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Wilderness Safaris Camps Rated Tops by Leading Travel Publications: Condé Nast Traveler and Travel + Leisure Highlight Numerous Camps
Wilderness Safaris is thrilled to announce that a number of its camps featured prominently in Condé Nast Traveler's 16th annual Gold List and Travel + Leisure's "T+L 500 World's Best Hotels."
Jao, Mombo and Little Mombo, Vumbura Plains, Xigera and Savuti Camps all made Condé Nast's Gold List, which is considered to be "the ultimate annotated guide to the world's finest properties and cruise lines," as elected by more than 25 000 Condé Nast Traveler readers.
Jao Camp and Mombo/Little Mombo featured as two of the three places in the category 'Best by Location for Africa' (both receiving perfect scores of 100), as well as in 'Best Activities in Africa,' with scores of 98.4 and 96.4 respectively. Vumbura Plains was one of three Best by Design in Africa (with a score of 97.3).
Mombo and Little Mombo were proclaimed as "Africa at its finest," with a perfect-scoring location "so exquisite, a movie set couldn't replicate it." Jao also received outstanding reviews: "This is one of those special places that stay in your mind forever; a perfect-scoring location on an island with lagoons, grasslands, and floodplains; a mixture of fantasy and functionality; with canvas-and-thatch tents that fit the environment."
Travel + Leisure's World's Best Hotels lists the top 500 properties in the world, which are voted for by its readers. In the 2010 World's Best, Botswana camps Mombo and Little Mombo garnered a score of 90.42, while DumaTau Camp was awarded 83.93. The River Club was one of four Zambia properties that made the list, with a score of 87.22 and a recommendation to "spend an afternoon sipping Pimm's Cups and playing croquet on the inn's course!"
Wilderness Safaris is pleased to be recognised on such prestigious lists, particularly as they are based on reader votes and thus on the personal experience of discerning travellers.
Botswana VAT increases by 2%
In the opening of Botswana’s Parliament and in the recent Botswana budget speech, it was announced that VAT (Value Added Tax) will be increased from 10% to 12%, effective from 01 April 2010, in that country.
Dereck & Beverly Joubert on Location in Botswana
Dereck and Beverly Joubert, the renowned Emmy award winning wildlife filmmakers, National Geographic Explorers-in-Residence, and founders of the Big Cat Initiative (BCI) saving the last lions in Africa – have returned from their camp in Duba, Botswana where once again they were filming the famous Tsaro pride of lions. Three years ago their film “Relentless Enemies” showed unique footage of the pride swimming in the lagoon and hunting at night.
Beverly, the photographer, writes from the Jouberts’ rugged Duba Camp, “We left on the 30th December and started off in Duba, filming the Tsaro pride. They have completely changed as a pride - three lionesses are hunting together and one of these ladies has managed to keep four two-month-old cubs. This is the main reason that they are split up from the pride. Five lionesses are the second half of the original pride and many were pregnant, which meant they were taking down small calves from the buff herd. Extremely hot through the whole of January with major storms.”
After leaving Duba and the lions the Jouberts flew to the north of the Selinda Reserve where Great Plains Conservation (G.P.C.) owns 325,000 acres of conservation land and two beautiful luxurious Camps, Zarafa and Selinda, - the Jouberts are partners in G.P.C, winner of the Virgin Holidays Responsible Tourism Award 2009.
Zarafa Camp, listed on the Conde Nast Traveler’s Hot List, is where the Jouberts have shot films for many years. Eight pages of glorious photographs, by Alexandra Penney, of Zarafa and wildlife are featured in the January/February 2010 issue of Departures Magazine. Editor Richard David Story headlines the piece “At Home in Botswana on 325,000 acres, Zarafa has become the model for a new generation of African Camps.” Robb Report editor Bruce Wallin writes in the January issue of his remarkable trip around Africa with the Jouberts and CEO Colin Bell, staying at the Great Plains Camps in Botswana, Kenya and Tanzania. The recent excitement in Zarafa is that Amber, the resident leopard near the camp, has given birth to two cubs sited amongst the roots of a fallen acacia tree.
“The game this year has also been exceptional in the Selinda Reserve,” writes Beverly. “We witnessed the Savute channel flowing again after 28 years. Dereck wrote a blog on this for the National geographic news, as well as one on the Duba lions. We flew to Mombo on the 15th January to find Legadima the leopard, who we have photographed and filmed for four years since a cub. She is doing well, as beautiful and special as ever balancing in a fig tree. She exuded confidence and calmness. Wow the memories flooded back for us I of course wanted to tell her of her fame and success worldwide, a great ambassador for the wilds and her species. So today, January 16th, we are leaving with mixed feelings, leaving a place we love and feel so comfortable in to admin, meetings and editing,” writes Beverly in her diary. The leopard, Legadima, is the star of the Emmy winning National Geographic movie and Beverly’s Rizzoli book “Eye of the Leopard.”
The Jouberts will be back in the USA in March to lecture on their recent adventures and the Big Cat Initiative.
New weight restrictions on charters - Namibia
Weight restrictions have been made with regards to flights in Namibia, in the interest of flight safety, passenger comfort and to comply with new aviation regulations:
Sole Use Flights
Cessna 206: Maximum of 4 adult passengers with 20kg luggage (including hand luggage).
Cessna 210: Maximum of 4 adult passengers with 20kg luggage (including hand luggage) or 5 adult passengers with no luggage other than small hand luggage for DAY TRIPS ONLY.
Cessna Grand Caravan: 10 adult passengers with 20kg luggage (including hand luggage) or 12 adult passengers with 10kg luggage (including hand luggage).
Circuit Seat Rate Flights
The weights on the scheduled circuits remain the same, i.e. 20kg luggage per each adult passenger (including hand luggage).
Zimbabwe ATMs now dispense US Dollars
Earlier this year, the Zimbabwean government adopted a multiple currency trading system where the Rand, the US Dollar and Botswana Pula operate as legal tender alongside the Zimbabwean Dollar. Visitors are now able to use their Visa, MasterCard or debit cards at Barclays Bank to withdraw US Dollars in cash. Other banks will, in all likelihood, offer this service soon too. Payment by credit card is accepted by a few suppliers, but this is not advised as the conversion rate is disadvantageous.
Unexpected visitor at Tubu Hide
Location: Jao Concession, Okavango Delta
Date: 01 January 2010
Observer: Kambango Sinimbo
Photography: Grant Atkinson
The Jao Concession's Hunda Island is a wild, remote corner of the Okavango Delta. While we are used to some incredible wildlife sightings, some are certainly more unexpected than others.
Tubu Tree Camp guide Kambango Sinimbo and his guests had planned to enjoy a typically peaceful late afternoon coupled with the mandatory glorious sunset with a sundowner stop at Tubu Hide. They were all in for a pleasant surprise however.
As Kambango pulled up to the hide showing his guests the famous bush loo with a view while checking the adjoining floodplains for wildlife he casually said, "Let's stretch our legs here and climb up into the hide with our sundowners." No sooner had he said this when one of his guests responded, "Is that a stuffed toy up there on the hide?" After some reversing of the Land Rover and excited yells of "Stop!" and cameras clicking, Kambango reversed a little more to reveal the 'gate crasher' in all his glory - a resplendent male leopard stretched out on Tubu Hide.
He was totally relaxed and had made himself completely at home. Kambango was so surprised that all he could do was laugh and savour this easy leopard sighting.
As Camp Managers Justin and Jacky were back in the Tubu Tree Camp office, they did not know what was happening out on game drives when all of a sudden they heard Kambango calling specialist guide Grant Atkinson on the two-way radios. All Kambango could muster together with a little laugh was, "Grant, we have a male leopard ON Tubu hide. You may want to pay us a visit..."
Multi-predator Feeding Frenzy at Mombo
Location: Mombo Concession, Okavango Delta
Date: 12 January 2010
Observer: Kago Tlhalerwa
Photographs: Kago Tlhalerwa and Gordon Karovsky
We had an unbelievable day recently when the Moporota sub-adult lions decided to attack a buffalo in front of Little Mombo Camp Room 1 and Mombo Camp Room 9.
As the lions took down one of the buffalo, the entire breeding herd turned back and charged at the lions. One of the lions was tossed into the air by the buffalo and in all the chaos the buffalo that had been attacked initially managed to escape. Other lion pride members used this pandemonium however to their benefit and brought down another buffalo - this time inflicting fatal wounds on its hind legs that it could not walk properly any more. The remainder of the buffalo herd kept charging the lions. The lions now took time to revise their tactics though and just kept a safe distance, waiting for the herd to leave the scene. Once they had left, the lions came in for the final kill, claiming their bovine victim.
These lions kept feeding until late in the evening. The noisy arrival of spotted hyaenas at the kill however eventually attracted a different pride of lion with big males (Moporota and the Jao Boys). The sub-adults, realising that they did not stand a chance, upped and fled. The hyaenas also concluded they were no match for the adult males and ran, and we thought it was all over for the night. We were wrong; suddenly a huge three-metre Nile crocodile arrived and started feeding on the carcass! The lions were not happy with the arrival of this prehistoric predator and charged at it. The crocodile fought back and the lions eventually gave up keeping all the meat to themselves, so that we had the incredible sight of lions and crocodile feeding together.
The hyaenas finally got access to the last remains in the early hours of the next morning - breaking bones and feeding on the sinewy bits. By the time the sun was up, all that was left was a few scattered bones and squabbling vultures clearing up the last bits from this feeding frenzy.
Pafuri Camp - Armchair bird and mammal viewing
Location: Pafuri Camp, Kruger National Park, South Africa
Date: 28-30 January 2010
Observer: Chris Roche
Photographer: Chris Roche
Pafuri Camp is a spectacular destination at any time of the year. Summer is probably best for birds since you have all and sundry breeding and calling and of course resplendent in breeding plumage. This includes both residents and migrants such as the colourful and garrulous Broad-billed Roller.
On the mammal front it is probably best in the dry winter months since the dry conditions make the water of the Luvuvhu River all the more attractive to wildlife. Nonetheless, the Pafuri area is the driest in the Kruger Park and this January had only 14mm of rain. As a result on recent visit we had the best of both worlds and had plenty on both the bird and mammal fronts to keep us busy while in camp.
From a birding perspective we stopped counting after we had recorded 70 species in the camp. Highlights were the very vocal African Wood Owls, a beautifully marked Greater Painted-Snipe in front of our tent as well as a Dwarf Bittern the next day, diminutive Black-throated Wattle-Eyes darting around the trees next to the tent and some of the local specials viewed from the deck in front of the tent overlooking the Luvuvhu River: White-fronted Plover, Tropical Boubou, Meve's Starling, Gorgeous Bush-shrike, Trumpeter Hornbill and both Red- and Yellow-billed Oxpecker.
The last mentioned were seen on a herd of buffalo that drank in view of our tent one afternoon, one of a host of mammals that we saw in camp. Others were nightly sightings of thick-tailed bushbabies on the main deck, greater cane rats below the camp walkways, the myriad nyala, bushbuck, impala, waterbuck and kudu that continue to drink from the Luvuvhu River and make themselves at home in the confines of the camp. Of course the vervet monkeys and chacma baboons are ever-present and we were delighted with a hippo that came wading up the river one night. An elephant bull even spent the heat of the day under a Natal mahogany tree adjacent to the raised walkway one day.
Determined to see what else was using camp after dark we set up a couple of camera traps for two nights. Instead of the leopard we had been hoping for we got a series of the usual suspects as well as a startled porcupine, as images left attest.
Kori Bustard and Tawny Eagle tangle over Termites
Location: Mombo Camp, Okavango Delta, Botswana
Date: 23 January 2010
Observer: Peter Myburgh
Photographer: Peter Myburgh
On the 23rd of January 2010 while out on afternoon drive in the Mombo Concession we came across a termite mound from which a myriad alates were emerging. These winged termites (or flying ants) typically emerge from the termite mounds after rain during the summer months and fly off to start new colonies, themselves becoming the future kings and queens. Of course their protein-rich bodies make them a target of a huge array of predators that thrive during emergences like this.
This specific emergence was no different and we easily counted 20 different bird species: different roller, falcon, weaver, swallow, and starling species tucked into this feast. There were two other species that immediately caught our attention though: Two Kori Bustards (reputedly the world's largest flying bird) and two regal Tawny Eagles.
Accustomed to holding sway over other species, the two bustards mobbed the first Tawny Eagle and tried to drive it away from the food source, perhaps partly to reduce competition but also partly to drive off a potential threat. (Kori Bustards are occasionally killed by the large Martial Eagle, but the smaller Tawny may well have made the bustards uncomfortable.) The eagle would not be intimidated though and held its ground, even when the much larger bustard expressed its frustration in rather impressive leaps into the air.
The end result was that they ended up sharing this food source along with the other bird species.
Kalahari Lions - 24 in two days!
Location: Kalahari Plains Camp, Central Kalahari Game Reserve, Botswana
Date: 15-17 January 2010
Observer: Kurt & Moira Eggmann; Heidi & Ulrich Mohn, Brigitte Cross
Photographer: Kurt Eggmann
Having heard wondrous tales about game concentrations in the Kalahari after the summer rains rejuvenate the pans and valley floors, I (BC) gathered four fellow wildlife enthusiasts, so we could see for ourselves and headed for a two-night stay at Kalahari Plains Camp as part of a wider northern Botswana trip.
On our first drive, braving the heat, a long trek to Deception Valley, and the threat of deluge from towering thunderheads, we set out from Kalahari Plains with our guide Willie. En route we passed springbok dotted here and there, or congregating in small herds; more than a hundred majestic gemsbok on grassy plains, black-backed jackals, lone blue wildebeest, bat-eared foxes, kori bustards and others. We won't dwell on the spectacular cheetah sighting - it has been expertly documented in another sightings report recently - we will, however, boast about OUR lions!
First, at around 07h00, we encountered two lionesses in Deception Valley but things were only going to improve as we continued on our adventure. Admittedly, we followed a lead generously shared by another vehicle, but it took OUR guide's vigilance and intuition to turn that ONE lion into the sighting of a pride of 11 gorgeous Kalahari lions: two adult males, four adult lionesses and five cubs of varying ages (all under a year old). This was further north, around Sundays Pan at around 10h00.
Full of pride (the pun is unintentional), we returned to camp to boast.
Next day we repeated our adventure, but this time we headed south along the fossil river valley of which Deception Valley is a part. This time in the Lekhubu area at around 10h00 we found another magnificent pride of 11 lions: one adult male, three adult females and one sub-adult male, three juveniles and three young cubs.
You can imagine our boasting after that and Willie was dubbed "he who smells lions" by Heidi.
Mongoose and Snouted Cobra battle at Zarafa
Location: Zarafa Camp, Selinda Concession, Botswana
Date: 21 January 2010
Observer & Photographer: Sako Dux Motakatshipi
We took off for our morning game drive around 06h15 and everybody was looking forward to what Mother Nature was going to deliver us. We drove down south-east of Zarafa Camp along mopane road viewing some wonderful wild animals such as birds, impala and giraffe. Coming around a corner we came across an amazing natural sighting - a battle between the two enemies in nature: Snouted Cobra (Naja annulifera) and slender mongoose (Galerella sanguianea).
We stayed with the animals from the start of the fight until it ended around 10 minutes later. It was a face-to-face fight with the cobra on its tail upright approximately two metres off the ground, hood spread, hissing, mouth open to strike at any given moment. Despite the anger of the cobra the hungry mongoose was still doing his best to attack. The mongoose would leap up from the side aiming at the neck of the cobra trying to bite. It was interesting to note that the cobra had a wound around its neck resulting from the attack which was bleeding.
The cobra managed to remain strong and defended itself so well - it was ready to squirt the venom to the mongoose at any time. It was a nonstop attack from the mongoose at the snake until at one point the mongoose dashed into the thickets and never showed up again. The angry cobra stayed there for about three minutes until it calmed down and cautiously made its way in a different direction.
Chitabe in the Green Season
Location: Chitabe Camp, Chitabe Concession, Botswana
Date: January 2010
Observer: Ilana Stein
Photos: Russel Friedman
"How green is my valley" came to mind when we landed at Chitabe airstrip for a three-day stay in January. Indeed, the overriding impression of Chitabe at this time of year is that of enormous fields of green - in reality floodplains and grasslands covered in long, waist-high, golden-green grass. While this factor and the water-filled pans dotted everywhere are traditionally known to make for more challenging game spotting, we didn't notice it particularly!
Just as we left the airstrip we 'popped in' at a small pan to watch a herd of elephant drink, then moved on to where two male lion had killed a zebra a little further on, some 20 vultures drooping like old umbrellas from an old leadwood tree as they waited their turn to feed.
After settling into our tents of canvas and gleaming wood, we started out on our afternoon game drive, where we soon saw a veritable 'field' of elephants. An enormous herd waded through the long grass, grey dome shapes stretching all the way to the tree line. We had settled back to watch a journey of young male giraffe who were practising 'necking' and other dominance-related activities, when the call came in on the radio: "Dogs!" "Dogs!" we all yelled in well-trained chorus - and off we went.
Not far away we came across them: the well-known Chitabe Pack had all 21 members present and accounted for. The pups are now well grown; indeed it was hard to tell them apart from the adults. The whole pack was moving with speed and purpose, clearly on the lookout for dinner. It was truly an unbelievable sight to see a pile of patchwork bodies literally stream through the grass - they moved so rapidly and smoothly that it looked as if they were riding the green ocean waves.
On and on they raced, stopping every now and then to check out zebra (too big), lechwe and impala (all very aware of the danger), as well as to wait for one of the dogs which had an injured leg. Wild dogs are known for their loyalty to the pack and it was brought home forcibly to the watchers as the whole pack would wait patiently for the wounded animal, valiantly limping along behind, to catch up.
As the sun set, we reluctantly left the pack to disappear into the gathering darkness and stopped for sundowners (more like moon risers by that stage), thrilled to the core at such a thrilling sighting of one of Africa's rarest carnivores.
Some people run with wolves; we drive with dogs.
The rest of our game drives drew forth a plethora of herds, including incredibly high numbers of giraffe - a herd of 40 animals seen in one place made me think the collective noun should be a "forest of giraffe" with their long necks pointing upwards in every direction and everywhere I looked. Zebra, wildebeest, impala and tsessebe all gathered obligingly in the early morning or late afternoon at the pans, just right for the photographers to take beautifully back-lit photos.
Meanwhile the birds were clearly enjoying summer. Carmine Bee-eaters flitted after insects in front of us, obligingly posing on bare branches for us. The trilling call of the Woodland Kingfisher, so evocative of summer in the bush, was a musical background all the time we were there - and sometimes we got to see the bird itself, flapping his wings enthusiastically as he sang.
With so much life all around us, it was fitting that we said farewell to Chitabe with a pair of mating lions on the airstrip - hopefully the results will provide wonderful sightings in the next few months. The green valley lived up to its name.
New Explorations Camps– Khwai Adventurer and Discoverer Camp
In an exciting new opportunity, Explorations in Botswana will no longer be travelling to Lechwe Camp on Migration Routes and Motswiri Camp on the Great Wilderness Journey. Instead, we are excited to announce two new Explorations camps for these safaris, operating from 01 May 2010 onwards: Khwai Adventurer Camp and Khwai Discoverer Camp respectively.
Both these camps are located in the exclusive Khwai Concession which adjoins Moremi Game Reserve. The Khwai Concession is one of the most diverse areas in northern Botswana which seldom disappoints when it comes to producing extraordinary wildlife experiences. The life source for this area is the Khwai River – the northernmost “finger” of the Okavango Delta alluvial fan, which provides vital sustenance to numerous animals.
Over time, the Khwai area has metamorphosed into a wide range of exciting wildlife habitats – some of the most varied to be found in the entire Okavango Delta: a blend of forests, floodplain, wetland and grasslands. The narrow Khwai Channel is home to large mammals such as hippo and crocodile with buffalo and red lechwe often seen grazing along the fringe. The beautiful gallery riverine woodland found along the river provides further sanctuary to birds, primates and leopard. Elusive roan antelope often come to the river to drink. Activities focus around day and night game drives, nature walks and seasonal mekoro excursions.
Away from the river there is a wonderful mix of acacia and leadwood trees of varying sizes that abuts into mopane woodland. The latter, together with the permanent presence of water, attracts large numbers of elephant to the area. Larger predators include lion, wild dog and spotted hyaena, while birdlife found here is just as varied thanks to the colourful palette of habitats.
Kalahari Plans Camp uses 100% Renewable Energy
The repositioned, cutting-edge Kalahari Plains Camp, within the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, is now open, and is an outstanding complement to their Botswana circuit - very different to the Linyanti and Okavango Delta. Apart from a fresh new look (including sleep-out, star-gazing platforms above the rooms), Kalahari Plains is groundbreaking from an environmental standpoint, setting new standards in green camp design. Wilderness' most eco-friendly camp yet is 100% solar powered (back and front of house) and has capacity to harvest 180,000 liters of rainwater! The burning question of course is: what's the game viewing like? In short, outstanding!
Something to remember though is that no off-road driving is allowed in this state protected area. The uniqueness of the area and the concentrations of game that occur in some locations more than balance this however and it has proved a great combination with Wilderness Safaris camps in the Okavango and Linyanti. From camp it is a leisurely 1hr30min drive to the magnificent Deception Valley.
There are now two camps in the Wilderness Safaris Classic portfolio that are perfect for families: Jacana and Seba camps, where children of all ages are welcome. Remember that the family suites at Seba Camp can sleep two adults and up to four children comfortably in its two family suites which comprise two bathrooms and three bedrooms each.
Jao Camp is installing an intercom system in all rooms in the event of an emergency (such as encountering a leopard on the boardwalk when trying to get from the guest tents to the main area for tea!). They will also be extending their therapies and recreating the Jao Spa by adding a double treatment room and water therapies. Kwetsani Camp will close for the month of March for scheduled refurbishing.
With the continually rising water in the Savute Channel, guests are still unable to move by road from the Linyanti Concession (Savuti, DumaTau, Kings Pool) to the Selinda Reserve (Selinda, Zarafa) or vice versa and thus Sefofane air transfers still need to be booked for any packages combining these two areas.
A reminder that guests staying three nights or longer at DumaTau, Savuti or Kings Pool camps have the option of a sleep-out on one of the platform hides in the concession (weather permitting). This allows guests the privilege of falling asleep to the true sounds of the African wilderness.
The River Club's all-weather tennis court is now completed and fully operational.
Little Makalolo, Davison's and Ruckomechi camps will all have new family units in 2010, each one comprising two adjoining tents and a shared bathroom.
North Island Update - January 2010 Jump
to North Island
Weather and Landscape
The weather this month has, quite predictably, been completely unpredictable. And although the first ten days of the month were great, with clear, sunny skies and relatively calm seas, the wind and the rain soon arrived, bring some very large swells and great shore dumps around the latter part of the month. These were very popular with a few crazy body-boarders, who quickly learnt that being thrown onto the beach (which at the time consisted mostly of large pieces of coral) was not such a good idea...
The speed at which the sand has returned to the front of the restaurant has been incredible. Villa 11 has now lost her sand, which has migrated right the way across the main beach to the restaurant. Large, shallow pools have formed in the middle of this beach as the spring high tides wash over the top of the beach lip and create large depressions that fill with water each high tide.
The sand at Honeymoon Beach has also returned after rough seas and a large swell removed, literally, half the beach during December last year. Once more, living up to its name, this beach is the perfect spot for a lazy afternoon picnic or a leisurely sunset walk to watch the sun dip below the horizon.
On the sightings side, the crazy jumping antics of the juvenile spotted eagle rays, as mentioned over the last couple of months, have maintained momentum for the duration of January on both Main Beach and Petit Anse. We have also repeatedly spotted several large adults on Sprat City and Coral Gardens throughout the month. Our sightings of the adult rays have markedly increased over the years and it is now not so uncommon to see several large adults cruising over the shallow reefs together, from time to time.
There has also been a repeated sighting of one particular adult ray on Sprat City who seems determined to stick around and has been identified on three different occasions in a single day. Another excellent sighting of these rays was on Coral Gardens - a dive group saw a family of six, which included three adults and three juveniles, swimming together. This is a rare sighting as it is unusual to see adults and juveniles together, and especially in such a large group. Unfortunately this family moved off the reef shortly afterwards and were not seen again.
We had a very special visitor to the dive centre on the 15th January when a large hawksbill turtle wandered right up to the bottom of the dive centre deck and started to lay her eggs. She had initially made a beeline for the restaurant after emerging from the water in front of Villa 1, but then changed direction and came straight to the dive centre. She had tried to emerge a couple of days prior in front of Villa 2 but was not happy with the location and so returned to the sea. She had a tag in both front flippers and thus did not require further tagging. There hasn't been a nest in front of the dive centre for at least three years. We have now claimed the nest as our own and will ensure that we are all present for the hatchlings' mad scramble to the sea in the middle of March.
The bottlenose dolphins have been out and about once again, although most of the sightings have been quite uneventful, as shortly after they have been spotted they disappear without a trace. A particularly large pod was spotted directly off Petit Anse but vanished as we got closer. Usually the pod is re-sighted after a few minutes, when they surface slightly further afield, but this entire pod just disappeared. While we have had numerous close encounters with the dolphin, they remain sceptical about any of us human types getting too close. Perhaps over time we will catch their interest a little more effectively, without scaring them off too quickly.
Kings Pool Camp update - January 2010 Jump
to Kings Pool Camp
DumaTau Camp update - January 2010 Jump
to DumaTau Camp
Nothing much has changed on the weather side of things. There is still a steady heat in the air and clouds threatening to shower us with rain. We had a few hard showers but are still awaiting the really big rains. The surroundings keep getting thicker and thicker - it seems that the areas around DumaTau seem to be getting more rain than we are in camp.
The Savuti Female lion and her two sub-adult boys are in very good condition. On one occasion the youngsters developed a fascination with our "transit route" signboard and spent easily an hour studying every aspect of its features. The entire DumaTau Pride has been spending a lot of time in the woodlands. The DumaTau female that had cubs early in December has been very scarce this month. Sadly, we have reason to believe her cubs may be dead, but we still hold out a little hope.
We have seen a few leopard this month. Mmalebadi, a very relaxed female, was spotted close to the southern bank of Zib Lagoon. We believe she may have cubs, but have not had any actual sightings. All eyes are on her - keeping a close look out, in the hopes that our suspicions can be confirmed.
Also sighted this month were most of the usual suspects, like wild dog, elephant, giraffe, roan antelope, impala, one extroverted caracal and hippo galore.
We had a few exciting moments out in the wilderness this month when a slender mongoose decided to take on a cobra. And then on a rather cool and quiet morning Moses came across a python just moments after it had caught an impala and started to squeeze it. The impala was a young male, and not particularly small, and Moses didn't think the python could possibly swallow it. When he returned a few hours later, the python was in the same spot with a very fat stomach!
"Great exposure to animals doing their thing, wonderful food, exceptional staff."
"Name was a fantastic guide - so knowledgeable and personable. Wilderness Safaris is lucky to have him! We were very touched by the personal service offered by all the staff, especially the surprise private dinner and great send off. Can't think of anything that was not outstanding. We thoroughly enjoyed every minute and feel fortunate to have experienced DumaTau."
"A fantastic place, Mocks was a super guide. Seeing wild dogs - what a privilege!"
"Wild dog with a fresh kill, leopard feeding and being chased away by hyaena. Lion stalking and Moses' knowledgeable and friendly guiding. Thank you to all the ladies and gentlemen who made our stay so memorable."
We would like to welcome Martin to the DumaTau team, as well as Lopang who has joined us from the Training Department and is starting out as a trainee manager. Tuelo who was with us last month has qualified and is now a manager - we wish him all the best for the years to come.
Guides: Name, Moses, Lazi, Mocks, Theba and Ron. Towards the end of the month Lazarus joined our team after being at Little Vumbura, and we say a sad cheers to Ollie who is moving to Vumbura.
Savuti Camp update - January 2010 Jump
to Savuti Camp
For many of us, January is a time of new beginnings, of good intentions and resolutions to improve... So how did this pan out in an earthly paradise in a state of constant flux?
January is traditionally the quietest month in the safari calendar, at least in terms of numbers of visitors. Seems that someone forgot to tell the wildlife to take time off, however! We also failed to slow down - and we've been busy getting the camp looking spick and span in preparation for the forthcoming season.
Sanded down, the wooden decks and walkways glow like spun gold in the sunlight, and the exterior woodwork is being restored to its original glory. Perhaps inspired by our example, a young bull elephant has spent most of today stripping bark off one of the leadwood trees in camp, and then retreating into a thick clump of feverberry when we crept closer to watch, as if embarrassed by all the havoc he had wrought.
As ever, it is the bush beyond Savuti which delights the most, and January has not disappointed... We are seeing the first subtle signs that summer is on the wane: mornings are darker and slightly cooler, and all the birds seem to be in a mad dash to finish the job of nesting and raising young. In the reeds along the southern bank of the Channel, a battle of the colours is taking place as red and yellow Bishops compete for the best stems on which to construct their nests.
So far, red is winning. This very pretty, if slightly territorial bird, vociferously drives off his rival each time he appears and then sits perched in the reeds and puffs himself up with self-importance. Well, he has done particularly well when it comes to choosing a nesting site.
Beneath the Bishop's artfully fabricated nest the waters of the Channel continue to rise. The depth of the water below the star deck is now some 1.15m (a little less than four feet), the highest it has been since we started measuring it in February 2009. Data from Namibia shows that, like last year, we can expect significantly greater than average flow in the Kwando River, which is the ultimate source of the Savute Channel. In anticipation of the Channel getting a lot deeper, we are looking at constructing bridges to ensure our continued access to the wonders of the southern bank.
On the whole, this summer has been a dry one in the Linyanti. For the flood we must wait until July, when the waters from Angola typically reach their greatest volume. Between now and then, if we continue to receive only modest amounts of rainfall, the Channel will become increasingly vital as a source of water for wildlife. So, we could be in for a tough winter for the animals and birds, but a winter that promises some phenomenal viewing.
Summer is the time of year when, under the cloak of verdant vegetation, many mysteries unfold, and our guides turn detective, looking for evidence and trying to identify suspects. All of which can become very exciting in an area which has so many killers on the loose.
One of the most enduring puzzles of the northern Botswana summer is where do the elephants go? We know that their wet season range is far greater than their dry season range, and studies are now revealing that they trek as far away as Angola, as if following the waters back to their source. The general pattern is one of dispersal, as elephant herds fan out into the newly hospitable bush. Many of the herds have fortuitously remained around the Channel this year, perhaps reluctant to leave such a bountiful larder.
Other mysteries have proved knottier... We are making a real effort to understand the dynamics of our lion, in particular the street-fighting silver-eyed male, and the DumaTau Pride... It seems that Silver Eye has moved further east, beyond Kings Pool. Curiously though he has left his brother behind - perhaps in a bid to secure his territory? If so, this plan could badly backfire on him, as Silver Eye's brother isn't half the lion Silver Eye is, so the pale-pupiled pugilist is leaving his eastern flank terribly exposed.
It seems that he himself may be exploiting a power vacuum he helped create by driving the Border Boys back into the Caprivi Strip. This coalition of males has not been seen for some time now, and we fear that they may be dead.
Similarly mystifying are the current wanderings of the DumaTau pride, who we think are spending time closer to Selinda. Curiously, we've had repeated sightings of one or other of the sub-adult males alone on this side of the Channel. Kicked out, feeling adventurous or accidentally separated? Either way, it's a good thing for these youngsters that Silver Eye is otherwise occupied in the west.
If lion - hardly the most subtle of felines - can be mysterious at times, then leopard border on the enigmatic and esoteric. The DumaTau male is still top cat in these parts, but it can only be a matter of time before he is ousted in a whirl of rosettes and slashing claws. Just as the storm clouds gather most afternoons, so too are the portents gathering for the end of a remarkable leopard lord of the Linyanti. Several times now we have seen new and known young male leopard stalking through the DumaTau male's territory - several seemingly very powerful. Some of these unknown males are very skittish with the vehicles, which probably indicates that they have come from areas where photographic safaris do not take place.
Our detective guides can solve many of the riddles in the sands and in the skies, but sometimes the sheer beauty and majesty of the Linyanti area is not to be understood, but simply enjoyed and marvelled at.
We had one afternoon game drive that meandered to a hippo pool for sundowners... A peaceful enough scene, with the sky lighting up and the hippos yawning restively. At which point all hell broke loose. A sudden stampede by a small herd of waterbuck with wild dog in hot pursuit. Hunters and the hunted careened towards the Channel, and it seemed that a kill in the shallows was on the cards. But waterbuck didn't get their name for nothing, and without missing a beat they charged deep into the Channel, hooves kicking up desperate spray as they galloped for their lives. They clambered up on to a low island in the middle of the Channel and looked back with palpable relief as their nemeses paced up and down at the water's edge, helpless in the face of their overriding fear of crocodiles.
No detective skills were needed to deduce that this was The perfect end to another great day on safari in Savute.
"The staff was great and went above and beyond to make us feel at home."
"Highlight: wild dog, leopard, elephant charging (but stopping at a safe distance!), learning to know our guide Goodman - the best in the system?"
"It's a wonderful place!"
"Everyone (even the animals) smiling at us and showing us nature like we never experienced it before? yes, sure? and we saw the leopard?"
"The dinners and lunches were wonderful, the charging elephant, following a pack of dogs on a hunt? just to name a few highlights!"
With very best wishes from your January Savuti Camp team: Conny Selzer, Tumoh Morena, Maatla Lekelandi, Nick 'Noko' Galpine... until you come and join us and do a bit of sleuthing yourselves, as you try to answer the trickiest question of all - why have you waited so long to visit?
Thanks to Russel Friedman for the iamges.
Zarafa Camp update - January 2010 Jump
to Zarafa Camp
The New Year started with a fantastic surprise sundowner session - the last of 2009 - followed by dinner in the bush. Just as we were having dessert, the first drops of rain fell and we scurried back to camp. An amazing African sunset has to be the most glorious way to bid farewell to one year and welcome in the next.
We've had quite a lot of rain in January (100mm), but it has fallen in three storms throughout the month. The days in between the storms have been quite cloudy, making for muggy, humid days.
Around camp, the elephant are making almost daily appearances, sneaking out from the tree line onto the floodplains and into the lagoon. Sometimes it's a few bulls, sometimes a large breeding herd of over 40 individuals, including at least a handful of tiny babies. Over the last few days a bull, which we recognise from last year, has been spending his days walking around camp and feasting on the new shoots, feverberries and fresh grass around camp. Out of camp, huge elephant herds (some up to 100 strong) are once again congregating on the open floodplains of the Zibadianja Lagoon and woodlands north of Selinda.
The two baby leopard are out and about. Unfortunately we've not seen them, but we've seen their tiny prints following in their mother's footsteps along the dusty tracks near the old Zibadianja Camp.
Over the last couple of months we've been working very hard at collecting photos of predators in order to assist us in identifying them. With the help of our guests especially (and our in-room Canon cameras), we've collected an amazing selection of photos which have allowed us to identify nine different leopard in the southern section of the reserve (south of the Spillway). We also have photos of all the individual members of the two wild dog packs in the area.
The wild dog continue to surprise us. While some of our guests were watching the six strong pack of wild dog near Selinda Camp, we were watching a different, unknown, pack south of Zarafa at Wild Dog Pan. There were eight individuals (including two or three smaller dogs). Based on the photos we've assembled, these individuals are unknown to us. We'll keep an eye on them to see where these dogs move to.
On another occasion, while our guests were following the pack with six youngsters near Shumba Pan (just north of camp), we received a call in camp letting us know the dogs were heading south and might move through camp. We went out to the front deck, where Comfort had spotted an impala crouching down on the edge of the lagoon, intent on trying to hide in the grass and sedge. From nowhere a couple of dogs broke their cover in the feverberries and dragged the impala from the water in front of Tent #3. We were able to get a couple of pictures from the deck of the tent.
Four female lion from the Selinda Pride (two of the mothers and two of the younger females) were seen along the treeline and moving towards the old Zibadianja Camp. They had three cubs with them and have since spent a lot of time just west of the Zibadianja Camp area. We've not seen the cubs in a number of days, but will keep checking on them.
During January we closed the camp and held our annual 'Boot Camp' week. Once again we had specific training organised for the chefs, waitresses and housekeepers. The guides also spent a week fine-tuning their skills and bush knowledge, spending time together and learning from each other and the two wonderful trainers. On the last day we had a Fun Day, where Zarafa won the choir competition and one of our staff members, Chaka, won the "Ms Selinda beauty competition!"
All the best for 2010,
Stu, Tess, Comfort and the Zarafa Team
Selinda Camp update - January 2010 Jump
to Selinda Camp
Dramatic is an understatement - no two days of the play unfolding in the Selinda theatre are the same. Is this Scene 3 Part 2 or perhaps Scene 4 Part 3? This is especially true in the rainy season - the day's heat inevitably culminates in a thunderstorm that brings much relief to all, drenching mother earth with reasonably brief, cool, clear and refreshing rain. Every creature you can imagine, large and small, comes out in jubilation. Sunrises and sunsets are most spectacular, displaying the patterns made by the pregnant clouds, only part of the puzzle of shapes and colours already enjoyed on terra firma. Every humid day between the showers carries with it much expectation.
Although the dry winter months of July and August are best-known for their fantastic wildlife sightings, this rainy season has, by no means, been a disappointment. Huge herds of elephant prevail along paths through the forests to the Spillway to quench their thirst and to cool themselves down. This season's calves have been seen frolicking in the water within safe distance of their mothers, and we don't dare venture too close for that ideal photograph as all seem to be a bit camera shy and are more than willing to have one know this by bellowing out their warning trumpeting calls.
For the month of January it seems as though zebra have been the flavour of the month. Two handsome male lion, with their dark manes, were spotted devouring the sirloins of a fallen stallion not far from the Spillway. The lion were so full that the capillary network of their abdomens was on display, exhibiting a myriad of imaginary roads much travelled. As is to try and break the discomfort or boredom after having gorged themselves, one male rose to a roar. You could feel that the roar came from deep within, the air vibrating and spittle spraying. After making the effort he collapsed to the ground with a fluidity that only cats have.
Speaking of meal times - let's not forget the female leopard we saw in the leadwood tree who was enjoying an afternoon siesta after having had her fill of the impala carcass that was hanging precariously next to her from a branch relatively high up in this venerable old tree.
Game drives this month are being enhanced by the presence of our visiting Carmine Bee-eaters. As if to tease the photographers, they would dart in towards the vehicle displaying their mosaic of colours, inciting all to uncap their lenses, and then flit away again, to the frustration of guests.
We have had to say sad farewells to some staff members who have decided to spend their time with their growing families - at the same time we gladly welcome new people to the Selinda Team. Having received inspiration and training during our annual "Boot Camp," we are all eager to face the exciting season ahead. We are ready to welcome all voyagers to Selinda Camp and we look forward to our adventures together.
Camps Update - January 2010
Lagoon camp Jump
• Lucky guests in the last few days have been treated to Wild Dogs hunting around the airstrip area of Lagoon Camp. Eventually they had success in chasing down a young Kudu bull which they killed in shallow water.
• In addition, three brother Cheetahs have been seen already in the New Year lying up in some Kalahari Star Apple bushes.
• Buffalo herds have been gradually moving north with the rain but the infamous males or ‘Dagga Boys’ are still to be seen on the borders.
• Giraffe, Zebra and Elephant are a coming sight throughout Lagoons range this early January.
Kwara & Little Kwara camps Jump
& Little Kwara camps
• Kwara concession has been pumping these last few days with a full array of predator and prey for all to see.
• The seven male Lions of Kwara were followed on a night drive over a distance of 5km on a hunt before they disappeared into thick scrub.
• Three male Cheetahs were sighted yesterday and the day before on an Impala kill they had made early in the morning by the Shinde Road.
• A Leopard was also seen on a night drive one night.
• There are now up to 80 Hippos in the Lediba (Lagoon) infront of the camp as competition for the deepest water intensifies with the dropping of the flood.
Lebala camp Jump
• Two Male Lions have already been sighted killing a Zebra close to halfway pan early this year and they are heard roaring every night from camp.
• A large shower on New Years Day has encouraged more and more plains game to congregate close to Lebala and graze on the fresh grasses. Among them Red Lechwe, Tsesebe, Zebra, Wildebeest, Impala, Zebra, Waterbuck and Reedbuck.
• Elephant herds continue to visit the area threading their way in and out of the Mopane forests to the West.
• Lucky guests early in the year have had the privilege of seeing two Lions successfully hunting a Zebra from the great migration, and feeding with their two cubs. The event took place close to Nxai Camp itself and provided excellent photographic opportunities.
• The migration from the Boteti and Khwai Rivers is now in full flow and there are literally thousands of Zebra, Springbok, Giraffe and Gemsbok to be seen.
• A family of Meerkats was amongst the highlights of the first week of 2010. The charismatic creatures were on top form as ducked and dived in and out of the ground and played with eachother.
• Elsewhere, five Wild Dogs have been sighted on the pan and the two big male Lions of Tau have also been around the water hole.
Mombo Camp update
- January 2010 Jump
to Mombo Camp
Weather and Landscape
The first month of the new decade has already come and gone. It brought us some great rain, finally, really soaking our part of the Okavango Delta. This turned the bush into a lush and beautiful oasis, with all the wildflowers now making an appearance - patches of yellows, purples and bright reds are scattered throughout the concession. All this rain has, luckily, not dampened our guests' spirits and has actually behaved quite nicely, letting up long enough for everyone to enjoy the amazing game drives that are Mombo's speciality.
This has been a month of action and confrontation, especially with one of our lion prides, the Maparota Breakaway. The pride, consisting of eight mostly sub-adult lion, came into their own recently when they brought down a buffalo bull in front of Little Mombo in an epic battle that lasted several hours, and had one lion nearly seriously injured. This kill was later taken from them by the Maporota Pride, but the skills they honed by bringing down the buffalo came into play a couple of days later, when they were again seen taking down another buffalo near the old Mombo site.
This sighting became even more exciting, and somewhat disturbing, when the Western Boys, a coalition of male lion from the south, were attracted by the noise and commotion of the kill. They charged in, chasing the pride off the already mortally wounded buffalo. Following the pride, they caught up with a five-year-old female and savagely mauled her, leaving her with a broken back. She died later on in the day - which is the sad face of survival of the fittest in an area where predator numbers are high, and competition for resources is particularly fierce.
The Western Boys then proceeded back towards the badly injured buffalo and came across a young male from the Maparota Breakaway Pride. The much larger Western Boys beat him up pretty badly, opening up a large gash in the side of his neck, making us wonder whether we would lose a second lion that day. The Western Boys then finished what the other pride had started, and finally feasted on buffalo.
Legadima, the Mombo leopard female, was seen throughout the month, prompting the sale of many "Eye of the Leopard" DVDs (by Dereck and Beverly Joubert), in which she is the star. There is nothing quite as lovely as seeing her draped over a branch surveying her kingdom - and seemingly posing for photos. There are speculations, again, as to whether she may be pregnant. Let's hope that she is successful this time, after losing her last litter a few months ago.
Mpho Poster Malongwa, our Wilderness Safaris rhino expert, spotted the newest rhino in northern Botswana again. The baby is healthy and doing well, and she has been named Boiteko. Poster also witnessed two dominant bulls having a fight. They are both occupying the same territory, and neither seems willing to give up his turf. Let's hope that the fighting doesn't end up in any serious injuries - this would not be welcome in our small, yet thriving, rhino population.
A slight push of Delta water into the floodplain in front of camp has brought an influx of water birds. Egrets are everywhere, interspersed with Black Egrets, Wattled Cranes, Knob-billed Ducks and other waders. A huge flock of Red-winged Pratincoles has made their home here, filling the sky with waves of wings, when taking off and landing.
Summer is a special time in the African bush, and we're all looking forward to the next month of beauty and action.
Managers: Gordon, Tanya, Kago, Martha, Phenyo, Marlene and Max for Mombo; and Nat for Little Mombo
Guides: Doctor Malinga, Cilus, Pete, Simon and Moss for Mombo; and Tsile for Little Mombo.
All photographs are courtesy of Doctor Malinga.
Xigera Camp update
- January 2010 Jump
to Xigera Camp
Chitabe Camp update
- January 2010 Jump
to Chitabe Camp
Weather and Landscape
It seems like only yesterday that we sat down for a special Christmas Eve bush-dinner, with beautifully decorated tables on a magical floodplain underneath a clear, indigo, star-filled Chitabe sky. Yes, December has come and gone, and now so has January. We have said goodbye to old friends, and made some new ones. We have experienced magnificent thunder showers and lightning-laced storms, and watched entranced as the magic of summer slowly took a grip on the landscape. It washed out the browns and golds of the winter months and carpeted the concession in beautiful greens, beaded with jewels of the reddish-orange flame lily and the lilacs of the pretty lady. It is truly a colourful and wonderful time of year!
January has been an exciting month for us all. The resident male hippo is constantly seen grazing in and around camp during the middle of the afternoons. Ebineng was heading out on a drive recently and as he went over the bridge beyond the camp this massive animal jumped out of the water, giving him and his guests a bit of a ... surprise.
Gordon, who recently joined the Chitabe guiding team and comes with a wealth of experience, saw the female cheetah with her two sub-adult cubs at Robin's Floodplain. The following day the guests watched as the family took down an impala.
For those of you who are familiar with our resident lion pride, you will be happy to know that the female with the white eye was seen recently with the two resident males, both of whom mated with her and stayed with her for seven to eight days. If this female successfully gives birth it will be her first cub since we met her as an eight month old. All this lion activity kept our specialist photographic safari group well entertained while they were at Chitabe.
The wild dog are still traversing through the area, leaving the remnants of successful hunting forays all over the concession. Their hunting prowess is the stuff of legends. Ebineng has been hot on their trail on many a game drive. Only the lucky few get to witness the actual "take down" of prey, most of us only see a red patch of ground and a few bits of bone. The wild dog pups have grown strong and healthy and it is becoming difficult to distinguish them from the adults.
For those who share my snake passion, we have had some grand sightings. I recently had to relocate a baby python, a baby black mamba and a puff adder. The magnificent mamba living above Tiny's house has been keeping the squirrels and the starlings very busy and I attempted to keep a four-metre python from making my home his, but he proved too strong and too fast for me, so I've scheduled a re-match.
For our birders out there, the skies have been congested with all varieties of birdlife, and the raptors are plentiful (Little Banded Goshawk pictured left). We recently watched a mamba try to raid a bird's nest; an African Harrier-Hawk came by to investigate the commotion, which sent the serpent scurrying for its life, and left the birds to contend instead with this magnificent raptor.
Driving through the concession one sees all the waders that have come along with the rain. For only the second time in my life, I saw a couple of Painted Snipe at one of the shallow pools near Robin's Floodplain - a real treat.
"Luke, the dogs and an elephant giving birth. Can't think of anything Chitabe needs to do better - everyone has been wonderful and we had a terrific time." - Henry and Liz, South Africa
"Every game drive was great. All the guides and staff were friendly, professional and fun to be with. Outdoor lunch by the water was surreal." - Richard and Anaik, USA
"Friendly outgoing staff. Beautiful accommodation and gourmet meals. Luke was an outstanding guide and a wonderful person to us. Dawson is a natural host and a wonderful story teller." - Micki and Jody, USA
To all you Chitabeans, and to the future Chitabeans, your hosts at Chitabe this month will be Trevor, Sa'adia and Alice. And your guides will be Phinley, Ebs, Luke "Skywalker" and the ever-smiling Thuso.
Vumbura Plains Camp update
- January 2010 Jump
to Vumbura Plains Camp
Weather and Landscape
We have welcomed several showers and hail storms this month and are particularly pleased with the impact the rain has had on the vegetation. The grasses have finally recovered from the dry season and typical 'Okavango' landscapes can once again be seen. Apart from a number of large jackalberries which were blown over in the storms, the trees are also flourishing. Flame lilies have emerged, adding a splash of colour to Vumbura's surroundings.
In the last few weeks, a pride of lion has been very active around camp (particularly near the management tents) making the walks to and from the rooms very interesting! The pride recently killed and fed on a wildebeest less than a hundred metres away from the boma, with two young cubs in attendance.
While on the topic of cubs, we are pleased to announce that one of the lionesses from the Kubu Pride has had a cub, which a number of guests were fortunate enough to see when it was only a few days old, before it had even opened its eyes. Ona, one of our guides, thinks this little cub's chances of survival are slim as it is the first-born of a mother who still lacks maternal skills.
We've had some excellent cheetah sightings in the area. Our most popular cheetah, Vuka, has been spotted quite a lot during the month.
There was a very special sighting of a young female leopard killing a Comb Duck after a long and exciting stalk. The leopard then carried the duck onto a nearby termite mound and feasted.
There was a lone wild dog on the hunt near camp one morning. It took down an impala by Tent #1 and the rest of the pack quickly joined in to devour the unlucky antelope. It is all about survival of the fittest in the wild.
The sable have been enjoying this weather and have been seen quite constantly at Shumba Island. We are ecstatic that one of the sable from the big herd of 22 gave birth at 11h30 on the 25th of January, which is unusually early for this species in this area. The rest of the herd surrounded the calf after it was born and many of them (mostly adult females) helped to lick the calf and get it on its feet. A few of the other adult sable grew impatient with a nearby herd of zebra and charged them until they retreated to a safe distance from the newborn. About three minutes afterwards, the mother hid the calf in some thick bushes, and only returned to feed it every three to four hours.
The rain triggered a number of termite emergences which resulted in some awesome bird watching opportunities. Several species of Raptors, Hornbills, Bee-eaters, Starlings, Swallows, Storks and Swifts were observed swooping in huge flocks to feed on the unsuspecting insects as they left their burrows.
The mangers at North Camp: Miriam Tichapondwa, Attorney Vasco and Graham Simmonds.
The guides at North Camp: Ona Lekgopo, Madala Kay and Moronga Kandondi
The managers and guides at South Camp: Kgabiso Lehare, Ban Shakwa and Setsile Chikusi
Little Vumbura Camp update
- January 2010 Jump
to Little Vumbura Camp
As the sun drops slowly down towards the horizon, it momentarily disappears behind some dark rain clouds in the distance and the light on the floodplain in front of camp promptly recedes. Moments later, the sun reappears through a gap in the distant rain and the light instantly returns to the floodplain, bringing with it hues of deep red, orange, pink and purple; and creating new colours as it strikes the wet, green grass... This is a typical January afternoon at Little Vumbura.
January has been a particularly wet month here at with almost-guaranteed afternoon showers. These rains have raised the Delta's water levels and created spectacular sunsets and wonderful photographic opportunities in the late afternoon light.
The rain has not, however, affected the game this month. Our guests have had incredible sightings of sable antelope (all four groups), countless elephant, large herds of buffalo and other plains game.
The wild dog have been relatively active over the month, and many guests have witnessed all ten of the dogs on a chase. Some guests have even been lucky enough to observe a successful hunt. Hyaena sightings have naturally also been frequent as they now consistently follow the dogs on a hunt. Towards the end of the month regular hyaena mating sessions were also seen.
The Kwedi Concession has also had a fair amount of leopard action this month, with great sightings of a leopard successfully hunting a Comb Duck (previously known as a Knob-billed Duck). We also saw a young male leopard with an open wound on his back, which was probably the result of coming off second best in a fight with a baboon.
A few guests left Vumbura with great pictures of sitatunga (the very elusive semi-aquatic antelope), which they saw on an early morning mokoro trip.
All that said - the month of January belongs firmly to the tau (lion), as they have been constantly seen throughout the month. The old Vumbura Pride, the East Pride, which consists of one adult male, four adult females and four cubs (two female and two male), have been seen hunting, feasting and mostly just lying around. They have also been very vocal in the early mornings. The Kubu Pride, with three adult females and two cubs, has also been frequently spotted. One of the females has been seen with a very small, newborn cub.
Guides: Onkabetse Mothopi, Kesotegile Setlabos and Sevara Katsotso, with trainee guide Luke
Managers: Alex and One Mazunga, Unoziba Tema, Mia Ives, Warren Baty and Cheri Marshall, with trainee manager Keedo
From everyone here on the island, we hope to see you soon. We are looking forward to more amazing game viewing, and hope that the sun continues to provide spectacular settings for the month ahead.
Duba Plains Camp update
- January 2010 Jump
to Duba Plains Camp
Weather and Landscape
We have had a brilliant month at Duba! January's good weather brought with it great game viewing. The average minimum temperature for January was a balmy 23°C. Heavy rains in the second half of the month have made a huge difference to the amount of surface water in the concession. Indeed, the water in front of camp is now higher than at the height of the flood in 2008. There is some debate as to whether this is the actual flood itself (i.e. water coming down from Angola) or merely an accumulation of heavy rains in northern Botswana, or a combination of both. Whatever the answer, all the current indicators point to a flood season like no other in Wilderness history and we are busy making preparations to cope with whatever nature will throw at us, before Duba is cut off once more from the world outside. That being said, there is also considerable excitement amongst the staff at the prospect of a change to not only our daily lives, but also those of the animals with whom we share this most wonderful environment.
The evening skies, pregnant with heavy rain, have produced some stunning sunsets, with shards of pink, turquoise and silver coursing across the horizon. Over dinner, the night air reverberates to the chorus of painted reed frogs, bull frogs, bubbling kassinas and toads, who are all making the most of this abundant water. By the noise they're making, our resident hippo population clearly think Christmas has come early (or late...). As our guests snooze the afternoons away, agitated troops of baboons watch small herds of red lechwe splash contentedly in front of the tents, in what used to be their, much drier, playground.
Elephants are still present in significant numbers much to delight of our guests. They are seen mainly on open floodplains, as opposed to woodland areas. One of the reasons for this is the prevalence of creeper plants like the jasmine creeper that flourish on most of the floodplains. Elephants love this food source. Herds of up to 60 animals are seen on the floodplains, which is rare in the Delta for this time of year, as they usually head into the mopane woodland at the first rains.
The Tsaro Pride is doing very well and is in good shape at the moment, with the two major groupings (five females and four females) being seen on a consistent basis. The good news is that Silver-Eye is alive and well. She remains an enemy to the five lionesses which are not part of her group and often sports injuries. There has been substantial conflict between the lionesses, and there seems to be a possible separation of territory within the pride - a new and unprecedented development, and one that we will continue to watch with interest.
The Skimmer Pride has been seen twice in January - the last time they seemed very hungry and they even crossed into the Tsaro Pride's territory. It was most interesting to see the Skimmer dominant male, moving his pride away from the vicinity of the Tsaro Pride, obviously trying to avoid any confrontation.
First time visitors to Duba Plains are often taken aback at the sheer number and variety of animals here. Night drives have been very rewarding this month, with almost nightly sightings of serval, once hunting rodents. Other nocturnal animals seen include the rare aardwolf, civet, bat-eared fox, white-tailed mongoose and porcupine. Recent unusual sightings include a caracal (a large lynx-like cat), a large grey mongoose and civets.
Birding has been prolific, converting many guests into avid birders. We've had fantastic sightings of extremely rare birds like Stanley's Bustard and Rosy-throated Longclaw amongst others, flourishing on Duba's floodplains. Pink-backed Pelicans are still fishing the pans in the central part of the concession. It's always interesting to hear the sounds of the Diederick, Jacobin and Black Cuckoos reverberating from the tall trees around the camp - these birds are summer migrants, which means most of them have just arrived. You hear them more than you see them, as they are always tucked into the thick canopies of large jackalberry trees. One of the reasons they like to remain hidden is that they are brood parasites, which means they get mobbed by other smaller birds if they are located. Brood parasites are birds that lay their eggs in other birds' nests, so they can take care of their chicks. They will often knock the eggs of the host out of the nest, so the host will raise their chicks instead.
Guides: Carlton, Spike and Reuben
Jacana Camp update
- January 2010 Jump
to Jacana Camp
The month of plenty has passed, leaving behind green grass and trees and a lot of water - they don't call it the rainy season for nothing. We received 300mm of rain this month (that's 120 inches). The soothing evening showers helped tremendously to cool down the warm summer days and push up the water levels. Daily temperatures averaged around the mid-thirties, and the evenings cooled to a comfortable 20 degrees. The magnificent thunderstorms here in the Delta never cease to amaze us and provide hours of entertainment.
Scattered clouds are illuminated by the late afternoon sun and draped in all the shades of gold and red imaginable. As the sun sinks below the horizon the bark of a baboon and the laughing of monkeys signal a sinister shadow looking to quench his appetite... Soon afterwards the stomach-churning loud volume of a male lion roar shatters the serenity. Unbeknownst to us the females are not far away and then we hear the sound we were waiting for - four young lion cubs squeaking in the undergrowth, signalling it's time for dinner! The little cubs with their crystal blue eyes and swinging tails will one day be the apex predators in this paradise, but for now they are nothing more than amusing.
On the other side of the floodplain the local female leopard is raising her cubs well. The little spotted cats are almost two months old now and will most likely be growing faster from here on. Playing with a stick or chasing a butterfly, the cubs are honing their skills, and will eventually become the most sought-after photographer's friend.
The changing of the season is not yet apparent to us but the signals are there: a quick glimpse of a Western-banded Snake-Eagle, or the colouring of the young Saddle-billed Stork's feathers. The return of male elephants and the excited grunt of a hippo bull in the distance all tell us the water is coming.
Paradise! Slaty Egret, Black Egret, Pygmy Goose, Pel's Fishing-Owl, Wattled Crane, Malachite Kingfisher, Purple Heron, Rufous-bellied Heron, Green-backed Heron... Where do I stop? The amount of rare birds around at the moment is too long to list, and it's not hard to find just the right spot at just the right time of day to deliver magical results. In fact, a little before the flood comes, the numbers peak, as there is an abundance of insects flushed by the water.
Our yearly maintenance commences in January, and everyone lends a hand to make the camp shine. The hard work pays off at the end of the day when we tell our guests that the camp is ten years young and still going strong! This also gives us a chance to enjoy the finer things in the late afternoon like a herd of elephant crossing from island to island across the water, or the hunting of a kingfisher that seems to never tire from all the flying.
"Wonderful place. Merci par votre chaleureux accueil and good staff." - Anne & Ambrogio, Switzerland
"Jacana Camp will never be forgotten! The staff were wonderful, the guide incredible (thanks, Mike) and the lions amazing! Wow." - Jungle Bob & Dylan, New York
Managers: Pieter Ras and Danielle van den Berg
Guides: Mike Tebogo
update - January 2010 Jump
to Kwetsani Camp
This has been a month of plenty at Kwetsani, especially with regards to rain. We have had 327mm (13 inches) of rain during the month - 145mm of which fell in one night during dinner. This made for a very interesting evening - full of umbrellas. The next morning even the pan on the way to the baobab was filled up with water, which brought all the waterfowl to camp and resulted in some spectacular birding opportunities. The mornings would start with bright blue and sunny skies and the afternoon would arrive with spectacular thunderstorms. Most of the evenings were nice and cool. The average maximum temperature was 31°C (88°F) with the mercury dipping to 17°C at night.
According to the bush telegraph we can expect a very big flood this year and it looks like it might be early again. With all the rain we have been having it sometimes feels like the flood has already arrived - most of our roads are flooded with the water, which makes for interesting game drives.
We've had some great wildlife sightings at Kwetsani this month. The resident lion pride has become part of everyday camp life and we have been lucky to get a few glimpse of their newest additions. No one is sure yet but it looks like four or five cubs. The female lion have been using the floodplain in front of camp for their hunting. On one occasion we witnessed them make a kill 100m out of camp. The one female was drinking water at the pan just out of camp when three lechwe approached. They did not see her and ventured too close. She set off after them and the young one stumbled, and it was all over in seconds. Then the male lion came running up and stole the kill. She did all the hard work and had to sit and watch as the male ate the whole kill... This is very often the case with lion.
Our resident elephant have been scarce, only visiting camp on the odd occasion. There is a female group in the area with quite a few small calves, and our guests had a great time observing these wonderful giants. Two huge buffalo bulls have moved into camp and they are a regular sighting in the morning. They've befriended the bushbuck and we see them hanging out together on a regular basis.
A pair of Woodland Kingfishers decided to raise a chick in the tree next to our office - which has given us hours of viewing pleasure. Four Ground Hornbills also made their home in front of camp.
The camp saw in the New Year under a full moon on the Kwetsani floodplain. We had sparkling wine next to a fire in the heart of the Okavango Delta with some wonderful guests. The roast gammon and stuffed venison complemented by roast potatoes and an assortment of scrumptious vegetables added to an already wonderful evening.
On the evening of the 5th we finally got the chance to do a bush dinner. We could still see the lightning in the distance, but it kept its distance. Our guests were pleasantly surprised when they drove past camp and found the quintessentially safari scene of dinner in the African bush.
Camp Managers: Iván Phillipson and Ilze van der Vyver
New Camp Managers: Douw and Linda Cloete
Guides: Jonah and OP
update - January 2010 Jump
to Jao Camp
Weather and Camp
Another year started with a bang here at Jao Camp, and continued with thumping, hammering, knocking and battering... These are not your typical sounds of the peaceful Delta, but for the next two months it is our reality. Maintenance is underway here at Jao and all staff are on-board to assist. Jao has to keep her reputation as one of the most beautiful places in Africa! Who better to do the maintenance than those who get to boast about her year round - the Jao staff are truly wonderful.
The weather has played an interesting role in our reconstruction here at Jao. Fondly known as the green season because of the lush, verdant surrounds provoked by the wet weather, the season presented some challenges. With whipped-cream clouds overhead that quickly turn grey, the Jao staff run wildly, dashing for plastic to cover the mounds of yet-to-be used thatching. What a good workout we are all having!
One of our biggest storms came early in the month when the clouds saturated us with close to 150mm (6 inches) of rain overnight.
Our renowned super-cat, Beauty (the resident leopard), has managed to raise two of her cubs for the last two and a half months. The cubs are still at a very vulnerable age but she has been confidently sauntering along the Jao roads with them at her side. Unfortunately, her third cub, the runt of the litter, was only seen twice. Nature must have claimed it back again, keeping the balance of life and loss in the wild.
The Kwetsani Pride female lion has given birth to four cubs. Some of our lucky guests early in the month were presented with a sighting of one of the day-old cubs, eyes closed and dangling insignificantly from its mother's gentle jaws.
We are expecting another litter from a rival female, Broken Nose, who has been roaming the Jao Concession for years. Her swollen belly has surely been a hindrance to her hunting as she became a bit more hesitant in taking chances with her meals.
Our mongoose troop introduced us to their first litter this month. With many other pregnant females bulging at the sides, one relieved mother nursed four of the "mini mongoose" for some time. As always, the troop loses some of its young to hungry raptors, snakes or other predators. The two tiny troopers left are already foraging with the adults, often screaming with their shrill voices for a share of the food found. The mongoose all found the stored thatching a very hospitable place to live and raise their family. They always seem to find the warmest, cosiest locations on the island to snuggle in at night. But we would rather have them living there than with all the fertility figures and tribal masks in our curio shop, which is another one of their favourite spots.
The month began with hidden bush brunches, honeymoon celebrations and of course New Year festivities - and then continued with bundling thatch, sanding floors, scrubbing furniture, lots of laughs and after-hour soccer matches. All in the name of perfection!
"Birthday lunch, leopard cubs, lions, excellent service and great staff. Cedric is a great guide!" - Jana
"The wonderful staff - friendly and tireless (we're amazed at their stamina!). Thank you also to the chefs and kitchen staff for the very tasty meals. Rooms are very comfortable and well maintained by housekeeping. All the staff were incredible - thank you!" - Michael and Andrea
"TJ was an awesome guide! We loved her and felt very safe and comfortable under her care while here. We enjoyed seeing Beauty the leopard a lot and also our room was beautiful. Oh, and the food was delicious!" - Jonathan and Lauren
"Our guide, Cedric, was phenomenal, our drives were fantastic and his passion for the wilderness was very evident. We especially enjoyed the stories of how things came to be. The facilities are wonderful, way beyond what I'd imagined. The staff, managers and guides really made us feel welcome and at home." - General and Shontay
"Leopard and cubs, beautiful male lion with lioness, sitatunga and Maipaa's exceptional humour! The staff are extremely efficient and friendly and the service and food are outstanding!" - Sarah and Kerry
Managers: Chris Barnard, Tara Salmons, Noeline Geyser, Shane Dietricksen, Jost Kabuzo and Joanne Davies (Spa Therapist)
Guides: Maipaa, Cruise, Cedric, TJ, David
Tubu Tree Camp
update - January 2010 Jump
to Tubu Tree Camp
As the New Year kicked off around the world with fireworks, the fireworks were also lit here at Tubu Tree, figuratively speaking. What a way to start the year - to have guests two minutes out of camp coming across a nice herd of wildebeest, when all of a sudden the chase was on! Three cheetah (a mother with two sub-adults) put the run on them. It was amazing! Guests tried their hardest to keep the cameras focused on these fast cats - not an easy task until their pace slowed. The cheetah were successful and got hold of a young wildebeest right on the road in front of the guests! The mother dragged the meal into the safety of the tall grass where she shared it with her young. The guests managed to get over an hour of film from start to finish and it was the perfect way to kick off the year.
This month Tubu Tree experienced some interesting and unusual sightings. As a Land Rover came around a corner there was a black mamba fighting with a puff adder in the middle of the road. Right then the black mamba leaped two metres into a palm bush leaving the adder paralysed and unable to move.
The battles between lion and buffalo are known throughout the Delta and the world at large, but how about buffalo being stalked by a leopard? Yes, one of our sub-adult leopards had some fun chasing a scrub hare before deciding to take a rest in the middle of the airstrip. She then saw a herd of buffalo in the distance and proceeded to stalk them. That was until she got too close and got the stare-down from not one but three very large male buffalo. She immediately gave up the serious stalking and got all playful, rolling around on the ground. Cats will be cats.
Other sightings included many from the mongoose family with a large number of banded mongoose hanging around camp and great sightings of the slender mongoose. What stole the show for the mongoose family was the sighting of a yellow mongoose and a white-tailed mongoose. Although both species can be found here, they are very rarely seen. One of the most enjoyable sights of the month was of a very tiny chameleon... on the gear shift of the game drive vehicle!
This month wasn't all about the wildlife as Tubu Tree closed for two weeks to do some annual maintenance. Staff washed, scrubbed, sanded and recoated the camp from top to bottom, to keep her looking as beautiful as always. It was an interesting experience as Mother Nature wanted to play games with us and gave us one full week of afternoon showers. Tubu Tree's staff would not be deterred and the camp is ready for the year ahead.
"Justin, Jacky, Kambango and the entire staff are wonderful! They really took care of us. We enjoyed everything about this camp - great drives, good food, comfort and attention." - Van and Vicki, USA
"A lot of good experiences here! Those ones you have once in your life. We've seen cheetah hunting little gnus, a crocodile and a lot of hippo (one jumping out of the water)." - Gonzalos and Guilermo, Spain
"Quality of the staff and landscapes is great - the rooms also. And last but not least, both guides and cooking are great! Special thanks to the managers, Jacky and Justin. Visit Tubu Tree in January, in the wet season - it's a must! You'll enjoy the pool." - Gilles and Marine, France
Kalahari Plains Camp
update - January 2010 Jump
to Kalahari Plains Camp
Weather and Landscape
What an exciting month this turned out to be. And what a privilege it is to be part of a new camp in a new area. This was only the second month that the newly located Kalahari Plains camp was open - and we are slowly beginning to understand the great Kalahari. It has been much like turning the pages of a thrilling novel and never knowing what the next chapter will bring.
The huge plain in front of our camp stretches out like a giant canvas upon which the desert sketches her ever-changing kaleidoscopic art. The Kalahari's drab winter coat has been replaced with her summer finery, and the humid air is fragrantly impregnated with rich and spicy desert odours. A sense of the antiquity and wildness of this largely unexplored area is tangibly present. This area is one of Earth's last and greatest wilderness areas, ranking with the likes of the icy wildlands of Alaska.
Early impressions during the building of the camp revealed low and extremely skittish game populations. A handful of springbok, red hartebeest and oryx (gemsbok) were occasionally spotted on the vast plain in front of camp. But these were very shy and would disappear in a cloud of dust as soon as any interest was shown in them. The plain was desolate and the two small pans, Khudu and Korhaan, nothing but cracked and flaked ghosts of what they once were.
And then the rains broke! Up until this point we were driving long distances to Deception Valley to be assured of predictable game sightings. The game viewing in Deception was great - and cat sightings (cheetah and lion) regular. Then we started getting our first showers. Before the rain we had pretty much forgotten that lion even existed in the Kalahari and were walking around camp at night without a worry in the world. But slowly, with the rain, the game began to appear - at first as a dribble and then as a flood. The herds became more and more settled and soon we were driving through big herds of springbok and oryx right near the camp. Red hartebeest were also appearing in small numbers.
And then came the cats! We started seeing cheetah on the plain in front of camp. The first sightings revealed a group of five: three adult males, an adult female and a youngster. These became regular sightings and soon many drives destined for the valley were cut short and the guests kept busy locally.
In early January the Plains Pride started to make its presence felt. We had only seen them once before, towards the end of December. On this occasion they peered shyly at us over the silky bushman grass before stealing away. Now they were back, and the nights were split asunder with their roars.
We are getting to know them now: two large black-maned males, three adult females, two sub-adult males and one sub-adult female. They frequented our plain for three days before disappearing for another three days, and then appearing again. We are slowly getting a handle on their movements and range.
Other highlights for January included two aardwolf sightings on our plain, an adult female leopard on the road to Ostrich Pan, and a brown hyaena also on the plain in front of camp.
January proved a great month for game viewing and we look forward to revealing more secrets of the Plains as the months unfold.
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