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South Africa camps
Pafuri Camp update - July 2010 Jump
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Pafuri Walking Trail update - July 2010 Jump
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A Marvellous Trail...
The 9th to 12th July 2010 was a real highlight at Pafuri Walking Trails. Two Swiss guests came on a trail which began with a trek to the trails camp, situated at Mapimbi Pan - our base for the next three nights. On arrival at the camp we were greeted by the friendly smile of Nancy, the trails camp hostess. We enjoyed our meal around the fire, surrounded by the shimmering yellow fever trees of the region, and watched over by the bright winter stars.
The next morning we enjoyed a day's walk through the undulating mopane covered hills. We regularly had to re-route because of the familiar sound of elephants cracking branches as they fed.
We reached Mangeba Spring by mid-morning and were pleasantly surprised to find sable tracks there. These rare antelope are not a regular sighting at Pafuri and numbers have dropped over the decades within Kruger National Park.
We enjoyed lunch back at camp with a view of Mapimbi Pan and its monstrously big crocodilian resident.
That afternoon we went on a short drive and on returning to camp were delayed by a bachelor herd of elephant feeding in the middle of the road. They weren't in any hurry to finish their dinner. In the evening the Pafuri Lion Pride decided to pay us a visit, roaring all around the camp.
The following morning, the lions roared close by as we were eating a light breakfast. We quickly wolfed down our food and set off to track the pride. We found the tracks of about ten lion shortly thereafter and set off after them. We followed the tracks for a good while, covering some beautiful ground as we went. Unfortunately the pride headed into some very thick riverine vegetation and so we decided to abort the tracking exercise and went in search of a comfortable spot to have a snack.
When we had finished, we began to head back to camp but on retracing our steps were astounded to find the pride's tracks walking over the top of ours on their way out of the riverine vegetation. The tracking began again. Soon after, the tracks headed into some very long grass that reduced visibility too much for us to follow. A little way in the distance, there was a hill and I guessed the lions were probably heading there. We left the tracks and skirted the long grass cautiously and then approached the hill, our eyes and ears peeled.
On the other side of the grass stand, we picked up the tracks again and followed very slowly, scouring the landscape for any evidence of the great cats, our eyes sweeping from bush to bush. A short while later we had success.
From the bushes in front of us, the pride erupted from their sleep, deeply camouflaged in the shade. They were just as surprised as we were. We froze as 11 lion leaped over bushes and each other to get away. When our hearts had finally stopped thrashing in our chests, we moved to a vantage point away from the hill. There we watched the pride regroup and make their way back to the hilltop, where we had surprised them.
The same two guests also spent two nights in the main camp where they saw elephant, buffalo, lion and a very relaxed female leopard. We watched her parading herself and rolling about in the road. She then approached the vehicle, stopped to give us all the once over, and then headed off towards the river.
All in all an incredible four days.
Kings Camp update - July 2010 Jump
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The winter days are nice and warm, this is very welcome after the early morning chills we have been having. Sightings in general were good in the month, with some of the larger herbivores being very active in the North in the Mopane (Colophospermum Mopane) thickets.
This tree has a high protein content (+- 22%) with the fruit and leaves retaining a high percentage of nutritional value even after they have dropped to the ground in the winter. The dry fruit and leaves are eagerly eaten off the ground because of the high protein and phosphorous content that makes it an important food source toward the end of winter.
The M’bali female was seen for the first time in a long while. We had her and an unknown male one evening on our Northeastern section and it was evident that they were mating. Let’s hope this works for the best and that we may have good news in the not to distant future.
Ntombi brought out her cub for the very first time this month. The youngster is still very unsure of vehicles and shies away from time to time. Progress was made and after a few sightings it seems to be fine with vehicles, as long as they don’t move too much. The best sighting we had of them was when Ntombi killed a bushbuck just outside of camp. The vehicle activity was limited and the sighting was amazing!
Rockfig Jr. ‘s two cubs turned 8 months and entertain us with the most amazing sightings. She now leaves them for longer times whilst she hunts and sometimes only returns after 4 or 5 days to collect them. They are now very successful bird, squirrel, dwarf mongoose and lizard hunters.
Sightings of the Xakubasa pride were frequent during the month and we had them on a Zebra kill close to the camp. On that same evening we witnessed some amazing interaction between them and about 16 Hyenas, which eventually chased them away from the last remains of the carcass. They spent a lot of time around the camp and we had the most amazing sightings of them playing in the early mornings.
The Machaton Pride spent a lot of their time in the Southeastern part of our traversing and it was very evident after they were not seen for some time that the two younger lionesses were very pregnant. Right towards the end of the month around the 30th or 31st it became known that the one has given birth as sounds of calling cubs were heard close to Tabby’s Crossing. The other lioness should be giving birth about 5 – 7 weeks after her. We’ll keep you updated on any progress.
The Timbavati Boys kept themselves very busy further down South but showed themselves quite often especially the more dominant one that spent more time with the Machaton girls. Around the 27th they killed an adult buffalo cow, which kept them busy towards August.
The neighboring pride from the Klaserie, known as the Ross pride, visited us three times during the month. The first time we had them on a buffalo kill not far from the camp. The other two sightings were about two or three weeks after that and they only spent one night on each visit. The composition of the pride is two big adult males, 9 lionesses and 2 or 3 younger ones. Maybe in the future the sightings may be more frequent as they often follow buffalo in from the West.
CAPE BUFFALO AND ELEPHANT
Big herds of buffalo frequented our traversing over the month. Again the super herd was the man attraction and it is not difficult to understand why. The number of individuals exceeds 1000 in number!
Elephant sightings were on the scarce side of things but fortunately towards the end of the month the larger herds moved back into the mopane woodlands.
The larger group of 6 – 8 was seen frequently in our Southern Traversing, close to a new big male called “Vuvuzela”. The base of his horn is as wide as the trumpet tip of the world famous instrument that was made famous by the Fifa 2010 Soccer World Cup.
Mtenge-tenge was ever present and spent some abnormal amounts of time in the Northeastern bits of our traversing.
The Nhlangula male is also back in the Northwest and was seen frequently to the west and north of the camp. A few times he was seen with about 4 other rhino’s in the Klaserie.
A pack of 11 wild dogs were seen on several occasions over the traversing. This is always very special as this is the second most endangered predator in Africa.
The second special sighting of the month was FOUR Cheetahs on an impala kill (Female and three, 14-15 month old, youngsters). This was also a very welcome sighting. Like the dogs this is also a very endangered predator and always special to see.
Morné Hamlyn and the Kings Camp guiding team!
Photography: Morné Hamlyn (www.wix.com/mbhandzu/mbhandzu)
Written by: Morné Hamlyn
Rocktail Beach Camp update - July 2010 Jump
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2010 - Africa's time to shine! With all eyes once on this incredible country it is time to put five years of nationwide hard work to rest. At the end of the 120th minute of the final game on 11 July no one had a bad word to say and we now walk away as proud hosts of the biggest sporting event - the soccer world cup!
Rocktail Beach Camp has made new friends with international soccer fans on their way to various games; all of whom wishing they could stay longer, each spreading the word about our little plot in paradise.
The weather played its part of course, bringing with it this year's first batch of whale in three different species; the southern right whale being the most unusual. The return of the whale shark has also got everybody in a spin as our ocean activities filled up - all guests wanting to see one of these gentle giants in the flesh.
The beach as always draws people towards it with the lure of warm winter breezes and secluded walks as the Indian Ocean laps gently against the warm sand, making it hard to think of being anywhere else. Oh the joys of the KwaZulu-Natal winter!
Rocktail Bay Dive Report - July 2010 Jump
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Makalolo Plains update - July 2010 Jump
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The midwinter has passed and we are heading for longer days and warmer temperatures. It is still a bit chilly in the mornings and evenings but warms up nicely during the midday. In the evenings the wind picks up and this is a sure sign that August is on its way.
Landscape and Vegetation
The leaves are changing colour and the trees are losing their decoration at a steady rate. The sand is becoming thicker on the roads and a trail of dust is left behind the animals as they head to the waterholes to drink. The sunsets are bolder with the extra dust in the air. Grass that once reached towards the sky has now died and been flattened by grazing and travelling animals.
With every sunrise comes a new adventure in the Hwange wilderness. Every day is different from the next.
This month we have had some wonderful sightings and they began with a pride of lion consisting of two majestic males, three females and eight lively cubs of different ages. We hear them calling on most mornings. One of our groups was privileged to see the lionesses stalking some zebra, wildebeest and waterbuck as they were having tea on the deck. Unfortunately the cats were spotted by their potential meals and the hunt was abandoned.
The increasingly sparse water is making the buffalo herds swell. Small groups join up in the dry-season search for water and the herds we see now number into the hundreds.
The most special sunset this month was spent at Madison Pan with a large herd of elephant. They entertained with their antics in the mud: sucking it up and spraying themselves or just jetting it into the air. Others sank down onto their knees and wallowed - an amazing thing to see an elephant attempt. The young calves are still learning to use their trunks and they delighted in blowing bubbles through the mud and shoving each other around.
In the most action-packed game drive of the month, two wild dog killed an impala at Little Samavundhla and we watched them feeding for some time. Just after that, we saw two cheetah, one of which had a standoff with a big sable bull.
In camp, we have had regular sightings of a white-tailed mongoose and we hope that it will become a feature of the night around camp. Other interesting small mammals in July have included a honey badger and porcupine at its den.
A highlight of the month was a sighting of three white pelicans at the Samavundhla pan. This is very unusual for this time of year. We watched as they caught a number of catfish.
There were regular sightings of the big birds of prey with some exceptional vulture viewing on the Ngamo flats. The most unusual sighting of the month was that of a barred owlet trying to take scraps of meat at a wild dog kill. This may be one of the few records where an owl was recorded scavenging. At Back Pans, nine kori bustards were seen at one spot.
The common red-billed francolins are still seen daily looking for food in and around camp however the one hen that used to have five chicks scratching around her has now only got one. Also near camp a tawny eagle is raising a single chick and we've seen it in the nest regularly.
Guest Comments and Highlights
Game drives, time with staff and guides - Ellen, France
This site was the most enjoyable of the 4 we stayed at. Great park, guides dedicated to the respect of animals and terrain. - John and Patty, America
Lions! Elephant mock charge! Elephant drank from the pool! - Adrian, Nikki and Kimberly, Singapore
Camp and Guests
Guest activities this month have included deck dinners, bush picnics and private poolside dinners.
Staff in camp
Managers - Caro Jeremy and Tammy
Pro-guides - Godfrey, Brian, Lawrence, Benji and Jeremy
Hostesses - Kate, Cynthia, Tracy, Lorrain
We would like to welcome four new members to the Makalolo Team - Fazo, Robson, Richard and Kate.
Little Makalolo update - July 2010 Jump
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Temperatures have been very variable this month, it is definitely warming up though and the layers are coming off earlier. The average minimum temperature for July was 9 degrees Celsius. The maximum recorded was 28 degrees. Just like last month, the end of July gave us cloudy and drizzly weather.
Landscape and Vegetation
The teak trees now provide a blanket of different hues as the winter colours are out. The tree tops are dappled with an array of different shades of yellow and tawny with many tints in-between. Most of what was dense grassland is now thinning out leaving patches of exposed Kalahari sand. The only sign of any vegetation around the waterholes is scattered in elephant dung.
The month began with a bang with a wild dog kill that we watched from beginning to end. Dennis and his guests were heading towards Little Samavundla waterhole when they heard some strange noises coming from a nearby tree line. A kudu suddenly exploded out of the bush, followed closely by a pair of wild dogs. The antelope ran towards the vehicle but was pulled down just short of it. The rest of the pack joined quickly and the kudu was devoured in minutes.
The next excitement was provided by some incredible hyaena and buffalo interaction. A wounded buffalo arrived close to camp, presumably thinking this might be a relatively predator-free zone. He was quickly discovered by five hyaena and spent a whole afternoon and the early part of the night fighting them off. We eventually gave up watching and headed for bed. We damped the fire and as the last lights were being turned off, the hyaena struck again. This time they managed to kill the old bull. The clan cackled and giggled late into the night and in the morning they were so fat they could barely drag themselves off to the waterhole. The five killers and a number of others remained feeding on the carcass for the next three days. On the last night, three lionesses happened on the scene but thought better of tangling with the hyaena for what was left.
The Ngweshla Pride has returned to the area and we've had some great times this month taking pictures of their cubs. The two males, both stunning specimens, have also paraded themselves around to our delight.
The leopard highlight of the month was just outside Tent 2. One night, the guineafowl roosting nearby went berserk. The two guests staying in Tent 2 looked out in time to see a large male leopard coming out of the tree looking well satisfied by his snack.
We have had some incredible roan sightings this month. There is a small herd of five adults and four sub-adults that are often seen around Madison Pan, camouflaged in the long grass of the vlei. Likewise, sable viewing has been excellent and there is a big bull that drinks regularly at the waterhole in front of camp - usually while we are sitting having lunch. He often wanders in with a herd of elephant.
A pair of porcupines provided an unusual sighting for the month. This was the first sighting of the year and the enormous rodents created great delight for the guests as they went about their business in full view one evening.
The highlight of the month was a tawny eagle chick seen in its nest near Samavundla Pan. The little one was just a ball of fluff. Another great raptor sighting included five different vulture species at a carcass (lappet-faced, white-backed, white-headed, hooded and Cape.)
Little Mak is a well kept Zimbabwean Secret. Thanks for your special Hospitality. So good to restore our Souls in the bush again. We look forward to returning soon. - Dave and Sue, Harare
Our thanks to all the Little Makalolo Team for the most wonderful experience - Fantastic environment, warm and friendly staff and superb guide. We will always remember our stay here - a truly fabulous experience.
Our thanks. - Derek, Annette and Leah, Wales
Staff in Camp
Throughout the month we have been extremely busy but have generally remained with the same team. Charmaine and Sibs have been managing with Charles and Lewis guiding. Shayne and Kim added their feminine touch to the camp. Mr Botha and his team remain behind the scenes but do wonders on the repairs and maintenance side. We welcomed Victoria, a volunteer from France who is practising her English and helping out where an extra pair of hands is needed. We thank Benji and Bryan who came across from Makalolo Plains to help out on the busier days.
Davison's Camp update - July 2010
Temperatures this month have varied considerably. One week it was almost summer-like with highs of 28 degrees Celsius and just as everyone thought winter was finally retreating, the temperature crashed again with a minimum of 2 degrees recorded mid-month. The majority of the July mornings have begun cloudy but then cleared towards midday.
Vegetation, landscape and water
The bush is drying out quickly now with the grasslands catching the early evening sunshine and turning golden-brown. The air is dry and dusty, producing sunsets of deep red, orange and pink.
The waterholes are drying up which means that animals are concentrating on the few places they can still drink. Pumping is becoming a necessity to keep the pans filled.
The evergreen False Mopane trees (Guibourtia coleosperma) that Davison's Camp is built under have a colourful array of deep green leaves and bright red seeds, which keep the vervet monkeys and hornbills happy for hours. The ordeal trees are also covered in pods but their remaining leaves are yellow and brown, contrasting nicely with the green false mopane foliage.
This month we have had regular sightings of the resident pride of lions hunting in the evenings. We were also lucky to see them feeding on a number of occasions.
Early one overcast morning, the pride was found in the Linkwasha Vlei, stalking a large herd of buffalo. Excitement mounted as the hunt began in earnest. We moved around to the herd and wait for the attack. A patient hour later, we spotted some of the pride circling around the oblivious buffalo. Then, quite suddenly, the lions attacked.
Pandemonium ensued as the buffalo panicked and stampeded off in the thick bush. This is exactly what the lions wanted. Creating such panic made it impossible for the buffalo to organise a defence. As the herd belched off into the bush we thought we heard a distress call. We tried to follow the sound but the dense bush made it very difficult.
A while later, we were driving around the area, listening and looking for the pride or the buffalo when we happened upon a dead calf in the shade of a Zambezi teak tree. The corpse had been left, probably because the buffalo had made an attempt to save it and chased the lions off. Unfortunately, their efforts were unsuccessful.
A few minutes later a lioness emerged from the fringing bush with four small cubs in tow. The cubs ran towards the carcass and tried vainly to tear open the thick hide. Their mother helped them gain access to the meat and they fed for a while before the rest of the pride arrived at which point chaos ensued again. The male, females and cubs descended into an undignified and vicious fight over the meal. There was a tremendous snarling, growling and swatting as the calf was torn apart. The scene was briefly interrupted by an elephant bull who arrived and then disappeared quickly.
We had an exciting visitor one night - a Gambian (Peter's) epauletted fruit bat, which was attracted to the light in the main area. He had a distinctive dog-like face and white tufts of fur just in front of his ears. He allowed us to take a few photos and then flew off into the night.
Buffalo have been nightly visitors during the last week of July, arriving at the pan at dusk for a drink and slowly grazing their way into camp. One windy night, two of them had a contretemps and the morning brought a scene of destruction. Most of the camp's bushes were badly damaged with branches, twigs and leaves strewn about the place. Despite all this, it is lovely lying in bed at night hearing the buffalo munching and snorting close by.
We had a fantastic leopard sighting this month. She was first spotted wandering along the road, and when the vehicles got closer, she ambled over to a tree overhanging the road and climbed into the lower branches. There she lounged, her paws dangling on either side, lazily snapping at flies buzzing around her head. A while later she stretched in the sun and gave us some amazing photo opportunities. She then leaped down from the branch and wandered into the bush.
Bird life around camp has been diverse as usual, common visitors include golden-breasted buntings which are often seen drinking at the bird bath in front of the main area. The last week of the month saw a pair of violet-backed starlings frequenting the bird bath too. We managed to photograph the female. They normally arrive back later than this but are a welcome sight regardless.
Game drives - very, very good. Food service - 5 stars. - Henry and Wendy, USA
We really appreciated all the attention of our guide, Lewis, and the rest of the staff. - Pauvert Family, France
The horizon and sky meeting, sounds of the night, great guides and staff! - Joan, USA
Hwange has the best wildlife in Southern Africa! It was the highlight of our game viewing once again! The element of adventure in the less travelled bush makes it our number one National Park! - Susan Giaccotto, USA
Game Drives and great food. Sam and Tendai were knowledgeable and friendly, they were absolutely outstanding! You have an amazing chef! - Mel and Diana, USA
Ruckomechi Camp update - July 2010 Jump
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Mana Canoe Trail update - July 2010 Jump
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Toka Leya Camp update - July 2010 Jump
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With temperatures on the rise again, winter appears to be slowly retreating. The crisp and foggy winter mornings, so typical of June and July, are making way for warmer daybreaks. Minimum temperatures this month went as low as 5 degrees Celsius at the start of the month. These had risen to 13 degrees by the end of the month.
July was the third month in a row without rain. With August ahead of us, a month in which sunlight hours reach an average of ten hours a day, we are in for even dryer conditions. The absence of rain has resulted in lower water levels in the Zambezi River. More and more islands, sandbanks and rocks are exposed as the water recedes.
With natural water supplies drying out all around the park, animals are concentrating at the remaining water points. Game viewing from the comfort of the bar and lounge area has therefore been exceptional. Pods of hippo looking for the new exposed sandbanks and herds of elephant crossing the river from Zimbabwe into Zambia have all been in perfect view from the comfort of our lounge chairs.
July twice brought a massive herd of elephant wandering through camp. One afternoon, a herd of about 50 individuals entered the staff area and wandered through to the guest rooms situated on the eastern side of the lodge. In complete peace, guests and staff watched as the great animals slowly fed between the rooms and walkways.
On the last day of the month, just around sunset, another even bigger herd of elephant entered the western side of the camp, around tents 10, 11 and 12. We counted more than 65 individuals. They spent the whole night in the camp grounds. During the night, the guest rooms and staff area were surrounded by elephant feeding and trumpeting.
Herds of buffalo more than 100 strong have come straight through camp in search of the last green shoots of grass. On the night of the 21st of July, buffalo surrounded the dining area next to the pool while the guests were having their candlelit dinner - an amazing experience that left memories for a lifetime.
Aquatic life in and around the river has become increasingly interesting with water levels falling. Fishing has simply been tremendous during the course of this month. Large catfish and challenging tigerfish are amongst the species that have been caught. A real highlight of the river's edge is the presence of an elusive clawless otter on one of the newly-exposed islands.
Around the camp, we've had a number of good reptile sightings. Juvenile crocodiles have slowly changed the creeks at the sides and back of guest tents 1 - 4. We've seen an African rock python in the patch of yellow grass next to the camp walkway on an almost daily basis. He also likes to rest in the guava tree next to reception.
African finfoot have provided great entertainment around the camp. They are easily spotted exhibiting their fishing techniques in the water close to camp. Flocks of up to 50-60 marabou storks have been spotted several times. Despite their relative abundance, the huge colony of the colourful white-fronted bee-eaters - just downstream from the camp - still excites birdwatchers and all-round wildlife enthusiasts.
A spectacular place with people more wonderful than the falls. Enjoy it as much as we did!
Awesome! Life changing! Incredible!
Great stay and a wonderful activities! We will never forget the white rhino bush walks or the elephants emerging from the water, among other things. Just perfect for a family safari with the friendly staff, great food and nice if somewhat chilly swimming pool!
Lufupa River Camp update - July 2010 Jump
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The winds of change usually associated with the end of winter have come earlier than normal. We've had some very gusty days forcing us to hold on to our hats. The wind has kept the air fairly chilly and fresh in the mornings. That said, it warmed up towards the end of the month.
The bush has mostly dried out following the surprise rain storm at the beginning of last month. Some of the pans still hold a small amount of life-giving water. The dust is accumulating however with onset of the dry season. It makes for spectacular palm-fringed sunsets and moonrises.
In July we recorded an astonishing 30 leopard sightings! We think that we saw nine individuals although identification can sometimes be difficult. We've had sightings while out on drive, on walks and while boating both in the morning and the evening.
In the latter part of the month we were treated to some fantastic lion viewing, with the Lufupa Pride moving back into the area. One moonlit night, guests Harry, Michael and Andy were woken by the sounds of the pride feasting on a freshly killed antelope behind their tents. Through the tent flaps they peered into the silver light of the full moon to watch the action unfold. The lions entertained for hours, with six young cubs making themselves the centre of attention.
In the last few nights of July, however, two separate coalitions of adult male lions arrived in the area. They have disrupted the pride dynamics terribly and we think that they have killed four of the cubs. Lions do this to induce oestrus in the resident lionesses so that they can mate and pass on their own genes.
Three cheetah brothers and a small pack of three female wild dogs have been in and out of the concession this month, and we have been lucky enough to catch them on a number of occasions.
Elephant have been concentrating along the Kafue and Lufupa Rivers with a number of breeding herds being seen regularly.
The Lichtenstein's hartebeest all dropped their calves this month in the Miombo woodlands, while there was still some cover remaining. We, as do the leopards, eagerly await the appearance of the warthog piglets which should be arriving sporadically during August.
We are waiting for the arrival of the first summer migrants such as the yellow-billed kite. We have been lucky enough to see a Pel's fishing owl with a sub-adult on a number of occasions along the Lufupa River. The sub-adult appears to be only one moult away from its adult plumage. As the river levels drop, African skimmers are also being seen regularly.
Fishing on the coppery green waters of the Kafue remains good, with bream caught on a regular basis. The Kafue pike also give keen fisher-folk a good fight in place of the renowned tiger fish of the Zambezi. The Kafue Gorge south of Lusaka near the confluence with the Zambezi is likely to have been the physical barrier preventing tiger fish from colonising the Kafue River.
An all too brief wonderful experience. Lions, Leopards, wonderful birds and animals. Great company, guides and food. We will be back again for more! Thank you all. Claire and Mike, UK.
We totally enjoyed our time here. The 'Leopard King', Phil, found so many leopards for us! We felt totally at home, thank you! David and Linda, USA.
Photo Credits: Wild Dog by Julie Wakeham
Lufupa Tented Camp update - July 2010 Jump
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Kalamu Lagoon Camp update - July 2010 Jump
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It has been rather cold in the valley and the skies have been quite cloudy on most days. In the last week of the month, we experienced a few drops of rain which is very unusual for this time of the year.
As expected, the dry months have drawn the animals down to the water as the rest of the concession dries out. The concentration of prey species on the river, has improved the predator viewing markedly.
We had some really great sightings of the wild dogs in July and we are sure they are the same pack that we watched raising a litter last year. It looks like most of the pups have survived. On two occasions the pack was seen between the Kalamu Lagoon and Star Bed Camp. The dogs have become accustomed to the vehicles' presence and they behave as if we are not there - which allows for wonderful photography.
Another predator highlight of the month was the sighting of a pack of hyaena feeding on a giraffe carcass. We are not sure how the giraffe died but it is possible the hyaenas managed to make the kill.
It was also quite exciting to see the two young male lions. They were frequently seen near the camp at the beginning of the month before moving west to the Fiya area.
The female leopard that frequents the camp still keeps the baboons and impala on the alert as she visits us virtually every second night. The big male that frequents the Chankalamu area was also seen a number of times in July. He was either sitting in the trees or marking territory, completely unphased by the game drives watching him.
The buffalo herds have been a daily sighting around the Chinengwe area as well as the top of the Kalamu Lagoon, where they come to drink.
There was a huge fire in the Mikuti area this month and this drove the zebra towards the camp and to the river where, on a few occasions, they were seen drinking at the top of the Lagoon or grazing around the airstrip.
Star Beds and Chinengwe (Trails Camps)
This fantastic set-up has greatly amazed the guests staying for the night or just visiting for sundowners. The lagoon at this camp is a huge game attraction and there are always animals visiting. On one occasion, the guests woke up to a leopard calling at the lagoon and a while later there were three hyaena sniffing around at the lagoon.
An Exciting Conservation Development
We now have a microlight based at Kalamu Lagoon Camp, to help our anti-poaching unit. It will also enable us to see more of the area and help us with research.
Shumba Camp update - July 2010 Jump
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The game drives have been extraordinary. The variety of animals and birds seen on the Busanga Plains has increased as the water has receded, creating larger areas for game viewing.
The weather has been pleasant, not too cold or too hot, making game drives very enjoyable. July gave us a bit of a cool wind in the mornings and evenings. Some mornings were misty but the cloud lifted as the sun rose high.
July game drives were extraordinary. One of the major highlights was a serval and her kitten which we saw close to camp on a number of occasions this month. We have also had some excellent roan antelope viewing and the herd seems to be growing on a daily basis.
The Busanga Pride came into camp a number of times in July. They killed a lechwe bull in front of the management tent early one morning. The two males and five females tore the lechwe to pieces in about 25 minutes, creating a huge ruckus which woke everyone up.
Cheetah were seen a few times this month with the highlight being the sighting of a two males as they finished off a puku kill. They offered wonderful photo opportunities.
A martial eagle was spotted in camp, just above the fireplace as we were having sundowners on the deck by the pool one day. It was so comfortably perched that all of us had an opportunity to look at it closely with a pair of binoculars.
There has also been an enormous herd of buffalo (approximately 1 000 animals) around camp for the whole month. It has been so special to have them around.
Out of Camp Dining Activities
Guests loved these surprises on Acacia Island and sundowners at White Fig. It has been beautiful out there, with sunrises and sunsets taking on that pink halo so evocative of the Plains.
My special dietary needs were met to the utmost, on time and delicious - the best of the 5 camps!
Excellent guide, very professional staff, great hospitality, very good food and good attention to detail.
Beautiful birds, scary crocs, roan antelope, all new to us. Meals and staff all just wonderful - thank you Shumba staff.
Wonderful attentive professional staff, lovely game viewing, we will return and we will send friends.
An outstanding visit gorgeous setting, gracious hosts, delicious food and great fun. Thank you.
Camp Managers: Mulenga/Justice/Chipasha
Guides: Idos Mulenga, Lexon and Isaac Kalio.
Kapinga Camp update - July 2010 Jump
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Busanga Bush Camp update - July 2010 Jump
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We have had a fantastic month out here in this wonderful oasis of the Kafue National Park. The evenings are still extremely chilly but create a great opportunity for our guests to sit in front of the cosy fires in camp after game drive and sip wine and the famous Zambian Mosi beer.
The days are warming up nicely however and spring is on the way.
Game viewing has improved as the land dries out, allowing us to traverse a larger area of the Busanga Plains.
One afternoon we had unforgettable experience. We managed to spot a serval, in itself an unusual sighting, on the hunt. All we could see was his ears moving above the tips of the grass. We could not see what he was stalking but eventually he exploded out of the grass and then plunged straight back down onto his quarry. When he emerged, he had a grass-snake in his teeth.
General game has been exceptional with wonderful wildebeest, roan, lechwe and puku sightings.
The Busanga Pride has been trailing an enormous herd of buffalo numbering at least 1 000 over the month but we have yet to see them kill successfully.
Out of camp Dining activities
We have had a few dinners on the viewing decks and around the fire in the boma overlooking the beautiful plains. These experiences have been accompanied by the sounds of lions calling in the distance, nightjars screeching all around and the setting Southern Cross.
Wonderful time, wonderful people. We enjoyed every moment here and will cherish the memories.
Stunning landscape, great experience and very good hosts.
Solly and Kawanga
Mvuu Camp update - July 2010 Jump
to Mvuu Camp
The weather at Mvuu has been mainly overcast over the last ten days with the rains yet to arrive.
The waterholes in the reserve continue to dry up quickly and elephant frequently make their way down to the river to drink and swim. The drying waterholes had an unfortunate effect on a young sable bull.
On a drive into the Endangered Species Sanctuary we found a sable stuck in the mud at a waterhole. Duncan immediately called Mvuu reception to report the situation. Shortly thereafter, two National Parks scouts, two guides and I rushed there to find the sable deeply stuck, and in imminent danger of dying. Eventually we managed to tie a rope to his horns. Some then pulled on the rope while the rest of us pushed him from behind. Once clear, he walked gingerly away, clearly very weak. As you can see from the photos the waterhole was drying up. Since this incident the waterholes in the sanctuary have been dredged and pumped to avoid further incidents of this nature.
Over the course of last week, there were three porcupine sightings in broad daylight. Two of these enormous rodents were found at the northern floodplains in the late afternoon. On another occasion, a porcupine family was spotted lying outside their burrow deep in the bush. The mother porcupine suckling two young!
Journey to Njobvu
A great activity on offer at Mvuu is the bicycle ride into a nearby village. The guests are assigned a scout to guide them through Liwonde National Park and then they spend some timing meeting the local people in the area.
Njobvu Village Lodge, which was built with funding from Wilderness Safaris, offers accommodation as well as delicious local dishes for the guests to taste and enjoy. Later in the day, rhythm and movement take centre stage as guests observe and participate in traditional dances alongside members of the local community.
The entire experience allows guests to immerse themselves in rural Malawi, learn about local ways of life and further their understanding of Malawian culture.
The World Cup at Mvuu
The sizzling atmosphere of the 2010 World Cup did not elude the otherwise serene bush setting of Mvuu. All the games could be viewed in the Education Centre of the camp where a big screen let guests and staff participate in the sometimes nerve-wracking action on the pitch. Emotions ran high at times, especially when the last African team, Ghana, was defeated by Uruguay. Guests from both the camp and the lodge mixed and mingled with their guides and other staff which made for a unique ambience that everybody thoroughly enjoyed.
Desert Rhino Camp update - July 2010 Jump
to Desert Rhino Camp
The mornings have been rather frigid, often with a mist rolling in off the west coast. The lowest temperature we've recorded was 5 degrees Celsius. The warm east wind then tends to escalate the temperature - sometimes to incredible highs of 35 degrees!
The land is looking parched and there appears to be less grass cover than this time last year. It is still stunning however and our guests continue to rave about the sunrises and sunsets.
The wildlife highlight of the month was a spectacular cheetah kill. One afternoon, a coalition of four cheetah killed a springbok right in front of the game drive vehicle. This was the guests' first visit to Africa and their third time out in the bush so they were blown away. The coalition continued to provide great viewing throughout the month.
There was a big fight between two of the rhino bulls this month. They appeared to be fighting over a cow. One of the combatants was injured but he appears to have recovered well. Two other cows are pregnant and we are expecting them to calf very soon. Eva, another cow, has now separated permanently from Erik, her three-year-old calf and is concentrating on her smaller, four-month-old calf. Erik has formed an association with his older brothers and they occupy a home range within their father's territory.
There have been regular sightings of elephant, leopard, hyaena and lion on the big game front while general game like giraffe, springbok, kudu, gemsbok and zebra has been abundant.
Camp manager: Dries
Assistant managers: Helen and Jimmy
Guides: Me gusto, Ali and Clement
Palmwag Lodge update - July 2010 Jump
to Palmwag Lodge
Doro Nawas Camp update - July 2010 Jump
to Doro Nawas Camp
The maximum temperatures for July were between 28 - 30 degrees Celsius and the minimum between 12 - 14 degrees.
We've experienced very cold winds from the ocean this month. The result has been mornings bathed in thick mist - typical Swakopmund weather right here in the heart of Damaraland.
Because of the poor rains this year, the plains are parched with the only green shoots being found along the ephemeral river systems.
Wonderful news is that three elephant cows in the Oscar Family are pregnant. Two of them are in the last stages and we await the calves' arrival in the next few months. Ignatius and four of his guests even witnessed the babies moving in their mothers' stomachs.
A newborn steenbok was spotted in the Aba Huab River with its mother and a male. Steenbok are diurnal animals and do not depend on the availability of water. They drink on very rare occasions. During dry times such as now, roots, bulbs and tubers are eaten for their moisture.
A fantastic team running this lodge. Special thanks to the chef for truly delicious Gluten Free meals! Our stay was fantastic! Riske and Smet from Belgium
A wonderful breakfast for my birthday! Thank you so very much! Singing after dinner, looking for desert elephants! Eline and Laura from Belgium
You have a fantastic job, keep up with it! Our guide Ignatius made it possible to find the elephant. We saw the Oscar Group. A wonderful sighting. Huber and Meier from Switzerland
Friendly helpful staff that was willing to share their experiences with you. Sleeping under the stars! Penny
Managers and Guides in Camp
Coenie van Niekerk (Camp Manager)
Danize van Niekerk (Camp Manager)
Agnes Bezuidenhout (Assistant Manager)
Morien Aebes (Assistant Manager)
Sebastiaan Meyer (Assistant Manager)
Arthur Bezuidenhout (Guide)
Michael Kauari (Trainee Guide)
Ignatius Khamuseb (Guide)
Richardt Orr (Trainee Guide)
We want to say farewell to Arthur Bezuidenhout who was transferred to another of our camps, Serra Cafema. We hope that he will be happy! We will miss you!
Thanks to Jeff Blumberg for all the photographs.
Damaraland Camp update - July 2010 Jump
to Damaraland Camp
This winter has been very mild. Only on two occasions this month did we feel the need to wear jackets. The rest of the time, we were swimming during the midday heat. Winter has been very mild indeed. The lowest temperature was 13 degrees Celsius and the highest was a healthy 35.
On some mornings we were greeted by a mystical fog rolling in off the Atlantic with only the tops of the mountains protruding through the mist at sunrise. Often this fog is the only moisture this area receives.
The area is becoming very dry and the whirlwinds are running wild on the open plains. It is astounding to see the oryx and springbok thriving and successfully raising their young with so little grass remaining.
The elephants are still in the Huab River Valley. There is a group of ten that has been joined by a young bull while the other groups are still in the surrounding mountains.
We have watched them sleeping during the lazy hours of the day, the younger ones lying down to sleep on many occasions. Our guests were delighted one day by the sight of a cow helping her young calf up a steep river bank with her trunk and head.
One of the more elusive groups, known as the Tuskless Group, was seen in the Springbok River area which has also been very productive for general game.
The gemsbok (oryx) have returned to the area surrounding camp and we are very excited to see a lot of calves. We counted a group of 47 on the 16th. The springbok are also slowly returning. Two cheetah are also in the area, most probably lured here by the springbok.
On the 21st our attention was focused by the sight of soaring lappet-faced vultures. Upon investigation, we found some drag marks across the road. We immediately recognised the fresh paw marks of a big male leopard. We followed the tracks and found where he had killed and eaten an aardvark. A few days later we found his tracks leading back to the mountains in the Krone area.
We have had a number of excellent sightings of an African hawk-eagle recently. In fact, raptor viewing has been excellent the whole winter. We think this might have something to do with the fact that rodents are forced to feed in the day when the temperatures cool.
The electric fence has successfully been erected at Fonteine Farm - this will protect the community gardens from elephants.
Our Environmental Department has started handing out "elephant bricks". These are made by mixing elephant dung with chillies. When there are elephants in the area, they are lit. Apparently the elephants do not like the smell and move away. In this way we are trying to avoid human and elephant conflict.
Iván Phillipson, Ilze van der Vyver and assistant managers Niël van Wyk and Elizabeth Parkhouse
Johan, Anthony, Daniel and Alexia
Skeleton Coast Camp update - July 2010 Jump
to Skeleton Coast Camp
The Skeleton Coast National Park experienced highly irregular winter weather patterns in July. Blisteringly hot winds from the inland picked up sand and blasted the camp for days on end. The heat calmed only when cold breezes from the coast pushed in the Atlantic fog, providing much-needed relief from the gusts of sand.
Later in the month, the customary cold returned and guests and staff warmed themselves by the fire and enjoyed hot water bottles at night.
Landscape and Concession
The Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET) extended an invitation to Skeleton Coast Camp managers, Willie and Trix, to join them on a three-day trip up the Skeleton Coast to the most north-western point of Namibia. The Kunene River mouth lies in a restricted diamond mining area and very few civilians have been able to experience this surreal environment where the mighty Kunene River meets the tumultuous Skeleton Coast coastline.
This once-in-a-lifetime trip provided the opportunity to strengthen bonds between Wilderness Safaris and MET. It also gave us time to renew our shared commitment to the protection of the Skeleton Coast. The entire group were in awe of the magnificent vistas at every turn. Hundreds of pictures were taken and stories, jokes and future plans were shared along the way. Interesting sightings included a variety of birdlife, hundreds of green sea turtle feeding in an estuary off the Kunene River, fiddler crabs, Heaviside's dolphins playing in the ocean and a variety of fish. We were made to feel very welcome and learned so much about the hopes and aspirations of the MET in their ongoing efforts to protect and preserve the beauty that is Namibia.
On our way back we travelled along the coastline and came across a beached humpback whale. Dr. Flip Stander immediately contacted colleagues at the Conservation and Marine Science Institute. Despite the slim chances of the great mammal's survival, we decided to try and return it to the water.
We had no idea how long the whale had been on the beach but realised the chances of a successful rescue became slimmer every minute. MET, Namibian Police and Wilderness Safaris pulled together all the resources available in this remote area. Members of the Puros Community also became involved.
We toiled for hours. The freezing cold water didn't deter anyone and a bonfire was built, with vehicles as shelter. The rescue crew worked non-stop for hours with teams on break crowding around the fire to drink warm tea and coffee. At first the whale followed our movements with its massive eye, but he stopped responding after several hours. With the limited resources and manpower available, we realised the attempt was futile. At 15:20 Dr. Stander noticed that the whale had not breathed for a while and that his blow-hole was not closing completely when the waves broke over it. It seemed the massive mammal had given up and made peace with his departure from the great Atlantic. The mood in the party saddened but we walked away bonded by our combined efforts.
Back in camp, guide Gotlod informed Dr. Stander that he had had a sighting of two lionesses in the Hoarusib River. He immediately left to track them. He located them soon after and notified the camp that the lionesses had successfully hunted an oryx in the early morning hours. We are all very excited that they have chosen to move deeper into the park as they are protected and safe in this vicinity.
Managers and guides
We would like to welcome the new relief team of the North West to the Skeleton Coast Camp. We trust that Johan Liebenberg and Latoya Beukes will soon be a part of the family that is the Skeleton Coast Team.
Sadly assistant manager, Nandi Hanekom, maintenance staff Fillipus Hoeb and chef, Christil Tjihenda have left to pursue other opportunities. We would like to welcome Erwin Kandji to the chef team.
Serra Cafema Camp update - July 2010 Jump
to Serra Cafema Camp
July temperatures have averaged a minimum of 16 degrees Celsius with a maximum just shy of 30 degrees. The wind picks up at about 14h00 but drops by the evening. July has produced some very beautiful mornings which bathe the river in fog as the sun comes up.
We had a marvellous sighting of a honey badger pup and its mother in the Hartmann's Valley this month. While we were discussing the badger, a leopard appeared in the distance. Unfortunately, it did not hang around to wait for us to catch up to it....
Springbok and gemsbok (oryx) are returning to the Serra Cafema Valley and there are a number of newborn lambs and calves.
Guests are enjoying Serra Cafema for its scenic beauty. This month, a honeymoon couple enjoyed dinner each night in a different setting. We also spoiled guests with a riverside sunrise breakfast and wowed others with bush dinners under the starry Namibian skies.
Thank you for a wonderful experience we enjoyed the mountains, waterfalls and visiting the Himba villages. Our family, especially the young ones, loved the dunes and the ATVs. The food and wine were enjoyed by the other half of the family. Thank you - The Hamel Family.
Staff and Camp News
July has been a month of change. We said goodbye to Bronkie, Monica and Franco and welcomed Natasha, Ockert and a new guide, Arthur, from Doro Nawas.
With the new management came new ideas. We have introduced a new Bush Dinner in a brand new spot, re-invented the Sala Dinner and introduced Stargazing Dining at the pool deck.
Ongava Tented Camp update - July 2010 Jump
to Ongava Tented Camp
Winter is here in full force, evenings and early mornings are cold and the lantern oil has frozen on a number of occasions. Guests and staff are dressing like onions to cope with the rapidly increasing temperatures towards the middle of the day.
Wildlife and Landscape
The bush continues to become dryer as the winter progresses. The result is a large number of visitors to the waterhole in front of camp. A klipspringer and three baboon appear to have discovered the camp's water tanks. While the small antelope is happy with a few leaking drops, the baboons have discovered the pipes and learned to rip them open. This is great for them but not marvellous for the maintenance team or our water conservation efforts.
All the usual suspects visit the waterhole daily. These include kudu, oryx, Burchell's and Hartmann's zebra, black-faced impala and waterbuck. In the evening the camera traps frequently snap pictures of brown hyaena, porcupine, giraffe and scrub hare. We've also had some wonderful sightings of both black and white rhino late into the night.
Lloyd, our most familiar black rhino, lost his small horn in a fight this month. He was also injured on the neck but appears to be on the mend, despite his rather strange one-horned appearance.
The Ongava Pride have provided regular entertainment in July. The group of seven sub-adults is looking more and more confident. The lion highlight of the month was provided by one of the pride lionesses who killed a kudu very close to the rooms - right in the middle of the day! It all happened very quickly and when the dust settled, we saw her dragging the carcass down to the river bed to feed. The rest of the pride joined her shortly afterwards.
There were a number of other lion kills this month which our guests were able to experience and photograph.
Great food! Great Wine and Great Company! Accommodation is superb and extremely comfortable - Saskia and Hilco
Thank you for giving water bottles and saving the environment from bottles. Thank you so much, what you all do is wonderful! Special thanks to Silvia - Catherine
Rio really made the trip for Lainey and me. Very knowledgeable, friendly and very fun to be with - Niels and Lainey
Managers: Gerda, Silvia, Inge, Alfonso, Corne
Guides: Rio, Festus, Bariar, Leon
Note - the first three photos are taken by camera traps.
Little Ongava update - July 2010 Jump
to Little Ongava Camp
We are now at the peak of the winter season. The weather has been variable with the afternoons pleasingly warm with temperatures reaching 25 degrees Celsius and the late evenings as cold as 9 degrees. Some evenings have seen a very cold breeze from the south.
Landscape and Wildlife
The landscape is becoming drier and drier. The aridity of the season is drawing increasing numbers of animals to the waterholes. During this season, large herds of game come walking down to the waterholes in silent, single file - normally at dusk and dawn.
Around the camp the agile and endemic striped tree-squirrel provide constant highlights as we watch them hop about the walk ways and trees. Other small mammals you are guaranteed to see in the lodge area are rock hyrax and dassie rat.
Baboons have visited regularly in the last month. This is unusual at Little Ongava and is probably a result of the dry season. The primates have been seen drinking from the waterhole and then disappearing into the bush.
Ongava is situated in the Ondundozonanandana Mountains. The range is formed from dolomite rocks. There are unusual and interesting volcanic rock formations in these mountains. The picture shows the dolomite rock with traces of iron-oxide which at first glance give the impression bushman paintings.
We had diverse guests visiting Little Ongava in July. Some were visiting Namibia for the first time; some were repeat guests and others were travelling here for special occasions.
We leave here with memories of seven lions, three cheetahs, African wild cat, porcupine, rhinos and lots and lots of beautiful plains and different game. Staying here was such a treat. Thanks to Michael, the staff and Gabriel, the best guide ever. We loved it all and will come back again.
The most amazing Lodge, warm and friendly staff, that made us feel so welcome! Beautiful rooms, stunning views, Thank you to all the staff at Little Ongava for an amazing experience.
Managers and Guides
Michael relieved as manager while Florensia was on leave for part of the month.
Gabriel, after years of excellent service has left Little Ongava to embark on a new chapter in his life. We thank him for the great guiding experiences and wish him all the best.
Gabriel will be replaced by Franco Murao. Little Ongava welcomes Franco on board.
Little Ongava has entered the eco-awards for this year. The highest achievement is five desert flowers, previously Little Ongava obtained two. A few improvements have been made since then and we hope to be awarded three flowers this year.
Ongava Lodge update - July 2010 Jump
to Ongava Lodge
Andersson's Camp update - July 2010 Jump
to Andersson's Camp
Little Kulala Camp update - July 2010 Jump
to Little Kulala Camp
We have had a warm winter so far although there were a chilly few days this month when a cold front came in off the Atlantic.
The most interesting yet disturbing sighting this month was of an almost disembowelled male oryx (gemsbok) close to Little Kulala. Initially, we surmised that the injury was caused by another oryx's rapier horns or perhaps even a predator such as a hyaena. We thought that infection or a predator would kill the animal quickly.
About two weeks later, this oryx was seen again, this time by Ketji, the Community Liaison of Wilderness Namibia. Ketji had his binoculars with him and he could confirm the entrails were still visible. He saw no other bite marks around the wound, perhaps confirming that the horrific injury was caused in a fight.
Difficult as it is, we prefer to let nature take its course in a situation like this. We do not intervene unless injuries are caused by humans.
The camel rides on the Kulala Wilderness Reserve are very popular. Guests have huge fun riding these animals and constantly comment on the unique nature of the activity.
Very relaxing, peacefull! Thank you everyone. We will definitely come back soon! We loved the dinner under the stars - romantic.
We really loved our stay here. This lodge is really nice and the most important thing is - it has wonderful staff! Everybody was so nice and friendly, they all made our stay here really unforgettable. Thank you especially for the wonderful honeymoon candlelit dinner, it really has been an experience of a lifetime and we will always keep it as a wonderful memory.
A wonderful introduction to Namibia. We look forward to coming back soon.
Managers: Igna and Daphne
Assistant Managers: Corrie
Guides: Richard, Willem, Agnes, Theresa, Raymond, Elaine
Kulala Desert Lodge update - July 2010 Jump
to Kulala Desert Lodge
Just when we thought we would never have to take out our winter woolies, the weather turned and we had a week of extreme desert cold. A normal winter's day here in the desert starts off slightly chilly then during the day it warms to the mid-twenties Celsius.
Four bat-eared foxes are seen regularly in the surrounds of Kulala Desert Lodge. The best time of day to see the four of them foraging is in the mid-afternoon from about 15h00 onwards. They feed mainly on termites and beetles, preferring to live on open grasslands.
Our bird ringing project continues under the watchful eye of Kobus. Since our last report, another four species have been ringed. This takes the total to 14 species. The four new species are yellow canary, red-headed finch, Cape turtle dove and speckled pigeon. Quite a few of our guests and guides got involved in the ringing and it is a unique experience for everyone.
The camels, based just outside the Kulala Wilderness Reserve, gave our guests some fantastic sundowner rides this month. These rides consist of afternoon trips to a beautifully laid out drink and snacks stop.
Kulala Wilderness Reserve Environmental Club
The Environmental Club of the Kulala Wilderness Reserve ran a "Chicken Run" to clean up the reserve. Everyone joined in and made a huge effort with excellent results. The idea was to clean up the main corridor road. After cleaning we visited the dumping sites and helped with sorting out the collected rubbish into the different categories.
Kind and helpful team of employees. Quiet, peaceful environment, lovely wildlife, birds...
Setting of the camp, knowledge of the guide, friendly staff...
Staff in camp
Managers: Dawie and Christa
Assistant Managers: Phillip, Kobus and Violet
Guides: Angula, Petrus, Christof, Albert and Willem
Kulala Wilderness Camp update - July 2010 Jump
to Kulala Wilderness Camp
One late afternoon, we saw an aardwolf very close to Kulala Wilderness Camp. These animals are solitary and nocturnal, feeding almost exclusively on termites but will also eat beetles, ants and other insects available. There was just enough light to photograph it in the distance.
Another nocturnal animal, a gerbil, was seen in the rocky hills around Kulala Wilderness Camp. It was scratching around its burrow. A gerbil has very long legs, almost moving like a kangaroo, hopping on its hind legs instead of running (it is not related to kangaroos). They survive in the harsh desert climate by digging burrows and staying inside for most of the day.
A highlight for the month was a female oryx with two young calves. They were still brown with very small horns - probably around two months old.
This is no doubt the most fabulous place we have ever stayed. Thank you. All the people who work here are so friendly.
Visiting the Namib dunes, hot air balloon safari, staying in Kulala Wilderness camp, sunrise and sunset views, stars and silence.
Staff in camp
Assistant Managers: Dios and Petronella
Guides: Richard, Dawid, Moses
Governors' Camp update - July 2010 Jump
to Governors' Camp
The Masai Mara received little rain this month, just 17.5mm with the grass slowly drying out, turning to a tawny colour and the roads becoming dusty. The grassland has been grazed right down in patches but we still have some good, lush grazing in the Musiara area as the herds of wildebeest are making good work of the grass up on Rhino Ridge. The marsh has all but dried out except for the main spring and the central pools at 'Lake Nakuru'. Our hippo pool near the airstrip has also dried out leaving a mud bath which is heaven for the warthogs.
The temperatures have been a bit cooler as these are our winter months with daytime temperatures averaging about 24 C. As we are a couple of degrees south of the equator the temperature decreases by 5-10 C at this time of year with cooler mornings and evenings, however the mid day temperature remains quite warm.
The elephant are no longer grazing the long grass on the plains as it has dried and is less nutritious. The majority of the large herds that were in and around the marsh area in the last few months have now moved out to the acacia woodland and into the riverine forest. Resident herds of elephant that we have come to know very well, frequent the forest around the camps at night breaking branches and leaving football size presents in the morning to clear up.
Photos courtesy of Samuel Kiplangat and Daryl Black
Buffalos too, have relocated to the periphery of the forest, moving in to graze at night feeding on the lush green grass that remains under the forest canopy. We also had an unusual sighting of two massive buffalos fighting almost to the death near the airstrip, no females around and not a known territory. The main breeding herd of between 400 and 500 have been circulating between the marsh and Rhino ridge.
The Warburgia Ugandensis (African green-heart tree) is the only tree with any fruit in the area, so many of the animals are coming in to the forests to feed from it; from elephant, baboons, Blue Monkeys and Brown Parrots.
There have been a few sightings of a very large 4 meter long African Rock Python near Mbila Shaka, a rare and awesome animal to see. Other rare sightings have been 2 very young caracal cubs hiding in the grass. These cats are a treat to see as we may only see them a dozen times a year. They are smaller, fairly strongly built and lynx like with tufts on their ears. The Side-striped Jackal has been in the area too, a small wolf like jackal with a thick coat, but very shy.
The annual migration of wildebeest and zebra has come into our area in smaller herds of a few thousand or so. They are very quick to move with various groups coming onto Rhino Ridge and down to the Musiara airstrip and then disappearing just as quickly. The main concentration we believe are still to come, they are down towards Look Out Hill near the Tanzanian border and many still in Tanzania. However we have had some large river crossings at the main crossing area near Paradise Plains, numbering 5000 - 10000. These occurred mid month, earlier on in the morning which is not typical as the wildebeest will often wait for it to get hot and then take tentative steps towards the water for a drink and then decide to go for the plunge! There have been many crossings since, but in smaller numbers.
Photos courtesy of Samuel Kiplangat
After a short absence of cheetah in the area our female cheetah and her young cub have returned and have taken to jumping on the bonnets of the vehicles, the cub a little small yet. Sadly the cub looks to be blind in one eye but this does not seem to impair it too badly. They seem to be preying on gazelles only as the wildebeest calves may be too much of a challenge for her. The three brother cheetahs have been seen regularly now, but they now move huge distances. They do not seem to be fraternizing with any females but are rather spending their time hunting, ranging from the Talek river to the Koiyaki area out of the reserve and back to us at the Musiara Marsh. They are confident enough to be taking on young wildebeest. The single female cheetah which was seen mating with the brothers over a month ago now has been back in the area, but not for long, moving out as quickly as she had arrived. Not looking pregnant yet, if she is it will not show for some time.
Photos courtesy of Kaoru Shimizu
We have had some wonderful leopard sightings this month, our beautiful resident female who has been a common feature of our game drives has been seen in her usual territory around the camps and the marsh. However she tends to remain elusive during the day and mostly appears in the later evenings. A very large male leopard has been in the marsh area, perhaps he is checking on the female as a potential partner. He is a shy leopard and rarely seen.
The female leopard Olive and her two cubs are still together and well, moving from across the Talek river back onto the Olare Orok river. One of our guides had the pleasure of watching her make a kill of a young wildebeest right in front of his vehicle, amazing! There is another female leopard not very far from Olive, she too has two smaller cubs and are seen on occasion.
The Marsh Pride of lion are well ensconced near the Musiara Marsh, with so much potential prey around they are not moving very far and are spending a lot of their time together. The pride have been hunting wildebeest on a regular basis. Three of the sub adult males are still spending most of their time with one of the lionesses. She incidentally has been mating with the dominant male. There are still the nine sub adults and nine cubs of the new generation, three of which are still fairly small at about six weeks old. The smallest cubs have been coming out and following their mother around. The second pride male has been near the pride, but is looking in bad shape and is not interacting with the rest of the pride at all now. He is missing all but one tooth and is limping badly from a fight he had not long ago. It seems his days with the pride may be numbered.
Photos courtesy of Daryl Black and Samuel Kiplangat
The Ridge Pride have been up in the rocky area on top of Rhino ridge amongst the herds of wildebeest. Surrounded by prey the pride are not having to venture very far.
At last the Paradise Pride of lions have given the hippo a rest and are feasting primarily on wildebeest and zebra. This may be as a result of all the male lions having moved across the river to their other lionesses. Notch the dominant male of the pride appears to be healthy although he is getting quite old now. The pride has been having fantastic success hunting on the Mara River banks at the wildebeest crossing sites. One of these lionesses took down three wildebeest as they exited the river one day. Lions being opportunists will capitalise on these situations. One of the six month old cubs had injured a leg and has not been seen recently, so we will be looking out for him.
The vultures have also been feeding well at the crossing points, cleaning up what the lions and scavengers leave behind.
Back in Camp we have been doing lots of re-furbishing of all the camps. and they are looking stunning. The tents at Governors' Camp have lovely new interiors and we have re-done the bathrooms. There are also new family tents which sleep up to five people in one tent and the deck overlooking the Mara River has been re-done.
Governors' family tent and bathroom
Little Governors' Camp has new tent interior furnishings and the mess tent at Il Moran has a whole new feel.
Little Governors' tent and Il Moran mess tent
We hope to share the magic of our corner of the Mara with you sometime soon.
Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge update - July 2010
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