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South Africa camps
Pafuri Camp update - March 2010 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
The start of autumn is upon us, although temperatures are still nice and warm, with an average of 32°C (89°F). The greenery has sprung to life after good rains in February and the odd downpour in March. Both the Limpopo and Luvuvhu Rivers are flowing, making Crook's Corner even more of a treat to visit.
The African buffalo definitely made themselves known this month, with regular sightings both from the vehicle and on foot. The Pafuri Pride (lion) was seen on several occasions, strutting its stuff, and on one occasion being chased by an elephant bull. The cubs and sub-adults are definitely growing up quickly and there is a good chance that we have a buffalo-killing pride in the making, as we see them often in close proximity to the buffalo herds.
An elephant bull was seen harassing the two hippo seen at the First Lookout, which looks out on the Luvuvhu River. On the subject of hippo, we saw one carrying a large log in its mouth and juggling it around - it looked as if the hippo was sharpening its teeth on the log.
March was definitely mammal month - as many specials came out to play. We had two different sightings of aardvark - a species not often seen due to its secretive nocturnal lifestyle. Five African civet were also seen foraging together (an adult and her cubs), and they are not often seen together.
A Martial Eagle was observed feeding on a white-throated monitor, which is one of its favourite meals. This reptile doesn't stand a chance against the strength and power of the eagle's talons, even though it has an exceptionally strong skin.
A Scaly-feathered Finch was seen feeding a fledgling, which suggests that they were nesting near Pafuri, which is a big find as they are usually vagrants in the area.
Some of the special bird species seen in March: Thrush Nightingale; Pel's Fishing-Owl; Crowned Eagle; Verreaux's Eagle; Blue-cheeked Bee-eater; Three-banded Courser; Bronze-winged Courser; Retz's Helmet-Shrike; Black-throated Wattle-eye; Olive-tree Warbler; Red-billed Teal and Temminck's Courser.
Pafuri Walking Trail update - March 2010 Jump
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Kings Camp update - March 2010 Jump
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We had a very productive month with the resident females in our traversing. The M'bali female seem to have cubs as she is lactating and spending a lot of time in the northern traversing around Peru dam. No one has seen the cubs yet but she has used this area before raising Kuhanya and we will keep you updated with any news on the blog!
Ntombi finally gave birth and there was great excitement as there was a glimpse of a youngster with the mother at Steep Nhlaralumi. The cub/s may be about 2-3 weeks old and as per usual we avoid the den sight if the mother is not there until they are big enough. No pictures have been taken yet, but we'll post something as soon as we have it!
Rockfig jr. and her two cubs are doing very well and entertained very well over the month. They are spending a lot of time around Entrance dam and the little ones are by far THE most relaxed cubs I've seen so far!
There are also some new cats in the southern portion of our traversing. A young male of about 17-19 months old called Xinope-nope (shinope-nope, meaning Weaping Boerbean, a tree specie he likes to climb in) and a young female called Rulani.
The young male is seen quite frequently and that's really good news for the south. We hope he grows up strong and dominant enough to set up territory there.
The Xakubasa pride killed an adult male giraffe and feasted off the carcass for two days before they got chased off by the Timbavati males and two Machaton girls. This kill caused for quite some excitement as the Schobele youngsters all tried their luck to steal their way in to the kill. This however proved costly as the young girl got badly injured by the two lionesses of the Xakubasa pride. This brawling created lot of unwanted vocalization and this alerted the Timbavati boys from a long distance to investigate and evidently stealing the kill from them all.
The Mahlatini males also visited during the month with an unknown lioness from the Klaserie reserve. She was clearly in estrus and they surely mated. Their visit was short and they were all gone the next day.
Elephant and Cape buffalo
Elephant sightings were on the quiet side but we still had beautiful sightings of some nice looking bulls throughout the traversing. The buffalo herds were very active and lots of sightings were reported during the month.
There are days that we are very blessed with sightings of these grey beasts. Mtenge-tenge is ever present around the south eastern portions. Three young bulls further down south often make an appearance close to Park dam.
The Nhlangula male found him self some company and is spending a lot of time in the west with eight other white rhino's! This is amazing considering the fact that we hardly ever saw rhino's in that area…
In general we had, as per usual, an awesome month with amazing sightings and memories that will last a lifetime… created by KINGS CAMP!
Some general pictures taken in March:
Hope to see you soon! Kind regards, Morné Hamlyn and the Kings Camp guiding team.
Photography: Morné Hamlyn
Rocktail Beach Camp update - March 2010 Jump
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March brought us lots of wonderful sightings and lovely weather. We were blessed with flat seas and great visibility for most of the month. The water temperature was constant at 26°C.
March saw many manta rays, all at Elusive which is our northernmost reef, nestled at a depth of 16 - 18 metres. One dive in particular stands out. At a section of Elusive that we call the Doughnut, two huge mantas with four- metre wingspans came gliding toward Darryl and his two guests. The great fish circled them four or five times before swimming off into the blue. The female had a large shark-bite in one of her wings. A little while later, at the cleaning station that we call Engen, the two mantas returned. The female came so close to Darryl that he gently reached out and tickled her belly. She relaxed so much that she stopped swimming and almost pushed Darryl onto the sand. He swam out from under her and moved around to her back which was covered in fish lice. Darryl and one of his guests began scratching off the lice and as they did so, the manta's skin twitched as the fish lice scattered away. They spent 15 minutes with the magnificent manta ray before their air ran out and they had to return to the surface.
March also saw lots of shark action at Pineapple Reef, one of our closer reefs that rests at a maximum depth of 18 metres. Most of our sightings have been of grey reef-sharks but we've also seen guitar sharks, which are not common. These strange fish are actually rays, but have a dorsal fin that gives them a shark-like appearance. We've seen them at Pineapple, Gogo's and Yellowfin Drop.
Other unusual sightings from the month included two frog fish at Coral Alley and two leopard sharks. To put in perspective how rare frog fish are, it was a first sighting for Mich who has been working in the area for 11 years!
March dolphin sightings were also exceptional with pods often present on the way to and from dives. We managed to swim with these incredible creatures regularly and on one occasion, they came to play with our bubbles on a safety stop at Ariel Reef. (Photos thanks to Sijmon de Waal)
Gareth and Liz (the managers at Beach Camp) finally completed an Open Water course. It's taken them two years, but they finally found the time and on one of their dives at Elusive, a beautiful manta ray come gliding past as they where descending.
We said goodbye to Ondyne in April. She left us to marry and we all miss her much, especially Boris.
Congratulations to the following divers:
Trevor and Ehren for completing their PADI Discover Scuba Diving Course.
Gareth, Liz, and Matt for completing their PADI Open Water Diver Course.
Pam, Jess and Lindsey for completing their PADI Scuba Diver to Open Water Diver Conversion.
Kerstin and Karan for completing their PADI Advanced Course.
Rocktail Bay Dive Report - March 2010 Jump
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Makalolo Plains update - March 2010 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
We have started to feel a slight chill in the air during early mornings and in the late evenings as winter slowly rolls in to greet us. The days are still lovely and warm though - with temperatures reaching 30°C (86°F) by midday. The rain continued until the end of March, with one or two large thunderstorms rumbling across the African skies, joined by deep blue clouds sending rain cascading from the heavens and making the bush sing with the patter of rain drops on open leaves and dry soil. We received a total of 133mm (5 inches) of rain.
Dew on the tall reaching grasses becomes a shimmering blanket across the open plains in the early morning sunshine. Thanks to the rain, the vegetation is still a verdant green, with plenty of mushrooms about and a myriad of small flowery plants. The lakes are an attractive sight at this time of year. Most trees have finished their flowering, with notable exceptions being the Zambezi teaks with their purple flowers. The trees are still casting their leafy shadows, giving the wildlife somewhere cool to rest during the heat of the day.
The bush is starting to dry out a little as we move inexorably closer to winter, and already herds of zebra and elephant have been seen frequenting the main waterholes near Makalolo Plains. Our guests were welcomed one morning to a continental breakfast by jackal, eland, wildebeest, ostrich, baboon, impala and kudu in amongst a great array of birdlife in front of camp. The guests, many of them in Africa for the first time, were amazed and very excited with the variety. We've seen a large amount of wildlife on game drives, with some special sightings including:
- 24 lion seen on different days
- Caracal at Madison Pan
- Bat-eared fox at Ngweshla
- A male and female reedbuck, which is a very special sighting
- Two gemsbok at Broken Rifle Pan (unusual for this area)
We have had a lone large eland with one horn come to drink at the pan in front of camp on numerous occasions, which is quite rare and so we all enjoy its visits immensely.
The elephant have been visiting the poolside again and entertaining guests while they drink, the pool water sounding like water falling into a barrel when they transfer it from their trunks down their throats.
There was great excitement when rhino tracks were found between Makalolo Camp and Little Samavundla Pan. We saw a total of 37 mammal species this month.
The birds have been seen out and about in Hwange in all their glory this month. Sightings include a Cape Teal at Linkwasha, a Dark Chanting Goshawk and a Black-chested Snake-Eagle. The Fish Eagles that inhabit the Somavundla Pan area can be heard calling across the open vlei to camp, and Crested Guineafowl and Red-billed Francolin have races down the dusty roads before disappearing into the grass. A majestic Martial Eagle was observed flying overhead, and the Pearl-spotted Owlets often welcome the evenings in by calling after sundown. A total number of 97 different birds were spotted this month.
"Once there was a little camp called Makalolo Plains,
No task was too much for the team -
Even lunch in the Rains.
The food was so delicious and we shared meals as mates,
It will be difficult to forget, especially by the extra weight!
The camp was always clean and neat,
A better team you will not meet.
We say thank you for your smiles
They always extend our miles
You made this time so good and sweet
Better service we cannot beat.
We wish you all the best
And even more success!"
"Thanks for the warm welcome, and for the many nice little touches, like the flowers on the towels and the bednight stories. The food was excellent, the people very friendly and the game drives exceptional" - Rosita
Camp life is always a pleasure and we keep ourselves busy. Jaelle, our environmentalist, did her Dangerous Drugs course last month and is now proficient in being able to dart animals that have been snared, in order to remove the snares. She is giving our conservation efforts a big boost.
Little Makalolo update - March 2010 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
Our total recorded rainfall for this month was 76mm (3 inches) and for this we are extremely grateful as it's filled up our natural and maintained waterholes. Towards the end of the month there was a definite increase in temperature, which caused a build-up of clouds over the horizon. Thunder and lightning teased us mercilessly, often disappearing without a drop of rain falling, leaving us with perfect star-speckled skies.
The landscape is dappled with gold as the grasses slowly change colour. We always hope to hang on to the lush green vegetation and brilliant blue skies of summer for as long as possible but there are already signs of winter on the landscape.
We have had some exciting days this month, and know that it's only going to get better as it gets drier - although it's hard to believe sometimes that it could get better. Our highlights have come from all over, from much-anticipated cats to uncommon antelope.
We have seen two species of antelope that are rare in Hwange National Park: a pair of reedbuck and a small herd of gemsbok. The reedbuck, a female and male, were extremely shy and timid so not very good models for the camera. We were lucky enough to see them having a quick drink at the waterhole in front of Little Makalolo before they took cover in the thicker tree line. Then Charles came across the small herd of gemsbok (two females and a male) at Nwgeshla campsite. Gemsbok are an uncommon sighting in this part of the world - so they caused great excitement amongst both guests and staff.
The most exciting of our cat sightings this month had to be cheetah! Cheetah are rare throughout Zimbabwe, and in previous years we considered ourselves lucky to have two or three sightings in a year. This month alone we have had a total of four fantastic sightings. The cheetah was mostly relaxed, allowing for incredible photo opportunities. One afternoon, however, Lewis and his guests came across the cheetah on the prowl. Much to their dismay they didn't get to witness a kill, but being given the chance to follow the hunt, and anticipate success is just as exhilarating.
We've been asking ourselves where all the lion are - and the question has finally been answered - they're here! Not only do we hear their calls disrupting the silence of the night, but we've had numerous sightings of a couple of different prides. One morning Lewis and his guests came across the Back Pans Pride, who tend to spend their time around Linkwasha Camp. There is a little cub in the pride estimated to be a couple of months old, and on this particular morning the cub was suckling its mother while the pride basked in the sun. Charles had a couple of sightings of a magnificent male in the area, and watched a pride stalking buffalo one evening.
We have seen painted hunting dogs (wild dog) again this month. Like the cheetah, painted dogs have always been rare - but this month they have been out and about. There was even a sighting of a pack of dogs on a kudu kill.
The resident spotted hyaena that frequents the camp has kept a very low profile after his latest incident. He is a young male that we think is slightly confused as we often see him sneaking around in the early afternoon. We have had to chase him a couple of times as he is just too familiar. On one occasion he was having an inquisitive inspection of the office, but we managed to get rid of him before he did any damage.
This has been a good month for water birds, and the guides have been kept busy around the waterholes with many different Ducks, Teals and Plovers. Ngweshla waterhole is home to a Little Grebe (Dabchick) family and the male and female have been seen pottering around with chicks in tow.
Unfortunately, as summer draws to an end, we bid farewell to the Carmine and European Bee-eaters. The drive to Madison Vlei is much less colourful and interesting without them swooping around the vehicle trying to catch stray insects disrupted by the movement.
"What an enjoyable time we had staying here - and incredible and different experience. Also to be able to see the animals we would never have dreamed of seeing. I am sure we will be back someday soon." - Andrew and Fiona
"A most enjoyable and wonderful experience! Our sincere thanks for everything. Wonderful driving and incredible viewing of nature. Hope we return." - Gordon and Isobel
"After four days spent here, we have heads full of wonderful images and souvenirs that will last forever. Thanks to all the team that provided us with this dream." - Philippe
This month the Little Makalolo team included Charmaine and Sibs on the management front with Charles and Lewis guiding, assisted by Bryan who joined us for a few days from Makalolo Plains. Thanks to the hostesses, Angie and Kim, for being full of beans and enthusiasm.
Throughout February and March we were fortunate to have the Ruckomechi guides in camp: Tendai, Mathew and Kevin. They are heading back to Ruckomechi now, which is about to open again for the season. I am sure they enjoyed being in Hwange, which is very different to the Zambezi Valley.
Davison's Camp update - March 2010
Weather and Landscape
The month has been a warm one, with the highest temperature recorded being 35.4°C (96°F). We also had 67mm (2.5 inches) of rain, which makes for generally hot and humid days.
The beginning of the month saw the false mopane and Zambezi teak trees out in flower and subsequently dropping their pods and seeds. With the month drawing to a close these have both stopped flowering, leaving the bush a little less colourful. The grasslands are not as violently green as they were at the beginning of the month and the water levels in the pan are looking a little lower, meaning winter is imminent - but the landscape is still looking lush.
The Back Pan lion pride has been caught on camera - doing what lion do best (or second best) - snoozing. We came across them during their afternoon siesta, stretched out in the long cool grass trying to position themselves in the shade of a palm tree. The three lionesses, one collared, and the male, also collared, were difficult to spot, but the twitch of a paw gave them away as they lay on their backs in the long grass.
They were very reluctant to move around in the early afternoon sun, other than one lioness sitting up and giving an enormous yawn before flopping back down to sleep away the rest of the summer sunshine. We decided to move on and leave them to their naps and to come back as the sun was setting when they would be a little more active.
On our return in the afternoon, they were stretching out and walking towards the other female of the pride, who we had seen on the other side of Back Pan. We thought she might have a cub somewhere nearby. The male was mating with the females, and every 10 minutes or so would be enticed by a female's flick of a tail. They began their long walk at a lazy amble, and didn't go very far when they all flopped down in the road for a rest before resuming their walk across the Pan. Their deep-throated calls echoed around the bush as they tried to locate the fifth member of their pride. Eventually there was a reply from the other female as she came into calling range. Two of the lionesses seemed to be the most energetic of the pride and started stalking each other in the long grass and pouncing and rolling over and over. Soon it got too dark to see their shapes making their way across the pan, but every now and again their call would reverberate in our ears as they communicated to the other female.
The buffalo herds are moving back into the area, and have been heard around the camp at night. It seems like there's a herd of about 20, judging from the dark shapes silhouetted against the grassland. Another herd of about 40 was spotted down at the pan one very hot afternoon enjoying a mud bath and a long drink, with the calves racing about playing tag.
Elephant are also being seen a little more often now, especially the breeding herds. On one game drive we saw a herd of about ten adults, eight youngsters and a very little baby, not more than three months old, in the woodland very close to camp. The adults formed a protective circle around the babies as our vehicle approached and they quickly moved off into the thicker trees.
The pack of six wild dog was again spotted out hunting, no sooner had we seen them than they swiftly disappeared into the thicker bush in pursuit of dinner.
We had a keen birder in camp this month who loved the variety of birds seen. She was thrilled that by the end of her five night stay she had recorded over 125 different species of birds! We have had a pair of Arnot's Chats around camp this last month - they are common residents of mopane woodland and are seen hopping along the fallen trunks singing their little hearts out. Our resident pair are not shy, and as you walk past they will sit and sing for you.
142 species of birds were seen this month with 21 different species of birds of prey seen.
"Highlights: the staff, the camp, the animals, birds, the location! Animal highlights: wild dog and cheetah." - Peter and Helen Stokes, UK
"Excellent staff and animal sightings. It's great that the camp blends in with nature, and there's lots of game." - Mike and Beng, Malaysia
Ruckomechi Camp update - March 2010 Jump
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Weather, Landscape and the Zambezi River
March has not been as wet as February, with only 119mm (4.6 inches) of rain. However, with the flood gates open at Kariba Dam, the whole ecological system of our concession has changed. The river is still very high and moving at a speed of 8.2km/h (5m/h) in some places.
The islands in front of Ruckomechi are almost completely under water, leaving only bunches of grass and reeds to remind us where they used to be. Have a look at the pictures on the left - they show the view from our star-gazing deck. The first one was taken in December, and the second one this week.
The rivers leading into the Zambezi are also very high and wide, making a complete island of the camp. Boats are able to drive up the new Ruckomechi mouth as the channels have also deepened. With the river changing as much as it has, the fish have stopped biting and the fisherman tales are not as exciting as they usually are.
The valley is lush and green, with thick vegetation. The green is broken by bright fountains of purples and yellows as the Cleome herta (pretty ladies) and sienna decorate the valley with their delicate feminine touch.
The wildlife has been fairly scarce in March. Most of the roads are not usable as they are still wet, which means we have very limited drives out of camp. By the time we are open for guests again this won't be a problem - and I'm sure the wildlife sightings will be as plentiful as they usually are.
One of the highlights this month was seeing the concession's resident pride of lion on the bank of the Chirara River. The three lion were lying down on the opposite bank, and judging by how vocal they were, they are not happy about crossing the swollen river.
A very different but no less interesting sighting in camp recently was a family of marsh cane rats that were seen a couple of times in the evenings. With the river level being so high, we believe that the family was forced to swim across the river from the islands to drier land.
The concession has been loud and busy with the calls, songs and activities of the bird life. The African Pied Wagtails wander around the star-gazing deck in cheerful moods and the Arrow-marked Babblers begin to call as day breaks, preventing anyone from oversleeping. The resident Goliath Heron that spends the majority of his time on the island in front of camp continues to prove he is by far the best fisherman on this stretch of the river.
Jeremy has been running a very smooth camp this month, getting stuck into all of the construction work and keeping everyone very busy. As we were expecting our first guests in April all staff have worked together to make the camp colourful and cheerful.
The results of the Learner Professional Guide exams came out a bit sooner than the writers would have liked... We are very proud of Jeremy who passed all of his papers and is now a learner guide. Johnny and Clea did well and passed three out of the four exams and will be rewriting only one at the end of the year.
We at Ruckomechi have been very lucky to have Alister Hull as our maintenance manager. We are very sad to say good-bye to him, but wish him the best of luck in the next phase of his life. Alister has left his mark in the workshops and in our memories and we thank him for his dedication to Wilderness for the past 12 years.
Mana Canoe Trail update - March 2010 Jump
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No report this month - Trail re-opens again in May 2010.
Toka Leya Camp update - March 2010 Jump
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Lufupa Tented Camp update - March 2010 Jump
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Kalamu Lagoon Camp update - March 2010 Jump
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Shumba Camp update - March 2010 Jump
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No report this month - camp closed for the season.
Kapinga Camp update - March 2010 Jump
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No report this month - camp closed for the season.
Busanga Bush Camp update - March 2010 Jump
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No report this month - camp closed for the season.
Desert Rhino Camp update - March 2010 Jump
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Palmwag Camp update - March 2010 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
This month has been an absolute scorcher out here in Damaraland, with temperatures reaching the 40s on a regular basis. We were expecting a downpour nearly every day, with strong east winds blowing and bringing storm clouds over our beautiful area, but it was not to be as our enemy the southwesterly came and blew the rain away. We have rain gauges posted out to measure the rain, but they have only been able to record 37mm for the entire year.
All of the rain has fallen to the west of Palmwag, so the animals have heeded the Village People's call to "go west", and have headed to where the grass is greener. That said, we are still having very good sightings of the larger, more territorial species. One particular regular is a rhino we have dubbed 'Koeksister' due to her twisted horn (named after a type of twisted, fried pretzel). She is about to calf and this is limiting her movement. Our elephant herds have all been urbanised and have moved to Bergsig.
Apart from the general game sightings we have on our drives, we have had many visitors of the reptilian kind. We have had our usual suspects, zebra snakes and monitor lizards, but also received two new visitors in the shape of a chameleon and a spotted bush snake. We have been fascinated by a small colony of coral snakes that have made themselves a den at the bottom of an old borehole. How they got there and how they feed themselves no-one will ever know.
We've also seen the arrival of a homing cat... A ginger house cat was holidaying in a camper van with a woman from Zimbabwe, when it decided, as cats do, to go wandering. It disappeared at Puros, was found in Okahirongo, and then flown down to us. It has now made its home here in the Palmwag wilderness - but this seems to be a cat on a mission, so we're not sure how long it'll be around.
It is that time of the year when our skies are filled with the black and white figures of the Abdim's Stork, who come to this area to feed on the insects after the rains. So, are they trying to tell us that the rain is still on its way or have they completely lost their minds?
Doro Nawas Camp update - March 2010 Jump
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So far we haven't received any rain in March, and we truly hope it will rain before May as this area really needs it. The days are quite hot, and the nights nicely cool - making it possible to sleep outside under the stars. What a great adventure!
We haven't seen as many elephant during March as we might have hoped, because they are still in the Bergsig area, which is about 65km from Doro Nawas.
The hartebeest herd has been spotted quite a few times throughout this month. We've seen a few newborn babies also - which is a very welcome sight. It means they are adapting very well to this area, and will hopefully flourish as time goes on.
Black rhino tracks have been seen about 20km from the camp, but we haven't actually seen the rhino. Hartmann's mountain zebra have also been seen in the areas where there is still a lot of grass. A male and female steenbok was spotted in the Huab River, where they were busy feeding on seeds and leaves. A kudu bull was seen hiding from an extremely hot sun, underneath a wild ebony tree in the Huab River.
The sunsets are absolutely breathtaking, as are the amazing views - which make up for the fact that we don't see as many elephant as we are used to.
When asked about their highlights, guests said:
"Breathtaking views and very comfortable rooms. Lovely to get cool towels on arrival after a long Journey." - Bloxham, UK
"Tracking and spotting of desert elephant was a highlight of our stay. It was fantastic." - Castagne, France
"Welcome by Sebastiaan, cool towels by Fiona, and the guided tour with Michael were some of our highlights." - Uhlendorf, Germany
"Shelvia looked after us very well. The staff were great. The singing was good too." PQ Group, Germany and Sweden
Sebastiaan Meyer joins our team in March. He was a guide in the south at Little Kulala and we would like to welcome him to the Doro Nawas Team and truly hope that he will enjoy his time with us.
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)
Damaraland Camp update - March 2010 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
It has been a very dry season at Damaraland Camp. The mornings are cool but by 11h00 everything living is looking for shade. Even the crows are taking a break. The swimming pool brings welcome relief for guests returning from the morning's activities. At 14h00 the afternoon breeze arrives, life starts returning to the surrounding hills and the fog appears in the distant valleys of the Huab River. At 16h30 guests venture from the comfort of the pool to enjoy high tea, and go out on the afternoon activity, returning to camp in the cool of the evening. We had almost no rain - all of 1.5 mm! The regions around us have had much more rain, as illustrated by the lush green vegetation to the north.
We had some wonderful guests in camp this month who were rewarded with great animal and bird sightings; the animals were out in abundance. The elephant are still about 16km north of camp in one of the areas that had good rain. They entertained guests in the afternoon at an area called Spaarwater Pos, where there is a big spring that supplies permanent water. Although there is still drinking water in the Abahuab River, the nutritional value of the vegetation is very low due to the lack of rain - and elephant can eat between 100kg and 200kg of vegetation per day!
We have enjoyed some black rhino sightings this month and have seen fresh lion lion tracks in another area. The lions must have come from the northern Palmwag area and seemed to stay in our area for a while. There is also lots of other predator activity in the area - that of spotted and brown hyaena. It seems the Hartmann's mountain zebra also prefer this area and we counted 275 individuals on a game drive. Natural springs in the area supply ample water and the rain turned the area into a lush, green mountain paradise. The abundance of prey is probably the magnet drawing all the predators to the area.
Although it is dry, birdlife is still abundant. We saw the Lesser Grey Shrike a few days ago, which is a non-breeding migrant and should start heading back north soon. The Black-chested Snake-Eagles soars over camp on a daily basis, scaring all small animals into hiding. There have been reports of Martial Eagles in the area as well. In the riverbed Rosy-faced Lovebirds and Lilac-breasted Rollers awe guests with their vibrant colours. It's nice to see a splash of colour in the otherwise scorched landscape.
This month Namibia celebrates its independence, and the communities around us had big celebrations. This is always a great time to visit Namibia as everyone is in a celebratory mood.
Management: Iván Phillipson, Ilze van der Vyver and Elfrieda Hebach
Guides: Johan Cloete, Anthony Dawids, Raymond Roman and Daniel
Skeleton Coast Camp update - March 2010 Jump
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Serra Cafema Camp update - March 2010 Jump
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Weather, Landscape and Wildlife
We've had high temperatures this past month at Serra Cafema Camp, on the Kunene River in north-western Namibia.
For those who have lived and worked in this area for a few years and know the ins and outs of the habitat, the fact that the Hoodia goriri is in flower for the first time since 2008 is a sign that rain has come - a welcome relief from the prevailing heat waves. Since February, we have had a total of 22mm (almost 1 inch) of rain. The red dunes surrounding camp have been transformed into luscious green hills, proof that this harsh environment is adapted for optimal utilisation of moisture. On the little rain it receives this area sustains several hundred oryx, springbok, ostrich and the livestock of the nomadic Himba people.
The Hoodia is a traditional appetite suppressant amongst the Khoi and Himba people of Namibia - and it's now become popular in western society as a weight-loss aid. This new global popularity has resulted in the Hoodia plant, which grows in one of the harshest environments on earth, now being a protected species.
With abundant rainfall in the north of Namibia, the water levels of the river rose rapidly over a few days. All staff were on alert, but just as quickly as the water came the levels dropped again. We are always keeping a close eye on the river, using the mooring dock of the boats as a point of reference.
One morning, when a staff member went to check the river levels, he found a baby crocodile relaxing in the quiet and somewhat warmer waters of the mooring dock. It stayed for a few days, but probably didn't like all the human activity (we were still taking guests out on the boat), so he disappeared for a few days. A little while later we were happy to see him sunning himself on the steps leading into the water.
Serra Cafema's boat cruises on the mighty Kunene River are always a favourite activity with guests. They have the opportunity to spot numerous species of birdlife, one of the favourites being the Pied Kingfishers that glide over the river, feeding on various insects that live amongst the reeds along the riverbeds.
We have had several encounters with the local African rock pythons in the past few weeks. One theory is that the mouse population has decreased noticeably and so the pythons are more visible in their search for food. Luckily these snakes aren't poisonous and our guides are very skilled in handling them. We remove them from camp safely and release them in as similar an environment as possible to the one in which they were caught.
Logistically, Serra Cafema is one of the most isolated camps in Southern Africa and with Wilderness Safaris' commitment to running ecologically-friendly camps, interesting measures need to be taken to continue our efforts to reduce, reuse and recycle. During our once-a-month bulk run, where a truck goes on a two-day journey into northern Namibia to bring all our dry-store goods, we decided to fill several fuel drums with glass bottles from the camp which would then be returned to Windhoek for recycling.
Ongava Tented Camp update - March 2010 Jump
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Little Ongava update - March 2010 Jump
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Ongava Lodge update - March 2010 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
It looks like the rainy season is over as we haven't seen rain during March, except one little "goodbye" shower of 44ml. Guests are enjoying the nice, hot weather, and spend afternoons by the pool before heading out on the evening drives.
As usual, guests enjoy their dinners on the deck while looking at the black rhino having a drink at the waterhole. On one night, after a very hot day, we had 12 rhino at the waterhole during dinner. Guests stayed longer for dinner to enjoy the sighting, and understand a little better black rhino behaviour. White rhino are seen very often during game drives on the Ongava Reserve.
Lion were spotted less at the waterhole this month, but more on drives around the Reserve. The infamous Stompie's Pride was seen most often. The guides have observed that Stompie herself is getting old now, and that she is teaching the younger males of the pride to hunt, but they are so impatient they always charge for the antelope while still at a distance, which means the antelope see them and run away. They have tried their luck on numerous occasions around the waterhole, but to no avail. They still have to rely on Stompie to make a kill.
This month it was Michael and Lister's turn to spot the leopards on the reserve. They've both seen them on numerous occasions. Once they found a family of four moving together, looking very relaxed. Guests had the opportunity to have a good look at the leopards. Usually one only sees them for a few seconds because they are so shy.
All in all our guests have been very happy this month because they have seen just what they came for: lots of antelope, black and white rhino, lion, cheetah and leopard.
On cooler evenings we sometimes see puffadders around, and the guides take the opportunity to catch one (very carefully), so they can educate the guests about this incredible reptile.
We were watching a male Masked Weaver building a nest in front of our laundry area. Within 24 hours it was complete, and the female came to have a look at the potential house. She inspected it inside and out, then both birds flew away. The female never returned, which means the house wasn't up to scratch, so somewhere else the male is building another nest in the hopes that this one meets his lady love's standards.
"Staff are friendly. Michael the guide is outstanding. Thank you for everything and keep up the good work, the wonderful atmosphere and the friendliness. Thank you to Adriano and all staff."
Our team was joined by Jason Aitembu as an Assistant Manager, replacing Jack Chakanga who left for the Environmental Department at Headquarters.This young man is enthusiastic, energetic and goal-driven. He will definitely add quality to the existing vibrant team of Ongava Lodge and to Wilderness.
Managers: Adriano, Ment-Anna, George and Jason
Guides: Teacher, Abner, Kapona, Hennock, Lister and Michael
Andersson's Camp update - March 2010 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
Temperatures have been fairly pleasant throughout the month at Andersson's, but there were a couple of very hot and humid days. Luckily these were usually broken by the odd rain shower or a cool breeze by nightfall. We didn't have a lot of rain this month, and it's hard to know whether one should be pleased or sad. Pleased because the dryness means guests see more animals at the waterhole, but sad because we really need the rain!
Wildlife and Birding
March has seen animals gradually returning to the waterhole - which is a welcome sight after about two months of kudu and giraffe.
The waterhole is now frequented by several rhino and we are having almost daily sightings. The blue wildebeest have discovered our mud-wallow, which was intended for rhino, and have been grooming in there often.
A new pride of lion have moved into the area and although they are seen at the waterhole every now and then they are much less vocal than the previous pride.
Welcome visitors on the birding front include Black-faced Waxbills, Bare-cheeked Babblers and several species of Whydahs. Another wonderful sight is Rufous-cheeked Nightjars hunting in the light at the waterhole.
Camp Managers, Charles and Annalie, have been here for a year now and are looking forward to a couple more. Assistant Managers, Sakkie and Lorna, are old hands by now and are doing a brilliant job. Francois has joined us in the office and is also doing well.
Little Kulala Camp update - March 2010 Jump
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Kulala Desert Lodge update - March 2010 Jump
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Governors' Camp update - March 2010 Jump
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The average temperatures dropped to about 28 C in March after a fairly hot February. This was due mostly to the amazing rains that we received during the month, amounting to 741mm (3 inches). We have had a very good rainy season so far with only a few weeks break since December last year, and the Kenya Meteorological Dept is predicting plenty more to come, which is welcome news after the long drought that Kenya has endured. During March we enjoyed a mixture of weather, some good storms coming in after sunny mornings, a couple of rainy mornings and some cloudy days. The storms have brought stunning cloud formations all of which have made for some stunning photographic moments. All the rain and sunshine has meant fabulous growing weather in the Mara. The grassland plains are extremely lush, high and seeding. Animals such as warthog, hyena, bat-eared fox and aardvark have been plentiful. It has been a quiet month in the Mara, giving our guests that great feeling of the huge open expanse that only the Mara can give you. The BBC have been back at Governors' camp filming the cat activity in the area and have given us some valued information over the past few weeks.
Photos Courtesy of Chala Cadot
We continue to have incredible amounts of elephants through the Warburgia forest along the Mara River and into the Musiara Marsh. There has been an increase in the number of elephant bulls in the area, with a fair few in musth, following up herds of females which may be in oestrus. Our guides are having to approach a little more carefully these days, as males in musth have high levels of testosterone and can be a little aggresive.
We heard an amazing story from one of the BBC vehicles; whilst out filming on the boundary of Maasailand near the Marsh a massive elephant bull took exception to a Masai cow passing by and attacked it, tusking it and severely wounding the animal. The Maasai herdsmen saw this at a distance and requested the BBC vehicles help, which they gave. However the Marsh Pride of lions had seen all the commotion and as the Maasai had mysteriously disappeared into the steel box (BBC car), they took advantage of their absence and raced over towards the injured cow. The scene was a large number of lions including cubs and a vehicle with irate Maasai herdsmen all converging on the poor Maasai cow. The vehicle did however beat the lions to it with one of the Maasai launching out to protect his beloved cow. This scared the lions off and they retreated, the cow did not fare so well though.
Photos courtesy of Samuel Kiplangat and Chala Cadot
The same large herd of about 400 buffalo have been moving through the long grass plains between the marsh and over to rhino ridge.
We have had plenty of giraffe about the forest line mostly eating on Teclea, they have been grouping into herds of up to 30 individuals. A great scene when they all move on to the plains.
A Marshal Eagle was seen taking a Banded Mongoose off the ground and flying off with it, must have been very difficult to contend with in the air.
A large pack of 30 hyena were found hunting topi up on Rhino ridge, they managed to take a young one down. Whilst a single hyena had managed to kill a young impala by its self near the Mara River, it is likely the impala was ill as they are normally much quicker than a hyena.
The Marsh Pride of lions now has a new 3 week old cub from 'Bibi'. The total number of lions in this pride is now 26. The pride splitting into three distinct groups as hunting becomes more difficult in the long grass. 'Lispy' had moved off with the sub adults, 'White-eye' and 'Bibi' with their cubs and the two males 'Romeo' and 'Claude' are spending most of their time with the three Graces and their cubs. On the 25th 21 of them all came together to spend some time as a pride and bond. They have not been very successful hunting, with many relieved warthogs managing to out run and out manoeuvre their attacks. They have been seen hunting and killing a reedbuck, a few small warthogs and a couple of young waterbucks.
Photos courtesy of Chala Cadot
The Paradise Pride of lions are still living up to their formidable reputation of hunting hippo. The 5 younger male lions have apparently killed about 10 so far, Notch reportedly not involved. No one has actually witnessed the event, but it is assumed that the lions follow a hippo out far enough away from the water, so as they cannot make a quick escape. They then hamstring the animal to immobilise it and the long process of killing the poor animal begins. 3 females and 7 cubs have been seen regularly with Notch, but less so with the younger males. Besides the hippo feasts they are at times fortunate enough to have, there is a little more plains game available to them than the Marsh Pride.
The Ridge Pride are still the same two males seen with a few females, two of whom we have always known about. One of which is not in such good condition. The males have also been sighted consorting with a couple of lionesses from the Marsh Pride, resulting in a small scrap and the lionesses moving on.
There have been some good sightings of leopard this month. On a fairly regular basis, our leopardess in the local area between Governors' Camp, Il Moran and the marsh forest 'lake Nakuru'. She was sighted with a young waterbuck kill in the marsh area.
A huge male was seen up a green-heart tree with an impala kill near the Mara River.
Also Olive has been hunting along the croton thickets near the River, unsuccessfully, a hard task during daylight hours.
At the beginning of the month a male leopard was in Olive's territory and they had a heated encounter. He was in search of a female in season, which she was obviously not as she has young cubs that are still dependant. She acted submissively rolling on her back, but growling aggressively forcing the male to move on.
There have also been the odd brief sightings of other unknown leopard along the river-line.
The three boys have been the most active cheetah in the area. They have made numerous kills, a couple of which were stolen by hyena which have been unrelenting in these lean times.
The female cheetah and her cub have so far beaten the odds and are making a good living and staying out of harms way.
Photos courtesy of Chala Cadot
Shakira is still on the Transmara side of the river, with very little news of her activity.
We had a different female cheetah in the area, which was seen hunting a gazelle which she missed. However 5 minutes later whilst resting, a male gazelle went running right by without noticing her crouching in the grass - she got that one!
Altogether we have had a wonderful month of game viewing and we look forward to the promise of more rain in April.
We hope to share the magic of our corner of the Mara with you sometime soon.
Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge update - March 2010
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