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South Africa camps
Pafuri Camp update - June 2010 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
Temperatures dropped as low as 5 degrees Celsius during a cold front but soared up to an average of 26 as the sun rose to its zenith. As expected we had no rain this month but morning dew regularly set on the ground.
Large herds of game have started making their way to the Luvuvhu River as the surrounding pans in the area dry up. With greenery still abundant on the riverine trees, animals in the area can expect a fairly nutritious dry season.
Mammal sightings this month have been exceptional in both abundance and variety. Large herds of elephant and buffalo are being drawn to the Luvuvhu as the sediment begins to settle and the water becomes clear.
General game has been excellent with impala, warthog, waterbuck, nyala and bushbuck seen almost daily. Zebra too have been abundant with up to 40 individuals seen in a herd - something that was unheard of in this area several years ago.
With the prey species concentrating on the river, the predator dynamics have taken a fascinating turn. The lion pride on the concession now consists of 12 individuals. Two sub-adults that recently split from the pride are also seen on a regular basis, normally on the banks of the Luvuvhu, very close to camp. The pride seems to be settling down and holding its territory on the far western side of the concession. They occupy a sizeable tract of land which makes tracking them difficult. On many occasions however we have been blasted awake by the booming roar of the male staking his claim on the territory.
We experienced seven wonderful leopard sightings this month and this number should increase as the bush thins in the dry season.
We had five wild dog sightings this month, all of a single male. We think he has broken off from a pack that moves between Punda Maria and the Luvuvhu. Pafuri is excellent habitat for wild dog with excellent denning sites, relatively little competition from other predators and large herds of general game. A pack establishing itself in the Pafuri triangle is something we wish for every day.
We are keeping a very close eye on the white rhino in the area and tracking teams have been finding them or at least their tracks on a daily basis. Most sightings have been on foot as the rhino are active in large, roadless blocks.
Some great highlights on the mammal front this month include:
- Four separate sightings of honey badgers. One sighting included four badgers fighting ferociously on the airstrip.
- A herd of 40 eland seen several times
- Cape clawless otter in front of camp
- African wild cat
- An aardvark carcass that had been eaten by lion
- Mating lion
- White-tailed mongoose
- Small-spotted genet
The avian side is always exhilarating at Pafuri, even in the dry season. A Pel's fishing-owl has been seen regularly sitting in front of camp and loves to hang out around Room 3. Some specials seen this month include:
- Pink backed pelican
- White-breasted cuckooshrike
- Arnott's chat
- Wattled lapwing (first record for the area)
- White-headed vulture
- Palmnut vulture
- Crested guineafowl
- Verreaux's eagle
June has been an electrifying month at Pafuri. Not only in the form of the amazing wildlife, but with World Cup fever too. Pafuri welcomed a Mexican fan contingent and multiple other nationalities that left in awe of what Pafuri has to offer - outstanding sightings, breath-taking scenery and a big screen to view all the crucial matches!
Pafuri Walking Trail update - June 2010 Jump
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Kings Camp update - June 2010 Jump
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With the football world cup well on its way this month one can not help but feel the vibe of the world cup spilling over into the bush.
The 2010 Soccer World Cup burst into the bush in a flurry of flags and excitement. Game drive vehicles were fitted with the South African flag and guides wore the South African national team jersey in support of our team.
We are proudly South African.
June was rather warm and not as cold as predicted. Most of the trees have turned yellow with a contrast of brown and green tinges. Temperatures have dropped to a low 8 degree Celsius on some morning and we have had to adjust our game drive departure time to 06h30 as it is still dark at 06h00 at the moment. Game sightings have been good especially the lions and the leopard sightings. Elephant sightings have taken a sharp decline during this month and we are not quite sure what the cause was for the low number of elephant sightings. Luckily the large herds of buffalo numbering well over 300 have made welcome returned to our area again and at times we can see 3 different herds on a drive.
The Kubasa pride is doing very well with a number of successful kills under their belt this month. It was no surprise when they killed two kudu females at one time. Feeding lasted several days before they moved closer to the camp to digest the large meal. At one particular sighting, I noticed the lioness of the white cubs taking her cubs of 15 months old into combat with several hyenas. Whether this was intentional to educate the youngsters or merely making a statement to her competition, I was not sure. I would like to believe that it was an educational experience merely making the cubs aware of the competition that they are faced with in their lives ahead.
These lionesses are massive felines and can easily hold their ground against 9 hyenas. I have personally witnessed this. We are so lucky to have this pride in our area of traversing. To see the white cubs as frequently as we do is a bonus and to think that they are the only two white lions in the wild that we know of is hard to comprehend.
The Machattan pride was also sighted several times around the camp and one of the Timbavati males was seen soliciting one of the females. We are not sure if anything will come of this episode but if anything does, it could mean that we will have new lion cubs in the not so distant future. We will keep you posted on any new developments
As with the majority of all our reports we start this one no different to the others with regards to the leopard entry. Rockfig Jnr Leopardess claims this space every time. She is doing fantastic and her two cubs are developing well. They are slowly acquiring the skill of becoming teenage leopards. It is not uncommon to find them playing and exploring on their own while mom is away and we have even seen them stalking other large herbivores like kudu and impala. The joy of youth as they exude confidence. At 6 months old they are already showing the necessary skills of an adult and independent leopard. It always surprises me that such a small animal can develop and learn so quickly the skills necessary to survive in the bush and it is no surprise that at 18 months after being born they become independent animals. Compare this to a lion cub in a pride that has a lot more support and will only show the initiative to hunt at the age of 2-3.
In my personal opinion, I have reached a conclusion after spending hundreds of hours viewing and learning about this animal that leopards are without a doubt the most adaptable, cunning, graceful and beautiful of all large wild cats in the world today.
I have managed to capture these images of Rockfig stalking a herd of impala more than a hundred meters away in the open plain at Kings Camp. Her display of concentration, power and technique was inspiring. As you can see I am addicted to this animal!
Ntombi, another one of my beautiful leopard ladies in the bush is now a proud mom for the first time having given birth to a healthy cub. We have had a few sightings of her cub but it is currently still nervous of the vehicles and we have decided to be very sensitive around her. I am not entirely sure of the sex of the cub but I suspect that it is a female. I still have not been able to capture an image of this little cub but as soon as I do i will post it on the blog.
Elephant & Buffalo
Elephant sightings have taken a back seat in the last few weeks. During the last 3 weeks they suddenly became very scarce and to think that we have a population of over 13 050 elephants in the Great Kruger National Park. Last years census indicates 623 individuals or five percent more than the 12,427 counted last year. According to Kruger National Parks final report, of the total elephants counted, 1,816 were adult bulls and 11,234 were recorded in breeding herds.
The western boundary fence, which separated Kruger from the Associated Private Nature Reserves (APNR), Sabi-Sand Game Reserve (SSGR) and other provincial nature reserves was removed in 1993. The APNR comprises the Timbavati and Klaserie Private Nature Reserves, the Umbabat PNR as well as sections of the Balule and Olifants River North game reserves. Since then elephants have moved freely between the park and these protected areas and have also been counted annually. This means we get to see a lot of elephant in our area of traversing.
Buffalo have also made a return to the Kings Camp area of traversing. These large herds are sometimes seen feeding in front of the camp while we are having breakfast, lunch and dinner.
From all the rangers and trackers of Kings Camp take care and enjoy the world cup.
Report by Patrick O'Brien Head Guide Kings Camp
Rocktail Beach Camp update - June 2010 Jump
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June can bring a bit of a nip with it and the middle of the month was chilly. Since then, the weather has warmed up nicely and the sea temperatures have remained comfortable.
Being the reliable gentle giants that they are, the humpback whales arrived on cue for their annual migration. They pass us on their way to Madagascar to give birth to their automobile-sized calves. The migration is not yet in full swing but already we have had a number of really special experiences including some of our guests being able to go snorkelling with them.
With the onset of winter, the local water currents tend to shift, causing many of the bays to become temporarily silted. The season has not affected Lala Nek however and the snorkelling continues to enthral. The snorkelling has been exceptional the entire year and we have notched up 11 new species for our list.
The fishing slowed down at the beginning of the month and we all thought that it was time to pack away the rods but unexpectedly the fish came on the bite again. Some great fish were taken this month including a 106cm (fork length) Giant Kingfish on fly. This, by the way, has only been accomplished by seven anglers off the surf in South Africa!
This month we had kids involved with all sorts of activities. Baking, making party hats, crab hunting, puzzle building and scores of other exciting things kept them occupied while parents dived or simply relaxed.
World Cup and Weddings
What a wonderful month this was. June started with a bang with the wedding of Penny Ozborne and John Mogradi. The wedding kicked off the World Cup month that proved a great milestone for South Africa.
Penny chose a "forest to beach" wedding. The ceremony was arranged around a picturesque water berry tree in the forest. After that, the guests moved onto the beach for cocktails and snacks. The party, set around the pool, was a once in a lifetime experience - beautiful, warm and festive.
For the World Cup, we transformed the kiddies room into a mini soccer theatre complete with projector, DSTV and surround sound. The last few games of the super 16 stage and the quarter finals had us all with hearts in mouths as we willed Ghana forward.
Rocktail Bay Dive Report - June 2010 Jump
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The first week of June was wonderful and you could almost be forgiven for thinking it was still summer. We had lovely hot, sunny days, great sea conditions, water temperatures around 24 degrees Celsius and visibility extending as far as 25 metres.
The first dive of the month was at Gogo's, which sits at a maximum depth of 18 metres. On the way we were greeted by a huge pod of spinner dolphins approximately 200-300 strong. They put on the most incredible show, jumping and spinning as they travelled. We then went on to enjoy a wonderful dive with a potato bass, a huge honeycomb moray eel, lots of black-cheek moray eels, juvenile razor wrasse, schools of blue-banded snappers, humpback snappers, hundreds of red fang triggerfish, nudibranches and a marbled electric ray that was free-swimming across the reef.
The following day we headed north to Elusive, also at a maximum depth of 18 metres. During our single one hour dive here we saw: four raggy scorpionfish, a huge stonefish, three paperfish, devil firefish, a big peacock flounder, four honeycomb moray eels, two octopus, a marbled electric ray, porcelain crabs in anemones, whip coral gobies, nudibranches, a scribbled pipefish, schools of blue banded snappers, blacktip kingfish hunting goldies and schools of fusiliers racing down the reef. As if that was not enough, we snorkelled with a manta ray on our way back - it was just cruising along, circling and playing and we eventually ended up leaving it to go back and get some breakfast!
A mid-month dive at Aerial Reef was spectacular, even though the visibility was only about eight metres. We were spoilt with a leopard shark, two potato bass and a huge honeycomb stingray resting on the sand at the edge of the reef, while a prodigal son swam around it. To top it all off, we saw a manta ray. Other great dives at Aerial have produced regular sightings of huge black round ribbontail rays and a few grey reef sharks.
This month the best site for smaller creatures and critters was Pineapple Reef. We saw lots of different nudibranches, whip coral gobies, a pair of tiny whip coral shrimps, a tiny scorpionfish which was only about 1cm in length, porcelain crabs and clown/partner shrimps in anemones and a wonderful little ghost pipefish dancing in between the seaweed.
Nic and his dad Johan completed a PADI Discover Scuba Diving course. We went to Elusive and watched the other divers descend before moving into the shallow section for our turn. As soon as we descended onto the sand a curious remora swam up to us. It circled for about ten minutes before heading off to find other entertainment.
We then saw the huge school of blue-banded snappers that lives here. We swam in the middle of them, surrounded by fish before heading back inshore to explore the ledge. Under the ledge Nic spotted a sharp nose stingray, and then we saw an electric ray hiding under the sand. To finish the dive off we watched a potato bass swim along below us while we completed our safety stop. Wow, a great first dive for Nic and a new dive buddy for dad, well done!
July is traditionally the start of our humpback whale season. We begin to see humpback whales as they migrate northwards towards Madagascar. The first sightings were mid-month. Lecion saw two groups far out on the horizon while he was waiting on the beach for us to come back from our dive. We then saw some more whales the following day as we were having our picnic breakfast on the beach. The next day, on our way to dive, the whales appeared up ahead. We stopped and watched them as they travelled slowly along. We ended up seeing four different groups of whales before we decided it was time to go and enjoy our dive.
Congratulations to the following divers:
- Neil, Wendy, Jonty, Jason, Craig, Emma. They completed their PADI Discover Scuba Diving courses - some of them for the first time and some of them for the second and third times.
- Nic and Anel, Daniel and Thomas for completing their PADI Discover Scuba Diving courses.
Makalolo Plains update - June 2010 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
The temperatures are still dropping steadily and a chilly low of 1.4 degrees was recorded in June. This has not deterred anyone from heading out into the bush as early as possible to see what's on offer. It heats up nicely toward midday; a maximum temperature of 32 degrees has guests and staff peeling off the layers. Towards the end of the month we had a few overcast days.
Winter has turned the leaves on the trees orange, yellow and maroon. The ground is drying up and the wind that sweeps across the Hwange wilderness pulls dust into the air and gives us spectacular sunsets. When there is no cloud cover, the night sky is clear and brilliant. The full moon this month was spectacular and we could see quite clearly into the bush at night.
A large male lion has arrived in the area this month. One morning he walked past the back of the camp, his roaring deafening from one end to the other as he established his territory. His calls heralded the start of another amazing day in this little bit of paradise. A lioness and her eight small cubs have provided some excellent viewing this month, the little ones providing enormous entertainment. They do not perceive any threat from the game drives and continue to play even when their mother is away hunting.
There have been various leopard sightings in June. A highlight was the early morning sighting of a male enjoying the warmth of the first rays of the sun. A number of stunning cheetah sightings has had everyone talking after game drives. On one occasion, the cheetah was seen stalking some kudu.
We have also seen rhino tracks which make us hopeful of a sighting soon.
Also out on drive, we've had some wonderful sable sightings.
The waterhole in front of camp has provided us with marvellous entertainment. Large herds of elephant visit nearly every evening, often mingling with zebra, while the guineafowl also congregate along the water's edge for their last drink of the day. Large herds of buffalo regularly come right up to the front deck of the main area to graze on the lawn and quench their thirst. A herd of approximately 24 wildebeest and a herd of eland are enjoying the plain in front of camp.
The highlight of the month was a martial eagle which came to drink from the pan in front of camp most days. We had an incredible sighting of nine kori bustards - these birds are usually only seen in pairs.
In the camp, common red-billed francolins are a daily highlight. A mother and her chicks are not bothered by people as they roam the camp scratching for food without a care in the world.
This month has been a real joy with many interesting guests. Our activity highlights have included surprise bush brunches, picnics, private dinners and sleeping under the stars on the front deck. We also included a new activity for our younger guests - an under the stars theatre screening of The Lion King while eating popcorn, sipping hot chocolate and roasting marshmallows over the camp fire.
World Cup fever is in full swing; as the finals draw closer everyone is always excited to hear the latest scores and who is going through to the next round. Our World Cup scoreboard is updated every time there is a match and we were lucky enough to have an outing where we challenged Davison's Camp to a match. Makalolo put up a strong fight but in the end the score was 3-1 to Davison's.
Staff in Camp
General Manager - Caro
Management - Jeremy and Tammy
Pro-guides - Godfrey, Brian and Lawrence
Hostesses - Cynthia and Tracy
Makalolo Team - Alois, Andrew, Charles, Chris, David, Emmanuel, Ephraim, Fazo, Ishmael, Jerry, Jordan, Konani, Last, Malaki, Mgcini, Mpikelelo, Nathan, Nyajani, Robson, Seliot, Thembelani
Environmental - Jaelle and Jane
Central Stores - Charmain and Leonard
Tailor - Stanley
Workshop - Todd, Mawa, Justin, Casper, Cornellius, Thabani, Victor
The knowledgeable staff, wonderful accommodation and above all the passion and energy we saw that everyone had for Makalolo and Zimbabwe. It made me love it too. - Leah
You guys made me appreciate the environment so much more. Amazingly friendly staff, the food was delicious and overlooking the 'backyard' and seeing the elephants drinking water, zebra etc. Indescribable - Jodi
"In Zimbabwe, oh Zimbabwe
The guests won't sleep at night.
They play the flip cup
And sleep with Curtains
And look for lion, penguin fights
The trip was awesome
With Jokes by Godi,
We owe Lawrence a massage tonight
Tammy was the ringer
And Cynthia the Singer
Tracy, the next trip will be out of sight
- Jodi, John, Leah, Jen, Jason, Dan, Liz, Diane, Bill
Fantastic location, great food and great staff! The walkways are fun to use for exercise and to get to our rooms. Thanks to Africa for making us feel special, and we are in awe of the youngsters of Africa. - June and Robert, Hawaii USA.
Godfrey and his stories - The 3 lovely ladies who kept us entertained! Sitting by the fire with stories and hot chocolate. Surprise lunch picnic in the plains - the homemade individual touches on everything - cute wrappings and notes - so adorable! - Becca and Karen
Loved the boardwalk, loved the elephants drinking out the pool, great picnic lunch and walk out by the watering hole. The idea to provide a kid-oriented movie night was very thoughtful! Staff was great!' - Laura
Little Makalolo update - June 2010 Jump
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Climate and Temperature
There is no question in anyone's mind that winter is here. As the sun emerges over the horizon, we clutch warm coffee cups and steel ourselves for morning drive. The views and animals are just too good to waste however and it is not long before everyone is enjoying the natural wonders of the Hwange dawn.
The coldest temperature this month was 1.5 degrees Celsius. The days have warmed up around midday and the average maximum for June was 26 degrees.
Landscape and Vegetation
The landscape and vegetation has changed a lot in the last two months. The teak trees still remain green and lush but not even those manage to escape the dry season as with the wind picks up a fine dust which settles on the leaves. The ordeal trees provide a beautiful contrast with the yellow tinges appearing on its leaves.
There have been some wonderful lion sightings on the concession this month. The Back Pans lionesses have been hunting with one of the cubs. The Ngweshla Pride was seen at the beginning of the month in a sighting that included the two lionesses, six cubs and two magnificent males, all sunning themselves in the afternoon sun. Since then, the pride seems to have ventured a little further into the public area of the Park.
The recently introduced cheetah seems to have made himself at home and looks as if he might be here to stay. During the month we were fortunate to have wonderful sightings and incredible photo opportunities.
In previous months, we have mentioned a leopard that spends a fair amount of time around the camp. This month, his tracks appeared on many mornings, he called regularly at night and he was spotted on three occasions. On one night he called, the baboons began alarming and not long after that, he appeared in the dim red spotlight trained on the waterhole. Guests were delighted as he drank nonchalantly and then sauntered off into the night.
Our predator highlight of the month was the early morning sighting of a number of hyaena feeding on a zebra carcass. Their jaws made terrific crunching noises as they gnawed through the thickest bones. From various signs and tracks around the carcass, it would seem that the hyaena made the kill themselves.
Our antelope sightings have again been spectacular. For the second time this year we have seen gemsbok; three of them were spotted casually meandering down for a drink at Ngweshla. There have been numerous herds of sable seen. They never fail to impress as the contrast of their glossy dark coats against the dull winter vegetation create fantastic photos. The roan antelope have also been spotted on more than one occasion. They are not a very common sighting and provide an exquisite highlight for guests and guides.
The waterhole in front of camp has attracted huge herds of up to 400 buffalo and many elephant this month. It is a wonderful experience to sit back and listen to the grunts and trumpets as these two magnificent species interact with each other - virtually in the camp.
A flock of southern pochards was found spending a lazy afternoon swimming in a small natural pan. This species is not a very regular sighting, being more commonly found along permanent rivers.
The bird bath in front of the lounge and dining room is a hive of activity. A pair of Meyer's parrots and a fearless shikra are amongst the most frequent visitors. The latter has become accustomed to people and offers wonderful photographic opportunities.
A group of soccer fans from the US included Little Makalolo in their itinerary. Apart from wonderful times in the bush, we decided that a Zimbabwe vs USA match was in order. The first game resulted in a 3-all draw and meant that we had to play the next day as well. This final match was also drawn - 1-all this time. We all had a huge amount of fun, none more so than the ladies of each team who gave the men a run for their money.
Staff in Camp
On the management side, Charmaine and Sibs have presided. Charles and Lewis continue to create memories, tell stories and educate all who venture through our little paradise. Shayne and Kim brighten our days with their hospitality and service around the camp.
A warm welcome to Shayne Templer who has joined us as a trainee manager.
Davison's Camp update - June 2010
June arrived in Hwange rife with football fever, with staff, guests and animals all rising to the occasion. The vuvuzelas were replaced by trumpeting elephants.
June began with relatively warm weather, with a monthly high of 30.1 degrees Celsius. Towards the middle of the month, the morning temperatures had dropped as low as 1.5 degrees with daytime temperatures going up to the mid-20s. The chilly mornings created a lingering mist over Ostrich Pan before clearing up just after sunrise. Towards the end of the month, strong gusty winds kept daytime temperatures low, and apart from a few scattered clouds in the late afternoon and early evening, most days were crisp and clear. Game drive ponchos have been most welcome in the mornings.
The peace of the winter evenings have been broken only by the baying and yapping of black-backed and side-striped jackals.
Vegetation and Landscape
The vegetation, turning beautiful shades of golden brown and russet, has heralded the winter. The diehard false mopane trees are, however, stubbornly maintaining their glossy green leaves as are the teak trees with their winter shades of deep-green. The grass is rapidly drying out, turning yellow and brittle in patches. It is slowly thinning with the encroaching Kalahari sands.
June began quietly, with Ostrich Pan frequented by lone buffalo and elephant bulls. However after the first week the variety and quantity of animals increased. For much of the latter parts of the month, a regal sable bull visited during the heat of the day. In the mornings and evenings, a waterbuck ram, affectionately dubbed 'Wallace', has become a familiar face in and around camp. Kudu, sable, zebra and warthog make frequent appearances at the pan during the day, often in the company of a baboon troop.
A herd in excess of 300 buffalo has appeared on a number of occasions. One evening, a pride of lions attacked the herd while we were eating dinner. There was a huge commotion at the pan but eventually the cats were forced to retreat into the darkness.
Our most special sighting at the pan was that of a large male leopard. He arrived at sunrise on the shortest day of the year before disappearing into the golden grass. He reappeared during the afternoon and perched in an elegant leadwood tree, where he kept careful watch over a small herd of buffalo before slinking off into the fading evening. Another leopard spent the night exploring every corner of camp, which made for great excitement the following morning.
Various lion prides have been seen regularly and the small cubs have delighted and entertained guests on various occasions. The lion highlight of the month was a lioness found lying in a large tree.
Other mammal highlights have included sightings of cheetah, bat-eared fox, roan antelope with young calves, a rare Selous mongoose and an injured African wild cat.
The highlight of the month was a breathtaking sighting of three kori bustards gracefully flying into the Ostrich Pan clearing in the rising sunlight. A solitary saddle-billed stork tested his luck in the pan accompanied by a pair of African fish-eagles which took up residence for two weeks.
Raptor viewing has been fantastic and the ever-present helmeted guineafowl are constantly harassed by immature and mature martial eagles resulting in a raucous cacophony of protests from the spotted birds.
Around the camp, Bradfield's hornbills are as entertaining as ever, and the Arnot's chats regularly serenade the office and kitchen with their pretty melodies from atop the matepi fence. The antics of the Dickinson's kestrels shooting between the false mopane trees have also been enjoyed.
Other birding highlights have included:
-An immature African harrier hawk had a field day leaping around the fallen logs around camp.
- a purple roller was seen briefly with a thread snake firmly clamped in its beak before flitting off into the tree line.
You are doing a spectacular job! - Peter and Yi-Yi
The people who work here, the animals, the food, the accommodations - All first rate! - Kim and Peter
Ruckomechi Camp update - June 2010 Jump
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The temperatures have been slightly cooler coming into winter, and the mornings have provided us with beautiful sunrises through the mist that comes off the river and down the Zambian escarpment. This month we have had what we would normally call "August winds". These heavy winds start by 11h00 but die completely by mid-afternoon!
Vegetation, Landscape and the Zambezi Valley
The Zambezi River is still very high and the water levels have fluctuated throughout the month giving our repeat guests a different view. As a result of the river's height, game drives have been quite challenging with much of the concession under water. Our maintenance manager is now fully versed in bridge building....
The vegetation is quickly drying out in the mopane areas - pans are drying out forcing the animals to come down closer to the river. However with the high water table the Indigofera is still thriving. This is very unusual for June.
We have had phenomenal sightings this month. These have given our guests and guides some once-in-a-lifetime experiences. A pangolin was seen again this month - an incredible animal, extremely rarely seen. Cheetah were seen on four separate occasions within the Ruckomechi Riverbed. We also had two separate sightings of aardvark.
The wild dogs have provided us with spectacular entertainment. On one occasion, the dogs were seen hunting waterbuck on the airstrip. As the chase moved out of sight, we decided to follow the hunt on foot. As a result, the guests were fortunate enough to witness the waterbuck being brought down. As we watched the end of the hunt unfold, a bull elephant caught wind of what was happening and came charging out from the bush kicking dust and trumpeting in what looked like an attempt to rescue the waterbuck.
We were lucky enough to see another wild dog kill on foot. While on a walk one morning, panicked impala dashed past us to our right closely followed by two dogs. Again we chased on foot. The dogs regrouped right near us so we crouched down to watch. Shortly after that, a two dogs returned with various impala body parts, one with a leg, and one with the head of a young male. Young dogs were soliciting scraps from the adult dogs and there was much yelping and excitement. We finished sitting on the ground not far from the pack as they played and relaxed.
Both lion and leopard have been seen on several occasions on night drives and early morning walks, they have been quite relaxed on all occasions.
We hosted some very keen birders in camp this month, one particular group of guests counted over a hundred species during their short stay. Some of their highlights were Dickinson's kestrel and a possible Egyptian vulture.
Other birding highlights include the long-toed plover which is now quite a regular sighting in the floodwaters behind camp. Also in the water red-billed teal are common and painted snipe have been seen on two occasions. We have had some good raptor sightings too, with red-necked falcon seen regularly in the open palm block area, often chasing an African harrier hawk.
Staff in Camp
All the staff have been very busy this month with many guests. We have all been kept on our toes and out of trouble. It feels great to be busy and we look forward to even busier months ahead.
We were lucky enough to have Bryan Orford from Hwange come and work with us for a few days and it definitely felt like a family member had come in for a visit. Andrew Smith, a freelance guide, also came into camp to help out mainly with the Mana Canoe Trail, but also did a wonderful job of entertaining guests and helping out with the guiding when Ruckomechi Camp was full. Thanks to both Andrew and Bryan for the great guiding.
Mana Canoe Trail update - June 2010 Jump
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Toka Leya Camp update - June 2010 Jump
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What a versatile month it has been. The morning of June 20th brought us the first frost of the season. This is unusual for Toka Leya where the temperature hardly ever drops below 5 degrees Celsius.
The crisp mornings and warm days of June delivered uninterrupted sunshine and clear blue skies. Our average daytime high has been a toasty 25 degrees which makes Toka Leya the warmest place anywhere in the Southern Province of Zambia.
Landscape and Wildlife
Water levels have continued to recede. The first banks on the Zambezi River and its many islands, creeks and pools are visible once again.
Animal movements have increased significantly with herds of buffalo frequently crossing through our camp in the early evening. Rhino, giraffe, zebra, warthog, hippopotamus, monitor lizards, elephant and impala have been spotted from the boardwalks of the camp and within our staff areas.
Since mid-June crocodiles of various sizes were spotted frequently, bathing in the sun on the newly exposed banks of the creeks and pools behind Tents 1, 2 and 3.
June has been an exciting month for birds as well. We've frequently viewed an African finfoot - a rarity and birding special - in the creeks in front of camp, from the comfort of our bar and lounge area.
An African skimmer was spotted on Long Island. It is the very first of the intra-African migratory birds to arrive in the area. We're now looking forward to the arrival of the carmine bee-eaters and rock pratincoles in July.
Midway through the month, a herd of up to 30-35 buffalo caused exciting moments as staff and guests were returning to their tents to rest. The herd spread out amongst the tents and staff area. A number of staff and guests had the privilege of falling asleep to the sounds of buffalo grazing metres away from their beds.
Our team organised a romantic sundowner on the beautiful island of Kakunka. While we were setting up, a herd of eight elephant (including two infants) slowly strolled by, feeding on the jasmine clipper trees. When the guests arrived an hour later, the herd returned. The relaxed meeting with these majestic animals left us with everlasting memories and wonderful photos.
Our morning highlight was a rhino grazing its way through camp as guests and staff woke up. Also from the camp, just after lunch one day, we watched a medium-sized crocodile preying on an Egyptian goose.
Couldn't have been better! Everyone and everything was fantastic! Holly Family, USA
Wonderful brief stay. Great people and food and we wished we had stayed longer! Carpenter family, USA
A quick yet enjoyable and educational first time in Africa, beautiful and comfortable camp with extremely helpful and friendly staff! We will be back! Katsaros family, USA
AMAZING! This was best lodge we have stayed at in Africa! Thank you! To everyone for making our stay here wonderful. Also thank you for the Zambian cloth - we will always remember our stay! Reddy family, USA
Lufupa River Camp update - June 2010 Jump
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Lufupa Tented Camp update - June 2010 Jump
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June started with a downpour that delivered ten millimetres - unusual for winter. In the days that followed, the morning temperatures dropped to a crisp 5 degrees Celsius, making the decision to leave the warm duvet a difficult one. By midday the temperatures were back in the high twenties, enabling us to shed layers and enjoy the sunshine.
The bush around the camp has remained remarkably green, with only the open areas really showing signs that winter is here.
The game viewing this month has been remarkable, especially where the cats are concerned. We recorded 19 different leopard sightings! Interestingly, seven individuals were sighted within a 17km radius of each other. The leopard highlight was a magnificent sighting of a mating pair in the golden morning light, just ten metres off the road. Both animals were completely at ease with the presence of the game drive.
The three cheetah brothers are still in the area providing great viewing. June also gave us numerous lion sightings.
For the first two weeks of the month, there was lots of entertainment from the wild dogs. We were lucky enough to watch the three pack members chase and bring down an impala. It was phenomenally exciting and the guests who witnessed it left astounded.
We had a number of very keen birding guests this month who managed to see some great Lufupa specials. Some of these included Bohm's flycatcher, black-backed barbet, African finfoot and the elusive Pel's fishing owl. Raptor highlights included both crowned and martial eagles.
The birds are such a wonderful part of the Kafue. Lying in bed during the chilly dawn, the chorus begins with ground hornbills hooting in monotonous fashion, then it's the fish eagles, hadeda ibis, Schalow's lourie and finally the robins and thrushes.
For the fisherman, June was also an excellent month with good catches of bream, silver and black catfish and bottlenose. With our policy of catch-and-release, very few of the campfire fishing stories could be verified!
We could not have been more pleased with our stay here, our favourite camp. Life-changing for us.
What a special place, we had so much fun in a beautiful setting. We are privileged to be able to enjoy places like this.
Kalamu Lagoon Camp update - June 2010 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
Winter was mild and pleasant for the first half of the month. Temperatures dropped a little towards the end of the month but not to the extent that we had to find more woolly clothes.
By the end of the month, the dry season was becoming really obvious. Most of the tree leaves had turned a yellowish colour and the water levels in most of the small lagoons had dropped to their lowest levels.
This dry season brings improved game viewing with visibility increased by the thinning vegetation and the animals concentrating on the river where they can find clean water. The drying lagoons make life easy for fish-eating birds and these muddy waterholes are constantly attended by large flocks of yellow-billed storks and other waders.
On the small mammal front, we had a very special daytime sighting of a honey badger this month. The animal was very relaxed and just walked along the track in front of the game drive. The sun squirrels which frequent the trees around camp are getting used to having us around which makes for wonderful viewing of their antics.
The sound of a leopard at night gives a true wilderness feel and there was one calling around the camp regularly this month. One morning, we woke up to the sound or two of these magnificent cats calling near the camp. As we sat eating our breakfast on the deck, one of them began its sawing call just across the lagoon. The baboons and impala nearby began alarming as he nonchalantly appeared across from the deck. He was a bit far for our camera lenses but we had a fantastic view of him through our binoculars.
The tamarind trees are in fruit which means that the elephants are now a constant presence in camp. We've also had some wonderful sightings of bulls walking across the lagoon in front of camp, drinking and feeding on the water plants. The palm trees are also in fruit which means the elephants have started bashing away at them to make the protein-rich fruits fall. The air is often filled with thuds and shaking leaves.
The first of the Kalamu Walking Trails was a great success. There were some beautiful and exciting sightings which accompanied our walks from the comfortable mobile tented camp on the banks of the Luangwa River. The camp was tended by expert chef Mambwe and the food was incredible. The last night was spent on our brand-new Kalamu Star-beds Camp. The platforms are set amongst the trees and guests sleep under a mosquito net while staring up at the wonders of the sky. That morning we were treated to an incredible view of an elephant bull walking through the Luangwa River while we ate our breakfast.
Shumba Camp update - June 2010 Jump
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The Busanga Plains, more than any other plains or swamps, evoke the mystery and excitement of Africa. The early mornings are wonderful, sitting around the campfire and watching the sunrise, the lechwe and puku grazing in the slowly lifting mist.
June has brought the cold. Our temperatures have ranged from 23 to 31 degrees Celcius during the day and dropped as low as 5 degrees at night, making the campfire the best place to be in the evenings and early mornings.
"Lions are stalking a puku in front of Tent 2," was the excited call one morning. We quickly gave up on duties and headed over to Tent 2 to watch in awe as the pride, stalked, chased and then caught a puku. The hapless antelope was completely devoured in ten minutes by five hungry lionesses. It was incredible to see their power and skill despite the savagery of the scene.
Out on drive the winter vegetation has made for excellent game viewing. The sublime scenery has been complemented with wonderful sightings of lion, buffalo, lechwe, roan, sable and leopard. We've also had some excellent sightings of oribi this month. The reptile highlight of June was a rare black spitting cobra which we saw basking in the sun in the middle of the road.
Birding on the plains has been outstanding for both water and terrestrial species. The mokoro trips and boating excursions allow for some of the best birding because we can get that much closer to our avian friends. Interesting sightings have included hunting kingfishers, dark clouds of open-billed storks flying overhead and spectacular saddle-billed storks hunting catfish.
Out of Camp Dining Activities
The plains are drying out fast which means we've had some wonderful opportunities to dine out of the camp. We've had some incredible brunches overlooking the plains, watching the hippo, crocodiles, lechwe, puku and birds going about their business.
We've unwound the evenings with sundowners at hippo pools as the sky has changed from pink to indigo.
This was the best holiday ever; we saw great game, lions. Staff you are great!
Amazing! Wonderful staff, great lodge, unforgettable game viewing!
Fabulous experience! We enjoyed the animals plus the amazing ecosystem. Most of all appreciated the gracious care of the whole Shumba team.
Camp Managers: Solly and Mulenga
Trainee Manager: Chipasha
Guides: Idos, Mulenga, Lexon and Isaac
Kapinga Camp update - June 2010 Jump
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Busanga Bush Camp update - June 2010 Jump
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Desert Rhino Camp update - June 2010 Jump
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Palmwag Lodge update - June 2010 Jump
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Doro Nawas Camp update - June 2010 Jump
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The maximum temperature for May was 36 degrees Celsius and the minimum a cool 12 degrees.
We had hard eastern winds in the final days of May which created huge dust clouds. Although not very pleasant during the day, as the sun dipped, the air grew still and the dust produced the most incredible sunsets.
Wildlife and Landscape
We are proud to say that the desert-adapted elephant have been back in the Huab/Aba River for the last two months and we've been able to find them almost every day. There has been little rain this year so the elephants tend to move large distances from waterhole to waterhole.
In Rosy's Herd, the numbers have remained steady at 12 individuals. One of the cows is pregnant and we think she will give birth in the next few months which will be incredibly exciting. Oscar's Herd has unfortunately dropped from 12 to ten individuals. We think one of the young bulls has left the group to join another and one cow seems to also have either died or migrated to another herd. The young calves in both herds grow quickly and they are becoming stronger and more playful every day - much to the delight of our guests.
Wonderful elephant tracking! Thanks to Arthur! Amazing room and veranda... very beautiful stars! Salvioni - Italy
Great Place. Beautiful silence and peace. Food FANTASTIC! Sartoni and Paolo - Italy
Excellent food, friendly staff - Thank you. We really enjoyed our stay. Everything was excellent. Runnacles - UK
The staff is great! I'm impressed about your friendliness and hospitality. I feel home! Also I'm impressed about the architecture of the lodge. And what I also really liked are the songs after having had dinner - great voices! Keep your standard and go your way further. Beck -Liechtenstein
Thank you all for your smiles. Your warmth and your happiness have given our honeymoon a very beautiful and special colour. We hope to see you soon. Diana and Fabrizio
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)
Thanks to Jeff Blumberg from the UK for his wonderful and beautiful pictures.
Damaraland Camp update - June 2010 Jump
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We are in the middle of winter but it feels like spring. Guests wake up with a fresh wind slicing through all warm clothing. The days warm very nicely however with temperatures going up to a comfortable 25 degrees Celsius. The evenings drop to a cool 10 degrees. The east wind has started and some days have been very windy but all in all we've had a wonderful month in the sun.
Our guests have been treated to some great wildlife this month. The elephants have moved back to the Huab River and the people at De Riet village see them coming to drink on most afternoons. The general game is still concentrating to the north of camp and lions have made the odd appearance in the Springbok River. We've had some excellent cheetah sightings this month and there are three of them moving up and down the Huab River.
In camp, the little ground squirrels continue to delight our guests at tea time and the pale-winged starlings have taken over - they are all over the place. In the evening the barking geckos welcome the night with their calls.
We expect the second half of winter to be very hard because of the lack of rain this year. The countryside is parched and weathered, and local herders are starting to move wildlife to new pastures. We are experiencing more Atlantic fog however so with some luck it will deliver some moisture to the dry land over this time.
We finished some improvements in camp with a new social room for staff - in time for the World Cup!
There was a lot of engagement with the community during June. We entered the school choir in a competition at the Namibian Tourism Expo in Windhoek, and they won second place and a big prize. The prize will go to the school.
With the help of the Round Table organisation we are erecting a new electric fence around the vegetable garden at Fonteine Farm. If successful, it will keep the elephants out. In future we aim to buy our vegetables directly from the local farms. Round Table also donated new blankets and toothbrushes to all the children in the school.
Staff in Camp
Iván Phillipson, Ilze van der Vyver, Niel van Wyk and Elizabeth Parkhouse.
Johan Cloete, Anthony Davids, Daniel Uakuramenua and Alexia Awaras.
Skeleton Coast Camp update - June 2010 Jump
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On 3 June we saw a lion and a lioness in the Palmwag Concession while driving towards Skeleton Coast Camp. Everyone in the vehicle was incredibly excited as the lions were very relaxed and we were able to take several pictures by the roadside. We sent copies of the images to Dr. Flip Stander who has been researching desert lions for many years.
He immediately expressed an interest as he was familiar with the male, but the female's identity intrigued him. Flip came to the camp and examined the original photograph. He made an amazing discovery - the lioness had one blind eye, but was easily recognised from the old identification markings on her body. She is in fact XPL2, the second desert lion darted for Flip's research project. He lost contact with her over five years ago and assumed she was dead.
This puts the age of this lioness at roughly 18 years which far exceeds the life expectancy of lions, especially those living at higher densities.
In previous newsletters we have mentioned Bruno, the brown hyaena that traverses the Skeleton Coast Park during the day, returning to the camp at night and providing us with amazing sightings. He has also done some damage and recently the frequency of his escapades has increased as food becomes scarce in the winter. The camp's kitchen, staff kitchen, rubbish cage and accommodation have become regular challenges which he takes on with such determination that we've became more and more concerned for his safety. Wild animals that become habituated remain unpredictable and we wanted to avoid a situation where he might be hurt. We contacted the Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET) for advice and assistance and they decided that relocating Bruno would be the best option.
We decided darting the hyaena would cause him less distress than being caught in a trap. This method would also allow us to take measurements, blood samples and apply identification techniques to assist in future identifications. Flip Stander offered to assist. Once the bait had been laid out, the staff joined Flip for the long wait.
After midnight Bruno arrived at the staff village. He made his way to the bait and was successfully darted. As the dart hit him, he ran off into the hills and we held off tracking him in order to allow the tranquilisers to take effect. Once unconscious we collected the necessary data and placed him in a cage to sleep off the medication.
With any relocation there are risks. We were concerned about the amount of stress Bruno would be under, not just with the transport, but also adjusting to a new area with potential threats from other hyaena clans.
For several years we believed Bruno was the only hyaena that frequented camp, but the following evening we were stunned when we encountered another hyaena approaching camp, lured in by aromas from the braai (barbeque).
We immediately darted the second hyaena and placed a collar on him with a transponder tracking device.
We were overjoyed with the new developments as we realised dynamics in the hyaena population were not as we first thought. MET decided to cancel the relocation as we could not identify the problem animal with certainty.
Bruno was released that same evening and we put the second hyaena, now named Jaco, in the cage to sleep off his headache. We were thrilled to be able to share the experience of darting and collecting data from these mysterious creatures with the guests in camp.
Once the process was complete, guests and staff sat down for dinner in the boma. Whilst chatting away we spotted Bruno marking his territory - a successful release it seemed. However, we were in for another surprise - a third hyaena. Bruno had been released, but was still being watched by the staff in the office.
The possibilities that these new developments have unlocked are fascinating and we look forward to learning more about the clan of hyaenas with whom we share this spot on the Skeleton Coast.
Serra Cafema Camp update - June 2010 Jump
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Ongava Tented Camp update - June 2010 Jump
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Little Ongava update - June 2010 Jump
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Temperatures currently range from a minimum of 8 degrees Celsius to a maximum of 23. This month, guests have woken to the sound of a cool north-easterly wind. The cool temperatures make game viewing around the Ongava waterhole excellent and guests have spent many happy hours on the deck watching animals come down to drink.
The wind has tended to pick up again in the late afternoons, creating a horizon ashen with dry dust. There are consequently magnificent sunsets.
The evenings are chilly and guests are welcomed back from drive with a warming sherry and dinner is served next to a roaring fire. Kiln fires warm the rooms and by bedtime there is no better place to be than under a duvet with a hot water bottle and the sounds of the bush outside lulling you to sleep.
Wildlife and Landscapes
Most game viewing is focused around the waterholes at this time of the year and we've seen some wonderful aggregations of all kinds over the month. The animals generally start arriving around mid-morning and keep up a steady progression until the evening. During the day it's possible to see zebra, kudu, waterbuck, oryx, eland, red hartebeest and we've also been lucky to see large herds of up to 46 wildebeest. Herds of 20 or more endemic black-faced impala also regularly visit, delighting with their rutting. The adult males make loud snorting noises and chase the younger rams out of the herd.
In the evenings we have regular sightings of both black and white rhino at the waterhole which makes for marvellous pre- and post-dinner entertainment.
Michael recently took a guest out on an extended night drive - mainly to try and find a caracal. They were unsuccessful in this pursuit but did manage to have an excellent sighting of a lesser bushbaby. They watched the tiny primate, which eats a lot of acacia gum at this time of year, leap spectacularly from tree to tree.
Just after that, Michael and his guest were treated to an incredible leopard sighting. These cats are normally quite skittish here but this particular one came close to the vehicle and inspected it while Michael and his guest watched, transfixed.
Another highlight for the month was a magnificent sighting of a rhino cow and her two-month-old calf. We call this particular cow Long Horn for obvious reasons (see the photo).
Sightings in Etosha have been excellent this month and have also focused around the waterholes with regular sightings of lion, elephant and various general game.
An awesome experience, with great people. The staff are amazing and we are taking some of the friendliness home with us - packed in our hearts and the memory bank, Thanks to everyone.
An excellent site for a luxury lodge, well done to all the team on the service, the food, the warmth and the leopard. You can all be proud of Little Ongava - Paddy and family
Managers and Guides
Camp Manager: Florensia Mutrifa
Relief Camp Manger: Michael Kaeding.
Camp Guide: Gabriel Haufiku
Camp Relief Guide: Michael Haidongo
Ongava Lodge update - June 2010 Jump
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The beginning of the month was still warm and the temperature varied from 20-33 degrees Celsius during the day. From mid-June the temperature dropped a lot and one evening the lamp oil froze!
The drives on Ongava Game Reserve have been very entertaining for our guests this month. The waterhole in front camp has also provided some incredible sightings with herds of animals coming down to drink throughout the day. On one occasion, a group of nine giraffe arrived to quench their thirst. Before they could finish a black rhino cow and her calf appeared. The rhino mother did not take kindly to the giraffe and chased them all away before settling to drink.
Drives into Etosha have also been productive with a number of wonderful elephant sightings. The waterholes in the park are particularly productive at this time of the year and the vegetation is sparse which makes for great game viewing.
We welcomed Agnes Aikanga to the Ongava management team this month and we look forward to learning from her vast experience in the industry.
Guides in Camp: Teacher, Abner, Michael, Kapona and Henock
Managers in Camp: Adriano, Agnes, George and Jason
Andersson's Camp update - June 2010 Jump
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Little Kulala Camp update - June 2010 Jump
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Kulala Desert Lodge update - June 2010 Jump
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Kulala Desert Lodge experienced strong east winds and below zero temperatures for the first few days of June. When the wind stopped, we had lovely weather and the days were sunny and warm. Some of the guests even went swimming.
The wind unfortunately made for erratic hot air ballooning this month - some lucky guests were still able to float above the dunes though. For the rest, they made do with scenic drives and sundowners - the favourite stop being the mountain top overlooking the expanse of the Kulala Wilderness Reserve and the dunes in the distance.
The daily visits to the dunes in the Namib Naukluft Park have been exceptional. We drive through the private gate between Wilderness' Kulala Wilderness Reserve and the Namib Naukluft Park just before sunrise. At Dune 1 we watch the sun rise in the east, changing the dunes to the bright orange-red for which Sossusvlei is so famous. Then we proceed deeper into the park, stopping at various dunes and choosing one to climb - normally Dune 45, Big Daddy or Big Mama. A visit to Dead Vlei is always a highlight, with the fossilised branches and trees accentuating the moonlike desolation of the long-dead pan.
Nature drives on the Reserve are renowned for being very scenic, with gemsbok, springbok, and bat-eared fox seen on almost every drive. Other predator highlights of the month included black-backed jackal and even a small-spotted genet that raced across the road in front of one of the afternoon drives. Rüppell's korhaan and Ludwig's bustard were also regular June sightings, as were ostrich, pale chanting goshawk (affectionately known as PCGs) and Namaqua sandgrouse.
Walks in the riverbed in front of camp yielded a lot of evidence of life, and even a glimpse of springbok and a jackal in the distance.
The most exciting event for the month of June was the release of two male cheetah onto the Kulala Wilderness Reserve. This was a collaborative effort by Wilderness Safaris and Na'ankuse Wildlife Sanctuary. The two large males, both approximately four years old, were captured close to Witvlei and were kept at Na'ankuse for three weeks before transportation to Kulala. There was huge excitement at the lodge on the 27th of June when they arrived; Phillip, our Food and Beverage Manager, wasn't too sure what to feed his two new guests but the staff of Na'ankuse came to the rescue with some chicken on their first night. The following day, after much persuasion, the two new cats left their enclosure in the direction of Black Mountain.
Welcome to your new home, boys!
Photos by Mary-Anne van der Byl
Governors' Camp update - June 2010 Jump
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As the rainy season tapered off June brought less rain, most of it falling at the beginning of the month. The temperature on average was fairly warm, 22 C in the mornings reaching 33 C by mid day. Towards the end of the month temperatures began to fall a little with a few chilly nights and early mornings warning us of the colder months to come.
Photos courtesy of Daryl Black and Philip McLellan
The savannah grasses are tall, lush and green with the orange tops of the red oats grass. In the drier rockier areas the grass has dried out. Through July the grasses will be eaten and trampled down by the vast herds of Zebra and Wildebeest, giving the other plains game a chance to graze those areas.
THE BIG NEWS TO REPORT THIS MONTH IS THAT BOTH THE LOITA AND WILDEBEEST MIGRATIONS HAVE ARRIVED!
The lesser known Loita migration originating from the Loita plains, east of the Masai Mara arrived in early June. Lead by the zebra and followed by the wildebeest, they occupied the conservancies on the northern and eastern boundaries of the Masai Mara Reserve. Numbering 30,000 animals they are second to the Serengeti migration which is in the region of 2 million animals. The Serengeti migration arrived at the Sand River area of the Masai Mara on the border between Kenya and Tanzania on the 17th June, this was early in comparison to recent years. After the amazing rains we had this season, the grassland is rich and full of nutrients, this could account for the early arrivals. In June and some of July the wildebeest are still rutting, the males run ahead of groups of females on the move and set up temporary territories in order to cover the females in that area. This is a noisy time.
Photos courtesy of Daryl Black and Patrick Ngei
Zebra typically lead the herds, as they are bulk grazers and tend to eat at a higher level than the wildebeest, topi, eland and gazelles that follow. The first wave, moved quickly and were soon crossing near 'look out hill' in their tens of thousands.
Towards the end of the month the front runners had already reached one of the larger crossings opposite Serena, they did cross but in smaller numbers.
June has been much the same as May in the Musiara area, as the game has been fairly sparse with most of the pains game concentrated along the river and up on 'Topi plain'. At the start of the month, we saw huge herds of elephant numbering two hundred individuals in The Marsh area. With the drying of the grasses and sensing the imminent arrival of the wildebeest migration the elephant have now mostly moved into the acacia woodlands bordering the Reserve. This area is where we do our walking safaris, so it has been a great treat to see so many elephant back.
Photos courtesy of Philip McLellan and Daryl Black
Large groups of giraffe numbering from fifteen to twenty five individuals have been passing by the camps on the periphery of the forest line browsing on the Teclea bushes. The resident herd of buffalo have been grazing around The Marsh area with the bachelor males resting along the river edge in mud pools.
We have had regular sightings of three rhino from the balloon and on the game drives back to Little Governors' Camp. A male and a female Rhino have been seen together a few times south of paradise plain, and we have also seen them mating. Which maybe be great news for rhino numbers in the area. The Kenya Wildlife Service were in the Mara for about five days in mid June doing a rhino count. The 2006 census numbered between twenty five to thirty individuals, some moving between Kenya and Tanzania. We await their new findings.
The Marsh pride of lions spent most of the month in the areas bordering the reserve around the leopard gorge area in search of zebra which had moved in from the Loita plains. We have had the occasional sightings between the Musiara Marsh and Bila Shaka. One lioness and the nine three year old sub-adults had spent a few days near the airstrip, following a few zebra into The Reserve. The two pride males have not been seen this month, but we have had a report of one of them getting into a fight and coming off second best. We are still not sure what condition he is in just yet.
Our guests have seen a lot of the Ridge Pride recently, remaining in their core territory up on Rhino Ridge they have had good hunting up on the short grass. The pride remains stable with the two pride males, three females and three cubs.
The Paradise Pride males have spent most of June on other side of the Mara River, Notch and one of the younger males returning to their lionesses on our side during the last few days of the month. The lionesses number six in total, with four lionesses, two seven month old and three five month old cubs spending time apart from the other two lionesses with four five month old cubs. There has been plenty of game near the river where the hippo have grazed the grass down, so their hunting grounds are in good supply and they have taken two hippo this month as well.
Photos courtesy of Samuel Kiplangat
A fully grown unidentified male lion was seen in our area around mid June, we suspect he is a nomadic male. He was in the Bila Shaka area feeding on an elephant carcass and at the same time chasing off some very excited hyenas.
The three Cheetah boys have maintained a huge presence in the area east of us on the high plains. They have mostly been hunting warthog, but managed to take down two young wildebeest at the front of the migration.
Our guides and clients have also seen on a few occasions a new female cheetah with two almost adult cubs.
There have been a few sightings of a female cheetah and a young cub of about five months just on the boundary of The Reserve near The Marsh. The cub unfortunately has a bad eye, which will hopefully heal in due course.
The female cheetah and her eight – ten month old cub we were seeing fairly often near our airstrip has moved into the area bordering The Reserve and is doing well.
The cheetah we thought was pregnant in May, turns out to have just been very fat after a couple of large meals. She was seen with the three boys for about four days mating into the second week of June. She has since disappeared on us and them, hopefully she is now pregnant, time will tell.
Unusually at the start of June we found a young male leopard lying very comfortably up on a hammerkops nest. The leopard lay there for the whole day much to the hammerkops dismay who couldn't get near her nest!
Our resident female leopard has been seen a few times in The Marsh and once up in a tree next to the road between Ilmoran Camp and Governors' Camp.
Olive and her two cubs are doing very well, her cubs are now about fourteen months old and very playful. They are still to be found near the river.
Other interesting sightings during the month have been Serval cat, white-tailed mongoose, Egyptian mongoose and slender-tailed mongoose.
Lots of the larger birds have chicks at the moment including a family of Saddle-Billed Storks who are nesting in a Balanites tree on the other side of The Marsh, the chicks are almost fully fledged and are wobbling precariously in their flimsy nest. Also a family of Crowned Crane living near the Marsh also has some small chicks.
Interestingly on a recent game drive our guests came across a 2.5m Black-necked spitting who was busily chasing a skink into a termite mound.
Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge update - June 2010
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