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July 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 River 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 Mvuu Camp in Malawi.
• 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 Kulala Wilderness Camp in Namibia.
• Monthly update from Governors' Camp in Kenya's Masai Mara.
• Monthly update from Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge in Rwanda.

Travel + Leisure's 2010 "World's Best" Awards
Wilderness Safaris was once again was amongst the top 10 of the World's Best Tour Operators and Safari Outfitters in Travel + Leisure's 2010 "World's Best" Awards. This category was rated according to six characteristics: staff and guides; itineraries and destinations; activities; accommodation; food; general value. In addition, this year, readers favored exploring distant places outside of the US and Canada, and "encounters with the natural world" were high up on their list of priorities. Wilderness Safaris is honored to have been chosen by the readers of Travel + Leisure as a tour operator that shares the wild places of Africa in a responsible manner.

Equator Prize
Pafuri Camp - a partnership between Safari Adventure Company and the Makuleke Community - was one of 25 recipients of the Equator Prize 2010. The Equator Prize recognizes outstanding community efforts to reduce poverty through the conservation of biodiversity. Equator Prize winners are selected on criteria of impact, partnerships, sustainability, innovation and transferability, leadership and community empowerment, as well as gender equality and social inclusion. Pafuri Camp joins an elite group of Equator Prize winners, constituting an influential grassroots movement of local and indigenous best practice in biodiversity conservation and poverty reduction.

Pafuri camp is in the Makuleke region of South Africa


Lappet-faced Vulture Feeding Frenzy
Location: Desert Rhino Camp, Palmwag Concession, Namibia
Date: 1 July 2010
Observers: Iván Phillipson, Ilze van der Vyver & Elizabeth Parkhouse
Photographer: Ilze van der Vyver

There are nine vulture species in southern Africa - of which four species can be found in the Damaraland area of Namibia. They vary in sizes from 70cm to 102cm body length and between 2.1kg to 8.5kg in body weight. All the vultures in the region are endangered and one (the Cape griffon) even close to being extinct in the country. Interestingly these species are able to co-exist, and even benefit one another through their different feeding techniques and habits.

Lappet-faced vultures at Desert Rhino Camp    Lappet-faced vultures at Desert Rhino Camp

Driving south from Desert Rhino Camp recently we enjoyed the beautiful scenery and large numbers of plains game such as gemsbok, springbok and Hartmann's mountain zebra encountered along the way. As we drove along we were pleasantly surprised to see a group of vultures and a black-backed jackal around a springbok carcass. Altogether we counted no fewer than 12 vultures, all being the lappet-faced vulture (Aegypius tracheliotos). The mainly dark coloured plumage, bare reddish head and enormous yellowish-horn bill and the narrow white bar of the under-wings made it an easy identification.

Since these large birds can be nervous and vulnerable when on the ground, we parked the vehicle at least 100m away from the sighting so as not to disturb the interaction. The jackal was busy eating from the carcass at first, but was soon made unwelcome by these powerful and very aggressive birds. The lappet-faced vulture is very well known for its strength. This is often beneficial to other less powerful vultures, because they can tear through the tough hides and muscles of larger mammals, opening the carcass for the others.

Their enormous wingspans (2.5 to 3m) were very evident as they hopped around at the carcass, and when soaring above the carcass waiting for a turn to feed. It was quite entertaining observing all the conflict between the birds, hissing and stomping on each other as they fought for a piece of meat.

Lappet-faced vultures at Desert Rhino Camp    Lappet-faced vultures at Desert Rhino Camp

We could not see any sign of the cause of death in the springbok. It is not impossible that it was brought down by the jackal, but it is well known that vultures feed predominantly off animals that have died of old age, diseased or broken-limbed animals, and stillborn young. They might in exceptionally rare cases even attack a very weak prey animal, but their talons are not specifically designed to kill their own prey. Carcasses are usually found by sight, or by watching other vultures.

Their bald heads make them look quite reptilian, but this is for good reason. Feathers on the head would become spattered with blood and other fluids of the carcasses they feed on, and thus be very difficult to clean.

Although the lappet-faced vulture might not qualify for "the most beautiful bird" line-up, they are majestic on the wing and very much a part of the African wilderness. To see so many of these majestic birds together gave us plenty of hope for the difference large protected areas like the Palmwag Concession can make to conservation.

North Island - Tortoise Battle and Turtle Nesting
Location: North Island, Seychelles
Date: 5 July 2010
Observers: Linda Vanherck
Photographer: Linda Vanherck

Near-Fatal Tortoise Battle at North Island
Towards the end of June, our largest tortoises, Brutus and Patrick, had a huge contretemps in the marsh. After some nasty pushing, they moved away from each other. A few days later, however, the two great chelonians were at it again. Patrick managed to flip Brutus over where he remained stuck, thrashing in a deadly position.

Brutus paddled his feet in an attempt to turn back over, but like all tortoises, his legs are disproportionately short and his neck is weak. For any tortoise, lying on the carapace is dangerous because the internal organs can be crushed. All his kicking only managed to move his immense 193kg body slightly forward. He lay moaning in this deadly position until spotted by a staff member who immediately alerted the Environmental Team. Flipping a 200kg saucer-shaped creature is no mean feat and everyone helped to right our favourite tortoise.

Tortoise battle at North Island

We kept our distance to give him a chance to recover but kept a watchful eye on the old fighter. Even though we had intervened as fast as possible, Brutus clearly had breathing problems even after being pushed back onto his legs; he was foaming at the mouth and pulling his neck and head back into his shell, as if struggling to get his lungs to slide back into normal position. But soon he relaxed and began feeding on some of the 'bred lamar' growing in the marsh. All this time, his nemesis Patrick was happily chewing and yawning close by.

Interestingly, the usual reason for a fight between tortoise males is, of course, the presence of a female but in this case no females were seen anywhere in the vicinity.

Brutus was checked again at 17H30. He was found submerged in a muddy pool kept open by the waddling giants. Patrick was also there so it seems they have made up for the moment.

The staff is thrilled that Brutus has once again escaped a potentially fatal situation unscathed!

Green Turtle nesting
On a very dark night this month, we made our way down to the beach to see if we could find any turtle activity. To our delight, we found tracks of a turtle coming up the beach but not returning to the sea. We followed the tracks to where they disappeared into the bush on the fringe on the beach. There we sat and listened. As our ears began to filter out the sound of the crashing waves in the distance, we heard the unmistakable sound of a turtle digging and laying.

Green turtle seen nesting on North Island, Seychelles    Green turtle seen nesting on North Island, Seychelles    Green turtle seen nesting on North Island, Seychelles

We avoided approaching until we were sure she had finished laying and we could hear her closing up the nest. We watched as she vigorously threw sand over her eggs, a process which took more than an hour. After this she headed for the sea. We turned the torches on as she made her way back to the waves, sure that the disturbance would not alter her behaviour too much. We found that she carried two tags that were attached by our team on 30 May, a previous, non-egg laying visit to the shore. She is almost 1.1 metres in length.

We will monitor the progress of her nest with interest.

Buffalo Kill at Little Makalolo Camp
Location: Little Makalolo Camp, Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe
Date: 11 July 2010
Observer: The Makalalo Team

We had just finished enjoying brunch when we noticed a lone buffalo bull limping to the pan in front of Little Makalolo Camp. The old male was past the prime of his life and we quietly mentioned amongst ourselves that he would probably soon be taken by lions. Such is the circle of life here in Hwange. Little did we know of what was to happen...

The buffalo stayed around at the front pan in the shade for the remainder of the afternoon and as evening descended, the predators emerged. Just after dusk, guide Charles and his guests were on their way back into camp and came across a leopard. They were so enjoying this sighting that they almost missed what was about to take place. A clan of about seven spotted hyaena had pushed the buffalo towards the waterhole where he eventually took what little refuge he could by standing in the centre of the pan. This however did not deter the hyaena as they eventually followed into the water. Spotted hyaena are far from being mere scavengers; as a clan they are formidable hunters too.

Buffalo kill at Little Makalolo in Zimbabwe    Buffalo kill at Little Makalolo in Zimbabwe

One of the hyaena made a swift move and latched onto the buffalo's tail, which in the strong jaws of a hyaena was ripped off like a piece of chewed liquorice. The hyaena clan was in a deep state of salivation and cackling in anticipation. The buffalo, surrounded and unable to flee, could not do anything and just had to try standing his ground in increasing futility. With all the chaos, some of the hyaena moved slightly to one side, giving the buffalo a chance to escape and headed straight for Little Makalolo Camp - stopping about five metres from the main dining area.

We waited, holding our breath, wondering what would happen next. The usual dinner under the stars was cancelled for obvious reasons! During the course of dinner the buffalo did not move much and neither did the patient hyaena. Not even 15 minutes after the camp lights were out the hyaena launched their second and fatal attack. Kim and Charles witnessed the whole event but more by sound than by sight. The buffalo tried to escape but it collapsed in a heap due to exhaustion and blood loss and at this moment the hyaena started to feed.

Walking to the main area in the morning, by the light of day, we got a detailed look at the buffalo carcass with one hyaena still in attendance. The carcass was dragged further away from camp, and we watched as other scavengers, such as jackals and vultures, arrived to finish off the carcass over the next couple of days.

North Island Environmental Update
Location: North Island, Seychelles
Date: July 2010
Observer: Linda van Herck
Photographer: Linda van Herck

The green turtle season continues to be very busy this year. From January to March we have already recorded 28 successful nesting emergences.

From 1 April to 30 June, another 74 green turtle emergences were documented whereas, as expected, hawksbill turtles were no longer seen on land. Although patrolling at night could only be done irregularly as staff had to be available during the day for guest interactions and other conservation work, we nevertheless managed to spot nine turtles on land, of which five were recorded as untagged, one already re-entered the sea and could not be checked, two were tagged by us, and of the latter one was re-sighted 34 days later on the same beach section. Successful hatchings were witnessed and nest contents recorded as well. Crab predation remains the main factor for egg and hatchling mortality during hatching.

Green turtle tagged on 30 May at West Beach and re-sighted on the same beach section on 4 July when she successfully laid eggs    Green turtle hatchling struggling to roll itself back into walking position    Tortoises foraging under fruit trees

Harry, the 153kg tortoise introduced from Anonyme Island in February 2007, disappeared for some time to suddenly reappear in the forest on the eastern side of the island, feeding on fruits littering the forest floor. Each year, during the dry spells, these fruit trees attract quite a number of tortoises moving away from the dry grass and heat on the plateaux. This is the second tortoise of the group, introduced on the western side, to walk across to the eastern side.

Bird-wise, two nests of Seychelle's Blue Pigeons were recorded in May, respectively in a Thespesia and a Takamaka tree. The remaining migrant birds were few at this time of the year, with the bulk of them having returned to their breeding sites. A dense feeding flock of six lesser sandplovers was still seen on the beach as late as 18 May and one lone ruddy turnstone was spotted on 6 June. The Seychelles kestrel pair was heard and seen again regularly on several occasions. As in previous years, Seychelles sunbirds re-visited the Cordia trees next to our environment office when the latter were flowering. Two white-tailed tropicbird nests previously recorded were reused by breeding birds, but unfortunately one of the chicks died.

White-tailed Tropicbird on nest    Gideon filming our rodent avoidance procedures (rat-proof trailer in use during cargo offload)

At the end of June, New Zealand rodent eradication expert Gideon Climo reviewed North Island's rodent avoidance procedures, five years after the successful eradication of the black rat in September 2005. Many of you will recall Gideon's long involvement in cat and rat eradications in the Seychelles. We are glad to report that we are still 100% rat free!

Image details:
1. Green turtle tagged on 30 May at West Beach and re-sighted on the same beach section on 4 July when she successfully laid eggs.
2. It's a tough battle to get from the nest to the sea! Green turtle hatchling struggling to roll itself back into walking position.
3. Tortoises foraging under fruit trees.
4. White-tailed Tropicbird on nest.
5. Gideon filming our rodent avoidance procedures (rat-proof trailer in use during cargo offload).

Davison's Camp - Lions Kill Buffalo
Location: Davison's Camp
Date: 16 July 2010
Observers: Davison's guides and guests

The early morning sun was met by an overcast sky and a pride of lions on the Linkwasha vlei - heading towards an intimidating herd of buffalo. Excitement began to mount at the possibility of a hunt and we waited close to the herd, watching for the lions' next move. While we waited, a few of the pride circled around to the rear. As we spotted the stalking cats, chaos erupted. It is in this chaos that the lions are most effective because the buffalo are unable to organise a defence. Dust and a frightened distress call were followed by silence as the herd stampeded into the bush with the lions in amongst them. When the dust settled, there was nothing to be seen.

Lions on a buffalo kill at Davison's Camp in Namibia      Lions on a buffalo kill at Davison's Camp in Namibia

We drove around the area searching for the result of the attack. A short while later we found a dead calf stashed under a Zambezi teak tree. Lions will often leave a buffalo kill until the herd has moved off - they risk dangerous conflict with the herd otherwise.

A couple of minutes later, a lioness emerged from the bush followed by four cubs. Under the watchful eyes of the lioness, the cubs ran towards the carcass and attempted to bite through the tough hide. Try as they might, they could not penetrate the skin. They were finally helped by the lioness as she carefully opened the carcass with her razor-sharp carnassial teeth. The rest of the pride soon joined.

Lions on a buffalo kill at Davison's Camp in Namibia    Lions on a buffalo kill at Davison's Camp in Namibia

An awesome mix of sounds ensued as the male, females and cubs all tried to grab a share of the calf. The scene was disturbed momentarily by an elephant bull who happened on the scene and then went charging off in the opposite direction. Towards late afternoon the four cubs finally managed to gain purchase as the rest of the pride lay about, panting with full bellies. They polished off the remaining titbits with relish.

Cheetah kill at Kalahari Plains Camp
Location: Kalahari Plains Camp
Date: 26 July 2010
Observer: Russell Crossey

We had the most incredible cheetah experience on 26 July.

It began with lions calling around camp at dawn. We headed out hoping to find the two big pride males. Just after leaving camp we spotted an adult female cheetah and her small cub. The cub was very small and still had its honey badger-like pelage - just a few months old. This mimicry of the honey badger is thought to make potential predators confuse the helpless cub with a pugnacious badger. The cub was full of fun and energy and charged back and forth, ambushing its mother. It could barely contain its excitement on the perfect Kalahari winter's morning.

Cheetah cub at Kalahari Plains camp    Cheetah with a kill at Kalahari Plains camp

The sleek, waspish waist of the adult cheetah indicated that she was hungry. She walked up a slight ridge and froze. The baby immediately took its cue and vanished from sight. A springbok ram was grazing contentedly about 50 metres to the north and on the downwind side. The cheetah exploded from the cover of a small bush and stormed at the unsuspecting antelope. The chase was over in seconds and when the dust settled, the cat had her jaws firmly clamped on the springbok's throat while its limbs thrashed in vain. This all happened in the middle of a vast plain, not more than 50 metres from our vehicles.

Once the cheetah had suffocated the ram, she began the laborious task of dragging it toward the nearest cover - a small green shepherd's bush about 40 metres away. She was very alert and kept dropping the carcass and scanning the surroundings. About ten metres from the bush she found herself besieged by a trio of shrieking pied crows. She dropped the carcass and retreated to the bush and kept a close eye on proceedings.

Cheetah with a kill at Kalahari Plains camp    Cheetah and cub at Kalahari Plains camp

When nothing appeared as a result of the crows' alarming, she began calling the cub with a high-pitched bird-like sound. The cub came running across the plain to join its mother. It was at least an hour before the female was satisfied that the coast was clear. She returned to drag the carcass to the bush and the two fed for the rest of the day.

The dawn was greeted by a cacophony of excited jackal calls alerting us to the fact that the carcass had been discovered by other predators. We arrived just in time to see a leopard leaving the scene - apparently he had appropriated the carcass sometime that night.

Carnivores in the Kalahari
Location: Kalahari Plains Camp
Date: July 2010
Observer: Russell Crossey

A few days of incredible carnivore viewing in the Kalahari began with finding a young female leopard stalking a pair of steenbok. We spent an enthralling 20 minutes watching the stalk. The leopard eventually charged but failed in her attempt. She then proceeded to roll and bask in the perfect evening light, providing excellent photographic opportunities and coming right up to our vehicle. She sat and watched us for a long while before sauntering off in the direction of camp.

The guests were a bit disappointed that their daughter had missed the spectacle as she had elected to stay in camp. They need not have worried. Halfway through dinner we heard the repeated alarm call of a jackal very close by. Investigation revealed the same young leopard looking for water on the edge of the deck. She went under the deck and spent some 15 minutes relaxing and grooming herself there. We all had a perfect view of her through the decking as she nonchalantly went about her business.

Male lion in the Kalahari    Leopard in the Kalahari    Leopard in the Kalahari

The following morning, we embarked on a morning drive to the Deception Valley. This turned out to be equally successful with an excellent cheetah sighting at Lekubu. On returning to the camp we found all of the staff very excited as three lions had walked through camp and out past Room 3.

On the following morning drive, again to Deception Valley, the cat trilogy was completed with an excellent sighting of one of the big Lekubu males. He very obligingly roared for us before sauntering off into the woodland. The next morning, the same guests were treated to a final morning drive headlined by a meeting with the two Kalahari Plains Pride males.

Shortly after all the lion, leopard and cheetah activity, we managed to spot and film a stunning brown hyaena sauntering along in the middle of the day.

North Island Oleander Moth
Date: July 2010
Observer: Linda van Herck

A small, brown, faceless thing, approximately 6.5 centimetres long, was found in the North Island nursery amongst the seedlings, wriggling between the spilled soil. Its finders left it on my desk with a note (see below).

Oleander Hawk Moth at North Island    Oleander Hawk Moth puppa at North Island    Oleander Hawk Moth puppa at North Island

Identifying it as a moth pupa was easy, but identifying the species proved a lot more difficult. From the size, it was clear that the sarcophagus contained a large species. Since we've come across a few spectacular death's head hawkmoths in the past, this was the first species that came to mind. The plan was to carefully put some soil back on top of the pupa and keep it in the office to hatch, but to our surprise, we were spared the waiting. A small crack appeared in the pupa skin. A little while later, the adult moth emerged and unfolded its still moist wings.

Oleander Hawk Moth at North Island    Oleander Hawk Moth at North Island

The adult form now allowed for proper species identification. Excitingly, it is a rarer species of hawkmoth, namely the oleander hawkmoth (Daphnis nerii). It is listed as "a rarely seen hawkmoth found in the granitics" in the guide Wildlife of Seychelles by Mike Hill and Dave Currie.

The animal was kept a little longer under surveillance to prevent untimely transformation into a skink or bird snack before being able to use its wings. We released it, placing it on a bush just outside our office when it was ready.

Photos thanks to North Island.

Carnivore Release - Kulala Wilderness Reserve
31 Jul 2010

N/a anku sê Carnivore Research Update

On the 28th of June 2010 two male cheetah (named Flash and Blunder) were released on the Kulala Wilderness Reserve. After reluctantly leaving their cage, they set off in the direction of Black Mountain. About a week after their release, Dr Rudie van Vuuren flew across the reserve tracking them from above and their signals were found close to the release spot.

Flash and Blunder were not the first cheetah to be released on the Kulala Wilderness Reserve by our partners N/a anku sê Wildlife Sanctuary. On the 22nd of May 2009, a male and a female were released in the riverbed close to Little Kulala. The male was killed shortly after by two spotted hyaena and the female headed north-east towards Sesriem and then settled in the Bullspoort area. Her radio collar has since stopped working but the owner of the local camping ground sees her regularly and reports the sightings back to N/a anku sê.

Leopard release at Kulala    Cheetah release in the Kulala Wilderness Reserve

In December 2009 a female leopard called Lightning was released in the riverbed close to Kulala Wilderness Camp. After exploring a little bit and drinking once or twice from the camp's waterhole she moved toward Sesriem, where her pug marks were seen around the fuel station before she moved into the surrounding mountains. She seems to have settled down in her new territory, in these mountains.

On Saturday 24 July, Christine and her team of N/a anku sê volunteers paid a visit to the Kulala Wilderness Reserve to track Flash and Blunder. Both of them have VHF collars so tracking the two involves climbing a lot of hills. The team covered the Black Mountain and Geluk areas in the morning and the Witwater side in the afternoon. Unfortunately, they found nothing but spectacular scenery.

Rudie is scheduled to do another fly over the area soon and hopefully we will find the two elusive cats then.

Shumba Camp Lion Kill
Location: Shumba Camp, Kafue National Park, Zambia
Date: 22 July 2010
Observers: Ulrike van der Hoven, Caroline Culbert
Photographer: Caroline Culbert

A day to remember at Shumba Camp

From Shumba Camp one often does not have to go far to find wildlife. On the morning of the 22nd of July we realised just how close to camp sightings can occur. The Busanga Pride, comprising two males and four adult lionesses, killed a red lechwe antelope right alongside Tent 6 - in which we were staying. We woke at around 05h30 in the morning to the sound of lions roaring, thinking we had been dreaming when in fact we had been woken by the sounds of lionesses hunting and killing a red lechwe, as well as the ensuing spat when the bigger of the two males took over the kill.

Lions with a kill at Shumba camp in Zambia    Lions with a kill at Shumba camp in Zambia

Arriving at the main area we decided to delay the obligatory first cup of coffee and the classic Shumba sunrise to drive out in a vehicle in search of the lions. Driving out not even 100m from camp we came across the dominant male crunching into the skull of the lechwe and growling at the rest of the pride to keep their distance. The females lay off to one side, dejected, but his coalition mate lay close by, patiently waiting for any scraps. Eventually the male sauntered off across the Busanga Plains after a little bonding with the females. We left the sighting, allowing other guests from the neighbouring camps (Kapinga and Busanga Bush Camp) to come and take a look.

Finally we could enjoy our cup of coffee but instead of a sunrise we enjoyed the companionship of a nearby foraging herd of uncommon roan antelope - my first sighting of these ever!

Later in the day, on the way back to Shumba for lunch, our guide Lex suddenly stopped the vehicle and asked if we could see the lioness. This female, belong to the same pride we had seen earlier, was lying in the grass, perfectly camouflaged, and was trying to hunt puku - another common antelope of the Busanga Plains. She afforded some wonderful photographic opportunities as she honed in on her prey but failed that attempt, perhaps being a little too impatient.

Roan antelopes at Shumba camp    Lioness stalking puku antelopes    Rosy-throated longclaw at Shumba camp

Other memorable highlights of the day included a wondrous stop at the scenic Mukambi Island. Here an African Marsh Harrier was quartering over the reeds and the stunning Rosy-throated Longclaw was spotted in the nearby grass. The resident buffalo herd, comprising some 450 animals, was also seen, the enormous size of the herd an amazing spectacle.

The Busanga Plains will surely afford many amazing wildlife experiences like these in the coming months.

Mombo's Lone Wild Dog - More News
Date: 26 June 2010
Observers: Kai, Simon, Dr. Malinga, Tshepo, Cisco
Photographers: Kai Collins and Cisco Retiyoe

Wild dogs have a distinct social hierarchy, relying on group cooperation to survive. They are also highly social animals used to operating in packs consisting of several individuals. This is what is so unusual about the lone wild dog at Mombo. She has been surviving on her own for over one year now in an area of very high lion density - not normally good odds for a wild dog to survive. But despite this she has been thriving, spending a lot of time close to Mombo Camp on Chief's Island. In her search for company she has made friends with a family of five jackals and has one or two hyaenas which tolerate her as much as she them, with all three species often feeding on the same kill, normally made by the wild dog. The wild dog even took food back and regurgitated it for jackal pups when they were younger, and is even seen regurgitating for the adults as well.

Wild dog, hyenas and jackals on a giraffe kill at Mombo camp    Wild dog, hyenas and jackals on a giraffe kill at Mombo camp    Wild dog, hyenas and jackals on a giraffe kill at Mombo camp

On the morning of the 26th of June, we were following the lone wild dog down a game viewing track with three jackal in tow, when they suddenly broke off into the adjoining bush. Coming around the corner we saw a giraffe kill with about 16 hyaena and eight jackal feeding on it and the wild dog milling about in the background. The giraffe looked quite old, and the one back leg seemed broken and there were hoof scuff marks on the trees next to it - all indicating a titanic struggle with some sort of predator. We deduced the giraffe was killed by these hyaena. The jackals were feeding in a tight group near the head and growling ferociously at the large group of hyaenas feeding on the stomach area. Now and then a hyaena would chase the group of jackals off the carcass but they would soon return with just as much attitude.

Wild dog, hyenas and jackals on a giraffe kill at Mombo camp    Wild dog, hyenas and jackals on a giraffe kill at Mombo camp

At one point a very young hyaena was resting with his head on the neck of the giraffe and four jackals feeding within centimetres of him. Amazingly, later on in the morning, when most of the hyaenas had their fill, the wild dog snuck in and also started feeding on the giraffe carcass with two hyaenas and her jackal associates as well!

This was yet another incredible sighting at Mombo!

Kalahari Diary - Winter 2010
Date: 15 - 18 July 2010
Observers: Marian & Mike Myers
Photographer: Mike Myers

I had never been to the Central Kalahari Game Reserve before, and so I really was not sure what to expect. The truth is that you cannot really explain fairly how the "fairy Bushman grass" dances and glows in the light and to the tune of the desert winds, or the vastness, or the magic of what was once a massive inland sea. Although, one thing I can explain fully is the fact that the desert wind was unbelievably cold for our visit. We had the misfortune of arriving at Kalahari Plains Camp at the same time as a cold front, which had just swept through South Africa heralding the end of the World Cup. Although it was cold enough for me to get dressed in bed, we made our way to the early morning fire set in front of the main area of camp where we thawed out with a cup of coffee. Whilst we were remarking on how quiet the night had been for animal sounds, the roar of a lion interrupted us. Another lion accompanied him and both were clearly visible on the plain. We headed out and Mike was just in time to get a pre-dawn shot of the two magnificent beasts walking in front of camp.

Honey badgers at Kalahari Plains Camp    Male lion at Kalahari Plains Camp    Brown hyena at Kalahari Plains Camp

That then was the start of one of the coldest, but most rewarding, game viewing days of my life. With the icy cold came clarity of colour in the pale blue sky of the Kalahari that is a delight to any photographer. Aside from massive herds of springbok and oryx, honey badgers, giraffe, red hartebeest, kudu, steenbok and warthog, we managed to get the closest I have ever been to a juvenile Martial Eagle.

But that was not the end of it. We took a drive down to Letiahau Pan where we came across a brown hyaena feeding off the remains of a dead lion. Two days earlier, a territorial battle had ensued and two lions had succumbed. That was the second kill we witnessed that day; the first was a lanner falcon on a Hornbill and the final one was a pale chanting goshawk on a black korhaan kill.

Of course the birds were spectacular too and our special sightings included an ant-eating chat and swallow-tailed bee-eaters. Lots and lots of pale chanting goshawks (affectionately known as PCGs) are a feature of the area.

Lions at dawn at Kalahari Plains Camp    Pale chanting goshawk and Korhaan at Kalahari Plains Camp    Bushmen making fire at Kalahari Plains Camp

During our three-day stay, we found what we believe was the black-maned lion responsible for the territorial fight. He was strolling along with a lioness and two sub-adults. It was a fabulous sighting of what we considered THE perfect black-maned lion of the Central Kalahari. We also saw bat-eared foxes and an aardwolf up towards Deception Valley.

The weather finally warmed up so we could do the cultural walk with two Bushmen or San people, which is an activity I can recommend to anyone. We were fascinated when they demonstrated how to catch a spring hare using their elongated reed sticks that had a hook on the end made from the horn of a steenbok. They also demonstrated how they read the signs of the wilderness as well as their tracking and fire-making skills.

After a fantastic three days, we agreed that it would be our wish to make a pilgrimage to the Central Kalahari Game Reserve at least once a year - it is that special. We also agreed that our future visits will not be less than three nights at a time as that way we will be able to cover a larger territory and to get a better feel for the Reserve.

Our thanks to Basha, Russel and the team at Kalahari Plains who made our stay so memorable.

Great Wilderness Journey - Khwai Concession, July 2010
We recently visited the Khwai Concession area, part of the Great Wilderness Journey Exploration. We stayed at the Khwai Discoverer Camp - the top of the range of the Exploration safari camps offered by Wilderness. It was absolutely wonderful. The water levels were still a bit high for the time of the year, but with skilled driving and some detours around the really deep parts of the road, we were able to find camp!

After the long drive it was wonderful to enjoy a sundowner around the fire overlooking the grassy plain in front of camp.

African wild dog puppy near Khwai in Botswana    African wild dog puppy near Khwai in Botswana    African wild dog puppies near Khwai in Botswana

We had heard about a den of wild dog puppies, so we went in search of them. A two-hour drive back to the bridge and then around the airstrip near Khwai River Lodge we found the den. It was clear that there had been a kill because there were vultures everywhere and when we got close to the den we could see the adults lying around with blood-stained jaws. Our timing was such that we had just missed the return of the adults to the den by about 20 minutes. Wild dog feed their young by regurgitating partially digested meat and we had just missed that! Nonetheless, the pups were very happy to have fat, full tummies and played around the den area. A total of 11 pups were recorded and seven adults, one of which was the mother. A very, very, special sighting and a first for me.

What was also very interesting was that the dogs appeared to be sharing their residence with a couple of slender mongooses. These little folk scurried around and scratched and went about their business without worrying their neighbours at all. At one stage, a mongoose actually poked its nose in the dogs' den entrance. Turned out to be a total non-event - they appeared to be on good terms with one another!

African wild dog puppies near Khwai in Botswana    Slender mongoose on Great Wilderness Journey

After hours of watching the pups, we returned to camp where we went to photograph the sun setting over a stretch of water that was full of hippo, African jacana, malachite kingfisher, pied kingfisher and blacksmith plovers. Mike got a great shot of elephant and impala just before the sun set and someone threw on the switch that got the frogs croaking! We heard lots of hippo noises during the night punctuated by occasional spotted hyaena.

All in all, it was a beautiful area and an excellent feature of this wonderful Exploration.

Marian and Mike Myers
Photographer: Mike Myers

Davison's Camp visit - July 2010
On the drive into Davison's Camp, we picked up a nice assortment of wildlife - impala, giraffe, baboon, and waterbuck.

On game drive the next day, we had a wonderful sighting of four lionesses and a lion as well as four cubs. They had fed the night before off a zebra, but what was interesting was that we initially picked up the distressed (presumably) mother zebra braying seemingly inconsolably and then picked up the lions further along at a waterhole. We then found the vultures and investigated further to find only the legs of a zebra carcass remaining. All very interesting as the whole series of events of the previous night left their tell-tale signs for us to read.

Lions at Davison's Camp in Zimbabwe    Watching a herd of buffalos    Lions and buffalos at Davison's

As has always been synonymous with Hwange, we had the delight of indulging in a sundowner with a huge herd of buffalo at one of the waterholes that are maintained by Wilderness Safaris. We also shared this space with breeding herds of elephant. Between the humans and the elephants, everyone was very relaxed and we all managed to get along just fine. Sadly, one elephant had a snare on his front right leg and Tendai (Davison's Manager) placed a call through to the Hwange Ecologist who was out doing game counts at the time; she radioed back that she would attend to the injured elephant after that. Wilderness Safaris aids the National Park's anti-poaching unit in a variety of different ways - logistically helping out with its vehicle, for example, as well as removing snares from animals. In this way it helps Hwange in protecting its precious wildlife and environment. Our guests were distressed by the plight of the injured elephant, but were relieved that their journey to Hwange in fact had helped by alerting the Ecologist - and thus contributed to the ongoing conservation of the Park.

We went looking for the lions again the next day and found them at a different waterhole. The male and one of the females were mating and were slightly isolated from the rest of the pride. However, there was a herd of buffalo that wanted to drink from the waterhole and we had the luck of witnessing a lion and buffalo interaction that was a face-off of one lion against maybe ten buffalo 'bouncers' who were the frontline of the herd. The lion won in the end, but it was fascinating to watch.

The general game in Hwange is excellent. We also saw sable and kudu, giraffe, warthog and lots of buffalo. Even at night the buffalo surrounded our camp and fed around our tents. A wonderful stay at Davison's indeed!

Mike and Marian Myers
Photographs: Mike Myers


Kalahari Plains Camp - Response to Continued Allegations of Wilderness Safaris' involvement in Botswana's Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR) by controversial NGO Survival International

In response to press releases and postings in the social media space containing unsubstantiated and inaccurate allegations regarding our presence in the northern Central Kalahari Game Reserve, Wilderness Safaris has prepared a briefing that addresses the concerns and allegations made. Please refer to the press release posted here.

We are also more than willing to debate (telephone or email) to whoever might be concerned and would welcome any queries at: ceo@wilderness.co.za

There is nothing untoward about our involvement at Kalahari Plains. Survival International seeks only to apply pressure on the tourism industry in order to exert pressure on the Botswana Government. The involvement of this organization has ironically been the single biggest obstacle to progress in the CKGR.

Vumbura Plains - Cultural Village Tour
Guests are now able to take part in a village tour from Vumbura Plains, Little Vumbura or Duba Plains, travelling by helicopter on a 15-minute scenic flight each way. Gunotsoga is a small community village and has a population of about 750 people. It falls under the jurisdiction of the Okavango Community Trust (OCT) and is one of the five villages from which Wilderness Safaris leases the Kwedi Concession, on which the Vumbura camps are situated.

The economic base of the village is subsistence farming and fishing, and the village has also started a Community Development Fund whereby 20% of the money generated from these tours will be invested in community projects. The tour will include many facets including being met by the chief, seeing the primary school and local clinic and visiting the local ironmonger and see how various implements are forged. The approximate 3-hour trip is sure to enhance our guests' understanding of local Setswana life and culture.

Duba Plains - New boat and vehicle
Duba Plains Camp now has a new, customized Land Cruiser, in addition to the three standard Land Rovers (10-seaters each accommodating a maximum of seven guests, allowing all guests an outside seat), to be used for activities. The new Land Cruiser is a 7-seater (5 outside seats) and the larger tires and higher ground clearance helps prevent the vehicle getting stuck in mud/water from the higher flood levels currently being experienced. The new boat seats six guests comfortably but boat cruises are subject to annual water levels in the area.

Families in the Okavango
Just a reminder that both Jacana and Seba camps welcome children of all ages and are ready to share the delights of the Okavango with family travelers.

Herewith an excerpt from the Seba family programme: "One of the biggest dilemmas facing families who want to go on safari is judging the best age to bring their children. If they are too young, you risk them not appreciating the rare opportunity to immerse themselves in this fascinating world. In addition, trying to keep their attention might simultaneously detract from the parents' and other guests' experience. But wait too long and you could miss that magical expression of wonderment when a child sees their first elephant in the wild. In an age where wilderness areas and the multitude of wildlife that inhabits them are constantly at threat, we believe that the next generation holds the key to environmental conservation in the future. Consequently, unlike many camps, we do not have a minimum age restriction for our younger guests (nor do we have a maximum either!)."

Abu Camp - room refurbishments next
Abu Camp has just completed its main area rebuild/refurbishment. The camp will close again between 15 October 2010 and 28 February 2011 after which it will reopen with all 6 guest tents having been refurbished.

Journey to Njobvu by bike - Liwonde National Park

A great activity on offer at Mvuu Wilderness Lodge is a bicycle ride into a nearby Njobvu Village. Guests are assigned a scout to guide them through Liwonde National Park and they ride to Makanga Camp, where they leave the park. Visitors then meet the local people in the area and spend some time with them. As they walk around they can even pay a visit to the traditional healer. Njobvu Village Lodge, which was built with funding from Wilderness Safaris, offers accommodation as well as delicious local dishes. The entire experience allows guests to immerse themselves into rural Malawi, learn about local ways of life and further their understanding of Malawian culture.

Now Open: Chelinda Lodge, Nyika National Park, Malawi
All refurbishments to Chelinda Lodge are now complete and the novel camp received its first guests in July. Atop Nyika Plateau, overlooking rolling hills, Chelinda Lodge offers a unique African highland experience that is very unlike the rest of Africa. In the ample fresh air, guided nature walks and game drives are some of the activities on offer to experience the expansive Nyika National Park at its best. Early mornings bring herds of grazing zebra, roan antelope and eland onto the misty plains. The unique montane forest patches and woodlands are home to several range-restricted birds species. As the sun shines through the clouds, it warms up the grasslands causing bird and wildlife activity to increase. Eagles and a variety of other raptors soar high over the plains and as the day melts into night, the park's nocturnal residents, such as spotted hyaena and leopard, become active.

Chelinda Lodge is now open in Malawi

Chelinda Lodge now forms part of Wilderness Safaris' 'Classic' offering and accommodation is of a high standard. The spacious en-suite log cabins come complete with an unusual fireplace for evening fireside reflection and the convivial main area has an expansive deck overlooking the park's unique montane grasslands providing the perfect spot for a sundowner.

Rocktail Beach Camp - Suites

As of 15 December 2010, Rocktail Beach Camp will operate with standard rooms and family rooms, both at the same rate. Currently the family rooms are sold for non-family use as suites where guests can take advantage of the added space and the extra room (which is made up as a sitting area for suite use rather than a 2nd bedroom area). However in 2011 the suite rates will no longer be applicable.

Onset of exciting new season in Zambia

The first ballooning trips occurred over the Busanga Plains this July and it affords a very different perspective of the surrounding landscape. This activity is offered to any guests staying at Busanga Bush Camp, Kapinga or Shumba Camps on any 3-night stay. The Busanga Plains is also continuing to dry out and it looks like it is going to be a fascinating wildlife viewing season.

Ballooning in the Busanga Plains of Zambia

At Toka Leya Camp, which is open year round, the 'back-of-camp' visits also provide some wonderful insight on how Toka Leya is trying to minimize its environmental footprint. Guests can partake in planting an indigenous tree as part of the nursery project to rehabilitate the former site of Imusho Village where the camp is situated. Added to this there is the vermiculture project (worm farm bins used to recycle the organic waste from the camp kitchen), the waste-water treatment plant and the use of solar energy.

Camel rides now offered in Kulala Wilderness Reserve

Guests staying at Little Kulala, Kulala Desert Lodge and Kulala Wilderness Camp can now enjoy a camel ride as additional activity. At the moment three rides are offered: A 10-minute on-and-off for those who just want to tick it off their 'bucket list', a short Photo Dune Ride and a longer Sundowner Ride. On the Sundowner Ride the Kulala guide goes ahead and sets up a table with drinks and snacks and after sunset the riders decide whether to go back on the camels or return to camp by vehicle. Similar to the balloon rides, the camel activity is offered by an independent operator, Camels Namibia, based on the reserve.

Camel rides and new rooms at Andersson's

Kulala Desert Lodge - Increased capacity for Sossusvlei
Four new rooms (3 twins and 1 double) are being added to Kulala Desert Lodge increasing the camp's capacity to 19 rooms. The new rooms will be available from the first week of October.

Andersson's Camp - Family Rooms
Two family rooms are now offered at Andersson's Camp - one family room has two tents joined by an 18m boardwalk and the other has two tents with a 22m boardwalk between them - both with a sala in the middle and a shared entrance.

Rhino Relocation
The Kunene rhino translocation took place in July and an intensive monitoring phase is about to be implemented to assess the wellbeing of the rhino in their new areas in the Palmwag Concession. The operation was essentially an airborne exercise - one with rhinos being located by a spotter aircraft which acted as an overall coordinator for calling in the darting helicopter and the larger Huey helicopter which then transported the animals out of the extremely rough terrain.

The animals had a transmitter implanted in the horn, were notched, measured and loaded into a crate for road transfer to areas close to the release sites. The animals were again tranquilized and taken by the Huey to the release sites. Post-release aerial tracking has already commenced and one animal has been recorded moving more than 100km in four days. The critical monitoring phase will continue for some time for the animals in their new areas. The operation was a huge coordinated effort with personnel from multiple organizations, including SRT, MET, Wilderness Safaris and IRDNC. There have been no mortalities amongst the rhino which is a testament to the expertise and skill of the people involved in the operation.

Desert Lion Conservation
Lionesses Tawny and Morada moved deeper into the sanctum of Skeleton Coast Park, recently observed catching an oryx 4km from the mouth of the Hoarusib River. This bodes well for them as it reduces the possibility of human/predator conflict in the local Himba village, Puros, which borders the Skeleton Coast Park. Dr. Flip Stander of the Desert Lion Conservation organization will be monitoring their movements in the area in the coming weeks to determine whether they remain in this vicinity. Seeing the arid-adapted lions with more frequency in the Skeleton Coast is an exciting experience to any Skeleton Coast safari.

Desert Lion Relocation in Namibia's Skeleton Coast

North Island Update - July 2010              Jump to North Island

No report this month.


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

No report this month.


DumaTau Camp update - July 2010               Jump to DumaTau Camp

There have been dramatic fluctuations in the weather during the month of July. The minimum temperature was a mild 12 degrees Celsius and the maximum a warm 28. We had two weeks of overcast skies. Many of the trees are now bare and we look forward to seeing their new green foliage in the next month or so.

Wild dogs at DumaTau camp    Elephants at DumaTau camp    Eland at DumaTau camp

We have seen large herds of elephant along the Linyanti Swamp on a daily basis. We have also had some wonderful sightings of rarer animals like eland, sable and serval.

The DumaTau male leopard has visited the camp often this month, once coming right past the dinner table.

The Savuti lioness and her two sub-adult cubs killed a zebra about 300 metres from camp. The whole drama was observed from beginning to end. The three cats were initially spotted at Osprey Lagoon, two kilometres north-east of the camp. They looked very hungry but spent most of the morning resting in the shade. In the afternoon we tracked and found them stalking a herd of zebra close to camp. They failed a number of times, the two sub-adults ruining their mother's attempts with impatience.

Lion catching zebra at DumaTau camp    Lion catching zebra at DumaTau camp    Elephants at DumaTau camp

Eventually however the youngsters managed to flank around the stallion and chase him directly at their mother. She exploded from the grass and leapt onto his back. The weight and strength of the big cat knocked him over. The young males quickly joined the fray but the zebra wasn't quite done. He fought on, kicking and biting at his captors. His strength began to ebb away though and after about an hour he succumbed.

In another interesting sighting, we saw a baby elephant with half a trunk being fed by her siblings. We think her trunk was cut off by hyaena or lion trying to prey on her.

This past month we had Lizzy, Martin, Abbie and Anton as managers in camp. The guides were Ron, Lazi, Name, Bobby and Moses. Thanks to all of the abovementioned and the brilliant staff of DumaTau for all the efforts that they put into making this camp what it is.

We sadly say farewell to Lizzy who has moved on to take on a new job as the new general manager of Duba Plains and at the same time we are very excited to welcome Kago as the new general manager of DumaTau.


Savuti Camp update - July 2010               Jump to Savuti Camp

Weather and Landscape
Surrounded by parched landscapes, the Linyanti oasis receives its sustenance from the mighty Kwando River. The waters of the Linyanti come all the way from the Angolan Highlands to form one of Africa's great deltas.

It is here, along the banks of the "stolen river", that Savuti Camp rests.

July is the heart of winter. Waking to temperatures sporadically as low as 3 degrees Celsius, we head for the freshly stoked campfire where hot coffee and porridge wait for us. Here we sit as the dawn gradually erases the star-studded sky, replacing it with another spectacular Linyanti dawn. Crimson, scarlet and sallow browns cover the changing milieu.

While moisture is sapped from the vegetation by the stark winter sun, the Savute Channel itself flows serenely by. Its life-giving waters providing sustenance to an abundance of wildlife both great and small.

Sunset and Savute channel    Pied Kingfisher at Savuti camp    African skimmers at Savuti camp

While the mornings may be cold, the winter chill is soon chased away as the sun makes its slow march toward its zenith. Our days are filled with blue skies and the warm afternoons are best spent al fresco.

Game viewing has been nothing short of exemplary this month. The grass, both drying and trampled underfoot, has given way to thousands of thirsty animals heading to the Savute's fresh waters. The trees are discarding their canopies to reveal some of the nature's best kept secrets.
One of these secrets is Linyanti's leopards. There are very few places where one can while away the day in the company of such beautiful cats. The leopards of Linyanti are unusually tolerant of the vehicles and people that delight in finding and following them.

A particular male, known as the Duma Boy, has visited the camp on numerous occasions this month. We have seen him in the morning and the evening. Just the other night we had the pleasure of watching him from the boardwalk as he nonchalantly strolled through the camp.

Leopard at Savuti camp    Leopard at Savuti camp    Elephants at Savuti camp

A herd of 14 elephant have also made Savuti Camp their home and on most days can be found either playing in the water or feeding along the boardwalks. There is one lone bull who is a little less welcome because of his fascination with our balustrades which he incessantly plucks off their mountings!

The highlight of the month was a sighting that included lions, a pangolin and wild dogs.

July truly has been a remarkable month. The myriad flora and fauna of the Linyanti has been sublime. We are constantly grateful for this pristine wilderness.

Managers for the month
The managers for the month of July were Anna, Sean and Maatla


Zarafa Camp update - July 2010               Jump to Zarafa Camp

The weather during July ranged from icy cold nights with temperatures dropping to freezing on clear nights and warming pleasantly to the mid-twenties degrees Celsius (occasionally topping 30) in the middle of the day. Strangely, there have been quite a number of cloudy days during the month, sometimes with dark rainclouds forming, but never actually delivering.

The painted dogs are back!

The most exciting news of the month is the return of the wild dogs. They have a denned close to the old Zibadianja Camp. A pack last denned on the Selinda Reserve in 2005. This group have chosen to den in a similar area to the old site and are spending most of their time hunting in the vicinity and are no longer moving around as much as before. They are often seen around the south-eastern section of the reserve, between Zarafa headquarters and the airstrip.

Wild dogs at Zarafa Camp

One morning, one of the drives was visiting the den when the first little face of a pup emerged. It only popped up for a short time, and soon disappeared, but it was our first and up till now, only sighting of the new litter. We are all looking forward to watching the pups as they grow.

The dogs have killed two impala in view of the main deck of the camp, much to the guests' delight. The latest kill happened in the morning while guests were having breakfast. They decided to wake up later than usual and were eating around 08h30 when the distinctive whooping of the dogs was heard. Looking out from the deck, we saw two dogs making their way from the under the trees down to the water to drink and then returning. We decided to look where they were going and found them feeding on a large male impala behind Tent 2. What is most astounding it that nobody heard it happen.

Leopard cubs
Some good news to report is that Amber (our well-known leopard) has definitely not lost her cub. We were concerned for quite some time as we had not seen it, but she was recently spotted south of our headquarters with her cub. Amber's adult daughter has staked out a territory adjacent to her mother's and is now seldom seen in her mother's area.

A surprise on a walking safari
While on a walk one morning with some guests, Foster came across some cheetah relaxing on a termite mound not too far off. As exhilarating as it was to see them on foot, he decided a better approach would be to fetch the vehicle and drive in closer. He was worried they would run off if approached on foot. As a walking safari usually focuses on the smaller details of nature, seeing any large game, especially something special like a cheetah, is a real bonus. The guests were thrilled and retold their tale with boundless enthusiasm.

General Game
July has been a great month for general game sightings. Not a drive goes by without guests seeing a huge variety of animals. Large herds of giraffe, numbering over 30 sometimes, and the rare roan antelope that venture out of the woodlands, have contributed to the great overall experience offered on the Selinda Reserve. The wildebeest are always around, as are the zebra, normally moving to the lagoon for a drink of water. Buffalo have been seen more during July as well, with two good sized herds of up to 50 moving close to camp.


Selinda Camp update - July 2010               Jump to Selinda Camp

We are well past the winter solstice now and are witnessing a slow rise in temperatures from the extremes of June. The guests continue to enjoy the "bushbaby" hot water bottles which prove to be real life-savers in the cool morning breeze of the Linyanti.

One of the most outstanding features of Selinda Camp is that we can view the sunrise. The tangerine glow fills the morning skies and we watch it from our front deck while enjoying breakfast. It is quite incredible how quickly the air heats up as soon as the sun lights up the palm trees on the horizon.

To our surprise the water levels in the Linyanti continued to rise in July. Modifications were made to our boat jetties as the water rose well beyond expected levels. At the time of writing (23 July) the water was still rising very slowly but by the end of the month, it had begun to subside a little.

The guests continue to be thrilled by our boat transfers from the airstrip. The 20-minute water safari to the camp is the perfect start to the Selinda experience. The highlight of this trip is passing the fish eagle nest which is currently occupied by two chicks. We regularly witness the parents swooping down to catch some sizeable bream. The journey allows guests to view a number of hippo pods, many of which tend to be out of the water at this time of year, warming themselves in the sun. Most recently we have seen a pair of wattled cranes on this boat trip.

You do not have to stray very far from camp to see incredible wildlife. A breeding herd of elephant has visited the camp around at about 15h00 most afternoons. They provide huge entertainment, often interacting with the hippos. Also around the camp, two honey badgers have foraged on a nightly basis. They are fascinating to watch as they go about their pugnacious business. Another camp highlight is the presence of a pair of Dickinson's kestrels which roost in the main area roof. We see them hunt in front of camp, picking up the occasional frog or toad.

The game viewing in the latter part of July was quite exceptional. In a particularly good two hour game drive, we saw wild dog, cheetah, lion, leopard, buffalo and roan antelope! We have witnessed some hunts and kills including a rare caracal feeding on a rodent of some sort and a leopard on an impala kill. The guests were fascinated by the leopard's attempts to cover the antelope's innards with dust so as to mask the smell from scavengers.

The following day the same leopard was sunning herself of a termite mound when a young warthog surprised her by charging out of a hole on the very mound she was lying. She managed to catch the pig in her mouth only to be attacked by another warthog trying to save his friend. A big scuffle ensued with the larger warthog giving the leopard some unwanted attention from his sharp little tusks. Eventually the cat admitted defeat, let go of her victim and scampered off into the bush, clearly embarrassed.

The Selinda Pride consisting of four females and two cubs has been seen regularly this month. We often see them feeding on the various morsels the females catch for them.

Last week, we saw something very unusual. One evening, the lions were found by the water eating a red lechwe. As the night came we retreated to camp but returned eagerly the next morning. There we found the lions feeding on a two-metre-long crocodile! What actually transpired in the darkness is difficult to say but perhaps the crocodile came to steal the lechwe and grossly underestimated the lions.

Walking safaris have proved to be very popular in the cooler July weather. They offer the chance to follow tracks and absorb a feeling of wilderness in this beautiful area.


Kwando Safari Camps Update - July 2010

Kwando Concession
• The relative dryness of the Kwando Linyanti region following extremely high flooding in the neighbouring areas has led to consistently good game viewing throughout the season. This promises to improve as the season progresses and the extremely mild winter hints at a long hot and dry summer. These conditions will all contribute to spectacular wildlife viewing throughout the northern regions of the country.

Lagoon camp               Jump to Lagoon Camp
• The entire area surrounding the camp is inundated with buffalo, from large herds of over a 1000 animals to much smaller groups of older bulls. The vicinity of easily accessible water at the river and adjacent grazing makes this area a busy one for buffalo.
• The lion populations in this area are not as concentrated it seems as in neighbouring Lebala, though several individuals have been seen, including three females hunting giraffe. One of the advantages to this relatively lower concentration is that the populations of wild dogs and cheetah are higher and less mobile.
• The wild dog den site at Lagoon is now home to seven new pups, joining the existing 15 adults, and have provided some fascinating viewing of such endangered animals.
• The well known 'three boys'' have also been seen regularly hunting along the floodplains and were at one point seen by guests hunting and killing a young warthog.
• Leopard also benefit from a lack of presence of an apex predator such as lion and a very relaxed leopards have been seen drinking very close to the camp.
• General game has included sightings of eland, kudu, zebra, giraffe, tsessebe, steenbok, serval, honey badger and African wild cat.

Lebala camp               Jump to Lebala Camp
• The large herds of buffalo and elephant have begun to return to the area and to congregate in large numbers. Buffalo herds estimated at over 1000 individuals are common and lions are often seen nearby as they tail the herds, always alert to an easy kill.
• A pride of seven were also sighted several times having killed zebra, a smaller group of females with three cubs and two large males patrolling the area and hunting buffalo.
• Elsewhere leopard were found in slightly unusual circumstances – a large tom was spotted swimming across a deep channel and a young female found in a tree with her prey, a serval!
• Two male cheetah have been spotted regularly in the plains around the airstrip where they have been hunting impala.
• The wild dog pack of five adults, have moved out of the den with their eight pups and the adults have been seen several times while out hunting.
• Plains game, as always is very good and included large numbers of eland, lechwe, giraffe, wildebeest and zebra.
• Other notable sightings include hyena, serval, caracal, honey badger, civet, porcupine and python.

Kwara & Little Kwara camps               Jump to Kwara & Little Kwara camps
• In contrast to the Kwando region, the Okavango water levels remain high and will likely do so for some years to come. The vast amount of water that continues to flow into the Okavango is a revitalising boost to a system which had become progressively drier over the last 20 years, and will ensure that the biodiversity of the Okavango system is maintained. The floods have seemingly not dampened the activity of the wildlife.
• While the dominant coalition of 7 male lions appears to be spread far and wide maintaining their large territory, individuals are often seen moving through the area. Various males and females accompanied by young cubs have been seen on kills as varied as giraffe, warthog, kudu, tsessebe and zebra.
• Several leopard, all extremely relaxed, have been spotted throughout the concession, while three male cheetah have also been seen regularly including while hunting and successfully killing a tsessebe.
• As always the general game in the Okavango is excellent including kudu, impala, hyena, zebra, reedbuck, warthog, wild cat, serval, aardvark and porcupine.

Nxai Pan
• The water hole at Nxai Pan continues to offer incredible game viewing from the luxury of camp. Bathing elephants, large numbers of wildebeest, gemsbok and springbok all congregate to drink in easy viewing distance of the private viewing decks.
• A solitary male leopard, first seen walking through the camp site when the camp was being constructed in late 2008 is still a often seen resident of the area and extremely relaxed around people and game drive vehicles.
• Another leopard sighting occurred, rather unusually, as the light aircraft dropping guests off was landing! The leopard broke cover as the plane flew overhead and spent enough time on the airstrip to allow some great photos for the newly arrived guests.
• On the Pan, guests have been fortunate enough to regularly spot a female cheetah with her immature and quite shy cub, as well as a lioness with four young cubs which are about 5 months old.

Tau Pan
• The Tau Pan pride consisting of six lions (two young males and four females) have been spotted regularly in the vicinity of the camp, while three cheetah (two females and cub) have been seen once again on Tau Pan. The trackers reported them as having been away for some weeks and had seen them in the Passarge valley, about 50 kms to the north-west.
• A cheetah was seen near the Tau Pan airstrip killing a steenbok and afer some time was eventually chased of the kill by a persistent jackal.
• Wild dog were also seen back on the pan after having been absent for some weeks, this time a pack of one male and three females.
• The resident female leopard is also spotted regularly and is now very relaxed.
• With the conditions in the Kalahari now extremely dry, the waterhole is becoming increasingly busy and large numbers of gemsbok and giraffe are common drinking in front of the camp.
• Elsewhere on day trips and walks guest also saw honey badgers, jackals, springbok, eland, red hartebeest, wildebeest and ostrich plus a multitude of birds including bustards, korhaans, kestrels and goshawks.


Mombo Camp update - July 2010               Jump to Mombo Camp

Weather and Landscape
Midwinter has come and gone and the last few weeks have seen warmer temperatures, giving us a taste of the spring and summer to come. The flood has already started receding, although after the massive flood this year it looks like the water will be around for a lot longer than usual. July was an amazing and very active month in Botswana, and all of us here at Mombo have had a great time experiencing the many fantastic happenings.

The sad news this month is that Legadima, our most viewed leopard, has lost her last remaining cub. She gave birth to three babies a few months ago. By the end of last month, there was only one left. We saw her with this cub once at the beginning of the month but that was the last time. We are not sure how the cubs died but the reason might lie with a new male in the area. He has been seen with Legadima a few times this month and has clearly displaced Mutuwana, the old territorial male. It is unclear how much, if any, infanticide occurs in leopard populations but it is a strange coincidence that the cubs have disappeared so soon after the new male's arrival.

Cheetah seen at Mombo camp    Legadima the leopard    Lion cubs at Mombo

Legadima gave us all quite an amazing show one evening as she was seen making her way onto Mombo Island in the afternoon. Eventually she ended up resting close to the curio shop. A short while later she was spotted up on the walkway next to Room 8. Later on, while we were having pre-dinner drinks at the bar, she came sauntering down the walkway, hesitated just in front of the bar, and proceeded to jump off the deck and disappear into the dark.

A surprising and extremely exciting sighting for us this month was the first cheetah seen at Mombo for about two years. Tsile noticed a giraffe staring intensely at one spot. Wondering what it was that had so captivated the animal, he decided to investigate and found it looking directly at a cheetah. The high concentration of lion here over the last few years has excluded the far less competitive cheetah. Unfortunately, we have not seen her since.

A demonstration of the pressure the predators all exert on each other in this area was seen late one afternoon. The lone wild dog, accompanied by her pack of jackals (click here to read more about this fascinating interaction), caught and killed an impala. A few hyaena arrived shortly thereafter and decided to take the opportunity of an easy meal. They chased her off her kill. While they squabbled, three lions, attracted by the commotion, stole it away from the unhappy hyaenas. The hyaena waited for reinforcements, and once their numbers were up they launched into an attack on the lions, chasing them off, and devouring the scraps of the kill.


Other highlights of the month have included the Western Pride of lions coming in and out of camp. They even left two cubs huddled together next to the entrance while their mother went hunting. A hippo bull has also been a regular in camp. He spends time walking around the camp most days, prompting guests to give him nicknames such as Harry, Bob and Plumpy.

Our managers and guides for the month were:
Gordon, Tanya, Phenyo and our most recent addition to the Mombo management team, Kersti, at Mombo, and Conny at Little Mombo.

The guides were Moses, Moss, Pete and Tsile at Mombo, and Cisco at Little Mombo.

We also say a sad farewell to Kago, who has been promoted to the GM of DumaTau. Congratulations, Kago, we will miss you here.


Xigera Camp update - July 2010               Jump to Xigera Camp

Weather and Waters
We ended the month with the most spectacular weather: morning temperatures of 19.5 degrees Celsius and highs of 27. The general temperatures throughout the month have been very pleasant, except for a couple of mornings during the middle of the month where they dropped to 8 degrees.

The floodwaters have, as expected, continued to recede this month. The depth of the channel is 208mm, down from 212mm at the beginning of the month. Although this is only a 4cm drop, considering the vastness of the Delta and its floodplains, it is in fact an enormous amount of water.

The small clan of resident hyaena had their fill this month when a large male giraffe died very close to the airstrip. We don't how the giraffe met its fate but it seems that he might have slipped and broken a limb while crossing a large muddy pool. The hyaena proceeded to gorge themselves for almost a day before retreating to digest their enormous meal. They were quickly followed onto the carcass by a large numbers of vultures and other scavengers who spent many days feeding. The hyaena regularly rejoined the fray when they were sufficiently hungry again.

Hyenas and giraffe kill at Xigera    Storks at Xigera camp

There is an enormous hippo bull that has taken to sleeping in a number of different locations very close to the walkway almost every night; he spends hours sleeping before moving off to graze in the surrounding areas. This has offered many wonderful sightings for guests who are generally amazed by the size of these vast herbivores.

The elephants have also enjoyed Xigera Island this month. They have been around the camp almost continuously, often surrounding us during mealtimes. First-time guests often spend hours lying awake listening to the grunting hippo, rumbling elephant and also the constant tinking and puppy-like yelps of the fruit bats.

Although we consider predator sightings a bonus during the flood season, July has been a rather productive month for cats. We have had very good sightings of leopard while out on mokoro and boat trips. The lions were also rather cooperative and we were lucky enough to have some rather good sightings on our day trips to Chief's Island.

Prized Pel's fishing owls again showed themselves to many guests this month. We have a pair nesting on an island fairly close by which is a wonderful treat. They have also been fairly prominent around the camp with their booming hoo-huuuum call throughout the night. Tent 9 seems to be an area they are particularly fond of.

The large flocks of open-bill storks with their specially adapted beaks for feeding on freshwater snails have also been an absolute spectacle as they take advantage of the receding waters and the tonnes of snails left behind.

Sid and Joekie Prinsloo provided pictures of a wonderfully rare sighting - a great example of nature's subtlety. They came across a family of very young African jacana. Feeling threatened, the young birds immediately fell amongst the reed debris and other vegetation feigning death to avoid being attacked. Even from this young age the tiny birds have a lightening-quick instinctive protection mechanism that is amazing to watch.

Guests at Xigera camp    Jacana chick    Swimming off the bridge at Xigera

Camp activities
The World Cup continued to be a very popular evening activity for the first couple of weeks of the month. After seeing our African teams knocked out of the tournament we were quite happy to enjoy a final evening and watch Spain lift the trophy. With this global event at an end, we settled down to enjoying evenings around the fire listening to the sounds of the bush and telling stories.

We had the opportunity to meet a wonderful and diverse group of people during the tournament; we hosted people from almost every corner of the earth. Perhaps the most adventurous were Andres and Caroline, a Columbian / Peruvian couple currently living in New York. They could not resist the crystal clear waters of the Delta and took the opportunity to dive from the bridge into the channel in front of the camp.

Camp Staff
Managers: Mike and Anne Marchington, Gideon Mvere, Gabriella De Moor, Kgabiso Lehare,
Guides: Barobi, Ace, Teko and Onx, Luke and Ndebo


Chitabe Camp update - July 2010               Jump to Chitabe Camp

Weather and Landscape
The month of July gave us mild temperatures with magnificent sunsets slowly coming slightly later each day. All the deciduous trees of the concession are now bare and waiting for their buds to spring to life in the new season.

The water has slowly but surely started to recede in some areas, but continues to cover vast floodplains that have not been quenched in the last 20 years.

Chitabe has been the leopard capital of the sub-continent this month. We've spotted 13 individuals this month, all positively identified by their unique spot patterns above the whisker line. The shy Two Bridges Female appeared on a daily basis during the last two weeks of the month. She was normally perched high on a sausage tree less than 100 metres away from Tent 1. Her reticence to leave the area was explained when we saw three tiny cubs running into the palm scrub. Two Bridges is a proud mum of three healthy cubs.

We had very good viewing of a two males jousting over a territory. These two have been settling (or not) this dispute for the last two months. The Airstrip Male and a new youngster also had a standoff just near Baobab Road.

Bull elephant at Chitabe camp    Bull elephant at Chitabe camp    Leopard with an impala at Chitabe camp

The Kgaruru Female and a hyaena had a fight over an impala carcass at a waterhole. The cat eventually gave in to the hyaena and walked off to look for another meal.

Leopards spotted this month include: The Kgaruru female, Phinley's spotless male, Kgaruru male, Madala male, Left eye, Left eye's cub, Gomoti male, Airstrip male (fighting with a newcomer), and the Old Chitabe male. Leopards galore!

An unusual sighting of the month was of four pangolin in the middle of the month. One of them was unfortunately being eaten by a hyaena. Thuso, the guide, who had never seen a pangolin was treated to one of these magnificent and elusive creatures on his birthday. Culturally pangolins are associated with good luck, so Thuso felt truly blessed. The buzz and the chatter from everyone returning from the sighting was hugely animated.

The most unusual sighting this month was of a horned female impala.

Staff in Camp
Your hosts for the month of August at Chitabe are Dawson, Shaa, Tiny, Lieana, and Shakes, and at Lediba your managers are Alice and Trevor.

The guides for the month of August: Luke, BB, Thuso, Gordon, Anthony.


Vumbura Plains Camp update - July 2010               Jump to Vumbura Plains Camp

The annual Okavango flood is in full retreat now. After almost overwhelming us in May and June, the waters are now sinking into the porous Kalahari sand. In their wake, the waters have left precious sediment that will fertilise the Vumbura floodplains for another year.

Roads close to Camp where the water was surging over the bonnets of the Land Rovers just a few weeks ago, now consist of drifts of finely sorted white sand. Only the dark stains on the trunks of the sentinel leadwood trees give any indication of how high the waters were.

On some of the islands, evaporated water has left salt deposits behind. The damp earth will soon be baked hard by the sun and it will tell the story of the myriad animals that picked their way through the shallows - the wide-splayed toes of lechwe and the craters formed by elephant feet.

But the landscape has a memory, and such events as the flood of 2010 will remain etched into it. Although surface water is disappearing in many places, the water table is still very high and high rainfall in Angola next year could result in a flood of diluvian proportions.

The days of crocodiles swimming down roads and fish under tents are over for now, but we have learnt an incredible amount about hydrology and flood dynamics this year. Talking to some of the older villages from the Okavango communities, this could easily have been the biggest flood since the 1970s. We are truly fortunate to have experienced this, although I think we were all secretly a little relieved when the waters finally reached their peak.

The flood concentrated the animals, especially those unable or unwilling to cross unfamiliar waters where there used to be dry grasslands. There is now very little foliage on the leaves which makes for wonderful game viewing.

Leopard in a tree at Vumbura Plains

When we built this Camp, one of the main aims was to 'bring the outside in', so that there would be nothing - well, almost nothing - between our guests and the bush. In the process it seems that we have created safe havens for a few animals too: a porcupine and our friendly neighbourhood greater cane rat.

July has been a month of predators. But as befits a year of unusual floods and strange events, we have seen some bizarre behaviour, the sort of behaviour that field guide books assure you never happens. Subterranean leopards and tree-climbing lions - that sort of thing.

Tree-climbing is a behaviour that is sometimes reported among lions in East Africa, and the most plausible theory is that the lions are trying to escape extremes of heat, or evade the attentions of biting flies. At Vumbura, the lions had to be a little different. They remained in the trees at dusk, when it was cool and during winter when there are very few bugs around at all.

Another, less welcome development among our lion prides has been their acquisition of a taste for sable. These magnificent antelope are a symbol of this part of the Okavango, and a real highlight on game drives. They are not really common anywhere throughout their range, and the fact that at least one of our lion prides has begun to specialise in killing them is not good news.

Being a big cat is not always easy, though, as one of our young male leopards found out earlier this month. Perhaps driven by hunger, he attempted to make a meal of a porcupine, and we watched the ensuing battle for survival for well over an hour and was quite gruesome in parts.

Although inexperienced, the leopard soon learnt that the rear end of a porcupine is its most dangerous bit, and tried various tricks to reach parts of the rodent not protected by quills. At one point he ended up in the porcupine's burrow, and as the owner scurried away, a paw thrust at him through the earth like a scene from a horror movie.

Neither creature could bring this fight to a conclusion. The leopard was soon bloodied and clearly in pain from encounters with the business end of the quills, but he had figured out how to yank them out of the porcupine to expose unprotected flesh. He also managed to break one of the porcupine's legs, but in a show of defiance the porcupine went to ground leaving the leopard to begin a waiting game outside the burrow.

When we left the scene, the leopard was licking his wounds while still waiting patiently by the entrance to the burrow. The next day, we saw a much less lean leopard resting close by, so we can only assume that he did ultimately get to eat his foe.

Perhaps the best news of all this month is that our wild dog pack seems to have successfully raised their litter to the point where they have left the den permanently. At last count there were ten pups. If all of them survive, it will be a huge achievement and a significant step forward for this species in Botswana.

The sight of a pack of wild dogs running at full tilt through the mopane woodlands, ears cocked and cottontail tips streaming, is one that will thrill the memory forever... Unless of course you are an impala, in which case they are the very stuff of nightmares.

But for us, at a time of year when we are surrounded by so much beauty and enveloped by such fascinating change, time spent at Vumbura seems like the very best kind of dream.

Guest comments
All of you were amazing and we can't think of anything you missed...

All members of the staff, they do whatever possible to surprise the guests all the time!

We had a blast and will NEVER forget this special place!

The Camp is incredibly well-organised... Guests can just relax knowing every detail will be attended to...

And that's all from your July Vumbura Plains team: Katie Horner, Graham Simmonds, Tumoh Morena (who took this photo), Virgil Geach, Wayne and Britt Vaughan, and Nick 'Noko' Galpine.


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

Apart from a brief cold snap, the weather has been surprisingly mild, and we even had a few overcast days this month, which gave us some magnificent sunsets. August promises to be an interesting month as the waters drop and the consequent animal activity will keep us fascinated in this beautiful, fascinating and ever-changing ecosystem.

The floodwaters began to recede this month, returning our airstrip to normal functioning once more after a six-week hiatus as fish and birds took it over (no more helicopter rides, unfortunately!). The waters are not yet low enough to prevent the channel from camp to Vumbura Paradise from being used, although the next couple of weeks should see it becoming too shallow.

Wild dogs at Vumbura    Buffalos at Little Vumbura camp    Elephant at Vumbura

In the channel in front of the camp, the water has dropped about 40cm, and we are once again able to use almost all of our jetty again - only a metre or so of it is still being lapped by the Delta. The transfer from camp to the game drive area and airstrip for now remains as a 15-minute boat ride through the spectacular swampy heartland of Vumbura, with open plains stretching to dotted islands covered in magnificent trees.

The receding waters have left a huge amount of nutrient- rich grazing behind, and the herds are once more turning their paths inward to take advantage of its bounty. Large herds of buffalo have been seen fairly regularly, often with the Kubu Pride following.

The lions finally killed after many unsuccessful attempts. After the larger male had rushed in to take his share, the pride fed for two days. Interestingly enough, the females were often seen in trees this month - whether to escape the attention of insects or for some other reason is a matter for speculation. The Western Pride was seen twice, on the first occasion feeding on a sable antelope.

Leopard sightings have been frequent this month, with Small Boy being seen most often - twice with a baboon kill. An unknown female was also seen in a tree on Truck Road.

An unusual sighting was of a very shy caracal at Four-Way junction.

Elephant at Vumbura    Malachite kingfisher at Vumbura    Rhino tracks at Vumbura

Great excitement was caused by Rain Robson's discovery of rhino tracks, which led off into impenetrable bush after he had followed them for a short distance - denying him the opportunity of a sighting. Just knowing that one of these magnificent beasts was in the vicinity was exciting.

The wild dog pack have been very active in the region which means their den can't be far off - we have yet to find it however. Most often, they have been seen in the vicinity of Vumbura North Camp, often from the boardwalks themselves. On one occasion an interesting tussle ensued between them and a gang of three spotted hyaena. The scavengers eventually forced the dogs to abandon the kudu they had killed.

A variety of plains game are in the area, as are the ubiquitous elephant as they cross the region on their never-ending journeys. Sable have been seen regularly, as have giraffe, tsessebe, wildebeest, kudu, red lechwe, hippo, reedbuck and zebra.

For the month of August, guides in camp will be Rain Robson, Kay Bosigo and Sevara Katsotso. One and Alex Mazunga will be your hosts, accompanied by Ryan Green.


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

No report this month.


Jacana Camp update - July 2010               Jump to Jacana Camp

The easterly winds made mornings chilly in July. They usually died down during the mid-afternoon and we enjoyed relaxing afternoons on the deck and dinner under the stars with a red moon rising.

The average temperature during the day dropped to 22.5 degrees Celsius, with nights being as cold as 7 degrees. Everybody enjoyed breakfast around the fire in the mornings.

Once again, Jacana Island was very popular with the hippo and elephant. There was not a single day without at least one elephant bull, often two or three, feeding off bushes and trees right in the main area. They also spend a great deal of time shaking the palm trees all around the island. One night one of them walked right by us, while we were enjoying drinks around the fire after dinner. He didn't seem the least bit bothered. We, on the other hand, didn't dare to move or breathe.

Hippo in front of Jacana camp in Botswana    View from Jacana camp    Mokoro excursion at Jacana camp

There have been a few overcast days during which the shade-loving hippo came onto the island. The local bull grazes peacefully nearby in the afternoon on a regular basis.

Exploration by boat was very popular this month. Seeing elephants crossing the deeper channels, pods of hippo and large crocodiles bathing in the sun, are some of the often enjoyed highlights.

Mokoro trips are more popular than ever. Painted reed frogs, malachite kingfishers and close-ups of African fish-eagles are regular sights while on this relaxing, tranquil activity. Many a visitor has learned how to pole a mokoro in the shallow waters in front of camp.

Birding at Jacana has been spectacular this month.

Several guests took great shots of a Pel's fishing owl getting ready to hunt in the late afternoon. A giant eagle owl was spotted regularly between tents 1 and 2.

Western-banded Snake-eagle at Jacana camp

A dead palm tree, right in camp, seemed the perfect spot for a western-banded snake eagle to sit for more than an hour and look for prey.

Guest comments
Beauty of the Delta. Fishing, Fishing, Fishing, Fishing and Fishing! Pieter and Danielle and all the staff are great. Food very good - lunch was great today! Dinner was great last night. Pieter is an awesome fisherman! Timothy is an excellent guide. - Errol and Nick

Seclusion, friendly and knowledgeable staff, willingness and ability to accommodate all request and wonderful, peaceful setting. Superb! - Jan-Lucas, Penny and Sebastian

Arthur and I really enjoyed our stay at Jacana. Nina and Julian are great hosts and all the staff were friendly and professional. - Lynda and Arthur

Pieter and Danielle
Nina and Julian

Florance, Timothy and Joseph


Kwetsani Camp update - July 2010               Jump to Kwetsani Camp

The weather changed again this month, becoming milder in the evening and hot during the day. There have been a number of days where there was complete cloud cover and it even looked like we might have rain, but in the end nothing fell from the sky.

The Jao lion pride has moved to Hunda Island where they have taken up temporary residence. This has caused the leopard of Hunda to become less active during the day, with fewer sightings.

Perhaps because of the lions' departure, the leopard in whose territory Kwetsani Camp falls, has become more vocal in the evening and early mornings. He still remains very much elusive however. We see his tracks in the mornings by the boat station and we managed to take a photo of him with a motion camera that we set up one evening.

Bushbuck with newborn lamb    Elephant at Kwetsani

The elephant are numerous as usual with regular sightings of the breeding herds and a number of lone bulls. One of the Abu bulls was sighted on the Kwetsani floodplain near the end of the month but he was heading to the east. We have one young elephant bull in camp that takes great pleasure in trumpeting at the staff when they walk by on the decks and walkways.

One afternoon, guests who were lounging by the pool, spotted a young male lion on Vulture Island, in front of camp. OP went to see if they could see which lion it was on the afternoon activity before going on a boat cruise. He did sight a young male lion, which ran at first sight of the vehicle. Near the end of the month, a new lion group was sighted at Kwetsani, two lionesses and the same juvenile male. They stayed on the island only for one night, in and around the camp, mainly near room 2 and 3. They were extremely skittish and nervous around vehicles and people and made for an adrenaline-filled few days.

The arrow-marked babbler and black-eyed bulbuls are coming to breakfast and brunch every morning as they start battling to find food. The wattled cranes and ground hornbills are seen regularly on the floodplain.

We are now seeing larger herds of lechwe on the flood plain in front of camp as the water is starting to dry up. Hippos and crocodiles are seen often by the guests on their boating safaris and the mokoro rides often deliver up an elephant or two nearby.

Lions at Kwetsani    Reedbuck at Kwetsani camp

On the 25th of July, a new member of the Kwetsani family arrived; one of the bushbuck females produced a lamb. The first time we saw it, it was still wobbly on its feet and both the female and male bushbuck were staying extremely close by. We have seen the lamb on most days since then. We are a bit concerned for it as the baboons killed a young impala recently.

Camp activities
The camp is slowly drying out and we are now using our original boat station. The river flowing into and out of the marsh has dried up but left a few large holes and washed a huge amount of sand into new areas. The staff village has dried out largely and there is no need for staff to mokoro to their rooms. We are now back to using Kwetsani beach for sundowner stops but there are still too many mosquitoes for us to have dinner there. We can now drive to the baobab at the southern end of the island but the road is still wet and muddy in places. We have cleared a new bush dinner sight under the sycamore figs and are hoping to use it at the end of the month - elephants and weather permitting.

Guest Comments
Each trip had its own highlights... I especially recommend the staff. Everyone was very helpful and friendly. Of course, the food was excellent! - Graham and Seldon, Australia.

The whole trip and the time spent here with the wonderful food and friendly staff and the amazing sights is a huge highlight in my life. - Bill / Vesna / Megan / Evan, Canada

To experience the Delta, the water is unbelievable coming from a dry region in South Africa. We saw animals as nature intended, thank you! Special thanks to OB and Tony for the mokoro rides. They were exhausted afterwards! Excellent food, outstanding hospitality by Ian and Michélle and all the staff. - Kobie and Karen, RSA

Comfortable accommodation in a typical African style / Delicious food every time (the best in our whole time in Africa)! We specially enjoyed the different game drives with OP; a very skilled and tough guide. Many thanks to Michélle and Ian and the staff for the friendly atmosphere! - Barnd and Susanne Grube - Germany

Camp Managers
Ian and Michélle Burger

OB Morafhe, OP Kaluluka, Anthony Mochoni


Jao Camp update - July 2010               Jump to Jao Camp

Weather and water levels
The great waters of the flood have dropped tremendously over the last month, leaving behind an artwork of water lines on termite mounds and trees. With the receding waters, it has started to warm up but not to the extent that the fire and a strong night cap aren't much appreciated....

Fishing has been wonderful in the receding waters. Tiger fish, often regarded as Africa's piranha with their sharp interlocking teeth and aggressive characters, are a fighting experience for amateur and professional alike. With 11 caught (and released) this month and a maximum weight of 4 kilograms, this was a record-breaking month for tiger fishing.

Elephant herds have been seen and heard trumpeting throughout the island. Their playful wrestling with one another and chasing of other wildlife have left all those watching in hysterics. We also have a more mature resident bull that hangs around the camp, peacefully minding his own business. He wanders in between the rooms often crossing the Jao Spa walkway at the specially constructed elephant step-over. His favourite food are the palm nuts and every so often we hear him shaking the palm trees for this delicacy.

Buffalo at Jao Camp    Malachite Kingfisher at Jao    An elephant visits Jao camp

We watched two hyaena, who visit camp regularly, chase a hippo and her calf around one evening. Eventually it dawned on the hippo that she was well capable of ridding herself of the attackers and turned on them. Unsurprisingly, they scampered off.

The mongoose troop that lives in various locations near the camp has been appreciating the warmer weather. The young ones are fully grown now but often seen playing around while the adults lie on fallen mopane trees sunning themselves.

Once again the island west of Jao has provided exciting day trips. The lions have been seen mating again. The two sub-adult leopard that we see regularly are learning the ways of life. They recently stalked and killed a young wildebeest.

Birdlife highlights
This month saw the return of the collared pratincole. Being a bird of open areas they are seen in flocks over the Jao floodplains, catching insects on the wing.

On the Jao Bridge we have two resident malachite kingfishers. They sit on their regular perch and watch the shallow water below for any movement. When they spot a suitable fish, they shoot down towards the water, hitting it with great speed and clasping a fish in their bills. Then it's back up to the perch to swallow the meal.

Guest comments
Best Camp in Botswana! Just planning our next trip to Jao - Silivia and Antonio, Madrid, Spain.

Serenity in the aqua environment creates a bliss that will linger. - Dennis, North Carolina, USA.

Thanks to all for a wonderful and relaxing visit, amazing sightings and stellar accommodation. - Mike and Angela, San Francisco USA.

WONDERFUL, WONDERFUL, WONDERFUL. Can not even say enough. How special you all are. Thank you so much. - Asplundh Family, USA

Staff Present
Andrew Gaylord
Lauren Griffiths
Jost Kabuzo
Joanne Davies and Prudence (spa therapists)
Neuman Vasco (management orientation)
Tiffany Kays
Brendon Riley

Guides present


Tubu Tree Camp update - July 2010               Jump to Tubu Tree Camp

The month started off on the cold side and then became even colder as temperatures dropped to 4 degrees Celsius in the mornings. There is nothing like a hot cup of coffee by the fire to warm up in the chilly dawn. The end of the month was much warmer with shorts being dusted off and donned.

The famous Jao Pride that normally ventures over to Hunda Island once in a while has been here for the whole month. On numerous occasions they have been seen in camp at different times of the day. The other night, two lionesses killed a young zebra behind one of the staff tents. The commotion woke the staff and we watched from the safety of a game viewer as one lioness retreated to fetch three small male cubs. The pride male soon appeared and added to the chaos. The zebra was polished off very quickly and the pride then settled down to sleep. The next morning we all had to drive to work as the lions slept.

Leopard at Tubu Tree    Elephants at Tubu Tree

One evening, as the managers were walking home, they happened upon an elephant blocking their way. They retrieved a Land Rover and drove round to the other side of their tent where they found a lion and lioness. The cats lay there for over an hour, roaring and sleeping before moving off to Tent 1 to do the same.

Other cat highlights of the month included two fighting leopards. Their fighting attracted the attentions of a male lion who rushed in. One leopard shot up a tree while the other disappeared into the thick bush.
With the ripening of the palm fruits, we have had two big elephant bulls in the camp. One of them was easily recognised from last year by his one broken tusk. The two of them have created numerous road blocks around the camp and have even been joined by a few young bachelors and a breeding herd.

Malachite Kingfisher at Tubu Tree    Lions at Tubu Tree

The receding water has created a number of natural fish traps which have resulted in a number of feeding frenzies. A number of pelicans especially enjoyed the fare.

Our resident ostrich has laid eggs - 16 of them! We eagerly await the arrival of the little ones. Just prior to the laying, we watched them mating. We've also seen a pair of malachite kingfishers mating.

Guest Activities
Tubu provided a magical backdrop for a proposal this month - congratulations to Chris and Celina who are now engaged.

Guest Comments
Best food we had during our 2.5-week trip! Nice rooms, super friendly staff and managers. Great wildlife, brilliant guide (Izzy) - Karin and Chris, Austria

Fabulous trip - mokoro, lechwe, leopards playing at the vehicle. Male lion walking through water - an incredible experience. Justin, Jacky and Johnny were wonderful. Nothing was too much trouble. Thank you, thank you for being wonderful to our kids and also to all the staff. - Michael and Tania, RSA

Seeing leopards and lions here was incredible. The entertainment (singing and dancing by staff) the first night is also a highlight. Sundowners at the bar are unforgettable. I will also remember the afternoon visit I had at my tent from the baboons! - Jean, USA

Tubu was, hands down, the best camp I have ever stayed at! - (including Sabi Sands, Namibia, Hluhluwe Umfolozi etc.) Staff and guides second to none! Great sightings! - Bernard and John, USA

Justin Stevens and Jacky Collett-Stevens

Johnny and Kambango


Kalahari Plains Camp update - July 2010               Jump to Kalahari Plains Camp

No report this month.


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