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February 2010

(Page 1 of 2)

Page 1 Updates
General Safari News - General information and updates from our partners in Africa
Wildlife News - Interesting wildlife sightings and photos.
Camp News - Camp specific news, including refurbs, rebuilds, accolades, etc.
• Monthly update from North Island in Seychelles.
• Monthly update from Kings Pool Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from DumaTau Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Savuti Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Zarafa Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Selinda Camp in Botswana.
Kwando Safaris game reports from Botswana.
• Monthly update from Mombo Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Xigera Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Chitabe Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Vumbura Plains Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Little Vumbura Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Duba Plains Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Jacana Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Kwetsani Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Jao Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Tubu Tree Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Kalahari Plains Camp in Botswana.

Page 2 Updates
• Monthly update from Pafuri Camp in South Africa.
• Monthly update from Pafuri Walking Trail in South Africa.
• Monthly update from Kings Camp in South Africa.
• Monthly update from Rocktail Beach Camp in South Africa.
• Monthly Dive report from Rocktail Bay in South Africa.
• Monthly update from Makalolo Plains in Zimbabwe.
• Monthly update from Little Makalolo in Zimbabwe.
• Monthly update from Davison's Camp in Zimbabwe.
• Monthly update from Ruckomechi Camp in Zimbabwe.
• Monthly update from Mana Canoe Trail in Zimbabwe.
• Monthly update from Toka Leya Camp in Zambia.
• Monthly update from Lufupa Tented Camp in Zambia.
• Monthly update from Kalamu Lagoon Camp in Zambia.
• Monthly update from Shumba Camp in Zambia.
• Monthly update from Kapinga Camp in Zambia.
• Monthly update from Busanga Bush Camp in Zambia.
• Monthly update from Desert Rhino Camp in Namibia.
• Monthly update from Palmwag Camp in Namibia.
• Monthly update from Doro Nawas Camp in Namibia.
• Monthly update from Damaraland Camp in Namibia.
• Monthly update from Skeleton Coast Camp in Namibia.
• Monthly update from Serra Cafema Camp in Namibia.
• Monthly update from Ongava Tented Camp in Namibia.
• Monthly update from Little Ongava in Namibia.
• Monthly update from Ongava Lodge in Namibia.
• Monthly update from Andersson's Camp in Namibia.
• Monthly update from Little Kulala Camp in Namibia.
• Monthly update from Kulala Desert Lodge in Namibia.
• Monthly update from Governors' Camp in Kenya's Masai Mara.
• Monthly update from Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge in Rwanda.

Wilderness Safaris to list on the Botswana Stock Exchange
Wilderness Safaris will soon list on the Botswana Stock Exchange and the Johannesburg Stock Exchange's Africa Board. This exercise is a significant step in the company's strategic objective to continue expanding the area under its influence into new regions that will complement its existing biodiversity footprint and experience offering and which will ultimately make a difference to the conservation of biodiversity and the engagement of rural communities.

Wilderness Safaris purchases Cape Town Tours & Trails
Wilderness Safaris has purchased Tours & Trails, the well-known Cape Town company, effective 1 March 2010. The business will continue operating under the Tours & Trails brand with product enhancements planned and to be advised shortly. Tours & Trails are specialists in bespoke itineraries to Cape Town and further afield in the magical Western Cape province of South Africa. An ideal complement to a traditional Wilderness Safaris itinerary is to spend a few days in this part of the continent. Activities like hikes and cycling can be incorporated into many of the popular excursions, along with unique experiences such as a walk with the chacma baboons of the Cape Peninsula, learning about Great White Sharks in False Bay, or sea kayaking and swimming with African Penguins at Boulders Beach.


Vultures of the Kalahari
Location: Kalahari Plains Camp, CKGR, Botswana
Date: 07 Feb 2010
Observer: Kai Collins
Photographers: Martin Benadie, Kai Collins

The waterhole in front of the newly-built Kalahari Plains Camp seems to be a hit with the resident vulture population. Observing the waterhole around midday we counted at least 87 vultures after numerous others took off on our approach, probably taking their total number well over 100.

White-backed Vultures were by far the more common species and often socialise at water sources like this. We watched as many of the birds bathed in the waterhole, preening and driving ectoparasites from their skin by standing with their wings open into the facing sun. Vultures often tend to bath after feeding on carcasses, so safe water sources like these are important in the daily social regimes of this group of specialist raptors.

Vultures at Kalahari Plains Camp    Vultures at Kalahari Plains Camp    Vultures at Kalahari Plains Camp

12 Lappet-faced Vultures were also counted, a vulture species that is of considerable conservation concern. Threats to southern Africa's nine recorded species are unfortunately not restricted to Lappet-faced Vultures alone. All but two of southern Africa's vulture species are classified as rare or vulnerable, a number of factors responsible for their demise. Power lines are a big concern, vultures often flying into the lines or electrocuting themselves. Traditional healers often kill vultures for parts and vultures are further heavily impacted through direct poisoning, shooting, loss of suitable tree nesting sites through subsistence farming and direct trapping.

Large protected areas like the Central Kalahari Game Reserve are therefore pivotal for vulture conservation in Africa. It is an unspoilt tract of land large enough to sustain these enigmatic birds that need vast home ranges to feed, breed and ultimately survive.

Crocodiles Feast on a Hippo
Location:  Kwetsani Camp, Jao Concession, Botswana
Date:  18 February 2010
Observer: Martin Kays
Photographer: Martin Kays

Using a helicopter to obtain an aerial perspective of the Okavango Delta is something quite unique! You are able to marvel at this inland delta system - the largest in the world - from a bird's-eye view and get a real appreciation of the maze of watery channels and islands together with the vast number of birds and animals that inhabit this water wonderland.

Crocs feeding on a hippo    Crocs feeding on a hippo

On such a controlled scenic helicopter flight over the Kwetsani Floodplains, piloted by Peter Pearlstein, we spotted a flock of vultures circling over a small clearing in the papyrus. We decided to investigate the area to see what all the interest was about. In the small clearing we found the remains of a hippo that must probably died in a territorial dispute with another male.

Keeping most of these vultures from landing were five rather large Nile crocodiles. Seeing these prehistoric reptiles on a kill is a special sighting, and as they can't chew their food it can be quite gruesome to watch the way they tear off bits of flesh with their famous 'death roll.'

The propeller noise of the helicopter caused the crocodiles to temporarily retreat back into a nearby water channel and this allowed the vultures, mostly White-backed, to approach the kill. Vultures don't waste any time with the remains of a kill and will strip the carcass within minutes! Not wanting to cause any more disturbance so that the crocodiles could return we continued our scenic flight elsewhere.

Kalahari Plains Camp - A walk with Bushmen

For most people, the idea of an African safari probably conjures up images of the spectacular wildlife of this continent. There are however many other facets of a safari that leave an indelible impression on each person, once experienced. I was fortunate to have just such an experience recently at Kalahari Plains Camp.

The overriding impression I had after my first day in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve is that it truly is a harsh environment where only the strong will survive. The landscape is barren, the air hot and dry, and there was no sign of water around. It left me pondering how amazing the animals must be to survive in this environment. It also got me thinking how the local Bushmen people have existed in the area for centuries. Fortunately, Kalahari Plains Camp offers an interpretive "Bushman Walk" where guests gain insight into the lifestyle of this fascinating culture. It was an opportunity I certainly was not going to miss.

As the sun started setting in the west, we eagerly awaited the arrival of the Bushmen who would guide us on this walk and impart their knowledge. When Joster and PG arrived, there was an uneasy feeling amongst us. 'Do they speak English? Will we be able to communicate?' was some of the thoughts racing through my mind. After a short silence, Joster jovially greeted us in English. These men are both members of the camp staff, working in the 'back-of-house', but part of their job is to bring their culture to life for guests, and it is clearly something they are proud to do.

Walking with the bushmen at Kalahari Plains    Walking with the bushmen at Kalahari Plains    Bushman starting fire

Before departing we were given a brief overview of what to expect. We headed off, trailing behind Joster and PG, filled with anticipation. They told us that the purpose of the walk is to give us an idea of how the Bushmen survive in this arid environment, having done so for aeons. Indeed, some still do today, making this a practical demonstration of a unique culture both past and present.

First up was an ostrich egg. At least, that was what I saw. Not to Joster and PG. They saw it as a meal, a vessel to carry water and a raw material from which to make necklaces. Only eggs without chicks are harvested as the Bushmen have a great respect for the environment and have always understood what sustainable practice is. This got me thinking, as it was in stark contrast to what we 'modern' people are doing to the planet. Next, a tortoise shell. Again, it is far more than just a shell. A tortoise is a source of food, a way to store berries and fruit and it also makes a great 'spade' for digging up fruit and roots!

We were then shown a bow and arrow used in hunting. Joster, with the attention to detail of a scientist, explained how they get poison for the arrows from the larvae of beetles that feed on a certain species of Commiphora. From roots, to berries and grass to trees, PG and Joster were founts of knowledge.

We were all enthralled by what we saw and the friendly way with which Joster and PG interacted with our group. Finally, the showstopper for the evening was a practical demonstration of how to make fire using two sticks.

The lessons from this experience certainly prompted me to adjust my mindset. From now I don't take anything for granted, make the best use of what I have and appreciate the simple things in life. We all need to try look after this planet and the Bushmen can show us the first steps.

A nature walk with these knowledgeable Bushmen is certainly a must-do for anyone visiting Kalahari Plains Camp. It will not only enhance your safari, it might just change your approach to life!

Text and photographs - Simon Stobbs

Woodland Kingfisher's unusual snake prey
Location:  Vumbura Plains, Okavango Delta, Botswana
Date:  18 February 2010
Observers: Richard and Judith Agee, Dave Luck
Photographer: Dave Luck

While visiting the Okavango Delta recently, we observed a Woodland Kingfisher perched on a branch scanning the ground below for potential prey. Suddenly it dived into the island understorey below and emerged with a small snake of approximately 35cm held firmly in its beak.

The hapless spotted bush snake was held crosswise in its beak and the kingfisher started beating it on the branch, repeatedly to the right and left until the snake seemed dead. Even though the snake appeared lifeless, the kingfisher continued to beat it on the wood, perhaps softening up its prey for easier ingestion.

Woodland Kingfisher with a snake      Woodland Kingfisher with a snake

The kingfisher was then joined by its mate who sat quite close. Some excited vocalisations were exchanged and when the mate approached closer, the bird with the snake turned around and flew a short distance to a small hole in a dead branch. It hovered briefly under the hole and finally perched beneath the entrance. A beak emerged and tried to latch onto the snake but the adult kingfisher flew back to the original branch, presumably to catch its breath. After all, a snake of this size and weight in proportion to the kingfisher would have demanded a lot of energy to carry around. The mate had by this time flown off.

Incessant begging calls from inside the hole prompted another attempt at feeding the chicks. Only after a third attempt did the chick latch onto the prey item successfully. The adult bird again hovered below the hole, holding the snake's tail, presumably to prevent the snake from snagging on the rough bark.

Woodland Kingfisher with a snake      Woodland Kingfisher with a snake

Flying back to the original perch, the adult kingfisher turned around on landing and observed the tail of the snake slowly disappearing into the nest hole. This exciting sequence of events took seven minutes.

The Woodland Kingfisher is an intra-African breeding migrant, found in southern Africa from October/November until April where it takes advantage of the plentiful supply of food during our annual rainy season. Surprisingly, rather unusual food items appear on this delightful bird's menu: Insects (mainly grasshoppers, locusts and beetles, dragonflies, cicadas, roaches, mantises, moths, butterflies, larvae, ants and termites), as well as scorpions, millipedes, crabs, frogs, lizards, snakes, and occasionally small birds. There has also been a record of a small bat being caught and consumed.

The Central Kalahari is the place to be at the moment
Location:  Kalahari Plains Camp, Central Kalahari Game Reserve, Botswana
Date:  28 February 2010
Observer: Simon Stobbs 
Photographer: Simon Stobbs

Arriving at Kalahari Plains Camp mid-afternoon with its wonderful vistas of this remote area, I was not going to pass up the opportunity of a short afternoon game drive. As we did not have a great deal of time, we stayed close to camp. In spite of this, we still had great sightings of springbok and oryx. On our return to camp we found two honey badgers foraging. Viewing honey badgers anywhere is a treat, but to see them carrying on as if we were not even present was a first for me. It was also interesting to see a Southern Pale Chanting Goshawk perched in a tree near the honey badgers. The goshawk would associate with the honey badgers to grab any possible prey items that they disturbed. I had heard about this symbiotic relationship a number of times, but this was my first time to see it.

Gemsboks at Kalahari Plains    Lightning at Kalahari Plains

As dusk fell, the sound of barking geckos echoed around us and returned to camp shortly before dark. I headed straight for the pool area as I wanted to show some staff where the honey badgers were - since they had been in the open area in front of camp. It was then that I noticed the tawny figure of a lioness moving close to camp. She headed across the open area and disappeared into the desert night.

The next morning was an early start as we were heading to the world-renowned Deception Valley. We saw a couple of oryx, springbok and steenbok on our way to the pans, but it was only once we arrived at the pans that we started to see game in larger numbers.

We were fortunate to find a large male lion lying in the open against the backdrop of Deception Pan itself. We found a further three lionesses sleeping in a thicket. As the sun rose in the sky, the animals began to retreat into the shade. We returned to camp around midday and enjoyed the afternoon in the comfort of the camp. It was a really hot day and gave me even more respect for the adaptability of the animals that survive in this uncompromising wilderness.

Late afternoon we did a short walk with 2 Bushmen and they showed us how they survive in the desert. It was fascinating to see and something that made me realise how much I take for granted in my daily life.

Male lion at Kalahari Plains    Honey Badgers at Kalahari Plains    Goshawk and badger at Kalahari Plains

During dinner we were treated to the spectacle of a thunderstorm moving in from the south-west. Lightning struck at regular intervals on the horizon offering one of the greatest light shows one could ever wish for. The rain arrived during the night and stopped shortly before we departed on morning game drive.

It was amazing to see the contrast to the landscape compared to the day before. It was as if the desert had been swathed with a tinge of green. The roads were full of puddles and big herds of game gathered in the pans, safe in the knowledge that the rain would make their lives that bit easier, if only for a few weeks. We were also fortunate to see a number of bat-eared foxes this particular morning.

I would have loved to have spent another week here to have seen the entire transformation to the landscape, but I was nevertheless glad to have experienced the desert as I did. This piece of wilderness is a huge contrast to other areas in Botswana that I have seen and a visit to the Central Kalahari certainly contributes to a comprehensive experience of this diverse country.

Summer Season Hwange Exceeds Expectations
Location:  Davison's Camp, Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe
Date:  February 2010
Observer: Simon Stobbs 
Photographer: Simon Stobbs

My visit to Hwange National Park had some serious expectations to meet up to. Hwange is well known for its phenomenal dry-season game viewing when waterholes are surrounded by a diverse array of mammals. I was rather anxious to see what Hwange would be like in the wetter summer months.

After an easy two-hour drive from Victoria Falls airport on good surfaced roads (Davison's is also conveniently accessible by air), we arrived at Hwange Main Camp where we were met by Dennis, our guide for the next two days. We climbed into Dennis's open vehicle and departed around mid-afternoon for Davison's Camp. The drive would be in the region of 2hr30min depending on what we would see...

Wildebeests in Hwange    Elephants in Hwange    Buffalos at Hwange

After about 30 minutes we came to an open area where a large herd of elephants were enjoying the abundant water. A short while later we saw zebra, giraffe, baboon, warthog, impala, kudu and two sable antelope. All in all, a pretty good start. We continued on our journey making our way through open grassland areas and tall teak woodlands appreciating the diversity of Hwange.

As sunset drew nearer, Dennis arrived at Mbiza Pan where sundowner drinks had been set up for us against the backdrop of a palm-fringed open clearing. After enjoying the sunset we arrived at Davison's Camp after dark where we were greeted by the welcoming staff. As far as 'transfers' into camp go, this was certainly up there with the best of them, turning into a productive afternoon game drive.

We set off early the next morning for Ngamo Pan, filled with eager anticipation of what we would see. On arrival we were struck by the abundance of wildlife - the pans were full of birds: from Grey Crowned Cranes to Abdim's and White Storks, as well as a host of other waterbirds - I was astounded by the diversity. There was also abundant game here with large herds of zebra and wildebeest as well as a pack of black-backed jackals. I could have spent the entire day just at Ngamo. The great sightings continued with more elephant herds and plenty of general game before returning to Davison's Camp late morning for brunch.

Male lion in Hwange NP    Game drive in Hwange    Wild dog in Hwange

At around 15:30 we headed out on our afternoon drive. Dennis wanted to head down to the Linkwasha open areas as there had been reports of lion sightings in the area the previous night. On the way to Linkwasha we had good sightings of a herd of sable antelope and a family of bat-eared foxes. On arriving at Linkwasha, we were greeted with the sight of a herd of elephants moving across the plains. Further on a herd of buffalo grazed contentedly against the backdrop of a gathering thunderstorm.

We then came across a magnificent male lion moving through the lush green grass. It truly was turning into a fantastic afternoon. After spending some time with the lion we headed off for our sundowner drinks at Scott's Pan - a pan which we ended up sharing with a huge herd of elephant. What an afternoon! What made it even better is that we had all these sightings to ourselves.

The following morning we set out from camp early in order to get back to Hwange Main Camp. Surely things could not get better? Along the way, we came across a herd of kudu staring in one direction. We rounded the corner and lying right next to the road was a pack of seven African wild dogs.

What a great way to end a magnificent stay in Hwange. Apart from the great game viewing, we also saw a diverse array of birds including specials like Bradfield's Hornbill, Arnott's Chat and Racket-tailed Roller. I was totally 'sold' on how good the summer game viewing was. I left Hwange far from disappointed...

North Island's Seychelles White-Eye Introduction - March 2010 update
Location:  North Island, Seychelles
Date:  February 2010
Observer: Linda van Herck
Photographer: Andrew Howard

In July 2007 North Island was the proud recipient of 25 Seychelles White-eyes, a bird species that at the time was regarded by the IUCN as Critically Endangered with a global population of some 350 birds.

Measures such as the introduction to North Island have helped the recovery of the species and estimates of numbers now exceed 400 birds. This increase has been mirrored on North Island where the birds have bred successfully each year since introduction.

Seychelles White-eye    Seychelles White-eye    Seychelles White-eye

In May 2008 at least 15 fledglings were confirmed as additions to the founder population and nine of these were later ringed so their development could be monitored and the Environmental Team also ensure it stayed abreast of population trends. The team was thrilled that Andre LaBiche from ICS (Island Conservation Society), our partner in this conservation endeavour, recently visited the island to follow up on the latest crop of youngsters. He was able to ring no fewer than 19 birds born on the island since reintroduction.

The estimated total of young birds on the island is now 40 which, added to the founder population, amounts to a very healthy 60+ birds - making the introduction an unqualified success.

We are thrilled to be contributing so meaningfully to the recovery of this species in the Seychelles.


New Safari Adventure Company Camp in the Okavango Delta

Banoka Bush Camp is scheduled to open in August 2010 and marks Safari Adventure Company's entree into the Okavango Delta. The tented camp will be located in the Khwai Concession, in the north-eastern corner of the Delta, adjoining the Moremi Game Reserve. Banoka Bush Camp will offer an affordable Delta experience, with a wealth of wildlife, birds and scenic wonders to be discovered.

Annual Okavango Flood
The new flood waters reached Jacana Camp - usually the first Wilderness Safaris camp to feel the effect of the annual flood. Water levels rose just under a meter in four days.

Early indications are that 2010 will have a big flood. The waters will now push down the main channels to Xigera and also through the east towards Little Vumbura, before spreading out onto the seasonal floodplains at Jao, Kwetsani, Tubu Tree, and Vumbura Plains.

In addition, for the foreseeable future (possibly 3-4 months) the game drive transfer from Chitabe airstrip to Chitabe Camp will be closer to an hour (as opposed to the current 20 minutes) due to floodwaters on the normal route.

Abu Camp
The reopening of Abu Camp has been delayed, and the camp remains closed until 10 June 2010. This first phase encompasses the refurbishment of the main area. The guest tents are scheduled to be refurbished between 01 Oct 2010 and 31 Mar 2011.

Therapy Treatments Now Offered at all Botswana Premier Camps
Resident massage therapists are now available at Kings Pool, Mombo, Little Mombo and Vumbura Plains. Guests can now receive in-tent massage treatments. Jao Camp of course has had an established spa for many years now. Guests can book treatments in camp.

North Island completes its upgrade

North Island's upgrade is complete and has been well worth the wait. Designed and created by LIFE, the Island was transformed during the latter part of 2009 and was completed in January 2010. The upgrades are many, from the main areas to each villa itself, and comprise new furnishings, décor as well as brand new areas in which to enjoy one of the most beautiful places in the world. In addition, Villa 11 was completely redesigned by Silvio Rech and Lesley Carstens, the architects of North Island. Maira Koutsoudakis from LIFE added to the alteration with sumptuous décor touches to create the ultimate honeymoon retreat; this Villa is now only available to a couple.

Upgrades at North Island in the Seychelles

The main lounge is cloaked in new decorative touches, whilst still retaining its original, inimitable style. Other changes in the main area include a new handcrafted table in the dining sala, a deep lounge dining area and the Cellar Dining Sala – an intimate private dining area floating on a raised decked island off the main dining section.

At the pool, new marshmallow-fluffy sun-bed loungers and cushions sit in intimate pairs, a turned high-gloss ceramic side-table between them. Custom-designed by LIFE and created by a grassroots poverty-prevention ceramics group, the ribbed texture of the side-tables is punctuated by decorative hangings in turquoise glass and bronze metal trading beads, true to the trading history of this former Spice Route trading point.

Upgrades at North Island in the Seychelles

The villas, with their panoramic view of the beach are now even closer to the shifting sands and breezy beach thanks to the design of their new beach decks. These circular decks are perched in front of each villa and bedded into the green verge just in front of the white sands. On the exterior deck of the master bathroom, the outdoor lounge area is a new area for rest and repose.

Upgrades at North Island in the Seychelles

Finally, Villa 11 now measures a massive 750 square metres with a large portion of that space having been added in multiple, tiered levels cascading down the granitic boulders onto a private beach entry to the ocean. Amongst a number of changes are a Reverie Lounge, an outdoor sala – with a dramatic chandelier of recycled glass, aged beaten brass and white shell strands breezily chiming above – and the Tête a Tête dining area, with its unobstructed view all the way to the ocean horizon.

Upgrades at North Island in the Seychelles

As always, all features were created with the mindfulness of sustainability, ecological soundness and local knowledge. This place not only looks natural and authentic, but is so. For example, all recycled decorative glassware and stemware is hand-made in Fair Trade production facilities in Swaziland from glass bottle waste collected in township empowerment and job-creation projects.

Revised Victoria Falls Entrance Fees

The entry fee into Victoria Falls on the Zambian side has been increased to $20 per person with immediate effect. As no prior notice was given, tour operators are currently trying to get it reversed.

The Zimbabwe side of the Falls is currently still $20 per person but will possibly be increasing on the May 1st to $30 per person.

Reforestation of Malawi's most fragile forested area - the northern lakeshore of Lake Malawi
Wilderness Safaris Malawi has partnered with NGO Ripple Africa to assist with the reforestation of Malawi's most fragile forested area - the northern lakeshore of Lake Malawi. Conservation has always been Wilderness Safaris' primary priority, while the issue of deforestation is a major concern throughout Malawi. Nkhata Bay district is one of the few areas in Malawi where dense indigenous forests still exist and for this reason Wilderness Safaris' Chintheche Inn is the perfect place to start a nursery/orchard project to grow trees from seedlings. Ripple Africa is an NGO that primarily focuses on reforestation and afforestation along the northern lakeshore. Active since 2004, the NGO has become an expert on the subject, hence Wilderness Safaris Malawi's decision to partner with them in this area.

North Island Update - February 2010              Jump to North Island

The ocean conditions this month have been a little unsettled although fortunately the visibility has been a constant 25 to 30 metres throughout the month with some days in excess of 35 metres which has been fantastic for our diving and snorkeling expeditions.

Without intending any disrespect to any of our other dive sites, Sprat City has yet again been a favourite this month and the activity on this reef has been nothing short of phenomenal. Swarming schools of Blue and Gold and Lunar fusiliers have been resident on this reef throughout the month and have been a great attraction to snorkellers who are unable to venture any closer to the reef.

The coral growth that has been recorded on Sprat City over the years has also been very positive. There is one Acropora coral species (Acropora acuminata) in particular which we use as an indicator which has unfortunately been gnawed at repeatedly by passing Parrotfish. However the branches of coral that had been broken off have continued to grow where they had landed and have now completely fused back into the primary structure of the coral.

Our Daisy coral (Goniopora species), which is a species of Flowerpot coral, had also received a substantial blow when an anchor had been dropped on this section of the reef almost a year back by a passing fishing boat. The anchor had hooked underneath the coral structures and pulled out a large section which was then scattered over the top of the rest of the colony structure. On a recent inspection to this section of the reef, the exposed skeleton can now no longer be seen and the new coral polyps have regrown over the dislodged sections of coral.

Like other reef-building corals, Flowerpot coral polyps have microscopic algae (zooxanthellae) living within their tissues and through photosynthesis produce energy-rich molecules that the coral polyps can use as nutrition. However in addition to this primary food source these specific polyps can also use their tentacles to directly capture plankton from the water and thus are not as reliant on sunlight (required for photosynthesis) or the zooxanthellae as some other coral species are.

Sprat City is famous for its Daisy coral formations which are responsible for the grand topography of this reef and this particular coral's unusual feeding capabilities are the primary reason that this type of coral has survived the coral bleaching episode of 1998 so well compared to many other species of coral which had been affected during this time. Coral bleaching is caused by the depletion of the zooxanthellae which is the only source of nutrition for many corals but due to the fact that the Daisy coral is still able to feed itself by other means allows this coral to withstand severe bleaching episodes almost intact. Interestingly, Flowerpot corals are listed on Appendix II of the CITES Endangered List (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species).

Another coral species which has thrived on this particular reef is the Lettuce coral (Pectinia lactuca) - this is an extremely fragile coral and as divers we are very particular to keep very clear of this section of the reef so as not to accidentally kick any of the 'leaves'. This coral resembles green-tinged porcelain rose petals and a single bump can simply shatter the coral. While we have recorded much damage to this coral over the years, it now looks in a very healthy state and vast sections of reef can be seen where this coral has flourished. Fortunately this coral species is relatively fast growing and has been able to recover quite quickly.

This month we have also recorded a marked increase in the number of Whitetip reef sharks spotted on Twin Anchors on Silhouette Island. While there is ample life on this particular reef, we have never seen an abundance of these sharks in this area; however this month we have recorded up to 5 or 6 separate sharks on a single dive. Interestingly, our resident Whitetip reef sharks that are usually located off the southern sections of the reef at Sprat City have been recorded roaming over the neighbouring Coral Gardens reef for the duration of the month with only a few single sightings recorded on Sprat City itself. While the aggregations off Sprat City have seemingly been quite territorial there has been very little research recorded worldwide to indicate any such territorial behaviour.

A rather unusual encounter this month involved one of our larger Round ribbontail rays which swam very inquisitively up to one of our snorkel guides. Normally as the guide of the group it is important to remain calm as an indication that there is nothing to be afraid of, but after it appeared as though the ray would swim right up to the guide there was much arm-flailing and grunting as the guide tried to get out of the way. These particular rays are normally quite shy and otherwise do not take any note of divers or snorkellers but the guests were needless to say quite entertained by this spectacle although I am sure they would have reacted in a similar way if the ray had made a beeline for them!


Botswana Camps
Kings Pool Camp update - February 2010               Jump to Kings Pool Camp

No update this month.


DumaTau Camp update - February 2010               Jump to DumaTau Camp

No report this month.


Savuti Camp update - February 2010               Jump to Savuti Camp

No report this month.


Zarafa Camp update - February 2010               Jump to Zarafa Camp

No report this month.


Selinda Camp update - February 2010               Jump to Selinda Camp

Weather and Landscape
For more than thirty years the Selinda Spillway has been anything but the channel of reviving and life-endorsing water that it once was - it has predominantly been a dry and dusty track. In 2009, to our great excitement, water unexpectedly began to course along the river imprint, reviving the arid northern region of Botswana. As a result, the Selinda Reserve has flourished and the Spillway is teeming with wildlife. Continual heavy afternoon showers have contributed to water levels - and little waterways are to be found all over the place, where once game drive vehicles explored dry tracts. Although we are approaching winter, the world around the channels remains green, and is heaving with all kinds of wildlife and birdlife.

The year so far has not disappointed visitors to Selinda. Young leopard cubs have been spotted near Zarafa, although the mother has kept the den site a secret. This comes as no surprise, considering there are two lion prides moving through the area - one in the direction of Savuti Camp and the other in the direction of Selinda. Both prides have little ones of their own - with two and four cubs respectively. The lion cubs remain shy of making public appearances - and most sightings have been recorded as a mere blur on film. We don't mind - it is heartening just to know that they are around.

Lions at Selinda    Mongoose and Cobra at Selinda    Carmine Bee-eater

We've had great sightings, whilst drifting along the channels in boats, of little hippo snuggled up to their floating mothers. A great contrast to the old bulls charging along the channels as old warlords severely scarred by their territorial fights.

Game drive vehicles are accompanied by a flutter of Southern Carmine Bee-eaters, who fly along beside the vehicles in order to catch the insects disturbed along the tracks which serve as delightful snacks. Their beautiful colours only enhance the drives, and with them flying so close to the vehicles, one is often tempted to reach out and touch them.

Fish are in abundance in the channels, creating the impression that the water itself is alive. It is no surprise that there is also a profusion of water birds along the waterways, such as Pelicans, Pel's Fishing-Owls and the majestic African Fish-Eagle, to mention but a few.

Camp Staff
We have welcomed two new chefs to Selinda's kitchen who have added their skills to the culinary experience. Norwegian, Swedish and Australian guests have been thoroughly spoilt, and have even hinted at kidnapping the chef of the day to take home with them.

We look forward to large numbers of new arrivals over the coming months. We welcome those who have been driven by their deep desire to experience a true African safari, abandoning all at home to etch in their minds and souls the memories based upon experiences one can only experience here, in beautiful Africa.

The Selinda Team


Kwando Safari Camps Update - February 2010

Lagoon camp               Jump to Lagoon Camp
• The Kwando River has also begun its annual rise just as its sister river, the Okavango, has begun to swell. The river has its source through the various tributaries in western Zambia and the rise in February is merely the vanguard from the first rains that fell up there in November. It takes several months for the water to travel down into Botswana just as the pans in the woodlands are beginning to dry.
• For now however, the Pans are still full as there has also been healthy rain in Northern Botswana this year. Vast herds of Elephants and Buffalos are dispersed in the Mopane woodlands west of Lagoon camp.
• The three Cheetah brothers were seen pulling down an Impala right in front of a safari vehicle close to half way Pan. The ambush was pulled off to perfection with one brother heading off behind the Impalas to cut off their escape. From then on the chosen victim did not really stand a chance.
• Hyenas now occupy the old Wild Dog den from 2009 with their own pups protected in the disused termite mound labyrinth of tunnels. Protection and anonymity is vital as three marauding lionesses have been spotted in the vicinity of the den.
• Elsewhere, bird and reptile life have been abundant of late. A Snouted Cobra was seen on a game drive and a Mozambique Spitting Cobra was seen close to camp climbing up a Large Fever Berry Tree. Migrant birds are still in the area before their long migration back to Central and Northern Africa and we had an excellent sighting of giant Martial Eagle swooping down and taking an Egyptian Goose in its talons.

Kwara & Little Kwara camps               Jump to Kwara & Little Kwara camps
• The 2010 floodwater is upon us at Kwara once again. The extreme western areas of the concession have begun to rise ever so slowly in anticipation of the big push that will be coming in the next couple of months. The annual flood is a natural miracle of nature that provides multitudes of animal's precious water supplies in the dry season as the surrounding Kalahari droughts. Buffalos, Elephants and a host of other game migrates into the floodplains to swell the animal populations and booster already spectacular game viewing for guests.
• Kwara is home to a new Leopard cub after a month old animal was spotted with its mother several times over the last few weeks. The pair are still understandably shy and defensive but lucky guests at Kwara have still managed to get some spectacular shots of our newest addition.
• The seven male Lions are still separated into two smaller groups at the moment and only meet up occasionally. One group was seen with a female who was spoilt for choice about which one to mate.
• Elsewhere we have been seeing Wild Dogs in the Tsum Tsum area once again this month.

Lebala camp               Jump to Lebala Camp
• Visitors to Lebala this month were stunned to see a strange resident for these parts. A juvenile Lesser Flamingo took up residence in the floodplain directly in front of the drop off area and staff accommodation and stayed for a whole week. These migratory birds are not usually resident in the area and this one was obviously passing through on its way to either Lake Ngami or the Makgadikgadi Pans. Some splendid photos were taken by the fortunate guests.
• Elsewhere we have been very fortunate in Wild Dog sightings. Two packs have been regularly sited – one of which contains 16 dogs and the other 9. We have been lucky enough to regularly follow them hunting and they have a high success rate. Strength by numbers usually ensures an Impala or Kudu stands little chance of escape if the dogs are a full team.
• We have also been seeing two male Leopards on a fairly regular basis. The choice of prey seems once again to be the hapless Impalas who are being picked on by all the predators this month.
• Cheetah and Lions have also been spotted from time to time lying up in the Kalahari Star Apple and Candle Pod Acacias in the middle of the day to protect them from the heat.

Nxai Pan
• Another stunning summer month at Nxai Pan this February. Impressive rains are continuing to sustain the thousands of antelope gathered on the Pans.
• Some guests were treated to a goodnight surprise one night while walking to bed. Their guides spotted some eye movement in the bushes and out shot a male Leopard who hastily scampered for safety away from the nosy people. With a nervous look over its shoulder is skulked into the Trumpet Thorn, no doubt to continue its night hunting.
• On the Pan itself the two Cheetah boys are often seen stalking the hapless Impala and Springbok on the eastern fringes towards the woodlands.
• Two lionesses were also spotted hunting an Ostrich one morning on the Pan. The hunt was ultimately unsuccessful with the speedy bird finally getting away. Perhaps a lucky escape for a lioness as the Ostrich kick has enormous power and could cause considerable damage.
• We have also spotted the Buffalos again towards Khama Khama Pan and expect them to stick around for the next couple of months until the rain finally subsides. Lying on the sun decks at Nxai in the afternoon, guest can also be fortunate enough to see Elephants and Zebras quenching their thirst at the waterhole.

Tau Pan
• Wonderful game all round here in the remote Kalahari. On Tau Pan itself we have had the pleasure of regular sightings of a female Cheetah with a sub adult and cub. They have been seen almost daily doing their best to avoid the two resident male Lions that outweigh the slim line Cheetahs over five to one!
• There was a unique sighting of a Honey Badger predating a Leopard Tortoise on one morning game drive. The Chelonians solid defences could not save him as the Badger managed to paw his way through the carapace and into the soft centre!
• We are still seeing the three Cheetah brothers at Jackal Pan on a regular basis and there have been some good Lion sightings in Deception Valley where they seem to favour preying on the numerous desert Gemsbok.
• While on a champagne breakfast a lucky group of staff and guests witnessed the rare sighting of an African Polecat. These small black and white mammals are closely related to Weasels and Honey Badgers and if disturbed release a potent toxic odour to deter attackers.


Mombo Camp update - February 2010               Jump to Mombo Camp
Weather and Landscape
Mombo is as green, pristine and beautiful as it gets! We had fabulous weather this month, with temperatures ranging from 38° - 18°C (100° - 64°F). We had lots of rain, which is common for this time of year, with February generally being our wettest month.

With the good rains that we have been experiencing, as well as that falling in the catchment of the Okavango (in Angola), the flood is now coming through at full force. Some of our roads are even filling with water - which means it's going to be fun and games out there on game drives...

Gordon has been marking all the spots in front of camp where the water has been, as a way of monitoring how fast the water is coming through on daily basis, and we've come to the conclusion that it's coming in three metres (almost 10 feet) every day - amazing!

Lions in front of the curio shop at Mombo camp    Young lion at Mombo

Following on our last story where one of the young male lions from the Maparota Breakaway was badly wounded after a fight with the dominant Western Boys, we can report that, sadly, he did not make it. He was found dead at the Western Pan, looking like he had struggled and eventually succumbed to the pain. The ever-opportunistic vultures waiting in the trees above were all prepared to have their share.

The Jao Boys (the coalition of males from the northern side of the area) have been seen on several occasions mating with the Moporota females. In a pride that is already very large, with six adult females and 12 young, will we see a new batch of cubs shortly? There is nothing quite like 18 lion all together.

Our famous movie star, Legadima the leopard, was seen during the first two weeks of February and she looked pregnant. As heavy as she seemed, she was as active as she always is. We saw her with an impala kill once, and checking out her next meal a few times. She disappeared for a few days, and the next time we saw her she didn't look pregnant. So we have a suspicion that she might have cubs somewhere. The guides are all competing fiercely to see who will be the first to confirm if she is in fact a proud mama. 

Pula, Motawana and Blue Eyes have also been around lately, and are as beautiful and graceful as only leopards can be.

White rhinos at Mombo camp    Striped Kingfisher at Mombo

The rhino still make their mark in the area, and there has been an exciting interaction between the black and white rhino. Mmabontsho, being the only black rhino seen on Chief's Island, and suffering from loneliness, has been seen lately with one of the white rhino, happily hanging out together. Poster picked up that she was feeding on grass - which is very unusual as black rhino are browsers, feeding on the leaves of trees. Investigations are continuing... it will be very interesting to find out what's happening here.

Speaking of strange socialising habits - where on earth but at magnificent Mombo could you find a wild dog hanging around with jackal and hyaena? Our strange little pack still persists. The most interesting thing is that while the jackal have stopped regurgitating for their young cubs, the generous wild dog is still regurgitating for the young jackals. She is still very active, and was seen a couple of times on a hunt.

Whilst some species got along happily together this month, the buffalo decide to do the opposite. Two males were spotted fighting each other, in what turned into a fight to the death. The Jao Boys capitalised on this and had an effort-free buffalo meal.

Our resident endangered birds, the Wattled Cranes, still enjoy hanging around the floodplain in front of the camp. The Yellow-billed Kite have moved out and headed north, being the migrants that they are. But other raptors are still soaring over camp, including the revered Martial Eagle, surely one of the most magnificent of all birds.

Camp Staff
Managers: Max, Phenyot, Kago, Marlene and Martha at Little Mombo
Guides: Simon Cilus, Doc, Cisco and Tsile at Little Mombo

We are all looking forward to another exciting month at Mombo, and we say to Nature - bring it on!


Xigera Camp update - February 2010               Jump to Xigera Camp

No update this month.


Chitabe Camp update - February 2010               Jump to Chitabe Camp

No report this month.


Vumbura Plains Camp update - February 2010               Jump to Vumbura Plains Camp
Weather and Landscape
The month of February has been a warm and wet one at Vumbura Plains, with temperatures ranging from 32°C to 12°C (90° - 54°F). Total rainfall for the month was 104mm, and all the big pans are very full. We are anticipating a big flood this year, and are busy working on our 'flood plan'. Our guides have managed to deliver some wonderful guest experiences and sightings this month as the game has been excellent - especially the predators.

We have seen the Eastern Pride along Nare Road and on the open floodplains in front of camp. The pride consists of one big male, four females, three sub-adults and two juveniles; and has been very active around camp this month, and up to Jacky's Pan. Around the middle of the month the pride was spotted hunting close to Phitsi Pan. The one big male seems to have disappeared and we don't really know what's happened to him. He might have wandered into a different area in search of new females. His brother similarly vanished a little while ago.

The Kubu Pride was seen on the Duba road one evening, hunting zebra - unsuccessfully as it turned out.

The Kubu Boys have been hanging around close to the Buffalo Fence and were seen on the 22nd resting and looking very healthy with full bellies.

Cheetahs at Vumbura Plains    Spotted hyenas at Vumbura Plains    Male leopard at Vumbura Plains

Leopard sightings have been good this past month. Selonyana and her cub featured a lot, especially around Jacky's Pan, and we're thrilled to say they are both looking very healthy. Selonyana seems to dominate the area, which is a warthog and impala grazing ground. On the morning of the 25th she was spotted on a baby tsessebe kill, feeding with her cub. Later that evening, when the guides went out on a drive, they found another young female leopard approaching, to try her luck with the kill. Then an unknown young male also arrived to try and feed. It was very interesting to see three unconnected leopard on one kill. In all the commotion, we lost sight of the cub, and were worried for its safety. All the turmoil attracted the attention of a hyaena which rushed through the bushes to investigate. It found the leopard facing off over the kill and charged in at full tilt to steal it. By the end of the day the hyaena had won out - and poor Selonyana and the two interlopers went hungry.

Mosimane has been hanging around Xagwecha Pan and surrounds. This young male is in good condition and has become a skilled hunter, which we witnessed when we saw him chasing down Guineafowl.
Vuka has been doing well and is still looking strong. He was spotted close to the airstrip, just resting under a tree overlooking a big open area on the floodplain.

Wild Dog
Dogs have been scarce this past month. We spotted the pack of eleven on a hunt close to the helipad. They chased impala straight through the camp and killed one close to the staff village. We had some researchers in camp this month, tracking the dogs by way of their GPS collars.

Common game has been fantastic - as is always the case in the Kwedi. We have had some great elephant sightings right in front of camp, where guests enjoyed seeing little babies swimming and rolling in the water. Some very lucky guests also saw a sable antelope giving birth. 

The birdlife has also been excellent this month. We spotted a vagrant at the airstrip the other day - a Hartlaub's Gull!

Camp News
We have been doing some small refurbishments to our rooms, which resulted in South Camp being closed and all bookings accommodated at North Camp. We are all very excited in camp about the upcoming Soccer in the Wilderness tournament - the Kwedi Sables are all geared up and ready to conquer the other teams!

Guest Comments
"I would recommend Vumbura with all sincerity! My room was awesome, we had five-star service and a knowledgeable guide, Ollie." - Barbara

"We thought Vumbura was lovely. The food was delicious, especially the stir-fry options. Our game drives with Ollie were amazing, he was knowledgeable and has great respect for all the animals. This place is great and I loved my massage from Tilly." - Taylor and Dee

"I would definitely recommend this camp, the safaris were excellent, the rooms are fantastic and the personnel superb." - Carlos

Camp Staff
Managers: Attorny Vasco, Miriam Tichapondwa, Mia Ives and Benjamin Mogalakwe, doing management training with us.
Guides: Onamile Lekgopho, Ollie Porote, Emang Letlhare, Obonye Kamela, Sebonta Thekiso and Lethebe. 

We also had Linky and Tank doing their Guide's Foundation Training with us - what energy these guys have!


Little Vumbura Camp update - February 2010               Jump to Little Vumbura Camp

No report this month.


Duba Plains Camp update - February 2010               Jump to Duba Plains Camp

No report this month.


Jacana Camp update - February 2010               Jump to Jacana Camp
Weather and Landscape
The month started with slow, sunny days by the pool, and mild temperatures with the occasional thunderstorm. As the month progressed the rain increased and was a pleasant change to the warm, humid days. The night skies were clear and defined, and this month we were able to see Orion and his canine friend Canus Major. Taurus is moving over the zenith, followed closely by Mars.

Lion at Jacana Camp    Jacana camp sunset

The flood has arrived!
And it has been nothing like previous years. The waters surprised us all this year and the initial rise in water levels has been nothing short of incredible. In four days it rose by just under a metre. The water came up so fast that the lilies had not yet had time to grow above the water level, creating a true lake around Jacana Island. Elephant seeking refuge came on to the island and spent the first night of the flood here.
Hundreds of red lechwe were running through the water to reach higher ground and we saw the most amazing multitude of birds scooping up fleeing insects as the waters rose.
Our boats are back in the water and once again Jacana is the ultimate Okavango water camp.
Excellent is not the word to describe the sightings this month past. Our resident lion pride finally showed us their cubs - four young males. Some time in the not-so-distant future they will become a force to be reckoned with, if they are able to survive through their first flood season. 

Lion cubs at Jacana camp    Lion cubs at Jacana camp

This has been the month of the lion at Jacana, and their regular visits to camp, while often unexpected, were always well conducted. The three times that "Broken Nose", the resident lioness, visited the camp she left with a young red lechwe kill. It was incredible to watch her chasing them through the water and ultimately getting the better of the inexperienced antelope.
Beauty, the resident female leopard, has not been seen for some time but our feeling is that she is happily raising her two cubs to adulthood in secret. There is a large male leopard that has been seen around the area for some time now, and he is becoming much more active and moving more freely around the Jao islands.
The flood season brings with it increased elephant action at Jacana, and we can be sure to see many in the months ahead. Already we are having daily visits and close encounters of the pachyderm kind.
Guest Comments
"What a great time. Many good sightings: lioness and four cubs! Many thanks to Joseph - awesome tracking. Pieter and Danielle's hospitality, and the staff in general were excellent!" - Rick and Ruth, USA
"The perfect introduction to Africa - such a personal experience. Thanks for the camp elephant!" - Bob and Brooke, USA
"Wonderful place, great guides, what a view. Best first trip!" - PJ and Tony, USA
"Thank you for a wonderful stay in the Delta. Joseph was a great guide - we enjoyed our time with him and learned so much." - Barbara and Dale, Canada
Camp Staff
Managers: Pieter Ras and Danielle van den Berg
Guide: Joseph Basenyeng

Regards from a wet Okavango Delta!


Kwetsani Camp update - February 2010               Jump to Kwetsani Camp
We have had very varied weather over the last month, with wind, quick showers and then sunshine, all in one day. We have also had a few thunderstorms and some good showers. The evenings have been mild to cool with slight breezes.

The flood has arrived! It reached Kwetsani on the 26th of February. The water level has steadily risen over the last two days and is still rising. Roads are now flooded around the western side of the camp and on the eastern side the water is slowly creeping closer to the camp.

Boating at Kwetsani      Rain at Kwetsani

We have had great wildlife viewing this month. The resident pride of lion has become part of everyday camp life, and we have been lucky enough to see the newest additions to the Kwetsani Pride. There are only four cubs in the Pride and not five, as originally thought. The females have been using the floodplain in front of camp for their hunting, and next to the Kwetsani baobab the cubs got their first taste of warthog. The male does not stay with the female and cubs all the time, and occasionally moves north. He always comes back to the pride after a couple of days, and is very vocal at night, when out on patrol.

Lion at Kwetsani      Elephant at Kwetsani

Our resident elephant are back and have been in camp on several days during the past month. On the last occasion they stayed around camp for three days. They do not seem to be disturbed by the guests or staff and even bring the babies quite close. Unfortunately, they are normally in camp in the morning and evening when the guests are out on drives, but they have been in camp during the day a few times and the guests always enjoy the sightings. A few guests were even fortunate enough to see an elephant from the "loo with a view", and what a view that was.

The two buffalo bulls are still hanging around the camp, and are a regular sighting in the mornings. The bushbuck are still around too, and seen regularly, along with a herd of impala who seem to have made Kwetsani their home. A few warthog have also been seen around camp on a regular basis. 

With the flood having arrived, it is a birder's paradise at the moment. We are seeing a great number of species: Wattled Crane, Saddle-billed Stork, a large number of African Fish-Eagles, Woolly-necked Storks, Spurwing Geese and Egrets, to name just a few. Our pan on the western of the side of the camp has been attracting a large number of birds and it is nice just to go and sit there in the afternoon and see what is new.

Camp News
We have not had a chance to do any bush banqueting due to the weather, but we have managed to do sundowners on the Kwetsani floodplains. We utilised our viewing deck as much as the weather allowed, with the guests enjoying themselves and the view. The camp is looking great and we are gearing ourselves up for a short camp closure in March to do seasonal maintenance.

Guest Comments
"Camp staff, food and game drives were perfect! Very friendly and helpful staff at all times. In general, an excellent stay and we will recommend to friends overseas." - Venena and Hans-Rudi, Switzerland

"Beautiful place and a very peaceful environment, very competent and interesting guide. Excellent food and very nice personnel!" - Gablin Family, France / Botswana

Camp Staff
Camp Managers: Douw and Linda Cloete
New Camp Managers: Ian and Michélle Burger
Guides: OB, Jonah and OP


Jao Camp update - February 2010               Jump to Jao Camp
Weather and Landscape
Termites have a unique social structure for maintaining the organic, masterful mounds in which they live. They are found throughout Africa and they play an important role in the Okavango Delta's island formation and ecosystem. The termites, tiny geniuses that they are, compose their squadron into teams of workers, soldiers and reproductives.

Jao's organic and masterful structures require the same rallying of troops to compose a masterpiece indestructible to the floods, beautifully organic to the eye and exquisitely tranquil to dwell in. 

We are preparing the surrounds for the returning floods - which are moving in rapidly. True to its reputation, Jao is once again a true Delta paradise. Everyone is working hard to clear channels, build roads, treat wood and prepare boats and mekoro for a fabulous water experience. 

High water coming at Jao    Red lechwes at Jao

Our maintenance period is not quite finished, and is the ultimate in organised chaos. While we busy ourselves in the camp, our exceptional wildlife is flourishing outside - our impala and their young, our family of Spur-winged Geese, our troop of animated mongoose with their little litter, the nearby lion pride nursing four cubs, and our resident leopard, Beauty, hiding hers...

A breeding herd of elephant, grey ghosts of the bush, have wandered in from the northern side of the area, their young only whispers of the magnificent beasts they will one day be. 

Vast herds of red lechwe await the Delta's approaching flood. The floodplains will be drenched swiftly, giving these aquatic antelope the watery habitat for which they are perfectly adapted. They humble onlookers with their tenacity and stoicism.

Another adaptable creature, not quite so renowned for its beauty, the Maribou Stork, has been lurking unexpectedly around camp, perhaps curious about the developments to the immediate surrounds. Devoid of favouritism, we welcome them with a curiosity of our own. Maribou Storks are quite splendid in all their ugliness.

Maintenance work at Jao camp    Maintenance work at Jao camp

Camp News
With a 10-day countdown until our first guests arrive, the Jao team is more motivated than ever to perfect our exquisite camp. Every single staff member has had a hand in delicately piecing the camp back together after the maintenance whirlwind that blasted through. The camp is looking lovely with re-thatched roofs and a wealth of varnished wood. As per our guest requests, we have added an extra guest toilet to the main area. Our new spa is taking shape and we look forward to unveiling our exciting additions.

All the effort has been worthwhile, because when the Fish Eagle cries in the day and the hyaena calls at night you are reminded that you are truly in Africa. And nothing is superior to that.

Camp Staff
Management: Chris Barnard, Tara Salmons, Jost Kabuzo and Joanne Davies (Spa Therapist)
Guides: Cruise, TJ, David and KB 


Tubu Tree Camp update - February 2010               Jump to Tubu Tree Camp
Weather and Landscape
With the rainy season still going strong we experienced sporadic showers throughout February. Temperatures are still quite high, so the rain just made things more comfortable. March marks the start of the flood here in the Delta and our channels are now flowing with flood water.

As the leaves begin to fall and the mornings cool down, we can feel the seasons changing. We love the summer - but winter is always an interesting game viewing time at Tubu Tree. February was a month of close encounters for our guests... and our staff.

Tubu Tree staff were treated to some very special sightings of leopard in camp. One morning, when the staff reported to work, they were greeted by a leopard having its morning drink out of the bird bath! It isn't just his morning coffee he likes from the bird bath though, as one night, while we were busy closing up camp, we could hear a leopard calling from the kitchen. We went to the top of the stairs by the bird bath to see if the leopard would come to the front of house, and he did. And he almost came up the stairs to join us, before deciding he didn't really want a nightcap that night.

Leopard at Tubu Tree    Male lion at Tubu Tree

The guests were also treated to some amazing leopard sightings in camp. One evening we were sitting around the dinner table having after-dinner drinks, when a commotion started on the floodplain. We all got up with our torches to try and see what was going on. There was a big male wildebeest chasing a leopard right into camp! After reaching the bush line the wildebeest stopped and so did the leopard - just inside the camp perimeter, where he sat self-consciously for more than half an hour. The guests got a good long look at him before he went back into hunting mode, and we all went to bed. 

One of the most beautiful things about Tubu Tree is the view from the rooms - but this is often forgotten in all the excitement of the game drives. One morning we were reminded of just how close to nature we really are when we had a leopard hanging around in the tree in front of Tent #3. The guests only saw him when they went to the front of the camp to look at the male lions laying about on the floodplain.

Leopard really stole the show this month - which might otherwise have been all about our lion. The Tubu Threesome has changed somewhat as there are now only two brothers together. This month we saw them being "stalked" by a female lion. A young female tracked down the brothers and the guests got to see some typically aggressive mating, and now we wait with bated breath to see whether Tubu will get to welcome some cubs.

Tortoise at Tubu Tree    Baby bushbuck at Tubu

All guests who arrive at Tubu, as with all Wilderness Safaris camps, go through an orientation and safety briefing. On one day we had guests head straight out from the airstrip on a game drive, so by the time we got around to giving them the briefing it was evening - and just as we got to the bit about guests needing to be escorted to their tents at night for safety reasons, we were interrupted by the Tubu Threesome (now the Tubu Brothers) roaring! The lion were a fair distance away, but they were loud enough to get our attention. And then the roars got closer and closer until the Brothers were lying on the floodplain right in front of our boma! They didn't stop performing all night, and roared so loudly that the main area tent was vibrating.

With all the excitement being caused by cats, it might come as a surprise to hear that the real highlight of our month came from the arrival of something much smaller and softer. A brand new baby bushbuck was born under Tent #6. When we first saw the little one, it was still being cleaned up by its mother. Since then we have been treated to some special sightings of the fawn cavorting under the watchful eyes of mother and father. One late afternoon, just in front of our lounge area, the little guy could be seen running and jumping and getting used to his new surroundings.

Guest Comments
"The game viewing was superb - especially the leopard and the lion. The bush lunch - what a surprise! Our guide, Johnny, was amazing - his knowledge of birds and animals and his ability to imitate the calls was exceptional. Thanks to Kathy and all the staff." - Howard and Katherine, Canada

"There is a lovely family feel here and we have been so well looked after. Management has been very good. This safari has been a dream come true for us! Our guide, Johnny, has been excellent, along with all the staff - congratulations on a wonderful and creative environment. Cheers!" - Edward and Janet, Australia

"The lunch buffet was a total 'wow' experience. The staff overall were just great. Attention and support was very friendly. The icing on the cake - seeing the stars and dancing with everyone - and finally the view of the lodge is inspiring and humbling. Everything met or exceeded expectations - a journey to remember along life's way?" - Michel and Jane, Canada/South Africa

"Hospitality was superb. Food and staff were exceptional. The brunch in the bush was a real delight. Kathy, the housekeeper went above and beyond. Jackie and Justin made the camp even more special with their attention to detail and skills. Thank you all." - Ray and Christine, USA

"Our third visit to Tubu Tree was as enjoyable as ever. Staff were all very welcoming and helpful. Leopards are always a joy to see - lions too with their impressive roar." - Bill and Barbara, UK

"Seeing the lion, leopard, and in fact all the animals. The wonderful birds - even their wake-up calls. Just living with nature and appreciating everything around us. Thank you to all the staff for their kindness and help during our stay, it has been so enjoyable." - Carol and Helen, UK

Camp Staff
Managers: Justin Stevens and Jacky Collett-Stevens
Guides: Johnny and Cruise


Kalahari Plains Camp update - February 2010               Jump to Kalahari Plains Camp
We are having completed our third month of operations at Kalahari Plains. These past three months have been all about getting to know the area and its wildlife. February proved to be an extremely valuable month on this front.

We experienced good rains and the plain in front of camp has been perpetually carpeted with short, sweet and nutritious grazing grasses. This has had the desired effect and the plain has been constantly covered with herds of grazing animals. Oryx, springbok, red hartebeest and wildebeest were in attendance on most days. This is very rewarding for the guests as these herds tend to feed on the plain and close to the rooms, before moving further out as the day progresses.

The plain has also been a haven for small carnivores. Black-backed jackals are almost always around, and bat-eared foxes and honey badgers are in attendance on most early morning drives. The sundowner hour coincides with the jackal sign-on time and their shrill cries split the crimson-splashed air at about 6.30pm as if by clockwork. The cry is soon picked up and carried from pair to pair and results in a nightly cacophony by which to sip one's drink. At about the same time dozens of oryx, red hartebeest, springbok and wildebeest begin emerging from the woodlands and venturing out onto the open plain. This is an obvious tactic to avoid being caught in sneak attacks whereby the predators are able to use the fading light and cover of the woodlands to their best advantage.

After dark the alarm calls of the jackal indicate that the creatures of the night have slipped into the valley.
February has been a great month for cats, and the dawn light has regularly revealed those denizens to be cheetah, lion and leopard. More and more cheetah are appearing on the plain. Initially, we were seeing a group of five, then we saw another three males, then later a female and sub-adult cub, and then, miraculously, a female and very small cub. Most guests have left having had at least one cheetah sighting - making this one of the most reliable areas for cheetah.

The lion have also been much in attendance, and the two dominant males are indeed a sight to behold. These giants are typical Kalahari lions, sporting huge black manes and being much larger than their counterparts elsewhere in Botswana. 

This morning, a film crew here to shoot footage of cheetah reported seeing a very relaxed leopard in the mopane loop area.

So February has proved to be another exceptional game viewing month in the Kalahari. We will keep you posted on what follows.


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