
Guides and guests scrambled quickly to the top of one of the gorge sides and we swiftly made our way to the entrance; quietly we all peered down, to see no elephant. Motioning to the group we settled down to listen. Not much later, we heard the squeal of an elephant cow in oestrus being harassed by a bull. A movement under some nyala trees gave her position away, and we watched the elephant bull's attempts at sweet-talking or cooing, followed by pursuing and eventual harassment! Then the small herd began its move towards our location. This is something I have always wanted - to be standing on top of Hutwini looking down below upon elephant moving through and into the gorge. There were three bulls and two cows, or rather two cows being bullied by three bulls. It is always a great experience and privilege to watch elephant safely from above, as they move obliviously below.
During walks in general, one learns to appreciate the smaller details and may be lucky to see some general game. Recently, every Trail has been a continuous movement of species, as our eyes constantly take in the bounding movements of impala, zebra, nyala and kudu. One of the trails started off with a bang and just kept on going. Imagine that it is your first time in South Africa and your first time on a trail and as you are taken on your very first afternoon walk into the trails camp, your two guides (who both happen to be birding and botany enthusiasts) stop suddenly to ID a shrub they haven't seen or are unsure of. I decided to clamber up a sheer cliff face wall to a ledge that was about two metres off the ground to take a better look at a plant that we would have completely overlooked if it hadn't been flowering. Up I went, with Fraser and the group watching below. I had just reached the very small cliff ledge, which just supported me, when to all of our surprise a booming, heart-wrenching, roaring growl erupted from a leaping tan figure, ten metres in front of me on the same small ledge. The lioness sprang from the ledge, landing in front of the guests and giving them a slight glance (Fraser with rifle in hand) before making haste away from us all. Fraser's classic and typically nonchalant comment -"Well that's why we love botany"- summed up this surreal and incredible encounter.
With knowledge of a new shrub for the Pafuri list (Tetradenia riparia, making it 202 species on our list for 24 000 hectares), we continued on to find that the day had more surprises in store. Fraser stopped the group as we observed the silhouetted shapes of mixed herds of elephant making their way out of Hutwini Gorge and in the direction of the Luvuvhu River. We took up a good vantage point observing as the elephant passed by in the distance from our position. We hadn't been watching them for too long, when one of the herds decided that it would take a detour straight towards us. Fraser and I backed up the group between a huge tree and the cliff-face, hearts beating at faster than normal rates. All quiet, our hearts were in our throats as the herd approached gradually, before starting to feed on the large feverberry in front of our position. We watched in silence, trying to anticipate their next move, as if observing an intense game of chess, when the matriarch rumbled and stopped exactly where our first position had been, before we had made a hasty retreat. Trunks up, rumbling, bunching behaviour by the herd and then off they went in a rush, thankfully in the opposite direction from our very close position that was our safe refuge. Pretty exciting for an afternoon walk and first expedition to camp!
What could the next day present that could possibly top this? Well, maybe standing on top of a rocky outcrop and then watching over 200 elephant move all around in front of you and below? That was what we found the next day, clambering on top of a beautiful sandstone boulder, only to spot that unmistakable grey movement amongst the mopane trees. Through our binoculars their number turned out to be more than 50, or maybe 100. That soon changed when they started moving into the open, and we saw there were 200 below and around our sandstone boulder!
WOW! This has to be said when experiencing sightings like these on foot, which puts a whole different perspective on things.
Another benefit of the Pafuri Trail is the joy of birding easily in a region where bird life is renowned. Often we see the big three birds of prey: the savannah specialist, forest specialist and the mountain specialist, their silhouetted shapes soaring above us or seen regally perched upon a tree or rock. The Martial Eagle preys on small antelope and specialises in monitor lizards; the Crowned Eagle specialises in vervet monkeys and small mammals within its forest haunt, with its short wingspan allowing it to manoeuvre freely between the wooded areas; the Verreaux's Eagle, the black assassin, takes the unsuspecting yellow-spotted hyrax from its mountainous habitat. At least one and sometimes all three of these species are seen during a trail, and these sightings are complemented by those of other fantastic species such as:
- Acacia Pied Barbet
- Green-capped Eremomela
- Yellow-bellied Eremomela
- Black Cuckooshrike
- Grey Penduline Tit
- Grey-rumped Swallow
- Horus Swift
- Böhm's Spinetail
- Mottled Spinetail
- Black throated Wattle-eye (Wattle-eyed Flycatcher)
- Grey headed Parrot
- Retz's Helmet-shrike
Walking through Africa's wilderness areas allows one a chance to appreciate the magic of the environment and gain a real understanding of the complex and intricate ecology of the region. A fantasia of senses is invoked along with a true sense of the wild: both of which are best achieved and experienced on foot.
Guide and author: Walter Jubber
Kings Camp update - August 2010 Jump
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Terrific blue skies and warm days dominated the climatic conditions during the month of August.
The scene is set for spring, which is now on our doorstep. It is wonderful time to be in the bush and the wildlife sightings were fantastic especially the leopard sightings. I could not help myself but to take thousands of images of theses beautiful cats, which I will share with you during this report.
The lion sightings have taken a bit of a decline now that the Kubasa pride has moved further to the west to eliminate contact with 3 strong Ghlathini males from the north. This move created a temporary neutral zone, which allowed other lions to move into this vacant piece of land.
A new pride from the west in the Klaserie known as the Ross pride has been seen several times in near vicinity of the Camp. This is a large pride numbering more than 15 lions in this dynamic team. It includes a total of 9 adult females and 2 large males and the rest are sub-adults.
With this concise prologue I bring to you the wildlife report.
I was lucky enough to capture this rare image of an adult male Serval cat during one of my drives. The first I have taken ever in my career as a wildlife guide.
The Serval Leptailurus servall, is a medium-sized African wild cat. Modern DNA analysis indicates that servals maintain their own unique lineage descending from the same Felid ancestor as the lion, and though the serval shares common traits with the cheetah, it is the cheetah, which is thought to have descended from ancient servals.
Servals have the longest legs of any cat, relative to their body size. Most of this increase in length is due to the greatly elongated metatarsal bones in the feet. The toes are also elongated, and unusually mobile, helping the animal to capture partially concealed prey. Another distinctive feature of the serval is the presence of large ears indicating a particularly acute sense of hearing.
Servals are nocturnal, and so hunt mostly at night. Although the serval is specialized for catching rodents, it is an opportunistic predator whose diet also includes birds, hares, and reptiles. As part of its adaptations for hunting in the savannas, the serval boasts long legs
For jumping, which also help it achieve a top speed of 80 kilometers per hour (50 mph). The long legs and neck allow the serval to see over tall grasses, while its ears are used to detect prey, even those burrowing underground.
The Serval's pounce is a distinctive and precise vertical hop, which may be an adaptation for capturing flushed birds. They are able to leap up to 3.6 meters (12 ft) horizontally from a stationary position, landing precisely on target with sufficient force to stun or kill their prey upon impact. The serval is an efficient killer, catching prey on an average of 50% of attempts (with a 67% success rate at night), compared to around one in ten attempts for most species of cat.
This month most of the cat sightings were focused on the leopards. The bush is rather sparse in vegetation due to the dry season making leopards sightings very good at the moment.
Rockfig jnr and her one surviving female cub are doing very well. Unfortunately her son has not been seen for more than a month now and we are now convinced that he has probably died. Rockfig jnr and her cubs had an unfortunate exchange with the Machattan lion pride one night. One of the Rangers witnessed 2 of the 3 leopards being chased by the lionesses into a huge Acacia tree. We did not physically see the male cub being caught or killed by the lions but we suspect the worst as he was missing the next morning.
He was a very adventurous little guy and was not afraid to wander off miles away from his mom and sister at times.
This is not the first time that the Machattan pride and Rockfig jnr have crossed the same path. In fact they have had several dealings with each other that go back as far as 2004. Interestingly though, more than a year ago Rockfig jnr killed one the Machattan lionesses’ cubs. There is a constant battle for survival and dominance in the African bush between the large predators.
Fortunately, the little female cub has survived and is doing very well. She is growing steadily in size and confidence and has adopted her mother’s safe approach to life. She tends to stay put when she is left on her own for a few days by mom while she is out hunting.
I was fortunate to capture this incredible set of images the cub playing.
Ntombi and her now confirmed male cub were sighted around the camp regularly. She is doing a great job raising her first offspring and providing regular kills for her little one.
Both of them were seen for 10 successive days in and round the camp. During lunch one afternoon, one of our guests called Warren to tell him that there was a leopard and cub at the waterhole drinking. As was expected, it was Ntombi and junior quenching their thirst. She had killed an impala the night before and had stashed the carcass in the riverbed right in front of the camp. The kill lasted her and the cub 3 days of feasting.
Two days later she caught a Steenbuck, which after killing left the carcass right out in the open for the entire day only to return at sunset to begin feeding. I thought that was strange as leopards immediately conceal their prey after a successful hunt. I think she might have been disturbed by something just after she made the kill. What is amazing is that not a single vulture saw the carcass from the sky the entire day. Normally other opportunist feeders in the bush quickly snatch any meat that is left abandoned. Nonetheless it had a good ending and Ntombi later returned to the carcass and secured it below a tree and fed from the carcass for 2 days.
This is a series of images of the cub stalking mom.
The Ross pride
This is one seriously large pride numbering 15 pride members. They are truly a dynamic team and they briefly blessed us with there presence during the month. Although we don’t get to see them daily it is nonetheless a great feeling to have 15 lions move around your game drive vehicle. The pride consists of 9 adult females 4 sub-adults and 2 very impressive males. The 2 males reminded me of the notorious Shobele males that you may remember roamed these parts a few years back. I managed to capture two good images of both males and one can clearly tell from the large manes that both males are fully mature and in their prime. I wonder what the out come would be if they had a territorial exchange with our own Timbavati males. I would think that the Ross males might just win a battle of any kind at the moment
Albert tracked the pride one morning on foot and later told me that he had found an area where the pride had attempted to kill an old male buffalo during the night. From the evidence of tracks, blood and scuff marks in the sand, Albert concluded that the pride had pinned down the old buffalo in the soft river sand and seriously attacked and attempted to kill the buffalo. The buffalo must have somehow escaped this ordeal, as there was no evidence of a dead buffalo anywhere in the vicinity.
That’s all for this month dear friends.
Take care and kind regards from the Kings Camp Rangers and Trackers
Report by Patrick O’Brien Head Guide Kings Camp
Rocktail Beach Camp update - August 2010 Jump
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While you have an idea as to what the weather will bring in August, you can never be quite sure of it. Typically you can expect everything from warm weather to chilly days which suddenly turn very windy at a drop of a hat. This August came with all those promises.
Wildlife and Fishing
This month the water warmed up dramatically and the sea life put on a real show. Whale were particularly generous in the appearances, but it was the whale shark that left guests breathless. See the August dive report for all the exciting seafaring sightings.
Considering that August is not the best time for fishing, we had a fairly good month with kingfish foraging wildly throughout the month. The fish kept a vigil on bait right through the month, which is great as normally they would be halfway to Cape Town at this time of year.
Firstly, the camp had a little cosmetic make over in the form of a new pizza oven! This oven not only promises to produce some incredible pizzas but one can cook almost anything in these little beauties: breads, roasts, stews and casseroles. The children's pizza evening on Wednesday is now an integrated experience, with the children being involved with making the fire, preparing the dough, adding the toppings and firing the pizza. Finally, and certainly not least, eating their tasty morsels.
We didn't stop at the pizza oven though! Children can now also serve themselves with the biggest and best soft-serve ice cream. Adults needn't worry, as they too can help themselves to one of the two flavours.
While pizza and ice-cream are enticing, we've also made Rocktail Beach Camp more accessible. We now have our own fully-fledged transfer vehicle. The vehicle carries up to 8 passengers and is used for transfers to Richards Bay Airport. Enquiries can be made through Reservations in Johannesburg.
Beach Camp is on the verge of a new dawn. Gareth and Liz, the long-standing managers who most of you will know, will be leaving in early October. Gareth and Liz achieved success at Beach Camp with their authentic, professional approach and values. The camp will be very different without them and we wish them the very best of success with their new endeavours.
Rocktail Bay Dive Report - August 2010 Jump
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August is typically a winter month in KwaZulu-Natal but we have had some stunning days of sun and flat seas, with the occasional cold front movement from the Cape. Often bringing big swell and rough sea conditions, these fronts also bring warm, clean water. On average, visibility is between 10 and 15 metres and can clean up to around 18 metres after a cold front has passed through. Water temperature this month hovered between 19 to 21°C, with an increase of a degree or two after each cold front.
At this time of year, the visibility is not that good due to the volume of plankton in the water. But this affords us the opportunity to see plankton feeders. We have had five different sightings of manta ray on the surface and one during a dive at Elusive. Devil rays have also been around and were seen during dives at Elusive and Pineapple Reef. These rays look similar to manta rays, however are much smaller, with a maximum wingspan of one to three metres.
Everyone's favourite filter feeder - the whale shark - did not disappoint this month, with four separate sightings. At the beginning of the month, an eight-metre-long whale shark was spotted with at least twenty remora (suckerfish) accompanying it. The visibility was about 15 metres so we could not have asked for better conditions. Jeff and Lynda had never seen a whale shark before and weren't keen to get into the water, but after some convincing they did. It came so close to Linda that its dorsal fin actually touched her. The couple were all smiles afterwards and could not stop talking about it!
The second sighting was during an Ocean Experience snorkelling trip. The visibility was low, at around 10 metres, but everyone had a great time. Cat even saw a grey reef shark swim past while snorkelling with the whale shark.
The third sighting came after a special request from Dave. Dave and his good friend Alan had been diving with us for three days and had already seen spinner dolphin, humpback whale breaching, guitarfish, grey reef shark, bottlenose dolphin, hawksbill and loggerhead turtle, not to mention all the regular fish life seen on dives! As we headed out to Yellowfin Drop Dave asked when we would see a whale shark as he had never seen one and it was his last diving day. Mich joked with him that perhaps they would spot one on this dive or on the way back to the beach later. As fortune would have it, on the way back Clive spotted a whale shark. Dave initially thought he was joking, however was thrilled to find himself snorkelling with an eight- to nine-metre-long whale shark. In our comment book Dave wrote "Outstanding in all respects. Delivery of a whaleshark on time, was particularly impressive! Thank you all." Leonie who was completing her PADI Open Water Course and had just completed her first dive was part of the group. Not only did Leonie see this whale shark but she snorkelled with a second one two days later.
The humpback whales are now heading south, back home to the Antarctic. We first see them travelling northwards, mating along the way so that the females have their calves in the warmer waters as they travel to Madagascar. We tend to see them further out to sea during the northward leg of their migration and closer to shore as they travel home with their young, possibly to try and keep the calves out of harm's way from ocean-going predators.
This month we've seen groups of two to three whales breaching, some resting and rolling around on their backs waving their pectoral fins at us and some groups travelling, funny enough, northwards. They are either migrating late or perhaps hanging around having fun, whilst waiting for other whales to catch up.
On a rather choppy day out at sea we saw a whale breaching towards the horizon. We travelled towards it when Clive spotted it south of where we were heading. We joined it and sat watching the lone juvenile swimming around the boat, first coming to the surface to breathe and then disappearing. We were all looking toward the front of the boat where it went under, only to be surprised by a breach at the back of the boat! This juvenile seemed to want the boat to play with it as it moved around us.
Another day to remember was when we spotted a group of spinner dolphins and whales travelling together. We were planning to dive at Pineapple Reef and we saw them just north of Island Rock. We quickly climbed into the boat and travelled northwards towards them. We passed Pineapple Reef and headed all the way to Elusive all the while watching one of the whales breaching time and again. We sat for quite a while watching the group of three humpback whales travelling with the spinner dolphins jumping alongside them.
Other exciting encounters with big ocean creatures included bottlenose dolphins hunting garfish, a minke whale swimming in amongst tuna - possibly hunting the smaller bait fish that the tuna were also pursuing, a mother and baby humpback and dolphin travelling together and a sailfish jumping clear out of the water!
Not forgetting the smaller fish, Cat found two very exciting critters this month; a purple weedy scorpionfish at Gogo's and a red frogfish at Yellowfin Drop.
Even though August is still a winter month we have had a few sightings of creatures that we traditionally see during summer months; a guitarfish, a leopard shark and a tawny nurse shark! We can't wait to see what next month brings.
Congratulations to the following divers:
- Cat, Jess and Tom Watkins, Jolenne and Maaike van Dam, Odile Broussy, Alex Masson, Amelia Schoemann, Phillip Farlow and Wendy van Niekerk for completing their PADI Discover Scuba Diving.
- Leonie Burden for completing her PADI Open Water Course.
Makalolo Plains update - August 2010 Jump
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Spring is on the way. The mornings are still fairly cold and everyone makes good use of their fleeces, but these are soon shed. The wind has blown this month and some days have been quite blustery with leaves blowing across the camp. The skies at night are very clear.
Landscape and Vegetation
The bush continues to dry up and the dust surrounding the pans is now littered with elephant dung. The trees hold a mixture of green, brown and yellow leaves with most of the brown leaves being torn off by the August winds, leaving a golden-brown carpet across the Kalahari sand. There are a few plants that have started to sprout new leaves and the camelthorns have begun their first flushes of green with splashes of yellow flowers.
There have been a number of special sightings this month, with several rare species seen including oryx, wild dog and aardwolf. Game drives have been particularly exciting with one group of guests seeing two lion prides including cubs, cheetah on a kill and a leopard on their first day. Porcupines and striped polecats have also been sighted a few times.
As the surrounding bush dries, more and more animals are visiting the pans in front of camp. Kudu, zebra, wildebeest and waterbuck have been seen regularly at these pans. We have also had a small herd of sable, a few roan, a lone male buffalo and eland visiting more often than in the previous few months. The numbers of elephant in front of camp are steadily increasing and they are coming into camp more often as well.
Two male lions have been heard and spotted several times in front of camp. They pass through on their way to Little Somavundla. The hyaena have also been out in full force recently and are sighted almost every day, coming into camp often.
The elephants have been coming to drink from the pool almost every day, which is always a thrill for everyone, especially when they arrive during the guests' private poolside dinners.
Birding in the concession has been very good with the return of the Wahlberg's eagles and yellow-billed kites. An immature martial eagle was spotted chasing a steenbok early one morning at Little Somavundla and two blacksmith plovers were seen attacking a buffalo, pecking its nose. Another highlight was the sighting of ostrich with nine chicks.
Guest Comments and Highlights
So warm and friendly, with so many amazing little touches and attention to detail.
Watching the sunset at Mbiza, dinner under the Zimbabwean sky with the elephants, warm towels after every guided tour, and most of all, the warm welcome by the Makalolo Team - Judith
Everyone on your team worked hard to make our stay memorable. You have set the standard for what game viewing should be. - Marcia
Management - Caro, Jeremy and Tammy
Pro-guides - Godfrey, Bryan, Obert and Dickson
Learner Guides - Jeremy, Bulisani, Mduduzi, Lewis, Dennis, Douglas
Trainee Guide - Richard
Hostesses - Kate, Cynthia and Tracy
Makalolo Team - Alois, Andrew, Charles, Chris, David, Emmanuel, Ephraim, Fazo, Ishmael, Jerry, Jordan, Konani, Last, Malaki, Mgcini, Mpikelelo, Nathan, Nyajani, Robson, Seliot, Starr, Thembelani
Environmental - Jaelle
Central Stores - Charmain, Cosam and Leonard
Tailor - Stanley
Workshop - Todd, Mawa, Justin, Casper, Cornellius, Thabani, Victor
Construction - Elliot M, Elliot T, Dumisani, Mgcini
Little Makalolo update - August 2010 Jump
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Climate and Temperature
The beginning of the month brought with it the warmth that is associated with this time of the year; but just as we had packed away our heavy winter woollies we got a chilly surprise. Encountering drastic differences between the early morning crispness and the sweltering midday heat, the month saw a minimum temperature of 2.5°C and maximum of 34.4°C. The small splash pool gives one the perfect opportunity to cool off during the much needed siesta times. We've also had to hang onto our hats this month due to the wind. While it tends to deposit sand in almost every nook and cranny, it is not unwelcome as it cools things off nicely.
Landscape and Vegetation
Leaves cover the ground like a coloured quilt at this time of the year while the trees lie naked waiting for the change in season to revitalise their branches. The false mopane creates the illusion of an oasis with their green leaves standing out against a dull back drop. Haze caused by the dust particles and smoke from natural bush fires have left us with breathtaking sunrises and sunsets.
It has been another busy month at Little Makalolo. There have been many different lion sightings, becoming more frequent towards the end of the month. The Back Pans pride has a new member of family. The one-month-old cub, according to many, looks like a baby kitten. He has only just joined the pride, having just come out of hiding where his mother has been keeping him safe during his most vulnerable time. The pride now has five healthy cubs.
The Ngweshla Pride, boasting eight fast-growing cubs, are also keeping up appearances. The two male lions that protect this pride are doing their fair share of roaming in their territory as there are three new males on the block. They are believed to be the offspring of the legendary Ngamo Boys, the fierce coalition that roamed these parts two years ago. The three youngsters are trying to stay out of the line of fire from both the Ngweshla and Back Pan prides and have found a middle ground at Little Makalolo. The night before we found these lion feeding on a kill, the guides were telling the guests how rare it was to see lion preying on sable. Sable are vicious and fight using their lethal horns. The lions defiantly proved us wrong as we found them feasting on this very antelope the following day! Due to the close proximity of the kill we were a little worried that our regular camp sable might have been the meal that the lions were now digesting, so with bated breath we waited for him to come down for his habitual afternoon drink. Luckily we were not disappointed as he made his appearance.
The cheetah has been turning heads as he graces the plains around waterholes. He has offered good photography opportunities as he's often been spotted perched on termite mounds. He was seen hunting on numerous occasions, although more attempts were witnessed than kills. However, one afternoon Lewis was fortunate enough to come across the cheetah scouting the plains. After spending a bit of time admiring the cat he noticed a sudden change in his behaviour, and noticed that he was eyeing out one of the young wilderbeest in a nearby herd. Seconds after Lewis informed the guests, the cheetah broke into full hunting mode and successfully caught its dinner. Once cheetah have made a kill they cannot eat immediately as they must wait for their heart rate to settle before beginning their feast. This was the case here, with the cheetah giving the guests some brilliant viewing opportunities. Lewis returned in the morning to see if there had been any other activity overnight as cheetah are well known for losing their prey to other predators. Clearly the cheetah had not been bothered by scavengers as they found him in the same place having devoured his meal.
Although hyaena are relatively common at Little Makalolo their numbers increased for a while around camp. We had around nine of them gorging themselves on a dead elephant for over a week. They were seen almost every evening with full fat bellies cooling off in the front pan. Being much smaller than the elephants that frequent the pan they would have to cut bathtime short on a few occasions to let the elephants fill the space they once occupied.
Our guests have been lucky enough to have some fantastic antelope sightings of which includer roan, gemsbok and reedbuck. Reedbuck are uncommon in these parts as they prefer the swampy areas with longer grass. The guides have been excited to see them around Little Samavundla and Ngweshla as the habitat in both areas is pretty limited.
122 different species of birds have been spotted this month.
The highlight was the sighting of a White Pelican. This is a protected species and although they are known to appear in these areas they are by no means a common sighting. White Pelicans breed in Botswana and there is no known knowledge of them breeding here in Zimbabwe so we are lucky that they popped in for a visit.
Yellow-billed Kite, the first migratory bird to make an appearance this year, are once again soaring our skies. Ever the opportunists, they have been seen on numerous carcasses and hovering over waterholes in search of small creatures.
A few other species that need a mention this month are sightings of the Three-banded Courser and the White-headed Vulture. There was a recorded sighting of a Brown-headed Parrot which while not uncommon, is rarely seen. Although the Bradfield's Hornbill is stated as uncommon, we are fortunate enough to have regular sightings of them, sometimes even frequenting our main lounge area.
It is always a pleasure to end a day with a call from a distant Pearl-spotted Owl. It is the smallest of the owls and has one of the most soothing calls - a Little Makalolo Lullaby.
Staff in Camp
The Little Makalolo team have been busy bees this month. Throughout the month we had Charmaine in as manager, assisted by Sibs. Charles and Lewis have been out in the field and keeping up the brilliant sightings. We were also joined this month by one of the old Wilderness "Dagga Boys" - a big thanks to Dickson who came in for a few weeks to help out with our guiding. Doggie, as always, made an enthusiastic appearance during the month. We would like to welcome Bulisani to the team as he has joined us as a guide at the beginning of the month. Kim and Shayne ensure that all thirsts are quenched, tummies filled creating smiles all round!
What a fantastic adventure! My sons and I have been treated royally in every aspect - hospitality, courteousness and delightful company. We have been pampered in everything - hot water bottles included and siestas... It will be difficult to adapt to life back home. Many thanks to all the staff - especially Kim & Shayne & Charmaine. As a profession, you all deserve A+. Our appreciation goes to Brian, our guide, who knew about all matters - nature & the country & "life". We are forever grateful to you all for making this an unforgettable experience in our treasure chest of life's memories! - Alyse, Jay & Brad (USA)
We have had such an amazing 3 days with you. Thank you so much for everything. Following the 6 lions up the road at sunset was just incredible! We will treasure our memories from here forever! - Fiona, Andrew, Hannah & Alexander (NY USA)
A truly amazing experience! Wonderful staff, extraordinary camp and environment, delicious food! Thanks to our guide Dickson who shared his amazing knowledge and entertained us. Thanks to all the staff for their warm and friendly welcome. Most of all thanks to all those incredible animals which delighted us throughout our stay!- Derek & Annette (Wales)
Davison's Camp update - August 2010
August was typically windy and the dust devils tore the dead leaves from the trees and deposited them in all corners of the camp. The temperatures were wildly variable with a low of 1.5 degrees Celsius and a high of 32.5 at the end of the month. The wind made the air hazy at times which resulted in the most gorgeous sunrises and sunsets.
Vegetation, Landscape and Water
The landscape is a hazy panorama of washed out brown and grey as it waits for the first rain in the rising heat. The large false mopane and teak trees maintain their glossy green garments while the mopane seeds are falling in abundance and carpeting the ground in bright red and russet. The African ordeal, and kudu berry trees still hold some of their winter foliage - auburn, burnt orange and yellow. The harvester termites are making short work of the desiccated grasses, while the Kalahari sands continue to consume what little remains of the tawny undergrowth.
The pans are looking low with more mud and less water - a result of the herds of 500 buffalo that come down to drink on most evenings and the numerous herds of elephants that do the same.
The highlight of the month was a day when we saw all of the big cats.
The morning started with a cheetah sighted in a place of beautiful ilala palms and numerous little waterholes. We spotted him lying on a termite mound in the shade of one of the palm trees. He was watching a herd of wildebeest, weighing up his options. A little while later, he stood up to stalk the unsuspecting herd. When he had a clear line, he began his chase. A cheetah is much faster than a wildebeest but the herbivores can often evade a chasing cat with skilful dodging and size. This cheetah, running at a terrific speed and using his tail as a rudder, managed to separate a sub-adult from the herd. He caught up with it and flicked its back legs. The antelope crashed down in a clown of dust. Before it could recover the cat was at its throat. He eventually suffocated the hapless beast, breathing heavily through his nose while his jaws closed the wildebeest's windpipe. When he had recovered from the exertion, he settled down to eat.
On the afternoon game drive, we found a pride of lions in the long, golden grass. The male and one of the cubs were making short work of an adult buffalo carcass. The three females and the other three cubs were lying in the grass a little way off, their distended bellies heaving. In the same area, we saw a large group of hippo that live in the Makalolo Pan chasing a pride of lion who evidently got too close for comfort. It is hard to imagine hippo moving with great speed but when they deem it necessary they can crank up quite a pace.
In the evening, on the way back to camp, we found a beautiful young female leopard snoozing on the track, completely unperturbed by the vehicles. She allowed her photo to be taken by the excited guests and then slowly melted into the bush.
Other highlights from night drives have included striped polecats with their striking black and white fur and a few honey badgers.
With the arrival of warmer weather, various migrants have returned.
A striking male kori bustard was observed walking with purpose in an open vlei. His spectacular long neck feathers were fluffed out and his throat inflated, bill slightly open. His crest was raised in a very fashionable kori manner, his gait proud and confident as he fanned his tail and drooped his wings. Every now and again he would stop, pose elegantly and give his far-carrying, booming call. We then spotted three females on a termite mound nearby.
They seemed uninterested in the display as they fed. Eventually one of them occasionally checked him out without the other two noticing. When chemistry and sparks seemed to be about to hit the air between the two bustards, the male changed direction and headed into the bush. We were all very confused as was the female no doubt.
A pair of purple rollers entertained us one brunch time by catching a scorpion from the surrounding grass and flying up into the tree above the dining room. We watched in awe as the bird, holding the scorpion by the leg, bashed it against the branch. The scorpion then disappeared down the bird's gullet. We waited to see if the roller would experince any adverse effects but it didn't seem bothered at all.
Spring is definitely in the air as the red-headed weavers are changing from their eclipse plumage into their breeding finery. The yellow-billed kites are back in the area and have been seen soaring through the clear blue skies.
Game drives were always fun and exciting. We learned something new about the environment, animal behaviour etc. This experience far exceeded our expectations! The staff were so personable. We were pampered and spoiled. The staff were eager to please us. - USA
Would love to keep all this a secret but I guess we have to share it with others! - USA
All the animals! Chilling out in the lounge watching the water hole. Finding bed time stories at night. Finding champagne in our room (thank you so much!) Great stories at supper time. Very friendly and relaxed staff. - UK
The walking trails - a great joy to be able to enjoy the earth and the animals. - France
Ruckomechi Camp update - August 2010 Jump
to Ruckomechi Camp
After last week's spell of cold weather, temperatures seem to be warming up. Although we still need a fleece in the early morning, after a few hours it is warm and sunny. The highest temperature recorded this week was 32 degrees Celsius and days have been bright clear and sunny with the usual August winds. Across the Zambezi River, Zambian fires are continuing to burn throughout the day creating a thick haze and leaving the Zambian escarpment almost a blur but at the same time providing spectacular sunsets.
Another pangolin has been seen this week, making it our seventh sighting this season! A large pride of twelve lion were spotted too. Their stomachs were very full as they relaxed in the Ruckomechi Riverbed with their two young cubs. Wild dog were also seen twice - both times it was the small pack of three.
With the vegetation dying down, the camp has become quite bare, revealing carpets of spoor in the mornings. We now have a resident pair of honey badgers that are often seen foraging around camp and impressing us all with their tree climbing skills. The elusive leopard has been heard, tracks have been seen in camp, but is nowhere to be found.
Elephants are everywhere. With the albidas dropping their pods and branches they are in camp daily feeding and swimming across the river to the islands.
Eland and buffalo have become common spectacles as they are moving towards the river to drink and have been seen every day this week. A huge breeding herd of some 40 eland was seen providing guests with beautiful photographs and insight on the strong bonds between mothers and calves in this species.
Bird sightings this week have included the beautiful carmine, little and white-fronted bee-eaters, all frequenting the river banks and flitting about in a collage of colours. A western banded snake-eagle was seen perched on a rain tree overlooking the activities at Parachute Pan. The guides have been watching a lappet-faced vulture's nest in a baobab on the Nyamepi Road, hoping to see some hatchlings, but unfortunately the nest fell out of the tree this week with no evidence of eggs.
Vegetation and Weather
The vegetation in the last four weeks has really started to succumb to the warmer summer temperatures. The riverine vegetation does not have the ability to provide the same refuge to its inhabitants as in the winter months. The albida trees are heavily laden with their precious flourish of seed pods, and they will surely start to shed their nutritious fruits in the coming weeks. The mopane areas at the top end of the concession are now much warmer, barren and windswept after the winds of August gusted up the river.
We had had particularly great sightings of leopard, pangolin and honey badger. Read more about the pangolin here. Leopard were sighted for four nights in a row towards the end of the month. The lion sightings have also been good, although our 'usual' pride has appeared to slink away into the thick cover of the floodplain as we witnessed the arrival of another large pride of 11, which we saw on and off over a period of two weeks. This new pride is largely made up of females, along with two maneless males and two young cubs. Initially they were very wary of our game drive vehicles, but now seem to be more relaxed and tolerant.
Buffalo have also been spotted this month; a large herd, 100 or so strong, has been seen around the airstrip and the more common herd of 70 or so buffalo has also been sighted around the camp. The large eland herd is often seen up in the Palm Block area as are the large herds of kudu. They are very relaxed and we have been fortunate to get really close to these animals without them becoming skittish.
From the river we have seen the Carmine Bee-eaters nesting above the harbour. These birds arrived on the 8th of August and have settled into two spots of the bank. These birds are a beautiful sight during an afternoon boat cruise and we look forward to having them around for the rest of the season. The elephant have spent a lot of time on the islands in front of camp and we often see them swimming during brunch, which is always a hit with our guests. As the albidas start to shed their pods, so too do the elephant start spending more time roaming through the camp.
We are all very excited about the arrival of three new Land Rovers, which have definitely added an improved sense of comfort to our game drive experience.
We look forward to the coming months, when the remaining inland pans will dry up, and game will increase as animals concentrate along the river and the floodplain. We are also preparing for the hotter months. Our Ruckomechi swimming pool is up and running again, providing a fantastic way to pass a warm afternoon, drink in hand and reflecting on another beautiful day on the banks of the Zambezi.
This month Graeme handed over management duties to Carel and Juliette as he headed down to Tuli to help coordinate the Zimbabwean leg of the annual Tour de Tuli Cycle Ride, which raises money for Children in the Wilderness. It involved an incredible amount of hard work and logistical planning for over 400 cyclists and was an amazing event to be a part of. As Graeme says, "It was great to be involved firsthand in Children in the Wilderness on the fundraising side and then to have the opportunity to work in our camps cocoordinating the week-long camps for the little kids; it's great to see where all the hard work and effort goes to; it's a very rewarding feeling."
The Ruckomechi team continues to deliver the best possible safari experience. Our guides, Kevin, Sean, Henry and Tendayi, have been out each day in search of creatures, great and small, elusive and common, while sharing their knowledge and interpretation of life out in the bush with our guests from all corners of the world! The hostesses, Carly and Clea, have gone out of their way to ensure that our guests are treated to the best in outside dining experiences, island cocktails and bush brunches, always with a gleaming smile!
Mana Canoe Trail update - August 2010 Jump
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Toka Leya Camp update - August 2010 Jump
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How versatile can a month be? Along the banks of the fourth largest river system in Africa, the weather, animal life and activities have been just spectacular.
Other than three very frosty mornings in the middle of the month, winter seems to have left us completely. The daily maximum average was 27 degrees Celsius and the minimums around 10 degrees. August also delivered typical gentle breezes throughout the month.
With rains still far in the future, the Zambezi River has continued to drop. As such, new sandbanks, grasses and rocks are exposed for the returning migratory birds to exploit.
Though everybody is still waiting in excitement for the first rock prantincole to arrive, we have had some excellent birding this month. We watched African jacanas eating insects and aquatic larvae on the freshly exposed sand banks around Long Island. Another highlight on Long Island was a black-crowned night heron stalking around the water's edge.
August has produced a long list of interesting mammal sightings just within the camp. The highlight was a rare sighting of three wild dogs at the camp grounds one evening. They were spotted by a staff member walking from the back of house to Tent 1 - they nearly ran into him.
Early in the month, a small herd of elephants consisting of four adults and one calf ate their breakfast on a small peninsula just ten metres from the beach and lounge area. We watched from the camp lounge while adults quietly ate from the green leaves and the calf tried to make his trunk do what he wanted it to. Later in the month, a much larger herd made its way into camp and devoured much of the new green foliage while we all watched fascinated.
Then in the middle of the month, a herd of some 130 buffalo arrived in the camp. They were followed by four giraffe and a group of 60 impala. The rooms on the west of the camp were surrounded by animals at sunset. Later, the group of buffalo proceeded right up to the bar and swimming pool where guests watched them, stunned, while enjoying their sundowners.
This month, we were lucky to see three spectacular moonbows (lunar rainbows). Normally these are only produced during the full moon. True moonbows appear white and are fully lit by the moon itself. August offered three great chances to witness the phenomenon near the Victoria Falls. Only very few places on earth offer this natural spectacle!
What a fabulous place to end our two week trip to Africa! Each camp we have stayed at has been delightful and special. You have great staff and made us feel welcomed and 'at home' from the moment we arrived. How sad we have to leave soon. Hope to return some day! - Blackstone Family, USA
Thank you for the hospitality, wonderful tours, great accomodations and BEAUTIFUL scenery and animals etc. - Jasinski family, USA
Fantastic adventure - the lunar rainbow was once in a lifetime. We appreciated all the tender, love and care we received at Toka Leya! - Weston family, USA
Lufupa River Camp update - August 2010 Jump
to Lufupa River Camp
Morning temperatures rose nicely in mid-August following a brief cold spell at the beginning of the month. Midday temperatures climbed to a pleasant 30 degrees Celsius. A constant breeze really makes this a comfy time of year. Fortunately at 1100m above sea level, we are quite a bit higher than the Lower Zambezi and Luangwa Valleys, and so we don't experience the blistering heat, and the nights are always mild.
The bush has thinned further with the progression of the dry season, providing us with excellent visibility for game viewing. The four-leaved bush willows have added a bright green flash to the bush as their new leaves have started to sprout. Newly-flowering trees such as the rain tree and the knobthorns have added purples and yellows to the scenery.
The Lufupa leopards have been exceptional this month. On one occasion, we came across three leopard feeding off of the same carcass - a fully grown male and female as well as a sub-adult male were happy to share the remains of a puku - unusual behaviour indeed.
The highlight of the month however went to a female leopard found on the road shortly after dusk. She appeared to be on the hunt, stalking some nearby impala.
All lights off!
A few minutes later everyone heard the action as the leopard successfully caught and killed the unfortunate ungulate. Moments later, before the young female had a chance to even open the carcass, three wild dogs came running onto the scene to steal the kill. Not wanting to risk injury, the huntress gracefully climbed a nearby tree. After quickly consuming most of the impala the wild dogs headed for the Lufupa River to quench their thirst. Sensing her opportunity the leopard shot down the tree and grabbed what little remained of her kill and in a flash was back up the tree where she fed in peace. The wild dogs tried to stop her but she was too quick - a once-in-a-lifetime sighting for guests and guides!
Following the intrusion of the new male lions last month, the females and remaining cubs have been hard to spot. A young coalition of two beautiful three-year-old male lions made the surrounding area home, and in recent weeks was seen often.
The elephant herds are increasing in numbers as they concentrate with the remaining water along the Lufupa and Kafue Rivers. Our two resident bulls have been in the camp almost every day to shake the fruit off the northern lala palms. They have provided hours of entertainment for everyone.
As predicted the warthog piglets have arrived in great numbers, with every family group seen having at least two or three babies. A highlight at the end of the month was seeing a baby porcupine for the very first time one evening. It was feeding on a fallen flower from a sausage tree.
The yellow-billed kites also arrived from East Africa at the beginning of August. They will be nesting soon and will spend the summer with us. Throughout September we will be keeping our eyes on the skies as we await the rest of the summer migrants.
Lufupa Tented Camp update - August 2010 Jump
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Kalamu Lagoon Camp update - August 2010 Jump
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We started the month with the anti-poaching/research micro-light flights. This has been fantastic and everyone has loved the familiarisation flights we have taken to show Mac the pilot and the staff the area from above. Drifting down the Luangwa at low level, it was amazing to see how unafraid the animals are. The myriad hippos didn't even twitch an ear!
Matt from the Zambia Carnivore Project made several tracking flights and found a number of denning wild dog packs. We were lucky enough to join him on a hyaena count one night with eight guests. This was fantastic - apart from the thousand-decibel "dying pig" soundtrack used to call the scavengers in!
The other purpose of the micro-light is anti-poaching and we've completed a number of tests. Two of us acted as the poachers and the pilot and spotter then tried to find us from the air - hide and seek in South Luangwa with a twist.
The month started off with very cool temperatures but as we moved towards the end of the month the pool became more and more popular with the waning cold. A number of guests have enjoyed the warmer weather with bush dinners and nights out at Kalamu Star-Beds.
Kalamu Star-beds Camp has continued to be tremendously popular and we hope this trend will continue given that it was featured in the British Airways in-flight magazine as one of the "top five places to go camping".
The predator highlight of the month was provided by a mating pair of leopards who lay in the road and went about their business repeatedly one evening. Back in camp, a pride of lion visited one night. They spent the evening hanging around Tent 8. A little while later, a large group of guests arrived from the Calgary Zoo and they were treated to the sight of three young lions hunting warthog on the airstrip as they landed.
Stumpy, the elephant who spends his days in camp, continues to delight as he wanders about belting palm trees, chasing hippo and baboon and making life difficult for staff. We have also had a great time watching elephant mud-bathing opposite the deck.
On the birding front, things seem to be getting drier so the birds gather regularly at the lagoon. Keen birders took photos of African skimmers and myriad other species in the drying lagoon.
We all lent a hand in a makeover of the research room this month, and it really looks great. Those not involved with the research room spent their spare time building a home for our new airplane.
How do you make perfect better? WandJ from Canada
Everything was amazing, Mwila was an incredible guide.
RandR from USA
Everything was just wonderful, the staff were extremely good and the food was excellent.
J and L from UK
Managers: Julia, Mavis and Gilmour
Guides: Luckson, Sandy, Mwila and Simonga (Trainee)
Shumba Camp update - August 2010 Jump
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August was windy. The winds cooled the temperature making the days lovely and blustery but still sun drenched and very pleasant. The mornings are still chilly but do not carrying the icy blast of winter. Springtime is just around the corner. The windblown sunsets have been an array of spectacular oranges and purples, cutting into the earth slowly and presenting glorious skies in the evenings.
Regular sightings have included red lechwe, impala, puku and some portly hippo. There has also been a very large herd of buffalo (550 or so strong) in the area and they are quite a sight to behold as they thunder across the plains.
A lioness has fallen away from the Busanga Pride. She is old and has now been hunting alone for more than a week. She has started to hunt porcupines which are often the preserve of old lions and the other day we found her in the shade of a fig tree with the remains of her prickly meal all around.
The birding highlight of the month was provided by some rare and endangered lappet-faced vultures. We spotted them dropping just in front of the camp. Examination with binoculars revealed that they were feeding on the carcass of lechwe calf. We are not sure how the young animal died and although these endangered vultures have been observed killing their own prey, they did not seem to be the responsible ones in this instance.
Our guide Sam was extremely passionate and knowledgeable and gave experienced Safari guests new insights. The Camp Management were super!
Knowledge and wisdom of the guide. Hospitality, generosity and kindness of the staff. Great food, cooking was extraordinary, best in the world!
Idos is an amazing guide - thank you so much! Was some awesome birds + the lions were such an amazing end to a trip. Balloon Safari was spectacular too - thank you!
Thank you so much for this great experience! We find everything at the lodge welcoming & warm and the game drives very insightful. Don't change, we will be back!
GM: Daniella Ponter
Camp Manager (s): Mulenga Pwapwa
Trainee Manager: Chipasha Mwamba
Guides: Idos, Lexon and Brent
Kapinga Camp update - August 2010 Jump
to Kapinga Camp
Kapinga Camp has now been open for just over a month, having welcomed its first guests of the season on the 22nd of July. It has been a busy few weeks with lots happening in and around camp, and we are now getting into the full swing of the season!
Weather and Water Levels
Things started off rather chilly on the Busanga Plains, but everyone soon learned to wear enough layers to keep warm on cold morning game drives! Fortunately it seems to be warming up, and the cold morning chill has begun to lift over the last week or so. The days have also warmed up nicely, with temperatures already reaching over 30°C on some days. Our swimming pool was used by a guest for the first time yesterday, proving that spring is indeed on its way.
The plains were still quite wet when the camp opened six weeks ago, with vehicles being unable to cross the channel from the forest to Kapinga Island. Over the weeks it has dried up considerably, and our vehicles are now able to drive on various tracks that were too wet until recently. This has been fantastic for not only for the increase in the number of road networks available for our game drives, but also for getting supplies in and out of camp. It has also resulted in the return to the plains of wildlife that had moved to other areas during the wet season.
The Busanga Plains are well known for their lions, and three prides have been seen quite regularly over the past few weeks. These prides consist of the Busanga Pride, the Papyrus Pride and the Treetops Pride. Everyone was very happy to see the Busanga Pride with two cubs, estimated to be about five or six months old. Unfortunately, the old Busanga lioness is not as strong as she used to be, and spends much of her time alone and separate to the rest of the pride. She was seen recently with a hedgehog kill, and later that night walked straight through our camp, out past Tent 2 and back onto the plains. We are very excited to have a lion researcher currently based at Kapinga; Neil will be researching the Kafue lions for his PhD study, and we look forward to learning more about the lions through his findings. Read more about the Kafue Lion Project here.
The elephant have been out in full force, with large herds of up to about 50 seen often. They seem to thoroughly enjoy the vegetation that makes up Kapinga Island, and we are often able to watch the herds from the main area of the camp. Game drives are seldom quiet, as they try show who is boss and trumpet at each and every passing vehicle!
We recently had our first sighting of cheetah, with three seen on the edge of the plains, and we hope sightings will start to become more frequent now that the plains are drying up.
A very exciting addition to both Kapinga Camp as well as the other camps in the Busanga Plains has been the introduction of hot air ballooning. The first official flight was on the 1st of August, and the excitement of watching the balloon being inflated, followed by the unbelievable experience of floating over the plains is incredible. We have had a huge amount of positive feedback from guests who say this truly adds another dimension to their safari experience. The staff are also very excited about it, and love to run to the deck early in the morning to watch the multi-coloured balloon floating over the trees in the distance. The balloon trip is followed by a traditional champagne bush breakfast, which has also proven to be very popular. Special thanks to Paul, our balloon pilot, and his wife Andree, who have been a welcome addition to the team at Kapinga.
We look forward to September and all that it brings to this very beautiful part of the world.
"Thank you for birthday parties, balloons, helicopters, best guide, lions, gorgeous scenery. We were so fortunate to have been here with all of you. You have spoiled us. We love every one of you. We will miss you." - David and Pati, USA
"What a wonderful stay we had at Kapinga. The staff were excellent and we will keep this stay as one of our nicest moments in Africa. Thanks for being so welcoming." - Pedro and Fatima, Portugal
"We have thoroughly enjoyed every minute of our stay at Kapinga. We will always remember your wonderful hospitality and the stunning Kafue National Park. And ballooning over the plains was an amazing experience (getting stuck afterwards was only an opportunity to enjoy Isaac's sense of humour!). Thanks for everything." - Alain, Josiane & Sophie, France
"Our first time in Africa - first safari - unforgettable experience! Our gratitude and compliments to the entire staff. All charming, gracious, generous, humble. Isaac - best possible guide in every way. Thank you!" - Gary & Judi, USA
"Amazing scenery, good wildlife and excellent guiding made this a perfect end to a wonderful trip to Zambia. Thank you for the hospitality." - Brett and Megan, USA
Busanga Bush Camp update - August 2010 Jump
to Busanga Bush Camp
It's spring time on the Busanga Plains. Day temperatures have been warm ranging from 23 degrees Celsius to 31 degrees and cooling off to 12 degrees at night. The green of early summer is beginning to permeate the brown and beige of winter.
The Busanga plains have been a hive of activity this month. Lion sightings this month have been extraordinary with many visits to the camp. A pride killed a warthog just 12 metres from our Land Rover. The unfortunate pig was killed and devoured in 15 minutes.
We have also had a number of magical camp visits from a massive elephant bull. He gave us hours of joy and a number of challenges as we had to find innovative routes to the kitchen, tents and main area.
The plains in front of camp are teaming with buffalo, cheetah, zebra, Lichtenstein's hartebeest, roan, blue wildebeest and some of the summer bird migrants that have returned from other places in the world.
Other interesting sightings included a martial eagle killing an open-billed stork and the return of the three cheetah brothers which have been away from the area for a while.
Wow! You are the greatest, thank you Busanga Bush camp for the memories.
Friendly staff, nice camp and lovely food.
I left my heart here!
Solly and Kawanga
Mvuu Camp update - August 2010 Jump
to Mvuu Camp
Predation Gone Wrong
On one of our game drives into the mopane woodlands of Liwonde National Park, we experienced a spectacular sighting of a western-banded snake-eagle with its reptilian prey. Driving along the edge of the forest, we spotted a raptor lying on the floor. On closer inspection, we saw that it was a snake-eagle with a snake twisted around its body. Both animals seemed to be dead. The neck of the snake showed extensive lacerations from the eagle's sharp talons.
Richard prodded the seemingly lifeless body of the bird with a stick. Suddenly the snake-eagle swung its head round, leapt to its feet and flew into the nearest tree with the snake in its claws. It then dropped the snake which then gingerly crawled into the undergrowth and disappeared.
We examined one of the guest's photographs and identified the snake as a rufous-beaked snake. This is a diurnal species with a distinctive hooked 'beak' and tell-tale dark stripe extending through the eye. The raptor, possibly a young or inexperienced adult, may have gauged its attack incorrectly, not killing its quarry on impact resulting in the snake being able to turn and bite its tormentor.
The mild venom that these snakes carry probably stunned the eagle temporarily and it only revived around the time the Land Rover happened to be passing by.
This month we had the most stunning wedding at the old cormorant colony on the floodplains of the Shire River. The pristine wilderness that surrounds Mvuu is a unique setting for this special occasion. On the afternoon of the wedding, guests and groom were transported to the bush venue in decked out Land Rovers.
The bride and her father arrived by ferry. As they walked down the petal-strewn aisle, the village choir sang beautifully. The altar was flanked and decorated with lala palm leaves and the only sound heard during the ceremony was the satisfied grunts from nearby hippos. After the ceremony, we all returned to the lodge for champagne and a very special candle-lit wedding dinner.
Kind souls often approach Wilderness Safaris and ask how they can become involved in volunteer work. Nanthomba School near Mvuu Camp has been built and continues to be assisted by H.E.L.P. Malawi, a US-based NGO. H.E.L.P. Malawi has now created a volunteer page on Idealist.org.
Desert Rhino Camp update - August 2010 Jump
to Desert Rhino Camp
For most of the month, it has been hot - regularly reaching 37 degrees Celsius. The last week of the month saw a cold front move in however. The ponchos came out and the fires were lit as the fog rolled in off the Atlantic and bathed Damarland in chilly mist until 09h00.
Wildlife and landscape
For the past two weeks an old and injured giraffe bull has been hanging around the camp, possibly because he feels it is safe. We have had some wonderful opportunities to photograph this beautiful animal in the setting sun.
This month saw the implementation of a new strategy for finding and viewing the rhino at Desert Rhino Camp. This became necessary because the rhino were moving further and further from the camp, for unknown reasons. With the help of the Save the Rhino Trust, we divided the concession into three sectors. We now track these great animals only in one sector at a time. The results have been encouraging and we have already seen two big bulls very close to camp since we began. Ben, one of the dominant bulls, was found sleeping next to the airstrip one afternoon and Don't Worry was seen dozing in a river bed just 800 metres from camp.
Rhino viewing has been excellent in general. We had a spectacular sighting of a cow and her brand-new calf the other day.
The predator highlight of the month came from a male leopard. We first found a dead ostrich and on investigating the scene of the crime, we found leopard tracks. There was still blood dripping from enormous bird, so we retreated to watch from distance. Eventually an enormous male leopard emerged from cover to feed on his prize. Me Gusto, the guide, remarked afterwards, "Bra, that thing looked like a full-grown lioness!"
Guests have been constantly amazed by the number of elephant seen in the area. The general reaction is, "Don't they hurt their soft feet on these big rocks?" Seems not!
Palmwag Lodge update - August 2010 Jump
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Doro Nawas Camp update - August 2010 Jump
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For the month of August the weather has been both very hot and chilly. The first two weeks gave us maximum temperatures of 40 degrees Celsius and minimums of about 22 degrees. The next two weeks were substantially cooler with temperatures ranging between 16 and 22 degrees.
The air is still very dry with strong easterly winds blowing in the latter half of the month. The wind lifted a lot of dust into the air which gave us some spectacular sunsets.
Wildlife and landscape
On 11 August 2010 an elephant was born in the middle of the Aba Huab Riverbed. We were lucky enough to find this new calf about 30 minutes after he was born. He was weak for the first few hours but strengthened quickly. We saw this young arrival for three days after he was born. The next day, the mother was highly agitated and one of her tusks (right hand side) was completely broken off. It was not possible to tell exactly what had happened but we think she must have broken it trying to protect her calf which was nowhere to be seen. We did not find a carcass and the fate of the three-day-old calf is still a mystery.
We are still expecting one of the cows in the Oscar Family Unit to give birth in the next few weeks. We hope this calf will survive to enlarge the elephant population of Damaraland.
Another highlight of the month was the sighting of seven male ostrich dancing for a female. They have to perform like this to attract her and she eventually selected the one that she clearly felt was the best dancer in the group. The pair then mated and she will shortly dig a shallow nest and lay her eggs in it. The chicks will be raised by both male and female.
Michael and Pieter were very professional guides. We had lots of fun with them. We learned much about nature, animals and the history of Namibia. Really nice place, quality of rooms (environment and inside) outstanding. Enthusiastic staff! Gentine from France
Our highlights were the Damara-speaking staff performance at dinner, quality of breakfast, quality and friendliness of all the guides. Superb scenery on the sundowner drive. Richardt's (guide) knowledge of birds and their calls and his good company. Sleeping outside under the stars in a real bed! Sarah
Sitting quietly and watching the elephants. Viewing rock engravings. The quietness and the night skies. Shaheen, USA
Managers and Guides in Camp
Coenie van Niekerk (Camp Manager)
Danize van Niekerk (Camp Manager)
Agnes Bezuidenhout (Assistant Manager)
Morien Aebes (Assistant Manager)
Sebastiaan Meyer (Assistant Manager)
Theobald Kamatoto (Assistant Manager)
Pieter Kasaona (Trainee Guide)
Michael Kauari (Guide)
Ignatius Khamuseb (Guide)
Richardt Orr (Guide)
We want to say farewell to Sebastiaan Meyer. Thank you for all you help throughout the past few months. We hope that he will be happy in your new job.
Damaraland Camp update - August 2010 Jump
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August was very mild in the north-west of Namibia. We experienced about three days of chilly weather with mists rolling in up the valley but that was it. The August winds have not been nearly as strong as they can be so there has been a pleasant warm breeze for much of the month. When they blow from the east they tend to be very hot.
There was a fair amount of dust in the air because of the winds with the result that the full moon rise was very special indeed. It rose, a bright orange ball, behind the mountains before becoming its more usual blue-white colour. There is also a lot of moisture coming in off the ocean and this has made the sunsets very special.
The elephant sightings have been plentiful this month with a herd we see regularly slowly moving from De Riet up to Reenewoud, very close to Doro Nawas. There are only a few places with water left and the elephants seem to be concentrating in these areas as the dry season progresses.
Some of our guests had a once-in-a-lifetime experience. While they were enjoying a sundowner, they saw a group of 21 ostrich running past. Even our guide Johann has never seen so many together. Also on the birding front, two bokmakieries have moved into camp. They entertain all with their beautiful duets in the morning and late afternoon. These birds the are monogamous so are often seen in pairs. Their singing is a territorial call.
We have recently been visited by a herd of kudu almost every night. They are seldom seen in the day but seem very comfortable browsing around the camp at night. Sometimes they wake us up and it is so special to watch them feeding in the desert moonlight.
The mammal highlights of the month were augmented by a few cheetah sightings in the Springbok River. These enigmatic cats lead a nomadic life in the desert, following their prey species as they move.
One of our guests was bowled over by a special sunrise breakfast set up on top of a small hill not far from camp. We watched the sun rise slowly as we consumed a magical, full buffet breakfast and the light touched all parts of the desert.
This has been a very busy month in Namibia and we have hosted many wonderful guests. It is also school holidays so the local villages are full of the children visiting their families, adding life and laughter to the area.
Unfortunately we will be saying good bye to Assistant Manager Niël. We wish him all the best with this future.
Managers: Ivan, Ilze, Elizabeth
Guides: Johann, Anthony, Francois, Daniel
Skeleton Coast Camp update - August 2010 Jump
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When guests arrive at Skeleton Coast Camp they always ask what the weather is like and what temperatures can be expected. Any prediction we make will be a lie. The Skeleton Coast can have four seasons four times a day. This is especially the case in August. From blistering heat and sand storms blown in by easterly winds, to fogged-in mornings with mist flowing into the Khumib River, covering the area in a soft hazy blanket, guests are astounded by the variable atmosphere through the day.
This month we were treated to a special "camp chat" with Dr. Flip Stander of the Desert Lion Conservation Project. He shared information about the important conservation work that he does with these phantoms of the desert. One of the most amazing revelations to us was vastness of the home ranges that these amazing beasts occupy. Desert lions live in some of the most inhospitable terrain and face major challenges finding food. They also face human conflict in communal lands.
The two lionesses, Tawny and Morada, have remained within the borders of the Skeleton Coast Park. They have been very successful hunting oryx close to the mouth of the Hoarusib River, close to camp. Their preference for this area was useful as the batteries on their radio collars were dying. One evening as they were feeding, Dr. Stander invited camp staff and guests to join him after dinner as he made an attempt to replace the batteries.
Darting lions is not easy as their safety is of paramount importance. Dr. Stander has spent many nights sitting in his vehicle waiting for the right conditions. That night, we were very lucky and both the lionesses were darted successfully. The guests got involved and helped with data capture and health assessments. This information is all used in Dr. Stander's research and is crucial to understanding desert lions. We fitted a new collar to Morada and replaced the worn batteries. We'll be keeping a close eye on the lionesses' movements as they face the challenges of life in the desert.
Jaco, the brown hyaena that was darted recently, returned to the area this month. We found him dozing in the Khumib River, a few kilometres from camp. The data from his radio collar indicate that he moves incredible distances at night - his record being a trip all the way to Cape Fria and back.
Serra Cafema Camp update - August 2010 Jump
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Ongava Tented Camp update - August 2010 Jump
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As the month progressed, the mornings and evenings became warmer and the winter drew to a close. The days were often windy and therefore hazy.
Wildlife and landscape
This is a great time to visit Namibia as water in this dry environment is concentrated at specific waterholes which means game viewing is excellent. The relatively poor rains of last year have made grazing sparse so animals are under a constant strain to find enough nutrition and water.
August's game viewing highlight in Etosha National Park was a sighting of three large herds of elephant numbering 20 each. There was also excellent cheetah viewing in the park this month.
Back on the 30 000 ha Ongava Game Reserve, we can feel that spring is around the corner. The air is filled with the sound of birds building their nests with the southern masked weavers being particularly vocal.
Other bird highlights from the camp include the near-endemic white-tailed shrike, purple roller, Ruppell's parrot, red-billed quelea, red-eyed bulbul and familiar chat. Night time visitors have included African scops owl and pearl-spotted owlet.
Waterbuck, Burchell's and Hartmann's zebra, black-faced impala, springbuck, kudu, oryx and red hartebeest are some of the regular visitors to the waterhole in front of camp.
Wonderful place, great staff, friendly people? everything was perfect One can't really ask for more. What a magical place. Amazing animals, great people. Rio was an extraordinary guide and got us all we asked. Rhinos, elephant, lions. Yay, we need to come again - Silvia and Mark
To lose oneself in the serenity of the environment amongst majestic wildlife and soulful people, everyone should be so fortunate, thank you - Will and Brigette
Michael K (relief manager)
Little Ongava update - August 2010 Jump
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Ongava Lodge update - August 2010 Jump
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Andersson's Camp update - August 2010 Jump
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Little Kulala Camp update - August 2010 Jump
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August is known for its extraordinary winds and this year, we were not disappointed. On the 10th of August there was a sandstorm with winds measuring around 92 kilometres per hour. Little Kulala is surrounded by the fine red sand unique to this area and it covered the main area by the end of the storm. Aircraft were diverted and guests boarded themselves up in their rooms to wait for the worst to pass before going on activities.
Temperatures have ranged from 10 - 15 degrees Celsius at night to around 34 degrees during the day. The last week in August gave us Namibian snow - beautiful misty mornings lasting until around 09h00 before dissipating with fresh winds sweeping throughout the day.
The camp waterhole comes to life in the winter, especially at night with many nocturnal animals arriving for a drink. This month we saw brown hyaena, aardwolf, black-backed jackal and gemsbok (oryx).
During the day we've had the pleasure of watching the usual game such as ostrich, springbok and various bird species. A particular highlight for the month was a steenbok pair which came gingerly to the waterhole to drink. They are normally very shy and we watched them stand in the shade for some time after they had quenched their thirst.
The youngest camel rider was booked on a short ride one morning, Cate and her gorgeous little four-month-old girl Emma tried out camel riding. Emma didn't seem too impressed - she fell asleep after a few minutes!
The rooms were wonderful and every staff member was very welcoming and friendly. Also the camp layout is very nice and the guides know a lot.
We are sure our stay will be a highlight of the month in Namibia. It is difficult to select any particular aspect. I suppose the first visit to Dead Vlei is always spectacular as was the brunch under the trees in Sossusvlei. Your attention to detail is second to none.
Staff in camp
Managers: Daphne and Igna
Assistant Managers: Corrie, Jason
Admin Assistant: Verona
Guides: Richard, Agnes, Theresa, Willy, Raymond, Elaine
Kulala Desert Lodge update - August 2010 Jump
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As is typical, August was a windy month. On the 10th of the month, there was a huge sand storm caused by winds reaching 92 kilometres per hour at Namib Sky. The guides were forced to return from an excursion to Sossussvlei early because the visibility was reduced to just five metres. They tried again in the afternoon and the visibility was much better but still very dusty. The wind died down completely in the night and the next day dawned clear and beautiful.
Two secretarybirds were seen walking and foraging from the riverbed toward the flat areas around camp.
This month we were privileged to host an extraordinary family. They made the decision to take a year off and travel the world. Gregory and Dana together with their children Alex (13), Emma (12) and the twins Reis and Andrew (10) started their journey in Africa here at Kulala Desert Lodge. During all their travels, Dana is doing home schooling for the kids. For those who are interested, you can follow their adventures on www.6explorers.com. We wish this wonderful family all the best and we hope their journey be truly unforgettable.
Petrus, took his guests on a guided walk through the camp to the gardens which they found very interesting. They were very impressed to see where the spinach they ate the previous evening came from. They left us with some useful gardening tips.
This month, an Explorations group camped out on the Kulala Reserve. The camp was located in the Aub River, which gave them a beautiful sunrise over the mountains and a breathtaking sunset over the dunes. For the more adventurous guests this is a real African experience.
Dedication to good service shines through at Kulala - useful lessons to take back on service delivery to the law firm I run in London.
From the moment we arrived we were made to feel welcome by all the staff, the camp design was immediately welcoming. All staff made our stay very enjoyable; we just hope that the rest of Namibia can compete with you. Wilhelm was fantastic, a very knowledgeable, caring guide. In many ways it was all of the little touches eg sundowners, a brunch that made the stay so good. We thoroughly enjoyed the singing and dancing. Every aspect of service was wonderful; we will have absolutely no hesitation in recommending the camp / company to everyone back home. If it was not so far, we would arrange a school trip here for our children to have the Namibian experience. All of us would like to thank all of the staff for making this such a wonderful start to our holiday.
Staff in camp
Managers: Dawie and Christa
Assistant Managers: Phillip, Violet, Kobus
Guides: Angula, Albert, Willem, Petrus
Kulala Wilderness Camp update - August 2010 Jump
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August has heralded the end of winter with some warmer weather and a number of trees turning green or producing blossoms with days now lengthening. The shepherd's bush around the camp is green and attracting the attention of a lot of butterflies. The acacia trees in the riverbed are also flowering.
The famous Namibian fog enveloped the camp and the surrounding hills for a number of mornings this month. This mist is very important for the plants of the region as it is often the only moisture on offer. The resurrection bush normally looks like a bunch of dry twigs around 40cm high and grows on the rocky outcrops around camp. The few mornings of fog allowed these remarkable trees to "resurrect" themselves and turn green (see second and third photos).
Wildlife and Birds
The pale chanting goshawks continue to provide great entertainment and we had an incredible sighting of one standing on the ground right next to our game drive.
The black-backed jackals are very vocal at night. They call each other providing background music for our guests while they eat dinner.
Dios, the assistant manager at Kulala Wilderness Camp had a big fright when he almost stepped on a massive grasshopper - it was so big that he thought it was a frog! The cameras were ready to capture this ancient looking creature.
Angelique Leff, Wilderness Namibia's chef trainer spent some time in the camp training our chefs on the new menus. Everyone in the kitchen was very excited to learn new things and try out the new recipes.
The food was just excellent. Good variety - well prepared. Your staff was warm and very competent. Obviously they were well trained.
We passed most of our time outside the lodge, visiting the surroundings. But it was always a pleasure to come back here and find the friendly staff, the good meals (cakes, tea, hot or cold drinks) and the beautiful scenery.
Lovely tranquil site. Stunning scenery. Caring staff, knowledgeable and friendly too.
Assistant Managers: Dios and Petronella
Governors' Camp update - August 2010 Jump
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The first couple of weeks of August were fairly hot, dry and dusty. We were lucky enough to receive 78mm of rain mid month quenching the brown, dry grasslands. The plains were transformed in a matter of days, the shorter grass that had already been grazed turning to an emerald green. This brought about a change in the zebra and wildebeest behaviour, with the herds of the wildebeest migration coming together and moving north towards Rhino Ridge, Musiara Marsh and on to our walking area in Koiyaki. We have been treated to the most amazing sight having these dense herds of animals covering the plains from Governors' Camp for as far as the eye can see! We even had to clear the airstrip for aeroplanes to land. The grass is still plentiful even with the enormous numbers of animals on it, this bodes well for September. We have the good rains we received at the first half of the year to thank for that.
The Wildebeest Migration
At the beginning of the month the herds of wildebeest and zebra were in fairly large groups with trails moving to and fro from area to area without obvious direction. Some wildebeest were still to be seen in the Northern part of the Serengeti and in the southern part of the Masai Mara around the Sand River and in the Trans-Mara areas. With the Masai Mara having some decent rain and reportedly the Serengeti remaining mostly dry, the Wildebeest Migration ventured north to our area of the Masai Mara where greener pastures and brought them together in huge numbers. We have seen many Mara River crossings this month some with a few animals crossing and some with thousands of wildebeest crossing. And we have not even had to leave camp to catch the action with wildebeest crossing the Mara River in front of Governors' Camp on two different occasions last week! The wildebeest have mostly done well, crossing the river with minor casualties even though the river has come up a meter or so. There have been a few devastating crossings where hundreds have drowned as they had chosen a steep exit, littering the river with carcasses and providing a feast for the already gorged crocodiles, catfish and vultures.
Photos of wildebeest crossing the Mara River in front of Governors' Camp courtesy of
Gwen and Kevin Schutt
The Quinine trees (Rauvofia caffra) after losing their leaves, regenerated new ones together with their flowers and fruit. The Black and White Hornbills after a short absence are back and spending much of their time up in the Quinine trees, as are the Turacos, Double-toothed barbets and Olive pigeons feeding on the fruit. The African Green heart tree, the most prominent large tree in the area known for its medicinal cures for stomach aches and malaria as well as the Masai toothbrush has continued to fruit. The elephant have stood under these trees eating its peppery fruit for some time now, they more than likely receive some kind of medicinal properties from this too. They do get a little feisty from the spiciness and could account for the amount of damage done to the trees and poles in the camps.
We have enjoyed some lovely sightings of the water birds in the marsh now that it has receded and the elephant and waterbuck have eaten the sedge down including Saddle-billed Storks, Yellow-billed Storks, a variety of Plovers and Lapwings, Sacred Ibis and the first of the Spoon-billed storks.
A Martial eagle was sighted with a banded mongoose kill up in a tree. Four Fish eagles and a Bateleur eagle were seen feeding on a young gazelle, we are unsure if one of the fish eagles actually killed it or it had died of natural causes.
There are three ostrich nesting sites out on the plains, one unfortunately was ransacked by hyena and all the eggs eaten and destroyed.
The large herd of buffalo numbering around 400 individuals continue to frequent the marsh to drink and eat the thicker course grass that grows beside it. They have calved recently and have many young varying slightly in age and colour. They are born jet black, changing to a rusty brown as their coat grows out and returning to black again, all in a couple of months. The breeding males stay with the herd and the young to help protect them from predators which they are fierce at. The older pride male of the marsh pride was chased up into the top of a small bush at the end of August by some very unhappy buffalo! The bachelor males, the young and old mostly, still remain in their small groups along the rivers edge, not moving far at all during the day.
The impala, waterbuck, hartebest and topi maintain their territories along the marsh and riverine forest undisturbed as the wildebeest migration moves through and encompasses them. The warthogs are mostly breathing a sigh of relief as they have been given a reprieve by the lions as the wildebeest take their place as the staple food group.
Photos courtesy of Tom Shorricks and Lin Rankin
Giraffe come and go in smaller herds, sometimes not seeing any for days. They seem to go across into the Acacia woodlands for a slightly different diet and then back to us for the Teclia and wild cocoa bushes.
The Marsh Pride of lions, have been very prominent around the marsh this month, at a stretch moving up to the Mbila Shaka river line a kilometre away. They have had no need to move as the wildebeest migration has come to them. On a couple of occasions wildebeest have sunk in the mud and trapped themselves, leaving the lions very little to. The pride has been hunting wildebeest on a daily basis, there are so many wildebeest in their territory that one day they killed five wildebeest and only ate two leaving the rest to the hyenas. The older pride male is still in bad shape, he has come in closer to the rest of the pride but remains apart. He has a serious limp and cannot run as he used to, hence his predicament with the buffalo mentioned earlier. One of the younger lionesses has become more marginalized too, we are unsure why but there is always the possibility she may be expectant. The rest of the pride is fat and happy! The three youngest cubs have come into the fold of the pride and are far more adventurous and playful, the older cubs making sure they grow up tough. The first litter of cubs are mostly with one of the lionesses, away from the core pride and new litter.
With the wildebeest migration on their doorstep The Ridge Pride have maintained their abundant hunting grounds up on Rhino Ridge, not moving very far at all but less accessible in their rocky terrain.
Photos courtesy of Anthony Park and Tom Shorricks
The Paradise Pride having positioned themselves around and near the main crossing sites on the Mara River are not short of food either. This area naturally channels the wildebeest and zebra into a couple of small valleys into the open areas of the river where they mostly cross over. The pride males continue to move back and forth across the river, moonlighting between their two prides of lionesses.
We have seen many different cheetah this month, most of all the three boys. They have been moving between Governors and the Talek river. They have developed a very clever hunting tactic of divide and conquer - the lead male will concentrate his attention on a young wildebeest calf whilst the other two distract and push the mother and the rest of the herd away.
The mother cheetah and the cub with the bad eye have not been seen much at all this month, spending her time out of the reserve in the Koiyaki area. The other female with her grown cub was up near double crossing and also moving into the Koiyaki area. The female with her three almost grown cubs has been seen intermittently up on Topi plains. She had killed a young wildebeest, which is a tall task for a single mother as she risks confrontation from the mother wildebeest. She does have three other mouths to feed, so needs must. The single female has been seen up on Rhino ridge, no confirmed reports on whether she is pregnant yet. She is the same one that was mating with the three boys months ago.
Photo courtesy of Anthony Park
Shadow / Zawadi the leopard, whom we have not seen for an age made an appearance near the windmill at the marsh mid month. The female Il Moran leopard has been seen but less so this month. We think she has retreated more into the forest as the lions presence in the marsh has been so constant. She was however spotted catching cat fish out of a small pool at the marsh. The very large male leopard has been at the rocky, croton area near the River.
Olive and her two cubs maintain their celebrity status on the Olare Orok river, she is seen most days seemingly not minding the being photographed. Olive's previous male cub who is now an adult seems to share part of her territory along the river. He has been seen less regularly, this is normal as males tend to be more secretive. The other female leopard and her two younger cubs on the Ntiakitiak river are also flourishing. Although she managed to kill a young wildebeest, she unfortunately lost it to lions whilst feeding on it on the ground.
Photos courtesy of Lin Rankin and Anthony Park
With so much game around the hyenas have had their fill, leaving half eaten carcasses and hunting more for sport. There is still a den sight close to our airstrip where the cubs are growing up fast and will soon move on.
There are also two jackal den sites further up on the plains, the pups are still very small and remain mostly in hiding.
Now that the grass has been mowed down in many areas we have had some great sightings of Serval cats and Bat-eared foxes. They are less camouflaged in the shorter, now greener grass.
It has been a spectacular month for hot air ballooning in the Masai Mara, we have enjoyed incredible views over the wildebeest migration, the big five in one flight, regular rhino and lion sightings and this morning a hyena took down a wildebeest right in front of the balloon.
We are also delighted to announce that thanks to the work of Richard Long and the Mara Rianda Charitable Trust, the local primary school at Mara Rianda now has a new dining hall complete with kitchen area (photos above) and new school cookers -- all built with the assistance of Governor's technicians in time for the start of the new school term.
Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge update - August 2010
As we enter high season we have been very busy at the lodge.
We definitely entered the long dry season early this year with the weather drying out by mid June and very little rain falling apart from a few drops towards the middle and end of July, the only significant rainstorm fell on the afternoon of the 21st July, when in true tropical style we received 21 mm/m² in a few hours. As this is our "winter time", temperatures have been pretty cool in the evenings, below 10° Celsius, and most of the time the sky has been cloudy, and the air misty or hazy. The Volcanoes made a few brief appearances from behind the veil of misty haze...
Photos courtesy of Allan Falck and Dave Richards
Despite the mist, the gorilla sightings have been great. Normally the mammals of Volcanoes National Park, including Mountain Gorillas, tend to be more on the move during the dry season and their movements become more unpredictable as they go in search of rich and palatable food that is becoming scarcer. However, most guests did not have to trek too long to see the gorillas, and most were back at the lodge in the early afternoon to have lunch and relax quietly for the rest of the day, unless they preferred to visit one of the other points of interest in the volcanoes area.
The major development in the gorilla population was that the Susa Group, that had split and joined back together numerous times during the last few months, has now definitely split into two separate groups. 'Susa-A' has been named 'Susa' Group and 'Susa-B' was renamed the 'Karisimbi' Group, as the family live in the Mt. Karisimbi area of the national park. Although the Susa Group can usually be found not too far into the forest, the "new" Karisimbi Group will be visited only by hardcore hikers, they have pretty much established their home range quite far (and high) on the slopes of the Karisimbi caldera... making a trip to see them a full-days trek indeed!
With the formation of this new gorilla family the Park authorities have agreed to increase the number of gorilla permits available each day to 64.
Back in the lodge we continue to have exciting sightings. On the 12th of July, for the second time in the last four months, an African Wild Cat was sighted by two observers in the lodge's grounds in the late afternoon. Although the species is still included in the official Mammal List of Volcanoes National Park, no confirmed records of the cat had been reported for many of years, until now...
We hope to share the magic of the Virunga Volcanoes with you sometime soon.
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