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AFRICAN SAFARI NEWS

May 2010

(Page 1 of 2)

Page 1 Updates
General Safari News - General information and updates from our partners in Africa
Wildlife News - Interesting wildlife sightings and photos.
Camp News - Camp specific news, including refurbs, rebuilds, accolades, etc.
• Monthly update from North Island in Seychelles.
• Monthly update from Kings Pool Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from DumaTau Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Savuti Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Zarafa Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Selinda Camp in Botswana.
Kwando Safaris game reports from Botswana.
• Monthly update from Mombo Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Xigera Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Chitabe Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Vumbura Plains Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Little Vumbura Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Duba Plains Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Jacana Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Kwetsani Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Jao Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Tubu Tree Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Kalahari Plains Camp in Botswana.

Page 2 Updates
• Monthly update from Pafuri Camp in South Africa.
• Monthly update from Pafuri Walking Trail in South Africa.
• Monthly update from Kings Camp in South Africa.
• Monthly update from Rocktail Beach Camp in South Africa.
• Monthly Dive report from Rocktail Bay in South Africa.
• Monthly update from Makalolo Plains in Zimbabwe.
• Monthly update from Little Makalolo in Zimbabwe.
• Monthly update from Davison's Camp in Zimbabwe.
• Monthly update from Ruckomechi Camp in Zimbabwe.
• Monthly update from Mana Canoe Trail in Zimbabwe.
• Monthly update from Toka Leya Camp in Zambia.
• Monthly update from Lufupa River Camp in Zambia.
• Monthly update from Lufupa Tented Camp in Zambia.
• Monthly update from Kalamu Lagoon Camp in Zambia.
• Monthly update from Shumba Camp in Zambia.
• Monthly update from Kapinga Camp in Zambia.
• Monthly update from Busanga Bush Camp in Zambia.
• Monthly update from Desert Rhino Camp in Namibia.
• Monthly update from Palmwag Camp in Namibia.
• Monthly update from Doro Nawas Camp in Namibia.
• Monthly update from Damaraland Camp in Namibia.
• Monthly update from Skeleton Coast Camp in Namibia.
• Monthly update from Serra Cafema Camp in Namibia.
• Monthly update from Ongava Tented Camp in Namibia.
• Monthly update from Little Ongava in Namibia.
• Monthly update from Ongava Lodge in Namibia.
• Monthly update from Andersson's Camp in Namibia.
• Monthly update from Little Kulala Camp in Namibia.
• Monthly update from Kulala Desert Lodge in Namibia.
• Monthly update from Governors' Camp in Kenya's Masai Mara.
• Monthly update from Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge in Rwanda.


GENERAL UPDATES
Great Plains Conservation and Wilderness Safaris form joint venture on Duba Plains
Great Plains and Wilderness Safaris announced an exciting change at Duba Plains. Duba Plains has long been the home and favorite location for Great Plains Conservation principals Dereck and Beverly Joubert. The 30 000-hectare (74129-acre) reserve in the northern Okavango is well known for its lion and buffalo interactions with some of the largest lions in Africa and a herd of well over 1 000 buffalo.

Duba Plains Camp with lions and buffalos

Great Plains Conservation will take over all management and will extend the experiences offered at Duba Plains by taking advantage of exceptional floods and the new opportunities that they present. Reservations and marketing will still be done through Wilderness Safaris, just as for Selinda and Zarafa Camps.


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WILDLIFE NEWS
Elusive Sitatunga poses in Jao Camp
Location:   Jao Camp, Jao Concession, Botswana.
Date:   6 May 2010.
Observers:  Kim Nixon and Martin Kays
Photographer:  Kim Nixon

Imagine our surprise when, straight from our arrival at the airstrip, we arrived at Jao Camp in the late afternoon to spot a sub-adult sitatunga male quietly foraging in the more open areas directly behind the guest rooms! We could not believe our luck and I even managed to get the sequence of adjoining images to prove it!

This enigmatic and highly elusive antelope is a specialist swamp denizen of the Okavango Delta where it usually resides in the quiet backwaters and most remote islands. Even if it is seen it is often only a fleeting glimpse of a startled antelope before it disappears again. The eastern sides of the Jao Concession are one of the best places to see this rare antelope and a study done here in the late 1990s by Jennifer Lalley estimated that as many as 650 sitatunga occurred in the area, with this population multiplying in the peak of the flood season when suitable habitat was available.

Young male sitatunga antelope at Jao Camp    Young male sitatunga antelope at Jao Camp    Young male sitatunga antelope at Jao Camp

Due to the big flood that the Okavango Delta and the Jao Concession is experiencing this year, we are currently enjoying outstanding sightings - just like this - of sitatunga right around camp. It seems that their seasonal movement and feeding patterns are affected by the annual flood regime of the Delta, causing the animals to move out of the reedbeds and onto the flooded grassland on the fringes of the mainland during high water periods.

Apart from the Delta it is also found in undisturbed wetlands of West and Central Africa, but is usually a very rare sighting anywhere. The adult males sport impressive spiral horns and despite weighing up to 60kg they are often perfectly camouflaged in their preferred habitat. Their dark, shaggy coats also make them hard to see.

Although closely related to the more common kudu and bushbuck, the sitatunga spends most of its life in or near water. Sitatunga are highly adapted to living in perennial swamps like the Okavango Delta. Its hooves are splayed and v-shaped to help it move across floating vegetation and if threatened it will even dive into the water to hide.

As the sitatunga is such a specialist antelope its biggest threat is habitat destruction and pristine areas like the Okavango Delta are one of this species' last strongholds. A sighting of this length of time and at such a close distance was a privilege indeed.



The White Lady of the South appears at Kulala Desert Lodge
Location:  Kulala Desert Lodge, Kulala Wilderness Reserve, Namibia
Date:  24 May 2010
Observers: Johan Fourie and Jennifer Dickinson
Photographer: Jennifer Dickinson

A very pale female gemsbok (oryx) has been noted occasionally over the years moving through Kulala Wilderness Reserve. She has become a bit of a legend in her own right and we have rather affectionately taken to calling her the 'White lady of the South'.

We recently observed her grazing quite close to Kulala Desert Lodge and took the adjoining images. It looks as if she is pregnant at the moment and it is not completely certain whether she will pass the recessive gene causing this colour anomaly onto her offspring.

Pale female gemsbok at Kulala    Pale female gemsbok at Kulala

This colour variation seen in the gemsbok is called leucism, and although frequently recorded in birds is not seen that often in mammals. Namibia however has seen its fair share of colour anomalies recently such as the snow white black-backed jackal (read more about it in the January 2009 updates here) and the melanistic Burchell's zebra, both sightings recorded in Etosha.

Leucism is a condition characterised by reduced pigmentation, causing this gemsbok to take on a somewhat washed out appearance as opposed to the normal distinct black, white and fawn markings seen in the adults of this majestic antelope species. This contrasts with albinism which is the complete lack of any pigmentation. In leucism the eyes and soft parts are normal in colour whereas in albinism, eyes or soft parts are very pale in colour, even a fleshy pink due to underlying blood vessels showing through.

This female was last noted in August 2009 and it seems she has made her phantom-like appearance again.



Savuti's wild dogs make a kill - in the Savute Channel
Location:   Savuti Camp, Linyanti Concession, Botswana
Date:   15 May 2010
Observers:  Kai Kollins, Savuti Camp Managers and Guides
Photographer:  Kai Collins

Wild dogs are extremely adept hunters, relying on pack effort and cooperation to bring down mostly medium-sized antelope. A very interesting facet to their hunting technique in the Linyanti is that they often use 'obstacles' such as water courses to corner and catch their prey. Although wild dog frequently swim across rivers and water bodies, they are also at risk in deeper water due to crocodiles - and the Savute Channel has loads of resident crocodiles at present.

At around 8am in the morning we suddenly realised there were wild dogs right in Savuti Camp, directly in front of Room 6 to be precise. As we approached this room on the wooden walkway, we saw the pack running around on a half-submerged fallen tree that stretched out into the Savute Channel.

Wild dogs at Savuti camp trying to get an impala in the channel    Wild dogs at Savuti camp trying to get an impala in the channel

This seemed rather strange behaviour for wild dogs as they generally don't climb around in trees, and have a sensible fear of water thanks to huge, lurking crocodiles. Next, and to our great surprise, the alfa male launched himself right into the waters of the Savute Channel and started swimming around the branches of the fallen tree. We then noticed the rump of an impala male sticking out of the water, trapped in the tree branches.

Guests just back from their morning drive now succeeded in witnessing the whole event. We can only assume that the wild dogs chased the impala towards the Channel, and it ran along the tree branch and tried to escape into the water but got entangled in the submerged branches and drowned.

The morning sun bathed the macabre scene in golden light and the rest of the wild dogs were now also jumping into the water and swimming around, desperately tugging at the impala, trying to free it from the branches but to no avail - all the while keeping a keen lookout for crocodiles.

Wild dogs at Savuti camp trying to get an impala in the channel    Wild dogs at Savuti camp trying to get an impala in the channel

The wild dog pack spent a couple of hours trying to free the impala, the dominant male leading the efforts, eventually getting so exhausted he could barely drag himself out of the water and onto the tree stump. They continued their antics of jumping around in the tree branches and pulling at the impala before taking a break and sleeping for a few hours during the heat of the day. They tried again in the afternoon but the impala was firmly wedged, and only the following morning with renewed efforts did they succeed in freeing the impala and devouring it in a couple of minutes. Unfortunately while no one was around to witness this final act in a very unusual drama.

The dogs were lucky that a crocodile didn't steal their meal, it being submerged in the water for so long, and their persistence paid off in the end with what can definitely be called a "hard-earned" meal!

Ever since the Savute Channel has been flowing, it has certainly made for some fantastic and very different game viewing along its banks.



Hyaena Charge at Vumbura Plains
Location:   Vumbura Plains, Kwedi Concession, Botswana
Date:   7 May 2010
Observers:  Vumbura Plains Guides, Kai Collins and Brian Rode
Photographer:  Kai Collins

The arrival of the annual floodwaters in the Kwedi Concession where Vumbura Plains is situated has far from impeded game viewing opportunities. Seeing this beautiful concession being transformed by the languid life-giving floodwaters is an amazing spectacle in itself, but there was far more in store for us on a recent visit.

While out on a morning game drive, with the help of the tell-tale sign of White-backed Vultures perched and squabbling in trees, Vumbura Plains guides located an old giraffe carcass in knee-high floodwater, its remains being fed on by a hungry clan of about 15 spotted hyaena.

Hyenas feeding on a giraffe carcass at Vumbura Plains    Hyenas feeding on a giraffe carcass at Vumbura Plains

Spotted hyaena often wade or swim through water but they are also very wary of crocodiles in deeper water, where they can inadvertently become the prey in turn. The rewards for the clan seemed to outweigh the risks associated with getting to the carcass, since although the carcass had been lying in the water for a while already, there was still quite a bit of meat left on it in places.

While we revelled in this spectacle, with camera shutters clicking away trying to capture that 'wow moment', I noted that the hyaena seemed quite anxious.

There were a few catfish feeding on the carcass remains and gulping for air - their sucking noises and body splashes making the hyaenas more wary, increasing their valid fear of crocodiles arriving on the scene at any moment.

Hyenas running in the Okavango water at Vumbura    Hyenas running in the Okavango water at Vumbura

Their nervousness was exacerbated even more by a rival clan that was approaching and rallying together in an attempt to take over the carcass. There were hyaenas everywhere, calling and whooping continuously; their vocalisations were incredible to hear. Every now and then one of the hyaenas would spook, possibly thinking it saw a crocodile or just due to the other hyaena clan approaching ever closer. They would then charge past us onto dry land, where they would regroup until a brave individual would pluck up the courage to wade out into the water again and continue feeding on the carcass.

This happened several times and we managed to get a few great shots of them racing through the water in our direction. What a fantastic sighting made possible due to the arrival of the annual floodwaters in the Okavango Delta.



Bat Survey at Pafuri
Location:  Pafuri Camp, Kruger National Park, South Africa
Date:  01-05 Feb 2010
Observers:  Dr Teresa Kearney, Ernest Seamark, Dr Wanda Markotter, Prof Louis Nel, Walter Jubber and Johan Rebel
Photographs:  ECJ Seamark

Continuing the partnership between Wilderness Safaris and the Ditsong National Museum of Natural History (formerly the Transvaal Museum), Dr Teresa Kearney and Ernest Seamark surveyed bats in three different habitats around Pafuri Camp in the Makuleke Concession of Kruger National Park recently. This is the first survey done on bats in this area since the 1980s so we were excited at the prospect.

Dr Wanda Markotter and Prof Louis Nel (both from the University of Pretoria) were also part of the field group, taking samples from the bats to screen for viruses, as well as taking tissue. The latter so that we can compare identifications based on DNA, with those based on more traditional identification keys using external, skull and dental characteristics. Walter Jubber (Pafuri Environmental Officer) provided excellent knowledge of the area in suggesting different areas to survey, and together with an interested guest, Johan Rebel, also gave much needed assistance with the netting.

Mauritian Tomb Bat    Egyptian Fruit Bat

We caught 118 bats using mist nets and hand nets. Preliminary field identifications indicate about 15 different species were caught, that represent six families; Old world Fruit Bats (Pteropodidae), Horseshoe Bats (Rhinolophidae), Leaf-nosed Bats (Hipposideridae), Sheath-tailed Bats (Emballonuridae), Free-tailed Bats (Molossidae) and Vesper Bats (Vespertilionidae).

As we previously noted in Botswana, the species compositions appeared to vary between the different sites that were sampled. In the narrow riverine edge next to the Luvuvhu River we caught about seven different species, predominantly vesper bats, including the spectacularly beautiful Butterfly Bat (Glauconycteris variegate), but also Mauritian Tomb Bat (Taphozous mauritianus), and the cave dwelling fruit bat, Egyptian Fruit Bat (Rousettus aegyptiacus).

At an ana tree grove near Crooks' Corner we caught about six different species, including Rüppell's Horseshoe Bat (Rhinolophus fumigates), Angolan Free-tailed Bat (Mops condylurus), and an impressively large and strong species that has never before been recorded in the Pafuri area, the Giant House Bat (Scotophilus nigrita).

Rüppell's Horseshoe Bat    Ansorge's Free-tailed Bat

On the floodplain adjacent to the Limpopo River we were impressed by both insect and bat numbers, and caught a total of 71 bats of about eight species in one evening.  Molossid species were about as plentiful as vesper species, and included a capture of Ansorge's Free-tailed Bat (Chaerephon ansorgei).

After our departure Walter Jubber found an individual of Percival's Trident Bat (Cloeotis percivali) in the camp, which is yet another species that had never before been recorded in the park. This area was extensively surveyed for bats more than 20 years ago, so it is exciting to add yet more species to the list and to speculate why these species were not been recorded during the previous work. Maybe, the record of the Giant House Bat (Scotophilus nigrita) is evidence of the species shifting distribution as a result of changes in climate, and that of Percival's Trident Bat (Cloeotis percivali) due to their being rarely caught in nets and traps? 

Pictured above are from left to right and top to bottom are Mauritian Tomb Bat, Egyptian Fruit Bat, Rüppell's Horseshoe Bat and Ansorge's Free-tailed Bat.



Wild Dog vs. Crocodile at DumaTau
Location:   DumaTau Camp, Linyanti Concession, Botswana
Date:   25 May 2010
Observers:  Linda Dice, Ron Syens and Sefo Oganeditse

It was a typical tranquil afternoon in the Linyanti and we were busy watching a bachelor herd of young male elephants bathing in the Savute Channel. Sheer bliss... That all changed however when we sighted fresh wild dog tracks - the pack heading east towards the DumaTau floodplain. We decided to pursue and see what they were up to.

Wild dogs chasing a kudu at DumaTau    Wild dog at DumaTau

We found the dogs just before sunset. They had just chased a sub-adult kudu right into the water; panic stricken, the kudu must have felt it was the only route to escape.  Some of the other dog pack members were also trying their luck on some red lechwe, but gave up the chase and came back to wait and see what the kudu's next move would be - the antelope now mired motionless in the middle of the floodplain.  One of the dogs then got into the water to try and force the kudu's next move.  In response, the kudu splashed, noisily jumping deeper into the water.  Suddenly, the dog swam back to the safety of the bank. The dog's reasoning would become very apparent shortly.

Two crocodiles (between two and three metres long) were then observed approaching the hapless kudu.  The first crocodile took a strike and missed, which was enough to drive the young kudu out of the water and right towards the hungry dogs.  The chase was on for about five minutes before the kudu ran back into the water again. The light was now fading.

Wild dogs chasing a kudu at DumaTau    Kudu running from wild dogs at DumaTau

Two minutes later a shimmering wave headed towards the kudu. With the speed of a bolt of lightning, massive jaws came out of the water grabbing the defenseless kudu by the neck and pulling her down into the water, ultimately drowning her. The crocodile had won in this 'match' between these predators of the Savute and made for another riveting wildlife drama in the Linyanti Concession.


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CAMP UPDATES
BOTSWANA
The amazing Okavango Delta Flood of 2010

The annual Okavango flood is an eagerly anticipated phenomenon; seeing this beautiful ecosystem being transformed by the slow advance of life-giving floodwaters is an amazing spectacle and a hugely important event for the biodiversity of the Okavango and northern Botswana in general. The renowned wetland system is receiving a record inflow in 2010.

Jao Camp and the lovely Okavango flood waters of 2010

The flood seems to follow 'wet' and 'dry' cycles, with the wet cycles usually lasting 10-15 years. 2010 is about three years into the wet cycle, moving out of the dry cycle of between 1985 and 2005. What is exciting is that the water levels of 2010 are going to be on a par with those last seen in the 1970s.

These annual flooding regimes are the essence of the Okavango Delta. The effects are fantastic, as large grassland areas and floodplains become flooded, and a continued recharge of groundwater takes place. The Savute Channel can be expected to have a major increase in flows, resuscitating the famed Savute Marsh, and the Selinda Spillway has now also joined the Okavango and Linyanti for only the 2nd time in 30 years. The next few seasons are going to offer wonderful opportunities to experience the Okavango Delta in all its glory.


Massage therapists now in Selinda Reserve
Selinda and Zarafa Camps now each have their own massage therapist based permanently at camp. At Selinda, the massage therapies are available either in the guest's tent or in the gallery below the curio shop. At Zarafa these are offered inside the guest's tent or outside on the deck overlooking the Zibalianja Lagoon.


Vumbura Airstrip closed
The Vumbura airstrip has been closed until further notice due to the seasonal flood. Guests for Little Vumbura and Vumbura Plains camps are now being flown to the Duba Plains airstrip and then transferred to camp by helicopter allowing an exceptional aerial experience of the Okavango at no extra cost. This can obviously change at any time and we will keep you posted.


Banoka Bush Camp Opening Slightly Delayed
Banoka Bush Camp, the new Safari Adventure Company camp, was due to be opened in August 2010, but the rising water levels in Botswana presented some challenges on getting building material to site! It is now scheduled to open around 20 September 2010 instead.


ZIMBABWE
New Bridge and Boat at Ruckomechi Camp

Ruckomechi Camp has just completed a new bridge over the Charara River that will open up additional game viewing roads onto the ridge behind camp and elsewhere. As the sluice gates have been opened at Kariba Dam upstream, the water levels of the Zambezi River have risen considerably. Ruckomechi Camp has not been affected at all and it is quite a sight to see so much water in the Zambezi!

New bridge and boat at Ruckomechi Camp in Zimbabwe

Ruckomechi has also just received delivery of a new boat for their transfers from Chirundu to Ruckomechi Camp (an excellent experience and a great way to connect Zambia with this Zimbabwe camp).


MALAWI
Nyika update

Construction at Chelinda Camp and Lodge is on schedule. The airstrip is functional already and flights are regularly coming in (the resident roan antelope seem to love the new airstrip too!). Nyika is spectacular at the moment with the greenery of summer still cloaking the grasslands and hills and game concentrations around camp allowing great viewing.

Construction of the new lodge and airstrip at Chelinda in Malawi


EXPLORATIONS SAFARIS
BOTSWANA

The Great Wilderness Journey, Migration Routes and The Green Desert Expedition - will operate as usual. Wild Kalahari - will not be operating as a scheduled safari in 2011, but can be booked as a tailor-made itinerary.

NAMIBIA
Diverse Namibia - this is a new and exciting Adventurer Exploration which has been launched for 2011. Spirit of the Namib, Desert Rhino Expedition and Namibian Mountain Bike Safari will no longer operate as scheduled departures in 2011, but can be booked on a tailor-made basis.

The Great Namibia Journey will continue to be offered. For 2011 Namibia will have two focused scheduled Explorations - Diverse Namibia, an Adventurer Exploration, and The Great Namibian Journey, a Discoverer Exploration.


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Seychelles
North Island Update - May 2010              Jump to North Island

WEATHER
In contrast to the serene, picture-perfect seascapes that have been experienced during the latter part of the summer, the previously mirror-calm seas are now alive with energy. The swells dissipate quickly on the rocks as they round the point near the cross from whence they creep toward the shore. Gusts approach on the surface of the sea, swirling in synchronised circles, blowing the spray off the tips of the wave crests. While the seas are already agitated, the brunt of the south-east monsoon winds have yet to arrive. 

FISH AND DIVING
The shift of season brings a change in the currents and thus nutrients which result in exciting developments. The yellowtail jacks are swarming over the reef in large, enthusiastic schools and the sprats have arrived at Sprat City - they are the highlight of the season.

Humphead parrotfish have provided much interest this month. They have been seen at Coral Gardens and most often at Twin Anchors just off Silhouette Island. These peculiar looking creatures, which feed on live corals and algae, are the largest of all parrotfish. The humphead is named for its prominent bulbous forehead which it uses to bash the coral into smaller more easily digestible pieces.

While we initially thought these creatures were detrimental to the development of the reef, this is not the case and the damage they cause apparently assists the corals to spread more quickly. We've seen this on Twin Anchors where branches of staghorn coral have been broken off and then continued to grow into new colonies nearby.

The gregarious humphead parrotfish is normally found in small shoals but can be as large as 75 individuals. Larger groups can also be found sleeping. These fish simply lie down on the reef - a very strange sight indeed.

On a disturbing note, we have noticed coral bleaching on a few of the reefs, possibly as a result of rising sea temperatures. Corals are animals, related to anemones and jellyfish. They consist of a limestone structure filled with thousands of small animals called polyps. Each polyp has a skeleton cup, tentacles with stinging cells, a mouth and a stomach. The tiny tentacles are used to snatch passing plankton. Algae, called zooxanthellae, live within each coral polyp. In return for a safe sunny home, the zooxanthellae eat the nitrogen waste that the corals produce and turn sunlight into sugars by the process of photosynthesis. The sugars produced by these algae make up 98 per cent of the corals' food. So, without having to do any work at all, corals are kept clean and well fed. At the same time, the zooxanthellae with their brilliant reds, oranges and browns give corals their colour. 

Rising sea temperatures block the photosynthetic reaction that converts carbon dioxide into sugar. This results in the production of "superoxides," such as hydrogen peroxide, which are toxic by-products that can poison the zooxanthellae. The algae then migrate, die or are expelled which results in the colour leaving the coral. The loss of their primary food source creates metabolic stress for the corals and they become susceptible to disease.

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

No report this month.

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DumaTau Camp update - May 2010               Jump to DumaTau Camp

No report this month.

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Savuti Camp update - May 2010               Jump to Savuti Camp

No report this month.

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Zarafa Camp update - May 2010               Jump to Zarafa Camp

Weather & Landscape     
The temperatures in May have reminded us that winter is on the way. A cold front moved through recently and for a week, the evenings and early mornings were quite cold. The days have been warm however with most days still rising to around 33°C . 

Despite some overcast days and afternoon skies punctuated with storm clouds, there has been no rain. Our last spell of rain was a 60mm storm at the end of April. A week after that, the levels in the Zibadianja Lagoon and the spillway began to subside. Now the signs of the dry season are all around with little or no water lying in the roads and dust being kicked up by animals as they move. Around camp, the bush is drying, the grasses and undergrowth are dying back and the feverberries are either losing their leaves or being stripped by elephants moving through Zarafa Camp.

Wildlife
The lions have finally settled down. The two Northern Males have left the two females and three cubs from the north of the concession and now spend all of their time with the four Selinda Pride lionesses and their two male cubs. These two are growing up quickly and are becoming familiar with our presence on game drives - they often come up quite close and investigate. 

Amber's daughter, our familiar leopard with the large nick in her right ear, has been renamed Maditsebe ('the one with the ear'). Her cub is doing well and has been seen often this month. He is now a lot more relaxed and we recently viewed him playing by himself, rolling on his back and biting branches while Maditsebe slept a little way off.

We fear that Amber has lost her second cub as it was last seen at the beginning of April. Since then, the few times we have seen her, she's been without the cub. She birthed two cubs at the beginning of December 2009 and lost the first one sometime earlier this year.

The wild dogs of the Zibadianja Pack have only spent short periods around the south-eastern section of the Selinda Reserve. It appears that one male has left the group with the six pups. The Selinda Pack is down to four dogs from six earlier in the year. 

We have had many unusual sightings this month including caracal a number of times, some porcupine and numerous honey badgers. The roan antelope are spending increasing amounts of time out of the woodlands and on the open grasslands and floodplains. They also seem to habituating to game drives and this allows many great photographic opportunities.

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Selinda Camp update - May 2010               Jump to Selinda Camp

Weather
The nights are cooling into the winter but generally the weather in northern Botswana is very pleasant. It allows for warm days out and a wonderful sense of camaraderie around the campfire during the chilly evenings. The heavens still promise moisture and the cloud formations during the day are spectacular. If last year is anything to go by, we may well enjoy a shower or two before the dry season sets in.

Animals and Landscape
The resident wild dog pack has been rather elusive of late but we've had a few wonderful opportunities to view and photograph them this month. They are all looking healthy and hopefully, come the middle of winter, we will be afforded the pleasure of sharing in the extension of the pack - the alpha female looks pregnant!  Last season we watched this small group raise five pups successfully. 

Other mammal highlights have included herds of roan and a growing number of elephants wondering through the area en route to the Spillway for their daily drink and bath. The lion cubs of the resident pride have been spotted on a regular basis and appear to be developing well. One of the lionesses has been mating so there should be some additions to the pride in the next three months or so.

The big news for May is that the waters of the Okavango Delta and Kwando / Linyanti systems joined along the Selinda Spillway on the 17th of the month. This is three months earlier than last year. The Selinda Canoe Trails are already preparing for their second venture down the spillway - this water trip is the adventure of a lifetime. 

Guests
We've had the pleasure of many agents coming to enjoy Selinda over the last month. We are grateful for the time they've spent with us and hope to have the pleasure of showing this incredible part of the world to their guests in the future.

Staff News
Back at the camp, we welcome David and Alice Murray as the new managers of our lovely camp and wish them many happy moons here. The new executive chef, Nelson Sheenga, is a welcome addition to our dynamic kitchen team and is maintaining a high standard of cuisine as well as also providing many laughs with his deep booming voice and good sense of humour.

We bade a fond farewell to Ishmael who has been guiding here for years. He has spread his wings and landed at our newly acquired sister camp, Duba Plains. He's having a great time there and has already made us all green with envy with his stories of lion and buffalo interactions at Duba.

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Kwando Safari Camps Update - May 2010

Lagoon camp               Jump to Lagoon Camp
• The beautiful Lagoon area continues to provide excellent wild dog sightings including this month a pack of seventeen dogs hunting kudu, impala and young warthog.
• The three cheetah brothers fail to roam far from their traditional hunting grounds and have been sighted regularly including recently on a young zebra kill. They did not have much time to feed on their kill as a large male leopard took the opportunity for an easy meal and forced the three cheetah off the carcass.
• Other notable sightings include nesting Secretary birds, regular sightings of large herds of buffalo, dwarf mongoose, large herds of eland and elephant.

Lebala camp               Jump to Lebala Camp
• A leopard was at the wrong end of a 'carcass grab' at Lebala, this time losing out to a big male lion.
• Leopard and lion were spotted regularly this month, including lion unsuccessfully stalking herds of wildebeest.
• The cheetah brothers were also sighted by the Lebala guides and they were lucky enough to spot them hunting and killing both a zebra foal and a steenbok.
• As well as excellent general game, guides have spotted herds of eland and several roan and even a hyena carrying a new born pup in her mouth on the way to the den.

Kwara & Little Kwara camps               Jump to Kwara & Little Kwara camps
• The theme of carcass theft continues even in the Kwara concession! An old tom lost out after hunting an impala near the camp, when another lazy male lion decided to help himself to some easy pickings!
• Elsewhere four hyena forced a timid female cheetah from her kudu kill.
• Lion were clearly active within the Kwara area, with several sightings of various individuals from no less than three different prides including some hunting - but most sleeping!
• Leopard were also sighted hunting impala near the camps on a regular basis.
• Elsewhere guides were fortunate to spot black mamba, snouted cobra and African rock python all unusual sightings as the winter sets in.
• Other interesting sightings included serval, honey badgers, genets and African Wild Cat.

Nxai Pan
• As conditions become increasingly dry in the Nxai Pan Makgadikgadi region, the activity at the water hole in front of camp becomes increasingly frenetic! Zebra, springbok, gemsbok and wildebeest visit the water hole in numbers, while up to 30 bull elephants drink and bathe in their midst. With such a sight on view from the main area and each private viewing deck there is hardly any reason to leave the comforts of the camp!
• Out on the Pan, lion and cheetah were sighted on a regular basis, including two mature females with a young cub in tow close to the camp.
• General game sightings also included red hartebeest, giraffe, impala, tsessebe, jackals, bat eared fox and steenbok.

Tau Pan
• Very unusual late rains this year have meant an extended period of plenty, which in turn has led to impressive sightings in the Central Kalahari this month.
• Abundant general game included eland, red hartebeest, gemsbok, honey badger, jackals, wildebeest and springbok, as well as less common sightings of aardwolf and Cape fox.
• Black mamba, Snouted and Cape cobras were also seen sunning themselves on the edges of the pans as the early morning temperatures continue to drop.
• Predator sightings have been extremely impressive throughout the region. Guides report sighting several individual lions from no less than four different prides, hunting species as diverse as bat eared fox and gemsbok.
• Leopard have also been spotted regularly in the vicinity of camp as well as on distant pans, including an aggressive coming together between two females at Deception Valley.
• Four cheetah were also seen on Tau Pan feeding on a steenbok.

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Mombo Camp update - May 2010               Jump to Mombo Camp

Weather and Vegetation
The month of May is usually chilly, but this year the temperature climbed to 35 degrees and only dropped to 14. As with the rest of the Delta, this year's flood at Mombo is one of the biggest ever recorded. Most of the roads are flooded and this has forced the animals to concentrate on the one dry side of the concession.

As the floodwaters rose, we became concerned about the effect they would have on game viewing. Thankfully, the effect has been positive. With less land to operate on, the animals have concentrated in specific areas of the concession, especially around the acacia woodlands and pan systems to the east. The predators have followed their prey into these areas which has made for exciting game viewing.

The unusual single wild dog with a jackal at Mombo camp    One of Legadima's cubs at Mombo in Botswana

Wildlife
The highlight of the month is the ongoing interaction between the single wild dog female and a number of black-backed jackals. The incredible social interactions between these two canid species continue to astound us and the conservation community at large. The dog has moved onto the airstrip where she has been seen in the company of at least seven jackals. Her behaviour continues to amaze us. We have regularly seen her regurgitating food for jackal pups and this month she was observed regurgitating food, burying it and then uncovering it for adult jackals in the area. 

The female leopard Legadima's cubs are now almost three months old and still thriving. They are spending less time in their den and have begun following their mother to kills. We found Legadima and one cub feeding the other day. Worryingly, there were hyaenas nearby and we wondered if the second cub had not fallen victim to them. Luckily, we found the second youngster in another tree shortly thereafter.

Legadima and one of her young cubs at Mombo camp    Western pride female and her two cubs at Mombo camp

Tsile, one of our guides, found a previously unknown leopard and her six-month-old cub. He and his guests were watching a male lion sleeping. Suddenly, the big cat woke up and started trotting purposefully towards a nearby thicket. In the denser bush, they discovered the leopard and her cub feeding on a kill. The female stood her ground against the much bigger cat while her cub escaped up a tree. She then ran off leaving the scavenging lion to steal her food. 

The floodwaters have contracted lion territories and so the prides find themselves in conflict over land far more regularly. The Moporota Breakaway Pride has clashed with the Moporota Pride on several occasions this month. 
The Western Pride (the pride with the 'maned' lioness) is currently being dominated by a new male. The pride is a very efficient hunting unit and we often see them on fresh kills. They also now have two very young cubs so that is excellent for the lion population here.

After an absence of a few months, we are glad to report a sighting of Mmabontsho (the black rhino cow). She was seen with three white rhino. 

Camp Staff 
We are pleased to announce that Pete Myburgh, one of our guides, has won the Canon Photographic Competition hosted by Africa Geographic Magazine. He has won himself a Canon Power Shot 20is camera. Congratulations Pete!

Managers in camp this month were Kago (KG), Martha, Phenyo, Max and Connie (Little Mombo). Tsile, Doc, Simon, Pete, Moss and Tshepo were the guides.

It has been a great month at Mombo and thanks to all the people listed above and the brilliant staff of Mombo who make Mombo the special destination that it is. 

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Xigera Camp update - May 2010               Jump to Xigera Camp

Weather and Landscape
May brought us water in huge quantities and the flood reached its peak on the 12th of the month. For the weeks preceding, the water rose about a centimetre a day as measured against a bridge. The water levels are much higher than anyone here can remember and it took a lot of pumping and sandbagging to save our new airstrip from ending up under water! It is so amazing to see the water filling up the channels and floodplains. This is the time to enjoy the landscape from the water, either on a mokoro or boat.

During the last week of May, the night temperatures dropped considerably and we can feel winter is on its way. The sun has lost the sting of summer which means that we can now easily spend all day out of camp. Our guests have spent whole days on the channels exploring the small islands and discovering the wonders of the Delta during the flood. 

Jacana on his nest at Xigera camp    Xigera camp view from across the bridge

Wildlife
We see two hyaena in camp just about every night. They seem to have made Xigera Island their home. One is an adult female and the other a sub-adult. We often find them sleeping not far from the kitchen, cuddled up together. Late at night they rummage through the camp so we have to make sure all the 'hyaena gates' are closed when we go to bed in order to avoid another chewed-up couch. The young one hasn't figured out how to call yet and it's entertaining to listen to his valiant but slightly pathetic attempts.

Other visitors to camp have included the usual baboons and vervet monkeys. There has been social turmoil in the monkey troop of late. Two males have been trying to assert their dominance and their fighting has been violent and frequent. Both have wounds around their mouths and one has a badly injured leg.  

A male leopard walked through the camp one night and his rasping calls woke a number of us up.  Godfrey, our workshop manager, was peeking out of his tent window as the magnificent cat walked past advertising his presence. 

Elephant at Xigera    Sunset over Xigera Lagoon

Unusual mammal sightings from the month have included a honey badger and a magnificent sitatunga sighting. 

As always, Xigera is a fantastic birding spot and the polers' and the guides' enthusiasm for the bird life is infectious. Guests who have never paid any attention to birds suddenly find a new interest in the myriad feathered creatures around us. There have been a number of Pel's Fishing-Owl sightings this month. 

Camp Staff
Managers: Kgabiso Lehare, Gideon Mvere, Gabriella De Moor and trainee manager Lorato
Guides: Barobi, Ndebo, Ace and Onx


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Chitabe Camp update - May 2010               Jump to Chitabe Camp

Weather
A month of heaven it has been. 

Some of us have parents and grandparents who we've heard espouse the majesty and grandeur of the big flood years in the Okavango Delta. Now we have finally experienced this wonder. Chitabe has experienced the largest flood in a generation and the old channels are inundated to capacity. 

May turned the mornings and evenings cool and changed the colours of the landscape from magnificent greens to beautiful shades of brown and khaki. We've experienced crisp autumn sunsets and sunrises. The summer flowers have passed and the bright red cat's claw, that is present only in winter, is in full bloom. 

Animals
The Chitabe Camp wildlife has been truly exceptional this month.

The Kgaruru female leopard at Chitabe    The Kgaruru female leopard at Chitabe

One afternoon, during the first week of May, Luke found the Chitabe wild dog pack, which is reputed to be the biggest in the country - numbering some 20 dogs. The dogs were on the hunt and they managed to catch an impala. Their chattering and feeding frenzy attracted the Kgaruru female leopard. Her curiosity and hunger were costly as the pack quickly chased her up into the highest branches of a nearby tree.  The leopard's growling and the dogs' bickering caught the attention of a lioness. The much larger cat charged in, scattering the dogs in all directions. As she occupied the pack, the leopard, not normally happy in the presence of a lioness, took the gap. She scurried down the tree and made for the half-eaten impala. While she was struggling to pull the meal away, a hyaena appeared and, once again, the leopard was forced to flee. The scavenger settled down to feed nonchalantly, apparently unaware that there was a lioness close by. Before long the irritated big cat returned to claim the prize of her labours and the hyaena went scarpering off. Just when we thought the lion had won the evening's contest, a small breeding herd of elephant arrived. They spent some time trumpeting and chasing the nimble cat.

The Kgaruru female leopard at Chitabe    The Kgaruru female leopard at Chitabe treed by wild dogs

On a slightly sadder note, the cub of the Kgaruru female leopard is dead. She was most likely killed by hyaenas. In mid-May, we were watching her feed with her mother when some hyaenas arrived to steal their meal. The young cub scurried up a tree to get out of harm's way. Unfortunately, she fell and sustained an injury. Not long after that, the mother was seen calling for her cub. For three days she tried without success and eventually gave up.

As sad as this is for us, we understand that we are bystanders in this theatre where we observe, try to understand and enjoy the play of life as it unfolds before us.

Happily, the Kgaruru female was more recently spotted on the prowl for a mate. She treated the guests to some magnificent leopard calls as she strode up and down marking her territory.

Another incredible leopard sighting from the month saw a young male being taught a lesson by a much bigger and older male. The impressive male chased the young pretender up a tree and then walked around base calling, spraying and making sure that there was no doubt about the dominance hierarchy.

General game has been abundant with exceptionally large giraffe herds on the Chitabe Plains. The staff here have never seen giraffe in such numbers. We are still treated to the loud snorts of the male impala as they claim territories and attempt to keep control of their harems as the rut reaches its climax. 

Back in camp, the resident hippopotamus, who some of our guests have named Hector, still treats us to sessions of lawn mowing in front of both Lediba and Main Camps. He usually comes out to graze during the afternoon hours.

(Leopard photos by Michael van Wegen)


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

Weather and Concession
The times they are a changing... like some super-charged giant organic washing machine, the Okavango Delta has entered a wet cycle the likes of which few people alive have seen and may never see again. We live in a world awash with superlatives, but in these diluvian days we are truly seeing natural history being written before us. 

We still don't know if this is a 30-year flood or a 50-year flood, or even the flood of the century. What we do know is that the equivalent of a column of water half a mile by half a mile and higher than Mount Everest has spilled out across the snooker-table landscape of northern Botswana, turning the beige baize green. Areas that have been dry for decades are feeling the magic touch of flowing water and have burst into life.

It really is remarkable to see: this is the big one -  the flood that the old men told us would come, like the floods of legend that drowned leadwood trees and carried papyrus stems far into the desert. We are seeing water in places we never thought we would; we are seeing our understanding of this most fluid of ecosystems being turned on its head.

Okavango flood reaches Vumbura

Raindrops that fell months ago on the Angolan highlands now find themselves merged into the annual miracle of resuscitation that is the Okavango flood. At first the channels fill, and then the water spills over onto the surrounding floodplains, creeping up to the fringes of the myriad small islands which punctuate the Delta's story, creating the emerald and sapphire mosaic of life.

This year though the waters didn't stop at the island margins, but rather kept on rising. Buoyed by late rains, the flood has encroached onto the smaller islands and swirled around the ankles of isolated jackalberry and leadwood trees. 

In as much as it brings life, the flood can also be the coup de grace for acacias and other trees which have a limited tolerance for standing in water - and so we gain a new crop of the iconic skeletal trees which remain for many years after each big flood. 

Nightfall ushers in a chorus of cinematic music, the reed frogs lending their vibrato voices to the somnambulant musings of the hippos, grunting in satisfaction at this expansion of their living quarters. And still the water rises, catching small subterranean creatures unawares and compelling them to crawl to the surface and into the waiting dagger beaks of the patiently ruthless Marabou Storks. 

But it is with the first roseate gleam of dawn in the east that Vumbura comes to life again. The creatures of the night slink away, eyes slit against the strengthening light, and the water reflects a sky suffused with warm shades of pink and orange... Black turns to blue to mauve, the bruise of night healing on the horizon... And then there it is, the shimmering red ball of the sun poised to climb into the heavens. Sandblasted wooden decking planks, curved ivory tusks, chest feathers puffed out against the dawn chill - all glow as the light finds them. 

Hippos retreat to deeper waters, and still the flood swirls, never at rest. As the water rises, the saucer leaves of water lilies bob to the surface and tightly bound white buds break the surface to unfurl to salute the sun. Another day begins, revealing paw prints sunk deep into damp sand and the stories of the night just ended. 

It is hard to convey the slow-moving majesty of this flood, the irresistible quality of immeasurable quantities of water on the move across a landscape that at once both welcomes and attempts to resist its inexorable advances. And inevitably change on this scale affects every aspect of the ecology of the Delta: trees drown while nutrients are deposited to fuel new growth; areas of floodplain become inaccessible and this pushes animal herds together, increasing the density of game.

The Land Rovers rumble and sway across our bridge and off into the bush, often fording water that spills over the hood and into the guide's shoes, and a new adventure begins. In the same way that we have had to adapt our operations to this new inundated reality - with our airstrip becoming a shallow lake - so too have the animals that star in all our Vumbura stories. At left is the camp, a true island once more.

Wildlife
Lions of course are the alpha predators in this area, but even the king of the Delta knows when it is time to abdicate. The Eastern Pride in particular has suffered at the hands of their spotted tormentors on several occasions this month. 

The dying squeals of a large warthog seized by a lioness attracted the wrong kind of attention. It is uncanny how quickly hyaenas can arrive on the scene. In death, this warthog fed many mouths. Ears laid back on tawny heads, canines fully exposed, the lionesses snarled their impotent fury as more and more hyaenas appeared on the scene. In the end we counted 17 and the warthog carcass was completely buried under a seething ring of hyaenas which soon dispatched and ate the unfortunate pig. 

Deciding that discretion was the better part of valour, the pride made a considered tactical withdrawal and in the process provided us with a simply stunning sighting of lions wading through quite deep water. Again an experience they were not particularly enjoying - their lips were curled back as they grimaced with distaste. 

On another occasion the Eastern Pride was forced into yet more atypical behaviour, scrambling clumsily into the lower branches of trees as they lost another kill to the emboldened hyaenas.

Despite these setbacks, the future looks bright for these lions. One of the lionesses gave birth to two cubs around seven weeks ago. These tiny scraps of fur will grow up in a Vumbura that is much wetter and these early experiences should help them to adapt to their new environment. It seems likely - from patterns evident in historic flood data - that the next few years will also see enormous floods, with some hydrologist seers predicting the flood of 2011 could be even greater than this one...

Of course while the extent of the flood presents some animals with challenges, to others it is nothing but a pleasure. Some animals are very at home in water, or at least passing through it, and a herd of elephants moving from island to lush green island can be a real highlight of a mokoro trip along the streams and channels.

This delight in water can give rise to humourous moments also, like the contentment of a single elephant rolling over and playing in the shallow waters of Egyptian Pan, whilst his herd mates watched bemused from the shore, or simply continued eating.

The fact that we have lost some game drive areas to the flood has not proved problematic as it has concentrated the game in other areas, and also provided the incentive we needed to make additional access roads in the northern and eastern parts of the concession - areas that have great potential for game viewing. 

As times change, we see the beginning and ends of the many small eras that make up bush chronology. A new young male cheetah was seen close to Jacky's Pan earlier in May, and the hope is that he will gain the confidence and stick around here for a while.  Our big hope for this year however rests with the wild dog pack - they normally den at this time of year, and the female we suspected was pregnant was not seen with the pack the last time they were seen hunting. 

We all augmented this year's flood also with a tear or two shed in memory of Scottie, our most impressive sable bull. A magnificent animal: rich ebony coat with white blazes; recurved scimitar horns which could almost touch his back, he often stood a little way back from his harem as if surveying the realm he was lord of.  Perhaps blinded by testosterone, he was pulled down and eaten by the Kubu Pride. Lions have to eat, for sure, but can't they stick to the uglier creatures?

Guest comments
The highlight was the hyaenas stealing the warthog from the lions!

Ban (our guide) was terrific... Tilly (the masseuse) is one of the best! 

Magnificent location, great staff, OB our amazing guide... simply outstanding! The management and staff were fantastic and completely accommodating. We liked the flexible schedule and the service was amazing - lots of nice, small touches that were noticed and appreciated... We loved it - no need to change!

Will never forget seeing the lion kill right by the airstrip within minutes of landing!

Camp staff
Very best wishes from the May Vumbura team: Miriam Tichapondwa, Nick 'Noko' Galpine, Attorney Vasco, Tumoh Morena, Wayne and Britt Vaughan and Kate Horner. 

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

Weather and Landscape
May provided one of nature's most spectacularly wonderful events. A convergence of factors created a flood so grand it has been termed the '2010 Superflood'. We were in the perfect position to witness and experience it.

The flood came in three distinct pulses, and with each one we had to make adjustments. At the first pulse of rising waters, we moved our boat station to Mbishi One, near the old Mopane Bridge, resulting in our guests having a slightly longer but all the more beautiful arrival at Little Vumbura, cruising through a channel surrounded by spectacularly flooded plains, each guarded by indescribably beautiful sentinel tree islands.

The second pulse pushed the waters of the flood even further, and we started to utilise our boat station at Vumbura Paradise, not 200m from the airstrip. Vumbura Paradise is not a misnomer at all, and times of such a flood, it surpasses its name. The transfer to camp, instead of a 40-minute drive and a five-minute boat ride, became a 25-minute boat ride through the heartland of the Vumbura section of the Delta.

Boating at dawn at Little Vumbura    Boat station at Little Vumbura    Wild dogs at Little Vumbura

The third and final push of the waters went so far as to crowd out and then bisect our airstrip, resulting in the best transfer to camp imaginable - a helicopter ride over Paradise from Duba airstrip before meeting the boat to camp. 

Apart from a brief shower on the 20th, the rainy season has finally departed, although large clouds from evaporating floodwaters have given us some incredibly colourful sunsets early in the month - these  gradually gave way to the typical cobalt, magenta and pink winter skies.

Wildlife
The waters have pushed the plains game further north towards the drier areas of the concession, and sightings have been excellent. The Kubu Male Lions were observed on three kills this month, firstly a sable, a week later a buffalo, and ten days after that, a buffalo calf. We watched the Eastern Pride kill a warthog one morning. The pig's squealing roused the attention of 17 hyaena. With their superior numbers, they easily displaced the four lion. 

The wild dogs were seen several times this month, and the alpha female is pregnant- we expect them to make a den for the new puppies soon. If we find the den, we'll regularly see the pack feeding the puppies and hunting over the next three months. 

We saw three individual leopard fairly regularly this month: Selonyana (female), Small Boy (young male) and another, hitherto unidentified male with a kill in the John's Road area. 

Olive Grass Snake at Little Vumbura    Martial Eagle at Little Vumbura    Male lion at Little Vumbura

Two cheetah sightings were recorded in the latter part of the month, with a familiar male found with his impala kill near the camp. We saw the same animal posing in a termite mound a few days later.

Other species seen regularly include elephant (our resident bull has returned to the island after a month-long absence), large herds of buffalo in the flooded plains, enormous (20 plus) herds of giraffe, sable in the dry lands, kudu, red lechwe, hippo, reedbuck and zebra.

With the floods, the birdlife has been wonderful with many species of aquatic birds taking advantage of the increased habitat available to them. We expect an increase in the numbers of endangered birds like Slaty Egret and Wattled Crane as more breeding habitat becomes available. Fish numbers will also explode, creating a huge food resource and as the floodwaters recede, a number of 'fish traps' will provide a feeding frenzy of pelicans, hamperkops, herons and storks. 

Reptile enthusiasts would be interested to know that our resident olive grass snake has been seen making kills a few times this month - mainly targeting the ubiquitous Kalahari skinks on the island.

Camp Staff
For the month of June, management will be Sean Matthewson, Anna Butterfield and Ryan Green. 

Guides will be Kay Bosigo, Rain Robson and Sam Setabosha.

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

No report this month.

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Jacana Camp update - May 2010               Jump to Jacana Camp

Weather
The dawn chorus permeates the Delta in the crisp air and easterly breeze that herald winter's beginning. Scorpio presides high overhead while we have dinner on the deck in the clear autumn evenings at Jacana. The daily temperatures this month were very pleasant with days rising to a balmy 26°C and dropping to 16°C at night. The days have been clear and the light for photography wonderful.

Wildlife
"Wow!" is the average comment when returning from a day out on drive, mokoro or boat. 

This month has been breathtaking at Jacana. The hippos continue to delight. The other night, a pod of 11 emerged from the water while we were having dinner. For half an hour they entertained with their grunting, chasing and territorial marking.

Hippo at Jacana camp    Elephant visits Jacana camp    Leopard at Jacana camp

Jacana is situated on one of the larger islands in the area and elephants regularly spend time here as they traverse the Concession. They visit the boma daily to eat from the piles of sycamore figs that are neatly swept from the paths. From here they move to the more arduous task of shaking fruit from the island's palm trees. 

Lion viewing has been exceptional this month with sightings almost every day. We've watched the Jao Pride killing three wildebeest. The pride is looking healthy and the four remaining male cubs are now seven months old, fat and growing fast. 

May leopard viewing has also been good with numerous sightings of these elusive cats, often lying in trees in the morning or evening light. The new territorial male of the area is becoming accustomed to the game drive vehicles. He leaves all who see him in awe.

On the birding front, we now have three confirmed breeding pairs of Pel's Fishing Owl and one juvenile in the area. Our guests have taken some exceptional photographs of this special bird over the last month.  The little family of African Jacanas living in front of the camp are doing very well. We regularly watch the three chicks foraging with their father. 

African Jacana    Pel's owl at Jacana camp    Outdoor dining at Jacana camp

Floodwaters
The nourishing waters of the Okavango blessed us this year with the biggest flood in at least 20 years. The water came right up to the main deck at Jacana and our guests regularly engaged in some fishing with their pre-dinner drinks! They caught some remarkable catfish.

Guest comments
Once again a great month with great people ... here is what some of the guests had to say:

We are beyond impressed with the staff and food here at Jacana Camp. What a wonderful experience. Thank you! - Brady and Jenna, USA

Fantastic! Wonderful staff! Incredible safari! - Ann, USA

What a beautiful camp! Danielle was a wonderful host - every one of our needs met. Chef THE best yet - Katherine, USA

As Katie says:"a food safari". Great hosts in a wonderful Garden of Eden. The elephant in our backyard - unforgettable - Thank you to all who work hard and are so lovely. - Darryl and Ann, Australia

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Kwetsani Camp update - May 2010               Jump to Kwetsani Camp

Weather
Our weather has settled down and we have been having beautiful mild days with cool evenings. The winter is approaching and we are making the most of the great weather by dining in different locations around the camp.

Camp activities
Kwetsani has changed since the water levels have risen. Just getting to our boat station has become an adventure in itself.  We are definitely a water-based camp now with the Delta having moved onto our island.  We are now able to do mokoro activities directly from the camp with our guests embarking from the pool deck. Our staff, as usual, have taken all the changes in their stride and are making the most of the situation - they currently have to mokoro between their houses in the staff village.   We have begun placing mesh around most of the mature trees in and around the camp in an effort to stop the elephants pushing them down. 

Sunset over the water at Kwetsani Camp    Lions walking in the floodplain at Kwetsani    Little Bee-eater

Wildlife
There have been some great sightings on Hunda Island particularly of a female leopard and her cubs. Herds of elephant and large numbers of kudu, zebra, wildebeest and giraffe abound in the dry areas. 

Kwetsani Island has also been productive as far as elephants are concerned and we have had both a breeding herd and some lone bulls in camp.  Hippos and crocodiles are now being sighted more regularly along the channels and there have been one or two sightings of leopard as well as smaller nocturnal animals such as civet and genet.
Our guests recently had a great sighting of three bull elephants feeding on the papyrus in the Jao boat channel. We have watched these elephants push over mautre palms and then consume entire trees which is amazing.

Jao Island, even though it is becoming smaller and smaller as the floodwaters rise, has provided a number of lion and leopard sightings during the course of the month.

Mokoro safari at Kwetsani

Guest Comments
Ian & Michélle - Many thanks for a wonderful time.  You make such entertaining hosts.  The best camp we've ever stayed!  Everything - from the elephants at the front door, the beautiful room, the food, the friendly and efficient staff, the animals and birds and especially 
the boat rides with OB - don't mention the elephants on the mokoro!  Thanks to all the staff for the wonderful concert. Terry & Lynne - Australia

As our first safari, memories will last forever, thanks to you and your caring staff.  Your spirit is infectious.  Keep up the good work! John & Pat  - Florida, USA

We had a wonderful stay.  As our first safari experience, Kwetsani will always be very memorable.  The staff was excellent, friendly, accommodating in every way. Cedric was an excellent birder and we learned a lot from him.  We enjoyed the variety of activities and dining experiences. William & Debra  - USA / Indonesia

Exceedingly polite, courteous and knowledgeable staff. 
The food was delicious and the elephants who made house calls were great fun! The facility is beautiful. Loved spending 4 days in a tree house. Special thanks to Julian and Nina who were wonderful. Bill & Sue - USA

Everything was perfect. The whole team is as professional as nice and we loved the (too short) time we spent here. Thank You for all your attentions (dinner for two, champagne + candles in the room, the activities, the facilities, the delicious food. DO NOT CHANGE ANYTHING The 1st person I would recommend them to spend time here is us... Be sure that the 2 days we spent here will remain a wonderful time of our honeymoon. Gwen & Mathies - France

Camp Managers:
Ian & Michélle
Julian & Nina

Guides:
OP
Kenny 
Cedric

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Jao Camp update - May 2010               Jump to Jao Camp

Landscape
The Okavango Delta is one of two large African inland deltas. It flows from west to east ending up in the Kalahari Desert. The peak of the flood is normally around May when water levels rise dramatically and then drop slowly over the next few months. To witness this special work of nature is an unforgettable experience. 

Last year's flood was one of the highest recorded but this year's water shames all records for the last 30 years!  We erected our normal airstrip flood wall and began pumping water as we do every year but the sheer volume of water made these standard defences useless. 6 000 sandbags and many man hours later, our dedicated team managed to save the airstrip. 

Lioness in the flood water at Jao camp    Wildebeests crossing a flooded road at Jao

Animals 
With water rapidly inundating dry land, animals are struggling to keep their paws and hooves dry. The camp's resident troop of banded mongoose are putting their swimming skills to the test and teaching their young additions how to do "mongoose paddle."

The lion pride in whose territory we live has once again provided many of the month's highlights with the four male cubs providing regular entertainment. The reduced dry land has brought prey closer to the pride and they have killed four wildebeest in the last ten days.

Unfortunately the youngest female in the pride lost her new cubs recently - we are not sure what happened to them. Young cubs are very vulnerable to predation and disease so it is not unusual for a lioness, especially a young one, to lose a litter. She is now back in oestrus and will hopefully produce more cubs in three or so months. 

Little lion cub at Jao Camp    Big crocodile at Jao camp

Activities - the perfect day
A day out on Hunda Island is one of the most popular activities this time of the year. An early morning wakeup call with piping hot muffins and fresh fruit salad begins the day.  Then it's off to the boat where you head off to the island, stopping every now and then to look at hippo or crocs in the channel. On the island, you head off on a game drive with great opportunities for sightings of the resident leopards, one of which currently has two cubs. Your game viewing finished, it's time for brunch and in the shade of a magnificent sycamore fig, an array of fresh goodies are laid out to satisfy your hunger. 

After brunch, it's time for a siesta or a stroll on the island to look at the smaller things you may have missed on drive - birds, tracks, trees and insects.  Then you might go looking for zebra, giraffe, warthog and elephants, all of which abound on the island. After this second game drive, it's back to the boat and then the camp for a massage followed by a sundowner on the deck. 

Guest comments:
Very cheerful, fun and helpful staff, amazing food, really comfortable accommodation, loved the sala.  We thank Maipaa for the amazing sightings, we really enjoyed the boat trip to the other island and walking safari. We also loved the Monday dinner dancing and singing, very special. The spa massage treatment was extraordinary!  
Domnique & Wolfgang

Seeing the lion family was very exciting, mokoro ride was fun. Private dinner on our last day/night in Africa was wonderful. Staff  were great. Fire at night is always good
Chungchief & Michelle

The accommodation everything spectacular. Tours well run. David our driver and guide - the best. Lauren and Andrew great ambassadors. Food - the best in the region
Leroy and Mary

Leopard sighting on our final drive and of course the entire staff was a major highlight.It was soooo wonderful to be here with you all again. You will be a part of my heart forever! Love Denise

Camp staff
Managers present
Andrew
Lauren
Jost
Tara
Joanne (Spa)
Marina (Spa)

Guides present
Maipaa
Tee-Jay
Cruise
KB
David M
Cedric (Half month)


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

Weather and Landscape
Mother Nature was in full force as she sent the largest recorded flood in a generation to the Okavango Delta. It was a spectacle to see at Tubu Tree Camp and the floodwaters are higher than they've been since the camp was built. The water started to trickle in one clear night as sat around our boma on the edge of the Tubu floodplain. The trickle grew fast - the next morning, the boma was submerged and a day or two later, there were fish swimming where our guests normally sit.

May temperatures hovered at summer levels but by the end of the month a chill was creeping into the mornings and evenings.

An elephant in camp at Tubu Tree    Giraffes at Tubu Tree camp

Wildlife
From big to small, it was a playful month. The May full moon was magical. We decided to have dinner out in the bush and set up near a pan. As we ate, the moon cast a stunning dim light on a large herd of wildebeest coming down to drink. We sat in silence as the herd, illuminated by the ghostly light, moved right past where we were sitting. On the way back from camp there were innumerable springhares and we were treated to an exceptional sighting of an African wild cat who, unusually for these shy animals, moved closer to investigate the Land Rover. Just outside camp a group of five bushbabies enchanted us as they flitted from branch to branch in the full moon.  

The hyaenas tend to spend more time on the island when the water is in. They keep guests awake regularly with whooping calls around the camp. It is such a privilege to have them around. The other day, we watched a small group of them chase a leopard off a zebra that had died of natural causes. They ate it at the water's edge for nearly a week, guarding it jealously from any would-be thieves.

Elephants are everywhere around Tubu - breeding herds, bachelor herds and big old bulls have come to visit us in camp. One decided to join us at the pool for an hour and then proceeded to the bar where our guests enjoyed a cocktail with him. These huge animals' antics have included using tent poles to scratch their ears, peeling bark from a tree just outside the lounge and climbing up the termite mound in front of the shop.

Pied kingfishers at Tubu Tree    Mokoro in purple light at Tubu

Our leopard sightings have continued to be out of this world. 98 percent of our activities (game drives, walks, mokoro trips and boat adventures) have reported sightings of these phenomenal cats. 

Guest Comments:
Highlights are the people! The setting! Our guide! The wildlife particularly the leopards  and large elephant herd. Certainly the most amazing travel experience we have had and probably will ever have - thank you all! Keep on doing exactly what you are doing - it works perfectly. Good luck with the boma! Melanie and Sarah - Australia.

Exceptional attention from Justin and Jacky and all their staff for whom nothing was ever too much trouble. Meal quality and presentation excellent. Not forgetting the most scenic bar in Botswana! Ian and Barbara - UK.

Super game drives and guide. Excellent management. Cheerful atmosphere and hosting. All was perfect. Thanks to you and your team this is the best camp we visited. Jean-Louis and Francine - France.

This has been amazing, where to begin? of course seeing the leopards chased by the baboon was a great experience and having close viewing of the hyaenas both in the morning and evening was fantastic. The singing at dinner, the basket demo/display, the Mokoro ride and brunch in the bush were fun, enjoyable and very appreciated. Keep up the good work. This was such a personal and welcoming camp. Our guide, Izzy, is a treasure and this is a lovely facility in a wonderful setting. Thank you.  John  and Joan - USA

The genuine friendliness of the staff and management team. The attentiveness and attention to detail and of course the wonderful setting and facilities here. Kudos to Jacky and Justin for running such a great camp. Izzy was amazing as a guide - he had extensive knowledge of all the fauna and flora and could read tracks brilliantly! Leopards rule! Tubu Tree is perfect as it is - don't change a thing. Thank you for a wonderful time. Mark and Elaine Teubert - Canada.

Staff in Camp
Managers: Justin Stevens & Jacky Collett-Stevens
Guides: Kambango & Izzy


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

Weather
Because of the late rains received, we've witnessed a second flower season with the trumpeter thorn still bathed in colour. The mornings and evenings have started to cool down now as we head into winter. 

Wildlife
Gemsbok, springbok, red hartebeest, giraffe and ostrich are now starting to use the waterhole in front of camp as the water concentrates on the concession. The most frequent visitors are a group of three warthog which come down almost every day. 

Cheetah have provided the predator highlights of the month. We have watched three males courting a female who has an 18- to 24-month-old young male cub. For two days we watched as the adult males tried to separate the youngster from his mother and fought amongst themselves. 

The Kalahari Pride was seen four times this month, twice feeding on gemsbok (oryx). The two dominant males were heard around the camp on many early mornings. On one occasion, they were right in between the rooms and we had to delay the wake up. 

Honey badger viewing continues to be phenomenal. We have witnessed some incredible interactions between these voracious predators and pale chanting goshawks on a regular basis. 

Unusual sightings for May included an aardwolf which we saw on foot. We have also had regular sightings of Cape fox. 

Management in camp
Ras
Olivia
Willie
Tshepo
Vicent


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