(Page 1 of
Sefofane Zimbabwe luggage allowance change
Going forward, the C206 Cessna aircraft used by Sefofane Zimbabwe will only carry four passengers plus the pilot. In doing so, the luggage allowance has been revised to 20kgs (44lbs) per person (including their camera equipment and hand luggage) - in a soft bag, no wheels or frame.
Flying for Wildlife in South Luangwa - Zambia
As part of Wilderness Safaris' commitment to enhancing the South Luangwa National Park a micro light aircraft has been added to the anti-poaching patrol. The aircraft and pilot are permanently based at Kalamu Lagoon Camp and perform multiple roles, with Wilderness Safaris donating flying hours (or subsidising them) to various organisations. The plane flies at fairly low altitude and the pilot and scout look for the smoke from poachers' fires - where they are smoking the meat from the illegally taken animal. The GPS coordinates of the location are then radioed back to Kalamu Lagoon Camp which then sends staff to intercept the poachers (assuming there is road access and/or it is not too far away). It is also intended that the actual presence of the plane will eventually act as a deterrent.
Elephant Count - Botswana
Recently, an elephant count took place with a light aircraft over Mombo and Vumbura areas respectively and their results were interesting, with some unusual sightings and a LOT of elephants. For example, during the Vumbura count, the team saw no fewer than 1 304 elephants (this no doubt being an undercount as a result of calves, bulls and even herds being missed) and 1 302 buffalo! Also noted were all other large mammals, crocodiles and select endangered bird species. These counts are essential for credible ecological monitoring and understanding of these areas.
Namibia Cape Vulture Release Project
A vital and fascinating new project is being funded by the Wilderness Trust in Namibia. The main aim of this project is to release all viable captive-raised Cape Vulture chicks into Namibia to help stabilise the remaining 12 wild Cape Vultures left and ultimately to increase the remaining wild population of the species.
Swamp Lions Feast at Mombo
Location: Mombo Camp, Okavango Delta, Botswana
Date: 14 December 2010
Photographer: Ryan Green
Observer: Ryan Green
Mombo Camp is known for its tremendous game densities and interactions, and in fact some of these are often seen right from camp itself.
The latest spectacular Mombo Camp sighting started at 04h30, when the guests in Tent 8 heard growling on the floodplain outside their room. Five o'clock wake-up time still didn't give any clues as it was still pitch-black outside. As the light slowly started to increase, the resident troop of baboons started up a huge cacophony of alarm calls and barks, and we knew something had to be happening - and practically in camp by the sound of things.
We went to Tent 8 to see if the guests were alright and as we arrived a deep growl penetrated the early dawn gloom. Outside, on the marshy floodplain, 20 metres from the deck, was a male lion with a buffalo's throat between his jaws and a huge crocodile clamped to the other side of the animal; the two locked in a grisly tug-of-war over the now lifeless buffalo.
This tussle went on for a few minutes, until the activity of the camp waking up to another day disturbed the lion and he moved off, allowing more crocodiles to join the feast. We thought that that was it, but as we went down to the main area deck the pride of three lionesses we call the Swamp Lions arrived on the scene from the direction of Limpy's Island. They warily approached the buffalo carcass by way of going under Tents 6 and 7, clearly aware that whoever had made the kill might still be around. The larger crocodiles had by now moved off, perhaps feeling vulnerable in shallow water and with all the activity in camp. The lions cautiously approached the carcass, which lay in less than a metre of water, and began to feed, while a smaller crocodile still pulled at the other end.
Constantly scanning both the water and the surrounding bush for danger, the three lionesses fed on the stolen meal. Meanwhile, in the scrub across the narrow floodplain, we could see the male lion watching the fruits of his efforts being eaten by the usurpers. He was however too nervous of the human presence to approach. He disappeared a short while later, when two bull elephants wandered out of the bush, straight towards where the kill lay! The first bull walked up the water's edge opposite the lions, sucked up a trunkful of water, and blasted it at the lions, causing them to scatter. His statement of dominion made, he had a leisurely drink while the lions returned to feeding. We then were treated to the bizarre sight of the two massive elephant bulls engage in a mock-fight, not 25 metres from the gorging lions!
By around 9am, the lions had had their fill, and retired to the shade under Tent 8 to rest, causing not a small amount of consternation among us as to how we were to get around the camp safely.
Given a gap, the crocodiles moved back in, and for the rest of the day the cats and crocs took turns to feed on the buffalo. As night fell, the male lion eventually returned to the carcass, dragged it out of the water and had his fill in the enveloping darkness.
The following morning all that remained were the bones, which attracted a dozen or so vultures, thereby closing the cycle of another amazing day at Mombo!
Savuti Leopard Trees Roan Antelope
Location: Savuti Camp, Linyanti, Botswana
Date: December 2010
Photographer and Observer: Grant Atkinson
Earlier this month the Savuti Camp manager, Warren, was on his way to the airfield when he spotted movement in the woodland. On further investigation, he came upon a very unusual situation. A male leopard had killed a young roan antelope and had managed to drag the dead animal to the base of a mopane tree. The tree was not very big but several smaller scrubby mopane trees that were growing around its base provided some cover for the leopard.
The young roan had been accompanied by two adult roan, and they were clearly very upset at what had happened. They were aggressively approaching the leopard, who was forced to back right into the bushes. Roan antelope are large and powerful, and could seriously injure or even kill a leopard if they could get hold of him.
The two roan pushed closer and closer, until the leopard was forced to stop feeding - indeed the roan were intent on forcing the leopard off his kill. In response, he chose to take the dead roan up the mopane tree, and in an unbelievable display of strength, somehow managed to scale the tree with the roan in his jaws. The trunk of this mopane tree was barely thick enough for the leopard to grip properly, but he was able to wedge it quite high up in a small fork.
There was not much room for the leopard in the tree and he came to ground below the tree, and rested in the scrub. That was where we found him the next morning, with the two adult roan still nearby, looking unhappy. Tracks in the sand showed where the roan had come right to the base of the tree with the carcass in it during the night.
After a few hours the two adult roan finally moved off. The leopard then climbed the tree, with some difficulty, to carry on feeding. However, the tree was so small, and its branches so narrow, that he was unable to feed properly, despite some very acrobatic efforts.
In an effort to reposition the carcass, the inevitable happened and both the dead roan, and the leopard fell from the tree. However, the agile cat landed on his feet, on the carcass. Once the dust settled, he dragged it under the bushes and began to feed in earnest. That was where we left him.
Roan are dangerous prey for a cat like a leopard, and this particular male showed great daring and skill in making this kill and getting to eat it.
Chitabe Wild Dog Antics
Location: Chitabe Camp, Chitabe Concession, Botswana
Date: 11 December 2010
Observers: Martin Benadie, BB
Photographer: Martin Benadie
The Chitabe Concession on the fringe of the Okavango Delta is renowned for its wild dog sightings and visitors are currently enjoying wonderful, often dramatic, encounters with the 21-strong pack at the moment.
At the onset of the southern African rainy season, many antelope species give birth to their young. Impala lambs and tsessebe calves in particular seem to offer easy pickings for the wild dogs out on their hunting forays.
Over our recent stay at Chitabe, we witnessed the pack hunt and kill one impala fawn and another unsuccessful hunt on a tsessebe calf. With the impala, the youngster was split off from its mother and came bounding past our safari vehicle - on its own. The bush was thick, and all we could hear was the chattering of the dogs and the low whooping call of the alpha male. The hunt was on. The hapless impala was cornered shortly thereafter and it was all over within minutes. The constant entourage of Hooded Vultures tirelessly following the dogs fought for the few scraps that were left.
After the hunt we followed the dogs to a seasonal pan that had just filled with rainwater, where they drank and lay around, possibly trying to recover their spent energy. The younger pups, which are now about six months old, then initiated play behaviour - splashing, chasing and playing with each other right in the pan. At one stage most of the dogs joined, tearing across the water and play-fighting with each other. The alpha male was unperturbed though and just dozed on the shore. These theatrics went on for a good 20 minutes and it was an amazing encounter with these highly endangered carnivores.
The dogs seem to cause mayhem wherever they go. In the late afternoon the pack was seen again - this time harassing a female elephant and her young calf. The mother elephant trumpeted loudly and charged at the dogs repeatedly - the sound was almost deafening and again proved there is nothing like a mother's devotion to her offspring. The dogs were later seen scampering off like naughty schoolchildren that had just raided an orchard. "They often 'play' with the elephant like this," our Chitabe guide, BB, mentioned.
What was also very interesting was the Hooded Vulture association with the wild dogs. These scavenging birds are pretty reliable indicators of the presence of dogs in northern Botswana, where dog faeces and other scraps are attractive to them. Often the dogs can be found by simply responding to this vulture species as they fly from tree to tree trailing the dogs and ever hopeful of a morsel or two.
Tubu Tree - A leopard-filled 2010
Location: Tubu Tree Camp and Hunda Island, Okavango Delta, Botswana
Report compiled by: Justin Stevens & Jacky Collett-Stevens
Photographs: Johnny Mowanji
With 2010 coming to an end, our Camp Leopard Monitoring Project has provided us with many highlights and moments of delight. We would like to go back in time and relive the special moments of these elusive cats of Tubu. When we started the monitoring project we successfully identified 11 different leopards, and in the past year we have watched battles take place, territories change, loss of life and new beginnings. Here are some of our memorable moments of 2010.
The leopards of Tubu have a wide selection when it comes to food and it seemed as though nothing was too small and for a moment nothing was too big. We had witnessed one of the young females at the start of the year stalking a buffalo - until she was seen, that is, and realised when these big bulls stared her down, that she was a little out of her league.
Our two juvenile leopards have had some interesting moments in their young life thus far, from stalking Ground Hornbills to trying to stalk a pair of Wattled Crane before being chased away. However when it comes to food the easier way always seems to be the best option as the young male was seen with none other than a leopard tortoise. The young ones have had some close encounters with the dominant male lion chasing them, together with their mother, up a tree only to steal their kill. However just recently the young male has learned that when you run from a lion up a tree, you should take all that you can carry.
Watching Keledi grow up has been special: in the middle of the year she took down a wildebeest but needed mother's help to complete the kill and then a month later she came into her own, taking down her first (documented) big kill - a full grown lechwe.
The leopards always seem to be up to something providing our guests with some amazing moments, which include watching one female lie up in a tree until a troop of baboons came along - at which point she jumped out of the tree and ran straight under the game viewer! Another was watching one stalk something that we couldn't see, until she pounced onto ... a nest of ostrich eggs. The Tubu Female and her two juveniles have posed for some beautiful pictures as they have been seen eating, playing, drinking and even lying on the same branch together. Then there was the leopard who checked out the inside of our mokoro and another who clearly felt like a king on top of our sleep-out hide.
With Tubu Tree Camp being surrounded by leopards, it has also provided a lot of excitement in camp as it is not unusual to hear leopards make their unique 'saw' noise at night and to see leopard tracks around camp in the mornings. Every room has had its own excitement, from a leopard lying in a tree out in front of the tent, to hiding underneath the room to stalk impala, to waking guests up by killing a bushbuck right under their tent - and even catching some sleep on the front deck of some of the rooms. However it is not just the rooms that the leopards like, we have seen them lying next to the laundry and even checking out the bar - although they opted to drink from the bird bath instead. But having a leopard in a tree outside the office - well that just doesn't happen at everyone's office!
Our personal highlight of the year was just recently when we were watching Keledi as she lay up in a tree checking out impala on the airstrip. After some time she came down the tree and slowly walked right up to the Land Rover, took a look at the back and then a look underneath before proceeding right under the driver's seat and out the other side at the passenger seat, making eye contact at that point. She then went and sat in front of the Land Rover before taking a sniff of the tyre and then proceeded to go into stalk mode and make a failed attempt at killing a spring hare.
We have had a magnificent year, with a couple of spots disappearing and few new ones showing up as a new female has been seen on the southern end of Hunda Island, as well as Moriti, a male who has decide to call Tubu Tree his home. As we go into 2011, we are filled with anticipation as one of our resident females is lactating, which means more leopards in this spotted cat haven that currently has ten confirmed identities.
We would like to thank all our guests who helped in providing pictures for our project and those who participated in any other way. We want to thank our guests who have followed our leopards through our reports and so are helping to bring awareness of these amazing cats that are classified as Near-Threatened on the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) list.
Finally a special thank you to guide Johnny Mowanji for providing his favourite top five pictures of 2010.
Uncommon Bird Sighting at Ruckomechi Camp
Location: Ruckomechi Camp, Mana Pools National Park, Zimbabwe
Date: 14 December 2010
Observers: Kevin Van Breda, Carly Morgan
Photographs: Carly Morgan
On 14th December 2010, two African Crakes were seen around 6pm near a gully with standing water and stands of adrenaline grass (Vetiveria nigritana) - the perfect habitat description according to field guides!
Kevin reports that, although a fairly common summer visitor elsewhere in southern Africa, he has not seen one of these birds in the 16 years he has been in and around the Zambezi Valley.
The African Crake is described by Alex Masterson in The Complete Book of Southern African Birds (1994 edition) as the African equivalent of the Corn Crake. Like that species, it is essentially a bird of open, waist-high grassland, though it likes wetter areas (marshes, edges of vleis, and rank vegetation-fringing streams), particularly where the ground is seasonally waterlogged and covered with many shallow puddles.
Like most crakes, with the probable exception of the Black Crake, African Crakes are uncommon at best. They are secretive, spend most of their time on the ground hidden in the grass, and are difficult to flush, unless if one stumbles across them. In which case, they rise unexpectedly at one's feet, flying away with legs and feet dangling, before collapsing into cover a short distance away.
These birds are uncommon intra-African, breeding migrants present between November and April. They usually move only at night and one can then hear them uttering short phrases of "kê, kê, kê, kê" as they fly overhead. Occasionally they can be heard making the same sound as they move about a vlei after afternoon rain.
They feed on insects, land molluscs, worms and some vegetable matter taken on the ground among the grass cover within which they live. The nest is a shallow cup of grass placed on the ground or slighted elevated in a thick patch of grass containing both new growth and dead material from the previous summer. It is usually protected from above by a bower of loosely-woven fresh grass 12-15 cm above the eggs. Four to eight eggs take about two weeks to incubate and are tended by both parents.
The summer months are certainly an exciting time to be in southern Africa for birding!
Summer Abundance at Chitabe
Location: Chitabe Camp, Chitabe Concession, Okavango Delta
Date: 16 December 2010
Observers: Dave Luck, Ron and Hannah Rogers, Isabelle Friedman, Andrea Reynolds and Chief
Photographer: Dave Luck
The onset of the rains in November and the start of the 'wet' season is followed by numerous impala births. The first fawns have been seen all over northern Botswana both up the Linyanti area as well as the Okavango Delta where Chitabe Camp is situated. After having carried for seven months, the impala ewes are ever so vigilant as they tend to their new arrivals and one even notices how shy and protective the mothers are when approached.
Fresh, succulent grasses have now sprouted and provide vital nutrients for the lactating mothers and fawns alike. In turn the predators are now attracted to the herds as they preoccupy themselves with incessant feeding and the crèches of tiny fawns lie somewhat concealed, away from super-sharp predatory eyes. However, even despite the security of the crèches, the herds are none the less still very exposed to the threat of predators.
One night, while we were following a female leopard as she walked down the sandy track, she stopped and listened. We turned the vehicle off so that we could perhaps hear what she had picked up. It was silent except for some crickets chirping nearby. What had she heard? She continued walking into the bush and we lost sight of her. We waited patiently for her to reappear. Suddenly a single bleat, then another muffled sound. We drove around and found the leopard with an impala fawn firmly clamped in her powerful jaws. With her excellent hearing and eyesight, she had homed in on some hapless impala.
Amazingly, for the next three days, we visited the tree where the female leopard had cached her kill and it remained untouched. With the abundance of easy prey now available it becomes instinctive for leopards in particular to go on 'killing sprees' and cache the small carcasses all over their territories.
With so much food around, opportunism in other species presents itself too. We saw a large male chacma baboon feasting on a fresh impala fawn carcass recently as well. He was alone on the periphery of the troop, possibly one of the sentries. We were unsure however if he had caught this himself or had this opportunistic primate scavenged a leopard's private cache?
There have been documented cases in East Africa of olive baboons attacking and killing gazelle fawns and eating them. Perhaps this baboon had seized the moment to reach out and snatch a passing fawn from under the eye of its mother?
North Island - Wildlife Update December 2010
Location: North Island, Seychelles
Date: Oct - Dec 2010
Observer: Linda van Herck
Photographer: Sheena Talma
As anticipated, the bulk of our green turtle emergences occurred during the previous periods reported on. Two more emergences were however recorded in the first week of October and one on 31 December.
We seem to be in a record nesting season for hawksbill turtles though. From 1 Sept 2010 to 31 Dec 2010, we already have a staggering 129 emergences for this species, with a total of no less than 68 nests. We expect nesting to continue until end March 2011. In comparison: during the previous season (from 1 September 2009 to 31 March 2010), we had a total of 112 emergences with 61 confirmed and assumed nests. This year's unusually high number of hawksbills appears to highlight the limited availability of suitable nesting habitat at this time of the year. Both East Beach as well as the western side of the island (Honeymoon and West Beach) have substantial sections presently not available for nesting turtles, due to the yearly beach erosion.
More nesting has therefore led to more nests laid on top of each other, and seven nests having required subsequent translocation from the two only areas with permanent lights close to the beach. In previous years, our strict light policy required only one or two nests to be moved away from lights, and instead, translocations were mostly done to avoid nests low on the beach washing away during progressing beach erosion.
The onset of the rains (finally!) has made the grass and plants turn green once more, and some tortoises subsequently reappeared grazing on the eastern plateau's grass plains. Two babies were found in November. The animal found on the eastern side of the island was estimated (weight compared with babies found previously) to be about one year old, whilst the tiny baby from the western plateau might have been less than a month old. Unfortunately, the latter died a month later of an unknown cause. So far, the rest of both clutches could not be located.
You may recall our reporting of the (re)introduction of the black mud turtle (terrapins not requiring permanent fresh water) in July 2008 (15) and March 2009 (5). Three more accidental re-sightings were made of these shy animals (systematic searches in the marshes would no doubt yield far more), confirming that at least some of the animals have found their way from the small marsh where they were introduced to the larger marsh nearby. Initially, with the small marsh still fenced after their introduction, aestivation was easier to observe, but the timing of the recent findings once again seems to indicate terrapins wandering after rains.
Birds and Birding
Crab Plovers, last seen in March 2010, reappeared towards the end of October, when the first one was spotted on the beach. Although a fairly common Indian Ocean species, they usually turn up in twos or threes.
The same (numbers and month of re-occurrence) goes for the Common Sandpiper who has been seen foraging on the grass as well as on the beach. Other migrants seen on the beach were small numbers of Lesser and Greater Sand Plover (feeding in mixed small flocks) and Grey Plovers. This year's list of migrants, however, was less spectacular as the colourful bee-eaters did not reappear, and less sightings of a single or small number of Amur Falcons. A few cuckoos and pipits also await further species identification, whilst two Cattle Egrets seem to have been "blown in" after a heavy storm. The White-tailed Tropicbird nest was confirmed to also have a new downy chick again end December 2010.
After a heavy rain, the normally very shy giant mangrove crab (Cardisoma carnifex) was seen close to a much frequented walkway, possibly indicating its burrows may have been flooded. Large numbers of a still-to-be-identified species of swimming crab was found washed up dead on the beaches, at the end of December.
Pictured above left to right
Hawksbill turtle hatchling
Giant mangrove crab
Spp. of swimming crab - to be identified
Chitabe Lediba will be closed from 7th January to 31st March for the complete rebuild of all guest tents. The camp will retain its tented style, with large sliding doors that open onto the verandah, ample windows to show off the view and improved airflow as well as louvered blinds to enhance privacy. Each uniquely decorated tent will have a comfortable seating area and a desk with a multi-adapter to facilitate computer, camera and video power plug points. The bathrooms will have double basins and vanities as well as generous cupboard space. Each of the two family units will consist of two rooms, each with its own bathroom and will be connected via a corridor.
The Jao Concession (Tubu Tree, Jacana, Jao and Kwetsani) will be undergoing annual maintenance as well as some flood control work during the coming summer months, prior to the arrival of Botswana's annual flood waters. This includes tasks like thatch and furniture replacement where required, sanding of walkways as well as the extension of raised walkways, the raising of generators, and increasing the height and width of the airstrip. At this time, Jacana Camp will also receive a family unit and from 01 March 2011, the camp will offer three twins, one double and one family unit which will comprise one long tent with a bathroom in the middle and a bedroom on either side.
Abu Camp will commence with the second phase of their re-build up to 14 March 2011 which includes the following: Rebuilding and enlarging the guest tents to include an entrance area with a desk and chair. The bathrooms have been redesigned to include an inside/outside shower - doors can be opened to the exterior for summer and closed for winter. One of the existing units will be converted into a honeymoon unit which will include its own private swimming pool. A swimming pool will be added to the main area by means of a walk way and this area will include a pizza oven.
DumaTau Camp will be closed for a major refurbishment from 2nd of January to 1st March 2011.
Rains in the Sossusvlei region
The below is a rough guideline to an understanding of Namibia weather patterns. This is by no means the last word. Patterns can change and rains may be later or earlier from year to year. Data on Windhoek and Swakopmund minimum and maximum temperatures and also monthly rainfall follow. These towns are a good general indication of the weather patterns in the regions discussed below.
The climate is typically semi-desert with hot days and cool nights. The cold Benguela Current keeps the coast cool and free of rain most of the year; Namibia averages about 300 days of sunshine a year. The rainy season lasts from October to April. The rest of the year is dry and cloudless.
Humidity is generally very low in most parts, but can reach as high as 80% in the extreme north during summer. The average rainfall is 50mm along the coast to 350mm in the central interior and 700mm in the Caprivi. Guests should pack warm and cold clothing for any visit to Namibia. Those guests self driving must exercise caution when crossing riverbeds and camping during the summer months as flash floods can occur from the sporadic rains. It is perfectly safe to travel by road at this time, though a 4x4 or vehicle with high ground clearance is recommended. The rest of the year is dry and cloudless.
Midsummer temperatures may rise to over 40°C (104°F). Winter days are warm but dawn temperatures may drop to freezing. Along the coast it is cool with low rainfall and fog prevails from late afternoonuntil mid-morning
January to March is the peak of summer and the rainy months. Days are normally warm with afternoon cloud build up and possible showers although these are usually short-lived. Game viewing after good rains is generally not that good at the wildlife destinations. Northern Namibia and the Caprivi usually receive most of Namibia's annual rainfall.
During April to May morning temperatures start to drop and the evenings are cooler soon after sunset. Rainfall is limited. As rain water pans dry out game viewing can improve slowly.
The early part of June is very cold in the mornings and evenings, occasionally even dropping below zero, and winter lasts until August. Days are sunny and pleasant however, with windy spells towards the end of this period. Warm clothing is recommend for the evenings and early mornings. Game viewing is excellent in the dry winter months in certain destinations.
Spring starts in September and the days are much warmer with the occasional cool evening and morning. Game viewing is excellent during this time. Trees begin to come into leaf.
From October we experience very warm sunny days with warm evenings. Some rains are experienced sporadically, though larger showers can be expected usually only around December. Wildlife sightings is affected depending how early and serve the rains havestarted. December can be among the hottest months of the year,averaging often 35Deg Cel to 40 Deg Cel in the shade.
Along the coast it is year round cool with low rainfall and fog prevails from late afternoon until mid-morning. Due to the close approximation of our Skeleton Coast Camp to the Atlantic Ocean, as well as Swakopmund's location on the coast, the cool breeze off the coast can cool the days down quite a bit, so warm clothes are recommended for the evenings and early mornings if you stay at these destinations.
A report from Chris Badger who was at Nyika a week before Christmas with his family.
"I first visited Nyika in 1987 and must have stayed there over 40 separate occasions doing mobile safaris in the 80s and 90s. It was always my favourite part of the safari and most of my guests felt the same way. On 22nd December with a motley collection of four adults and five kids between the ages of eight and 10, we enjoyed a truly wondrous game drive. It was relatively short, starting at 16:00 and ending after dark at around 19:30. The recent rains had done enough to make the grasslands look quite spectacular with huge views in every direction, and lush emerald greens everywhere. It seemed that most of the game in the park was within our viewing range. We drove along a well-known short loop around all the dams (1, 2 and 3). We enjoyed a sundowner at Lake Kaulime and then returned to Chelinda around the edge of the forest and the airstrip.
"Several herds of game remained in view until we reached Lake Kaulime about 15km away. There were many mixed herds of roan and zebra (as they tend to feed on the same type and length of grass they are often together), and no less than eight separate groups of eland ranging in number from 10 to 70. At one stage we counted over 170 head of mixed game on one large slope - roan, zebra, eland and reedbuck. We also saw duiker, warthog, and bushbuck and saw fresh leopard and hyaena tracks. The usual birding specials that one almost takes for granted on the high plateau were also seen - Augur Buzzard, Red-winged Francolin, Rufous-naped Lark, Mountain Marsh Whydah, and the iconic Blue Swallow. If the statistics are correct that there are no more than 1 400 breeding pairs of the latter left on the planet then Nyika must be the single most important remaining habitat for them. These swallows are everywhere at the moment, flying low and fast over the dams and grasslands around Chelinda.
"The cool temperature of the plateau adds a special dimension to any game drive. At Lake Kaulime where we spent a fascinating 20 minutes with the kids identifying the tracks along the edge of the lake it was time to don jackets, gloves and woolly hats for the night drive back to camp. Where else in Africa could a sundowner be a glass of mulled wine or perhaps a hot chocolate with a drop of rum (not for the driver of course)?
"Returning around the edge of the pine forest we failed to spot any of the plateau's numerous leopard although we had a couple of long distance flashes of bright eyes which we persuaded ourselves 'must have been them'. We also had several views of another Nyika special bird - the Mountain Nightjar. On the airstrip we stopped for some stargazing. Despite the completely opposite habitats the skies at Chelinda remind me of the Kalahari. We spotted a couple of satellites, saw the Magellanic Cloud in the Milky Way and heard the eerie distant alarm calls of a herd of reedbuck presumably being watched or stalked by hyaena or leopard.
"The final short drive right through the towering pines of the plantation with a strong spotlight always enthralls the kids and then it was back to that roaring log fire in the chalet. If there is a more special place in Africa I have yet to discover it."
December Update - Sam Chiwayu
We have not had much rain and therefore the orchids are not in abundance as they usually are at this time of year. However, a few species of dissa are in bloom now and they are a sight not to be missed.
The game sightings have been great, particularly on the Chosi View loop that pass dams 2 and 3. On this loop you can literally see game everywhere. There are big herds of roan, eland, zebra, reedbuck, bush pig and lots of common duiker.
We had four sightings of leopard towards the end of December. One was a big male attempting to hunt eland. We watched him for over half an hour as he planned his movements in relation to the wind before he finally went for the eland, but the game around seemed to have sensed the danger and managed to escape. Another sighting was on the eastern edge of the pine plantations: a young male who seemed to be so much at ease with vehicles and always ventured closer upon seeing car lights. Another was lying on the road and we got as close as two metres away from her. We watched this leopard for a very long time and she was not bothered at all by our presence.
Despite being told by staff, who have been in Nyika for years, that poisonous snakes do not occur on the plateau, we found two boomslang in the region. One was found on the plateau and the other was seen with Peter, a member of staff who has been in the area for forty years. He was quite shocked.
The road to Nyika has been in great shape this year. We've even had some guests pass through in a saloon car.
Kalamu Trails in Zambia
Set in the Luamfwa Concession in the southern sector of South Luangwa National Park, Kalamu Trails explores the Luangwa River and its diverse environs. With some slight recent enhancements to the route it is proving to be an exhilarating walking trail. Guests begin at Kalamu Lagoon Camp for one night before going on to explore the untouched northern banks of the Luangwa River on foot. Nights are spent at the unique Kalamu Star-bed Camp and Chinengwe Riverbed Camp.
Kafue's Rivers & Plains - Enhancement for 2011
Lufupa Bush Camp, opening in 2011, is situated on the lush banks of the Kafue River at the pretty Kafwala Rapids, downstream of Lufupa Tented Camp, which it will replace on this Discoverer Exploration. We are thrilled to be able to develop a camp and area suitable for our Explorations as well as our FIT guests and look forward to the 2011 season.
North Island Update - December 2010 Jump
to North Island
December has been yet another interesting month with regards to the weather, however as 2010 neared to an end we were blessed with calm seas and great visibility. The main beach remains a landscape of contrasts with shifting formations of continually accumulating sand and the ever changing waters that caress her shore.
Diving this month has been no less than fantastic, made all that much more mesmerising by the gin-clear water visibility. Several dive sites have been explored including Cathedral and Pat Banks - both of which have not disappointed and have produced their own special array of exciting experiences. At Cathedral we had a particularly exciting time with a certain inquisitive barracuda and an elusive resident family of enormous round ribbontail rays; spotted as if in a trance as we effortlessly glided past them.
We also spotted large barracuda near the jump rock at West Beach and at Petit Anse. The specimen at Petit Anse was even more engaging than our friend at Cathedral. Rather than slowly following the divers around the reef, he was observed dashing right up to unsuspecting divers or snorkelers and as soon as it came eye-to-eye with its intruder became perfectly motionless and watched it with unblinking intensity - needless to say, quite exhilarating. Coincidentally this sighting marked a sudden end to the snorkelling trip with the excuse that it was getting rather cold out there.
Sprat City has also been a favourite this month with numerous sightings of the white-tip reef sharks, several sightings of a nurse shark (also known as a giant sleepy shark) as well as a particularly large green turtle spotted sleeping in a cave.
Coral Gardens, not to be outdone, has produced a team of unusually determined orbicular batfish which have been particularly fascinated the divers and have been spotted following the group for the entire duration of the dive.
Yet again, numerous spotted eagle rays have been seen off Main Beach and at Petit Anse and a small group of four sub-adults have also been spotted cruising off the rock ledges West Beach. These younger rays will remain at the reef for only a little while longer before gathering enough courage to venture out into deeper unchartered waters. Once they have left they only occasionally return to the reef, for short infrequent visits.
A fantastic sighting this month has been of a small family of bottlenose dolphins together with young on a dive trip to Silhouette. The dolphins were spotted both on the way to the dive site and again on the way back. While they are usually a little sceptical of getting too close to the boat or the divers, these dolphins insisted on staying with us for almost half the trip there and back.
Kings Pool Camp update - December 2010 Jump
to Kings Pool Camp
DumaTau Camp update - December 2010 Jump
to DumaTau Camp
Savuti Camp update - December 2010 Jump
to Savuti Camp
Early one morning in December, a vehicle driven by Grant, our professional photographer guide, comes across the mayhem of young wild dog clearly hungry for a kill. Running backwards and forwards, they greet each other with penetratingly high-pitched calls and playful bites all the while pleading with their elders to wake up.
Eventually, lead by one of the adults, the dogs disappear into the thick vegetation. Their agile and slender bodies allow them to move at great speed through the bush. They fan out but all are focused in one direction - the small impala herd to the west.
Negotiating the vehicle through the mopane woodland is a tough task but Grant is up for the challenge. He works the vehicle with ease into the right positions to capture each moment. Wild dogs are notoriously difficult to photograph when on the move, so the expert advice of Grant is appreciated by all. This time the dogs miss the kill. No doubt tomorrow will be another active day for the Linyanti Pack!
This month has been a busy month for our guides Lets, Grant and Goodman. Interesting sightings of cheetah, leopard, wild dog and recently lion have kept our guests enthralled. The shy male leopard was recently seen interacting with one of the regular, more relaxed females. Interesting courtship behaviour has taken place between the two. They were once again seen on a kill a few days later. We are now eagerly waiting to see the outcome of their mating.
Elephant have also been seen on numerous occasions. Our guests have enjoyed several sightings of a herd moving through the deep waters of the Savute Channel, an interesting challenge for the newly born members.
This time of the year is captivating for birding enthusiasts. The Carmine Bee-Eaters have been frequenting the Dishpan area, catching dragonflies and feeding them to the juveniles. Pigmy Geese are regularly seen flying across the Channel in front of camp; a beautiful sighting while enjoying coffee and muffins around the morning fire.
We ended the month with a fancy dress Christmas celebration. A group staying with us surprised our staff by arriving at dinner with flashing Christmas lights around their necks. The Savuti team joined in on the fun with some funky hats proudly sponsored by our curio shop. Dinner was a joyous affair. Some of our guests experienced the joys of mince pies and Christmas pudding for the first time.
The team at Savuti has had a busy and exciting 2010. We are eagerly awaiting the new adventures and remarkable wildlife sightings the magical Savuti area has to offer in the New Year. Watch this space as the journey of Savuti Camp continues into 2011.
Thanks to Grant Atkinson
Zarafa Camp update - December 2010 Jump
to Zarafa Camp
Selinda Camp update - December 2010 Jump
to Selinda Camp
Camps Update - December 2010
• It can't get any greener than it is. Beautiful, and the flame lilies are making the striking red spots, which adds to the beauty of the scenery. The frogs are having "singing" competitions every evening, in search of a lady to impress.
• A very good time to bring those macro lenses, to try to get a shot of termites, dung beetles and other creepy crawlies. Of course a close up of a Flame Lily looks good too on the wall.
• Don't pack the camera away when you go to bed. Try a few long exposure shots, if it happens you see lightning in the distance…..
Lagoon camp Jump
• Closed until 1st March for a complete rebuild. We are looking forward to it opening on time and reports from those who have seen the new Lagoon say it is "breath taking".
Lebala camp Jump
• The wild dogs are the undisputed stars in Lebala for this month and baby impala is on the daily menu! The impala mothers hide their babies for several weeks, and the dogs have little difficulties to find them.
• Not too much on the lion front to report. One reason that we have a lot of wild dogs is the low density of other predators/competitors, especially lions. Most deaths of dogs are caused by lions.
• A lactating leopard female was seen, indicating there are cubs somewhere. Wonder who will be the first to see them, and who gets the first pictures.
• A few older buffalo bulls are still hanging around, but the big herds are off to look for better grazing. Occasionally we see still breeding herds of elephants, and some bachelor herds are there too. Other general game is good, with lots of giraffes and zebras.
• On the birding side, we report big flocks of open-build storks flying to the roosting site at dusk, and coming from the roosting site to the feeding grounds at dawn.
Kwara & Little Kwara camps Jump
& Little Kwara camps
• And the lions again. We seem to be quite blessed with sightings of these cats. Hunting, killing, mating and off course, what a lion does best; sleeping. The pride with the cubs was seen several times as were the males, marking territory and roaring a lot. We did not see the magnificent seven brothers, all together at a time, but they were around in groups of three or two. Maybe next month, we'll let you know.
• Leopards came out from time to time, just to prove they are there. Saw a few hunting attempts, but nothing got caught.
• The cheetahs are also still there. Apart from the resident coalition of three brothers, we also saw a female around. There is hope for offspring. They had a few good meals and seem to be doing ok.
• Not much from the dogs to report. Seen only once last month, but considering the size of territory they have and the distances they move every day, that's not surprising.
• Elephants roam the area in bachelor groups. These old bulls are welcoming the rain and they have lots of fun in the mud pools. Buffalos have vanished in search of better grazing, but they will be back once the grass isn't greener on the other side anymore. General game has been good. Zebras in big numbers, giraffes, red lechwes, impalas, tsessebes, wildebeests etc.
• One of the highlights for sure, was the pangolin sighting. Not many people can pride themselves with being able to say:" I saw a pangolin".
• Lots and lots of zebras have migrated to Nxai pan, to enjoy the good grazing. And the springboks are numerous too. Besides these two species there are oryx, elephants, wildebeests, steenboks, giraffes, kudus etc. So general game has been very good.
• Honey badger is a common sighting in Nxai pan, even during the day.
• Lions do their bit to keep the population of the herbivores in check, with the assistance of cheetahs and leopards. Oops - almost forgot the hyaenas. Despite their reputation they are very good hunters and make many more kills than we like to think.
• Overall we had a good month with loads of interesting sightings.
• Lions still visit camp almost every day. We see them also on the drives, and not only lions but also cheetahs.
• General game is fabulous as the rains have brought fresh grazing and a lot of greenery Springbok everywhere, and there are a lot of Oryx - an extremely well adapted animal to desert conditions. They are able to allow their body temperature to rise over 40 degree Celsius. A specially designed capillary system in their nose, makes sure the blood gets cooled down to below 40, so the brain doesn't get damaged. The ground squirrels and honey badgers have kept guests entertained alone with some African Wild Cat – a most wonderful time of year to be here.
Mombo Camp update
- December 2010 Jump
to Mombo Camp
Weather and Landscape
In December, life seems to explode in this part of the world. The rains have given life to the landscape and the earth and wildlife react to this change with unparalleled vigour. Where the ground was once dusty and bare, rampant green growth bursts from the ground. Fireball lilies add firecrackers of colour to the landscape, other flowers open themselves to the sun, and of course, the antelope drop their young in multitudes, creating a bounty for predators large and small.
We have had a good amount of rainfall, interspersed with sunny days, creating that characteristically crisp, clear air that adds an edge of brightness to our world. The bush is infused with the wonderful aroma of the earth stirred to life by rain - a scent that is impossible to describe, yet so evocative of Africa in the rainy season. The ringing call of Woodland Kingfisher creates a sonic backdrop to the kaleidoscope of the landscape. The rainwater pans, having barely emptied out in the heat of September and October, are once again full to overflowing. These waters are host to a huge variety of water birds from the stately Wattled Cranes and the somewhat interesting-looking Knob-billed Ducks in their breeding finery to the Rails, Herons, Painted-Snipes and Sandpipers.
Animal concentrations have also altered by this abundance of new vegetation. We are seeing less grazers in the open floodplains now as they take advantage of the growth and shelter of the woodlands. We see enormous nursery herds of impala in the forests bleating as the tiny little lambs gambol in amongst their mothers' legs.
Large herds of buffalo have been seen moving through the area, as have a multitude of elephants, usually in big breeding herds. One morning we must have seen a hundred and fifty of these large, beautiful beasts scattered through the woodlands and plains in various herds.
A very exciting event this month was the early-morning lion kill right in front of camp. This involved a male lion bringing down a buffalo in the pre-dawn darkness and as the light lifted, we saw him in a tug-of-war battle over the carcass with an enormous crocodile in the swampy shallows. Unfortunately the activity of the camp coming to life disturbed the lion and so he retreated and abandoned his prized kill to the many crocodile that had started to gather. The drama did not stop there as after a while three lioness known as the Swamp Lions stealthily stalked past us, moving in the direction of the kill. The larger crocodiles had moved off but the lioness still cautiously approached the carcass aware that whoever had made the kill might still be around. They secured the buffalo, however three small crocodiles continued to pull off pieces of meat from the other side. In the scrub across the narrow plain, we could see the male lion still watching his efforts being eaten by the usurpers, but it seems that he was too nervous by the human presence to approach. However two bull elephants were not afraid to approach as they wandered out of the bush, straight towards where the kill lay. The first bull walked up the water's edge opposite the lions, sucked up a trunkful of water, and blasted it at the lions, causing them to scatter. His statement of dominion made, he had a leisurely drink while the lions returned to feeding. We then were treated to the bizarre sight of the two massive elephant bulls engage in a mock-fight, not 25 metres from the gorging lions!
After eating their fill, the lions moved into the shade. For the rest of the day, the lion and crocodile alternated at feeding on the carcass. When night fell the male lion rightly returned to his kill and feasted on his fair share. By morning, all that remained was the skull and bones of the buffalo in the floodplain.
We found the Mathatha Pride one rainy afternoon with two kills - a zebra and a giraffe. The meat lasted for two full days as the pride of 18 lion gorged themselves. As is usual after a kill the scavengers miraculously appear. In this instance, vultures and jackals provided guests with hours of entertainment, as they were seen in frantic and fierce interaction with the lion in order to gain control of the carcasses. One particular occasion saw the big male lion leaping into the air to catch a vulture that was almost added to the feast.
The 22-strong Mporota Pride has been seen regularly in the western floodplains. The female who brought out her two tiny cubs has once again hidden them, as the affections of the pride were probably a little too rough for the little lions. We know they must still be alive, as the mother is still lactating, and she disappears into the bush every so often where we believe the cubs are hiding. The remaining young cub (about four months old) who we have nicknamed "Chucky" was injured towards the end of the month, and had quite a severe limp. The bleak prospect of it not keeping up with pride and falling prey to marauding hyaena crossed our minds but we were pleased to discover him with the pride again later in the month.
Legadema has been our star leopard this month. She hasn't ventured into camp this month but has been sighted on several occasions within the vicinity of Mombo. One particularly eventful and bizarre day we found Pula, Legadema's daughter, mating with the new male in Ebony Forest. While they were mating, Legadema casually strolled by the couple, most likely on purpose. Legadema has also mated with this male leopard which adds a dynamic to the story. As the courtship usually lasts a few days, we were able to observe the mating couple a few times, mostly in the Old Mombo area.
Another leopard seen was Slim Lady, the diminutive leopard who inhabits the Roller Road area. She was accompanied by her cub, who appears to be almost a year old.
The Lone Wild Dog is still doing well with her little gang of jackals and the odd hyaena joining into the odd ensemble. She seems to have taken up residence on the Tippy's road clearing. This is a strategic spot as the woodlands in the area are abounding with impala.
We have only had a couple of rhino sightings this month. We have seen Serondela on his patrols, moving through the area like a living tank, checking and marking his territory. It would also be appropriate to mention at this time that the success of the rhino reintroduction project has resulted in a number of births, a sign that these animals are taking well to their new homes.
Christmas was a wonderfully festive and local affair. Our African Christmas tree, an acacia, was decorated with lights and baubles in true bush style. Nature also came to the party by providing us with a welcome shower of rain to dampen the heat.
Staff in Camp
Managers: Kirsty (Little Mombo) Gordon, Tanya, Graham, Ryan (Main Camp).
Guides: Cisco (Little Mombo) Malinga, Moss, Tshepo and Sefo (Main Camp).
Thanks to Moss Tubego, Cisco Letio and Ryan Green
Xigera Camp update
- December 2010 Jump
to Xigera Camp
Weather and Climate
Despite heavy showers in and around the Delta the rain seemed to largely avoid Xigera until 16 December when we experienced our first full inch in one downpour. On Christmas Day we were also rewarded with a wonderful downpour when the heavens opened during siesta which then left us to celebrate the evening with beautiful clear skies. We have recorded a total of 93mm of rain throughout the month of December. This is a lot lower than the same period last year and certainly lower than was predicted for the month.
The general temperature has been quite bearable with maximum temperatures generally reaching around 33°C. Although there has been a reasonable level of humidity, it has certainly not caused any discomfort.
Christmas Day is an important occasion in Botswana; it was also a special day of celebration at Xigera Camp which ended on a high note when all of the staff gathered to treat guests to a wonderful pre-dinner repertoire of song and dance.
It has been a privilege to host a number of families over the festive season. We are always particularly delighted to have younger children who enjoy hours of activities with us. A highlight for them is always the 'mokoro activity' where they have to opportuntity to learn the art of making beautiful Delta jewellery and accessories.
As well as being a festive month, December is a wonderful month as the bush is alive with activity. This has inspired us to spend a lot of time in the bush with delicious bush brunches on Nxabega Island, around Xigera Lagoon and in a number of other special areas of the concession.
The December heat has definitely ensured that swimming at Xigera Lagoon remains a favourite activity. When guides announce that it is time to leave the warm waters of the lagoon, in order to get off the channels before dark, there are always pleas for another few minutes in the strong stream of incredibly warm water.
One of our great attractions this month was Solomon, an elephant with a very colourful personality, that spent weeks around our island eating figs, mangosteen berries and tons of sweet grass growing in the fertile areas in front of the camp where the floodwaters have receded. Hours of amusement were spent watching Solomon literally vacuum the figs from the front deck once he had consumed the fruit on the ground. One thing we learned is that patience is required when Solomon is close to the walkway eating a pile of fallen fruit, as he becomes very territorial over his findings and will not budge until he has had his fill.
After weeks of Solomon's presence and pranks he disappeared. The figs were no longer in abundance, the mangosteen berries had either been consumed or had had all but dried up so off he went in search of new feeding grounds. Such is the life of elephants that pass through our territory to feast on the fruits of various trees as they ripen.
Overall we have been blessed with the most amazing sightings this month. Our resident leopard, Madiphala (meaning 'impala hunter') has been another absolute star. She is incredibly habituated to the vehicles and has shown her cub off proudly to so many guests. After an amazing kill at the end of last month we have had numerous sightings of Madiphala on various kills, including a large reedbuck.
Our game drive area on Nxabega Island has opened up nicely and is looking spectacular. We have had excellent sightings of buffalo and other general wildlife there. With a mix of woodland and floodplain the area offers a wonderful diversity of activities. Nxabega Island also delivered a Christmas treat with a superb sighting of five lion on Christmas Eve.
At the end of the month lion were heard roaring very close to camp and although our search for them paid dividends with a sighting of two other lion on Nxabega, we were unable to find the males that had kept us awake with their roars. They were obviously hiding in the scrub very close to camp. The roaring took place on two consecutive mornings and on each occasion the males refused to show themselves. We are now waiting for the first tracks in our sand pit on the bridge advertising their visit to our island.
We have also moved some of our mokoro rides to the eastern side of Xigera Island where we have had some good sightings of sitatunga. We have had some exciting moments trying to get the territorial hippos in the area to allow us to pass them in their large lagoon before we can proceed down the channel....
We are enjoying our summer fill of birds and their calls. The species list that one can compile over a couple of days is impressive. Visiting guide and bird specialist, Martin Benadie, managed to tally over 200 birds in a brief two-day stay. My preferred sighting of the month was a Rosy-throated Longclaw that we were very excited to see in the area.
We would like to take this opportunity of wishing everyone the very best for the New Year; we certainly hope that we have the opportunity of hosting you here in 2011.
Staff in Camp
Managers: Mike & Anne Marchington, Kgabiso Lehare, Lindi Samunzala, Lopang Ropala
Guides: Teko, Ace, Barobi, Luke, Onx and Tsono
Photos: Thanks to our guests Bertrand and Kent
Chitabe Camp update
- December 2010 Jump
to Chitabe Camp
Vumbura Plains Camp update
- December 2010 Jump
to Vumbura Plains Camp
Little Vumbura Camp update
- December 2010 Jump
to Little Vumbura Camp
Duba Plains Camp update
- December 2010 Jump
to Duba Plains Camp
Weather and Landscape
It has been a very hot and humid month, compensated by heavy rains (67mm to 85mm) and fantastic thunder and lightning shows.
The landscape is currently healthy and green making for some beautiful scenery. The cicadas are singing from the moment the sun sets right until dawn. The canvases of these sunrises and sunsets are phenomenal works of art.
As the water rises our guests have had amazing sightings of catfish mating. It is surprising that they have not been scared off by the approaching vehicle. The numbers of fish currently in the waters have attracted a large flock of African Fish-eagles. It is almost bizarre to see so many of these graceful birds, so often seen alone or in pairs, in such a small space. Other birdlife keeping us busy are the many species of Bee-eaters and Martial Eagles to name a few.
With the onset of the rains, food is now in abundance. At this time of year mammals are celebrating the fact that they will not go thirsty or hungry here at Duba Plains. Elephant are enjoying living in peace without having to stress about finding food and water and giraffe are often seen elegantly strolling along the floodplains.
There might be a bit of stress on the island as two lonely female Ostriches are stuck there due to the surrounding water increase. The male Ostrich, however, seems to be spending quality time around the airstrip with our legendary wildebeest.
This is also a time for newborns. Timing is a phenomenon of nature as mothers will remain healthy and strong in these lush surroundings, producing enough milk for their babies to suckle. However the circle of life turns as these poor unsuspecting little ones often end up as a snack for the Duba lion. We have witnessed the kills of tiny warthog, lechwe and tsessebe especially by a female and her sub-adult cub.
Buffalo cows, while also in great shape after the rains, have to work tirelessly to protect their calves from these lion. However even the adults have not been so lucky this month as a number were taken by lion this month. The male lion which was often seen at the airstrip took down two unsuspecting buffalo on his own. Not long after his feeding frenzy we saw him wandering in and out of the camp area before finding a lioness to mate with. Two other females, with their three cubs, have had a very successful run of kills. Recently we witnessed them killing three buffalo in 40 minutes - a real highlight!
Silver Eye seems to have been isolated by her pride and she has gone solo. Initially she was not in great shape but seems to have perked up and now is often found on kills of her own. We are hoping that the pride will reunite as they sometimes do.
Other sightings of interest include a python taking a baby monkey, two separate sightings of aardwolf that posed for photos and even came within a metre of the vehicle, bat-eared fox still foraging along the floodplains and jackals, honey badgers and hyaenas endlessly trotting around the area.
Banoka Bush Camp update
- December 2010
As is usual in Botswana, December was hot and humid. The rains, however, do help in cooling down temperatures somewhat. Temperatures can drop quite sharply at night, especially after a storm, and this carries on into the early morning. Showers and storms however, have not been heavy in general around Banoka and the most recorded rain received this month was 8.5mm. This is the highest recorded figure after one storm in the history of Banoka Bush Camp. However, since it only opened in September 2010 we are sure to give you greater figures going forward!
We are really appreciating our environment at the moment. The natural beauty of the greenery interspersed with colour puts a smile on all our faces. The mopane woodland has become a beautiful forest garden and every time we are in the vicinity it takes our breath away. Sometimes one wonders whether we are wandering through a forest in green England rather than in Africa.
Due to the vegetation and grass growing at an incredible rate, spotting game becomes quite a challenge at this time of year. On top of this, as water and food is now available everywhere, wildlife tends to scatter across the greater area, as they are not tied down to a few waterholes or grazing land.
Needless to say we have had some fantastic sightings this month. 16 wild dog were seen feeding on an impala in the Moremi Game Reserve. Two lion were located near the airstrip mating. Two further females were seen with two cubs in tow around the Magotho area.
A fantastic sighting this month was a crocodile which got hold of an African Fish Eagle after patiently and silently waiting in the water in front of camp. Fortunately for the bird, the crocodile had clearly caught it at a wrong angle and as he tried to get a better grip the bird flew away.
General game has been good. Herds of elephant are seen often wandering the land, browsing. Wildebeest and zebra are swelling their ranks with newborns. Waterbuck, impala and giraffe have been trailing along the edges of the channel close to camp. The hippo in front of camp have kept everyone entertained and awake at night as they playfully move about the water and interact with one another.
A large number of bird species continue to prevail in the area. Amongst these is the Saddle-billed Stork, Squacco Heron, Coppery-tailed Coucal, African Jacana (commonly known as the water-lily trotter!) and many more. Woodland Kingfishers are in abundance around camp.
The staff have made good progress since the opening of the camp. The camp is now three months old and is looking wonderful. We are working on making it better and better as we spend more time here and we are proud of our efforts in making the camp a success story. The camp has been busy since it opened and has only slowed down recently, as is usual at this time of year in the Okavango. However from mid-December we picked up again and had great fun entertaining our guests and giving them a fabulous African experience.
"I have stayed at many camps in the Delta and this is probably my favourite location by far. What really sets Banoka apart is its staff, they are informative and funny. They could not have been better hosts"
Staff in Camp
The managers in camp in December were Max and Frank. The camp guides were Alex and Chief.
Jacana Camp update
- December 2010 Jump
to Jacana Camp
The evening thunderstorms that we have had this month have seen to the very green vegetation that currently surrounds Jacana Camp. This has also ensured a constant surface of water on the floodplains. Daily temperatures have been wonderful, starting in the early 20s in the morning and reaching up to a maximum of 34 degrees Celsius during the day. The nights are clear and we are seeing the most spectacular constellations, while Orion clearly remains visible throughout the night.
With the continuous rains, water levels have remained reasonably constant over the last few months allowing us to continue with our usual boating activities. During this time of year we often start using vehicles to transfer guests to and from the air strip however the boat is still being used as our mode of transport.
The green floodplains have attracted all sorts of wildlife and have ensured some extremely exciting sightings for us this month. The large amounts of general game that we are seeing, such as red lechwe, impala, zebra and wildebeest across the plains have attracted the predators and there have been lion aplenty.
The local lioness Broken Nose, the swimmer of our concession, indulged us one afternoon with a show of lioness determination when she swam more than 200m next to the two camp boats with the most amazing show of lightning in the background. An incredible sighting!
There is a new pride in the area: a male accompanied by a female and cubs. The male has been very prominent around Jacana, making himself heard throughout the nights.
Buffalo, elephant and hippo have also been seen in abundance in the camp area and their antics and play have kept our guests entertained this month.
It has been a busy month at Jacana. We hosted Children in the Wilderness at the beginning of the month which kept our staff extremely busy. The festive season planning then took hold of us almost instantly and had us running around. While we have been working hard, we have also had an exciting month.
Jacana Camp will close in January 2011 for our annual maintenance period. This ensures that everything is shiny and new when we open camp again in February. We look forward to welcoming our guests when we open our doors.
Staff in Camp
Managers: Pieter Ras and Danielle van den Berg
Guides: Timothy Samuel, Joseph Basenyeng and Florence Kagiso
update - December 2010 Jump
to Kwetsani Camp
We have had varied weather this December with mild evenings and generally warm days. Storms have also hit us unexpectedly from all directions bringing in wind, rain and plenty of spectacular lightning shows. The 100mm of rain received has been extremely welcome and transformed the dry earth into a carpet of lush greenery.
The camp activities have not changed greatly as the big floods in 2010 have left enough water for us to continue enjoying boating activities - a bonus that we did not expect. Mekoro are still a great way to see the majestic scenery of the Okavango Delta and they are always popular with guests.
Wildlife sightings over the past month have been extremely varied and exciting. The guides have worked hard to provide a great game experience for their guests, and they have not let us down.
The red lechwe population has increased and large herds of them are seen every day moving past the front of the camp. Female impala have dropped their babies and little impala crèches are seen all over the Jao Concession. A small band of wildebeest are now seen regularly around camp. The large herds of elephant that were in the area during August and September seem to have moved to the dry areas where the new grass is sprouting shoots, and therefore sightings of these majestic creatures have tapered off. We have seen the Kwetsani Herd in camp or passing through once a week. They came to bid us a Happy Christmas on Christmas Eve. The matriarch's little one seems to be doing well and fitting well into the herd.
Lion have been scarce as they are now moving over large distances in short periods of time. One day we spotted some hunting in the floodplains in front of Jacana and the next day they had moved north of Kwetsani. Broken Nose was sighted near Jao Camp and on the Jao airstrip at the end of December and she seems to be lactating so this could mean that there are new cubs in the area. The old male lion was last sighted to the north of Kwetsani.
A small bachelor herd of buffalo have made the northern section of Kwetsani Island their home and are seen most mornings. They have also taken to sleeping on the floodplain in front of camp and between Tents 1 and 2. Our hippos are now also back in camp and are seen most nights. Some guests were even lucky enough to see a honey badger.
The boating activity has proved a success as we have had some great sightings of sitatunga near Jacana Camp as well as a rather large water monitor.
Birdlife has been superb. A pair of Verreaux's Eagle-Owls have been seen throughout the month and have taken up residence near camp. They are not camera shy and pose for a photo with ease. Three juvenile Saddle-billed Storks have been seen regularly by the vlei to the south of Kwetsani Camp. Woodland Kingfishers, Green-spotted Doves and Meyer's Parrots are also seen in the sausage tree in front of the main deck every day. Our family of Ground Hornbills are active around the camp and on the Kwetsani floodplain.
Boating activities will always reward with great bird sightings: Two Pel's Fishing-Owls were seen. First Bridge is normally a hive of activity, no matter what time of day you cross it, with Pied Kingfisher always putting on a show and posing for photographs. Fish Eagles sit on the poles of the bridge, Squacco Herons, Blacksmith Plovers, Hamerkops and a small family of Jacanas are often seen.
"Our stay was only perfect, especially our guide Ronald who was an expert in all things. We thank you very much Kwetsani staff!" Urs & Annja - Switzerland
"Seeing the two female and one male lion watching the hippo play, mokoro, seeing two sitatunga and the walking safari with Maipaa and Shorty were all very special. Thank you for making our stay so wonderful. Staff and food were fantastic and having dinner under the baobab tree and coming "home" to lit candles and Amarula were such a nice touchs. We can't say enough!" Scott & Deedee - USA
"Had a wonderful and relaxing time. Especially enjoyed the mokoros. Thanks for everything." Jan, David and Beverly - USA
"All of the staff were wonderful. The scenery was unimaginable. Our guide was very knowledgeable, mature and entertaining. We wish you a prosperous New Year" Janhavi, Bharath, Veena & Hale - USA
"We had a great time and good company. Enjoy your festive season." Tshekiso & Lebo - Botswana
Staff in Camp
Managers: Ian and Michélle Burger, Ipeleng Pheto
Guides: Keone Kekgathegile, Ronald Gaopalelwe
update - December 2010 Jump
to Jao Camp
Weather and Water Levels
The weather this month has been as varied as our wildlife sightings. Sunny summer days were interspersed with lightning-lit skies and rumbling thunder displays at times. After the rains, everything is green and fresh - creating a feast for all. And for guests, it's a whole new landscape to explore.
Water levels also started receding during the month allowing further exploration of areas that are usually flooded.
Our island is bustling with new life, with creatures both big and small. Our resident pack of banded mongoose has had their young and are scurrying all over the island. They have been such a delight to watch throughout the month.
Other young wildlife in and around camp are the newborn impalas. They make a perfect picture with their long unstable legs, small body and big ears. They seem to have a curious yet mischievous look on their little faces as they take in the big world around them. Due to the good rainfall we've received, there has been ample forage for them too.
Venturing out into further parts of the island, guests have been seeing much game on the floodplain areas including blue wildebeest, plains zebra and southern giraffe. As regards predators, lion have often been seen on afternoon drives including an impressive adult male that often awes us with his distinctive roars in the evening.
Hippos are also a frequent feature around Jao Camp - day and night. After dark they emerge from their daytime watery sanctum and often roam around on the island itself.
These large creatures have been seen from guest tents and close to walkways on more than one occasion. There is also a baby hippo waddling around with its mother at the moment affording some great photo-taking moments.
From big to small, nocturnal to diurnal we've had quite a variety of creatures to keep us all entertained. With the newborns on and around the island, they bring with them new life and a new experience for all.
Our little piece of paradise in the Delta never fails to disappoint with its birdlife. African Fish-Eagle pairs have been seen around the island on a regular basis with their characteristic calls resounding throughout the island. Guests have been able to capture beautiful fish-eagle images, along with an array of other birdlife including eloquent Whiskered Terns which are now in full breeding plumage.
Wattled Cranes have also been seen around the island, often in small flocks. One of the most fascinating birds in our area is the uncommon Southern Ground Hornbill. We enjoy regular sightings of these birds including one catching a snake recently. The various kingfisher species and sheer diversity of waterbirds are also hugely popular amongst birders.
From morning till dusk the chirping and singing of birds ensures a joyous atmosphere in Jao Camp and once the sun has set our resident owls can then be heard.
December has been an adventurous month for us all. Over the Christmas period we had some children in camp and had a whole array of fun activities set out for them. Soccer, animal print moulds, musical 'cushions' out in the bush and sack races were just some of the activities we had to keep not only the kids but Jao staff busy with.
Sanet and Stephan: Beautiful!
Nadia: Incredible. Best experience ever!
Sandra: A magnificent camp. Hope to return
Jaco and Stephanie: Love it
Ed, Tracy, Chase and Alex: Thank you for such an AWESOME time. We will never forget it!
Managers: Chris Barnard, Tara Salmons, Andrew Gaylord, Lauren Griffiths, Bradley White and Annelize Hattingh
Spa Therapists: Marina and Ollie
executive chef: Desiree Stephenson
Guides: TJ Lesifi, Cedric Samotanzi, Maipaa Tekanyetso and OB Morafhe
Tubu Tree Camp
update - December 2010 Jump
to Tubu Tree Camp
The weather has been interesting. The rainy season had a slow start but it increased during the month and by the end we had spectacular storms and lightning shows.
The greatest treat at Christmas is unwrapping a gift and not knowing what you're getting. This is exactly what a safari at Tubu Tree is all about. This month the floodplains seemed to come alive at midday - when guests were back from game drive and relaxing at the pool. Guests were treated to over 150 elephant coming out of the tree line and onto the floodplain where they became involved in an almighty mudfight. For about two hours, mud was being sprayed, thrown, rolled in and some elephants even took to wrestling one another in the thick brown muck.
Not to be out done by the elephant, a lioness also made an appearance in the middle of the day and crossed the floodplain. A ripple of excitement flowed through the camp and guests jumped onto vehicles to track her. The lioness was clearly on a mission as we only caught up with her about a kilometre out of camp where we saw her calling for what turned out to be her three young boys who came running out to find her.
The greeting was shortlived before she turned around and headed back to where she had just come from, this time with her young ones in tow. The long walk was clearly making the young ones thirsty so they stopped off for a short drink before running to catch up with their mother who was stopping for nothing. Back across the floodplain she went and then onto an island where a treat was waiting for the family - a freshly killed wildebeest. No wonder the lioness was in a hurry; she certainly didn't want the scavengers to get to her kill before she had fed her family.
The other female, which is part of the same pride, was not seen for the early part of the month as she had gone off to give birth. However, she has since been spotted lactating, but keeping the secret of the hideout of her cubs close to her chest. She also caused some excitement at midday one day towards the end of the month as we watched a zebra and wildebeest fleeing from her claws on the floodplain.
Buffalo have also been active at midday crossing the floodplain, as well as leopard, who was clearly in search of some lunch.
The leopard sightings have been up close and personal this month. On three different occasions we had leopard crawling under our vehicles as we stopped to take in their awesome presence. We have sighted a new female in the area, while Moriti - a male leopard - has now taken up residence near camp and has been seen chasing genets around camp.
Speaking of leopards, a vehicle of guests were watching a herd of tsessebe with rising anticipation as they were alarming calling towards a bush. Suddenly, out came a leopard ... well, a leopard tortoise that is. It was a momentous sighting as the tsessebe were very keen to investigate this strange being.
Birding has been superb this month. Predators such as juvenile Bateleur, African Harrier-Hawk and Martial Eagle were spotted. A highlight was the Western Banded Snake-Eagle which joined in the midday activities by killing a snake right in front of camp before swallowing it whole. The greatest bird sighting for the month was the sighting of the African Skimmer.
"Everyone was so friendly and helpful. Jacky and Justin are so knowledgeable as well. Dinner in the bush was wonderful and delicious. Thoroughly enjoyed the staff singing and dancing, rooms were very comfortable and well-tended. Outdoor shower awesome!" Patti & Sarah - USA
"Very warm and friendly welcome from Justin and Jackie, the staff is also very friendly! Johnny is a perfect guide, he knows so much and takes time to show you everything and gives a lot of information." Bastiaan & Natasch - Netherlands
"Everything was fantastic... from Christmas dinner with the wonderful Tubu Tree Choir... to the delicious food at every meal... to the awesome game drives! Thank you for all the excellent attention to detail and for making our honeymoon at Tubu Tree extra special with bubbles, candles and a romantic dinner under the stars. You all do a superb job - we look forward to coming back one day for one of our anniversaries!" Michael & Stephanie - USA/CAN
"We Loved Tubu Tree! We were spoiled with amazing wildlife and plenty of delicious outdoor eating! Thanks to everyone and Happy New Year!" Sarah & Ted
"We had a terrific time. The animals and scenery are awesome!" Ron & Bea
Staff in Camp
Management: Justin Stevens & Jacky Collett-Stevens
Guides: Kambango Siminbo, Johnny Mowanji and Eskia Ntema
Kalahari Plains Camp
update - December 2010 Jump
to Kalahari Plains Camp
Weather and Landscape
The long-awaited rains have finally brought relief to the desert and have experienced fantastic storms over the last few weeks. The result is an unrecognisable Kalahari. Grasses are green and waist-high and pans are brimming with water. The incessant winter chatter of barking geckos has been replaced with the thunderous roars of lions.
The Kalahari Plains Pride are back in the area and we were fortunate enough to witness them bring down a fully-grown oryx in front of two of our game drive vehicles. We were enjoying the late afternoon spectacle of the pride relaxing on a beautiful open pan. The shadows were lengthening and the lion were beginning to stretch the day's sleep from their relaxed limbs. An unfortunate oryx chose this moment to crest the ridge upon this peaceful scene. The pride immediately sprang to life and the antelope's end was swift and clean. The pride set to feeding with gusto and were soon replete, bloodied and victorious - a disturbing and dramatic sight especially to those who have never been this close to nature. We drove back to the camp in contemplative silence as each person attempted to process the realities of our natural world.
We were soon confronted with an opposite reality; the incredible beauty of the restoration of life. On the 15 December one of our game drive vehicles came across a cheetah mother with three tiny cubs. These two-month-old spotted balls of fur resemble honey badgers, a well-known form of mimicry employed in baby cheetah in order to maximise their chances of survival. The honey badger has a fearsome reputation amongst other mammals and humans who tend to give this animal a wide berth. This little family gave us a fantastic sighting by posing and playing for us before gambolling off into the bush.
Other exciting and unusual sightings included a leopard seen whilst transferring guests from the airport to the camp at the end of the month. Surprisingly enough a hedgehog was found in the vehicle maintenance pit. It was rescued by one of the guides and proudly displayed to the guests at afternoon tea before being released back into the wild again.
A pack of four wild dog appeared about three weeks ago and stayed in the area for about two days before once again being swallowed up by the greater Kalahari.
to Page 2